The (almost) hardest-working man in classical music


With such legendary workaholic conductors as James Levine and Valery Gergiev going strong, Jeffrey Kahane can’t quite be termed the hardest-working man in classical music. But as he begins his 11th season as music director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO) and his third as music director of the Colorado Symphony, Kahane is giving his colleagues a run for their money. So much so that this past spring he had to cancel several weeks of concerts for health reasons.

“I was severely overworked,” a rested and recovered Kahane, 51, says now. “I had some high blood pressure, and I kind of ignored it, which I shouldn’t have done. And in the middle of last season, it got worse, and my doctor told me to cut back my workload immediately. I canceled six weeks of concerts, which was very difficult for me. I had never done anything like that before. I’d always taken pride in not canceling dates.”

Kahane, who is also an accomplished concert pianist, attributes his exhaustion less to myriad commitments than to the taxing programs he had scheduled last season, especially several LACO dates dedicated to Mozart — the tail end of a project in which he was to play and conduct over two seasons nearly all of the composer’s piano concertos.

“Just doing the Mozart would have been plenty,” said the pianist-conductor, “so doing it all was overly ambitious.” The series was to have concluded this past spring, when Kahane was convalescing. It will now end in February, with a special performance of four concertos added to this season’s LACO schedule.

Not that LACO’s new season, which begins Sept. 29 and runs through May 18, is exactly relaxed for Kahane. In late February, the orchestra is scheduled to embark on its first European tour in more than 20 years, performing in such music capitals as Paris, Berlin and Vienna during two weeks of concerts that also take it to Italy and Spain.

The tour also unites the orchestra with two compelling, and very different, soloists: noted Bulgarian mezzo-soprano Vesselina Kasarova, who will sing Mozart and Rossini arias, and composer Uri Caine, who will perform “Mosaics,” a piano concerto he wrote for LACO that had its debut at the Jazz Bakery this past May.

Caine’s music incorporates both jazz and classical elements, and he will serve as LACO’s composer-in-residence through the end of this season. The season before last, he wrote a double-piano concerto inspired by Mozart for LACO, Kahane and himself.

And the premieres keep coming at LACO. There will be another before this season concludes, a piano concerto written by the rising young composer Kevin Puts. What makes the work novel, according to Kahane, is that it marks the first time he’ll be directing a new work from the keyboard — an approach he takes regularly when performing piano concertos by Bach, Mozart and Beethoven.

“Originally, Kevin was writing the concerto for himself,” Kahane recalled. “But he came to one of LACO’s Mozart concerts and said, ‘Jeff, I’ve changed my mind. I want to write a concerto for you.'”

Kahane first met Puts while teaching at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., as the budding composer was earning a doctorate there. He has previously conducted Puts’ Marimba Concerto as well as his Third Symphony, a piece inspired by the pop singer Bjork’s album “Verpertine.” Beyond the piano concerto, Kahane has commissioned a clarinet concerto from Puts, this time for the Colorado Symphony.

LACO’s season also includes a bit of cross-cultural music making, with the West Coast premiere of a Reza Vali’s “Toward That Endless Plain” on Nov. 3 and 4. The piece is a concerto for nay, a Middle Eastern flute, and conventional Western orchestra. Khosrow Soltani, a native of Tehran who trained as a bassoonist in Vienna, will perform the solo part.

Though this season features more familiar names — pianist André Watts, guitarist Christopher Parkening — LACO concerts often bring future stars to the attention of audiences. Thus the orchestra’s subscribers heard violinist Hilary Hahn, cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianists Jonathan Biss and Lang Lang before their fame.

“I have the great good fortune to have an ear to the ground and a great many wonderful colleagues,” Kahane said of his network of music-world sources, mostly fellow musicians with whom the conductor has formed strong bonds. “Even my management sends me CDs of young artists. And though it doesn’t happen often, it does happen that I hear something extraordinary from a young artist. I have a track record I’m proud of in that regard, in finding artists who are just about to make it big. But there’s also a certain amount of good luck.”

Luck alone, though, seems to have had little to do with Kahane’s success. His conducting career followed his making a name for himself as a soloist and chamber musician, activities he continues to this day. He is enormously well liked by the musicians he works with, unusual in a field where respect is far more common than affection.

His personal life also seems firmly grounded. He and his wife, Martha, a clinical psychologist, keep houses in Denver and Santa Rosa and have raised two children, Gabriel, 26, and Annie, 19.

Annie attends Northwestern University, where she’s a sophomore majoring in performance studies, a multidisciplinary subject that combines elements of dance and theater into something Kahane calls “truly cutting edge.”

Gabe inherited the music gene and is a gifted pianist and composer living in Brooklyn, where his most recent project is a musical about the life of Mohammad. “When I first heard about it,” Kahane said, “I thought, you’ve got to be kidding! But it’s actually an incredibly beautiful and powerful piece.”

Naturally, Kahane kvells over his promising kids, but that doesn’t preclude him from leavening paternal pride with humor.

Betty Neymark: Second Career From a Second Language


Betty Neymark

Barri Evins

Alex Baum

Betty Neymark

Eve Marcus

Fran Rosenfield

Marilyn Harran

Noah Bleich

Rebecca Levinson

Yehoram Uziel

Yoram Hassid

“Why isn’t Temple Judea doing something like this?” Betty Neymark’s daughter, Nancy, asked her more than 19 years ago, referring to an English as a second language program at a nearby church. That was all the push Neymark needed.

She and her daughter, along with friend and reading specialist Evelyn Stecher, promptly began a program at their Reform synagogue in Tarzana.

On the first day of registration in January 1990, Neymark thought no one would show up. Instead, she encountered a line of people stretching past the Temple’s driveway. Fifty students registered, and Temple Judea’s all-volunteer ESL program was born.

Today that program boasts 150 students, 25 volunteer teachers and five administrators, including Neymark. While her daughter has begun a new career and Stecher has moved away, Neymark remains.

“I just love it. I meet wonderful people. It enhances my life,” said Neymark, who previously worked as a human resources administrator in two school districts.

Those “wonderful people” include the students, primarily from the former Soviet Union, Iran and South America. Most are 50 or older, and they are both Jewish and not. Many are new immigrants. A few have lived here as long as 20 years.

Neymark also has great affection for the teachers, who range in age from 21 to 89. Only two are new this year, and 18 of them have been with program 10 years or more.

The classes are small, with four to seven students. They meet for two hours twice a week, from September to June. In addition to English, students learn about American culture.

“Students come in with no English and then are able to function in society and make their lives better,” said Neymark, noting that many go on to become citizens and to vote.

Temple Judea provides the classroom space. The program is free; students pay only for their textbooks. Donations and a corporate grant cover other expenses.

“I call myself a coordinator,” said Neymark, a 47-year temple member who won’t reveal her age. She registers new students, evaluating their English proficiency and placing them in one of six homogeneous classes, ranging from beginning to conversational English. She also arranges for new teachers to receive 12 hours of training each fall.

Additionally, she publishes a newsletter twice a year for the teachers, holds two faculty meetings a year and organizes the annual faculty party.

Neymark is reluctant to take credit for program’s accomplishments.

“It runs itself,” she said, emphasizing that it’s a team effort. She also refers to her husband, who does all her computer work, as her “secret weapon.”

Hilda Fogelson, a retired Los Angeles Unified School District teacher who has taught in the program for 16 years, said, “Betty is very organized and very professional. That’s why the program is so successful.”

Neymark feels a responsibility to continue to support Temple Judea and the Jewish community.

“I’m not going to fade away any sooner than I have to,” she said.

Fran Rosenfield: All About the Children


Fran Rosenfield

Barri Evins

Alex Baum

Betty Neymark

Eve Marcus

Fran Rosenfield

Marilyn Harran

Noah Bleich

Rebecca Levinson

Yehoram Uziel

Yoram Hassid

Fran Rosenfield answers the door of her Northridge home a few moments after the musical doorbell has cycled through its tune. This 79-year-old grandmother was slowed by a recent spinal injury that has rendered her dependent on a cane or walker to get around. But her passion for a cause she championed 15 years ago is going strong.

Inside, her dining room has been transformed into a makeshift shipping department. On the table are wrapped gifts stacked three- and four-boxes deep that are waiting to go to children who are autistic, chronically ill, poor, abused or neglected. Hundreds of gifts were picked up the previous week, and now this batch has to be cleared out to make room for more that will soon arrive.

Welcome to Fran’s Project.

“I do what I do because it’s what I have to do,” said Rosenfield, who is known as Bubbe Fran at Northridge’s Temple Ahavat Shalom. “I can’t stand the thought that anywhere there is a child who is hungry or doing without.”

Her inspiration for the project came from the Adopt a Child Abuse Caseworker Program, which she helped a fellow congregant pitch to the Valley Interfaith Council in 1991.

“These caseworkers are overloaded, and they can’t keep track of everything,” she said.

Rosenfield started out collecting donations for one caseworker from the Department of Children and Family Service, and found she was so successful at motivating people to give that she adopted another caseworker a year later.

Before long the former personnel manager had adopted the entire North Hollywood office.

“You hear stories, like a mother and two kids who are living in a garage on $325 a month or a family whose gas was turned off,” she said. “How can you not want to help these people?”

For Rosenfield, the only December dilemma has been how to collect more gifts than the previous year. This former sisterhood president collected more than 1,000 gifts in 2005, which she donated to four different agencies, including Family Friends, a project of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles. For 2006, she added Jay Nolan Autistic Services to her roster of groups that receive her gifts.

Every morning in the run-up to Christmas, Rosenfield gets on the computer and phone with her list of names and uses her “Jewish mother guilt like crazy, honey.”

The gifts donated to her program from synagogue members and others range in price from $20 to $100, and include toys, clothing, grocery scrip and gas cards. Rosenfield was hoping to break her 2005 record by collecting between 1,500 to 2,000 gifts to put under children’s trees.

Born in Minnesota, Rosenfield moved with her husband, Lenn, to Panorama City in 1950.

“We didn’t even have a phone for the first three years,” said her husband, a former advertising art director who designs the annual posters for Fran’s Project.

Rosenfield’s efforts reflect a family tradition of responding to a crisis. After Hitler came to power, her father rented a home in Minneapolis, declared it a synagogue and brought one or two family members over at a time to serve as its rabbi or cantor. Her father would then find work for the newly arrived relative and put in another request to fill the empty leadership position.

Building on her success with Fran’s Project, Rosenfield recently started a birthday twinning program at Temple Ahavat Shalom. A Hebrew school student is paired up with a child in need whose birthday is on or near the same day, and she provides them with a gift suggestion list.

“I tell them that there are kids who are not as lucky as they are whose parents can’t afford to give them birthday parties and gifts,” said Rosenfield, who serves as the synagogue’s social action chair.

While Rosenfield says she doesn’t know what drives her to do what she does, she counts herself as one of the luckiest people in the world.

“How many people can feel that they’ve made a difference in a child’s life, and then do that by thousands?” she said.

Rainbow-haired couturier takes fashion fun seriously


Her natural hair color is brown, but Nony Tochterman hasn’t shown her roots in about 20 years. These days it’s a bubblegum pink, and in the past she’s tressed herself in Skittles hues, including green, blonde, orange, purple, fuchsia and lavender.
Color, after all, is a lot of what the 40-year-old fashion designer is about. Her line is called House of Petro Zillia. Named after the Hebrew word for parsley, it is a perfect moniker for her design aesthetic, which takes fun seriously.

“I’m a colorful person,” Tochterman said. “I like color; I like texture; I like mixing things together. I think my customer is a sophisticated, ageless, confident woman.”

Such women have found Tochterman’s clothing in upscale boutiques since the company’s inception in 1996, but Tochterman says a store of her own “has been in my head for years.” This month, she and her husband and business partner, Yosi Drori, celebrate the grand opening of a flagship store in the trendy strip of West Third Street, between La Cienega Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue.

“The store is not just about my clothes,” Tochterman said, “but about everything that I love — furniture, knickknacks.”
Tochterman is known in the industry for her whimsical feminine pieces, bold designs and unexpected color combinations, as well as a penchant for knits and vintage-inspired looks. The fashion of Petro Zillia is eclectic. It encompasses a retro sky blue cashmere sweater, with a rainbow and hearts on the front, but also a subtler, but still quirky navy silk wrap dress trimmed with pompoms, and a serious gray tweed flare skirt.

Her new store’s interior reflects this point of view. Shoppers enter into an open space subtly divided into three sections.
Up front, the feel is midcentury, with walls decked in mod orange and green wallpaper. Through the center, the mood changes to neoromantic. Tripartite walls are painted crackle pink on top, lime green in a center ribbon trimmed with gold-gilt molding and papered in a blue floral on the bottom. From the ceiling hangs a sizable chandelier that Tochterman says her husband found at “like a JCC donation center or something.” (Drori is responsible for most of the interior design.) In the back is a shift to ’70s psychedelic, complete with facing lime green loveseats: one tweed, one plastic.

Tochterman and Drori hope to make the location a hangout, in addition to a shopping destination. There are plans for a garden in the back under a big magnolia tree left by the previous tenant, the Shambhala Meditation Center. Next door to the store is a space the couple is converting into Tochterman’s design studio — one arena that has never felt foreign to her.
Tochterman grew up in Tel Aviv with a fashion pedigree. Her mother had a chic boutique, and Tochterman said, “I used to go to her studio, and she allowed me to work on the overlock machine.” By the time she was 7, Tochterman had learned how to knit, sew and cut fabric, and she eventually sold some of her pieces in her mom’s store.

At 14, Tochterman moved to Los Angeles with her parents and siblings, but she had trouble adjusting and moved back to Israel after a year and a half, living with her grandmother while she finished school there.

She returned to Los Angeles after she graduated. Soon after, she moved to New York to work in the fashion industry. Capitalizing on a huge late ’80s trend by making clip-on button covers, Tochterman founded a successful accessories line, Nony New York, with Drori in 1986.

They made the most of it while it lasted, but the trend was dead by 1995, and they closed the business. They traveled, had a brief stint as owners of a Caribbean hotel on Saint Martin and eventually found themselves back in Los Angeles with their infant son, Etai, living with Tochterman’s parents.

Petro Zillia was born soon after — an accessories line that quickly morphed into a full ready-to-wear collection. Some 10 years later, her designs have been featured in Vogue and W Magazine and worn by trendsetters like Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz and Madonna.

Tochterman and Drori continue to work together on the business and personal life they share. The birth of Etai was followed four years later by a girl, Romie. The kids are now 11 and 7 years old, and in February the couple will celebrate their 20th anniversary.

Tochterman’s open personality translates into her life as well as her work. In her identity, she feels herself more American than Israeli. But she’s still “Eema” to the kids, and Drori is “Abba.”

Religion, too, is a relaxed thing. They celebrate Jewish holidays with the extended family but do not observe much at home. In terms of religious school, Tochterman and Drori have not made it a priority. The kids attend a secular private school in Santa Monica, where they live.

One could say her diverse fashion sense applies to her worldview, as well.

“The way we see it, we want to raise good people, religion blind, color blind, sexual-orientation blind — citizens of the world,” Tochterman said. “I like looking at the spectrum of their friends. Indian, Jewish, Italian — it represents the world better.”

It’s Pat — South African queen of kosher cuisine


Smoked duck with papaya salsa. Wild mushroom turnovers. Chicken roulade with sun-dried tomatoes and spinach. Sushi.
Hungry yet? Good.

You keep kosher? Not a problem.

These are just a few of the elegantly presented gourmet dishes created by Pat Fine, of Pat’s Restaurant and Pat’s Catering.
In the nearly three decades since Fine started serving up her dishes in the Southland, the kosher dining landscape has changed dramatically. As David Kamp chronicles in his book, “The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation,” Americans of all stripes have been tutored in fine dining by a string of successful chefs, food critics, cookbook writers and restaurateurs over the last 30 years. This phenomenon has raised the bar for kosher cooking as well, creating demand for chic kosher dining.

Fine has been — and remains — a kosher cuisine pioneer in Los Angeles. Perhaps Rabbi Meyer May, executive director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and frequent Pat’s customer, sums it up best: “She’s the queen of kosher catering, absolutely top of the line.”

Raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, Fine was one of four daughters. Her mother had very little interest in cooking, so Fine and her sisters were given free reign in the kitchen. Her father, a man who loved to eat, proved an enthusiastic recipient of his daughters’ culinary adventures.

Although had she expressed a desire to become a professional cook, Fine is convinced that her mother “would have freaked.” Cooking was thought of as “such an ordinary job, one that simply wasn’t OK for nice Jewish girls,” Fine said.
As a concession to her parents, Fine went on to university to train and work as a pharmacist.

“I was misguided,” she said. “Someone should have said to me ‘Why don’t you go to chefs school?’ I would have loved to go to Cordon Bleu or somewhere like that. But I didn’t, and I regret that.”

Continuing to live and work in Johannesburg, Fine met her husband, Errol. They married in 1970 and soon started their own family. While Fine’s parents were traditional Jews — they lit candles on Friday nights and celebrated the holidays — her in-laws were more observant.

“They kept kosher, so of course when I married I began to [keep kosher] as well,” Fine said.

As massive riots broke out in Soweto near Johannesburg in 1976, the Fines left South Africa with their three sons to start anew in California.

“I had never left the country until we emigrated; I didn’t even have a passport,” Fine said.

The Fines settled in Los Angeles, where Errol was the financial controller for a chain of men’s clothing stores. Pat was busy at home with their children, but still loved learning about food and creating new recipes, so she spent a lot of time “reading and experimenting on my own.”

Over time, more and more of Fine’s friends asked her to prepare food for celebrations and events.

“I was cooking out of my house. I was doing everything myself — the shopping, cooking, delivery, serving. It became too much,” she said.

Since large trucks were prohibited from frequenting her residential neighborhood, Fine would sometimes send deliveries to her children’s school and then transport items with her own car.

Fine expanded her catering with the purchase of a deli on Pico Boulevard in 1982, which she named Elite Cuisine. She soon opened a second Elite Cuisine deli on Beverly Boulevard near Hancock Park. (Although Fine has since sold both delis, the new owner of the Hancock Park location has kept the name.)

As Fine remembers, “When we started out, there were just places like Nosh and Rye. There was nothing else — just some falafel places, kosher hot dogs, deli food. I would tell people that we’ve got pasta salad and they’d say ‘macaroni salad?’ because that was all they knew.”

When she sold the last of her delis about 15 years ago, Fine consolidated her business, opened the fleishig (meat) Pat’s Restaurant on Pico Boulevard near Doheny Drive and expanded the catering operations. Around the same time, Fine said, she offered her accountant husband a job.

With Errol Fine running the business side — from managing 50 employees to handling details for events as far away as in San Francisco — Pat Fine is free to spend her time focused on food.

“He has a lot of charisma, so he meets with people. I prefer to be in the kitchen,” she said.

“It’s a very good partnership,” she added.

As kosher cooking has become increasingly sophisticated and customer’s palettes have become more refined, Fine said she endeavors to stay ahead of the curve. Inspired by her customers’ knowledge and by other creative chefs, Fine said, “Whatever they’re doing out there, say at Spago’s, we’re doing, but kosher.”

Despite her ongoing love for fine food, one shouldn’t expect an invitation for a home-cooked meal at the Fine residence any time soon. At the end of the workday, her home kitchen is the last place Pat Fine wants to be.

She warned, “If you ask me to make coffee at home it’s a big deal — you’re on your own. The most you’ll get in my house is a bagel and cottage cheese.”

Life in the ‘hood: Gino Tortorella, hairdresser to the Jews


After 30 days of spiritual feasting, repenting, praying and partying, I think this is a good time to head into the hood and meet my buddy Gino Tortorella.

I love Gino because he’s entertaining in a Martin Scorsese sort of way — he looks like a cross between Joe Pesci and Danny Devito, with that thick New Joisey accent — and because he’s a Catholic who’s had the chutzpah to spend most of his adult life surrounded by Jews. You see, Gino and his hair salon have been a fixture in the heart of the Pico strip (a few doors down from Pat’s restaurant) since the time Richard Nixon was president (1971), so you can imagine that this man has a few things to say.

And, thank God, he does love to talk.Gino TortorellaToday, he’s looking across the street, where Hymie’s Fish Market used to be, and he’s reminiscing. Apparently, Hymie’s used to be a real hot joint back in the late ’70s. According to Gino, the food was so good (alas, it included shrimp and lobster), and the Jewish owner/hostess (“Mama” Elaine) was so well liked, that “all the stars would show up,” even big Jewish stars like Barbra Streisand and Milton Berle.

There’s no question that Gino’s got a thing for Jews. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that for the better part of 40 years, Jewish women have accounted for 90 percent to 95 percent of his hairdressing business.

He didn’t always cut hair. After being raised in a Catholic orphanage on New York’s Lower East Side, where he was shining shoes on Delancey Street at the age of 8, he lucked into a cook’s job at an Italian restaurant when he was 15. As he recalls it: “I was a bus boy; the chef dropped dead one day, and they gave me the job because the head nun at the orphanage had taught me how to cook.”

But cooking was not to be his calling, because he wanted a “more normal life.” So at 19, he learned the art of hairdressing, and has never looked back.

For several years, Gino was one of Manhattan’s hairdressers par excellence, with salons uptown and downtown, and a wealthy Jewish clientele (“Jewish women like to look good”). But his first wife, a Chinese American from whom he recently divorced, wanted to move to Los Angeles with their daughter. So to “keep the peace” and stay close to his daughter, he followed along and moved to a place he knew nothing about.

Since he didn’t yet have his California hairdresser’s license when he arrived in 1971, he started off by cutting hair on a federal Army base in El Segundo. But one question kept nagging at him: Where are all the Jews?

A buddy from New York told him to “go look in Beverly Hills,” but he found the rents there too high. So one thing led to another, and next thing you know Gino’s on the phone with the owner of a tiny building on West Pico, an Orthodox Jew who ended up becoming his friend and landlord — for 35 years and counting.

A lot has changed in his neighborhood and for Gino over the years. In his heyday, when he used to advertise his salon in the local Jewish paper as “The Boys From New York,” he would have “seven cutters, three shampoo girls and three managers working all the time.”

He attributes his successful years to a discriminating clientele (“I gave them Beverly Hills service without the stuffiness”) and to an obsession with cleanliness (“My customers never walk on hair”).

He felt close enough to his Jewish clientele that he even remembers going on Friday nights to hear the sermons of Rabbi Edgar Magnin, who was related to one of his clients. Although this was a far cry from his working with Sister Rose Maria of Thousand Oaks to help with her Christian missionary work in Africa, he recalls fondly the rabbi’s universal message that “we should all get along.”

Today, it’s just Gino and his second wife, a Japanese American named Kay, who run the salon, where relics of his heyday — a mini disco ball, 1,000 pictures (including one of Pope John Paul II), tchotckies and an old TV — are everywhere. When you consider how quiet the business is these days, you wonder how Gino stays so upbeat. He realizes that the neighborhood has changed; he calls it more “ethnic,” but when pressed, he elaborates and says it’s “more religious.”

Obviously, the trend toward wigs among the newly religious has not been good for business. When I ask him why he thinks the business is down, he admits that it might have to do with him not getting any younger; that it’s not like the old days, when he could attract the hottest talent in town. But the “r” words (retirement and relocation) are both out of the question. In fact, having recovered from a recent stroke, the fit and trim Gino has been doing some strategizing.

A couple of hot-shot religious hairdressers recently approached him and told him that they would be willing to work there, and bring their clients with them, if he would close on Shabbat. This notion intrigues him, and as he walks past the empty hairdresser chairs to offer me another coffee, you can tell that he’s feeling an old fire light up.

When I tell him that I must leave because it’s almost Shabbat, he smiles, the kind of smile that must wonder what it would be like to not have to work on the hairdressers’ busiest day of the week, for someone who’s never had a Saturday off in his life.

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is the founder of OLAM magazine and Meals4Israel.com. He can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

Violinist Joshua Bell walks in the footsteps of masters




Although he doesn’t exactly think of it this way, Joshua Bell is the latest in a long line of Jewish violin-playing aristocracy.

His teacher was Joseph Gingold, and as Bell fondly recalled him, “He was a Russian Jewish violinist. He had an incredible joy for the violin that rubbed off. He introduced me to the older generation — Jascha Heifetz, Fritz Kreisler, Mischa Elman — and they became my idols.”

Those giants had been contemporaries of Gingold and, like him, were all Jews, too. Now Bell, who is generally acclaimed as America’s greatest living violinist, is the latest to be passed the scepter, even though he is only 38.

He may seem young, but he has been playing professionally since he was 14, so, as he admitted with a certain amusement, “I’ve been playing violin professionally longer than I was not playing before. And when you consider that I had my first public performance when I was 7…..”

But he is always aware of those Jewish ghosts at his back.
“A lot of the things that I do when I play are not things I picked up from them consciously, but by growing up with their language, through their music, I internalized it,” he said. “For example, the way they use rubato, something that’s very hard to teach. Kreisler would play incredibly rhythmically but around the beat. He did it very tastefully, it was never overdone.”

Bell is, by his own admission, more of a cultural Jew than a religious one.
“My mother is Jewish, a very typical Jewish mother,” he said. “She was very involved in my practicing. Both my parents were behind me and loved music. But for me, Jewishness was very much a cultural tie. I feel very close to the Jewish side of the family. I grew up with my Jewish cousins, going to all the bar mitzvahs, so I feel very close to that side, and I identify myself as being Jewish.”

He feels that identification with particular acuteness when he performs in Israel.

“My mother lived there; my grandfather was a Sabra,” he explained. “I have family there, and last year, I saw some of them for the first time since I was 4. Even my violin [a famous 1713 Stradivarius] has a connection to Israel. It was owned by Bronislaw Hubermann, who founded the Israel Phil, and when Israelis hear that it’s ‘the Hubermann,’ they get very excited.”

What is it about Jews and classical music? If you ask Bell he is, understandably, a bit guarded
“That’s something you’d have to ask a Jewish sociologist, which my uncle happens to be,” he said, laughing. “I guess it’s a cultural thing. To be successful in music, you need to grow up with cultural influences; in the Jewish households, culture and music are valued. It’s also about role models. Fifty years ago, a Jewish child would be told, ‘You’re going to be the next Heifetz.’ You have to be careful when you say things like this not to be misunderstood.”

Certainly Bell grew up with music all around him.

“Music was very important in my family,” he said. “All the cousins would come over for family musicales, and everybody would play. Nobody was a professional, so there wasn’t a family member to get me started. For me it was Joseph Gingold.”

Bell enjoys one of the busiest schedules a musician could dream of. The three weeks he will spend with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in October represent the longest stretch that he will be in one place all fall and winter. But someday, when his schedule slows down, he would like to do for some young would-be Joshua Bell what Gingold did for him.

 
“I had such a great relationship with my teacher,” he said. “Gingold told me stories about Ysaye, who was one of the greatest violinists of the 19th century and his teacher, and I’d like to pass these things on at some point in my life. I can’t imagine not doing that.”

 
Joshua Bell will perform with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Oct. 19-22 and in an open rehearsal and question-and-answer session with the Colburn Conservatory Orchestra on Oct. 27, followed the next night by a concert with the Colburn. He will appear in a chamber music recital Nov. 1 and again with the Philharmonic Nov. 3-5. All these events will take place at Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, except for the concert on Nov. 4, which will be in Santa Barbara.

 
Bell’s newest CD, “Voice of the Violin,” is available on the Sony label.


 
For more information, call (323) 850-2000 or go to wdch.laphil.com.

There’s the Rub — in Tel Aviv


Tierra couldn’t be more Los Angeles. But for this nouveau combination of mostly organic restaurant, massage parlor and oxygen bar, you’ll have to go to Tel Aviv, where this combo venue clearly out-Hollywoods Hollywood.

The only thing missing — so far — is a Hollywood-style patron, such as Madonna or Oprah. In the meantime, you can settle happily for Yaniv Ben Rachamin, the handsome young waiter. On a recent visit, he needed some crib notes to describe the eclectic menu offerings, but he’s surefooted and helpfully well muscled for any visitors who order the seven-minute, 22-sheckel (about $4) massage with their entree.

Like the others of the wait staff, Ben Rachamin is a certified masseuse. His specialty happens to be a Chinese-style regimen whose name he had trouble translating into English. But as he willingly demonstrated, the good fight against carpal tunnel syndrome knows no language barriers. You just remain at your table in your chair and let him go to work.

Tierra’s setting in its bustling, mostly residential neighborhood is stylish coffeehouse; the food is inventive. One typical appetizer consisted of figs stuffed with mushrooms, macadamia nuts and chicken — flavored with cardamom, cinnamon and a Hindu date dressing (34 sheckels). Not all the entrees strain to be eccentric; there’s “grilled pullet and polenta” for 58 sheckels and “calamari paperdello” for 54 sheckels. Some menu offerings are mouth watering; others more creative than tasty. But there’s a full bar to wash everything down.

Co-owner Yonatan Galili says he keeps the menu as organic as possible — except when going exclusively organic would raise prices. He’s gone through several career iterations, including successful industrial engineer, to reach this entrepreneurial exploration of the mind/body/stomach connection.

He sees the massages as a way for a person/diner to “be with himself for seven minutes.” He adds: “We are very aware of the Western way of life. We serve food that is friendly to the stomach so you can eat here and then later keep on working.”

Of course, another option is to get high at the oxygen bar and forget all about working. Galili has two flavors of oxygen — “secret” concoctions created specially by an expert in designing flavors for oxygen bars. One is to relax you; the other to energize you.

The giddy feeling that ensues doesn’t seem quite legal, but apparently, it’s OK to inhale. Just be glad that you’re not the one flying the airplane home.

Tierra is located at Yirmiyahu 54, Tel Aviv, 03-604-7222. Hours: 9 a.m. to last customer.

 

Bombings Bolster Commitment to Life


As if mocking the scenes of jubilation at London’s successful 2012 Olympics bid, the terrorist explosions that came the next day left devastation in their wake.

In all our synagogues, British Jews are joining our prayers with those of others, grieving for the dead, praying for the injured and sharing our tears with those of the bereaved (see story, page 14).

Terror has become the scourge of our age, and it will take all our inner strength to cope with it. I have met far too many victims of terror: survivors of the Istanbul synagogue bombing in 2003 and the 1994 terrorist attack on the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires; in Israel, where almost everyone knows someone who has been affected, as well as survivors of the massacres in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Kosovo.

Like others, I have wept for the broken families and shattered lives and the injuries, physical and psychological, that may never heal.

But I have wept also at the courage of the victims. Each year, I go with a group to perform concerts for people who have suffered terrorist attacks. One we met was an 11-year-old boy who had lost his mother, father and three other members of his family in a suicide bombing. He himself had lost his sight.

In the hospital ward, the boy sang with the choir a hauntingly beautiful religious song. We had gone to give him strength; instead, he gave us strength.

Terror fails and will always fail, because it arouses in us a profound instinct for life. Will we ever forget the heroism of the New York firefighters on Sept. 11, or the courage of the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 or the kindness of strangers who brought comfort to the traumatized survivors?

Terror makes us vigilant in defense of what we otherwise take for granted: the sanctity of life, the importance of freedom and the countless natural restraints that allow us to live together in safety and trust.

Free societies are always stronger than their enemies take them to be. Enemies of the West mistake its openness for vulnerability, its tolerance for decadence, its respect for differences for a lack of moral conviction.

Britain has exceptionally strong links of friendship among its different faiths and ethnic communities. That is a vital source of stability when nerves are frayed and fears aroused. London itself has a long history of courage. That, too, was evident in the calm that prevailed on July 7.

The best response to terror is not anger, but the quiet strength to carry on, not giving way to fear. I think of Judea Pearl, father of murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who has become a campaigner for deeper understanding between Islam and the West. When I asked him what motivated him, he replied, “Hate killed my son, and you cannot defeat hate by hate.”

I think of one of the most promising young men our community has produced, 19-year-old Yoni Jesner, who was killed in a Tel Aviv suicide bombing. His family, out of deep religious conviction, donated his organs to save lives — among them a 7-year-old Palestinian girl who had waited two years for a kidney transplant.

Michael Walzer, a leading American political theorist, has written, “Terrorists are like killers on a rampage, except that their rampage is not just expressive of rage or madness; the rage is purposeful and programmatic.”

Its victims, deliberately, are the innocent and the uninvolved: workers in an office, passengers on a train, passersby on a pavement. Its aim is fear. It advances no interest. It has no conceivable claim to justice. It dishonors any cause it claims to represent.

The real answer to terror was enacted in London and elsewhere five days before. Millions of people took to the streets and parks to demonstrate their solidarity with the victims of poverty in Africa. Their methods were peaceful, their weapons were song and celebration, and their greatest strength was the justice of their cause.

The people with whom they were identifying — the hundreds of millions of children who lack food, shelter, clean water and medical facilities, sustenance and hope — have never resorted to terror to bring their plight to the attention of the world, nor did they need to.

The choice humanity faces was set out long ago by Moses: “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore choose life, so that you and your children may live.”

The strongest answer to the forces of death is a renewed commitment to the sanctity of life.

This column first ran in the Times of London on July 9, 2005.

Sir Jonathan Sacks is Orthodox chief rabbi of the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth and associate president of the Conference of European Rabbis.

 

When Parents Get Preschool Jitters


It was the first day of preschool and 2-year-old Jessica didn’t know any of other children in her new class at B’nai Tikvah Congregation Nursery School. But the child’s anxiety paled in comparison that of her mother.

“I worried that Jessica would get her feelings hurt or that she would physically get hurt and I would not be there to comfort her,” said Sherri Cadmus. “I am used to protecting her. Now I need to give up some of that control and hope that she will be comfortable enough with her teachers to be comforted by them.”

As many preschool teachers know all too well, school separation anxiety is often harder for parents than children. Adjustments to preschool are always difficult, and for children — and parents — in Jewish days schools, the interruptions of the holiday often make it harder.

“Sometimes parents worry that they are abandoning their child even though intellectually they know the children needs to be in an environment with [his or her] peers,” said veteran preschool director Marla Osband of B’nai Tikvah in Westchester.

To ease the transition easier, Osband encourages parents to visit the school with their child before the child’s first official day. When the child starts, Osband’s “open-door policy” allows parents to either drop by or call in as often as needed. The staff often helps children write letters to their parents to bring home. Teachers take pictures to show that the child had a successful day. Parents can also leave a “transitional object,” like an article of the parent’s clothing or a picture, to remind the child that the parent will return.

According to Wendy Mogel, a Los Angeles clinical psychologist, parent educator and school consultant, the length of a child’s distress holds important information.

“The key question for the parents to ask is how many minutes does it take the child to recover after the huge show of anguish and agony when parent leaves,” Mogel said. “That’s always the key indicator for me.”

If the child cries for just a few minutes and is soon able to calm down and play or socialize, he or she is probably OK. However, if they child dreads going to school and constantly complains of headaches and stomachaches, he or she might be too young.

Mogel advises parents to be cautious about projecting their own fears.

“Children are wonderful at reading cues and playing a part at full theatrical flourish,” warned the therapist.

Since children tend to be more emotional with their mothers, sometimes having the father take the child to school can make for an easier experience.

At some Jewish preschools like Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) Early Childhood Program in Encino, life without mom and dad is introduced at age 2 in the toddler-transition program. Since most VBS preschoolers come from this program, which is specifically geared toward separation, starting preschool is usually an easier adjustment.

VBS transition classes are offered two days a week, adding a third day in the middle of the school year. Parents attend the class for a portion of the day with the child and leave together as a group at a certain point. Parents often stay on site to monitor their children’s progress until they feel comfortable departing for a brief period of time — leaving a cell phone number, of course.

“Some children separate easily and some need a longer time,” said Michelle Warner, who runs the VBS toddler transition program. “The same goes for the parents.”

The school brings in speakers who discuss parenting issues while the parents congregate in another room on site.

According to Mogel “interviewing a child for pain” is a common mistake parents make when a child starts preschool.

“The child comes home at end of day and the parent says, ‘How was it this morning — a little better than yesterday?'” Mogel explained. “If you want to talk, tell them about your day. Be quiet and then they’ll tell you about their day.”

By Jessica’s third day at B’nai Tikvah, she no longer needed her mother to stay with her in the morning. While there were a few small setbacks and meltdowns — particularly with the interruption of the holidays — Jessica is now a well-adjusted preschool — a concept that Cadmus is still getting used to.

“On the first day she stayed alone in the class I gave her a sticker for being so brave,” Cadmus said. “Now when she wakes up, she says ‘Sticker, no mommy day’ and sometimes ‘Sticker, no daddy day.’ This makes us think of all the experiences she will be having on her own that we will only learn about secondhand.”

Hungarian Baker Rises to Success


Since Meir Jacobs bought the J&T Bread Bin 34 years ago, the bakery hasn’t changed much. Nestled in the center of the Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax, it retains its old-world charm — the original glass showcases line the store’s perimeter, and the original orange "Bread Bin" metal signs hang on both sides of the store. Handwritten yellow notes advertise the goods: chocolate danishes, raspberry hamantaschen, sprinkled cookies, lemon bars, macaroons and more.

It’s the Hungarian treats that reveal the bakery’s hidden history. The loaves of glazed cinnamon raisin bread, the apple squares and the three-flavored puff pastries called kalaches give meaning to Jacobs’ words: "This is a very old-fashioned-style bakery."

An old-fashioned Hungarian bakery fashioned after its owner.

Born in Hungary 85 years ago, Jacobs spent his childhood attending yeshiva. At age 15, he dropped out of school to become a baker’s apprentice. Three years of laboring for no money and sleeping on flour sacks in a storage room earned him his baker’s certificate. Credentials in hand, Jacobs went to work for a bakery in Budapest.

What happened next remains a secret. Jacobs said his parents, brothers and one of his sisters died in the gas chambers. But he managed to evade the concentration camps. Jacobs refuses to talk about how he survived the Holocaust, citing the need to protect those who helped him.

A few years ago, Jacobs returned to Hungary. He visited the house where he grew up and was upset to find another family living there.

"My hate was so big," he said, that he could stand no more than four days in Hungary.

"Just get out," he told himself.

After World War II, Jacobs married and then moved to the United States in 1958 in search of "the good life," he said. He arrived in New York, which he found too cold. Days later, he moved to Miami, which he found too hot. He then hopped on a train to Los Angeles, which he found just right.

Jacobs got a job at a kosher bakery, which bent the rules for him, allowing him to work on Saturdays: "They closed the window shades so nobody could see."

After working "here and there" for a few years, Jacobs decided to buy his own bakery. With a business partner, Jacobs purchased the Brown’s Wilshire Bakery & Deli. Three months later, he and his partner had a falling out, which resulted in Jacobs buying his partner out to become the sole owner of Brown’s, which Jacobs still runs today.

The Brown’s bakery was funneling bread and pastries to a shop in Farmers Market. Jacobs reasoned that if he owned the shop, he could increase sales of his baked goods.

"It’s important to have a ‘cold spot’ when you have a bakery," he said. "You sell more that way."

So, Jacobs bought the store and renamed it J&T Bread Bin. The "T" stands for his daughter’s married name, since she and her husband are partners in the business.

"I made it bigger, more professional," he said. "I brought in European-style Hungarian strudel, Jewish hamantaschen, mandel bread, challahs."

Today, regular customers flock to Bread Bin. They know Jacobs by his Hungarian name, Mike — "pronounced like the Mickey in Mickey Mouse," said Ausencia, who has worked as Jacobs’ assistant for four years.

Ninety-year-old Sally Goldfarb has been shopping at Bread Bin a few times a week, whenever she needs bread, for more than 15 years.

Another regular, Bob Leve, 53, calls Jacobs "part of Hollywood history." Leve likes the onion pockets, which, he said, "melt in your mouth."

Jon Guzick, 33, who used to go to the bakery as a child with his family, now comes back for the black-and-white cookies, which remind him of being a kid.

The personal connections are important for Jacobs. He likes to schmooze, he said. When customers share with him their personal problems, he tells them, "Nothing is forever. No good thing is forever; no bad thing is forever. The sun goes down; the sun comes up."

And with every sunrise, Jacobs goes to work. He arrives at Bread Bin at 7:30 a.m., seven days a week. He goes home to rest in the afternoon but returns to the market at 6 p.m. to determine what needs to be ordered for the next day. Then, he stops by Brown’s bakery to place the orders. When will the 85-year-old retire?

"When the Messiah comes," he said with a smile.

J&T Bread Bin Bakery is located in spot 330 at Farmers Market on Third Street and Fairfax Avenue. For more information, call (323) 936-0785.

Meir Jacobs’ Lokshen Kugel

Take one package of noodles, not too wide, not too narrow.

Put a little salt in water, and cook the noodles for 1/2 hour.

Strain the noodles from the water.

In a bowl, mix three eggs, two teaspoons of cinnamon, 1 cup of sugar and 1 1/2 sticks of margarine.

Put the noodles into the bowl, and mix the contents.

Take another bowl and spray it with cooking spray. Put some whole almonds on the bottom of the bowl. Then, pour the mix of noodles, eggs, cinnamon, sugar and margarine into the bowl.

Put the bowl in the oven.

Bake at 350F for one hour.

King of Hearts Loves to Play Matchmaker


He’s not your typical yenta, he’s not JDate and he’s certainly not your grandmother’s cousin once removed, but Asher Aramnia loves making love connections for local Jewish singles.

With countless successful matches to his credit, Aramnia’s matchmaking activities through the Iranian Jewish Chronicle (Chashm Andaaz) magazine, which is operated by the Eretz-SIAMAK Cultural Center in Tarzana, has become something of a unique surprise in the local Jewish community, where women traditionally help Jewish singles find their soulmates.

"I know people think this [matchmaking] is for women, but I don’t care about that. What’s important to me is the mitzvah of two single Jews finding the loves of their life," said the nearly 70-year-old Aramnia, who lives in Westwood and also works full time as a manager downtown.

In the past four years , the magazine’s Peyvand-e-Delha (Union of Hearts) program has helped bring together 25 Jewish couples from various cultural backgrounds who were single, divorced or widowed, Aramnia said.

"After they fill out an application, I personally and confidentially interview them," Aramnia said. "Our whole objective is to make sure that if anyone does get married, that it will last forever."

The Union of Hearts was the brainchild of the magazine’s publisher, Dariush Fakheri. He said he developed the program 12 years ago to enable divorced Iranian Jews in Southern California to meet and later expanded it to include other singles.

"This program was first called ‘Another Spring,’ and we wanted divorced Jews to make connection with each other, because there was a taboo for divorced people to remarry in our community," said Fakheri, who is also co-founder of the Eretz-SIAMAK Cultural Center.

While a one-time $100 membership fee is requested by the magazine to cover its program expenses, Aramnia said he does not get paid for introducing couples, and the magazine makes no money providing the service.

Every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Aramnia is busy working the phones at the Eretz-SIAMAK offices and often stays up late weeknights to keep in touch with the singles he has introduced and to meet with new ones.

"The secret to our success is not asking them what they want, but rather asking what they don’t want in a mate or would despise in a mate," Aramnia explained. "This allows us to better match up couples."

Top requests from single men participating in Union of Hearts are for women with beauty and good families, while single women frequently ask for men who are not stingy or liars, Aramnia said.

Information sought by Jewish singles in the program includes age, height, weight, hair color, number of children and their ages, alimony receipt or payment, religious observations, education, occupation, hobbies, drinking limits, turn offs, smoking and priorities in a companion, according to the application sheet.

In addition, Aramnia said he does extensive background checks on singles participating in the program and works closely with them to ensure compatibility and that their relationships last.

"They [participants] become like members of my family, like my son or daughter, and that enables them to open up to me and nothing is hidden," Aramnia said.

Aramnia, who has been married for nearly 50 years, said he was first drawn to introducing Jewish singles after seeing the collapse of many marriages and families.

"When a couple divorces with one or two children, the weight of the break up is on the children’s shoulders who are tremendously impacted," Aramnia said. "This breaks my heart, and I’m willing to do anything to prevent that from happening."

Individuals collaborating with Aramnia said his unique, youthful spirit and desire to help others has been the main reason for his success in getting couples together.

"He’s just an angel, he does this [matchmaking] out of pure love," Fakheri said. "The man is remarkable. He does so many great things, like personally visiting patients at Cedars-Sinai out of the blue on a weekend."

While the Union of Hearts program has primarily introduced local Iranian Jewish singles, Aramnia said he frequently introduces other Jews from elsewhere in the country, Europe, Mexico and even parts of South America.

"We’ve had a couple of successful marriages recently between Mexican and Iranian Jews. Their cultures and families are very similar," Aramnia said. "We also have a lot of Iranians [Jews] who want to marry Americans [Jews] in L.A."

Jewish seniors as old as 70 who are seeking companionship have also been paired up, Aramnia said. He said will continue introducing Jewish singles, because of the joy he sees from happy couples.

"The greatest satisfaction for me is getting invited to the wedding and seeing the couples stand under the chuppah or when they call me up to tell me about the birth of their child," Aramnia said.

For more information on Union of Hearts, call the Eretz-SIAMAK Cultural Center (310) 843-9846.

Karmel Melamed is an L.A. freelance writer and can be contacted at karmelmelamed@yahoo.com

Abraham Spiegel


Abraham Spiegel, a survivor of four concentration camps, who built a new life in America as a successful businessman, philanthropist and ardent supporter of Jewish life in the United States and Israel, died April 10 in his home at the age of 97.

Among his major legacies are the Children’s Memorial at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, the Spiegel Family Building at the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora in Tel Aviv and the Spiegel Family Park, also in Tel Aviv.

In Los Angeles, he was instrumental in establishing the Yeshiva University of Los Angeles High School and Yavneh Hebrew Academy, and served on the city’s 1984 Olympics Commission and other civic bodies.

Spiegel was born in Mukachevo, in what is now Ukraine, the son of a lumber mill owner. He married his lifelong companion Edita in 1940 and in 1944 the couple and their 2 1/2-year-old son, Uziel, were shipped to Auschwitz. The parents survived, but their son perished.

After being liberated by the Russian army, Spiegel, with his wife, arrived in 1947 in the United States at age 40, with few resources and little knowledge of English.

Within a relatively short time, Spiegel established himself as a highly successful builder of tract homes and later as chairman of two savings and loan banks.

Once financially secure, his major interest turned to philanthropy. He became the first West Coast chairman of support groups for the city of Tel Aviv, Yad Vashem, Tel Aviv University and Bar-Ilan University. He endowed academic chairs at the two universities and served on their governing boards.

A high-spirited and openhanded personality, Spiegel counted among his friends Israeli Prime Ministers Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon, while at home he was a close friend and confidant of Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley.

Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum met Spiegel during their joint work in establishing the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and he recalled his friend as a "powerful, determined and passionate man. Abe belonged to the generation of Jews who were involved in every aspect of Jewish life."

Yuval Rotem, Israel’s consul general in Los Angeles, praised Spiegel’s "enormous contributions to the State of Israel…. I think Abe felt that if a Jewish state had existed in the early 1940s, his son might still be alive."

John Fishel, president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, noted that Spiegel’s death "leaves a large vacuum in the Jewish life of Los Angeles. He personified a large segment of Jewish history in the 20th century."

A longtime friend and fellow survivor, Nathan Shapell, remembered vividly that "Abe never seemed to tire, he was always working for a cause."

Spiegel also maintained close personal relations with a number of Egyptian leaders, and at times served as an intermediary between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Israeli Prime Minister Shamir.

Funeral services were held Sunday at Temple Beth Am and the Home of Peace Memorial Park, where Spiegel was buried next to Edita, who died in 1999 after 59 years of marriage.

Public memorial services are planned for Los Angeles and Tel Aviv.

Spiegel is survived by his children, Tom and Rita; daughter-in-law, Helene; grandchildren, Barak and Ron Diskin and Anthony, Evan and Josef; great-granddaughter, Stella; brother, Aron; and sisters, Shirley Gluck and Blanca Roven Wintner.

Q & A With Norman Brokaw


Norman Brokaw’s first day at the William Morris Agency was July 7, 1943; he has never worked anywhere else.

The 15-year-old, $25-a-week mailboy was the first mailroom trainee to become an agent, later becoming the agency’s chairman of the board. He represented Bill Cosby for four decades and was responsible for introducing Joe DiMaggio to Marilyn Monroe.

On April 20 at the Regent Beverly Wilshire, Brokaw’s three decades of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center philanthropy — as a member of the hospital’s board of governors, board of directors and now life trustee — are being honored by Cedars-Sinai’s Heart Fund as Brokaw receives its Steven S. Cohen Humanitarian Award.

The cardiology unit is special to Brokaw because his mother had a stroke and heart attack while her older sons fought in World War II (one was executed on the Bataan Death March). One of Brokaw’s brothers and his father died of heart attacks.

In his cozy office, the 76-year-old William Morris icon gave a rare interview to The Journal discussing his 30-year love affair with Cedars-Sinai.

Jewish Journal: How did you get involved with Cedars-Sinai?

Norman Brokaw: I’ve always had an interest in things that had to do with the heart, because of family history. Having had all this experience, first at the age of 15, when my mother had a heart attack, I lost a brother who died at the age of 43 with a heart attack, I’m very mindful of the heart situation. When my father and brother had their heart attacks, if we had that knowledge then (about the heart), they’d be living a much longer life.

JJ: What’s the connection between your success at work and your success at philanthropy?

NB: If you work hard in business and you work hard for the hospital, if you’re successful in business you can be successful for the hospital.

JJ: What do you think of philanthropy in Hollywood today? George Gobel once joked, "By the time I got to Hollywood, the only charity that was left was water on the knee."

NB: Well there you are. Everybody has a favorite charity. Cedars has been very, very special to me. So many doctors I know are longtime, personal friends of mine, and they all work through the hospital, treating family and friends of mine, including actors, writers, directors, producers, etc. Chances are that their personal physicians are on staff or had privileges at Cedars-Sinai.

So many people are drawn to the hospital; it has an incredible reputation. With Dr. P.K. Shah, the director of cardiology and atherosclerosis, and the research and things that are accomplished in his department, it’s really the whole future.

JJ: What did you learn about philanthropy from Lew Wasserman?

NB: A great and friendly competitor. I considered him a mentor to me. I liked everything about Lew Wasserman. How he supported candidates from both political parties. He cared about everybody.

JJ: During the same 60 years you have been in Hollywood, you’ve also seen the rise of Jewish philanthropy and institutions in Los Angeles, including Cedars-Sinai.

NB: As a young man, I was in the entertainment section of the United Jewish Welfare Fund. I was one of the two founders of the Cedars-Sinai annual tennis tournament, which is now in its 32nd year. I did create a huge benefit to launch the Betty Ford cancer center, because of my relationship with President and Mrs. Ford.

My main contributions go to Cedars-Sinai, because of my involvement with them. I’ve always made contributions to the United Jewish Welfare Fund.

JJ: There is also a very personal reason why you are so attached to Cedars-Sinai and especially Shah, its cardiology division director.

NB: P.K. Shah saved my life. Because of my family history, every year I go to Cedars-Sinai and take a complete physical. Dr. Shah spotted a change in my cardiograph about a year-and-a-half ago and told me he wanted me to have a angiogram.

I told him that I had no aches, no pains, no shortness of breath, I work 17 hours a day and did I really have to have an angiogram? He said yes and scheduled it for a few days later.

At 5:30 in the morning, they did an angiogram. When I awakened about four hours later, I learned I had a triple bypass.

Because of P.K. Shah’s early detection, they found there was blockage in three of the arteries. I was operated on with no damage to my heart. I was back working from home four days later and back in the office in three weeks.

Again, it was because P.K. Shah spotted that there was something going on. His early detection prevented me from having a major heart attack.

For tickets to the Heart Fund Humanitarian of the Year gala on April 20 honoring Norman Brokaw, call (310) 423-3657.

Get Untangled From Web of Bad Dates


Evan Marc Katz has never had a bad Internet date. Well, except for the time his date had an aneurysm — and that was hardly his fault, was it? OK, aside from the time that Katz’s blind date had a seizure, he’s never had a bad Internet date. That’s because he follows his own rules culled from five years of online dating (on seven different sites) as well as working at Internet Web sites.

Now the 31-year-old screenwriter has parlayed his experience into E-Cyrano — an online dating consulting service, which, among other things, writes clients’ essays for their profiles — and “I Can’t Believe I’m Buying This Book: A Commonsense Guide to Successful Internet Dating,” (Ten Speed Press) a cheeky, practical how-to book for newbies and old-timers; in other words, from naïve beginners who don’t know where to start to jaded experts who don’t know how to stop.

Jewish Journal: You used to work at JDate? How did you come up with the idea for this book?

Evan Marc Katz: I was already online dating for a few years when I ended up working on JDate…. After about two weeks on the job, I realized that I could write a book, because there were so many dissatisfied customers, and I felt when I was on the phone — even if it was a billing question — generally how little thought they were putting into their essays. I made my job into what I thought it should be…. It was a day job that just took on a life of its own.

JJ: Is Jewish dating different from regular online dating?

EMK: I think people take it just a little bit more seriously. I think that the quality of people on JDate is generally a little bit a higher quality, something endemic to Judaism is insularity and where they place their values: family, education, tradition. For people who stay within the tribe … it’s the name brand.

JJ: Has the Internet taken the place of the Jewish community?

EMK: It’s created a different sense of community. It’s not a replacement for anything — it’s a supplement…It’s another way for people to meet people. But it’s not a replacement.

JJ: Do you think it’s disingenuous for E-Cyrano to write someone’s profile?

EMK: To me it’s the equivalent of a resume. If you’re making up jobs on a resume, that’s no good; if you’re trying to put together a resume that would distinguish me from the pack, that’s good.

We’re just writing down what people say. I think a lot of people don’t know why they’re interesting. This is a tool to get you in the door, not to get you a job; if a person can’t live up to their own hype, if you go out with someone who wrote a good essay without talking or e-mailing, if you go out with them, you get what you deserve, because you didn’t do screening. I don’t go on bad dates. I refuse to. It’s simply because I take my time. My dates are — at the worst — there’s no chemistry. They’re never bad.

JJ: You never went on a bad date?

EMK: I think that these car wrecks can be avoided, if you’re looking a little bit farther ahead…. Your love life is as serious as your work life and you should take it as seriously. I do think that the more you put in, the more you get out.

There’s more to online dating than slapping up a picture [My book says]: How to get the most out of online dating sites, what kind of photos to post, where to meet someone and when to meet someone. I try to save people a lot of time and money and frustration from my own dating experiences.

JJ: What does it mean to be a successful online dater? You’re not married, and yet you’re writing this book…

EMK: You are a success in online dating if you are consistently meeting good people and enjoying the process. It’s not the Internet’s job to legislate whether people are compatible, or of finding “the one,” but if you’re meeting good people, it’s just a matter of time. You attract what you put out there — if you have a negative outlook in your profile, that’s not all that attractive, is it? I am very positive about this, not because I’m Mr. Sunshine, but because I have lots of success and meet lots of people. I have fallen in love and I’ve had all these experiences, except for a ring on the finger — and that’s the next thing around the corner.

JJ: Do you think that online dating has ruined dating? Do you think it’s made people tired of dating?

EMK: It does become somewhat addicting, and because there is always someone else, it makes it easier to revolve … it has to do with the medium — the ease with which we meet people. People become disposable. That revolving door is only going to stop when you decide to do it.

I’ve heard a woman who says, “I’m not doing this anymore,” and to me that’s like having a bad meal at a restaurant and going on a hunger strike. Place it in perspective — you never have to go on a bad date if you take your time and you’re a good judge of character. If you’re going on five dates a week, that doesn’t show much confidence that you think anything’s going to work out.

Slow down! You take control of this medium instead of letting it take control of you.

Evan Marc Katz will speak at Border’s Books on March 24,
7:30 p.m. 14651 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. (818) 728-6593. For information
about E-Cyrano, visit www.e-cyrano.com .

Right Place, Right Time


It was Sunday afternoon, July 6, 2003, and I was approaching the end of a successful three-week mission to Israel dedicated to responding to a new wave of missionary activity. In addition to lectures, news interviews and meetings with government officials, my colleagues and I distributed thousands of copies of a new Hebrew version of Jews for Judaism’s counter-missionary handbook “The Jewish Response To Missionaries.” That day I was traveling by car, with my wife, Dvora, and our son, from the northern town of Tsfat to Tel Aviv.

Around 4 p.m. we decided to take a rest stop. Just before the Zikhron Ya’akov interchange, we exited Highway 70 and pulled up to a small restaurant located about 50 feet from the highway. As we exited our vehicle we heard the sound of screeching tires and turned toward the highway to witness a horrific accident. A white taxi traveling at high speed ran straight into a pedestrian who was walking along the side of the highway. I saw and heard the impact, and watched as the pedestrian was thrown into the air and did a complete somersault over the car, landing on the pavement headfirst.

I’ve been police chaplain for more than 10 years with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles Airport Police and the LAPD and have responded to numerous crisis situations. I’m also trained in first aid, CPR, crisis counseling and advanced critical incident stress management. Within seconds, my years of training kicked in and I helped take control of the situation.

People around me were staring in shock and disbelief. I yelled to them to call for help. My command shook them out their stupor and some immediately ran inside the restaurant and called for emergency services.

I turned my attention back to the highway and ran the 50 feet, jumped the guardrail and kneeled next to the victim. The 14-year-old girl was lying motionless on her side with blood pouring from the back of her head and mouth. I was joined by Danny Eitan, a retired paratrooper and officer of the Israeli army, who had been driving in the opposite direction when he witnessed the accident. Together, we checked for breathing and a pulse. Once we realized both breathing and circulation were absent, we started CPR. Danny opened the airway and handled the breathing and I started chest compressions.

Each time I finished the chest compressions I shouted “od paam” (“again”) to Danny, indicating that he should give her two breaths. This continued for about four repetitions until we revived her.

I did a physical assessment for additional body damage and did not notice any other major external bleeding. A doctor visiting the country arrived on scene. I then turned my attention to the victim’s three friends who were standing by the side of the highway, shaking uncontrollably and crying. I removed them from the accident scene and took them inside the restaurant, had them sit down, supplied them with cold water and offered words of hope. After finding out the victim’s first name, “Hadas,” I offered a brief prayer and left her friends under the supervision of my wife — a licensed therapist.

Since it was extremely warm outside, we wanted to shield the victim from the sun. I requested that some form of material be brought to the side of the victim and a makeshift canopy was erected out of a large cardboard box.

Returning to the victim’s side, I held her head in my hands to prevent further trauma. She kept trying to pull my hand away, but with the help of several individuals who held her arms I stabilized her head and neck. Using her first name we spoke reassuring words of encouragement until the ambulance arrived.

Hadas was taken to a hospital in Hadera where they treated her internal injuries. She was then transferred to a Tel Aviv trauma center for her head injuries. After four days of treatment, she was listed as “out of danger” and is expected to make a full recovery.

Thanks to my training I was able to react professionally, but it was more than training that saved her life.

After the ambulance took Hadas to the hospital, Danny turned to me and said, “I wasn’t supposed to be in this spot at this time.”

I told him that in a million years I wouldn’t have expected to be here either — the “shortcut” given to me that morning took me on nine different highways until I reached the accident site.

I shared with Danny – who is not religious – the words of the Baal Shem Tov,
concerning divine providence and how “the footsteps of men are established
by God.” As we embraced in the middle of the road, we cried knowing that God
had directed us to this spot to save a young life.

I helped Danny put on tefillin in the merit of Hadas’ complete and speedy recovery and we pledged a bond of brotherly friendship for the rest of our lives.

Divine providence put us in the right place at the right time. I thought I
was going to Israel to save Jewish souls, but little did I know that I was
sent to help save Hadas’ life.


Rabbi Ben-Tzion Kravitz is the founder of Jews for Judaism International. He can be reached at la@jewsforjudaism.org.

A Man Without Fear


When Marvel Comics founding father Stan Lee createdDaredevil in 1964, he tagged his blind superhero: “Man Without Fear.” Thenickname also applies to Avi Arad, head of Marvel Studios, Marvel Enterprises’film/television division. Israeli-born Arad rescued Marvel from Chapter 11 inthe ’90s, turning it into a major film provider with “Spider-Man” and now”Daredevil.”

“Daredevil,” starring Ben Affleck as Matt Murdock, thelawyer-turned-vigilante with heightened senses, symbolizes Marvel’s catch-up torival D.C. Comics, which for decades had the Hollywood edge with billion-dollargrossing franchises “Superman” and “Batman.”

“Prior [Marvel] management was really afraid of the moviebusiness,” Arad said. “They were run by financial people who had no interest inentertainment.”

That changed when Arad put Marvel on the Hollywood map.Marvel’s first smash in 1998 came with only a minor character, Blade. “X-Men”followed in 2000, and “Spider-Man,” which took in more than $403.7 milliondomestically, became the fifth-highest grossing film of all time.

Raised near Tel Aviv, Arad served in the Israeli army beforemoving to America, where a job driving a Nabisco truck connected him with a toycompany.

“I got a job in research and development and found out I hada knack for inventing toys,” said Arad, 55. “So I went on my own.”

“If you had a successful toy,” said Arad — the creator of”My Pretty Ballerina” — “you turned it into a cartoon. It was a naturaltransition for me to expand into animation.”

Since coming aboard as Marvel Studios’ chief in 1993, Aradplayed a key role in saving Marvel Enterprises from bankruptcy and untangled anearly two-decade web of courtroom battles over “Spider-Man’s” film rights, asdetailed in Dan Raviv’s 2002 book “Comic Wars.” Over that time, movie specialeffects have come a long way.

“I don’t know if we could’ve made the ‘Spider-Man’ that wehave today even five years ago,” Arad said. 

After “Daredevil,” 2003 will bring “X-Men 2,” “Hulk” and theshooting of Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” sequel — with a Michael Chabon screenplay — for 2004. “Ghost Rider” (starring Nicolas Cage) and “Fantastic Four” will follow.

“He really cares about these characters,” Stan Lee saidabout Arad. “He gets the best writers and the best directors.”

So, will “Daredevil” attract a mass audience on a”Spider-Man” level while placating some diehard fans who feel that the movie’scasting choices and costumes stray too far from the comic?

As Arad told a reporter, “Ben Affleck looks good in even apaper bag.”

“Daredevil” opens in theaters Feb. 14.

Collaborating on Education


“It may be on the smaller side, and we do have a long way to
go, but we definitely have a day school movement,” said Rabbi Josh Elkin,
executive director of Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE).

The audience of 600-plus day school advocates responded with
thunderous applause during the joint luncheon, which brought together attendees
from both the PEJE’s Donor Assembly and the Leadership Assembly at the Park
Hyatt Hotel in Century City on Feb. 3.

Elkin touched on some of the problematic issues facing day
schools: affordability, teacher retention, donor and student recruitment. The
way to overcome these difficulties, he said, is through collaboration.

Like college graduates looking to make career contacts, many
of the professional and lay day school leaders, major philanthropists, Jewish
Federation leaders and Jewish endowment fund representatives attending the PEJE
Leadership Assembly portion, the first of its kind in the United States, took
time out to network.

The cross-denominational Leadership Assembly brought
together people from various aspects of the national day school community to
promote cooperation between religious movements and address universal
challenges. While much of the conference consisted of lectures and workshops,
many participants admitted that networking was a key reason for their
attendance.

“For the most part, the conference has confirmed things I
know,” admitted Carl Mandell, head of school for Solomon Schechter Day School
in West Hartford, Conn., who attended the leadership portion. “The most
valuable components came after the workshops because I had opportunities to
meet people from other schools.”

Dana Gibson, president of the Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy
board of trustees in Overland Park, Kan., said he often feels alone in his
quest to improve and maintain day school education.

“Kansas is isolating,” he said. “We need this contact with
other [advocates] because we’re facing the same issues.”

Like those who share his passion in big and small cities
alike, Gibson said that the Reform movement’s lack of interest in developing
day schools is a key challenge. Conference workshops offered suggestions on how
to make a case for day schools, techniques the educator hopes use in his
hometown. Meeting experts like Richard Lewis from the Schusterman Foundation’s
Small Communities Program from Vestal, N.Y., also provided him with a sense of
support.

Marcy Goldberg, the development chair of a new day school
opening in Chicago next fall, came to the conference to learn about the
fundraising her school will need to embrace during its first year and beyond.
Goldberg says that the sessions gave her the opportunity to learn about some
innovative fundraising techniques — and meet others who have found them
successful.

Ilene Reinfeld, principal of Adat Ari El Day School in Valley
Village, sat in the hotel lobby, relaxing after a day of intense workshops
amid the hustle and bustle of cross-country attendees rushing to the airport.

“It’s been a long time coming for an event like this,” said
the educator, commenting that the encouragement for collaboration is greatly
needed.

In addition to hopefully coming up with viable solutions,
Elkin feels the conference sends out a message.

“The way that this meeting is cross-denominational makes a
statement that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” he said.
“Working together with their federations and endowment funds, day schools can
have a deep interaction and confront the greater challenges on the day school
agenda.”

‘We Knew We Had to Come’


It was 90 minutes into the community’s largest public mobilization in 15 years, and Jews from around the country continued to stream toward the U.S. Capitol, clamoring to get into the pro-Israel rally.

Within the Jewish family out on the Capitol lawn — organizers put the number at more than 100,000 — emotions ran high. Criticized by both Israeli officials and the Jewish grass-roots for a perceived lack of visibility, the Jewish communal leadership received an overwhelming response to a rally organized only a week earlier.

It drew Jews of all ages, seemingly from all political and religious stripes, with impressive delegations arriving from the East Coast, Midwest and South.

Some 150 Jews from Toronto even made the sojourn south.

"When I grow up and have kids and tell them about the intifada," said Daniella English, 19, of Toronto, "I can tell them I did everything I could to support Israel. I went to Washington."

There had been talk beforehand about what sort of unified message the rally should send Washington and Jerusalem: support for Israel itself or support for the government of Israel.

But even without the relentless heat — which several demonstrators succumbed to — temperatures were elevated. Indeed, after 19 months of the intifada, a spate of suicide bombings, an Israeli military incursion into the West Bank and the killing of at least 450 Jews, the gathering in Washington seemed almost cathartic for some.

"When I read about the rally, I told my wife, ‘I gotta go; it’ll be good for my soul,’" said Alan Geller of Elmwood Park, N.J.

"And she said, ‘Al, you’re 71. You’re too old.’ But 10 minutes later — she always does this — she says, ‘Al, you’re right. Go.’"

The sentiment was echoed across the Capitol lawn.

"We’ve felt frustrated and helpless in trying to show our support for Israel," said Debby Weinstein of Memphis, Tenn. "We knew we had to come here to take a stand, and to say we’re so proud of the support President Bush and his administration are showing for Israel, and for standing up to the rest of the world."

The thousands of placards on display ran the gamut.

They expressed solidarity with Israel — "Wherever We Are, We Stand With Israel" and "Self-defense Is Not Murder" — to denunciations of Yasser Arafat — "Terrorist Bastard" and "Arafat: How Much More Blood Do You Hunger For?" — and of suicide bombers — "Murderers Not Martyrs" and "Palestinians Danced on 9-11."

Some equated the Israeli and American wars on terrorism and urged Washington to support Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. "Finish the Job" and "Destroy Arab Terrorism," the posters read.

Many rally participants were in no mood for talk of a "cease-fire" or a "return to negotiations."

Many in the crowd roared their approval when Christian radio commentator Janet Parshall boomed, "We will never give up the Golan; we will never divide Jerusalem. And we will call Yasser Arafat what Yasser Arafat is — a terrorist!" Many in the crowd then booed when Paul Wolfowitz, the U.S. deputy defense secretary, referred to "innocent Palestinian victims" and the "future Palestinian state." A lone placard, stating "We Have Faith in Coexistence," up near the front caused an altercation.

An Israeli at the rally said he was sure the messages of solidarity would be well-received back in the Holy Land. "I’m pretty sure the citizens of Israel will appreciate this; it’s coming from the heart," said Jacob, who lives in New York and asked that his last name not be used. He said he "had to" attend this rally after missing a smaller one in the city two weeks ago. "With the terrorism that Israel is facing every day, the least Jews can do over here is to give up one day to show their support," he said.

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