Symposium on caring for survivors set

A symposium on caring for Holocaust survivors will bring together specialists from around the world.

“Perspectives on Caring: Current Practice, Future Trends,” hosted by of Nazi Victim Services of Selfhelp Community Services and co-sponsored by the UJA-Federation of New York and the Claims Conference, will be held in New York City this week. Health care professionals, psychologists, authors, educators and social workers are set to attend what is being called the most comprehensive Holocaust survivor care symposium of its kind.

The average age of the world’s approximately 600,000 Holocaust survivors is over 80.

“Our work shows the physical and emotional needs of Holocaust survivors become even more complex as they age,” according to Elihu Kover, vice president of Nazi Victim Services of Selfhelp Community Services.  “That makes an international exchange like this even more critical as we identify different approaches to assist these aging victims of the worst atrocity of the 20th century and improve everyday lives for the survivors themselves and their care givers.”

Selfhelp was formed in 1936 when a group of German emigres joined together to help newly arriving European Jewish refugees fleeing from Nazi persecution establish themselves in America.

Care specialists from the United States, Israel, Brazil, Canada and Germany will present workshops at the symposium.

Calendar Girls Picks and Clicks Oct. 25-31: Jerusalem Symphony, Der Golem, Das Jazz, El Vote


A German expressionist film miraculously melds a Halloween mood with a talmudic rabbi and the Prague ghetto. “Der Golem: Wie Er in die Welt Kam” (“The Golem: How He Came Into the World”) tells the legend of a clay figurine created by a rabbi to save the Jewish people of the Prague ghetto, who suffered from the ” target=”_blank”>

Jewish violinist Ilia Korol will make his debut as guest concertmaster at the opening of the new season for “Musica Angelica,” California’s premier baroque ensemble. Internationally acclaimed music director Martin Haselblock will lead the orchestra through performances of Bach, Vivaldi, Telemann and the U.S. premiere of Graun’s “Double Concerto.” Recording virtuoso Marion Verbruggen and gambist Vittorio Ghielmi will round out the lineup of outstanding soloists. Audience members are also invited to attend a pre-concert lecture, which begins 40 minutes prior to the first performance. Sat. 8 p.m. $39-$55 (general); $15 (students). Zipper Concert Hall, Colburn School of Performing Arts, 200 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. Also, Sun., Oct. 26, 4 p.m. Same prices. Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica. (310) 458-4504. ” target=”_blank”>


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As part of a special tribute dedicated to musicians affected by the Holocaust, Da Camera Society is bringing the Berlin-based Jacques Thibaud Trio to Los Angeles to play the rarely heard works of Jewish composers: Paul Ben Haim, Erwin Schulhoff, Gideon Klein and Leon Levitch. The New York Times has hailed the trio ” target=”_blank”>

Get ready for some relief from the seriousness of the political debates. The Capitol Steps — the comedy troupe made up of former congressional staffers — are back by popular demand, skewering the politicians who once employed them. Republican? Democrat? It doesn’t matter. No one is safe from their caustic yet hilarious barbs. Sun. 4 p.m. $45. American Jewish University, Brandeis-Bardin Campus, 1101 Peppertree Lane, Brandeis. (310) 440-1246. ” target=”_blank”>

Friends of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl are in the midst of an annual three-week concert tour. Pearl, who was also a musician, believed in the power of music to bring people together. “FODfest” aims to ensure Pearl’s vision lives on by inviting people from all walks of life to partake in the free concert series. Angelenos get their chance to participate when the peace-spreading duo SONiA & disappear fear, singer-songwriter Todd Mack, indie star Lauren Adams, Mexican artist Judith de los Santos and many others hit the stage. Sun. 8 p.m. Free. Hotel Cafe, 1623 1/2 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 461-2040. ” target=”_blank”>

UCLA’s Center for Jewish Studies is pondering Sephardic life in the Balkans. In conjunction with an exhibit containing first-hand accounts of Balkan Sephardim (thanks to the work of, an oral history project combining pictures and stories), “Images of a Lost World” features a symposium discussing this unique historic experience, followed by the opening reception of the multimedia exhibit. Sun. 2-4 p.m. (symposium). Free. UCLA, 314 Royce Hall. 5-7 p.m. (exhibit opening). Free. UCLA Hillel, Rose and David Dortort Gallery, 574 Hilgard Ave., Westwood. (310) 825-5387. ” border = 0 vspace = ‘8’ hspace = ‘8’ align = ‘left’>meant to explore the American Jewish Diaspora. They will perform Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” suite, along with Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2 and Copland’s Symphony No. 3. Violin soloist Robert McDuffie has made a name for himself and earned a Grammy nomination along the way. Tue. 8 p.m. $34-$90. UCLA Live, Royce Hall, 340 Royce Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 825-4401. ” target=”_blank”> Refugee camp open Oct. 31 through Nov. 2, Santa Monica Pier, Parking Lot 1 North. (800) 490-0773. ” target=”_blank”>


It’s a scary thought, but it’s true: there are more than 3 million active “swingers” living in the United States (and by swingers, we don’t mean Vince Vaughn). These are ordinary Americans, living everywhere from Mahwah, N.J., to Pleasanton, Calif., and they like to expand their sexual horizons by swapping partners now and then. Naomi Harris, a photojournalist who has published work in ” target=”_blank”>



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” target=”_self”>Rabbi David Wolpe as part of the grand finale to this year’s San Diego Jewish Book Fair. The authors of “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything” and “Why Faith Matters” (respectively) will no doubt have plenty to say to one another, but there is much, much more at this year’s fest that is not to be missed: NBC News’ Tel Aviv bureau chief Martin Fletcher, award-winning ” target=”_blank”>


We think you should be completely politicked out by Nov. 4, and so do leading Democrat and Republican activists in Los Angeles., evidenced by their citywide “Jewish Vote Forums” taking place almost every other night at a different synagogue. McCain-Obama, Larry Greenfield-Andrew Lachman. Can’t we all just get along? Maybe that’s the point. Here are three options worth a hiatus from CNN: Shaarey Zedek Synagogue is hosting the two aforementioned gentlemen with Paul Kujawsky moderating. Sun., Oct. 26. 7 p.m. Free. 12800 Chandler Blvd., Valley Village. (818) 763-0560.; and Valley Beth Shalom is hosting Greenfield and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys) with Journal editor-in-chief Rob Eshman serving as moderator. Thu., Oct. 30. 7:30 p.m. Free. 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (310) 478-0752.

Ugly ties bind genocide past and present


The word evokes different, powerful references, depending upon who hears it.

For Jews, the primary thought is the Holocaust, officially recognized in the United States as the first genocide.

For Armenians, it refers to mass killings by the Ottomans in Turkey in 1915, though many countries, including the United States, have not recognized those as such.

These days the word immediately points to Africa — to Rwanda, Darfur and other recent bloodbaths that have involved ethnic cleansing.

But genocide is not a modern invention, and although the term has legal connotations — specific conditions must apply in a conflict for the U.S. government to officially use the designation — acts of genocide can be traced back to the Bible. Some scholars argue that there have been 15 or more additional occurrences that could qualify in the 20th century. And while the motives of the perpetrators, the identity of the victims and the region of the carnage have changed over time, genocides almost always share one common thread:

“Whenever genocide takes place, religion is involved — before, during or after — in one way or another,” said John K. Roth, founding director of the Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights at Claremont McKenna College and the author of “Approaches to Auschwitz: The Holocaust and Its Legacy.”

Roth spoke last month at a conference titled “Genocide and Religion: Victims, Perpetrators, Bystanders and Resisters,” a collaboration between the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Pepperdine University School of Law, Institute on Law, Religion and Ethics.

The Feb 17-19 symposium, which was open to the public and attended by a few hundred students, scholars, rabbis and community members, aimed to broaden the discussion beyond the usual focus on a single genocide, such as the Holocaust — the subject of many books, studies, films and classes.

It also went deeper than many such conferences by examining as many as possible of the various groups involved in a genocide — the perpetrators, the victims, the bystanders and resisters — all of whom can be found in every such conflict, past and present.

“We didn’t want it to be just another conference on perpetrators’ responsibility,” said Roger Alford, an associate professor in the law school at Pepperdine, who organized the conference with professor Michael Bazyler, of Whittier Law School in Costa Mesa.

“We wanted to basically focus on the issue of how law and genocide and religion connect with one another: Is there a religious motivation, why are certain groups targeted, why is it the resisters try to resist, is there a religious component to that, what is it about bystanders and why do they not do more?” Alford said of the three days of lectures by academics, legal scholars and government officials from around the world.

There are four motivations for genocide, Roth said: To implement a belief, a theory or ideology; to eliminate threat; to spread terror among enemies; and to acquire economic wealth.

“Religion can be an agitating factor in genocides,” he said, noting that it is impossible to understand the numbers of people affected by the devastation, which has effects for generations to come, because it destroys cultures and traditions. “The effects of genocide have not stopped. On the contrary. Genocide has gone on and on. It might continue to do so.”

Religion plays a role in conflicts today, said Sandra Bunn-Livingstone, of the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, Bureau of Human Rights. “The less religious freedom, the higher the religious persecution, and it sets the stage for possible genocide.”

Today, she pointed out, “there is higher religious persecution in countries with Muslims.”

Of 143 countries monitored for the highest level of persecution, 40 percent had a Muslim majority, versus 3.9 percent with a Christian majority.

On speakers’ and audience members’ minds was the role that Islam plays in world conflicts today — conflicts that have not been designated as genocide, but which involve terrorism, murder and group persecution.

Is there something inherent in Islam that is responsible for the terrorist tactics we see being perpetrated around the world today?
“We have to be very careful about demonizing religion,” Bazyler said in an interview. “We in the Jewish community have to be careful not to do that; it doesn’t serve us well.”

Instead of condemning the entire community or religion, we should “criticize individuals in the Muslim communities for not condemning enough the extremist elements, and we can reach out to what we believe are moderate Muslims.”

Others at the event lamented a climate in academia in which there’s “a fear of political incorrectness,” in the words of Israel Charney, executive director of the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Although Charney is against those who completely vilify Islam, such as Daniel Pipes and Arianna Fallaci — “who are so inciting they inflame the process I’m against,” he said — he allowed that “the violent position has prevailed” many times in Islamic society, and he said that it’s important to tell it like it is.

Of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s call to eliminate Israel, Charney said, “I don’t think you send that to a committee for discussion; you treat it as incitement, you treat that as a call to kill, you add that to your evaluation to what it means that they’re seeking nuclear weapons, and unless you’re a complete jerk, you start looking for what actions to take, but you don’t do nothing and say, ‘We don’t really know if he means it, we don’t know if he has influence,’ That’s been the rationalization [so] that you don’t have to respond to stop him.”

Others at the conference were less certain.

“How Islam is to be interpreted,” Roth said, is still up for discussion. “If you go back to the Hebrew Bible or other traditions, you can see there’s a struggle taking place” between the injunction against murder and the allowances for it.

Community Briefs

Rabin Tribute Marks 10th Anniversary of Assassination

A lively, heartfelt tribute to former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin brought more than 400 people to the University of Judaism to mark the 10th year since an assassin took his life.

“I miss the man himself; I miss the man who stole all the chocolates with me from his table,” said Eitan Haber, Rabin’s former chief of staff. “I also miss his fixation on all the small details, his nervousness and his short temper.”

The Labor Party prime minister was assassinated Nov. 4, 1995, at a Tel Aviv rally by extremist Yigal Amir, who opposed the Oslo peace accords. A year earlier, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with Rabin, a Six-Day War commander.

The two-hour Nov. 29 tribute, hosted by talk show host Dennis Prager, featured speakers and songs, including the children’s choir, Tzeirey USA (Agoura), singing The Beatles tune, “Let It Be,” in Hebrew. The tribute was organized by the Tarzana-based Council of Israeli Community, The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance and Temple Beth Haverim of Agoura Hills.

Haber recalled how the press statement announcing that Rabin had died during surgery was written by him on the back of a piece of paper he fished from his pocket while at the hospital. The paper’s front side was the schedule of the last week of Rabin’s life.

“I will not forget this until my very last days,” he said.

Israeli Consul General Ehud Danoch said that after the assassination, Israelis of all political stripes understood that “whatever the disagreement, whatever the argument, fulfilling the wishes of a democracy will not cost them their lives.”

Danoch described Rabin as “part of a unique generation — those who truly lived the history of Israel.”

Haber pointed out that Rabin would have preferred to talk peace with someone nonviolent, such as the “queen of Holland or the prince of Monaco.” Then he quickly added that Rabin told him peace “is made with the bitter enemies.” — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

Cedars Hosts Conclave on Stem Cell Developments

When California voters passed a $3 billion stem cell research initiative, they not only opened the door to medical advances but also to a collaboration with scientists from Israel, which is an established leader in the field.

To seed that partnership, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center recently hosted a two-day symposium that attracted more than 300 physicians, scientists, bioethicists and entrepreneurs.

“Our goal was to … encourage collaboration between scientists and clinicians who are doing cutting-edge research,” said David Meyer, Cedars’ vice president for research and scientific affairs, who coordinated the program, along with Nissin Benvenisty of Hebrew University.

The first day of the program focused on research, drawing scientists from such institutions as Cedars-Sinai, Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles and UCLA, along with counterparts at Hadassah Hospital, Hebrew University, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and the Weizmann Institute of Science.

One presenter, Technion’s Lior Gepstein, described how he and colleagues used embryonic stem cells to produce heart muscle cells that can adapt to the structure and electrical pulse of the cardiac tissue into which it is implanted. While many hurdles remain, such technology might some day be used to produce heart pacemakers made of living tissues, rather than implanted electronic devices.

On the second day, seven Israeli biotech companies involved in developing stem cell therapies explained their work to potential investors. Southern California-Israel Chamber of Commerce helped organize that portion of the program. — Nancy Sokoler Steiner, Contributing Writer


The Women of Worcester

The third annual daylong symposium sponsored by the Jewish Federation in Worcester, Mass., was titled, "A Woman’s Voice," without the slightest hint of irony. Less than a generation ago, "a woman’s voice" meant only one thing, the talmudic prohibition of Orthodox men toward hearing the sound of Jewish women in prayer.

Kol isha (a woman’s voice) was used as the legal barrier against women becoming rabbis and cantors, the excuse for exclusion.

That’s why I named this newspaper column A Woman’s Voice, to break down a wall.

There were some 100 women at the Woman’s Voice seminar at the Worcester Jewish Community Center (JCC), and many had no idea what blocks had been hurdled. Why should they? By a showing of hands, more than three-quarters of those in attendance had had a bat mitzvah, most of them as adults. They were at the JCC to refine personal skills ("winning without whining"), enhance their spirituality and celebrate themselves as part of Massachusetts’ second largest Jewish city, with its own revolutionary history.

It was an activist crowd, and many were interested in knowing how Jewish experience in transforming our own rituals could help women in Afghanistan. For a woman with a memory, attending such events can provide the thrill of the normal, to see how earlier dreams had come true.

We have come far. But that was the rub. The more I talked about women’s victories of the recent past, the more I worried about the present, not to mention the future.

Pride has its limits.

It has been clear since Sept. 11 that our children, especially our college- and high school-age youth, do not feel equipped to fight the current rhetorical and political battle on behalf of the Jewish state. My sisters in Worcester are worried, too. They confirmed it last weekend with their own family stories, so I know it’s not merely the attention deficit of those raised near Hollywood. Their sons and daughters, like those I see in Los Angeles, are not picking up the torch.

Daunted by the military challenge? Overwhelmed by the politics? Terrified by terrorism? Who knows? They should be in the heat of the debate. They are not.

Perhaps they’ve been too infused by the left-leaning equivocation of the Vietnam generation. Instead, the generation now coming into adulthood is still, politically speaking, deferring to us, their parents. These are young men and women with strong Jewish backgrounds, who have visited Israel, who date Jews. They are saying, "We are numb. Help us."

I have heard too many conversations in which parents set the agenda and state their positions. The young sit by in silence.

If you are a college-age Jewish activist, write to me. I want to understand. Meanwhile, we, the parents generation, can’t wait any longer. We must find a way to help you help us. There is so much to be done, and much of it is waiting for you.

I don’t want to remind you about the Six-Day War and how it transformed young Jews of your parents’ time. You will find your own coming-of-age experience to bind you to Israel.

In the present crisis, every Jewish event must be used for community organizing. There is no chance for downtime, to gaze at the glories of the past without energizing ourselves for the current battle.

Every luncheon must include a) an educational update on Israel; b) a letter-writing campaign to legislators urging continued support for Israel, reviving the techniques of the Soviet Jewry campaign; c) outreach to the local campus or Hillel; and d) informational material on how to talk to your children about Israel.

Let’s help the next generation gain its voice.

Sound Advice

Two recent conferences held in the Jewish community — one on autism, the other on a wide scope of disabilities — demonstrated the difficulties of reconciling research and reality when it comes to helping individuals with special needs.

The University of Judaism (UJ) held its second annual symposium on autism March 2. About 150 people, from both inside and outside of the UJ, attended the conference which emphasized using behavior modification as the most effective response to autism.

Keynote speaker Gina Green, Ph.D., president of the Association for Behavior Analysis, devoted much of her speech to dismissing other popular and controversial treatments, including facilitated communication, where severely autistic individuals are helped to communicate via typing on a computer, and dietary interventions such as gluten-free and milk-free diets, as bunk.

Taking a different tack, the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE) sought to address the challenge of educating parents as well as teachers with the Special Needs Information 2000 held Feb. 6 at Stephen S. Wise Temple. More than 400 people, mostly parents, attended seminars on such subjects as evaluating a school for the child with special needs, getting the most out of state-funded service centers, and how to include the developmentally disabled in a yeshiva setting.

The all-day seminars attracted popular local speakers like Dr. Susan Schmidt-Lackner, medical director for the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute’s early childhood partial hospitalization program, who spoke on new trends in medicine for treating people with autism. Like Green at the UJ symposium, Schmidt-Lackner advised her audience to be cautious about falling under the spell of untested or unreliable treatments.

“You have to be very careful because there is going to be a ‘cure du jour’ out every week. We do not want our children to become guinea pigs,” she said.

In another session, representatives from the Westside Regional Center outlined the services available for parents and how to develop a good relationship with a child’s caseworker.

“What is so overwhelming for parents is that it feels so difficult to get the services you need,” said Soryl Markowitz, a WRC quality assurance specialist. “But the more knowledgeable you become, the more you will be able to access those services.”

Dina Kaplan, an attorney whose six-year-old son has multiple disabilities, agreed that knowledge is power when it comes to helping children with special needs. Kaplan is executive director of the K.E.N. Project, a parent training and advocacy organization.

“I tell parents all of the time it is very important to educate yourself regarding your child’s rights, the services they are entitled to and how to get them,” she said.

The Information also featured booths hosted by special needs schools, support groups and other resources including the Julia Ann Singer Center, Vista Del Mar, the Autism Society of Los Angeles, the UCLA Family Support Community Program, Etta Israel and the Chai Lifeline for children with catastrophic illnesses.

“There is a great need for ongoing seminars of this sort,” said Kenneth Schaefler, Ph.D., director of the BJE’s Department of Special Education and Psychological Services. Schaefler is looking for “angels” to help fund seminar speakers and pay for substitutes so schools do not have to close for their teachers to attend special needs in-services.

The BJE, a beneficiary agency of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, has a special education department that holds ongoing forums for parents and educators. For more information call (323) 761-8629. Those interested in joining the field of special education graduate programs are urged to call (310) 476-9777.