Family of slain Palestinian teen asks Israel’s Supreme Court to raze Jewish killers’ homes


The family of a Palestinian teen killed in a revenge attack by three Jewish extremists has asked Israel’s Supreme Court to order the demolition of the murderers’ homes.

“The state needs to operate in the same way against Jewish terrorists as it does against Palestinians,” the family of Muhammad Abu Khdeir said Wednesday in its request, according to The Times of Israel. “Just like the homes of Palestinian terrorists are sealed, the same should be done to Jews.”

The family turned to the Supreme Court after the Defense Ministry determined last month that there was no need to demolish the Jewish killers’ homes, since Jewish terrorism is not as widespread as Palestinian terror, according to The Times of Israel, which saw the official letter sent to the family.

Abu Khdeir, of eastern Jerusalem, was kidnapped and killed on July 1, hours after the bodies of three kidnapped Jewish teens were discovered near Hebron. Abu Khdeir’s charred body was discovered in the Jerusalem Forest, where he was burned alive by the killers.

In May, Yosef Ben-David, 31, of Jerusalem, was sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years.

The names of Ben-David’s accomplices, who were both 16 at the time of the killing, have not been released publicly. The accomplices were sentenced last April: one to life in prison, the other to 21 years.

Jewish teen, woman lightly wounded in Paris-region anti-Semitic attacks


A Jewish boy and a woman were assaulted in separate anti-Semitic incidents in the Paris region.

The incident involving the woman occurred on May 13 on a street in Sarcelles, an impoverished northern suburb of the French capital where some 60,000 Jews live in close proximity to many Muslim immigrants from the Middle East and Africa.

The woman was lightly injured by three African women who assaulted her because she complained to them about the behavior of children, whom the Jewish woman thought belonged to at least one of the African women, the National Bureau for Vigilance Agaisnt Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, wrote in a report published Friday. The children, the report said, had hurled a soccer ball at the daughter of the Jewish woman, identified in the report only as L.D.

As they were allegedly assaulting the woman, witnesses heard the African women shouting anti-Semitic remarks, including “Hitler didn’t finish the job” and a statement about Jews being “a filthy race,” according to the report. “You need some more beatings,” one of the women also said.

Police were called to the scene and the alleged victim filed a criminal complaint for assault. She was also treated in the hospital for her injuries, which required several days of recovery.

“Increasingly, banal conflicts involving Jews degenerate into anti-Semitic incidents and assaults,” BNVCA wrote in its statement, which urged police to “get to the bottom of what happened.”

Separately, on Friday, four unidentified young men assaulted a 16-year-old Jewish male who was wearing kippah as the alleged victim was leaving his home in central Paris, according to a BNVCA report. The perpetrators stole the teen’s cellphone and hit him in the eye.

The perpetrators, aged 17 to 20, had an Arab appearance, the report said. A fifth individual, also of Middle Eastern descent, approached the scene and encouraged the perpetrators to “break” the victim, whom he called a coward.

The beating stopped when an Asian woman intervened and threatened to call the police. The victim filed a complaint after being treated for minor to moderate injuries connected to his emergency eye surgery at Rothschild Hospital.

Tyler Barbee shares his sports passion with special-needs kids


As a little boy growing up in Mill Valley, Calif., playing baseball meant the world to Tyler Barbee.

“When I was a kid, baseball was my life,” said Barbee, now a 17-year-old high school senior at Tamalpais High School.

But he also knew that his love of the sport couldn’t be shared easily by his brother, Conner, who is four years older and has autism.

“I wanted him to be able to participate, but there wasn’t an environment for him to succeed,” Barbee recalled.

Six years ago he helped start Challenger Baseball & Basketball, a sports league for children with special needs.

Each special-needs player is matched with a buddy, typically a high school student without disabilities, to help learn not only the rules and skills necessary for the sport but also to give them a chance to socialize, gain confidence and develop friendships. The games are non-competitive, Barbee said, and mostly focus on having fun.

Another benefit of the program, he said, was the support network that emerged for the parents of the special-needs children.

“It wasn’t part of the initial plan, but was a really fantastic added benefit,” Barbee said.

Barbee, who serves as his school’s student body president, was recently awarded the DillerTeen Tikkun Olam Award. He plans to use some of the $36,000 award to expand the program to include tennis and soccer, as well as to purchase team jerseys and new sports equipment.

The program is also in the process of applying for 501(c)(3) status and has changed its name to Project Awareness and Special Sports.

“Sports were my community, and I wanted to create this for my brother and other children with special needs,” said Barbee. “I loved baseball and I wanted him to have the opportunity to feel this love, too.”

JTA spoke with Barbee about the hero who most impresses him, what connects him to Judaism and which California baseball teams he hopes to see in the World Series.

JTA: Who is your hero and why?

Barbee: I’ve been really very impressed with Martin Luther King Jr. Everything that I’ve learned about his protests and [acts of] nonviolence is impressive and inspiring to me.

What is meaningful to you about being Jewish?

How connected and strong the community is, and I am very proud to be a part of it.

What advice would you give to other teens interested in starting a tikkun olam project?

I’ve learned that things can go in other ways than what you expect and still work out. There are different ways to get things done and not one set way.

What do you think you want to be when you grow up?

I’m not quite sure, but I am interested in business and having a business or nonprofit that has a positive impact on society.

What kind of things do you like to do for fun?

I like mountain biking, hiking, camping with my friends and playing baseball recreationally.

Who would you like to see in the World Series this year?

I’m actually an [Oakland] A’s fan, so I am hoping that they make it and beat the [Los Angeles] Angels! It would be nice to see the [San Francisco] Giants play the A’s.

Young U.S. Jews feel closer to Israel, studies find


Young American Jews have closer ties to Israel than ever before, while Israelis who have moved to the United States are raising the Jewish consciousness of all Jews in the New World.

Such upbeat conclusions may run counter to more prevalent pessimistic pronouncements, but they are bolstered by three new research studies.

Results of these studies were presented by American academicians at the recent annual conference at UCLA of the Association for Israel Studies.

The meeting brought together some 300 scholars who participated in 80 panel discussions centering on Israel’s international relations, history, politics, law, economics, literature, film and other visual arts.

Most of the participants were from Israel and the United States, with a respectable number of professors from German, British, Chinese, Canadian, Dutch, Australian and Palestinian universities.

Matthew Boxer, a senior research associate at Brandeis University, set the hopeful tone in a session aptly titled “Young American Jews and Israel: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom.”

“The trajectory of relationship between young American Jews and Israel is one of growing strength,” Boxer proposed, even in the face of an array of negative factors.

“Despite the high rate of intermarriage, despite mismatches between liberal young American Jews and a more right-wing Israel government, despite the inadequacy of the Jewish education system, we are providing young American Jews with more and more opportunities to develop a personal connection with Israel,” Boxer said.

Taking the long view, he argued that past surveys show that young Jews have always felt less attached to Israel than their elders but draw closer as they age.

That “lifecycle effect” has held steady over the decades, barring “some external force with the power to effect generational change,” he said.

Just such an external force has been the Taglit-Birthright Israel program, which, since its inception in late 1999, has sent some 340,000 young Jews between the ages of 18 and 26, from 62 countries, on free 10-day organized trips to Israel. Among them were 240,000 young men and women from North America.

Citing a survey of Americans and Canadians who participated in three Taglit (Hebrew for “Discovery”) trips between 2010 and 2012, Boxer said that participants were three times more likely to affirm they were “very much connected to Israel” than nonparticipants.

The impact of the trips holds even in follow-up surveys conducted six to11 years after early participants returned, and a high percentage of Taglit alumni have gone on to become leaders of their AIPAC, Hillel and J Street campus chapters.

To those who argue that a 10-day program is too short and superficial to have a lasting impact, Boxer pointed out that the experience comes when participants “are at an age when they figure out who they are and what they believe in.”

Indeed, it is the emotional factor that ties young Americans to Israel, rather than purely intellectual, ideological or historic considerations, according to David L. Graizbord of the University of Arizona.

Graizbord, an associate professor at the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies, has been interviewing 22 young North American Jews (and plans to talk to 18 more), all of whom are self-declared Zionists or profess a close attachment to Israel.

Although warning that his study is in the embryonic stage, Graizbord cited 10 conclusions from his “snapshots” of Generation Y members as they explore their relationships to Israel.

Some of his key findings, not necessarily in order of importance, were:

Similar to Boxer’s study, Graizbord concluded that political leanings, biblical history or intellectual reasoning play hardly any role in developing a pro-Israel attitude.

The strongest bonds are emotional, he emphasized, fed by a sense of “the relative thickness and naturalness of Israeli Jewishness, as compared to the relative cultural thinness of Jewish life in North America, outside of Orthodox circles.”

While some tourists may be put off by the perceived brashness and prickliness of Israelis they meet, the impact is quite different for participants in Graizbord’s study.

One young American, who volunteered to work with Israelis in an immigration absorption camp in the Negev, put it this way: “I found myself really connecting with the Israelis,” he said. “I liked the openness of their society and their sense of humor … and the communal aspects of their lives.

“I thought, this is the kind of place I want to raise my family … I decided that some way, somehow, I’m going to make aliyah.”

Another student summed it up by noting that his Israeli contemporaries had “their heads on straight and they’re headed in a very specific direction.”

Although Jewish history, including the biblical era, does not seem to play much of a role in shaping young Americans’ attitude toward Israel, there is one aspect that does impact them, and that is the Holocaust.

When Graizbord asked his subjects, “Why should a nation-state of the Jews exist?” the answers always referenced the Shoah, he said.

As one young woman put it, “What I feel when I think of Judaism is just … that [Jews] are a small people and they were persecuted for so long, and they need a place to call home.”

Israeli expatriates in the United States exert an important influence in maintaining the “Jewishness” of the American Jewish community, according to history professor Marianne Sanua of the Jewish studies program at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

The actual number of Israelis who now make their home in the United States is a matter of never-ending dispute, with estimates ranging from 140,000 to close to 1 million.

Sanua puts the figure at between 500,000 and 550,000, if one includes native-born Israelis, Israelis born elsewhere in the Diaspora, spouses (often American-born), children and students or visitors who ignore visa limitations and continue to stay on in the United States.

Initially demeaned and scorned by the Israeli government and Jewish-American organizations as weaklings and traitors to the Zionist cause, the “yordim” are now generally accepted as a permanent and important “sub-ethnic American-Jewish immigrant group,” as the Florida academic put it.

Taking the lead in the United States in reaching out to the newcomers was Chabad, which has established 25 Chabad centers for Israelis over the past 30 years.

Among the first was the Los Angeles center, which serves more than 20,000 children and adults annually, according to Executive Director Rabbi Amitai Yemini.

The main concern shared by American-Jewish organizations, Israeli authorities and the expats themselves is to transmit their Jewish identity and connections to Israel to their children and future generations.

Sanua believes that this effort has been largely successful, in the process revitalizing the native-born American-Jewish community.

According to her research, the Israelis “speak Hebrew, they belong to synagogues and Jewish community centers, and 75 percent are married to other Jews,” a much higher rate than for American Jews.

By all other criteria, the expats are more “Jewish” than native-born Jews, including number of visits to Israel, sending their kids to Jewish schools, going to Jewish museums, attending Jewish cultural events and observing Jewish rituals.

In addition, it is estimated that one-third of the teachers and 20 to 40 percent of students in L.A. Jewish day schools are Israelis or children of Israelis.

“In many ways, when so many American Jews are being lost to assimilation and intermarriage, Israeli-Americans are seen as having a vital role to play in maintaining American-Jewish communal life,” Sanua concluded.

She cited Los Angeles as “the best example in creating Israeli-American organizations for children and youth” in the United States, with the local Israeli American Council (IAC, formerly the Israeli Leadership Council) setting the pace, Sanua said.

IAC’s three main missions are to support Israel, strengthen Jewish identity among young Israeli-Americans, and build connections between the Israeli-American and Jewish-American communities.

Other Israeli-oriented youth organizations in Los Angeles, many supported by the IAC, include the Tzofim (Scouts), B’nai Akiva youth movement, the MATI Israeli Cultural Center, and such educational institutions as the Ami School, Hebrew High School, Hebrew Discovery Center and Kadima Hebrew Academy.

San Diego offers an example of a small but innovative Israeli community; an Israeli Cultural Center was founded there in 2006, Sanua noted. Partly supported by the local Jewish Federation and the Israeli government, the center offers children of expats full-scale immersion programs in Hebrew, Israeli culture and Jewish identity.

The latest and perhaps most surprising development is the launching of Hebrew-language charter schools, which are state-funded but privately run by independent boards.

The first of the so-called Gamla schools opened in Hollywood, Fla., in 2007 as a nonsectarian, nonreligious institution. The concept has now spread to other Florida cities, as well as to Washington, D.C.; New York City; Los Angeles; and San Diego, Sanua said.

Adding another perspective was respondent Samuel Edelman, a former professor at California State University, Chico, and now executive director of the Center for Academic Engagement, affiliated with the Israel on Campus Coalition.

He emphasized that today’s Western Jews still retain their ethnic roots in the Middle East, despite a 2,000-year history in Europe and a 350-year experience in North America.

He posited that the emotional attachment to Israel by Diaspora Jews is largely fueled by their historic Middle Eastern identity.

However insightful the research papers and a Q-and-A session, the attitude of young American Jews was perhaps best expressed by a student interviewed for Graizbord’s project.

“I think it’s all about reality,” he quoted her in part. “The reality is, as of today, that there’s a State of Israel. The reality as of today is that there are also Palestinians.

“As of today, there’s a lot of internal strife, and my biggest concern is, I’m not going to focus on history. I’m not going to focus on ‘ifs,’ ‘ands’ or ‘what ifs?’ I’m going to focus on ‘OK, what is the current, realistic situation, and what do I do with it?’ Responsibility, that’s what it’s all about.”

Report: Jewish youths attack Arab man in Jerusalem


Jewish youths reportedly assaulted an Arab man in Jerusalem in front of his Jewish friends.

Israeli police said the attack happened Wednesday night in the city's Katamon neighborhood, The Jerusalem Post reported. The Arab, who is in his 20s, was walking with two Jewish friends when a group of Jewish teenagers attacked him, the report said.

The incident came less than a month after a group of Jews beat a 17-year-old Arab and left him in critical condition in the capital in an assauly Israeli police described as a lynching. Police arrested five in that attack, including a 13-year-old. Earlier in August, Jewish assailants firebombed a Palestinian taxi near Gush Etzion, wounding six people, including two children.

The violence by Jews against Arabs prompted sharp condemnation and some measure of soul searching across Israel.

Teen injured in school bus bombing in dire condition


The condition of an Israeli teenager injured in a Palestinian rocket attack on a school bus has worsened.

Daniel Viflic’s condition was downgraded Tuesday to extremely critical and life threatening, according to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.

Five days after a rocket fired from Gaza slammed into a school bus traveling near Kibbutz Sa’ad, located in southern Israel near the border with Gaza, Viflic is in a deep coma and is unresponsive, showing no sign of brain activity, Ynet reported. All medical measures on the boy reportedly have been exhausted.

Viflic, 16, suffered severe head trauma and was given emergency CPR at the scene of the April 7 attack. The bus driver, the only other occupant of the bus, was injured in the leg.

Teen arrested after admitting to starting Israeli fire


A 14-year-old resident of the Druze village of Ussfiya was arrested after admitting to starting the fire that destroyed much of the Carmel Forest.

The teen reportedly said he was smoking a nargila water pipe and threw a live coal into an open area before returning to school.

The arrest was announced hours after two teenage brothers from the same village arrested over the weekend on suspicion of negligence in starting the fire were released from detention by a Haifa court. The teens had been accused of lighting a bonfire near their home that sparked the blaze.

Also Monday, the number of Israelis killed in the fire rose to 42 with the death of Haifa Police Chief Ahuva Tomer.

Thousands attended the Monday afternoon funeral of Tomer, the police chief since March 2009 and the highest-ranking female officer in the Israel Police.

She was burned over 90 percent of her body last week after trying to assist prison guard cadets riding in a bus that caught fire while on its way to evacuate a prison in the path of the blaze. Most of the bus passengers and three volunteer rescuers died in the fire in northern Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday ordered the Finance Ministry to provide nearly $700 immediately to each member of families who will be prevented from returning to their damaged homes for at least the next month.

The funds are designated for basic, emergency necessities such as clothing and shoes, and school supplies.

The allocation came during a special Knesset hearing on the fire and its consequences, which opened with a moment of silence.

Later in the day, Netanyahu ordered the creation of a national firefighting command under the authority of the Prime Minister’s Office.

He also appointed Netanya Mayor Miriam Fierberg to head a task force in charge of managing assistance for those whose homes were damaged in the fires.

Local council elects L.A. teen


A 15-year old Orthodox Jewish girl has become the youngest elected public representative in Los Angeles.

Rachel Lester, a sophomore at a Modern Orthodox high school, was elected last week to the South Robertson Neighborhood Council. She defeated her opponent, a college-educated family man, by a vote of 144 to 13.

The 90 neighborhood councils in Los Angeles are official municipal bodies that serve as advisory boards to the L.A. City Council and as liaison between residents and the municipal government.

Neighborhood councils generally hold two meetings per month, to which Lester’s mother will have to drive her.

Lester is a straight A average at Shalhevet High School and has skipped a grade. Along with her budding political career, her schedule includes choir practice, tutoring, and working as page designer and feature editor on the school newspaper.

In her low-key campaign, Lester took a leaf from another young politician, Barack Obama, relying heavily on social networking through Facebook and working the youth vote.

Her district encompasses about 50 blocks in a heavily Jewish area with a strong Orthodox component that is well known for its kosher restaurants and markets.

Gaza Teen Reported Dead Returns Home Alive


A Gaza teen reported by Palestinian officials as killed by Israeli troops returned home alive. Mohammed al-Farmawi, 15, reportedly had been killed Tuesday during clashes between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli troops on the Gaza border during Land Day protests.

Gaza health officials had said Farmawi was struck and left to bleed for several hours before his body was collected, according to reports.

It was reported Saturday that the teen returned home on Friday after sneaking into a smuggler tunnel in Rafah with a group of friends and trying to escape to Egypt. Farmawi was captured and held by Egyptian security officials, according to The New York Times.

Canadian teen wanted for anti-Semitic graffiti


Calgary police have issued a Canada-wide arrest warrant for an 18-year-old male over a slew of spray-painted anti-Semitic messages.

The racist graffiti on mailboxes, signs at synagogues and a memorial for Holocaust survivors, which surfaced last November, included swastikas and the words “kill Jews” and “six million more.”

The teen is facing charges of mischief to property, as well as hate-related charges of mischief to a place of religious worship and inciting public hatred.

Canadian youth protection laws prohibit naming the suspect, who was 17 when the offenses occurred.

Police believe the teen may have ties to local racist groups.

“We believe that he is involved with racist groups within this city,” Police Supt. Trevor Daroux told the Calgary Herald. “I won’t say which one because I won’t give them the credibility.”

The Calgary Jewish Community Council praised the police for their diligence in the case.

“These charges send a very strong message that Calgary does not tolerate anti-Semitism or racism of any kind,” Adam Singer, the council’s vice president, told CBC News.

Briefs: Seeds of Peace extends past Summer; BBYO offers cash incentive for summer camps


Seeds of Peace Extends Past Summer

After a shaky start fighting over a girl they both liked, Joseph Katona, 19, a Jewish Angeleno, and Omar Dreidi, his 19-year-old Palestinian Arab bunkmate, formed a bond that would extend past the two summers they shared at a Seeds of Peace retreat in Otisville, Maine.

Seeds of Peace is an organization dedicated to bringing together and empowering teens from regions of conflict, and in its program high school seniors often discussed what the future would hold for them after graduation. Katona soon realized his friend would embark down a path very different from his own, heading back to a lower-class lifestyle in Ramallah. While Katona lived a comfortable life, growing up in Brentwood, attending high school at Harvard Westlake, not having to worry about how he would afford college, Dreidi had dreams of attending school in the United States, but didn’t know where or how it could happen.

Katona, a sophomore at the University of Virginia, thought it only fair that Dreidi have the same opportunities as him. After helping Dreidi put together his applications and soccer videos for colleges, Dreidi received an acceptance letter and merit scholarship from Earlham College in Richmond, Ind. Although the scholarship was generous, Katona knew it would only cover half of Dreidi’s four-year tuition. Katona then put together the Omar Dreidi scholarship fund with the goal of raising $18,000 to $20,000 per year for Dreidi to continue his studies at Earlham.

The experience has been fulfilling for Katona, but it has also been a difficult.

“Not every person wants to donate money to support a Palestinian,” he said. Despite monetary setbacks, Katona has managed to raise $38,000 for Dreidi to stay in school, however, he is short more than half the amount needed for the next two years. He has received donations from $11 to $4,500, and every dollar counts, he said.

Staying in close contact with Dreidi, Katona is happy he is having a great time in Richmond, studying, making great friends and playing soccer on the school’s team.

“I have a moral obligation to do this,” he said. “It’s not a huge sacrifice for people to donate, but would make a world of difference for Omar. Without these contributions, he would not be able to have the full college experience.”

Donations go to Earlham College Omar Dreidi Scholarship Fund c/o Joseph Katona, 216 14th St. NW, Apt. 204., Charlottesville, Va. 22903. Checks should be made out to “Earlham College. For more information, e-mail josephkatona@gmail.com or call (310) 613-6268.

Student Advocacy in Sacramento

For the first time in 20 years, Panim, the Institute for Jewish leadership and values, ventured outside of Washington, D.C., and into the state’s capital bringing 40 11th-grade Milken Community High School students to a three-day seminar exploring hunger, poverty and the environment. Panim teaches thousands of students about social and civic responsibility through Jewish Civics Initiative seminars, called Panim el Panim (face-to-face), and worked with Milken to organize the Jan. 27-29 seminar. Students spent hours volunteering at local organizations, such as the Sacramento Food Bank, and met with advocates from the Sacramento Environmental Council and Western Center on Law and Poverty.

“The trip was a great success,” said Wendy Ordower, community service coordinator at Milken. Among the tasks the group undertook was handing out toiletries to the homeless with members of Building Bridges, an organization dedicated to preventing the spread of HIV.

“These students are fortunate on so many levels,” she said. “I want them to learn the needs of society and how to become the voice of the people.”

For more information visit, www.panim.org.

Teen Tikkun Olam Awards Promote Global Healing

Last year, five teens, including two from Los Angeles, received Diller Tikkun Olam Awards through the new National Diller Teen Initiative. Angeleno winners were Erich Sorger, 18, a student at the University of Pennsylvania, and Shira Shane, 20, a student at Stanford University.

In its second year, the organization named for San Francisco philanthropist Helen Diller, will select another five Jewish teens from California to each receive $36,000 for commendable participation in community service and social action. Teachers, rabbis and community leaders are encouraged to nominate teens between the ages of 13 and 19 who have completed exceptional community service projects. The awards are to be used for college or causes that will further their work in repairing the world.

Sorger, a student in the Jerome Fisher Management and Technology Dual Degree Program, donated a portion of his award to the DELCO Early Learning Center and organized a carnival for impoverished Philadelphia children with a team of University of Pennsylvania management students.

“The carnival was a great success with pretzels, cotton candy, moon-bounces and more,” he said.

Sorger is coordinating with the university’s Hillel to promote “Dollars for Dwaynes” in Philadelphia, and is continuing the mission of “Dollars for Dwaynes” during his winter break in Los Angeles, donating an additional $650 in resellable goods.

“I am keeping the balance to put forth toward other philanthropic ventures or my tuition for next year,” Sorger said.

Shane plans to donate a portion of her prize money to refugees in Darfur as well as to return to Africa, where she has previously exercised her musical talents in Tanzania. She is meeting with Janice Kamenir-Reznik, the president of Jewish World Watch, who will help her achieve these goals. Deadline for 2008 award nominations is March 11.

For more information go to www.sfjcf.org/diller/teenawards or call the Diller Teen Initiative (415) 512-6432 or e-mail dillerteens@sfjcf.org.

Cash Incentive for Summer Camp

The expense of summer camp should not be a deterring factor for Jewish youths, according to the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO). Partnered with the Foundation for Jewish Camping, BBYO is offering a $1,500 campership for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade middle school students who have never attended a three-week or longer Jewish overnight camp.

The Jim Joseph Foundation of San Francisco is pitching in to fund the JWest Campership Program in an effort to increase the number of preteens in the Western United States enrolling in overnight Jewish summer camps. With 150 camps nationwide, JWest is being introduced in 13 states including California.

MUSIC VIDEO: Gad Elbaz and Alon de Loco in ‘Ha layla ze haz’man’ — ‘Tonight’s the Night’


Two Israeli cliques— cool kids and Yeshiva students—somehow manage to ‘just get along’ in this hiphop music video from rappers Gad Elbaz and Alon de Loco in ‘Ha layla ze haz’man’—‘Tonight’s the Night’

Nation & World Briefs


Israel Upholds Contested Immigration Law

Israeli Arabs are upset after Israel’s top court upheld a controversial law that prevents Palestinians married to Israeli Arabs from living in Israel.

By a vote of 6-5, the High Court of Justice on Sunday rejected petitions filed against the Citizenship and Entry Law.

While acknowledging that the law violates the human rights of the thousands of Israeli Arabs married to Palestinians, the High Court said national security must take precedence.

At least one of the Palestinian suicide bombers to have struck since 2000 was a resident of Israel through marriage, and Israeli Jews are all the more suspicious of Palestinians since they voted in a Hamas government earlier this year.

“The Palestinian Authority is an enemy government, a government that wants to destroy the country and is unwilling to recognize Israel,” Justice Mishael Cheshin wrote.

But Israeli Arabs, who make up 20 percent of the country’s population, voiced their opposition to the decision.

“On this day, the High Court effectively approved the most racist legislation in the State of Israel: legislation which bars the unification of families on the basis of national belonging: Arab Palestinian,” Adalah, the legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel, said in a statement.

Adalah likened the ruling, which means that many Israeli Arabs will either have to live apart from their Palestinian spouses or move to the West Bank or Gaza Strip, to South Africa under apartheid. Israeli officials have long rejected such comparisons as false, given the open conflict with the Palestinians and other constitutional rights generally enjoyed by Israeli Arabs.

First passed in 2002 at the height of the terrorist attacks, the Citizenship and Entry Law all but banned residency rights for the Palestinian spouses of Israelis.

An amended version in 2003, when the High Court petitions were first filed, loosened the law to allow eligibility for female candidates older than 25, and men older than 35 — ages at which Palestinians are statistically far less likely to take up arms.

Then-Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said national security justifies the law. But she also cited growing fear of an influx of Palestinians seeking the better life on offer in Israel, some of them through fictitious marriages with Israeli Arabs.

“There is nothing wrong with looking to safeguard Israel’s Jewish majority by law,” she said at the time.

Her successor, Haim Ramon, said Sunday that he would seek to enshrine the Citizenship and Entry Law in Israel’s Basic Laws.

“The High Court ruling appears to apply to a certain population sector, but I intend to make a law that will apply to everyone,” he told Army Radio. “Under the law, a citizen of a hostile country won’t be able to adopt Israeli citizenship, except under certain circumstances that the state will determine.” — Dan Baron, Jewish Telegraphic Agency

American Teen Dies of Bomb Wounds

An American teenager died of wounds sustained in last month’s Tel Aviv suicide bombing. Daniel Wultz, 16, succumbed Sunday in Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, becoming the sole American fatality of the April 17 attack. Wultz, of Weston, Fla., was visiting downtown Tel Aviv with his father over Passover when they were hit by shrapnel from a Palestinian suicide bomber. Tuly Wultz, who suffered light injuries, went on to organize prayer campaigns for his son’s recovery. Daniel Wultz was the 11th fatality from the bombing, which was carried out by Islamic Jihad. Another casualty, 26-year-old Israeli Lior Enidzer, died last Friday. He had recently married.

Israel Gets Spot on U.N. Committee

Israel was appointed to a spot on the United Nations committee on nongovernmental organizations. The committee of the U.N. Economic and Social Council meets twice annually and reviews applications for special status with the commission. “Maybe our membership in the committee will help make Israeli NGOs more aware of this avenue and encourage them to seek a relationship with the economic and social council,” said Marco Sermoneta, a counselor at Israel’s mission to the United Nations. In addition, he said, membership would be a “good way to diversify our visibility in the United Nations.”

Poet Stanley Kunitz Dies at 100

Stanley Kunitz, a former U.S. poet laureate who made metaphoric use of the Talmud and other Jewish images in his poetry, died Sunday at 100. Kunitz, who was known for writing on themes ranging from life and death to gardens, received the Pulitzer Prize in 1959. The son of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, he gave up his dream of earning a doctorate at Harvard after being told that non-Jewish students wouldn’t enjoy being taught English literature by a Jew. A pacifist, Kunitz was a strong opponent of the Vietnam War and, later, U.S. military involvement in Central America and Iraq.

Abbas Criticizes Hamas

Mahmoud Abbas assailed Hamas for harming the Palestinians’ image abroad. In a speech broadcast Monday, the Palestinian Authority president called on the Islamic terrorist group to renounce violence and accept peacemaking with Israel now that it’s leading the P.A. government.

“We must not resign ourselves to fiery speeches and slogans that could bring about international isolation,” Abbas said.

He added that by continuing to call for the Jewish state’s destruction, Hamas justifies Israeli arguments that there is no Palestinian partner for peace. Abbas also appealed to Israel not to implement Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s “convergence plan,” under which it will withdraw unilaterally from parts of the West Bank and annex others in the absence of peace talks.

Pilgrims Flock to Tunisian Synagogue

Thousands of people attended the annual Lag B’Omer pilgrimage to the Tunisian island of Djerba. The two-day celebration at the Ghriba Synagogue marks the end of a legendary plague 2,000 years ago. The synagogue was the site of a 2002 Al-Qaida terrorist attack that killed 21 people, mostly German tourists. The synagogue is the oldest Jewish house of worship in Africa and serves one of the world’s oldest Jewish communities.

Holocaust-Era Archives to Open?

A commission of 11 nations is expected to vote to open Holocaust-era archives. Representatives of the countries that oversee the former Nazi files met Tuesday. Germany recently agreed to open up the archive, which contains 50 million files and is administered by the Red Cross.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency

 

Why the iPod Generation Cares About Darfur


The car horns sounded like a shofar practice session, a cacophony of long blasts and short toots with no particular meaning or purpose. And, thankfully, there was no traffic accident to be found.

The blaring noise was instead a response to scores of protesters at the Federal Building in Westwood, who were staging a rally to raise awareness about the genocide in Darfur.

The power of the rally was not necessarily its numbers, but its message: The “apathetic youth of America” are, well, not so apathetic. The event was coordinated by Teens Against Genocide (TAG), a group of greater Los Angeles high school students dedicated to raising awareness about the situation in western Sudan. These teenagers joined the group, and the cause, because they feel so strongly about the issue.

Perhaps the most intriguing question regarding activism for Darfur is: Why teens? Why have teenagers taken a leading role in this pressing issue? Aren’t we so busy with Advanced Placement courses, extracurricular activities, and socializing?

“Teens are starting to see beyond their immediate surroundings,” said Shira Shane, a senior at New Community Jewish High School who founded and leads TAG. “Teens haven’t been weathered by the negative world. They believe in the possibility rather than the impossibility.”

But don’t adults have more money, more influence and more political clout?

Perhaps, but one thing that students have in abundance is the urge, especially after sitting in classes all day, to be active: to get out there and run a mile, or run for office — or both.

More likely, however, teenagers contribute to such humanitarian causes as a test of the power of the will, flirting with the idea that they actually can make a difference with a little initiative. To some students this initiative is wearing a T-shirt or a green wristband to school, sparking conversation with others about the issue. To others it means writing letters to newspaper editors and political officials, letting them know that people care about the issue. Still others channel their energy toward planning events, much like the TAG rally on April 23 at the Federal Building or the rally in Washington, D.C., on April 30.

It has always been the nature of teenage life to be active, to experiment with the power of persuasion, and to test limits. What make this generation of adolescents unique is its access to, and familiarity with, technology. Now, perhaps the connection between those white iPod cords and the mass killings in Darfur isn’t so obvious. But consider that this generation of youth has been brought up with immediate and uninhibited means of communication that allows them not only to keep up with current events, but to use this technology in pursuit of a more just and peaceful world.

It could be argued that technologically advanced American teenagers have everything at their disposal to make a dent in the political surface — everything, that is, except for a direct connection to events outside their immediate circle. And, obviously, this isn’t about high-speed Internet. It involves a moral consciousness and a dedication to basic human rights. Many teenagers, especially Jewish ones, construct this link through the Holocaust and other genocides of recent history. Many more have found the connection internally. And despite over-scheduled lives, they have chosen to make it their cause.

Those involved in TAG, and many other supportive youths, understand that being busy is no factor in saving lives.

In fact, TAG and other like-minded organizations fit well with the teenage focus on school and socializing. Activism gives students the chance to apply to the real world the knowledge they are acquiring: from history and political science courses at school, from an inspirational teacher or from religious values. And, when students take their knowledge to the streets (both literally and figuratively), they are able to build a network of friendships that transcends the boundaries of a clique or a school.

Joining TAG isn’t about building a good transcript, either. For high school seniors, college applications had been submitted months before TAG materialized. And, for underclassmen, taking action is far more important than having that extra club or those extra hours of community service. The efforts to save lives, and to educate others about this genocide, simply cannot be logged in such form.

“Whatever the issue is, teens will try to pursue it,” Shane said. “Teens will push.”

Then, maybe, even more people will push on their horns when passing a rally for Darfur, leaving in the air an echo that will last as long as people are listening.

TAG member Jeff Goodman, is a senior at University High School, where he writes for the school paper.

 

Parental Dishonor


My Torah portion is the retelling and explanation of the Ten Commandments by Moses. A teacher of mine encouraged me to pick a commandment mentioned in my portion, and write about what it means to me. Five words instantly flew into my head: “Honor thy father and mother.”

You see, at this very moment, my mom and dad are suffering from alcoholism and substance abuse. They have both relapsed recently, and I was, and still am, coping with the loss.

My mother almost had 13 years clean and sober when she relapsed. She kept it quiet until early this summer. A family member called me and told me the news. I remember the exact words she started off with: “I need you to be an adult.”

After that, my memory goes a bit fuzzy.

I was devastated. After all this time, why did she relapse now? That’s all I could think about. Had she forgotten that she had a daughter to support? I felt like my life as I had known it was crumbling around me and I wasn’t sure how to handle it. I knew I had to deal with my family’s newest problem and be strong, but I still wished with all my heart that I could crawl in a hole somewhere away from the rest of the world and cry.

I was living with my mother near Seattle, although I am close to both my parents. I called my father in Los Angeles. He didn’t sound worried. He said that I was to be a good girl and that everything would be fine. He said that I would be fine. I didn’t feel fine.

After finishing school soon after that, I flew to California to stay with my father. Los Angeles had always been a haven for me. It was a place to recharge the batteries that kept me going during the year. It seemed that as soon as I stepped off that plane that day, I felt happier and more alive than I had been in those last few weeks at home. Upon reaching my father’s house, I wanted to stay there forever.

One evening, my father left for what was going to be a couple hours to play cards. A couple hours ended up being around 18, as he finally came home at around 5:30 the next morning. He had drunk alcohol while he was out — my dad had relapsed.

Now I felt really stuck. The silver lining to my dark cloud was that my father and Carrie would let me move in with them. Now, that wasn’t a possibility, as my dad had his own problems.

At this point, I was so confused I didn’t know what to do. I had never really dealt with these diseases firsthand. I never saw my dad when I was younger, when he was using, and my mother had been clean and sober since the November after I was born. For my mom to relapse was a huge deal, but for my dad to also, a little over two months from when my mother had, was overwhelming.

I was furious with my parents for doing this, and I was so scared about what would happen in the future. I didn’t even want to think about it all. How was I supposed to honor my mother and father?

The thing is, with my parents, there is so much to honor. One of the most important things my dad has passed onto me is the act of love and tolerance.

To me, this is one of the things I live by day to day, maybe more so than the average person. Because my mother is also a lesbian, I’ve dealt with some discrimination. People have openly told me that my mother’s lifestyle is evil. With advice from my father, I can forgive and accept their blindness in this situation. My dad is loving when loving someone can be tough and listens when it seems no one can hear. Those traits to me are important and make him a really wonderful role model.

My mother has taught me numerous things and has raised me to be independent. She taught me how to laugh at myself and my mistakes. She has been a listening ear and has helped me with my problems. She has been the best mom a girl could ask for, and a best friend to me throughout my life.

But we’re still stuck with that question. How do we honor our mothers and fathers? Better yet, how do we honor them when they dishonor themselves? There are numerous answers I’m sure. For me, I think honoring them would be to understand and be there for them. Children of addicts who aren’t addicts themselves need to remember what these diseases do to our parents. They muddle their brains and mess with their priorities.

When they relapse, we have to try to remember not to take it personally.

They don’t do it to intentionally hurt us. We can also remember what they teach us and follow in their admirable footsteps. When their own footsteps get shaky, we can also keep in mind that we can always make our own set of prints.

This ceremony is a bittersweet blessing. Now I’m going to have to be an adult. There will be more bumps in the road farther down this path, I’m sure, but I’m just going to have to keep my head up and keep going. Just like addicts on their path to recovery, I have to keep walking down my path to acceptance and support.

This essay was prepared from a bat mitzvah speech given by a 13-year-old last month.

 

Pipes Bring More Than Water


Our aging yellow school bus slowly drove up a steep mountain in a verdant forest in Honduras. I wondered why the bus driver was stopping at a seemingly random spot on the worst road I have ever seen. There were coffee and cornfields left and right. A herd of cows meandered down the road. As I peered out the window at the chickens rampaging beneath the mango trees, I noticed that a small crowd of women and children was gathering to stare back. And then I realized that this was it — this section of road was a village and my home for the next six weeks.

This past summer I and 14 other high school students lived and worked in Cuesta del Neo, a tiny aldeo of 70 families in rural, mountainous Honduras. Our mission: to build a pipeline several kilometers long to bring potable water for both domestic and agricultural uses to the village, which had been devastated by Hurricane Mitch in 1998.

We volunteered with the American Jewish World Service (AJWS), a nonprofit organization devoted to ending poverty by furthering sustainable development and promoting international human rights.

The people of the village lived in immense poverty. There was one streetlamp that sometimes worked. There was one television, about four radios and, more often than not, there was no way to power them. There was no indoor plumbing. School was available to most young children in the village, but secondary school was a two-hour uphill walk if your family could pay for the uniforms. Books were virtually unavailable.

The men worked long hours farming, and the women worked even harder to keep their families fed. The village has not received government aid since 1983.

I expected the impoverished to be downcast and hardened, burdened with the pain of existence and the suffering that plagues them. Nothing could be further from the truth in Cuesta del Neo. The attitudes of the people reflected such vibrancy and exuberance that I could hardly believe these were the same people who struggle just to have enough food on the tables for their large and extended families.

We worked hard on the pipeline. Digging with shovels and pickaxes in waist-high mud is no joke. We worked with a nongovernmental organization called Proyecto Aldeo Global (PAG), which helps aldeos to develop agriculture, technology and education. PAG works with villages that have asked for help as a community, and as such all members are required to participate in the development.

A rotation of men came to work with us digging the ditch, and they were so adept with a shovel that we felt completely useless. While we made pitiful little scratches in the dirt, these men were carving Grand Canyons through forests of roots. We felt inadequate and in the way. Then one of my group leaders, a Peace Corps worker, explained that we were not there only for the actual labor, but also as motivation for the villagers — our efforts gave them hope. Together we cheered when the water rushed through the pipes for the first time.

Not only did we get the experience of the physical labor, but we also got the cultural experience of living in homes of villagers. We shared their food, their stories, their precious few photographs. We shelled beans that had been picked by hand and dried on clotheslines. They taught us Spanish and we taught them English — the most common sounds echoing through the adobe houses were “?Como se dice?”, “How do you say…?” and lots of laughter.

The American teens all practiced different forms of Judaism, from secular to Orthodox. We did our best to make keeping kosher and Shabbat easy. We ate only vegetarian food, cooked with new pots and did not travel or drive on Shabbat. One of our more creative innovations was an “eruv” made of dental floss. We took turns leading Shabbat services. We also studied Jewish texts relating to sustainable development, poverty and the responsibilities that accompany us as Jews.

My experience has helped me to understand that through an accident of birth, I am lucky enough to live in the United States, where I have the responsibility to make a difference. It seems a daunting task, but as Ruth Messinger, the president of the AJWS, has repeatedly said, “We do not have the luxury of being overwhelmed.”

As Americans, and especially as Jews, we are in a unique position to call attention to injustice and to work to correct it. Judaism does not require us to complete the task, but we are required to attempt it. I challenge us to do more — to end our complacency and to create opportunities for us to do good in the world.

For AJWS information, visit

The Death of Cool


Dr. Mel Levine once accompanied a group of sixth-graders on a field trip. During the fun and games, he asked them what weighed more heavily on them at the end of each day, academic pressures or social pressures.

Social pressures, they called out at once, no question about it. “I’d much rather flunk a test,” said one boy, “than not be invited to a party.”

Coolness, Levine believes, is the unnamed, often misunderstood cause of so much of our teenage angst. The drive to be cool, to fit in, to suppress one’s uniqueness for the group — it’s hard to overestimate how much this thwarts childhood development.

“The highest priority for a teen is the avoidance of humiliation at all costs,” said Levine. “Cool is an obsession. It prevents children from developing as individuals because they are so concerned about coolness.”

Levine is the child-rearing specialist of moment these days: best-selling books, a “60 Minutes” feature, nonstop lectures and — need one say more –Oprah’s go-to guy for child development and education. A professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina, he’s also the founder of All Kinds of Minds, a nonprofit institute for understanding differences in learning.

I’m aware that theories and approaches are subject to fad and fashion, but I’ve read two of Levine’s books (and a July 2002 Jewish Journal cover story on him), and I’m impressed.

Last month, I heard him speak at a daylong seminar hosted by Aish HaTorah at a not-too-shabby Bel Air home. I knew he was adept at parsing the meaningful differences in how individual children learn. But what surprised me was his call for the death of cool, and his dispassionate — dare I say cool? — analysis of the role coolness plays in undermining our children.

As the school year leaps to a start, we will begin confronting this issue as parents. But the truth is, living through our own teen years provides a rich repository of useful experience. I remember my foray into coolness with the degrading precision of a Roz Chast cartoon. In seventh grade, the cool kids, I thought, were the ones wearing low riders and paisley shirts.

So that’s how I showed up to my first junior high party — only to have Mr. Cool himself turn to me in front of three pretty girls.

“Hey,” he pointed to my hip-huggers, “I hope you’re not expecting a flood.”

I blushed, went home, and if memory serves, buried those pants in the backyard.

Levine divides kids into four social types: popular, controversial, neglected and rejected.

What I didn’t know then was that I hovered somewhere between controversial and neglected — a bit outside the norm, but not enough so many kids would take notice. When I tried unilaterally to make a leap in status, Mr. Cool quickly put me in my place. By eighth grade, self-esteem kicked in and I realized I could find happiness outside the cool kids’ embrace. My junior high was big enough to allow for self-sufficient tribes of like-minded Odyssey-loving, square-dancing dweebs like me.

But for many kids, the blows can be crushing, and the biggest casualty is getting to know and develop who you are. “The real issue,” said Levine, “is to what extent you’re willing to sacrifice your own individuality to be seen as cool.”

As the doctor ticked off the four features of adolescent coolness, we parents nodded knowingly, or winced. Coolness means a certain imperviousness, a kind of grace under pressure. It requires up-to-date tastes, knowing what’s in, but also lending your own sense of style to what others are wearing, provided, as Levine points out, “you stay on the cool side of weirdness.” Coolness means a willingness to break taboos — smoking, belly rings, tattoos — though usually you’re breaking taboos en masse.

And finally, coolness is choreographed. “It’s how you move your body,” Levine said, “especially your upper extremities.” Levine’s untested theory is that smoking is relentlessly cool because it gives teens something elegant to do with their gangly arms.

There is an aspect of coolness that works. We are social beings, and our success is often pegged to how well we learn to fit in. But the same traits that define adolescent coolness don’t translate into adult success: See how much your first boss appreciates an aloof smoker who mocks the office nerds. Unless you’re David Spade, forget it.

And in Los Angeles, where adolescence can extend seamlessly into one’s late 50s, there are legions of parents who instead of guiding their children away from the pressures of cool are busy competing in the same arena. The word for it, said Levine, is neotony, which means older people who persist in acting like teenagers. That word may say more about our fair city than a Joan Didion essay.

It is cool to be cool, yes, but Levine doesn’t think that we, as parents, ought to give in so easily. He suggests asking these questions of our kids, to give them something to think about this school year: What are you sacrificing from your family life and education in order to attain and project coolness? To what extent are you not being you in order to fit in? What price are you paying by posing?

 

Class Notes – A Ramah Reunion


A group of 25 campers from Ramah of California’s pilot summer in 1955 returned to camp this summer to kick off a yearlong celebration of Ramah’s 50 years on the West Coast. The camp officially opened in 1956.

Back then, there were 62 campers and 24 staff members. Tuition for the 10 days was set at $56.16 — with scholarships available. Today, there are 1,275 campers at the Ojai location, just down the road from the original campsite and a four-week session costs $3,120.

Rabbi Jacob Pressman, director of the camp that first summer, and assistant director Miriam Wise were among the delegates this summer. Rabbi Daniel Greyber, current director, presented the two with an award of recognition for their service.

The alumni toured the camp and then spent the evening in a singalong with current campers. Young campers and alumni alike were touched and amazed to hear that they knew the same camp songs, some of them authored by the adult guests.

Among the participants were Rabbi Danny Pressman, Daniel Farkas, David Farkas, Pam Suplin Farkas, Mark Lainer, Nahum Lainer, Rabbi Ron Levine, Alicia Susman Lewis, Rabbi Joel Rembaum, Ken Rowen, and Michelle Bledstein Susman, and their spouses. Also present was Liat Yardeni-Funk, daughter of 1955 camper Tzvili Yardeni and current Ramah staffer.

For more information, visit www.ramah.org or call (310) 476-8571.

Snowboarding for Chabad

Spiritual snowboarders, get ready for winter.

West-Coast Chabad Lubavitch has purchased a 70-acre campus on a San Bernadino National Forest mountaintop for educational programs, retreats, and summer camps — and coming soon: snowboard and ski camps for Chabad.

The wooded campus, in the mountain community of Running Springs, was previously owned by CEDU Mountain Schools, a boarding school for at-risk youths, which filed for bankruptcy in March. The site is about 14 miles from Big Bear, and 87 miles east of Los Angeles.

The campus, which Chabad purchased this month for $4.3 million, will be ready to open in three months, said Don Braham, the newly appointed director and controller of the campus who is supervising renovations. This will be just in time for winter sports camps for skiing and snowboarding.

But the primary purpose of Chabad at River Springs will be educational. The campus of 18 buildings — a “chai” coincidence? — includes dormitories, administrative buildings, classrooms, science laboratories, a computer room, a library and an “art barn,” with a darkroom and audiovisual studio. The central lodge contains a commercial kitchen and dining hall. Outside, there is an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a tennis court, a hardtop basketball court, a soccer field, a volleyball pit and squash courts.

West-Coast Chabad intends to host conferences, seminars, retreats, summer camps, and programs for children with special needs. Chabad is discussing the possibility of opening a full-time school there; it has retained the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accreditation that the CEDU schools had acquired.

Three Chabad schools in Los Angeles have recently received accreditation from WASC: the Bais Chaya Mushka Elementary School, Bais Rebbe Junior High, and Bais Chana High School.

Since it arrived in California 40 years ago, West-Coast Chabad has opened myriad religious centers in Southern California, more than 25 schools and 30 summer camps, and various social-service programs for drug rehabilitation, the homeless and senior programs. Its main fundraising program, the nationally televised Chabad Telethon, will be held on Sept. 25. — Amy Klein, Religion Editor

Temple Israel’s Two Stars

Temple Israel of Hollywood dedicated its major annual fundraiser last year to honoring two early childhood educators: Jane Zuckerman, who previously directed the temple’s nursery school and is now executive director, and Sherry Fredman, who taught at the temple’s day school before she became principal of the nursery school in 2001.

“For a congregation to honor two staff members who both have served as nursery school principals over a period of 18 years is testimony not only to the love and esteem in which they are held by our community … but also is demonstrative of how much our congregation appreciates the critical role they have played in nurturing our youngest members and families,” said Temple Israel’s Rabbi John Rosove.

And, as it turns out, going back to nursery is good for fundraising, too.

The dinner sold out at 400 people — the temple’s largest ever — and raised $130,000.

For information on Temple Israel of Hollywood, visit www.tioh.org or call (323) 876-8330.

Restoring Memories

In the fall of 2001, Yehudi Gaffen, CEO of a San Diego construction company, traveled to Skapiskis, Lithuania to visit the small shtetl where his father once lived. There he found the one remaining Jewish relic — a cemetery, ignored for more than 60 years, overrun with vegetation, headstones in disrepair.

This past year, Gaffen and a committee of several like-minded descendants of the shtetl of Skapiskis, began restoring the cemetery — and he enlisted the local Lithuanian community for help.

The Cemetery Restoration Project has been incorporated into the local high school curriculum, where the students will, help with the restoration and immerse themselves in learning about the life of the pre-war Skapiskis Jewish community and the Holocaust that destroyed it. The program will culminate in an annual award ceremony honoring a local high school student who produces the best essay touching on some aspect of the Skapiskis Jewish Community.

“The Skapiskis Jewish Cemetery Restoration Project is about remembering and honoring the dead. It is also about life and the living — reconciliation, teaching the younger generation and preserving Lithuanian Jewish heritage,” Gaffen said.

For information, contact project coordinator Sol Kempinski at skempinski@gafcon.com or visit skapiskis.blogspot.com.

Genesis Generation

Four L.A.-area students were among 69 participants this summer in Genesis, a program that integrates Jewish studies, the arts, community building and leadership skills at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass.

The students are Benjamin Steiner, an 11th-grader at Shalhevet; Nikki Wallen, a 12th-grader at Oak Park High School; Jenna Barocas, a 12th-grader at Cleveland Humanities Magnet; and Franci Blattner, a 12th-grader at Milken Community High School.

They spent four weeks at Brandeis with Jewish students from diverse religious and socio-economic backgrounds participating in arts workshops, academic courses, and a hands-on social action projects. They also planed their own Shabbat programs.

For more information, visit www.brandeis.edu/genesis.

Pole Positions

On Sept. 21, millions of Christian students are expected to participate in See You at the Pole, a worldwide event where students meet to pray at school flagpoles before school hours. Last year 2 million American students participated in the student-led and organized initiative, which is supported by about 100 diverse Christian organizations.

The event is legal — a 1990 Supreme Court decision affirmed the rights of religious groups to hold events at schools not during school hours. But teachers and administration are not permitted to either encourage or discourage students from attending. In a letter to school superintendents, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) recommended that teachers themselves do not attend.

“Students are impressionable and easily susceptible to coercion, conformity and peer pressure, especially when they see their teachers standing with other students and participating,” wrote Amanda Susskind, regional director for the Pacific Southwest Region of the ADL.

Susskind also gave the superintendents a heads-up about mid-week Jewish holidays that might interrupt schedules for students as well as teachers and staff.

Susskind’s letter specified the dates for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur this year, and quoted the section of California code that requires schools to accommodate students’ religious observances.

For ADL guides to religion in public schools visit www.adl.org/religious_freedom.

Teen Talk

Need some help having that talk with your teen? You know, the one that starts out, “Now that you’re a grown-up you’d better start acting like one….”

The latest edition of “When You Become 18: A Survival Guide for Teenagers,” published by the California State Bar Association, is a no-nonsense booklet that outlines for young adults their rights and responsibilities.

It addresses everything from paying taxes, voter registration, military service, jury duty, marriage and identity theft to contracts, rental agreements, statutory rape laws, domestic violence, and crimes and consequences.

The publication, and another on “Kids and the Law: An A-to-Z Guide for Parents,” is available free of charge.

For information, visit www.calbar.ca.gov or call (888) 875-5297. — Julie M. Brown, Contributing Writer

You can reach Julie Gruenbaum Fax at julief@jewishjournal.com or (213) 368-1661, ext. 206.

 

YM for the Bais Yaakov Set


Teen magazines like YM or Seventeen are usually aimed at young girls who can spend hours contemplating the deeper questions of life like “How can I tell if he likes me?” or “Is 50 Cent hot or not?” But now from Los Angeles comes Shoshanim, the Orthodox girls’ teen mag that dispenses with such asinine navel gazing and instead lures its modestly clad readers with articles that discuss “The remarkable chesed [loving kindness] of the girls of Gilo,” or “Halacha: Wronging Someone With Words.”

“Boys do not exist in this magazine,” said founder and editor in chief Sterna Citron, who started the magazine three years ago when she realized that there was no appropriately kosher magazine for Orthodox teenage girls. “But there is a lot to write about without writing about boys — there is conflict and competition and growing up and teachers and parents and issues. There is plenty to keep us busy.”

Shoshanim aims to be the magazine that will keep its female readers on the straight and narrow during the downtimes.

“We wanted to show the Torah way, not through a school curriculum, not through teachers, but in an entertaining way so that they can see that it is fun,” said Citron. Thus, Shoshanim features an advice column where girls can ask Rebbetzin Rochel what to do in situations where, for example, a girl is trying to stay on a diet but she doesn’t want to be rude to her grandmother who keeps pushing food in front of her. (Rebbetzin’s advice? “A diet is not as important as someone’s feelings.”) There are also short stories, health advice and book reviews. Citron welcomes submissions from her readers, and she will publish their short stories and their artwork as long as it meets her standard of quality.

Citron currently publishes Shoshanim — the Hebrew word for roses — quarterly. She has a couple of thousand subscribers in the United States and Canada, as well as a handful in other countries like South Africa and England. She does much of the work on the magazine herself, voluntarily, but she feels that the venture is worthwhile.

“I get letters from parents saying, ‘Thank you for a kosher magazine to help keep my daughter kosher,'” Citron said. “But the main way that I know I’m doing the right thing is when I see young girls sitting down and reading it.”

For information about subscribing to Shoshanim, send an
e-mail to subscriptions@shoshanim.net  , or mail a check for $22 and your address to 723 N. Orange Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90038.

Up Front


JCC Wants a Few Good
Maccabis

The Jewish Community Center (JCC) is on the lookout for teen
athletes who want to compete in the 2003 JCC Maccabi Games, a week-long
international Jewish youth summer games competition, to be held Aug. 8 through
Aug. 15.

This year, 70 local athletes will be able to participate in
games to be held in Houston and St. Louis, said Matt Lebovits, a Maccabi
coordinator. This year’s sports include boys basketball and soccer (for those
14 and under), boys and girls soccer (for those 16 and under), girls volleyball
(16 and under), baseball, tennis, dance and swimming.

Last year, the 82-person local contingent included a newly
formed girls volleyball team that defied expectations by competing in the final
medal round against Israel. Though gold medals eluded the Cinderella-team,
their coach said the six girls returned enriched and pride-filled from Baltimore,
which hosted 2,000 athletes from six countries.

The experience proved infectious to another adult chaperone,
Julie Rubin, the JCC’s assistant director. Her goal is for Orange County to
host the games in the near future.

Israel Merchants on
Tour

With violence scaring off trinket-buying tourists, Israeli
merchants are turning the tables and bringing their wares to shoppers. On Jan.
5, a caravan of 30 Israeli artists and craftsmen will open up shop in the high
school campus of Irvine’s Tarbut V’Torah Jewish Day School, the first stop in a
75-day national tour of 35 cities from Hawaii to Maine.

“With tourism at all-time lows in Israel, this is a great
way for us to show solidarity with Israel by helping her economy,” said event
chair Charlene Zuckerman of Laguna Niguel. The fair is the second initiative of
the Orange County Israel Solidarity Task Force, a community-wide group, and the
Jewish Federation.

While sympathy has stimulated shop-in-Israel initiatives
online, Zuckerman figures personal chemistry will help draw a projected 2,000
visitors for the event, which will include kosher refreshments. “It’s nice to
see who you are helping. It’s also nice to be able to see the goods,” such as
the contemporary kiddush cups created by Judaic artist and silversmith Dan Givon,
or the contemporary jewelry crafted by his wife, Stacy. Their studio is in Zur Hadassa,
in Jerusalem’s Judean mountains.

A similar fair, organized independently and held last summer
on Long Island drew 17,000 people and netted merchants $750,000, said Stuart A.
Katz, president and owner of New York-based Tal Tours, an Israel-tour operator
who organized the national merchant tour. “Frankly, I was surprised,” he said.

With his own business down 70 percent compared to 2001, Katz
figured he could apply his skills in reverse. By aiding merchants, who pay
their own way, he might still serve his own interests. “Our goal is to promote
tourism,” he said.

Guess Who’s Coming to
‘Dinner’?

In a warmup for Orange County’s second Jewish
scholar-in-residence program later this month, the Bureau of Jewish Education
is putting on its own scholarly event Jan. 12, but adding an edible twist.

“Dinner With a Scholar” is a one-night affair featuring five
different experts that intend to share their scholarly pursuits in the
salon-like setting of private homes. It is hoped they will be joined by 14
dinner companions willing to pay $125 for the privilege.

“It has the potential to turn into our main fundraiser,”
said Joan Kaye, executive director of the bureau, which creates youth programs
and trains local religious-school teachers. She modeled the event after one in Boston.
“This is who we are,” Kaye said.

To mark its 25th year, the bureau held a fundraiser last
October with a Catskill-styled dinner. A comedian who lived up to his name,
“Noodles,” entertained at the event.

Dinner guests have varied menu choices on several counts.
Host sites include three homes and an art gallery in Newport Beach and one home
in Long Beach. Topics range from social responsibility to the history of
chutzpah to whether God had a consort. Presenters include scholars of
archeology, management and Midrash, the biblical interpretations of rabbis.

Archaeologist Looks at Science
Behind Exodus

To set the stage for Passover, Aliso Viejo’s Kershaw Museum
will host a slide show by an archaeologist who has written a best-selling book
that links scientific findings to biblical history.

William G. Dever, 69, a retired professor who has excavated
in Israel for 40 years, is now busy developing television shows for the BBC
based on his first nonscholarly book, “What Did the Biblical Scholars Know and
When Did They Know It?” which was published last year and is a runaway
bestseller for its publisher, Eerdmans Publishing of Grand Rapids, Mich.

Dever’s museum lecture retraces the biblical exodus from Egypt
with illustrations of Pharoah’s monument building, Moses’ journey into Sinai to
receive the Ten Commandments and the Ark’s passage from the Tabernacle to
Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. His lecture notes are a soon-to-be-published
second book, “Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?”

“The answer is not from Egypt,” Dever said, explaining that
the book and lecture attempts to steer a middle course between biblical
literalists and those who call the exodus fiction.

The book is written for a nonscientific audience, but is
based on excavations and surveys in the West Bank made in the last decade by
Israeli scholars, whose findings have not been popularized, Dever said.

Dever’s talk was scheduled as a preview of a planned exhibit
in March about the early Israelites emergence from slavery to freedom, but the
focus of the exhibit is now uncertain, said Gail Levy, a museum board member.

After the museum lecture, he is also scheduled for a talk
titled, “Did God Have a Consort? Archaeology and ‘Folk Religion’ in Ancient
Israel,” as part of the Bureau of Jewish Education’s “Dinner with a Scholar”
program.

Dever said architectural evidence shows that all deities in
the ancient world were paired, a concept monotheistic Judaism abandoned. “Did
God Have a Wife?” is the working title of his third planned book.

2 p.m. Jan. 12 at Temple Beth El of South Orange County, 2A Liberty,
Aliso Viejo. (949) 362-3999.

Biblical Scholar Will Give 
30 Talks on Ancient Texts

Biblical scholar Shalom Paul will hold 30 talks as part of
the second Orange County Jewish Community Scholar Program beginning Jan. 19.

For a nonacademic audience, Paul’s talks are a rare
opportunity to glimpse how scholars solve mysteries within ancient texts. Paul,
65, also chairs the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation and a Bible curriculum
committee for Israel’s Ministry of Education. His topics will include, “The
Genesis of Genesis,” the keynote address Jan. 20 at the Jewish Community
Center, to innovations by classical prophets.

More than 2,000 people attended talks by the previous
scholar-in-residence, Avigdor Shinan. As a result, more synagogues, schools and
special interest groups clamored for a slot in his schedule and twice as many
individual patrons wrote checks.

“We’ve raised sufficient money to fund the program through
2004,” said Arie Katz, an Irvine lawyer who, late in 2001, started the program
that has since mushroomed with a calendar of unusual speakers. “We almost have
more people who want to come here than places to put them,” he said.

An advisory board of rabbis compiled their own wish list of
high-profile thinkers that Katz promised to tackle. This year, Katz also
scheduled a separate session for the more advanced theologians, requested by
one rabbi eager to engage in a higher level discussion.

Togetherness at Teen Shabbat


The traffic-filled streets and overflowing parking lots of commercial office parks bordering John Wayne Airport empty fast on most Friday evenings.

Occasionally, though, the traffic pattern at twilight is reversed. Such was the case earlier last summer at Baker and Redhill streets. There, a steady stream of vehicles arrived, disgorging clusters of teenagers at Orange County’s Jewish Community Center. Instead of movies, sleepovers and football games, the typical high school student’s Friday night pursuits, about 60 teens gathered to participate in the center’s "Teen Shabbat" program, now in its second year.

Wearing Volcom T-shirts and tennis shoes, slides and Capris, they filtered into an large, unadorned, wood-floored meeting room. Half the room was taken up by three rows of chairs aligned in an arc around two metal tables. A score of tea lights littered each tabletop.

Teen leaders from each of the county’s synagogues take turns leading a traditional Shabbat service in Hebrew. Afterward, the group disperses to socialize over a kosher dinner, hear from a speaker about teen-related topics and ask questions.

Attending for the first time was Courtney Mellblom, 15, of Placentia. She came with Heather Cohen, 13, and Adam Furman, 14, friends from the youth group at Congregation B’nai Israel, a Conservative synagogue in Tustin.

"I thought it would be fun," Mellblom said.

"We have Shabbat club at temple," added Cohen, which is also led by the congregation’s youth. "It’s more fun when kids do it."

"Parents don’t tell you to quit talking," Furman explained.

Mellblom appreciated the get-together for another reason. "When you go, you’re all on the same level," she said. At her high school, for instance, back-to-school night was scheduled on Rosh Hashana. As an officer of her class, Mellblom was expected to attend the school function, but she intended to attend services instead. "I’m torn between the two," she said, adding, "People don’t do it purposefully."

Sitting alone in self-imposed isolation was Karyn Lesnick, her orange-streaked black head lowered, looking toward her patent-leather platform boots. Asked why she came, the 14-year-old from Irvine said, "My mom made me come. She said I would lose privileges if I didn’t go."

"It’s Friday. I’d rather be other places," Lesnick admitted.

Looking over her shoulder, she had yet to spot a familiar face from Bat Yahm, the reform synagogue in Newport Beach she attends. "I don’t know anybody here," she said. "I feel kind of out of place."

As the teens were encouraged to fill the front seats, Mellblom, Cohen and Furman took seats beside Lesnick, and a conversation began.

The teen Shabbats were organized as a result of brainstorming by a countywide youth task force. Representatives of 31 Jewish organizations met in the spring of 2000 with the goal of fostering community by breaking down barriers — religious and otherwise — among youth. Teens told the group they enjoyed participating in youth-led services held during weekend retreats and wanted more of them. The first was held last spring.

"My guess was 25 kids would come," said Jay Lewis, assistant director of the Bureau of Jewish Education. Instead, 105 showed up. "It was a pleasant surprise," he said. Five more teen services are scheduled through May.

The success of the teen service is due in part to youthful attitudes, Lewis said. "Teens don’t see differences in the Jewish community that adults do. They take a more global view. Teens don’t see the differences. They see similarities."