Security guard kills Jewish man near Western Wall


A security guard shot dead a 46-year-old Jewish man whom he mistook for a terrorist near the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

The guard, a civilian employed by a private company, said the man had shouted “Allah hu akbar” (“God is great” in Arabic) and tried to extract an object from his pocket before the security guard fired his sidearm Friday morning, Army Radio reported.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the guard opened fire with his pistol because he suspected the man was a terrorist.

The 46-year-old man, who reportedly has no family in Israel and who was not identified by name, died 20 minutes later as paramedics were trying to stabilize him and treat his multiple gunshot wounds. He was the only person hit in the incident.

A man who knew the victim and was present during the shooting told Army Radio the man came to the Western Wall nearly every day and was a volunteer cook for the Chabad movement.

“I don’t understand why they shot him. Everybody knows him around here but he was alone because his family is in France,” said the man, whose name Army Radio did not reveal.

The interviewee also told Army Radio that the deceased was “very frustrated with the establishment.”

Ten women arrested at Western Wall for praying with prayer shawls


Ten women participating in a women's prayer service with hundreds of worshippers and supporters at the Western Wall were arrested for wearing prayer shawls.

Those arrested Monday morning included Israeli-American Rabbi Susan Silverman, sister of comedian Sarah Silverman, and her 17-year-old daughter Hallel Abramovitz; Anat Hoffman, chairwoman of the Women of the Wall, who has been arrested several times in recent months; and two U.S. rabbis, Debra Cantor of B'nai Tikvoh-Sholom in Bloomfield, Conn., and Robin Fryer Bodzin of the Israel Center of Conservative Judaism in Queens, NY.

The women had gathered at the back of the women's section, as they have at the beginning of every new Jewish month since 1988, for Rosh Chodesh services for the new Jewish month of Adar. It was the largest number of participants for the monthly event since its inception, organizers told Israeli media.

The women were joined on the other side of the mechitza, the barrier which separates the sexes at the Wall, by a number of male supporters, including six former Israel Defense Forces paratroopers who had been among those that liberated the Western Wall during the Six Day War in 1967.  One of the paratroopers was Dr. Yitzhak Yifat of Jerusalem, who is famous as one of the three paratroopers in the iconic photograph of three soldiers standing at the Western Wall shortly after its liberation. Yifat is the middle paratrooper in the photo by David Rubinger.

The arrests reportedly were made at the end of service, after most of the participants and media had left the Western Wall Plaza. Police had stood on the sidelines as the women prayed and then danced in a circle holding their prayer shawls, according to Haaretz.

The women's prayer group moved its Torah reading from the Wall to outside the Old City of Jerusalem police department, where the arrested women were taken.

In 2003, Israel's Supreme Court upheld a government ban on women wearing tefillin or tallit prayer shawls, or reading from a Torah scroll at the Western Wall.

Women participating in the Rosh Chodesh service have been arrested nearly every month since June for wearing prayer shawls or for “disturbing public order.”

Bus ad for Third Temple yanked


A bus advertisement campaign by an extreme right-wing group calling for the building of the Third Temple has been removed.

The Our Land of Israel party had put posters on 200 Jerusalem city buses shortly before Passover showing an artist’s rendition of the Third Temple on the site now occupied by the Al Aksa Mosque and the slogan “May the Temple be built in our lifetime.”

The signs were removed by the advertising franchiser this week, several days before the campaign was set to end, following many threats received in the last week, according to Ynet.

Activist Baruch Marzel and Rabbi Shalom Wolpe formed the Our Land of Israel movement in 2008. The group told Ynet that it is considering suing the advertising franchiser and the Egged bus company.

Mayor Villaraigosa Welcomed at Shabbat Service


Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was a surprise guest this month at Friday evening’s Shabbat services at Stephen S. Wise Temple, after he had accepted an invitation from Rabbi Elie Herscher to allow the congregation to express its appreciation for the mayor’s unwavering support for Israel.

About 2,000 people packed the sanctuary, who gave Villaraigosa an extended standing ovation. Also in attendance were the Israeli Consul General Yaakov Dayan, Jewish Federation President John Fischel, and four members of the LA city council.

In reporting on his recent visit to Israel, Villaraigosa said that if Hamas would stop the rocket attacks on Israel, Gazans would be able to live in peace, and that if the Arab world would accept Israel’s right to exist there would be peace.

As the mayor left the Temple, he was greeted by more than a hundred first-graders waving Israeli flags and singing songs of peace. One student wrapped a large Israeli flag around the shoulders of the mayor, who held the flag tight and sang along with the young students.

VIDEO: Archaeologists excavate 2100-year-old wall in Jerusalem


A 2,100-year-old section of the wall surrounding Jerusalem, dating from Hasmonean times, has been unearthed on Mount Zion, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Wednesday. The excavations have revealed part of the expanded southern city wall, from the Second Temple period, when ancient Jerusalem was at its largest.

 

Shatner Horse Trek; Four of a Kind; Star Bright; Mayor Meets Mayor; Social Justice? Here I Am


Horse Trek

William and Elizabeth Shatner made their first U.S. public appearance on behalf of the William and Elizabeth Shatner-Jewish National Fund Therapeutic Riding Consortium Endowment for Israel last week at “An Evening of Magical Information.”

The $10 million endowment will support therapeutic riding programs for the disabled throughout Israel so that more individuals can benefit from the essential contribution equine therapy makes to the overall well-being of the disabled. The long-term hope is to forge cooperative networks between Israel and neighboring countries in support of therapeutic riding for the disabled.

Four of a Kind

The San Fernando Valley Council of Na’amat USA (formerly Pioneer Women) honored two local couples Sept. 10 with its 2006 Distinguished Community Award. Marilyn and Jerry Bristol and Trudy and Lou Kestenbuam were recognized for their decades of philanthropy and public service. The lunch at Braemar Country Club in Tarzana raised $75,000 for the Petach Tikvah MultiPurpose Center in Israel. Middle East expert Yoav Ben-Horin gave a thoughtful speech on the current situation in Israel and reminded everyone that events in the Middle East never turn out predictably. Phil Blazer served as master of ceremonies for the evening.

Star Bright

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Mayor Meets Mayor

Rabbi David Baron of Temple of the Arts hosted Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Mayor Yona Yahav of Haifa, Israel’s third largest city, on Yom Kippur. The Israeli city was recently shut down for more than a month during the destructive Hezbollah missile attacks.
“Mayor Yahav is a symbol of resiliency” said Baron. “This is a recurring theme of Yom Kippur — that the Jewish people will endure hatred and violence to pray for peace.”

The vision of Temple of the Arts, which was founded by Baron, is “to reconnect fellow Jews and all people seeking spiritual enlightenment with the beliefs and traditions of Judaism through the arts.”

For further information, or to attend the services, call (323) 658-4900 or visit

It’s mayor meets mayor at Temple of the Arts; Women of vision see Jews’ future in Iran


It’s mayor meets mayor at Temple of the Arts
 
Mayor Yona Yahov of Haifa received a standing ovation after his Kol Nidre address at Temple of the Arts in Beverly Hills Sunday night. A few minutes earlier, by way of introducing Yahov, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spoke candidly about the feeling of disorientation his famously frenetic schedule tends to induce.
 
“It’s almost like not knowing where I am at any given moment,” Villaraigosa confessed.
 
Luckily, the sound of Hebrew prayers and his recollection of a Yom Kippur appointment at a temple in Northridge earlier in the evening helped Villaraigosa get his bearings. During his brief remarks he praised his counterpart from Haifa as a man of peace.
 
In his sermon on the seed of resiliency, Rabbi David Barron spoke more pointedly about Yahov’s aptness as a speaker at Sunday’s service. Citing Yahov’s ongoing efforts to create understanding between Arabs and Jews, Barron called Yahov “a man who is practicing forgiveness, which we are here to reflect on.”
 
“This has been an awkward, unprecedented war,” Yahov said at the beginning of his speech. “It has not been soldiers against soldiers or ships against ships.”Yahov said that when a rocket struck the Carmelite monastery above Haifa at the onset of the conflict, a local investigator at the scene was puzzled to find tiny ball-bearings scattered about the area.
 
“We learned these are often packed into the belts of suicide bombers,” Yahov said, “to widen the effect of the blast.”
 
When it become clear that civilians were to be the targets of Hezbollah’s missile campaign, Yahov said one of his first concerns was to keep life as normal as possible for Haifa’s children, even under the city’s constant curfew.Soft laughter rippled through the audience when Yahov, a big silver-haired bear of a man, asked, “Can you imagine what to do with your kids if they were stuck in your house for a month?”
 
Yahov’s solution was to place his city’s youngest citizens in a very familiar environment. Each day of the conflict, from early morning until late afternoon, thousands of Haifa’s children were sheltered on the lower levels of underground parking garages at the city’s shopping malls.
 
“No enemy can destroy our life,” Yahov said.
 
After he thanked the congregation for its support, he concluded his remarks by saying, “We showed the whole world that the Jewish people are one people.”
 
— Nick Street, Contributing Writer

Women of vision see Jews’ future in Iran
 
Amidst growing tensions between Iran and the United States in recent months, the Iranian Jewish Women’s Organization (IJWO) in Los Angeles is planning a seminar at the Museum of Tolerance focusing on the future security of Jews living in Iran today.
 
The event, scheduled for Oct. 10 and organized by the Women of Vision chapter of IJWO, will include prominent Persian Jewish activists, leaders and intellectuals from Europe and Israel, as well as Los Angeles, and aims to shed light on the political, social, and psychological challenges faced by the approximately 20,000 Jews in Iran.
 
“We didn’t really select this seminar or its topic because we wanted to make a statement about ourselves as women, rather because it is an important topic that has not been addressed by the Iranian Jewish community nor the larger American Jewish community,” said Sharon Baradaran, one of the volunteer organizers of the IJWO seminar.
 
Baradaran said the seminar is particularly significant for opening new dialogue between the various factions within the Persian Jewish community that for years have often been at odds with one another on how to best address the anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric of Iran’s fundamentalist regime without jeopardizing the lives of Jews still living in Iran.
 
“While every panel member has been very sensitive to safeguarding the best interest of the Jewish community, to address difficult questions about the future of the community in Iran is critical and if that means certain disagreements, then they should be discussed,” Baradaran said.
 
Local Persian Jews have expressed concern for the security of Iran’s Jews in recent months, following false media reports in May that the Iranian government had approved legislation requiring Jews to wear yellow bands on their clothing.In July, Iranian state-run television aired a pro-Hezbollah rally held by Jews living in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz, in what many local Persian Jewish activists believe was a propaganda stunt organized by the regime to show national solidarity for Hezbollah.
 
Maurice Motamed, the Jewish representative to the Iranian parliament, had been slated as a panelist for the seminar but withdrew, saying he will not be arriving in Los Angeles until after the seminar, Baradaran said. Some local Persian Jewish activists have expressed concern over public comments from Motamed during the past year, including his praise for Iran’s uranium enrichment program and his opposition to Israeli military actions against Palestinian terrorists in Gaza and Hezbollah terrorists in Southern Lebanon.
 
In January, Parviz Yeshaya, the former national chairman of the Jewish Council in Iran, issued a rare public statement questioning the logic of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who had called the Holocaust a “myth”.
 
The Iranian Jewish Women’s organization was originally set up in 1947 in Iran and later re-established in 1976 in Los Angeles with the objective of recognizing the impact of Iranian Jewish women in the community. In 2002, the Women of Vision chapter and other chapters were added to the organization in an effort to reach out to younger generations of Iranian Jewish women.
 
The IWJO seminar will be held at the Museum of Tolerance on Oct. 10 at 6 p.m. For ticket information contact the IWJO at (818) 929-5936 or visit www.ijwo.org.
 
— Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer
 
Captured soldier’s brother addresses students
 
Gadi Goldwasser — brother of Ehud Goldwasser, one of two Israeli soldiers captured on July 12 and still held by Hezbollah — spoke recently to students at UCLA and USC during a brief visit to Los Angeles. He addressed the business and law schools at USC, as well as Hillel and Chabad student groups during their Shabbat dinners.

Su temple es mi casa


It’s 103 degrees in Hollywood, and I’m schvitzing. As I head up the stairs at my synagogue, Tony Guerrero and I exchange greetings.

As usual, he’s looking sharp: pressed
slacks, a clean white button-down shirt, and today — a tie and a kippah.
“Tony,” I ask incredulously, “how can you wear that tie in this heat — don’t you want to at least loosen it a bit?”

“No way,” he answers. “It’s Shabbat.”

His answer impresses me, but it no longer surprises me. For although Guerrero is a Mexican American non-Jew, I have come to understand just how intensely he has embraced the Jewish community and how genuinely at home he feels here.

Non-Jews are common at many Jewish facilities, ensuring the smooth operation of our institutions — understanding and anticipating the needs of members, meeting the standards of our practices. But Guerrero’s story is more than the tale of someone “other” who happens to work among “us.” To hear Guerrero tell it, he has learned both the most fundamental and profound of life’s lessons by being among Jews.

At Temple Israel of Hollywood, where my family has belonged for 10 years, Guerrero attends to all facets of our building’s use: repairs, maintenance, security, and more. He is striking for his efficiency, his quiet presence and the way in which he brings — for lack of a better word — a haimishness to his work. The way he sees it, he’s not just our facilities manager, he’s also “a psychiatrist, a referee … a jack-of-all-trades.”

Born in Mexico, Guerrero came to the United States at the age of 5 with his mother. He quickly adapted to Southern California, acquiring skills that his family came to depend upon. When his uncle needed a new part for his car, Guerrero went along to translate for him. Impressed by the 10-year-old’s maturity and English skills, the owner of the auto shop, Arthur Louis Richman, offered him a job cleaning up after school.

Guerrero learned that Richman was a nonobservant Jew who “had no kids, no family.” He found ways to be useful — and Richman both encouraged and challenged him. By the time Guerrero was 11, he was spending every afternoon and weekend at the shop, and his relationship with Richman became “like a father-and-son thing.”

Through observation and initiative, Guerrero learned much by Richman’s side. Whether the lessons involved auto repairs, coin collecting, or interpersonal behavior, “[Richman] was a perfectionist; he was a very smart man.”

When Guerrero started getting into trouble as a teenager, Richman took him to a boxing gym. At the age of 16, Guerrero had his first amateur fight; at 18 he turned pro.

After four pro fights — he won them all — Guerrero decided he wanted out: “I was just too young to deal with all the pressure.”

Around the same time, his mentor retired.

“After I stopped boxing and he sold his business, I didn’t know what to do. I only had [some] high school … and I was striving; I wanted better.”

In 1989, encouraged by Richman, Guerrero applied for a building maintenance job at Valley Cities Jewish Community Center. Although he felt that he was “out of [his] league,” he says, “I [just] told them the truth — that I’d boxed, that I was a mechanic, that I was good with tools, but that … I wanted to learn.” Modestly, Tony admits “I guess they liked the ambition part.”

Tony quickly got to know many of the families there, and he found them more than willing to help him excel. When he needed to upgrade or repair the building he’d “know who to call on [among the families] to learn from … a plumber, or an electrician, or a carpenter.”

But his learning didn’t stop with the tools of his trade.

“I started seeing how important education was, which I didn’t know before,” he said.

With encouragement from people at Valley Cities, Guerrero completed high school and attended community college.

He also saw Jewish family role models worthy of emulation.

“I started seeing how close the fathers were to their kids,” he said.

He was equally impressed with the kids: “Where I grew up, if you [did] something for a kid … the kid would look at you and say, ‘Who are you?’ and use the f-word.”

But the kids at Valley Cities would “say, ‘Good morning, Tony. How are you?’ and ‘Thank you for fixing’ this.’ It really made me a better person.”

His informal education in Judaism took another leap forward about nine years ago, when he accepted his current job at Temple Israel.

“I didn’t know what a tallit was … what a kippah was, what the Torah was,” he said. “I had to catch on [quickly] when I came here.”

Guerrero tells me that he “isn’t religious,” though he was raised as a Catholic. “But I have a lot of faith. I live by the Ten Commandments, and I try to be the best person I can be.”

Noticing the ways Jews “give back to their community,” Guerrero says, “Now, if I’m able to help somebody, I will; before I wasn’t like that.”

As though still surprised by his good fortune, Guerrero quietly confessed that he had been “a lost soul” before he was taken in and “raised by” Richman. Whenever they speak, he says, “I just thank him, thank him, and thank him. He really taught me how to be a good man.”

Working “with Jews for so long, and coming from where I started [can] make you a smart man, make you a nice man. And that’s the kind of people I belong with.”

Letters to the Editor


Chamberlain Ad

I do not know if I can communicate how deeply offended I was by the Republican Jewish Coalition’s (RJC) Neville Chamberlain ad on page 6 of the Sept. 8 Jewish Journal. Besides the complete lack of intellectual honesty, the appalling lack of logical reasoning fails beyond the pale to measure up to the traditions of Judaism specifically and humanity in general:

Rather than deal with the threat that Al Qaeda actually presents to our national security, President Bush has chosen to waste hundreds of billions of dollars on a personal vendetta in Iraq washed in five years of the blood of the Iraqi people and citizenry of our great nation.

Rather than communicating with a government seeking to open communication between the United States, President Bush consciously closed all potential paths of dialogue and continuously vilified and threatened a sovereign nation in a tinhorn cowboy attempt to force Iran into a diplomatic mistake of nuclear proportions.

Rather than assist Israel to defend itself against continuing malicious attacks from Hezbollah or Hamas, Bush specifically chose to do absolutely nothing for five years, and more importantly, two weeks of Israel’s invasion into Lebanon, then sent the single most ineffectual secretary of state within the last century to negotiate a failed cease-fire proposal.

If The Journal is so strapped for cash, it would be a far better use of its ad space to place a plea for donations and financial support from its readership, rather than compromising all dignity and integrity by running further tripe from the RJC.

Richard Adlof
North Hollywood

Shame on the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) for running two ads which desperately tried to denigrate the Democratic Party.

First, shame on the RJC for taking an issue of great bipartisan agreement — support for a strong U.S.- Israel relationship — and turning it into a wedge issue for tawdry partisan political advantage. Any objective observer of U.S. politics has to agree that both of our major political parties are remarkably supportive of Israel. This fact is crucial in maintaining the strong relationship between the United States and Israel. For the RJC, however, it appears that twisting the truth for some petty partisan gain is apparently more important than maintaining bipartisan support for the Jewish state.

It is true that in both parties there are a handful of politicians who are not part of this bipartisan consensus. Carter is one of these outsiders who find no support for their positions on the Arab-Israeli conflict within their own parties.

Jewish newspapers, like all newspapers, have an obligation to not print false and misleading ads. We hope in the coming weeks, as RJC slings more mud, this newspaper will fact-check their ad copy to make sure the RJC doesn’t continue to use these pages to violently twist the truth.

Marc Stanley
First Vice Chair
National Jewish Democratic Council

The Republican obsession with Iraq has left Israel open and vulnerable to the possible nuclear overtures of a Holocaust-denying Iran. The Republican obsession with the Cold War almost led to a military defeat for Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War (and did lead to a country-permeating malaise). The Republican obsession with a fundamental Christian theology that is based on the apocalyptic demise of not only Israel but Jews everywhere is too eviscerating and too self-evident to even require an elaboration.

Does any Jew still believe that the Republican party has their true interests at heart?

Marc Rogers
Thousand Oaks

We applaud the recent public discussion about the support for Israel by the political parties (“GOP Sees Israel as Way to Woo Democratic Jews,” Sept. 1).All who are pro-Israel should appreciate the positive influence our growing Jewish Republican community is having on the GOP. Our access to senior GOP leaders is warmly encouraged, and, in return, the Jewish community is increasingly impressed by an administration and a Republican Congress that have been deeply pro-Israel.

The example of U.N. Ambassador John Bolton is instructive. The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) was virtually alone among national Jewish organizations in supporting the nomination of this hero of the Jewish people, who not only helped to defeat the odious “Zionism is racism” resolution years ago, but who now vigorously defends Israel at the United Nations against unfair demonization and delegitimization. Many Jewish Democrats now see that Bolton is the right man at the United Nations.

Putting aside the issue of Israel, moderate Jews might approach 21st century American politics with an open mind on who is best on both national security and domestic public policy issues. It is time that respectful attention be paid by Jews to positive GOP ideas about economic growth, welfare and entitlement reform, medical liability and tort/legal reform, energy independence and educational choice and competition to best serve children.

To the benefit of Israel and the United States, the days of one-party Jewish voting are, thankfully, over.

Joel Geiderman
Chairman
Larry Greenfield
Director
Republican Jewish Coalition, California

Illegal Jewish Immigrants

Your articles focused on illegal Israeli immigrants who are not terrorists and do not take low-paying jobs away from minorities (“Living and Working [IL]Legally in America,” Sept. 8). Instead they engage in commercial activity that is beneficial to Israel.

Thanks to your article calling attention to them, perhaps immigration officials will divert attention from terrorists to crack down on these Israelis.

Are you The Jewish Journal or the anti-Jewish Journal?

Marshall GillerWinnetka

The Jews Didn’t Do It

Not all conspiracy theories are equal (“The Lie That Won’t Die,” Sept. 1). Richard Greenberg’s article asks us to believe otherwise, holding out only two possibilities to the American public: Either you accept the government version of Sept. 11 or you are a “conspiracist.”

But the world is much more complex than these two positions allow, and the democratic process itself depends on citizens who question official stories. David Griffin, author of “The New Pearl Harbor” and three additional books on Sept. 11, raises important questions about the adequacy of the Kean Commission report.

I Ate the Whole Thing!


I Ate the Whole Thing!

Rap music and matzah balls? Hey, Jews can rap. Just ask the group, Chutzpah, which showed up in full rapping gear for the weighing of the 26-pound-matzah ball at Canter’s Deli last week to celebrate the DVD release of “When Do We Eat?” The weights and measures officials arrived in uniform to record the official weight to send to Guinness, and guests and regulars ogled the giant treat. Not exactly like grandma used to make, but in this case bigger was better.

The matzah ball weigh-in was all part of the 75th anniversary celebration for the legendary L.A. deli, with Assemblyman Paul Koretz doing the honors of presenting an official proclamation from the state of California. Alan Canter, representing the second generation of family ownership, accepted the honor; he has spent practically his whole life keeping Canter’s one of Southern California’s most beloved and long-lasting dining establishments.

Koretz saluted the restaurant for its many years of great food, legendary service and extensive community involvement.

Two longstanding employees, head waitress Jean Cocchiaro and manager and main sandwich man George Karkabasis — considered by many to be the fastest and best sandwichmaker in town — were also surprised with certificates of commendation.

Together, they have worked at Canter’s for more than 100 years! Jacqueline, Gary and Mark Canter were on hand to celebrate their family’s famous fressing history with Dad, Alan.

The Canters reminisced about old times with Koretz, noting the table where Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller sat on Friday nights, the visits from sports stars like Wilt Chamberlain and Hank Aaron, the joking of regulars like Jack Benny and Buddy Hackett.

Solidarity Brother

Responding to the crisis in Israel, Rabbi Eli Herscher, senior rabbi of Stephen S. Wise Temple, and the synagogue’s director of education, Metuka Benjamin, quickly organized a solidarity mission to Israel. The group of 21 congregants met with high-level military and political leadership for a crisis update, visited military bases directly involved in the conflict and experienced first-hand the mobilization of essential services for Israelis in the north who were directly affected by this war. Herscher and Benjamin led the temple’s leadership as they brought gifts to wounded soldiers at Rambam Hospital in Haifa. They also visited a summer camp organized by the Joint Distribution Committee to serve children affected by the bombings in the Haifa area and met with handicapped Israelis who were evacuated to hotels in the center of the country. The temple has scheduled three other Israel missions for the coming year and raised $1.4 million dollars toward meeting Israel’s immediate crisis needs.

Zev on the Mount

Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries named Bob Zev director of marketing. Zev, who has a bachelor’s from CSUN and an MBA from USC, has more than 15 years of marketing and communications experience serving as the vice president of marketing for a financial institution.

Zev grew up in Los Angeles, became a bar mitzvah at Sinai Temple, and attended Hillel Hebrew Academy, Hebrew High School, Camp Ramah and spent a year in Israel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

‘Lost’ in the Art World

Even though Jack Bender didn’t win the best director Emmy Sunday night for his work on “Lost,” he was very much a winner at the premiere of his one-man show, “Found” at the Timothy Yarger Fine Art Gallery in Beverly Hills on Aug. 26. The exhibition was a “lost and found” of sorts for Bender’s friends, colleagues and admirers, who all converged onto the swanky gallery floors to view his colorful, explosive mixed-media paintings and, of course, to socialize.

The paintings could hardly be viewed through the talkative crowd of well-dressed art lovers, gallery clients and Bender’s circle of friends, who were sipping vodka-based cocktails named in Bender’s honor, such as “On a Bender” and “Castaway.” Across from “The Hatch Painting,” made famous for its appearance in “Lost,” students from View Park Prep in South L.A. played smooth jazz for the guests.

Among the celebs present to gush over Bender’s artwork were actress Blythe Danner; Jacqueline Bisset; J.J. Abrams, creator of “Lost”; Carlton Cuse, “Lost” producer; “Lost” star Evangeline Lily (who plays Kate) and “Sex and the City” actor Evan Handler (Charlotte’s Jewish husband).

“I don’t know how he did all of these,” Danner enthused to Entertainment Tonight, at the gallery.

Works exhibited are those he completed during breaks from filming “Lost” in Hawaii these past two years. Bender has been painting ever since he was a teen.Lilly, however, wasn’t surprised by Bender’s creative output on display: “It’s an expression and extension of himself,” she told The Journal in the gallery’s backroom, where Bender shared exhibition space with Chagall and Picasso. “He’s very spontaneous as a director and doesn’t like to premeditate things.”Bender summed up the evening: “It’s wonderful to be in this extraordinary environment. Hopefully it’s the beginning of a long ride.”

— Orit Arfa, Contributing Writer

Beit T’Shuvah’s New President Honored

Brindell Gottlieb recently opened her home to celebrate Nancy Mishkin as the new president of Beit T’Shuvah. Mishkin’s two-year term with the Westside congregation and rehabilitation center began in July. The annual Steps to Recovery Gala on Jan. 28, 2007, honoring Ron Herman, Dr. Susan Krevoy and Diane Licht, will be the first event highlighting Mishkin’s presidency. Beit T’Shuvah’s mission is to insure the physical, emotional and spiritual health of individuals and families within a supportive Jewish community. For more information, call (310) 204-5200, ext. 211.

Letters to the Editor


War Is Not the Answer

To the well-meaning Rachel Ben Dor and like-minded people who think war is not the answer (“War Is Not the Answer,” July 21), consider this: On Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese raided our naval base at Pearl Harbor.

I remember the date because it was just before my 15th birthday. The response of the United States to this one attack was to make all-out war on the Japanese, destroying their infrastructure (to say the least!). It culminated with dropping atomic bombs on two Japanese cities. Was this an overreaction? Should there have been a cease-fire negotiated between the parties and a diplomatic solution sought (such as the infamous Munich agreement of 1938)? Maybe we could have avoided war by ceding the Philippines to Japan.

Marshall Giller
Winnetka

I couldn’t agree more with Rachel Ben Dor’s “War Is Not the Answer” in your July 21 issue. Israel should no more want to fight fanatical enemies for whom beheading captives and blowing up buses full of children is the highest expression of idealism than the Allies should have fought the equally peaceful Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

Chaim Sisman
Los Angeles

Rabbi Josh Grater

How ironic that in an issue of your paper where the supporters of Rabbi Jacob Pressman placed a full page response to the ad hominem attack on him by a purported Orthodox Jew, and in which the concepts of lashon hara, bearing false witness and other violations of Jewish law were explained, Rabbi Grater chose to use his Torah Portion to call President Bush a liar and mount a political attack. He already did that in his letter to the editor — but he nonetheless decided that a double hit in a single issue was needed. You have several sections devoted to op-ed type pieces.

The fact that WMD were not located does not mean that Bush knew that at the time we invaded. In fact Colin Powell has made the case clearly that faulty evidence may have been used. That does not a liar make…

At a time when our future as a nation is at stake we need to be loyal and grateful to our friends. And the page devoted to Torah should not be used to advance political agendas. There are several important and inspiring themes in the portion that could have been chosen instead and which would not have been offensive.

Selwyn Gerber
Beverlywood

Ed. Note: Rabbi Joshua Grater’s letter was written and received before Hezbollah attacks provoked an Israeli response. We regret the confusion.

Cover Photo

Thank you for the cover picture of the Israeli soldiers praying (July 21). It was your best yet. Even Rob Eshman’s column was positive. I hope the trend will continue.

S. Alpert
North Hollywood

Jewish Republicans

Last week (July 21), the Jewish Republicans sponsored a full-page ad in The Jewish Journal lauding and thanking George Bush for his support of Israel. They ought to be ashamed.

Support for Israel transcends party politics. We all stand together in our efforts to insure that Israel will survive. To reduce our solidarity of opportunistic party politics is sleazy. As they did after Sept. 11, Republicans are taking an issue about which we should stand together and dividing us into camps, politicizing what should be a cause that unifies all of us.

We Americans, Jew and gentile, Republican and Democrat, stand with Israel. Let us not weaken this support by promoting fragmentation.

Dr. Allan Pogrund
Huntington Beach

Ha’Am at UCLA

This past week I came across Julie Gruenbaum-Fax’s article of June 30 and caught mention of her work at Ha’Am, UCLA’s Jewish newsmagazine (“It’s Personal, It’s Family and It’s Me”).

I was saddened, although not entirely surprised to see her refer to the publication as dormant. In May 2003, The Jewish Journal printed an article announcing the return of Ha’Am to print after four years on the Internet alone. Now, three years later, the mission of Ha’Am remains the same, to allow for a Jewish student voice on campus, but dwindling student interest and a decreasing advertising base coupled with budget cuts experienced by UCLA’s student media has made it increasingly difficult to go to print. However, with the continued dedication of a small, but hardworking staff, Ha’Am has kept its place on campus and is certainly not extinct.

Hopefully, a continued following and support of the campus and Los Angeles Jewish communities will help Ha’Am back to its former glory at UCLA.

Moshe Moskovitz
Editor-in-Chief
Ha’Am

Los Angeles Apartheid

Apartheid is alive and well at Sinai Temple. As a 38-year-old woman, it is unsettling to know that in less than a year I will no longer be welcome at Friday Night Live. The sweet little 23-year-old bouncers manning the door at the “ATID Lounge” are certainly only pawns at the hands of Sinai’s “Leadership” committee. I was surprised that they were not asking for identification cards at the entrance.

Since Rabbi [David] Wolpe and Craig Taubman are certainly over 39, I’m wondering why they are still running the service.

You might answer me by saying that the 20-something women were tired of being “hit on” by 50-year-old men, and action needed to be taken. We have all been approached by those we are not interested in, and dealing with that is part of growing up.

It is horrifying to me that such a policy of exclusion is accepted in the L.A. Jewish community

Separate but equal was abolished by the government, but it apparently is being encouraged in Westwood.

Name held on Request
Westwood

Converts

It is unfortunate that Laura Birnbaum’s friends have had to experience discrimination from a people whose religion they have fallen in love with (“Converts’ Hardships Expose Truth,” July 7) . It is, however, somewhat comforting to know that this is not an attitude that is common across the board and that there are people who are ready to embrace newcomers to our religion with love and encouragement.

Josh Cohen
Los Angeles

This Week – In and Out


Last Friday, when the sun went down in Los Angeles, the Jewish community came alive.

At Sinai Temple in Westwood, 2,000 people packed the sanctuary — standing-room only — to hear Elie Wiesel speak during Friday Night Live services as part of the temple’s centennial celebration (see story on page 13). Afterward, hundreds of 20-somethings stayed for a special Q-and-A session with Oprah’s favorite Holocaust author.

Not three blocks away, Israeli novelist Amos Oz held an overflow Shabbat evening crowd of 800 in his thrall as Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel’s guest speaker.

I stopped in at two other synagogues that night: at Leo Baeck Temple, a Reform shul in Bel Air, a capacity crowd attended the usual, uplifting service, and on La Cienega Boulevard, at Conservative Temple Beth Am, 100 United Synagogue Youth from around California greeted Shabbat on the rooftop, a foretaste of raucous summer camp nights to camp.

On the way home — you may have gathered that, yes, I drive on Shabbat — I took Pico Boulevard, quiet but for the dozens of Orthodox Jews walking home from services.

That’s just a few square miles of L.A. Jewry — I never made it over the hill, or even to the hill, where hundreds flocked to services at Stephen S. Wise Temple.

There’s only so much herring one Jew can eat, my grandfather used to say; it’s hard to be two places at once.

You’d think by now the fact that Jewish life is lived so intensely in Los Angeles would cease to amaze me — after all, this is the second largest Jewish population in the United States. But there remains such a constant wailing over the state of Jewish life that I occasionally have to wonder whether the worriers actually know any, um, Jews.

The latest round of “Oy Veying” was transatlantic. Two weeks ago, the profoundly talented Israeli novelist A.B. Yehoshua told an audience of American Jews in Washington, D.C., that Jewish life is experienced more completely in Israel than anywhere else.

There is, he said, “a fundamental boundary between Jewish identity in Israel and Jewish identity in the Diaspora.”

The former, he argued, was richer, more meaningful and authentic, rooted in the land and language of the Jewish people. The latter, he said, led to an attenuated sense of Jewishness.

“I cannot keep my identity outside Israel,” he said.

Outside Israel, Yehoshua argued, one wears one’s Judaism like a coat that can be taken on or off. Inside Israel, one wears it like skin.

The remarks before the American Jewish Committee touched off a war of words among Israeli and American Jews. The Israeli daily Haaretz ran essays with supporting and competing views. Yehoshua apologized for the bluntness of his remarks in subsequent interviews, but held to them in a more refined way. It’s an argument Yehoshua and a certain stream of Zionists has been making for years. And while I logically rebel against it, there’s a part of me that understands Yehoshua.

Many years ago, I met him while he was on a speaking tour in Los Angeles. We stepped outside his Marina del Rey hotel so he could smoke his pipe. We spoke, in Hebrew, about how the feeling of one’s Jewishness is of a different quality and intensity in Israel, where I had just been living, than in, say, Marina del Rey.

There was a bit of silence. He knocked the dottle from his bowl and turned to me.

“You have to come back,” he said, then walked inside.

If there weren’t a grain of truth in what he’s still saying, people wouldn’t be so upset. But there are other truths as well about Jewish identity: competing, confusing, contradicting ones that I have come to appreciate in the years since. Having lived in Israel, I can tell you the Jews there don’t all walk about aglow with the flame of their Jewishness. Yehoshua’s novels are populated with characters as spiritually bereft in Tel Aviv as Philip Roth’s are in Newark.

As it happens, I do meet Israelis all the time who are leading rich Jewish lives — they’re in Los Angeles.

Diaspora just may be as important to the Jewish existence, and the Jewish psyche, as Zion. There is a practical aspect — money and political support from outside Israel helped create and helps sustain the state — as well as a more ethereal one. The power of being the landless outsider, some might argue, roots us in ideals.

“In the name of nationalism,” wrote Douglas Rushkoff in “Nothing Sacred,” “Jews abandon iconoclasm, the long-standing insight into the false idols of land-based peoples…. Zionism has become a mantra for Jews fighting against assimilation. But Judaism itself was formulated as a way of transcending the obsession with physical territory and focusing instead on the supremacy of time and the realm of ideas. What’s more assimilated than rallying around a flag and fighting for a plot of land, just like everybody else?”

Yehoshua isn’t saying that our existence depends on in-gathering — he knows that argument falls flat in the face of 2,000 years of Jewish existence in exile. But he fails to appreciate the fact that so many of us live in the tension between his truth and Rushkoff’s, belonging everywhere and nowhere, forever trying to be in two places at once.

 

7 Days in The Arts


Saturday, April 15

The bread don’t rise, but spirits may. Two events tonight focus on Passover through music and comedy. Celebrate Chol Hamoed Pesach at Stephen S. Wise Temple with this evening’s “Let My People Sing” series event, “Tears, Laughter and Spirit.” Comedian Joel Chasnoff performs with The Lost Boys of Sudan Choir and Dream Freedom Performers of Milken Community High School. Or visit the Workmen’s Circle for “Music, Mayses … and Matse?!” a concert of Yiddish and klezmer tunes performed by renown musicians Yale Strom on violin, Mark Dresser on contrabass and singer Elizabeth Schwartz.

Stephen S. Wise: 7:30 p.m. Dessert and coffee follow. Donation. 15500 Stephen S. Wise Drive, Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 476-8561. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Sunday, April 16

Ladies only, you are cordially invited to a special screening of “Together as One,” a multicamera video produced by Kol Neshama, an L.A. arts program for Orthodox girls and women. The film about positive attitude and watching what you say has a “Wizard of Oz”-ian spin, when the snide-mouthed protagonist, Bracha, ends up in The Land of Emes (Truth). There are elaborately choreographed musical numbers featuring now-Orthodox professional performers, along with local school girls. The video may only be viewed in today’s and tomorrow’s screenings.

April 16 and 17, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., Upstairs@ Kehilas Yaakov, 7211 Beverly Blvd. (877) 637-4262.

Monday, April 17

Director Nicole Holofcener’s film about the midlife struggles of four female friends — and their uneasy relationships with money and each other-comes to theaters this week. Jennifer Aniston, Catherine Keener, Joan Cusack and Frances McDormand star in the comedy/drama “Friends With Money,” which was the opening night film at the Sundance Film Festival.

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Tuesday, April 18

Head to LACMA West for art that makes you go, “hmmmm….” Their new LACMALab installation, “Consider this…” features the work of six varied artists that all invite viewers to “examine the cultural and social landscape: who are we and what do we want to be?”

Through Jan. 15, 2007. Free (children 17 and under), $5-$9 (general). 6067 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. www.lacma.org

Wednesday, April 19

Pay homage to legends of different sorts at tonight’s American Cinematheque screening of “The Night of the Hunter.” This is the kickoff event for their new screening series of devoted film critic “Kevin Thomas’ Favorite Films.” The monthly event will feature 10 of Thomas’ favorites, including “Sunset Boulevard” and “A Star is Born.” Tonight also serves as a tribute to Thomas’ friend, actress Shelley Winters, who starred in “Hunter.”

7:30 p.m. $6-$9. 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica. www.americancinematheque.com.

 

Thursday, April 20

The circle of life takes an unconventional turn or two in Michelle Kholos’ new play “Two Parents, Two Weddings, Two Years.” The story follows Sidney, a grown woman with a boyfriend and a career, who must reconcile herself with the fact that her divorced parents are both, separately, getting remarried, while she struggles to hang on to her significant other, and her brother tries to romance his soon-to-be sister-in-law. Wacky Jewish family drama ensues….

8 p.m. (Fri. and Sat.), 3 p.m. (Sun.), through May 14. $25. The Hollywood Court Theatre, Hollywood United Methodist Church, 6817 Franklin Ave., Hollywood. (323) 692-8200.

 

Friday, April 21

A woman dressed in a white gown and veil stands at a border crossing between the Golan Heights and Syria. She is “The Syrian Bride,” the titular character in a new film by Eran Riklis, and her story is based on a real incident Riklis witnessed and filmed for his 1999 documentary, “Borders.” The bride’s story is a complicated one, of people’s lives caught between the politics and bureaucracies of border countries. The film played at this year’s Israel Film Festival in Los Angeles, and is released theatrically today.

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The Circuit


Leaving a Legacy

Fariba Nourfshan of Beverly Hills and Holli Rabishaw of Tarzana were among 22 young women selected to participate in Hadassah’s recent Young Women’s Legacy Mission to Poland and Israel. The program was designed to connect young women with their Israeli heritage and the numerous projects of Hadassah.

Chair for Thomas

It was standing-room-only when Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s President and CEO Thomas M. Priselac was named the inaugural recipient of the Warschaw Law Endowed Chair in Health Care Leadership, a permanent academic research chair devoted to furthering leadership, research and education in healthcare public policy and management. Officials and physicians who joined in the festivities following the ceremonies included L.A. Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa and West Hollywood Mayor Abbe Land, who were among the speakers. Carmen Warschaw, a life trustee of the Cedars-Sinai board of directors, and her son-in-law, John C. Law, Cedars-Sinai board chair, along with Law’s wife, Hope, endowed the chair.

“With Tom Priselac’s depth of expertise and passion for quality health care, this endowed chair will advance health care policy and delivery in California and the nation,” Law said.

Priselac began his association with Cedars-Sinai Health System more than two decades ago, serving as executive vice president until 1994 when he was appointed president and CEO. Priselac also serves as an adjunct faculty member of the UCLA School of Public Health. He is a past member of the American Hospital Association board of directors, chairs the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce Health Committee and is a member of the board of trustees of the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.

“The endowment will allow me to continue supporting the well-being of patients through the development of policy initiatives, new research and education, which I hope will ultimately lead to improved health care coverage in California,” Priselac said.

Rabbi in the House

A special family dinner and concert was held Jan. 21 at Temple Beth El of San Pedro featuring Jewish composer and musician Cantor Wally Schachet-Briskin, who is known for his teaching and appearance each summer for “Hagigah” at the Union for Reform Judaism’s camps Swig, Kutz and Newman. Schachet-Briskin, who is cantor at Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles, appeared in honor of the installation and consecration for Rabbi Charles Kahn Briskin, as spiritual leader at Temple Beth El.

Saluting Soldiers I

More than 850 people, including many of the most prominent leaders of the Jewish community, gathered at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills to honor the brave men and women who serve in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The Friends of the IDF Western Region held the event to raise funds for an auditorium, library and synagogue at the soon to be built new REIM Base in the Negev.

The gala dinner was co-chaired by Cheryl and Haim Saban and included a live satellite hook-up with soldiers stationed near Gaza. The evening’s special guest speaker was Avi Dicter who recently retired as head of Shin Bet. By the end of the evening, the gala dinner had raised nearly $4 million — with many additional pledges and commitments under discussion — for recreational facilities at a new army base in the Negev, reported the group’s director Miri Nash.

Even in Beverly Hills, it’s not every day that someone gets up to pledge $1 million to a good cause, to say nothing of two successive million-dollar donors. It happened at the 25th anniversary celebration, when the Saban and his wife announced their gift, almost as a throwaway line.

Not bad for an ex-corporal in the IDF, who was surrounded by a platoon of respectful Israeli ex-generals.

Next in line was Leo David, former chair of the Western Region, who proclaimed that anything Saban could do, he could do and added another million bucks.

Dichter, a rising star in Israel’s Kadima Party, warned that the “terror states” of Iran, Syria and Lebanon had not given up on their hopes to destroy the Jewish state. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Saluting Soldiers II

The Chanukah e-mail from an American Jewish soldier in Iraq put it succinctly: “We have a hard time getting things here,” wrote Army Staff Sgt. David T. Silcox.

He was thanking Jewish community volunteers in Los Angeles and Connecticut for the Chanukah gift packages sent to Jewish troops in Iraq as well as soldiers in Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar through Operation Far From Home.

“We also sent little gifts for the soldiers, so they can send those to their children,” said Jewish community activist Adeena Bleich, who created Operation Far Home last Passover with her parents, Linda and Phil Bleich, who live in New Haven, Conn.

“Jewish solders need to know that we’re here and we’re thinking of them,” Linda Bleich said.

Operation Far From Home has received 500 Jewish music CDs from the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, plus donations from former California state Assemblyman Bob Hertzberg and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), as well as support from several L.A. area shuls and schools. One seventh-grader at Hillel Hebrew Academy wrote to the troops: “I admire what you are doing for our country.”

Rabbi Elazar Muskin of Young Israel of Century City said he likes Operation Far From Home because, “it’s our responsibility to support our soldiers overseas who are defending democracy for us.” — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

 

‘Top Gun’ Lawyer Aims to Aid Likud


The latest, and certainly most colorful, addition to the ranks of the local Likud leadership is Beverly Hills lawyer Myles L. Berman.

He is better known to citizens facing drunk driving charges — and to connoisseurs of advertising slogans — as The Top Gun DUI Defense Attorney, but these days, it’s the defense of Israel that is uppermost on his mind.

Last June, fed up with what he considers the failure of established organizations to involve the American Jewish and Israeli expatriate communities, he founded the Beverly Hills Chapter of the American Friends of Likud.

So far, he has recruited 11 upscale families, drawn primarily from the Iranian Jewish community, to which his wife, Mitra belongs. The members make up in financial clout what they lack in numbers, with a combined worth of over $1 billion, according to Berman.

Born into a strongly Democratic family but later a founder of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Berman, at 51, is a man of strong physique and opinions.

“I am fed up with intermarriage and with rabbis who reach out to gay and intermarried couples,” he said during an interview in his spacious Sunset Boulevard office.

A member of Sinai Temple, Berman fears that “to some extent, rabbis and lay leaders are unable to instill Jewish identity” into their constituents.

Currently, Berman is focusing his considerable energies on two primary issues:

One is to assure the election from America of a large pro-Likud slate for the upcoming quadrennial Congress of the World Zionist Organization (WZO), dubbed “The Parliament of the Jewish People,” and his own election to the No. 5 spot on the slate.

He is concerned, he said, that so few American Jews realize the importance of June elections for the WZO Congress, which plays a major role in determining relations between Israel and the Diaspora, the running of the Jewish Agency and the dispersal of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Berman’s second immediate goal is to persuade the Israeli government and Knesset to allow Israeli citizens living abroad to vote in Israeli elections.

“It matters to both Israel and American Jewry what the expatriates say and do,” he observed.

Berman has “grabbed [the two issues] in my teeth,” he said. With Berman that means putting his money and advertising savvy behind the effort. Indeed, his penchant for publicity elicits knowing smiles even from fellow Likudniks.

Berman is laying out $50,000 of his own money to place his messages on Israeli cable TV programs popular with Israeli expats, and in the Anglo-Jewish and Hebrew-language press in the United States.

“I hope the efforts will further my ultimate aim of bridging the gap between Israeli leaders and American Jews,” Berman said.

Any Jew over 18 is eligible to vote for delegates to the Congress of the World Zionist Organization online or via mail by Feb. 15. For details, go to www.azm.org or phone (888) 657-8850. The Congress will meet June 19-22 in Jerusalem.

 

Temple Israel Honors Its ‘Conscience’


Dozens of congregants at Temple Israel of Hollywood gathered in the synagogue’s aging all-purpose room not long ago to talk about a major expansion of their 79-year-old institution. One by one, members spoke excitedly of overhauling the shul to make room for the future — a new chapel, a new teen rec room, a bigger school.

Then Ruth Nussbaum, 94, raised her hand. “Remember,” she said, “that there are many memories in what we have now.” She spoke of the simchas celebrated and yarzheit prayers said in the current small chapel, which could soon be demolished. “These memories are important,” she said.

As clear-minded and direct today as she was in her youth, Nussbaum these days embodies the history of an era that is quickly slipping away. She is the widow of Rabbi Max Nussbaum, who led this same congregation from 1942 until his death in 1974.

Immigrants from Berlin, they brought to Los Angeles a connection to the European tragedy still in progress. They shared with their congregation a Zionist passion from the first, and they fought tirelessly for the civil rights of all, reaching out to political leaders — from Golda Meier to Lyndon Johnson — and Hollywood’s shining lights.

Nussbaum was a full participant with her husband, and Shabbat dinners at their house regularly featured the likes of Leo Baeck, Mordecai Kaplan and Martin Buber. The temple’s sanctuary, dedicated in 1948, is named for her as well as her husband, a rarity for a rabbi’s wife. She continues to serve the cause she most believes in — sitting at a folding table signing up registrants last month to vote in the upcoming World Zionist Congress elections; speaking at a Reform Zionist think tank in Malibu last January.

On Dec. 16, Nussbaum will stand up at Shabbat services at Temple Israel to receive the Roland Gittelsohn Award for Achievement in Zionism, created this year by the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA). In addition, Temple Israel received a Congregational ARZA Roland Gittelsohn Award at the recent Union for Reform Judaism Biennial.

Her earliest Zionist activities began in earnest after her first trip to Palestine in 1935 to visit her sister, who’d made aliyah, and she has traveled to Israel almost annually until recently, when age began to slow her down just a little. She was in San Francisco when ARZA was created at the Union of American Hebrew Congregations’ convention in 1977, and she spoke before the 1,000 members present, helping to convince the many doubters that active Zionism remained crucial for Reform Jews.

“Ruth played a pivotal role in helping to reshape the Reform view of Zionism,” said Rabbi Stanley Davids, national president of ARZA, who will present the award. “She sees the need for pluralism and democracy in Israel; to her these are Reform Jewish values. To her, Jewish nationalism is a seamless and natural aspect of Reform Jewish identity.”

“She was an extraordinary leader by virtue of her deep commitment to Israel,” said Rabbi Lennard R. Thal, senior vice president for the Union of Reform Judaism.

Nussbaum, though, claims to think of herself only in terms of practical commitment. She wants American Jews to recognize the need to support progressive Judaism in Israel, and she wants to bring a spiritual life to secular Jews there who feel disenfranchised by the Orthodox.

“We want to convince those who are at the fringes to join us.” she said in her distinctive German-tinged English, which carries vestiges of her early years in Berlin. “We want the Israeli Jews to have the same opportunities that we have.”

Nussbaum remains the old-world, intellectual she was raised to become, and she is also a proud matriarch with two children; a daughter-in-law; four grandchildren; two grandchildren-in-law; and two great-grandchildren.

In Berlin, Rabbi Nussbaum was a colleague of Baeck, and both Nussbaums stayed in Germany until 1940 to serve the Jewish population there for as long as they could. When it came time to flee, they came to America, sponsored by Stephen S. Wise, transported as refugees on a crowded boat to New York.

First stop for the Nussbaums was Muskogee, Okla., serving a congregation that had helped sponsor their escape from the Nazis. Two years later, the family moved to Hollywood, where Rabbi Nussbaum made it a condition of his hiring that he could preach Zionism from the pulpit.

“They said, ‘OK,'” Nussbaum said with a tone of irony in her voice. The temple’s commitment to a Jewish state would strengthen later, in the wake of the Nussbaums’ passion.

The pair helped Temple Israel grow from about 300 families to 1,000 and oversaw the building of the congregation’s current home on Hollywood Boulevard. Today, Ruth Nussbaum lives in a garden apartment in the San Fernando Valley, close to her family and surrounded by friends of every generation.

She remains close to John Rosove, who has just begun his 18th year as senior rabbi of Temple Israel of Hollywood; she recently edited a new machzor for the temple, which Rosove compiled.

“She is a conscience for us all,” Rosove said.

Tikkun Alone


Tikkun and its founder-leader Rabbi Michael Lerner came to Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 8 to run an area-wide conference, which proved both heartening and disappointing.

It was heartening because, on one level, Lerner and his progressive San Francisco-based organization have remained consistent. Much has changed since he founded the progressive, intellectual Jewish Tikkun Magazine in 1986, but Lerner still supports both the Israelis and the Palestinians; still criticizes the Israeli government, particularly where he perceives its policies to be racist and unjust; and still champions a peace policy for the Mideast, today most clearly articulated for him by the Geneva accord.

All of this was made clear in Lerner’s opening address. His signature theme during the Clinton years, “The politics of meaning,” has given way to different language, but still drives home the essential connections between spirituality and community.

“Imagine a community of people working for social and economic justice, peace, nonviolence, and ecological sensitivity … a movement that gives equal priority to our inner lives and to social justice.”

His was a passionate exhortation to reject cynical political realism in favor of building a global community based on kindness, generosity and love.

There was also little change in his attack on the Jewish establishment, as Lerner took on, full-tilt, the America Israel Public Affairs Committee and other major Jewish American organizations. Lerner said they had hijacked American Jewry and had held themselves out to Congress and the White House as the only authentic Jewish voice, backing Sharon and Israel at all costs and in all policies; all of which helped prevent the emergence of the democratic, just Israeli society Lerner hopes to see one day.

But then came the disappointing part.

Tikkun had hoped for a turnout of 200 or more at Temple Isaiah on Pico Boulevard, but, at 1 p.m., when the conference started, workmen began moving in the chairs so the room would not appear empty. When the conference finally began a half-hour later, about 80-90 people had gathered in what had become a smaller, intimate hall.

Tikkun has, of course, changed since its early magazine years. Its statement of purpose today describes Tikkun as a center for those of all religious and spiritual traditions who seek to integrate spiritual depth with social change. It is no longer in its ambition a voice solely of and for Jews. However, while Salam al-Marayati, the Los Angeles-based executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and actor Ed Asner were two of the conferences multicultural speakers, nearly everyone present was Jewish. I couldn’t help notice that it seemed strikingly different from earlier conferences I had attended, particularly one in Jerusalem in the early 1990s, and another in New York a year or so later.

In Jerusalem, I remembered, more than 500 Israelis and American Jews had gathered at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion for a series of panels and speeches that stretched over five days and, occasionally, long into the night. The Princeton University political scientist Michael Walzer, had attended as had Israeli novelist A.B. Yehoshua. In New York, a year or two later, the city’s Jewish writers, intellectuals and academics gathered at a large Manhattan hotel. Irving Howe was there along with writers Anne Roiphe and Lore Segal; it seemed electric. It looked as if the Jewish left finally had found a home again, created by of all people a former UC Berkeley doctoral-political activist and psychotherapist who was an Orthodox Jew.

Tikkun has had its share of rude bumps since that time. Lerner’s wife, who had provided much of the capital behind Tikkun, divorced him and pulled her funds from the organization. A move to New York, where it was hoped there would be an abundance of Jewish intellectuals and supporters, foundered. Tikkun moved back to the Bay Area.

In Los Angeles, a hoped-for expansion and presence seemed elusive. Substantial contributions from Hollywood never materialized, and the wealthy Jewish establishment was not supportive, in part because its members perceived Tikkun to be opposed to their power and interests. They were part of the problem, according to Lerner; at least that is the way they perceived his message.

If his philosophical stance remained consistent throughout the years, his organizational skills were more hit and miss. Tikkun was soon viewed, perhaps incorrectly, as a one-man band. And while the bandleader was deemed bright, and his views of Jewish American leaders and of Israel bold and appealing to many progressives and intellectuals, there was a certain amount of grumbling: he was disorganized; he dominated conferences and rambled on and on; and he played the performer as he aligned himself in an intellectual road show with black philosopher Cornel West.

It was natural that Jewish leaders heading the professional organizations might be opposed to Tikkun and Lerner. But it now appeared that progressive Jews in organizations such as Los Angeles’ Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA), while not opposed, were not part of the team, even though both organizations championed Muslim-Jewish dialogues in American cities. The point appeared to be that PJA was doing something concrete and sustained about it, in Los Angeles at least.

Meanwhile, Tikkun appears to have shifted some of its emphasis to college campuses, hoping to establish training programs and strong university networks of students willing to commit themselves to working for a just society and peace in the Mideast. It sounds like an appealing program, but one that may find itself marginalized on the cutting edge of ideas and idealism — and conferences.


Gene Lichtenstein is the founding editor of The Jewish Journal.

7 Days In Arts


Saturday

Big into cantorial music? Is this ever your weekend! Head over to the Pasadena Jewish Temple & Center’s (PTJC) “Cantors in Concert.” (No worries, they’ve probably cleared out all of the Rose Parade mess by now.) Or, for you West Valley-ites, wait till tomorrow and swing by Valley Circle Boulevard (aka Synagogue Row) for The Cantor’s Assembly Western Region’s “Kol Libeinu: The Voice of the Heart” at Temple Aliyah. They’re two variations on a theme, with both concerts featuring cantors Henry Rosenblum, Yonah Kliger, Eva Robbins and Judy Sofer, as well as the PJTC Chamber Choir.

8 p.m. $36-$108. Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center, (626)798-1161 or www.pjtc.net.

7 p.m. $10-$20. Temple Aliyah, (818) 346-3545.

Sunday

PJTC’s got it goin’ on this weekend. Today, it’s the cheapest ticket to the homeland you’ll find. (Good news for those of us whose checkbooks are still recovering from Chanukah.) Actually, it’s a lecture/workshop on the “Music, Poetry and Dance of Modern Israel.” So you can take in some Israeli culture without spending a lot of dough. (And speaking of dough, bagel breakfast is also included.)

10 a.m. $5. 1434 N. Altadena Drive, Pasadena. R.S.V.P., (626) 798-1161.

Monday

The guy’s worked with everyone from Tom Waits to Norah Jones to Willie Nelson as part of Tin Hat Trio. But this time, musician Rob Burger is going it alone with his debut solo album “Lost Photograph.” Well, almost alone. He does get some accompaniment from bassist Greg Cohen and percussionist Kenny Wollesen on the CD that’s been described as “part klez-soul, part tango groove, part film-music.” The fact that he can play instruments as varied as the accordion, the glockenspiel and the claviola makes us all the more curious to check out this new release.

$15. www.tzadik.com.

Tuesday

Tu B’What? Tu B’Shevat, silly. And if you or your kids aren’t familiar with this holiday, today’s the perfect day to learn. Los Angeles Intercommunity Kollel sponsors “Shalom Time” at Borders in Westwood. The monthly story time features interactive activities including songs, finger plays, puppetry and stories. January’s theme is “Tu B’Shevat: Jewish Arbor Day.” Here’s a hint: It’s all about the trees, people.

1360 Westwood Blvd., Westwood. (310) 441-5024.

Wednesday

Happy Birthday, Elvis! Turns out there are two extraordinary lives to celebrate today. The University of Judaism’s Department of Continuing Education presents “About Anne: A Diary in Dance,” a drama inspired by the diary of Anne Frank. Choreographer Laura Gorenstein Miller and the Helios Dance Theater have been praised by the Los Angeles Times and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Our suggestion: Take in the show today, then head home for some fried peanut butter ‘n ‘nanner sammiches.

2 p.m. (Also plays Jan. 9, 11 and 12. Times vary.) $30-$35. 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. (310) 440-1547.

Thursday

Non-Jewish playwright John O’Keefe’s bold choice to write about the Holocaust seems to have paid off. “Times Like These” tells the story of a famous Jewish actress banned from the stage in Nazi Germany, and how she prevails with the help of her actor-husband. The play’s first run just ended in November. This weekend, it reopens at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble. You can catch a preview tonight.

8 p.m. Runs through Feb. 23. $15 (previews), $20.50-$30 (general). Discounts available. 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 477-2055.

Friday

She’s funny, she’s female, she’s Rita Rudner. The Jewish comedienne takes the stage tonight only at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. If anyone’s ever sent you one of those “fabulous female”-type e-mails, chances are you’ve read some of Rita’s lines. She thinks Judge Judy should be president and Barbie should be fattened-up. A stand-up gal, indeed.

8 p.m. $40-$50. 12700 Center Court Drive, Cerritos. (800) 300-4345.

Losing the War for the Temple Mount


While the military conflict between Israel and the Palestinians continues, there is one war the Jewish state appears to have lost — without even a struggle.

That is its claim to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and the Jewish people’s connection to the First and Second Temples as the holiest site in Judaism.

Though it is hard to imagine, the fact is that the Waqf, the Muslim religious authority that controls the Temple Mount (thanks to Israel’s post-Six-Day War beneficence), has been quietly and steadily undermining Jewish connections to the area without any serious protest by the Sharon government. Over a period of time, and more aggressively in the last two years, the Waqf has literally bulldozed away historical proof of Temple artifacts in the area, carrying out extensive excavations in violation of Israel’s antiquity laws. Clearly, the political goal of the Waqf is to remove evidence of any Jewish connection to the holy site and introduce Muslim ties as part of the Palestinian claim to Jerusalem as its capital.

Ian Stern, an American-born tour guide in Jerusalem, recently gave a series of lectures in the New York area, complete with photo slides, to call attention to the travesty of science, religion and history taking place in the Old City. He offered photos and other proof of the Waqf blatantly and illegally carting away thousands of tons of "debris" from the Temple area, some of which has been found to contain large columns and other relics dating back to the Temple period. He showed how the Waqf has paved over ancient stones indicating Israel’s ties to the spot and brought in water from Mecca to sanctify the site to Muslims. It is only a matter of time, he said, until the southern wall of the Temple Mount will collapse due to a water problem unless repairs are made.

As many in the audience expressed outrage and wonder, Stern patiently explained that, alas, this information is not new, and that the successive governments of Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon have allowed these violations to continue without raising any serious objection, even though Israelis from left to right and secular to ultra-Orthodox are united in their outrage.

Why, Stern was asked repeatedly, does Israel allow this to go on, particularly in light of the symbolic and political ramifications of undoing the Jewish presence at the Temple Mount? For this he had no satisfying answer, nor do historians and politicians, other than the most obvious: that Israel is fearful of the international Muslim reaction if the Jewish authorities were to stop the Waqf’s illegal actions.

How else do you explain why protests are ignored from the Committee for the Prevention of the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount, made up of prominent Israelis from all walks of life, including former Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek, leading archaeologists and academics, as well as legal experts and writers like A.B. Yehoshua. Also fruitless have been Knesset votes and a 1993 Supreme Court ruling citing numerous Waqf violations as illegal and historically harmful. Still no Israeli government has acted.

Surely one would think that international outrage could be focused on the Waqf’s activities: much as the world condemned the Taliban in Afghanistan several years ago for destroying ancient Buddhist columns of great historical value.

Perhaps one could argue that in the scheme of things in Israel today, with women and children being targeted and suicide bombers on the loose, raising a ruckus about the displacement or even destruction of old stones is not a priority. But on the contrary, the Waqf’s archaeological crimes speak to the heart of the conflict, of the Arab unwillingness to recognize Israeli sovereignty of the Old City and even to acknowledge Jewish historical ties to the land. How can there be parity and mutual respect between two ancient peoples sharing a land when the Arabs insist the Jews are modern-day usurpers who appeared a little more than 50 years ago on the scene and evicted them from their homes? The brazen refusal to admit that the Jewish people have historic ties to the land underscores the Arab emphasis on ideology over reality and hatred over compromise.

It is understandable why so many Jewish leaders, religious and otherwise, have second-guessed Moshe Dayan’s decision 35 years ago to cede control of the Temple Mount area to the Waqf as a Muslim holy site.

"Handing over the keys of the Temple Mount to the Waqf was a major historic mistake over which generations will weep," noted Israel Meir Lau, Israel’s chief rabbi.

The only thing we can do is raise our voices about this matter, letting the Sharon government know that its uncharacteristic quiescence on this matter is unacceptable and harmful to Israel and Jewish history. We should be joined by historians, archaeologists, legal experts and others with a sense of fairness and a concern about the truth, putting pressure on the Waqf to cease their unholy quest to make the Temple Mount area historically Judenrein.

For centuries, Jews have prayed daily for the rebuilding of Jerusalem; the least we can do today is insist that our holiest site not be undermined.

A Portion of Parshat Ki Tavo


Very soon, the people of Israel will step across the border of the Promised Land. It is a land of abundance, full of fruits and crops. It is a land in which the rain falls at the right time and in the right amount. It is a land with mountains and deserts, rivers and oceans.

What is the first thing the people of Israel must do when they enter the land? Give it away. In this portion, they are told that they must put all their first fruits in a teneh (basket) and bring it to the Temple. This must happen every year, during the festival of Shavuot, and it is a symbol of the people of Israel’s gratitude for the abundance they have been given. In this portion they are also told they must set aside 10 percent of all their crops for the stranger, the orphan and the widow.

Have you ever opened your lunch box and found a whole bag of Oreos? Probably not. But imagine you did. You would probably give away half the bag to your friends. When you feel blessed with great abundance, it is easy to give part of it away. Here is a good morning practice: When you wake up, think of all the wonderful things in your life — your parents, your comfy bed, your bike, your freezer full of Go-Gurts. Then put a dime in your tzedakah box, or give money to your local charity at school.

Scars Fall on Alabama


Scars Fall on Alabama

Close to half the Reform temples in Alabama are named “Emanuel,” which is Hebrew for “God is with us.” Jews all over the state are hoping it proves true this fall, when voters pick a governor.

In a way, the Alabama governor’s race is the very embodiment of a dilemma Jews face nationwide as they confront the growing strength of the Christian right. On one hand, Republican incumbent Gov. Fob James, a passionate defender of Israel whose conservative domestic views put him sharply at odds with most Jews. On the other hand, his Democratic challenger, Lt. Gov. Don Siegelman, best known for not being Fob James.

But James is no mere conservative. He’s one of the nation’s most strident political crusaders for a Christian America. He recently won headlines by defending a judge who hangs the Ten Commandments on his courtroom wall. His advocacy of school prayer reportedly borders on promoting civil disobedience. Critics say that his attacks on federal courts and the First Amendment — he claims that it doesn’t apply to states — are fueling an atmosphere of religious war in Alabama.

He resoundingly clinched his party’s renomination in the June 30 primary runoff after one of the most divisive races in recent memory. Local Jews are shaking their heads.

“The politics here are becoming really frightening,” Rabbi Jonathan Miller of Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham says. “This seems to be the place where the Christian right is making its beachhead.”

James is not really as devout a Christian as his rhetoric suggests, say most observers. But his wife is. Bobbie James’ brand of fundamentalism is said to be one of the chief influences on the governor’s agenda. A millennialist who considers Israel the key to God’s plan, she’s visited Israel at least 15 times. She’s close to several haredi rabbis and Likud politicians. One rabbi flew from Jerusalem to her husband’s last inauguration, in 1995, to blow a shofar and read from the Ten Commandments in Hebrew. Afterward, the band played Hatikvah.

Challenger Siegelman is not Jewish, despite his name. But his wife is. The Siegelmans are regulars at Montgomery’s Conservative synagogue, Agudath Israel, where their older daughter was bat mitzvahed in February. When Hatikvah was played at the 1995 inauguration, the lieutenant governor’s wife was reported to be the only one on the reviewing stand able to sing along.

And, yet, it’s Fob James who has made friendship for Israel and Jews a cornerstone of his agenda. His Alabama-Israel trade mission last fall was a high-profile event that yielded important contracts for Israeli firms. He elevated the state’s annual Holocaust commemoration from a small reception to a major public ceremony. “We stand with you forever,” he declared in his 1997 keynote, “and vow before God Almighty: Never again.”

Few doubt his sincerity. It certainly isn’t a bid for Jewish votes. Only 9,000 of the state’s 4.3 million residents are Jewish, barely one-fifth of 1 percent, and most are Democrats. Last year, a mild ruckus erupted during a meeting at the Birmingham Jewish Federation when the chairman of the community relations committee disclosed that one of the panel’s 15 members was a Republican. “Most people were very nice about it,” says the lone Republican, Hyman “Herc” Levine. “But not everyone.”

A year later, Republican Jews are harder than ever to find, and the reason is Fob James.

“Here’s a man who, with his wife at his side, will stand up and say he’s a friend of the Jews,” says Tuscaloosa attorney Joel Sogol, a member of the regional Anti-Defamation League board. “And, yet, he stands with a group of people who want to make Jews and other non-Christians second-class citizens.”

Sogol points to last year’s Ten Commandments case as typical. A judge in rural Gadsden had hung the tablets of the Law in his courtroom, and he was opening each session with a prayer — Christian only. Sogol, representing the American Civil Liberties Union, sued in federal court to stop the practice. The case was thrown out when the court ruled that nobody with a valid interest had complained.

That didn’t stop Fob James. He filed his own lawsuit, demanding that the federal court specifically endorse the rituals. When the court declined, the governor went on the warpath, claiming that the federal judge was impeding the practice of religion.

James was even more aggressive after another federal court barred recitals of Christian prayers in the public schools of rural DeKalb County.

“The court basically affirmed existing federal law, that children can pray during non-instructional time,” says Birmingham attorney Lenora Pate, who lost the Democratic gubernatorial nomination to Siegelman. “The governor has used it to make the case that 50 million children throughout America can no longer pray in school. He’s even urged students to some extent to disobey the law.”

“I’m a Christian, and I’m deeply troubled by the rhetoric,” says Pate, who is married to a Jew. “Back in the ’60s, we had this same type of states-rights, ‘those-federal-judges-can’t-push-us-around’ rhetoric. Back then, it was wrapped around race. We had Gov. Wallace, who ran all over the state, whipping people into a frenzy, and out of the blue we had church bombings and little girls were killed.”

“Today, the same rhetoric is wrapped around religion. I can certainly understand how my Jewish friends and family can feel a huge concern.”

James does have Jewish defenders, particularly in Mobile, whose 1,200 Jews include some nationally prominent Republican donors. They say the governor is misunderstood.

“Those who know Fob James don’t feel threatened,” says Mobile attorney Irving Silver, a former chairman of the B’nai B’rith International Center for Public Policy. “I think he has an abiding respect for people of faith, and I think he is crying out — perhaps not as articulately as he should — about the shortage of religious values pervading our society. But the world is not caving in. Those forebodings about Alabama becoming a theocracy are just ludicrous.”

But the fears aren’t just theoretical. Last year, in rural Pike County, a Jewish family named Willis was subjected to violent harassment after protesting the prayers imposed on their children in school. Jews throughout the state, particularly in rural areas, followed the case closely.

“Fob James is a very nice guy,” says Rabbi Miller. “And the fact is that our constitutional protections are still in place. So far, it’s mainly atmospherics. But you don’t know where things may lead. That’s what’s frightening.”

“When non-Jews say they’re scared,” says Pate, “they mean they’re concerned about our image nationally. But when Jews say it’s scary, they mean it personally.”


J.J. Goldberg writes a weekly column for The Jewish Journal.