Adam Sandler and Judd Apatow are raising money for Vegas victims


Adam Sandler and Judd Apatow are joining comedic forces for “Judd & Adam for Vegas,” a fundraiser to be held at Largo at the Coronet on Friday, Nov 3. Tickets are $250 and proceeds will go to the National Compassion Fund, benefiting victims of the recent Las Vegas shooting, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

If this dynamic duo (with the promise of special guests) doesn’t do it for you, feast your eyes on this masterpiece of a poster – caricature at its finest, with an homage to Las Vegas  icons Siegfried and Roy.

Sandler and Apatow have collaborated on flicks like “Funny People,” but their bromance predates their celebrity. Before getting their big break, the two were roommates in the Valley, splitting a $900/month unit (Sandler slept on the couch). During an interview with 60 Minutes, the two revealed that they’d frequent the restaurant chain Red Lobster (which has the best cheese biscuits, period) once a month. “That was a big night out,” Sandler added. “That was like, ‘We’re fancy now,’” said Apatow.

Find out more about “Judd & Adam for Vegas” here.

Jewish 6-year-old youngest of Newtown shooting victims


A Jewish child was identified as the youngest of the 26 victims killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn.

First grade student Noah Pozner, the youngest of the victims murdered on Friday, had just turned 6 years old Nov. 20; he will be laid to rest on Sunday.

Israeli news site Ynet reported that Pozner's twin sister is also a student at Sandy Hook but survived the shooting.

Rabbi Shaul Praver of Temple Adath Israel in Newtown told NPR Weekend Edition host Scott Simon that he spent Friday — which he termed “the day from Hell” — consoling Pozner's mother, who is a member of the synagogue.

“I told the mother that was grieving that I personally believe in the eternity of the soul, and I believe that she will see her son again,” Praver said. “Other than that theological comment, the rest of it was getting her to think about taking a breath and not trying to plan the rest of her life out right now, because she says, 'What am I going to do without my baby?'”

Praver was among the clergy, social workers and psychologists who arrived at a firehouse near the school where many of the victims and their families congregated after the shooting. On Saturday morning, Adath Israel held a community prayer service.

In response to the question of why such tragedies hapen, Praver replied: “I don't know the answer to that. I never try to present a theological answer to that. I think what's more important is to have compassion, humanity and hold someone's hand and hug them and cry with them.”

Praver, who ended his NPR interview with a plea for listeners to pray for the families affected, also said that another friend of the congregation was killed.

Relief funds assisting Colorado fire victims


As residents of Colorado Springs return to their homes following widespread wild fires, U.S. Jewish communities are raising money for relief funds.

The Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado, in conjunction with local synagogues, community organizations and national partners, has launched the Colorado Fire Relief Fund to help victims, firefighters, first responders and others affected by the fires.

Jewish federations have been directing donors to the Colorado Fire Relief Fund online or to send checks with the notation “Colorado Fire Relief Fund” to Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado, 300 S. Dahlia, Suite 300, Denver, CO 80246.

All the donations to the Colorado Fire Relief Fund will go to directly combat the fire and help victims. There will be no administrative fees taken out of these funds, according to a Jewish Federations of North America statement.

Chabad-Lubavitch of Colorado Springs also has set up a relief fund.

Remembering Kim Jong-Il’s victims


The pictures accompanying the news of the leadership change in North Korea are those of the dead dictator, Kim Jong-Il, and his son and heir apparent, Kim Jong-Un.

But there are some other Koreans whose names and photos, though absent from the front pages, tell the real story.

Ri Hyon Ok was a 33-year-old mother of three who was publicly executed by the North Korean government on June 16, 2009, for the crime of giving away Bibles. Her husband and children were banished to North Korea’s vast political prison system the day after she was killed.

Son Jong Nam was tortured by North Korean authorities and imprisoned for three years, from 2001 to 2004. He lost 70 pounds while in captivity and emerged walking with a permanent limp. Arrested again in 2006 after police found Bibles at his home, he was sentenced to death by firing squad.

Soon Ok Lee is a survivor of the Kaechon prison camp. She testified on April 30, 2003, at a hearing of the House Subcommittee on International Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Human Rights that women political prisoners in North Korea “were unconditionally forced to abort because the unborn baby was also considered a criminal by law.” She testified, “Women in their eighth or ninth month of pregnancy had salt solutions injected into their wombs to induce abortion. In spite of these brutal efforts, some babies were born alive, in which case the prison guards mercilessly killed the infants by squeezing their necks in front of their mothers. The dead babies were taken away for biological tests. If a mother pleaded for the life of her baby, she was publicly executed under the charge of ‘impure ideology.’ ”

Kang Chol Hwan is another survivor of the North Korean prison camps. He met with President George W. Bush in the Oval Office in June 2005. He’s spoken of how when one prisoner was hanged, “Thousands of prisoners were made to form one line and passed by the hanged person and threw stones at the dead body, shouting, ‘Let’s get rid of the people’s traitor.’ And because of throwing so many stones by thousands of prisoners, the faces and muscles were all torn up. Some women with weak heart, they didn’t obey and didn’t throw the stone. Then the officers condemned them, saying your ideology is doubtful. And beat them.”

And those are just a few whose names are known in the West. As the American special envoy for human rights in North Korea stated in a January 2009 report, “The names and stories of most of the approximately 200,000 political prisoners in North Korea are unknown outside of the country.”

President Barack Obama’s press secretary reacted to the news of Kim Jong-Il’s death with a statement about American commitment “to stability on the Korean peninsula, and to the freedom and security of our allies.” Very nice, but our allies are already free. How about some freedom for the North Koreans, or a recognition that North Korea’s “stability” isn’t much consolation if you are about to be executed for having a Bible in your home? Not to mention that the hundreds of North Korean experts reportedly helping Iran’s nuclear missile program aren’t exactly adding to “stability.”

Jay Lefkowitz, who served from 2005 to 2009 as United States Special Envoy on Human Rights in North Korea, recommends making future food aid to North Korea conditional on Pyongyang’s first de-nuclearizing and opening up North Korean society. Otherwise, we’d just be feeding the North Korean military and the guards in those political prisons.

Mr. Lefkowitz said to me about Kim Jong-Il’s death: “This is a real opportunity.”

Here’s hoping that America and other powers with influence in the region seize the opportunity. The alternative is who-knows-how-many-more horribly grim tales from the North Korean gulag.

Yad Vashem has identified 4 million Shoah victims


Yad Vashem says it has identified two-thirds of the Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

Israel’s Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in the last decade has added about 1.4 million names to its central database of Shoah victims’ names, bringing the total number of names registered to about 4 million, according to a statement released Tuesday.

“One of Yad Vashem’s central missions since its foundation, the recovery of each and every victim’s name and personal story, has resulted in relentless efforts to restore the names and identities of as many of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis and their accomplices as possible,” said Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev. “We will continue our efforts to recover the unknown names, and by harnessing technology in the service of memory, we are able to share their names with the world.”

In 2004, Yad Vashem launched the central database of Shoah victims’ names onto its website with 3 million names. Names are recovered via Pages of Testimony, special forms filled out in memory of the victims by those who remember them, and by combing archival lists and documentation for names.

Of the 4 million names now known, some 2.2 million come from Pages of Testimony and the remainder from various archival sources and postwar commemoration projects.

Pyramid power (not)


Same old United Nations, Sarkozy [hearts] Israel, Gilad Shalit turns 21 in captivity


Groups Assail U.N. Conference

A U.N. conference under way in Geneva is as bad as expected, watchdog groups say. In reports from Switzerland, two major U.N. watchdog groups said the conference – the first in a series of preparatory meetings for the follow-up to 2001’s notorious anti-Semitic Durban conference against racism – was following the path of its predecessor.

Anne Bayefsky, editor of the Eye on the U.N. Web site, called the meeting’s opening session “a slap in the face to every state and nongovernmental organization that really cares about equality and nondiscrimination.”

Egypt, speaking Monday on behalf of the African group, singled out Israel for its “continued occupation of Palestine and violations arising there from.” Pakistan, speaking for the Organization of the Islamic Conference, urged the conference to “move the spotlight on the continued plight of Palestinian people” and accused critics of waging a “smear campaign” against the gathering.

The conference is intended to combat racism and discrimination. Even before the conference began, critics warned that the process could lead to a repeat of the 2001 Durban conference, where an event ostensibly aimed at fighting discrimination became a platform for the dissemination of anti-Semitic propaganda and the singling out of Israel.

Sarkozy Reaffirms Pro-Israel Stance

French President Nicolas Sarkozy reaffirmed his affection for Israel and hostility toward Hamas.

“I have the reputation of being a friend of Israel, and it’s true. I will never compromise on Israel’s security,” he said Monday in his first foreign policy speech since taking office in May.

While he said France would continue to cultivate rich ties with the moderate Arab world, Sarkozy drew a line at engaging Hamas or allowing Iran to procure nuclear weaponry. He described the Gaza Strip as “Hamastan” – a term seldom heard outside Israeli political circles – and said the Islamist Palestinian group must be curbed, lest it take over the West Bank as well.

Sarkozy, who was speaking to French diplomats, further urged Iran to abandon its nuclear program or for effective international sanctions to be imposed on Tehran. Otherwise, he hinted, there could be military intervention.

“This tactic is the only one that allows us to escape from a catastrophic alternative: an Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran,” he said.

Captive Israeli Soldier Turns 21

Israelis marked the 21st birthday of captive soldier Gilad Shalit. Supporters of Shalit held a rally in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, the conscript sergeant’s second birthday in Palestinian captivity. Newspapers and other media carried fresh coverage of his family’s ordeal.

Shalit was abducted in a June 25, 2006, cross-border raid by Hamas-led gunmen in the Gaza Strip. Two of his comrades were killed in the incident.

His father, Noam, said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was not doing enough to recover his son from Hamas, which wants a prisoner exchange. Olmert has signaled a willingness to bargain for Shalit’s return but has ruled out the lopsided swap demands by Hamas.

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said Monday that a deal was almost clinched to trade Shalit for 350 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, but that it fell through over the types of prisoners the Olmert government would release. Israel has said it will only release prisoners not involved in killings.

YouTube Under Fire in Germany Over Hate Videos

The Central Council of Jews in Germany has joined the call to punish YouTube for failing to remove hate material from its Web site. YouTube, the online video sharing portal, has been accused of spreading neo-Nazi material.

According to a report in the ARD television magazine, anti-Jewish propaganda from the Third Reich and music by the banned neo-Nazi group, Landser, can be viewed unhindered on YouTube. Such material is illegal in Germany. The report said some of the material had been online for several months.

The federal Ministry of the Interior has recommended filing charges. German officials reportedly have warned YouTube more than 100 times to remove the material but without a response. The vice president of the German Jewish Council, Salomon Korn, has asked that Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Justice Ministry intervene to stop the online publication of offending video clips.

YouTube, which is owned by Google, is based in California and thus beyond Germany’s legal reach. But German officials could come down harder on Web companies with operations in Germany.

Israeli Holocaust Assets Listed Online

Israeli assets believed to have been left behind by Holocaust victims can now be claimed by their heirs over the Internet. The Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims Assets, which was set up in 2006 following disclosures that Israeli banks hold many accounts and properties that have gone unclaimed since World War II, has set up a Web site with the names of some 7,000 original owners believed to have perished at the hands of the Nazis.

Heirs of those who appear on the list can apply for restitution at www.hashava.org.il. The site is in Hebrew with English translation. The site does not deal with living persons or properties and accounts outside of Israel.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegrapic Agency.

The Day a New Terrorism Was Born


The modern era of global terrorism was launched on Sept. 6, 1970, when Palestinian hijackers tried to seize four commercial airliners bound for New York and land them at a remote landing strip in the Jordanian desert.

Until Sept. 11, the date was known as “the blackest day in aviation history.”

Terror as a weapon, used by both states and enemies of the state, is as old as recorded history. The ancient Greek historian Xenophon wrote about it, Roman emperors Tiberius and Caligula practiced it and Robespierre institutionalized it during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, anarchists and other factions assassinated kings and prime ministers to further their ends. But the old-fashioned terror was mainly used to eliminate real and suspected opponents or to cow domestic and enemy populations.

What is new about the new terror, as the PBS documentary “Hijacked” demonstrates, is that now victims are chosen randomly among people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Such were the passengers on TWA flight 74, who, shortly after takeoff from Frankfurt, heard a startling announcement on the plane’s public address system.

“This is your new captain speaking. This flight has been taken over by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine [PFLP].”

Minutes later, passengers on Swissair flight 100 from Zurich to New York, and on Pan Am flight 93 from Amsterdam to New York, heard the same ominous words.

The fourth target was El Al flight 219 from Tel Aviv to New York. At a stopover in Amsterdam, four hijackers were to board the plane, but suspicious security guards removed two of them.

The remaining two, the much-publicized Leila Khaled and a Nicaraguan terrorist, posing as a couple, attempted to take over the plane after it left Amsterdam, with Khaled pulling out a hand grenade hidden in her brassier.

However, the quick-witted El Al pilot put the plane into a steep dive, knocking the hijackers off balance. Khaled was overpowered by passengers and her accomplice was shot dead by an air marshal on board.

Unbelievably, one of the two men ejected by El Al security, a Senegalese, was allowed to board the Pan Am flight in Amsterdam an hour later, after being patted down by airport personnel.

They missed the grenade hidden in his groin area, which he put to use in commandeering the Pan Am flight. The plane was diverted to Cairo airport, where it was blown up seconds after the passengers were evacuated.

In light of present security measures, it is hard to fathom the complete lack of rudimentary precautions in those days. All the hijackers, carrying a veritable arsenal of guns and grenades on their bodies, were able to board their flights freely.

The TWA and Swissair planes landed at the desert airstrip, renamed Revolution Airport, and were joined two days later by a hijacked British passenger plane.

Over the following six days, nearly 600 thirsty and hungry passengers broiled under the desert sun and froze during the night. The outlook was particularly grim for 55 Jewish passengers after they and the flight crews were segregated from the others, “in case Israel tried to liberate them.”

Rivka Borkowitz of New York remembers that “the hijackers went around asking people their religion, and I said I was Jewish.”

Barbara Mensch, then 16, was also segregated: “I was told that I was now a political prisoner and that unless my country did something, I was going to be a political prisoner, I don’t know, forever.”

A new aspect helped usher in the new era of terrorism. During daytime, a ring of television cameras and reporters camped out at Revolution Airport, broadcasting the harangues and self-justifications of PFLP spokesman Bassan Abu Sharif to the world.

He threatened that unless Palestinian prisoners in Israel and European countries were released, the hostages would be killed.

Behind the scenes, American, British and Israeli officials argued about the course of action, with President Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger personally calling the shots for Washington. In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Golda Meir argued strongly against the British proposal to appease the hijackers.

In contrast to today’s Middle East terrorists, the PFLP men were secular Marxists rather than religious fanatics, and none of the hostages was killed.

Veteran documentary filmmaker Ilan Ziv, a native of Israel, wrote, produced and directed the hour-long film, which combines historical footage with interviews of former hostages, crew members, hijackers and journalists to shape the complex story.

“Hijacked” will air on the American Experience program on Monday, Feb. 27 at 9 p.m. on KCET.

For more information, visit www.pbs.org/americanexperience.

Efforts Under Way to Raise Aid Funds


 

Local and national Jewish organizations have mobilized to help tsunami victims and invite the community to participate, as well.

DONATE DIRECTLY:

American Jewish World Service partners with 22 non-government and community-based organizations in the regions affected by the tsunami and is working with them to provide emergency relief, including food, water, shelter and medicine, as well as long-term recovery and development support. 45 W. 36th St., 10th floor, New York, NY, 10018. (800) 889-7146. www.ajws.org.

Chabad House in Thailand is the only Jewish service agency in the country dealing with the catastrophe. Its three houses in Thailand have been converted into crisis centers for survivors, offering food, shelter, money for clothes and counseling, as well as free international phone calls and Internet use for survivors to contact loved ones. Write checks to American Friends of Chabad of Thailand, 96 Thanon Rambuttri, Bangkok, Thailand 10200. www.chabadthailand.com.

American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) will allocate funds it raises to partner organizations on the ground in South Asia. JDC: South Asia Tsunami Relief, Box 321, 847A Second Ave., New York, NY, 10017. www.jdc.org.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles has established a special emergency fund for Southeast Asia disaster relief. All donations will be disbursed to humanitarian organizations working on the ground in the affected areas. Make checks payable to The Jewish Federation and write “Southeast Asia Relief Fund” on the memo line: 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048. (323) 761-8200.

Magen David Adom. The Israeli Red Cross has been sending medics, medical supplies and experts on body identification to Sri Lanka and Thailand. It has set up a special fund for those who wish to contribute. www.magendavidadom.org.

ATTEND A BENEFIT:

The Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring: Sunday, Jan. 16, 3 p.m. Tsunami benefit concert featuring classical Indian music and dance. 1525 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 552-2007. www.circlesocal.com.

Congregation Or Ami: Sunday, Jan. 30, 4-6 p.m. “Music of Or Ami” concert series presents pianist-composer Aaron Meyer, accompanied by Doug Cotler on guitar, flutist Toby Caplan-Stonefield and others. A portion of ticket sales will benefit tsunami victims. $12. 26115 Mureau Road, Calabasas. (818) 880-4880.

LEARN MORE:

Temple Kol Tikvah: Friday, Jan. 7, 7 p.m. Pastor Biworo Adinata of Gereja Bethel Indonesia of Los Angeles will address the congregation and community about how to help Indonesian tsunami victims. 20400 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills. (818) 348-0670.

The following organizations are collecting donations for the American Jewish World Service:

Orthodox Union, www.ou.org/forms/tsunami3.htm.

Valley Beth Shalom, (818) 782-2281.

Pressman Academy, (310) 652-7353.

 

Bracelet Bandwagon


 

Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve — wear it on your wrist. And with the new Shalom bracelet, you can. The Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles is distributing 25,000 of the blue elastic bands adorned with a white dove and the word “Shalom” throughout the community.

It carries a simple message: Israel wants peace.

Yael Swerdlow, director of media relations at the consulate, said the target audience for the bracelets is a universal one.

“They are for anyone who wants peace,” Swerdlow said. “We are getting requests from all over the country, from yeshivas in New Jersey to human rights activists that vilify Israel. It’s an opening to dialogue.”

The public relations department at the consulate came up with the idea for the bracelets using Lance Armstrong’s yellow “Livestrong” bracelet as their inspiration. Bracelets are all the rage this year, with the yellow bands leading the pack. Although unlike the free blue Consulate bracelets, the yellow ones sell for $1 in Nike stores with profits benefiting cancer patients. Similar bracelet campaigns include several varieties of pink bracelets that support cancer research. They include the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer foundation bracelet (five for $5), the Melissa Etheridge bracelet (one for $5), and Target’s Share Beauty, Spread Hope bracelet (10 for $10).

Jewish organizations may have been ahead of the craze. AllforIsrael.org is currently selling silver memorial bracelets, engraved with the name of victims of terror, for $2. Hillel and various synagogues nationwide began selling the bracelets in 2003, a concept created by the Israel Solidarity Fund in 2000.

“People wear this jewelry to make a statement,” Swerdlow said, “and we hope to make ours.”

To get your Shalom bracelet send a self-addressed stamped envelope to the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles, 6380 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1700, Los Angeles, CA 90048. Attention: Consul Yariv Ovadia.

 

If the Situation Were Reversed


What would happen if a Palestinian terrorist were to detonate a bomb at the entrance to an apartment building in Israel and cause the death of an elderly man in a wheelchair, who would later be found buried under the rubble of the building? The country would be profoundly shocked. Everyone would talk about the sickening cruelty of the act and its perpetrators. The shock would be even greater if it then turned out that the dead man’s wife had tried to dissuade the terrorist from blowing up the house, telling him that there were people inside, but to no avail. The tabloids would come out with the usual screaming headline: "Buried alive in his wheelchair." The terrorists would be branded "animals."

Last Monday, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) bulldozers in Khan Yunis, in the Gaza Strip, demolished the home of Ibrahim Halfalla, a 75-year-old disabled man and father of seven, and buried him alive. Umm-Basel, his wife, says she tried to stop the driver of the heavy machine by shouting, but he paid her no heed. The IDF termed the act "a mistake that shouldn’t have happened," and the incident was noted in passing in Israel. The country’s largest-circulation paper, Yedioth Ahronoth, didn’t bother to run the story at all. The blood libel in France — a woman’s tale of being subjected to an anti-Semitic attack, which later turned out to be fiction — proved a great deal more upsetting to people. There we thought the assault was aimed against our people. But when the IDF bulldozes a disabled Palestinian to death? Not a story. Just like the killing, under the rubble of her home, of Noha Maqadama, a woman in her ninth month of pregnancy, before the eyes of her husband and children, in El Boureij refugee camp a few months earlier.

And what would happen if a Palestinian were to shoot an Israeli university lecturer and his son in front of his wife and their young son? That’s what happened 10 days ago in the case of Dr. Salem Khaled, from Nablus, who called to the soldiers from the window of his house because he was a man of peace and the front door had jammed, so he couldn’t get out. The soldiers shot him to death and then killed his 16-year-old son before the eyes of his mother and his 11-year-old brother. It’s not hard to imagine how we would react to the story if the victims were ours.

But when we’re implicated and the victims are Palestinians, we prefer to avert our eyes, not to know, not to take an interest and certainly not to be shocked. Palestinian victims — and their numbers, as everyone knows, are far greater than ours — don’t even merit newspaper reports, not even when the chain of events is particularly brutal, as in the examples given. This is not an intellectual exercise but an attempt to demonstrate the concealment of information, the double morality and the hypocrisy. The indifference to these two very recent incidents proved again that in our eyes there is only one victim and all the others will never be considered victims.

If a European cabinet minister were to declare, "I don’t want these long-nosed Jews to serve me in restaurants," all of Europe would be up in arms and this would be the minister’s last comment as a minister. Three years ago, our former labor and social affairs minister, Shlomo Benizri, from Shas, stated: "I can’t understand why slanty-eyed types should be the ones to serve me in restaurants." Nothing happened. We are allowed to be racists. And if a European government were to announce that Jews are not permitted to attend Christian schools? The Jewish world would rise up in protest. But when our Education Ministry announces that it will not permit Arabs to attend Jewish schools in Haifa, it’s not considered racism. Only in Israel could this not be labeled racist. The heritage of Golda Meir — it was she who said that after what the Nazis did to us, we can do whatever we want — is now having a late and unfortunate revival.

What would happen if a certain country were to enact legislation forbidding members of a particular nation to become citizens there, no matter what the circumstances, including mixed couples who married and raised families? No country anywhere enacts laws like these nowadays, apart from Israel. If the Cabinet extends the validity of the new citizenship law today, Palestinians will not be able to undergo naturalization here, even if they are married to Israelis. We have the right, you see. And if the illegal Israeli immigrants in the United States were hunted down like animals in the dark of night, the way the Immigration Police do here, would we have a better understanding of the injustice we are doing to a community that wants nothing other than to work here?

What would we say if the parents of Israeli emigrants were separated from their children and deported, without having available any avenue of naturalization, no matter what the circumstances? And how would we classify a country that interrogates visitors about their political opinions as soon as they disembark from the plane at the airport and bars them from entering it the security authorities look askance at the opinions they express? What would happen if anti-Semites in France were to poison the drinking water of a Jewish neighborhood? Last week settlers poisoned a well at Atawana, in the southern Mount Hebron region, and the police are investigating.

And we still haven’t said anything about a country that would imprison another nation, or about a regime that would prevent access to medical treatment for some of its subjects, according to its national identity, about roads that would be open only to the members of one nation or about an airport that would be closed to the other nation. All this is happening in Israel and is pulling from under us the moral ground that makes it possible for us to complain about racism and anti-Semitism abroad, even when they actually erupt.

Reprinted with permission of Haaretz © 2004.


Gideon Levy writes for Haaretz.

Tisha B’Av Today


This week a friend confessed to me his problem with fasting on Tisha B’av. My friend is Orthodox and Israeli — an alumnus of one of the elite hesder yeshivas — and he felt that it would be wrong for him to fast this year on Tisha B’Av.

“I cannot abide the litany of persecution and victimization, which the community reads in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, all the while ignoring those who are our victims not far away in Ramalah and Qalqilyah, Daheishah and Tuqua.”

Within the American context this problem is equally bad. The annual litany of persecutions included in the kinot (poems) of lamentation recited on Tisha B’Av eve and morning are usually enhanced with readings impressing upon the congregation the ongoing, continuing, eternal oppression “we” have suffered. This stance of eternal victimhood, with the whole world as fixed and immutable oppressor easily erases differences in time and place, differences in situation. We in the United States are not under any physical threat. We are probably the most affluent and powerful Jewish community in recorded history. Anti-Semitism in the United States is a fringe phenomenon which, when it rears its ugly head, is immediately swatted by the highest levels of the government. Mistaking our situation for that of another Jewish community in history is dangerously delusional. While those who ignore the past might be doomed to repeat it, those who are stuck in the past cannot see the present, and make serious and costly mistakes that will harm us in the future.

This however is not what Tisha B’Av is about.

Tisha B’Av is the day on which we are forced to confront the radical possibility that we are unable to create an ethical polity. Tisha B’Av is the day on which we must give ourselves an accounting of how “Jerusalem” became a “den of murderers” in the words of the prophet. We must think hard about how all our cherished hopes for ourselves as a community based on ethics and a commitment to social and economic justice can — and at times have — slipped through our hands. How have we stood on the sidelines while we became allied with the forces of injustice, or the agents of oppression.

On Tisha B’Av we sit on the floor, alone; we do not greet each other. We perform the dissolution of the basic bonds of community. For one stark moment we must stand naked before ourselves and say: “How did we get here?”

For this reason I will fast on Tisha B’Av. Davka — especially in a Jewish calendar year that includes Israel Independence Day do we need Tisha B’Av. Especially in a country in which we control resources and have the possibility to allow working people to earn living wages and exist in dignity — or not — do we need Tisha B’Av. Especially here and especially now we need to stop and reflect on Tisha B’Av. In the words of the prophet: Zion will be redeemed by justice, and her returnees by righteousness.


Dr. Aryeh Cohen is chair of rabbinics at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies of the University of Judaism. He is also the president of the Progressive Jewish Alliance.

Santa Monica Tragedy Mirrors Israel Terror


Last week at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market, I got a taste of what it is like to be an Israeli. Going about the ordinary tasks of life one moment, standing next to a corpse the next.

My day started out ordinarily enough. In pursuit of the perfect tile for my new barbecue center, I headed out of the scorching San Fernando Valley to the mid-70s of Santa Monica.

Thanks to the constant traffic that consumes the 101, I was half an hour late for my 11:30 a.m. appointment at Mission Tile West on Fourth Street. I spent nearly an hour with the general manager, Tom, on what seemed like the important task of selecting the perfect tile and then an additional 15 minutes discussing Tom’s upcoming wedding.

Hungry and dreading my return to the Valley, I headed toward the Farmers’ Market.

I browsed the booths and then walked over to the Third Street Promenade for a quick lunch. The line at Subway was the shortest, so I joined it. I gobbled my sandwich on the patio and returned to the rows of white kiosks that form the Farmers’ Market each week.

A woman carrying flowers passed me, and I considered looking for the flower kiosk but changed my mind when I remembered that I had recently purchased flowers. Instead, I surveyed the various jams and jellies available at another stall.

Perhaps if the women manning the booth had engaged me in a discussion about the jam business, I would have been standing at that stall when 86-year-old George Russell Weller accelerated his way past her stand. As luck would have it, I left the stand and moved to the sidewalk that could have been, but was not, in the driver’s path.

I was in Santa Monica, but the next sights and sounds were ones that more often are found in Israel. The quiet hum of shoppers was interrupted by the crash of a barricade being smashed, bodies being slammed onto the pavement, screams of victims and near victims forming a haunting chorus. Names of missing friends were called out; ashen faces pushed against cell phones, begging 911 operators to send help.

It was impossible to imagine that so much destruction and terror had been caused by a mere automobile, so I, like many of the other witnesses, assumed a terrorist act was in progress. I held my breath and waited to see if there was more to come.

When the crashing sounds diminished, I walked the 10 feet to the street that had been hidden from my view, thanks to a kiosk that had escaped the speeding car. My goal was to see if someone needed help. The sight before me was not what I expected.

A man was lying in the street perhaps five yards from the spot that I had been standing moments before — or was it the exact spot that I had been standing? I’ll never know.

His head was cracked open, and his dark, sticky blood poured out onto the payment. Seconds before, he had been buying a vegetable, innocently presuming that he would have life left to enjoy it. Across from him was another man, also dead, whose body was contorted into a shape that barely resembled a human silhouette.

Screaming and crying, I returned to the visual security of the sidewalk. Other screams joined mine, until they were drowned out by sirens from dozens of police cars, ambulances and fire trucks.

Hysterical, I called my husband as I made my way to my car. Shaking, I started the engine of the convertible and headed home to pick up my son from day camp. As I left Santa Monica, rain fell, but I did not close the roof. I was afraid to stop moving.

As I drove, I thought of how brave Israelis are to go about their daily life, knowing that they may not come home; how they can dance freely at a disco, knowing that any shimmy could be their last; shop at local markets for goods that they might not have a chance to eat, and get on city buses, wondering if they will ever reach their destination.

I was able to pick up my children from camp on July 16 only because Tom at Mission Tile West ended our conversation exactly when he did, the women who made my Subway sandwich made it quickly, I remembered that I didn’t need flowers after all and the women selling jam were too tired to talk me into a jar of homemade plum jelly.

The dead and injured weren’t able to pick up their children that day. And the mother of the dead 3-year-old won’t have a child to send to camp.

When this happens in Israel, what do we do? We watch the aftermath, the cleanup, seeing sanitized pictures of burnt-out buses and dead bodies covered in sheets.

We don’t hear the screams or see the mangled bodies of ordinary people who did nothing more extraordinary than board a bus or walk into a pizza place. We aren’t privy to the Israeli child waiting at school for a mother who never comes. So we shake our heads, say what a shame and go about our day.

People complain the news is too graphic. Now I think the news is not graphic enough. Maybe a close-up in the Los Angeles Times of a young man lying in the street in Santa Monica, with blood gushing from his head, or a photo of a broken 3-year-old, with her mother screaming over her dead body, would cause people to be outraged that Weller was permitted by the Department of Motor Vehicles — and presumably his family — to drive a car.

And maybe some close-ups of Israeli children blown apart by a suicide bomber would awaken us all to the real horror of the terrorist attacks that have rocked Israel the last few years. If the world actually experienced the innocence of the "before" and the visual carnage of the "after," it would certainly be outraged. But then I guess that is why terrorists don’t make videotapes.

I was lucky. I came home. But the next time a suicide bomber kills innocents in Israel — or Bali or Kenya or here — I will not just shake my head.

Wendy Jaffe is a freelance writer based in Bell
Canyon. Her e-mail address is: Wjaffewrite@aol.com
.

Domestic Violence: A Jewish Issue, Too


During Jewish holidays and festivals, many of us recite the
familiar blessings for our loved ones. As a Jewish communal professional for 30
years and a synagogue member for 23 years, I wonder why congregations don’t devote the
same time and attention during religious services to discussions of Jewish
family issues as we give to prayers for the Jewish family. The former might
make the latter more meaningful.

One of these issues is domestic violence, in all its
virulent forms and varieties. Jews, despite their reputation as a peaceful and
family oriented ethno-religious group, are not immune from domestic violence.

Nevertheless, there is a prevalent myth that Jewish men don’t
beat or sexually abuse their wives and children. When there is a publicized
incident involving a Jewish family, Jews gasp in horror and disbelief. After
all, these things don’t happen in the Jewish community.

Perhaps the most notorious incident in recent memory was the
1988 story of Joel Steinberg and Hedda Nussbaum, an upper-middle class Jewish
couple in New York City. Steinberg was an attorney who systematically beat his
wife.

Both Steinberg and Nussbaum beat their 6-year-old adopted
daughter, Lisa, and it was Steinberg who struck the blow that killed her. When
this violence was discovered and during the subsequent trial, this family was
headline news in this country. How could a Jewish couple be so physically
violent? Yes, Jews commit acts of domestic violence, like our gentile
neighbors.

It is estimated that 2 million women in the United States
suffer as victims of spousal-partner abuse each year, and that between 3,000
and 4,000 battered women in this country die each year from physical abuse.
Equally tragic is that 2,500 abused children in the United States die each year
from abuse. Figures show that 95 percent of the perpetrators of domestic
violence are men.

The incidence of domestic violence in the Jewish community
approximates the incidence in the general community. Domestic violence is an
equal opportunity phenomenon. It transcends racial, religious, ethnic,
geographic, sexual orientation and socioeconomic boundaries. Children who are
victims of abuse often become abusive as adults, abusing their children and
spouses or partners.

In Jewish homes, there is an intensified shame and stigma
associated with family violence. When there is violence in the Jewish family,
both victims and perpetrators go through great pains to conceal it from their
friends, employers, clergy and other segments of their social and community
life. Jewish victims tend to go to family and friends for shelter and financial
help.

What can the Jewish community do?

Spokespeople in the Jewish community, such as rabbis,
educators and other Jewish communal professionals, should learn the following:

1. Signs and symptoms of victims, as well as perpetrators.

2. Mandatory reporting requirements, with respect to child
and elder abuse.

3. Local community resources, such as the community’s Jewish
Family Service. The staff there can provide many direct services and refer the
calling party to other important resources, such as domestic violence shelters,
law enforcement agencies, other social service agencies, legal assistance,
medical care and financial assistance.

4. Rabbis and other congregational leaders should talk about
domestic violence at religious services, in children’s classrooms and in
adult-education programs. Domestic violence issues should be on the curriculum
for all age groups, as prominent as Torah study. Identify religious and sacred
texts and traditions that are the foundations for the sanctity of life and
teach them to all congregational members.

While we are talking here primarily about physical abuse,
let’s remember that relationship abuse can also be economic, emotional, verbal
and sexual. All forms of abuse are seriously damaging to individuals and
families.

If you know someone who is being abused, be supportive and understanding.
Help the victim develop a safety plan and assist the victim in securing
assistance to ensure survival, safety and recovery.

If our religious traditions believe that human life is
sacred, then domestic violence is wrong in any form and under any
circumstances. We have a collective responsibility to educate ourselves about
the problem and to do everything possible to prevent domestic violence and
reach out and help victims and perpetrators alike. Â


Mel Roth is executive director of Jewish Family Service of Orange County.

Mixing Science and Politics Brews Hate


It’s bad enough that Israeli doctors are spending their
lives in emergency rooms treating Jewish and Arab victims of suicide bombers. What really makes them heartsick these days,
however, is that they also have to fend off mindless attacks from their scientific
colleagues, particularly in Europe.

We arrived at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, where some
2,000 victims have been treated during the current intifada, less than 24 hours
after a particularly horrific bus bombing in Jerusalem. Hours earlier, teams of
Jewish-Arab doctors had done what they’ve done for the past two years: jumped
into action to save the lives of the critically injured.

On Israeli television the night before, the father of the
homicidal bomber bragged that he was proud of his son who had attacked a
busload of schoolchildren and senior citizens. On the day we arrived, that same
father suffered chest pains, and was brought to Hadassah. He was seen by the
same doctors who were still treating the victims of his son’s madness.

The humanitarian approach to medicine of our colleagues in Israel
stands in stark contrast to actions recently taken by our European colleagues.
In Britain and Norway, countries we Americans generally feel are kindred to our
way of life, university professors and scientific researchers have recently
refused to share research information with Israel’s academics and physicians
because they oppose Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians.

The head of Hadassah Medical Center’s Goldyne Savad Gene
Therapy Institute, Dr. Eitan Galun, an Israeli Jew, has been engaged in
research to cure a blood disease prevalent in the Palestinian community. He
recently requested assistance from a Norwegian scientist and was refused.

“Due to the present situation in the Middle East, I will not
deliver any material to an Israelitic (sic) university,” she responded by
e-mail. By her actions, which confuse science with politics, the Palestinian
population will needlessly continue to suffer from a disease that could be
cured through scientific cooperation.

Also recently, two Israeli academics were dismissed from the
boards of scholarly linguistics journals. The first, Miriam Shlesinger, a
senior lecturer in translation studies at Bar-Ilan University, was removed from
the editorial board of the Translator: Studies in Intercultural Communication.

The second, Gideon Toury, a professor at Tel Aviv
University’s School of Cultural Studies, was dismissed from the international
advisory board of Translation Studies Abstracts. Mona Baker, a University of Manchester
academic, who has circulated a petition calling for a moratorium on grants and
contracts with research institutions in Israel, owns both publications.

These examples dramatically demonstrate an unacceptable
breakdown in the international norms of intellectual freedom and collaboration.

Our colleagues in Israel do not mix science and politics,
and our colleagues in Europe, likewise, should know better than to do so. Using
Israel’s political situation as a reason to withhold collaborative information
is a smoke screen. Moreover it is a symptom of that chronic European disease,
anti-Semitism, which now hides behind anti-Israel rhetoric. Israel is
criticized for human rights violations as it tries to protect its citizens.

Yet it is the only country in the Middle East with a free
press, an independent judiciary and all its citizens, both men and women,
whether Jew, Muslim or Christian, have the right to vote.

It’s high time for the courageous and intellectually honest
among our European colleagues to make a stand against their region’s particular
brand of bigotry. It is past time for doctors and scientists to first heal
themselves and then immunize Europe against this centuries-old scourge. The
medical community in Israel truly reflects the words of the prophet Malachi
2:10: “Have we not one father hath not one God created us, wherefore shall we
deal treacherously with each other. Profaning the covenant of our fathers.”

Its time for our colleagues in Europe to recognize this and
act accordingly. Â


Dr. Benjamin Sachs is the Harold H. Rosenfield professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproduction biology at the Harvard Medical School. He recently led a medical mission to Israel sponsored by the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston and the Hadassah Medical Organization and Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America.

One Night for Israel


Maybe only seven nights of gifts would be enough for your family? The Israel Emergency Solidarity Fund (IESF) hopes so — they’d like you to save the eighth night for an Israeli family in need. It is easier than ever to bring a little Chanukah light into the holiday for Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers or victims of terror and their families. Instead of wrapping up one more PlayStation2 game, put a smile on a child’s face in Israel.

The new Toys for Chanukah campaign comes hot on the heels of IESF’s Rosh Hashana Honey campaign — when you, dear readers, sent honey for a sweet new year to Israeli victims of terror, IDF soldiers and friends and family in Israel.

Four different gift packages are available, from the $18 Soldiers’ Package to a $72 basket filled with latkes, sufganiot and other goodies. All the products are made in Israel, so when you give a Chanukah gift to an Israeli family, you give a gift to the Israeli economy as well. Packages include popular Israeli games and toys, like a Hebrew version of Monopoly, dreidel kits, and candies. When you send a gift through the Toys for Chanukah campaign, you can also send a personal note, letting an Israeli family know that the Jews of Los Angeles remember the spirit of the miracle of Chanukah

To order a Toys for Chanukah gift package, visit www.walk4israel.com or call (800) 672-8411.

Jewish Groups Help Sept. 11 Victims


The stench in New York after Sept. 11 reminded Julia Millman of Europe.

"I have seen it. I know what it’s all about," said the 76-year-old survivor of Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen.

In addition to losing her 40-year-old son, Ben, in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center — he was a construction worker on the 101st floor of Tower One — Millman said the death and devastation revived gut-wrenching memories of her family’s murder in the Holocaust. As a young girl, Millman was forced to tie a rope around her dead mother’s neck and drag her gassed body to a pile of other victims. Now those old feelings of motherlessness and abandonment have returned.

"If it wasn’t for my social worker that tried to console me, that tried to help me in my sorrow, I don’t know if I would be here today," Millman said.

Millman is one of thousands who have received assistance from Jewish social service agencies for traumas associated with Sept. 11. For the most part, they praise the aid they received.

The Jewish community launched a massive, coordinated effort to help both Jewish and non-Jewish victims of the attacks. The UJA-Federation of New York raised funds in New York, where two of the planes hit, and the United Jewish Communities (UJC), the umbrella group of North American federations, raised funds throughout North America.

In areas affected by the attack, Jewish federations and their affiliated social service agencies also received government grants or private funding from foundations and/or individual donors. The funds have been used to provide support groups for victims and those re-traumatized by the incident, including Holocaust survivors or new immigrants. The funds also were used to provide cash assistance and job counseling and to help victims navigate the bureaucracy to obtain financial aid from government and private agencies.

The UJA-Federation of New York, one of 13 major charities comprising the 9/11 United Services Group, a resource for victims in New York City, has been at the center of the Jewish communal response. As of mid-August, the federation had raised $7.6 million in special funding for its agencies to expand services for Sept. 11 victims.

Of that sum, $2.1 million came from the UJC, which plans to add another $166,000 in the coming weeks, and $3.5 million came from The New York Times 9/11 Neediest Fund. The UJA-Federation raised the other $2 million.

On a smaller scale, the American Jewish World Service, an international development organization, distributed more than $650,000 to community-based organizations providing assistance to undocumented and low-income workers unable to obtain relief from mainstream sources. The organizations that received assistance included the Arab-American Family Support Center, Chinese Staff and Workers Association and American Pan-African Relief Agencies.

For its part, the UJC has raised $5.28 million, dispersing $3.9 million of it for immediate needs. It plans to disperse the rest by the end of the year for long-term services, such as tuition assistance and additional trauma counseling.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington — in the city where the third plane hit the Pentagon — received $100,500 from the UJC. The UJC also allocated funds to hard-hit New Jersey commuter areas like Monmouth County, which received $210,600, and Bergen County, which received $133,121.

Barry Swartz, vice president of UJC consulting, said the federation system did a "remarkable" job of quickly coordinating a response to the crisis. "We told federations right away, if families need money, they’re to disburse the funds, and we would reimburse" them, he said.

Several direct service providers said they were pleased with the response from the organized Jewish community. There wasn’t "one second that we felt that we were out there alone," said Jeff Lampl, executive director of Jewish Family Services of Bergen County. That was mainly due to the federation system and the local federation, "which immediately supplied us with a small amount of money to get going," he said.

The agency’s client pool "doubled almost overnight" after Sept. 11, Lampl said. "Almost to this day, taking care of these families has become the central concern of this agency," he added.

Many of those who received services praised the response. Robin Wiener, who lost her brother, Jeff, 33, in the attack on the World Trade Center, said the sibling support group she attended — sponsored by the Jewish Social Service Agency of Greater Washington, the primary Jewish organization responding to local victims there — was "amazing." The sibling support group, sponsored by the agency, was formed following a February gathering of friends and family members of Sept. 11 victims.

The "emotions you go through and the loss that you feel is a loss that is unique to the relationship you had," said Wiener, 38. "My brother and I were very close and very similar in many ways, and I just always assumed he’d be there."

Weiner’s brother, a senior financial executive, had been about to leave on a vacation in Spain with his wife and had been planning a family, she said. It "breaks my heart for him, what we lost together.

"I never realized how small our family was until now," she said. To know there are other people out there going through the exact same thing" is "kind of eerie, but it’s also extremely helpful."

Robert Alonso praised the Jewish Child Care Association, which helped his family. When the planes hit, Alonso’s wife, Janet, 41, managed to make a quick phone call from the 97th floor of Tower One to tell her husband that she loved him. The call was their last conversation. The sudden death of his wife, the family’s primary breadwinner, left Alonso and his two young children — one of whom has Down’s syndrome — reeling.

The Jewish Child Care Association has provided weekly meetings with a psychologist for Alonso’s children Robbie, 2, and Victoria, 3. It also has helped him obtain the maximum government funds for his family.

Gregory Hoffman, 37, said he "would not have survived" without the Twinless Twins of Sept. 11 program, which he and his wife, Aileen, created. Since his identical twin, Stephen, a bond broker at Cantor Fitzgerald, was killed in the World Trade Center, Hoffman says he feels like Tower One before it fell — still standing but "out of balance," separated from its twin and with a gaping hole inside it.

To date, the Hoffmans have identified and contacted 38 twins who lost siblings in the attack. Six of them participate in the weekly support group meetings led by a twinless twin, and 22 have participated in social outings. Many of the participants have become close friends.

For Marjorie Judge, caseworker Joan Kincaid, director of the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged’s Pets Project, has been "exceptional." Judge, 82, who lived four blocks from the World Trade Center, was evacuated from the building and prevented from taking her cat. Police later rounded up the pets in many buildings, but not in Judge’s.

One week later, aided by police and Judge’s building superintendent, Kincaid entered the evacuated building — dark from failed electricity and reeking of rotten food — and climbed eight floors to rescue Sheba, who was waiting, parched, at the door. All that for a cat Kincaid "hardly knew," Judge said.

While many victims praised the Jewish communal response, some had complaints. Several family members of victims in Washington said there was no outreach from the organized Jewish community, except for their synagogues, according to the Washington Jewish Week. The federation defended its work, saying it was the first agency in Washington to hold a memorial service for victims, and that the Jewish Chaplaincy immediately called the families of Jewish victims to offer help.

The federation has dispersed the nearly $500,000 dollars it raised in its Sept. 11 fund to Jewish and non-Jewish agencies, according to a federation official. UJC funds were earmarked for Jewish needs, the official said, adding, "We really did everything we could."

Wiener, of the sibling support group, saw it differently. There was "plenty of comfort, but not a lot of information," she said.

And while Millman raved about her nurse, Rebecca Bigio, she also complained that "she’s not enough." Bigio said she and a social worker visit Millman at least twice a month and call frequently. But Millman, an ailing widow, said she needs more attention so that she won’t "feel so alone and so lost."

Louise Greilsheimer, vice president of agency and external relations of the UJA-Federation of New York, who coordinated its response to Sept. 11, said complaints are inevitable. "You are always, with this quantity of people, going to find issues," she said. But, she added, "I haven’t heard one horror story in the Jewish community."

"I truly believe the agencies came together and put together not only a coordinated approach," but one that was thoughtful, caring and ongoing, Greilsheimer said. "We’re staying here to follow up and to be able to work with communities that need the support."

Respite From Terror


It is Monday afternoon at Universal Studios, and the place is swarming with camera-toting tourists, screaming children, beleaguered adults and bored-looking park staff. Prison-garbed Beetlejuice is flashing his blackened teeth as he amuses tourists with his banter, and the cheerful strains of the Universal Studios theme music are being piped loudly through the sound system, camouflaging upsets and distress with ersatz melodic joy.

In the midst of all this, Mashiach Kashi, 72, is showing pictures of his family. "This is my son-in-law — he came to help the people on the bus, and he was murdered. This is my wife. They murdered her also. They shot a bullet through her head at close range. This is my daughter who was in the bus. The bullet went through her head and took out her eye.

"These are my grandchildren," he continues. "This grandchild was shot — the bullet made a hole like this," he says as he holds up a fist. "This other grandchild was shot in the head and died. This little girl’s name is Galia Esther, and my wife saved her by putting her between her legs, but when the terrorists shot my wife, the blood from her head fell on my granddaughter, and they thought she was also murdered."

Kashi’s voice rises, passionate, but despondent. "What do they want? Do you know what they want? Nobody knows what they want. Master of the universe! They make our lives so bitter. Today I am a shattered vessel. I am not a man."

Kashi’s words, and the company he is with — 21 other Israeli victims of terror, some physically scarred, all emotionally wounded — seem out of place in the tourist attraction that is Universal Studios. The 22 Israelis are there as part of their visit to Los Angeles, which was sponsored by the Southern California Jewish Center. The trip is meant to both educate the Los Angeles public about the Israeli casualties of the intifada and to give the victims a vacation of sorts.

At Universal, they are meant to be having a day of fun, some time out to relax a bit and, if possible, to move their minds away — even if just for a short while — from the horrors they have been through.

Yet despite being thousands of miles away from their homes, in a place where the admission fee generally guarantees some form of escapism, the most this group can hope for is to be mildly distracted.

"This is the first time since I came that I am enjoying myself," says Jakov Shefi, 32, whose 5-year-old daughter, Danielle Bat El, was murdered in her bed. "But every time that we are having fun, we think about our little daughter, and we want her to be with us and to have fun with us."

As other members of the group start to laugh while they shoot each other with water guns, Shefi’s wife, Shiri, 29, talks about her daughter’s murder.

"It was on Shabbat," she says, "when the terrorists came to our yishuv [settlement], and I was with the children in the room, and my daughter was murdered in front of my eyes."

Jakov Shefi continues, "There is a song that says, ‘You have to live the fear and the pain, and look it in the eyes.’ And that is what we do every morning, every day, every evening. You hurt. You pain. But you survive."

At another table, Shoshana and Hadas Katzav, a mother and daughter who were wounded in an attack on the Machaneh Yehudah Market in Jerusalem, sit and eat their Metro Glatt burgers. Hadas Katzav, 17, has prominent scars on her forehead; her mother, 52, has her arm in a bandage, which she takes off, revealing a mangled forearm on which the shiny, scarred flesh sinks into a hole near her wrist.

"This is nothing," says Shoshana Katzav, who needed to be hospitalized for eight months after the attack. "My whole body is scarred like this."

"We came for hasbara [public relations]," Hadas Katzav says, "to tell the people what happens in Israel. They are killing us stam cacha [just like this]. We are sitting in our houses, and they go into our houses, in the streets, all the places that we go, and they kill us. We are afraid to go in the streets."

Three feet away, a newly acquired Bugs Bunny stuffed toy sits in 10-year-old Tehila Cohen’s wheelchair as she sits at a table finishing a hot dog with her father, Ofir, 35. The girl’s legs, along with those of two of her siblings, needed to be amputated after terrorists blew up her school bus.

"The terrorists knew it was a school bus, they knew what a school bus looks like, and what time it takes off in the morning," says Ofir Cohen. "And they used a bomb like they used in Lebanon, and although the bus was armed, it was a big explosion, and two people died on the bus, and the others were terribly wounded."

Cohen says that Tehila, who didn’t want to talk to the press, was doing well. "She is doing the best she can in this situation. She is very optimistic, and she is looking forward."

Although these victims are in the West, their hearts are in the East. "I want to tell the people in Los Angeles to come to Israel," Shefi says. "Here you are living in a beautiful dream, because you have beautiful cars here, and peaceful streets, and the houses are beautiful. But this is not reality of the Jewish people. The reality of the Jewish people is Israel, and we can’t escape from that."

Victims of Terror


Vered Kashani, 29, was on the phone arranging hotel rooms for 22 Israeli terror victims scheduled to visit Los Angeles on Aug. 15, when she glanced at her computer and saw there had been an attack in the Emmanuel settlement in Israel.

"My first thought was, ‘Oh! My cousin lives in Emmanuel,’" she said. "Then I got a call waiting, and it was my brother, who told me that my cousin was traveling on that bus with her three kids and her mother — my aunt. It was a bulletproof bus, but when it went over a bomb, the windows blew out and the terrorists started shooting. My aunt died right away, then my cousin’s 2-year-old got shot in the shoulder, my cousin got shot in her eye and cheek and her 11-month-old baby was shot dead.

"My cousin immediately called her husband. She said, ‘They are shooting at us.’ He didn’t have a car, but he started running on the freeway, and when he got to the scene, he saw soldiers. He thought they were IDF soldiers [they were actually the terrorists who had stolen IDF uniforms]. So he approached them, and they shot him in front of her eyes. So she lost her mother, her baby and her husband in one day," Kashani told The Journal.

The murder of her relatives only strengthened Kashani’s resolve to bring a group of terror victims to Los Angeles, so that the Jewish community here could see firsthand what the people in Israel are experiencing. The visit by the 22 victims, which Kashani is organizing under the auspices of the Southern California Jewish Center and in conjunction with the Israeli consulate, was born out of her frustration with what she calls anti-Israel campus propaganda, and what she sees as CNN’s skewed coverage of the Middle East conflict.

"I am at UCLA getting my bachelor’s degree in psychology and education, and every day when I go to campus, I see posters that equate Auschwitz with Palestine," she said. "I watch CNN, and I see them do a whole story on a [Palestinian] guy whose grapevine was destroyed, but they don’t show Israelis being destroyed. They don’t show the horror of what is going on in Israel, and someone has to do it. I think Israel needs this kind of Hasbara — and a picture is worth 1,000 words. When people see a 10-year-old girl who was on her school bus when she and two siblings were bombed, and all three had their legs amputated, that does more than a speech given by anyone who is trying to explain his political agenda."

The 22 victims who are coming include Edna Shekalim, who had acid thrown at her face while she was working in a shoe store; Cohen Ofir, the father of the three aforementioned amputees, and Tamar and Joseph Zabicky, whose daughter, Hagit, was brutally murdered one day while hiking in Wadi Kelt.

"It is very difficult," Tamar Zabicky said over the phone from Jerusalem, "because every time we hear about another murder and another murder, we feel it so much, it hurts, again and again." Zabicky said that she would like to tell the people of Los Angeles that everyone who has "enough force" should come to Israel. "It is very important. Even with what happened at the university. I know that parents will not accept sending their children to learn here in Israel, but I think it is very important that the Diaspora supports us."

Kashani is hoping that the visit will generate a lot of media coverage, and that the community will come out in droves to hear the victims speak. She is also planning on having the victims speak to members of the Latino and African American communities, as well as on college campuses, and she is organizing a bar mitzvah celebration for Jonathan Altered, one of the visitors whose father was murdered seven years ago.

"The trip has two purposes," she said. "We want to comfort the victims, and to share our love with them, and to show them we care, even though we are far away. But we also have another purpose — to explain Israel’s position in defending herself."

Your Letters


Terror on Campus

Was the Hebrew University bombing not an attack against the United States and its citizens (“Terror on Campus,” Aug. 2)? How is this any different than the USS Cole, or the Marine barracks explosion in Lebanon? I find it tragic that the U.S. government chooses to answer an attack on our citizens with endless rhetoric rather than an active defense.

Eric Podell,Los Angeles

God Laughs?

As I read the latest twist in Marlene Adler Marks’ battle with cancer (“God Laughs?” July 26), my heart went out to this courageous and generous woman. Marlene has grown into a role model for me, not only through her display of strength and vulnerability, her acceptance of a frightening reality and her faith, but also because she has not allowed her disease to tear her away from the world at large.

Cathy Engel-Marder,Los Angeles

Meeting Dr. Soulmate

I always enjoy reading Teresa Strasser’s column, but today, she really outdid herself (“Meeting Dr. Soulmate,” Aug. 2). I am the primary caregiver for my husband. We have five animals, and I’m sorry to say, but there are some days when the most fun in the whole world I have is picking up dog doo. In one of my rare free moments I came upon Strasser’s column and after one reading, I just about plotzted, I could immediately feel that all stress hormones had been zapped. Also, my favorite color is now puce.

Name withheld by request

LAX Victims Mourned

Here’s the dilemma and irony: There was little surprise that so few attended the July 21 commemoration to honor recent victims of terror, particularly two people killed at LAX on July 4, Victoria Hen and Yaakov Aminov.

As reported by The Journal,”more than 200 people” (“LAX Victims Mourned,” July 26) were present to share in what the hosts called “an expression of grief and commitment to a better tomorrow.” One day, hopefully sooner than later, the community will break its bad habit of not showing up at rallies, vigils and celebrations of unity and solidarity.

Chuck Levin,Los Angeles

Be Careful With ‘Terrorism’

A careful reading of Salam Al-Marayati’s commentary yields serious flaws and biased analysis (“Be Careful With Terrorism,” Aug. 2). Whether the murders of Victoria Hen and Yaakov Aminov were part of a larger criminal conspiracy has yet to be determined by the authorities. But to follow the writer’s suggestion that, if so, we should “accept it and move on,” would be to buy into the moral relativism, which dismisses the unique threat terrorism poses to the present global society.

Even in the absence of a documented conspiracy behind the airport killings, the shooting spree perpetrated at El Al on July 4 by an Egyptian émigré cannot be disconnected from the larger political context of anti-Israel, anti-Western violence, as with the murder of Daniel Pearl. Perhaps we should read in Al-Marayati’s words an expression of what the late Rabbi A.J. Heschel diagnosed as the deepest human need: self-deception.

Rabbi Jeffrey N. Ronald,Chatsworth

 

Support From Evangelicals

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein’s reasoning is truly frightening (“Jews Should Welcome Evangelical Support,” July 26). While the right-wing evangelists may support Israel, they also support the abolition of a woman’s right to choose; they advocate the breakdown of the critical wall separating church and state; they refuse to acknowledge any concept of gay rights; and their concept of free speech seems to be limited to speech with which they agree. How much of our Constitution are we willing to give up for their “support?”

Ken Goldman,Beverly Hills

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In reading Arlene Stein’s “Affair With the Christian Right Misguided” (July 26), I learned a great deal more about the author’s liberal agenda than I did about the relationship between the Christian right and the Jewish American. Too many Jews today do not practice Judaism. They practice liberalism, which in its new definition is rarely reflected in the teachings of the Torah. The author is an accurate barometer on the agenda of the left, not the spirit of the new Christian-Jewish friendship and support.

Le Roy R. Rosen,Tarzana

Kudos to Readers

The Southern California Council for Soviet Jews thanks all the readers of The Jewish Journal who wrote or phoned the makers of the Stalin sausage to express their indignation (“Honor Thy Butcher,” July 26). The M&I Foods company has just announced that they will discontinue the production of the Stalinskaya brand sausage.

Si Frumkin Chairman SCCSJ

Correction

In the article, “Mourners Get Help in Cyberspace”(Aug. 2), the writer inadvertently switched the names of the two Web site creators. Whenever Amy Berkowitz was mentioned, it should have said Michele Prince. The Journal apologizes for any hurt that this caused the families.

UCLA Hillel Mourns Victims


It was a postcard-perfect afternoon outside Kerckhoff Hall on UCLA’s campus on Tuesday, Aug. 6., but Debra Bach could not stop crying.

The day before, Bach had been in San Diego attending the funeral of her Hebrew University roommate, Marla Bennett. Now she stood among 150 people singing "Kaddish" for Bennett and six other victims of last week’s bombing of a Hebrew University cafeteria in Jerusalem.

"It’s a beautiful tribute to Marla that so many people who didn’t know her [attended her funeral] and were forever moved by her life and her love," Bach told the audience, before lighting a candle for Bennett, who was only 24. Amid a steady stream of tears, she spoke of Bennett’s generous spirit, of how the San Diego-raised aspiring educator always invited people to attend her Shabbat meals and crash at her apartment.

"We used to joke that our place was like a youth hostel," Bach said.

As the campus buzzed with its usual summer activity, the crowd participating in the emotional UCLA Hillel-organized memorial service recited prayers before pictures of Bennett and the other victims: Janis Coulter, 36, who ran Hebrew University’s foreign students department in New York; American students Benjamin Blutstein, 25, Dina Carter, 37, and David Gritz, 24; David Diego Landowski, 29, of Argentina; and Levina Shapira, 53, head of the Student Services Department at Hebrew University. Candles were lit for each victim, as friends of recalled their lives.

Bennett’s death touched many in Los Angeles, as she was closely connected to the community. She had attended Camp JCA Shalom in Malibu, as a camper, CIT, counselor, unit head and last summer as the program director.

"It’s been devastating to the staff that knew her and grew up with her," Bill Kaplan, executive director of Shalom Institute, who had known Bennett for 12 years, later told The Journal. "This was the nicest person in the world. A mensch, mensch, mensch. She always went the extra mile."

Arriving from Israel only 90 minutes before the service, Peter Wilner, executive vice president of American Friends of Hebrew University spoke about his somber visit of the "burned and severely damaged" survivors of the bombing. He described his late colleague Coulter as "an individual who died simply because she was doing her job to take American students to Hebrew University." Right before the lunchtime bombing, Coulter, who had converted to Judaism after becoming interested in the Holocaust, had just returned from leading a visit to the Western Wall.

During the services, Cantor Avshalom Katz, of Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills, sang songs of solace, and Hillel Director Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, who organized the event, blasted the Hamas-sponsored act of terrorism that "cut them down in their youth when they were brimming with potential."

He described Hebrew University as "the home of dialogue and tolerance and the dream of mutual coexistence."

Meirav Elon-Shahar, Israeli consul for communications and public affairs, condemned the extremists who "consider it legitimate and holy to kill those who are innocent," she said.

Leah Buchwald, who knew Blutstein and Bennett, tearfully recalled spending Shabbat with Bennett and going to parties and weddings with Blutstein, a DJ who had dubbed himself "Benny the Bee."

"This past week has been a real nightmare," Buchwald said. "But if they were here, they would tell you not to stop believing in Israel," she said. "I don’t want them to die in vain."

After the service, the undergrads in attendance told The Journal that they were not only drawn to the memorial out of sadness for the victims, but also as a sign of support for Israel. They said that by bombing what should have been a "safe educational environment," Palestinian extremists have gone too far.

UCLA student Dana Nahoray said she didn’t know any of the victims personally. She came because "I have a connection with all Jewish people. It’s important to show support for Israel. That what happens to the people over there affects us here in L.A., in our community."

Jonathan Dekel, 23, came with his sister, Jennifer, and friend, Eugene Niamehr, 22. The bombing really hit home for Dekel and Niamehr. Both had studied at Hebrew University during the 1999-2000 school year.

"When we were in the Ulpan," Dekel said of the Hebrew program, "we ate at that cafeteria every day. That’s where we got to know each other and really bond."

Following word of the bombing, a friend traveling through Europe contacted Dekel at 5 a.m. to deliver the bad news.

"I’m very shook up, but I’m not surprised," he said, "because I knew that the terrorists were capable of this."

Jennifer Dekel’s frustration extended to the political isolation she feels Israel is going through. "I’m frustrated with the media biases against Israel," said the 20-something, who just came back from studying at Tel Aviv University. "I’m frustrated with the ignorance of the world to fact and truth about the Middle East conflict."

"There’s always going to be criticism of the Jewish people," Nahoray added. "But I don’t think any of the countries have the right to criticize. They don’t have suicide bombers coming into their universities and bombing them."

"Nothing’s sacred," her brother added. "Look at Sept. 11, and now this attack on a university campus. "

Mixed among the sadness and the anger, there was a sliver of optimism.

"She loved people. She loved Israel. She loved Jerusalem," Bach said of Bennett. "Marla gives me great hope for the Jewish people because she always gave beyond herself."

Bush Ex Machina


The low point of my week is reading the copy for our pages devoted to victims of Palestinian terror and

violence. We sponsor some of these pages, produced by Kol HaNeshama, a project of the students at Yeshiva University. The others, sponsored by Janine and Peter Lowy, Vivian and Ron Alberts and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, are titled, "The Human Toll of Terror."

It is ineffably sad to read the brief stories that accompany the photos. A 14-year-old boy, going home on his last day of school, murdered at a Jerusalem bus stop. A renowned hematologist gunned down on his way to work.

Five-year-olds shot dead; 59-year-old grandmothers blown up. There is a part of me — a part of all of us, I suppose — that sees the crisis in Israel as a problem to be solved, a set of problems in search of solutions. The eyes I look into each week are a gut-check against glibness, shibboleths and the status quo.

I can’t imagine the pain and suffering that each week’s sheet of faces represent. It is fathomless. And when it comes down to it, there is not much we can do to ease the suffering of the people in the midst of that war. The least we can do is read these stories.

Most of the children listed in those pages are the victims of suicide bombers. Sending people to blow themselves up to kill other people has been a very successful strategy for the Palestinians. A recent poll showed that 65 percent of Palestinians support it, and the practice has spread among Palestinian youths with a fad-like intensity. "The bottleneck on the Palestinian side is not the suicide attacker," a senior Israeli security official told The New York Times. "It’s the bomb." In other words, there are more men, boys, women and girls willing to kill themselves and innocent Israelis than there are bombs to outfit them.

One reason there aren’t enough bombs, is that Operation Defensive Shield disrupted the terrorist cells that manufacture them. But that is hardly getting at anything like the root of the problem. Writing in this month’s Foreign Affairs magazine, Gal Luft, a former lieutenant colonel in the Israel Defense Forces, assessed the success of fighting fire with fire. "If history is any guide," he wrote, "Israel’s military campaign to eradicate the phenomenon of suicide bombing is unlikely to succeed. Other nations that have faced opponents willing to die have learned the hard way that, short of complete annihilation of the enemy, no military solution will solve the problem."

Palestinians and Israelis have this in common: they seem to intuitively agree with Luft. The poll that showed 65 percent of Palestinians supporting suicide bombers also showed that 70 percent support the peace process.

A Ma’ariv poll counted a majority of Israelis who support a peace process, and 60-65 percent who support Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s military operations against Palestinians. What this means is that both sides are suffering, and neither side wants to suffer in vain. It is a killing algebra: If A equals violence and C equals peace, how do you get to C. What is B?

President George W. Bush, maybe? Bush’s initiative may offer enough carrots to both sides to complete the equation. The strength of the plan, which our correspondents discuss at length within (see page 22), is that it aims to appeal to the middle ground residing in the hearts of most Israelis and Palestinians.

It assumes that, despite what they tell pollsters (or because of what they tell pollsters) most inhabitants of that sliver of land want their children to grow up in a peaceful, secure and free society. They don’t want to capitulate to the other side, but they don’t want unending violence either. The Bush plan, if it were to succeed, offers a way out.

The weakness of the Bush plan, of course, is that it makes no guarantees. Its wording is full of contingency and passivity; i.e., "As violence subsides, freedom of movement should be restored." Palestinians and Israelis who were expecting a stronger American hand, a Bush ex machina, have a right to wonder if the president hasn’t missed an opportunity for more intervention, more direct involvement. Oslo died at the hands of extremists. What in the Bush plan prevents a similar fate?

At the very least, the Bush plan is a fork in the road. Both sides, by taking it in and mulling it over, have a chance to stop and think. The Palestinians have to reflect on how their lives would have been different had their leaders tried to conclude negotiations with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. And the Israelis have to look back just a couple of years, to a time when no one could have conceived of waves of suicide bombers wreaking havoc on their country.

And everyone, us included, must try to imagine, absent bold strokes toward peace, what unforeseen hell awaits.

Volunteer of Hope


Anna Krakovich’s kind eyes and bright smile don’t express the horror she experienced that tragic day eight years ago. Her small facial scars, however, are a permanent reminder of when "my hopes for a better future and a new life were turned into a nightmare."

The 44-year-old bombing survivor visited Los Angeles in mid-April to assist The Jewish Federation in launching their Jews in Crisis campaign. As Krakovich has dedicated her life to helping others who have endured similar trauma, she often travels to different U.S. cities to share her story and hopeful perspective. In addition, she is a full-time volunteer for the Israel Crisis Management Center (ICMC), a Tel Aviv-based organization that saved her life in 1994.

Krakovich moved to Haifa from her native Ukraine in 1991 with her 9-year-old daughter to start a new life. After learning enough Hebrew to get by, the single mother began teaching English as a second language at a school in Afula.

On April 6, 1994, she was waiting at a bus stop on her way home from school. Suddenly, a passing car made a U-turn and the driver set off a deadly explosion next to her. Krakovich suffered second- and third-degree burns over 70 percent of her body and was not expected to survive.

Krakovich woke up in the hospital surrounded by ICMC volunteers who tended to her needs. Because her language skills were limited, it took her a while to understand what had happened and who her benefactors were.

Meanwhile, the volunteers kept her company, contacted her mother in the Ukraine and cared for her daughter. To everyone’s surprise, she began to recover. But due to the severity of her injuries, Krakovich had to go through rehabilitation therapy and was unable to function as a mother for two years. Volunteers continued to visit her throughout her ordeal. Krakovich has been involved with ICMC ever since.

"I became a volunteer because so much of hearts’ warmth was given to me on top of financial support and technical things that were done for me," Krakovich said. "I felt a need to give something back."

She believes that her experience makes her a special kind of volunteer and noted that victims trust her optimism when they discover that she went through the ordeal herself. "I never tell my own story [to a victim]," Krakovich explained, while recalling her efforts during a Tel Aviv disco bombing. "I just held hands with the children, and they would say, ‘Don’t leave, don’t leave.’"

Most of the victims in the Netanya bombing May 2001 were new immigrants, which helped Israeli society understand the plight of immigrant victims.

Executive Director Ruth Bar-On founded ICMC in 1993. The organization is Israel’s only nationwide volunteer network providing assistance for new immigrants suddenly faced with crisis, terror or tragedy.

The group offers support by visiting victims at home and in the hospital, helping with transportation, assisting with burial costs, providing shelter, paying for certain medical procedures and other emergencies and offering legal and psychological support. Long-term care includes peer counseling, special outings, seminars for grandparents raising orphaned children, youth retreats and summer programs for children in the aftermath of tragedy.

The group has 500 volunteers who have worked on more than 8,000 cases. However, the number does not include extended family members.

"It’s not only the person who was hit directly or the family of the bereaved. It spreads in circles," Krakovich explained. "It’s the family first, then the siblings of the person who was killed, then the siblings and their friends who knew the family, who are not functioning properly because they need some psychological support." Krakovich explained.

While she is Jewish, Krakovich said there are volunteers from other religions and from all walks of life and ages. As a volunteer, Krakovich primarily offers support to victims in hospitals and takes on small tasks for families, such as taking a teenage girl to the doctor or meeting with a child’s teacher when parents or grandparents are unable to do so.

"I don’t pretend to stand instead of their missing parent," Krakovich insisted. "I just give them a hand." Krakovich is unable to accompany emergency teams to the scene of a bombing, because the experience is too much for her. "Every time a homicide-bombing happens, it’s as if it’s happening to me again," she said.

Taking out a photo album, she showed pictures of victims and volunteers. There’s Eliezer N., who is now blind after sustaining injuries in a bombing. Sasha S., a 6-year-old boy, poses with his mother, Olessia. The recent Russian immigrants lost Sasha’s father in the Netanya terrorist attack. Sasha and Olessia were both injured. The list goes on.

Krakovich is quick to point out that recent world events have enabled society to sympathize with victims of terror. "Recently, I find myself able to bring the message of the organization in the context of what’s happening in Israel now," she said. "I met people in L.A. who realize that everything they do from letters to e-mails and telephone calls to the government to rallies and demonstrations — bringing in their voices — it helps.

"I think the rally in Washington had a tremendous effect on the Israeli public, because we see that we’re not alone," she said, adding that Sept. 11 has helped the United States to comprehend the situation.

"ICMC deals with families in crisis, but the point is bringing people back to life," she said, clasping her hands together, which, upon close inspection, revealed skin grafts. "I was led through the hardest period of my life.

"I wouldn’t have been able to do it on my own. Life will never be the same, but you have to go on. To find something new in it is what ICMC is about," she said with a smile, the hope perceptible in her eyes.

Community Briefs


Aid for Terror Victims

A Passover appeal by Rabbi David Wolpe at Sinai Temple raised $700,000 in pledges for organizations in Israel helping victims of terror. The Magbit Foundation, a Persian Jewish charitable organization, will provide matching funds for this drive.

Magbit chairman Parviz Nazarian, a member of Sinai Temple, approached Wolpe with the joint fundraising suggestion. On Thursday, March 28, Wolpe made an appeal to the 1,800 congregants gathered for the first day of Passover. As congregant after congregant stood to pledge support, Magbit treasurer Abraham Simhaee announced that the Foundation, which had agreed to match funds up to a half-million dollars, would step up to whatever level Sinai reached. With 5,000 envelopes taken home by Sinai congregants and thousands more sent out by Magbit, the joint effort expects to raise over $2 million. Representatives from the temple, Magbit and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles will meet soon to decide which organizations serving Israeli victims of terrorism and their families will receive the money. — Mike Levy, Staff Writer

Anti-Semitic Fliers Found in Thousand
Oaks

Residents on two streets in Thousand Oaks found anti-Semitic fliers rolled up on their driveways on Sunday, March 31, according to the Eric Nishimoto, public information officer for the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.

Words on the fliers wished for Jews to have a good Passover and noted that it was time to have another exodus — the exile of the Jews from the United States. An address and Web site for the National Alliance, a West Virginia-based white supremacist organization were listed at the bottom. However, Nishimoto said, “We don’t know if someone from the organization was responsible.”

There have been anti-Semitic fliers distributed before, both at area homes and at Thousand Oaks High School. — Shoshana Lewin, Contributing Writer

Decision Time for Two Area JCCs

The Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles (JCCGLA) may have to put its Silver Lake-Los Feliz JCC property up for sale, and terminate all health and gym services at West Valley JCC, because of a lack of funding, JCCGLA officials said. The decisions for both situations could come as early as next week, effective June 30 and May 1, respectively.

JCCGLA representatives are waiting for a written confirmation from the The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles that it will allocate funds toward both sites, before they make a decision. On April 2, JCCGLA sent a letter to The Federation asking if the organization will assume the expenses of Silver Lake’s early childhood education program, as well as the cost for occupying space in that building. If The Federation does not commit funds to these aims, JCCGLA said that it will need to close Silver Lake after June 30 and list the center among its properties for sale. Silver Lake-Los Feliz will join Bay Cities JCC (Santa Monica) and North Valley JCC, which have already been listed for sale following an April 1 JCCGLA Transition Committee decision. Bay Cities and North Valley are scheduled for closure as of July.

JCCGLA is also awaiting word on whether The Federation will take over operation of West Valley JCC’s health and gym services, which JCCGLA will terminate by May 1 if funding is not provided. JCCGLA spokesman David Novak said that Federation confirmation must come soon, as a window of notification is required to inform employees of lay-offs.

As of April 3, Federation President John Fishel told The Journal that he had not received JCCGLA’s letter (The Federation’s offices were closed through April 4 for Passover).

“We are committed to services in West Valley and Silver Lake, and, to that end, we are talking to the leadership [of both centers] and in consultation with JCCGLA,” Fishel said. “We will work to find a solution to this projected action by the JCCGLA. I don’t think there’s a need for the JCCGLA to take precipitous action. We’re talking to JCCGLA to find a solution to these crisis. We feel that a solution can be and will be found.”

Fishel added that, given the situations in Israel and Argentina (which The Federation is moving rapidly to address), arbitrary deadlines such as those set by JCCGLA are counterproductive.

Novak said that the Westside JCC, which has 60 kids enrolled, and Valley Cities JCC, which has 35 kids enrolled of a maximum 75, are both meeting their fall enrollment quotas, which means that the early childhood education programs at both sites are all but assured for fall 2002.

“The community needs to come forward now and continue supporting fundraising efforts,” Novak said. — Michael Aushenker, Staff Writer

Heroic Actions of the Few


An upcoming television special and a recently formed educational foundation are out to change the stereotype of Jews as passive victims of the Holocaust, by documenting the little-known feats of Jewish partisans who fought behind enemy lines.

“Resistance: Untold Stories of Jewish Partisans” will air on PBS on Thursday, April 4, at 8 p.m.

In the one-hour documentary, 11 surviving partisans stand in for 20,000-30,000 fellow Polish and Russian Jews who harassed and sabotaged the Nazi armies facing Soviet troops, blowing up supply trains, and, whenever possible, rescuing Jews from the ghettos.

While other indigenous partisan groups could concentrate on fighting the Germans, the Jewish partisans had to battle on many fronts. The ghetto elders of the Judenrat frequently tried to discourage the would-be fighters, fearing harsh Nazi reprisals.

Even while hiding out in forests, Shalom Yoran recalls, “You are one fighting all the world. The Nazis, they try to kill you. The Soviets, they hate you. The local population, they hate you.”

Despite such odds, some Jewish partisan groups actually built small towns in the Russian forest, one holding 1,200 men, women and children. Sulia Rubin recalls, “We made ammunition, we fixed the guns, we had little factories, we made cheese, we had bakeries, we had shoemakers.”

Missing, obviously, were film cameras to record the partisan raids, so the PBS documentary has to rely on stock footage of forests and German and Soviet troops to link the fascinating remembrances of the Jewish veterans.

Attempts to take the feats of Jewish resistance beyond the research of Holocaust scholars, and give them wider popular recognition, is apparently an idea whose time has come.

Last November, the NBC miniseries “Uprising” dramatically recreated the Warsaw Ghetto revolt. At about the same time, French director Claude Lanzmann (“Shoah”) completed a film on the breakout of 365 prisoners from the Sobibor death camp.

Mitch Braff of San Francisco has taken the idea one step further after he was startled to learn that an old family friend had been a partisan.

Despite a good Jewish education, the 35-year-old-documentary filmmaker had never heard anything about Jewish partisans and he decided to do something about his own — and the public’s — ignorance.

Braff established the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation. He started tracking down surviving partisans in the United States and Canada and videotaping their recollections in interviews averaging four hours, but some went as long as for nine hours.

Braff hopes to complete 30-40 more interviews and then do a half-hour docudrama on the partisans for classroom and general use. He is now setting up an educational, interactive Web site and trying to raise $1 million for the project.

Through the 1939 Club, a Los Angeles group of Holocaust survivors and their families, Braff has tracked down three local ex-partisans, who have been interviewed by Zepporah Glass, a veteran of Steven Spielberg’s Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation.

Ben Kamm of Studio City escaped from the Warsaw ghetto and joined a small partisan group, which obtained its first weapons by ambushing local police or buying them from peasants. Later, he joined a larger, better-equipped unit, which in 1943 alone destroyed 541 trains and killed hundreds of their German guards.

Jeffrey Gradow of West Los Angeles escaped from a forced labor camp as a 15-year-old and joined a group of some 150 ill-equipped partisans. In late 1943, Russian planes started dropping military hardware with which Gradow and his comrades blew up railroad tracks and local police stations. In a larger operation, the group held a bridge that the Germans wanted to blow up to slow the Soviet advance.

Max Cukier of West Los Angeles turned down a position on the Judenrat after the Germans occupied his small Polish town. Instead, he joined the “Tel Aviv” partisan group of some 300 people, which attacked small towns with Nazi garrisons, planted mines, destroyed bridges and cut phone lines.

Noted Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum praised Braff’s foundation as “a noble effort to reconstruct the history of Jewish resistance while the last of the partisans are still alive to tell their stories.”

Braff’s first priority now is to track down as many partisans as possible.

To contact Braff about his project, call (415) 896-1415,e-mail mitch@jewishpartisans.org, or visit www.jewishpartisans.org .

Indirect Victims


An alarming number of at-risk children are among the Jewish victims of Argentina’s economic collapse.

Even in the most stable families, children have been hit by the fallout from the collapse. For unstable parents, desperate conditions like those in crisis-ridden Argentina only make matters worse — and often it is their children who pay the price.

What money still comes in may go to feed the parents’ vices, rather than their children. That deprivation, along with the social stress of an economic crisis, is leading to a rise in child abuse, according to social service workers in the Jewish community.

With community resources already overstretched, at-risk Jewish children face abuse and neglect from their parents on the one hand and the prospect of being turned over to the state’s Catholic institutions on the other.

That was the message spelled out by Buenos Aires’ municipal justice authority in a letter to Ieladeinu (Hebrew for “Our Children”), an Argentine Jewish organization dedicated to rebuilding dysfunctional families.

The letter urged the organization to increase its capacity because of a marked rise in the number of Jewish children in distress.

In dire straits from Argentina’s economic meltdown, however, Ieladeinu hasn’t even been able to pay staff salaries since November.

“In Argentina, we are living like in a war,” Ieladeinu Director Karina Pincever said.

The “floor is moving,” she said, seeking an analogy to express the instability in the country.

Children are an easy target for frustrated parents.

“The kid is the first thing that they have in front of [them],” Pincever said.

Ieladeinu opened three years ago when Pincever learned of a Jewish boy in one of the state institutions, which she described as deplorable places where older children often sexually abuse younger ones.

Stoned by the other children for being Jewish, the boy was rescued by Pincever and, eventually, reunited with his family.

The experience showed Pincever how sorely children’s services were lacking in the Jewish community.

Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA), the main social service institution in the community, has been providing social workers to families since 1994, when the AMIA building was destroyed in a terrorist bombing.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) began offering volunteer psychological services to Jewish families in 1996. Today, it offers such help in 38 centers across Argentina.

Melina Fiszerman, a JDC staffer in Buenos Aires, confirmed that the economic crisis has put more children at risk, and led to increased domestic violence. But that’s not the only emotional consequence of the crisis, she said.

“Uncertainty for survival brings emotional problems,” Fiszerman said. Many families also are struggling with depression and stressful home environments, as several generations move in together to make ends meet.

However, Jewish leaders in Argentina reject a rumor that hundreds of Jewish children have been dropped off at state-run orphanages by parents who can no longer afford them. The real story, they say, is a growing risk of child abuse.

The community continues to hand out cash assistance and food packages each month to poorer Jews, but that doesn’t solve the problems, according to one Ieladeinu volunteer.

In one case, she said, a third-generation welfare recipient had six children — ranging in age from 6 months to 13 years old — who had been severely neglected.

Six months ago, after a court sentenced each child to a different state institution, Ieladeinu took them in and opened its first foster home for Jewish children.

The organization now works with 70 children who live with their families and has 25 children in foster care who receive room, board, medical care, education, work opportunities and psychological treatment.

As Ieladeinu has grown, the state and the Jewish community have learned to alert it to new cases of abuse. Ieladeinu also has begun an investigation to determine how many Jewish children are suffering in state institutions, in abusive homes or on the street.

To date they have found more than 200 — including the children already in Ieladeinu’s care — but the number is always changing as the crisis continues and as Ieladeinu staff speak with more social workers and institutions.

Just last week, for example, they learned of 30 more children, Pincever said.

“We are working like the Mossad,” she said of Ieladeinu’s intelligence gathering.

But the revelations bring new problems.

Eager to scrimp on expenses, the government is happy to tell Ieladeinu about Jewish children in state-subsidized institutions. But getting those institutions to give up their charges is another matter: Each child in its care brings an institution $400 a month in government subsidies, Pincever said.

Government red tape also slows down the process of moving Jewish children to Ieladeinu’s care.

In any case, Ieladeinu staff know they don’t have the resources to help all the Jewish children in danger.

Learning of the high number of cases last month, Jews in Punta del Este, Uruguay — a vacation spot for wealthy South American Jews — pledged to raise some $750,000 for Ieladeinu.

In addition, Ari Bergmann, a New York businessman from Brazil, said he is starting a campaign to raise $20 million to help victims of the Argentine crisis, much of which will go toward Ieladeinu.

Two weeks ago, Bergmann helped bring Rabbi Avraham Seruya of Argentina’s Syrian community and Rabbi Isaac Saka of its Turkish community to New York, where they raised $1.2 million.

However, Ieladeinu has yet to see the money raised in Uruguay, and says it is not aware of Bergmann’s activities.

Ieladeinu’s president, Chabad Rabbi Zvi Grunblatt, confirmed that Seruya and Saka recently offered their assistance to reach Sephardic donors, but said he hadn’t been informed about the result of the pair’s recent trip to New York.

Ieladeinu is continuing to look for outside funds, something the selfsustaining Argentinian Jewish community hasn’t had to do until recently.

In the meantime, Ieladeinu is making progress, with staffers who continue to work with just the promise of payment.

The adolescents in Ieladeinu’s care arrange flower bouquets for Shabbat every Friday morning, which they sell for a few pesos at the market to the Jewish friends and family of Ieladeinu staff.

For now, Ieladeinu is offering what volunteer Deborah Shayo Hazan called “handmade” solutions for each child. Ultimately, however, “we want to rebuild the family so they can live with the parents again,” Hazan said.

And the six children Ieladeinu took in from the third-generation welfare recipient are enjoying a summer vacation program with Ieladeinu’s other foster charges and other Argentine children, Pincever said.

Their counselors report that the six siblings are playing with the other children and exhibiting no problems.

For those children — kicked out of school six months ago for their poor hygiene — it’s nothing short of “a miracle,” Pincever said.

The Wounded Have Names


Last Saturday night, someone told me 85 people had been killed by a suicide bomber in Haifa. I ran to the computer to check cnn.com, and for an instant was relieved to discover the death toll was in fact 15.

That’s just how awful our world has become.

We are relieved when only 15 innocent people are, in an instant, murdered. The best response we can muster, the only encouraging words we have left to mutter, are, “Thank God it wasn’t more.” That response is no longer sufficient.

Last February, Sharon Evans received news that her daughter had been gravely wounded in a terrorist attack. A Palestinian had driven a car into a group of soldiers waiting at a bus stop, killing eight, wounding 21. Evans’ then 19-year-old daughter Monique Goldwasser was among what most newspapers — The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and, let’s face it, this and other Jewish papers — simply reported as “the wounded.”

Here is what “wounded” means: Monique’s four front teeth were destroyed, and her face was smashed in. She suffered a broken pelvis, two broken legs, a perforated intestine and a ruptured main artery in her left leg. She was unconscious and, when she arrived at the hospital ER, she had stopped breathing. That’s “wounded.”

“The doctors told me she had a 1 percent chance of surviving that first night,” Evans told me on Monday. “But I made a deal with God. If Monique lived, I would spend my time helping the families of children who are no longer with us.”

Goldwasser remained in the hospital for eight months, undergoing six surgeries. Evans, a divorced mother with four children, who lives in Ashkelon, left her job as an export manager and moved into the hospital beside her daughter. The Israeli government’s aid to victims of terror paid for some of the costs associated with Goldwasser ‘s care, but the help was limited.

One day, Neil and Susan Thalheim visited Goldwasser in the hospital. The couple had started an organization, the Israel Emergency Solidarity Fund, to help Israeli victims of terror, offering them not just financial assistance but a comforting presence and a phone number to call whenever they needed anything. “They said, ‘What can we do to help you?'” Evans said. The fund provided Evans with financial assistance and purchased a laptop computer and new clothes for Goldwasser, who had lost 40 pounds following the attack. Victims of terror contacted by The Journal said the fund’s moneys do indeed end up where they’re needed. Geula Herskovitz’s husband, Arye, was shot and killed by terrorists while returning home from work. Three months later, terrorists shot and killed her son Asaf outside the West Bank settlement of Ofra. The fund provided Herskovitz instant monetary relief — no red tape, no delay.

Herskovitz told me by phone that she has been in touch with the fund about sponsoring a small memorial garden in her husband’s memory, and about helping her fortify a vehicle for travel to and from the settlement. I asked her if she felt safe staying in Ofra. “Where should I go? Is it safer in Netanya? In Jerusalem?” Good point.

We in America can’t do a whole lot to stop these murders. Helping the victims and their families is one small but important thing we can do. This Sunday at 9 a.m., the Israel Emergency Solidarity Fund will hold a walk-a-thon to raise money for Israeli victims of terror. The walk will begin at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, at the corner of Pico Boulevard and Roxbury Drive. Sharon Evans has flown in from Israel to speak at the event and to be among those walking. “The Israeli government has to work out a way to protect its citizens,” she told me, “and the rest of the Jews have to work out how we’ll help people who have been hurt.” One way is to show up for the walk, or sponsor someone who can.

Call (310) 772-8170 or log on to www.lawalk4israel.com  to help.

Not in Vain


The sanctuary of B’nai David-Judea Congregation in the Pico-Robertson area was once a spacious movie theater. Last Wednesday, April 25, it was filled to the nosebleed rows with more than 500 junior-high and high-school students from Yeshiva University of Los Angeles Boys and Girls Schools, Maimonides Academy, West Valley Hebrew Day School, Hillel Harkham Academy and Emek Hebrew Academy. Looming large onstage were photos of two teenagers with L.A. connections who were murdered by Palestinian terrorists: 14-year-old Yael Botwin, killed in a 1997 terrorist bombing in Jerusalem, and 19-year-old Yitzhak Weinstock, grandson of Rabbi Simon Dolgin, who for three decades served as spiritual leader of Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills. Weinstock was one of the victims of a 1993 drive-by shooting on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

"We who are fortunate enough to remain alive have an obligation to thank, to wander, to search in our hearts for what meaning there is when young men and women die before their time," Rabbi David Landesman, principal of YULA’s boys’ school, said from the bima.

What distinguished this particular assembly was its organizer and its agenda. YULA 11th-grader Ayelet Fischer organized the remembrance ceremony, and she was not content to let the Yom HaZikaron observance begin and end with this assembly. The 17-year-old has coordinated a campaign to engage students in a petition-signing and letter-writing campaign directed at Attorney General John Ashcroft and to press government officials to take a more active role in apprehending Palestinian terrorists, such as those who murdered Botwin and Weinstock. While the U.S. government, through its Rewards for Justice Program, routinely offers rewards for information leading to the arrest of terrorists who kill Americans abroad, no such incentive has been offered for Palestinian killers.

What makes matters especially heart-wrenching for Weinstock’s family is that Israeli authorities have identified and located the assassins. The hit was ordered by Mohammed Dief, a senior Hamas official and a crony of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, Israeli offiicals determined. (Arafat has ignored repeated requests to turn over Dief and other terrorists to Israel.)

Fischer did not know Weinstock or Botwin personally, but, as she told her young audience at last week’s assembly, the two victims were teenagers "just like you and me, with families who loved them."

On Sept. 4, 1997, Jess Dolgin, son of Rabbi Dolgin, skipped lunch with friends to catch up on work. That’s when he heard a "tremendous explosion" outside his office on Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem, he said.

"It was terrifying," Dolgin recalled. "The sky was dark, the eerie silence, the smell of smoke, the wounded…." Dolgin remembers thinking that "suddenly, for a family somewhere in Israel, that day was no longer just an ordinary day." He later learned that this blast had claimed Botwin.

For Dolgin, the bombing resonated deeply, reminding him of Dec. 1, 1993, when his nephew, Yitzhak Weinstock, and another young man died after being fired upon by Palestinian terrorists while fixing a broken-down car.

It disturbed Fischer that the killers are not listed on the Rewards for Justice Program. "It’s not only an injustice, it’s an insult to the families," she said.

Fischer is not the first in her family to focus on the killing of Weinstock and Botwin. Her father, Rabbi Dov Fischer, is a longtime supporter of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). Fischer’s older sisters, Kineret, 19, and Yael, 20, also have set out to rectify the Rewards for Justice Program’s omission. Now Fischer, with ZOA’s support, is trying to reach her peers. Does the failure of previous attempts discourage her?

"It only makes me more persistent," said Fischer.

Dolgin, who now lives in Los Angeles and heads an Internet company, commended Fischer’s determination. "It’s very important to make children aware, and to make children take some sort of affirmative action," he said. On behalf of his family, Dolgin added, "Anything showing that Yitzhak’s death is not in vain serves a purpose to recognize the tragedy of what goes on in Israel."

Whether or not the terrorists in these two cases are added to the Rewards for Justice Program, Fischer would like to see her Yom HaZikaron campaign continue nationally each year.

"For many kids my age, there’s TV and AOL, and that’s about it," Fischer said. "It’s important to reach teenagers and let them know that you can’t see this and not do something about it. The purpose of the program is to show that you can make a difference."

To contact Attorney General John Ashcroft about this issue, write to John Ashcroft, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. 20530 or fax (202) 305-9687; or write to "Rewards for Justice" spokesman Andy Laine, P.O. Box 96781, Washington, D.C. 20090-6781 or e-mail dssrewards.net.

‘Neighbors’


Responding to widespread debate over Poles’ participation in a 1941 massacre of Jews, Poland’s political and religious leaders are calling on Polish citizens to confront their past.

“We have an obligation to honor the memory of the victims and to establish the truth,” Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek said Tuesday of the massacre in the small town of Jedwabne in northeastern Poland. “We need to confront the darkest facts in our history.”

Buzek and other leaders have pledged to commemorate the victims and urged a thorough investigation of the case.

Debate has raged in Poland since the publication last year of Polish-born American scholar Jan Gross’ book, “Neighbors.” In the book, Gross says that Polish villagers of Jedwabne — not the Nazis — murdered some 1,600 of their Jewish neighbors in July 1941 by herding them into a barn and setting it on fire.

The revelations in the book, which is due out soon in English, have sparked a reexamination of the Poles’ role during the Holocaust.

Some 3 million Polish Jews died in the genocide. A similar number of non-Jewish Poles were killed by the Nazis.

There have been numerous conferences, articles in the media and heated round-table discussions. A documentary on the case will be released next week.

An investigation launched last year by the Polish National Remembrance Institute has not yet been completed.

“There is no doubt that Poles participated in the crime,” Buzek said. “But the murder was done neither in the name of the nation nor in the name of the Polish state.”

“We object to the use of the Jedwabne case to spread false statements about the Polish co-responsibility for the Holocaust or on innate Polish anti-Semitism,” Buzek said. Nor, he added, “should all inhabitants of Jedwabne of today be reproached for a murder committed 60 years ago.”

Most of Jedwabne’s current 2,000 residents settled there after the war. Townspeople this week prepared an open letter that condemned the wartime atrocity but also said today’s residents should not bear the blame.

“You have to realize that asking the town to make peace with its past is tantamount to desecrating its deepest beliefs of patriotism and Catholicism,” Jedwabne’s mayor, Krzysztof Godlewski, told Reuters. “And this is difficult, especially since our town was probably not an isolated incident.”

President Aleksander Kwasniewski last week pledged to apologize publicly for the massacre.

“This should be done by the authorities of the Polish Republic,” he told Polish television. “The anniversary” of the massacre “on 10 July is a good day, and Jedwabne, because of the tragedy that took place there, is a proper place for that,” Kwasniewski said.

In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Yediot Achronot, which was quoted in the Polish media, Kwasniewski called the Jedwabne case “an act of genocide which Poles from Jedwabne carried out against their Jewish neighbors,” adding that it was “an exceptionally bestial killing of innocent people.”

Kwasniewski, however, drew fire in the media for announcing the apology before a full investigation of the case was completed.

Poland’s leading Roman Catholic cardinal, Josef Glemp, called for a thorough investigation of “the causes of such barbaric and hateful attitudes of Poles toward Jews.”

He said that, after receiving a letter from Warsaw Rabbi Michael Schudrich, he would eagerly participate in “common prayers of Poles and Jews, either in front of the Ghetto Heroes’ Monument, in one of the churches or in the synagogue” to mourn the victims on the 60th anniversary of the massacre this summer.

At the same time, however, he also said he awaited the publication of Gross’s book in English “with anxiety, because the truth thereby revealed to Americans is expected to unleash Jewry’s sharp attacks on Poles.”

When Violence Hits Home


The Jewish community in the West Valley and surrounding areas was rocked Feb. 5 by the murder of William and Bertha Lasky, former members of Temple Solael. The elderly couple died in their West Hills home from cuts and stab wounds, victims of an unknown intruder.

According to Detective David Lambkin of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), firefighters responded to a call from a monitored fire alarm system in the house and found the bodies in the master bedroom and several areas of the house set ablaze. The time of the couple’s death and other details of the crime have not been released, and autopsy results have been sealed pending further investigation. Lambkin said that police have established that Bertha went shopping on Sunday and that family members had been in contact with her in the early afternoon.

Lambkin said the motive for the killings is still unknown.

“We have no evidence at this point that it was a follow-home [murder],” the detective said. “They didn’t drive a Lexus or Mercedes like you expect to find in a follow-home, but we have not ruled it out. Right now, without any witnesses we’re processing the forensic evidence and following up on anyone connected with the family who might be able to identify a suspect.”

The Lasky family declined to speak to The Journal, but sources at Temple Solael confirmed the couple had been early members of the congregation. According to reports in the Los Angeles Times and Daily News, William, 76, a retired cable company executive, and Bertha, 73, a docent at the Getty Center Museum, were longtime residents of the area and had just returned from a cruise.

Although the Laskys’ murder was unusual for their quiet West Valley neighborhood, more than 7,000 people were victims of violent crime in the Valley just in the past year, according to the LAPD. Counseling victims of violent crime is crucial to recovery, said Sally Weber, director of Jewish community programs for Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFS).

“Research shows that people who participate in crisis counseling within the first six months of a trauma fare much better than people who don’t,” Weber said.

Weber said a number of JFS staff workers have been trained to do crisis intervention for both natural disasters and human-generated trauma and have handled cases from the shootings at the North Valley Jewish Community Centers to bank robbery victims. Counselors meet with victims as well as families and co-workers in order to help them process their reactions and return to a normal degree of function.

“There are a very normal set of reactions to trauma that, while people are experiencing them, can make you feel pretty crazy,” Weber said. “Common reactions include a profound sense that the world is completely out of control and that there is nothing you can do to protect yourself or your loved ones; flashbacks, which can be very intense, and a fear of being out in similar places or exposed to similar dangers. It can also affect relationships with family members and friends who did not experience the crime. People are often very supportive in the beginning, but then they don’t understand why [the victim’s reaction] is going on so long. That’s why outside help is so important.”

Weber said counseling is especially critical for crime victims who have experienced other crimes in the past, for example survivors of the Holocaust.

“The problem with trauma is it rips the scab off previous traumas,” she said.

In addition to the JFS, Weber said she often refers crime victims to Compassionate Friends, a support group for the families of those who have lost a child, or the Victim-Witness Assistance Program, a division of the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office that provides comprehensive services to victims and witnesses of crime, including counseling referrals and help for victims to collect court-ordered restitution from perpetrators.

For many Jewish families, who tend to live in more affluent areas of the Valley, crimes like the Lasky murder are so rare that safety is taken for granted. Lambkin warns that this can be a serious mistake.

“It’s unfortunate, but at this point we’re telling people to be cautious of any strange vehicles or persons in neighborhood,” Lambkin said. “Do not open the door for anyone unless you know who they are. Also, be aware of who is around you when you are out and about. I know it’s hard in this day and age because people are so preoccupied or talking on their cell phones, but you really need to be observant.”

Police are asking anyone with information about the murder of William and Bertha Lasky to contact Detective David Lambkin or Detective Tim Marcia at (213) 485-2921.

If you or anyone you know has been the victim of crime and needs help, please contact one of the following agencies:

Jewish Family Services (323) 761-8800

Victim-Witness Assistance Program of the L.A. City Attorney (213) 485-6976

Compassionate Friends (877) 969-0010

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