Calendar: October 23-29, 2015
SAT | OCT 24
This off-Broadway production tells the true story of Simon Wiesenthal, the Holocaust survivor nicknamed the “Jewish James Bond.” An Austrian writer and Nazi hunter, Wiesenthal devoted his life to bringing more than 1,100 Nazi war criminals to justice. This play, written by and starring veteran actor Tom Dugan, highlights Wiesenthal’s intelligence, humor and even his flaws. 8 p.m. $40-$50. Through Nov. 8. Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 246-3800. SUN | OCT 25
TOUR DE SUMMER CAMPS
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ community cycling event raises money to send more kids to Jewish summer camps. Cyclists of any level can choose between an 18-mile, 36-mile, 62-mile (Metric Century) or 100-mile (Century) ride. All proceeds support summer camp scholarships to help kids build a lifelong connection to Judaism and Jewish identity. Must be 16 years or older to ride. 7 a.m. (Metric Century and Century), 9 a.m. (18-mile and 36-mile). $45. Camp Alonim at American Jewish University, Brandeis-Bardin Campus, 1101 Pepper Tree Lane, Simi Valley. (323) 761-8013. ” target=”_blank”>sinaitemple.org.
TUE | OCT 27
MODERN ISRAELI COOKING WITH MICHAEL SOLOMONOV
James Beard Award winner Michael Solomonov, who is also co-owner and executive chef of Zahav in Philadelphia, will discuss modern Israeli food and provide samples of foods featured in his latest book, “Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking.” His recipes reflect personal, historical and cultural influences, with flavors from Israel, the Middle East, North Africa, the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe. There will be a book-signing following the program. 8 p.m. $15 (general); $12 (members and full-time students). Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. WED | OCT 28
ISRAEL FILM FESTIVAL OPENING-NIGHT GALA
The 2015 Israel Film Festival (IFF) will kick off with this opening-night gala, honoring Academy Award-winning actress Helen Mirren with the IFF Career Achievement Award, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin with the IFF Achievement in Film & Television Award and Sharon Nazarian with the IFF Humanitarian Award. The opening-night film is “Baba Joon,” Israel’s entry to the 2016 Academy Awards and winner of the Israel Academy Ophir Award for best picture. “Baba Joon” is the story of familial conflict among three generations of Iranian Jewish men: Yitzhak runs the turkey farm that his father had passed down to him, but once he tries to pass it on to his son, he faces resistance from the next generation. 7:30 p.m. $75. Steve Tisch Cinema Center at the Saban Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 247-1800. ” target=”_blank”>jerusalembiennale.org.
THUR | OCT 29
MEGA CHALLAH BAKE
Join in a meaningful act that binds women to 2,000 years of Jewish history. After a dessert buffet, participants will make two braided loaves of challah from scratchwhile taking part in a challah meditation guided by live music. Hosted by the Chabad Jewish Centers of the Conejo Valley, it is open to all women and girls older than 14 from any affiliation, as well as non-affiliated women. 6 p.m. (registration and dessert reception), 7 p.m. (program.) $25. Hyatt Westlake Plaza, 880 S. Westlake Blvd., Westlake Village. (805) 380-5111.
Fall preview calendar: 2015
SUN | SEPT 20
“THE SOUND OF MUSIC”
One of the world’s most beloved musicals launches its North American tour at the Ahmanson Theatre. Directed by three-time Tony Award winner Jack O’Brien, this extravagant new production of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s classic love story of the escape from the Nazis by an Austrian family of singers comes at the perfect time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the film version (the most successful movie musical in history). With songs such as “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi,” “Edelweiss” and “The Sound of Music,” the audience will once again get to rejoice in this classic. 1 p.m. Tickets start at $40. Through Oct. 31. Ahmanson Theatre at the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 628-2772. SAT | OCT 3
AN EVENING WITH RANDY NEWMAN
Winner of six Grammys, three Emmys and two Academy Awards, singer-songwriter Randy Newman is an American treasure. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His distinctive voice and wide range of musical styles are loved by many generations of audiences. Since the 1980s, he has worked mostly as a film composer for such movies as “Ragtime,” “Awakenings,” “Meet the Parents” and several Disney-Pixar films. 8 p.m. $49-$119; UCLA faculty and staff $25. Royce Hall at UCLA, 340 Royce Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 825-4401. THURS | OCT 8
“MANZANAR: THE WARTIME PHOTOGRPAHS OF ANSEL ADAMS”
This exhibition features 50 of Ansel Adams’ photographs of the Japanese-American relocation camp in Manzanar, Calif., during World War II. The works are from his book “Born Free and Equal,” published in 1944. The book protests what Adams calls “enforced exodus,” the inhumane treatment of American citizens. These photographs provide insight into a disheartening period in American history. The Skirball exhibition also will feature historical documents, publications and works from other artists to provide further insight into the life and conditions at Manzanar. Continuing through Feb. 21. Included with museum admission. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. WED | OCT 14
REMEMBERING FRIEDL DICKER-BRANDEIS
Linney Wix will present her research from interviews she conducted with 11 Holocaust survivors who studied art with Frederika “Friedl” Dicker-Brandeis at the Terezin concentration camp between 1942 and 1944. Dicker-Brandeis was a Bauhaus-educated artist and teacher who was murdered by the Nazis in the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp. Wix will share excerpts from the interviews, highlighting the memories and life lessons the students learned from their teacher. Wix is a professor of art education at the University of New Mexico and has been investigating the art and pedagogy of Dicker-Brandeis since 2000. In 2011, she guest-curated the exhibition “Through a Narrow Window: Friedl Dicker-Brandeis and her Terezin Students” and wrote a book by the same title. The event is co-sponsored by the Dortort Center for Creativity in the Arts at UCLA Hillel; UCLA Center for Jewish Studies; the Department of Marital and Family Therapy at Loyola Marymount University; and the Visual and Performing Arts Education Program (VAPAE) in the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture. 7 p.m. Free. Refreshments will be provided. Hillel at UCLA, 574 Hilgard Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 208-3081. SUN | OCT 18
World-renowned and critically acclaimed pianist, conductor, pedagogue and lecturer Andras Schiff performs at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Schiff has been playing piano since the age of 5, and after recently finishing “The Bach Project,” he is now preparing for “Final Sonatas,” a series of three recitals comprising the final three sonatas of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert, which will take place over the next two seasons, including a performance in Los Angeles. Schiff has also acted as a political activist, speaking out against racial injustice and persecution. He is an honorary member of the Beethoven House in Bonn, has received the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Gold Medal and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II at her 2014 Birthday Honours. 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $26.50. Also performing Oct. 22, Oct. 23 and Oct. 24. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 850-2000. FRI | OCT 23
This off-Broadway production tells the true story of Simon Wiesenthal, the Holocaust survivor nicknamed the “Jewish James Bond.” Wiesenthal was an Austrian writer and Nazi hunter who devoted his life to bringing more than 1,100 Nazi war criminals to justice. This riveting play highlights Wiesenthal’s intelligence, humor, flaws and, ultimately, his heroism. In 1947, Wiesenthal co-founded the Jewish Historical Documentation Center in Linz, Austria, and in 1961, he opened the Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna. The play is written by and stars Tom Dugan, an American theater, film and television actor who has appeared in nearly 50 films and television shows in the past two decades. 8 p.m. $40. Through Nov. 8. Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 246-3800. SAT | NOV 7
COLBURN CHAMBER MUSIC SOCIETY WITH GARY HOFFMAN
Gary Hoffman combines his incredible instrumental talent with the beauty of sound and poetic feeling to deliver a distinct and memorable performance. The Canadian-born, Paris-based cellist is considered one of the greatest cellists of our time and has performed with symphony and chamber orchestras around the world. He now devotes much of his time to teaching the next generation. 8 p.m. $25-$35. Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 246-3800. TUES | NOV 10
Pulitzer-, Tony- and Academy Award-winning playwright John Patrick Shanley tells the story of Rosemary and Anthony, neighbors since childhood who eventually fall in love. A fence and family feuds keeps them apart as Rosemary admires Anthony from afar for many years, but in the end, love conquers all in this Irish countryside setting. On Broadway, the play was the recipient of the 2013 Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award. Directed at the Geffen by Randall Arney. 8 p.m. $32-$60. Through Dec. 20. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 208-5454. SAT | NOV 14
PETER NERO: GERSHWIN IN HOLLYWOOD
Two-time Grammy-winning pianist Peter Nero celebrates 50 years of recording by honoring the music of the late, great composer-pianist George Gershwin. Nero is among the best Gershwin interpreters, first discovered by his performance of Gershwin’s famous “Rhapsody in Blue” on “Paul Whiteman’s TV Special.” After that, he appeared on many of the top variety and talk shows, including “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” and 11 guest appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Nero is also the founding music director of the world-renowned Peter Nero and the Philly Pops. The program for this event features two parts, “Broadway” and “Hollywood,” which cover all of Gershwin’s greatest hits. 8 p.m. $30-$75. Valley Performing Arts Center at CSUN, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge. (818) 677-3000.
Jerusalem Museum of Tolerance wins Knesset approval to build
After years of delays due to legal challenges and fundraising setbacks, the Simon Wiesenthal Center received permission on July 12 from the Israeli Ministry of the Interior’s District Planning and Construction Committee to begin construction on the Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem. The ministry gave a green light to a revised design for the building, saying that because the building’s footprint would remain the same as an earlier plan, a new review process would not be necessary.
The new design, by Chyutin Architects, a local Israeli firm, replaces a previous plan by Los Angeles superstar Frank O. Gehry, who pulled out of the process when funding shortfalls forced the Wiesenthal Center to request a scaled-back version.
For years, Palestinian leaders had fought to halt the project, claiming that the site on which it is to be built is an ancient Muslim burial ground.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, the Wiesenthal Center’s founder and dean, welcomed the decision, which he said will allow for construction to begin immediately.
“We have the full blessing and endorsement of the government of Israel, and the prime minister of Israel and the mayor of Jerusalem,” Hier said.
Groundbreaking for the museum officially kicked off in 2004, but construction was halted in 2006 when Arab leaders in Israel sued to stop work after bones were unearthed during excavation at the site. In 2008, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the Simon Wiesenthal Center could build on the site.
“The Supreme Court reviewed the Palestinian claims for three years and ruled unanimously that, for more than half a century, Muslims no longer considered that site to be part of the cemetery,” Hier said.
With the global economic downturn, the project was then reformulated. What had been a $250 million building designed by Gehry was reconceived as a $100 million project.
The question answered at the Knesset on July 12 was a technical one about the building’s footprint, according to Hier. The permit allows the Wiesenthal Center to build without restarting the planning process. “We are building on the same three-and-a-half acres,” Hier said.
Hier said that the center has raised $45 million, which will allow construction to begin by September. He said the building will take three years to complete.
Family history informs justice, guilt in ‘Wiesenthal’
He was often called “the Jewish James Bond” and “the Conscience of the Holocaust” for his activities in the pursuit of Nazis. It was a mission to which the late Simon Wiesenthal dedicated some 58 years of his life, after having been a prisoner in several concentration camps during World War II. The iconic figure lives again in the one-man show “Nazi Hunter — Simon Wiesenthal,” starring and written by Tom Dugan. The production is now running at Theatre 40, a professional theater company located on the campus of Beverly Hills High School.
The play is set in April 2003, on the day of Wiesenthal’s reluctant retirement and the closing of his office at the Jewish Documentation Center in Austria, where he remained after the war, despite the fact that, as he states, the Austrians were responsible for the slaughter of at least half of the 6 million Jews exterminated by the Nazis.
“If you want to find a cure for malaria,” Wiesenthal says in the play, “you must live among the mosquitoes.”
Wiesenthal is addressing the last group of students he will entertain at his office, lecturing them about his work, his experiences, his philosophy, and the Nazis. He is emphatic that one can’t condemn a whole people for the evil actions of some, and he tells his listeners that former camp prisoners testified on behalf of Nazi officers who had not committed atrocities and had shown some sympathy for the inmates. He says that one guard saved his life in a camp, and he invited that man to his daughter’s wedding. He also insists that, in hunting Nazis, he is not out for revenge but wants the perpetrators of Nazi atrocities brought to justice.
For purposes of the performance, the audience members become the students, and the character on stage regularly interacts with them. He also takes them back in time, reliving events from his past.
During a recent interview, Dugan, who is Irish-Catholic, explained how the idea for this project was born. “I’ve always been interested in World War II and particularly in the Holocaust, because of my father’s place in history. His infantry unit liberated the Langenstein camp, a sub-camp of Buchenwald, and I specifically remember one time when I was a child of about 7 years old. I had watched some World War II movie, and I was feeling the shrapnel that he still had under his skin. I said to him, ‘You know, Dad, you must really hate Germans.’ And he said to me, ‘Are you crazy? Half of my family is German.’ ”
Dugan continued, “My father said, ‘I don’t judge people by the group to which they belong; I judge them by their actions.’ As a 7-year-old, that took me a while to digest. “It was that rejection of collective guilt that drew me to Wiesenthal’s story. And when I heard that he had passed away, I read his obituary; I read his books; and then I read books about him. I thought this would be an appropriate story for me to tell, not only because of my father’s connection to it, but, because, years later, I married a Jewish woman, and I have two beautiful Jewish boys, ages 8 and 9.”
Dugan remembered wartime memories his father shared.
“The stories that he told me over the years were appropriate for the age that I was. But the main themes, especially when I was young, were very powerful. He talked about the cowardice of the SS officers once their guns were taken away.”
That cowardice is highlighted at certain points in the play. In one section, Wiesenthal talks about being at the War Crimes office, saying that, just as he had trembled before the SS men, they were now trembling before the Americans. At another moment, Wiesenthal tells his listeners that he takes his greatest pleasure not from apprehending Nazis, but from one Nazi threatening another by saying, “I will tell Simon Wiesenthal where you are.”
To add some leavening to such a dark subject, Dugan includes a dose of Wiesenthal’s engaging humor. “I don’t think I could have told this story if Wiesenthal himself did not have a fabulous sense of humor,” the actor said. “When he was a young man, he actually did amateur stand-up comedy. So, I thought, ‘What an opportunity to tell such an important story, share the words of wisdom from such a man and have the challenge of making it entertaining as well.’
“The most important thing, for all the shows I do, is that I really have to feel like I’m sharing something important with each and every audience, giving a message that is positive and uplifting. I always tell the students that come to see my shows that they’re meant to be entertaining and, if you’re not careful, you might learn something.”
According to Dugan, Wiesenthal wanted the public to learn how banal evil can be. In the play, the Nazi hunter describes his reaction when he attended the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Israel. He says that, as the defendant entered the courtroom, he appeared as harmless and innocuous as a bookkeeper.
“It took me a while to get my brain around the banality of evil,” Dugan said. “How can there be a man so evil that he isn’t obviously a sociopath or a sadist? There’s also the realization that just blind obedience to authority can create the Holocaust.
“The theme that struck me the hardest, going back to when I was 7 and my father talked to me about his experiences, was his contention that anyone is capable of committing evil acts, in the right circumstances, with the right desperation … anyone. And I said, ‘Not us, Dad, right? Not you, not me, not Mommy.’ And he just said, ‘Anyone is capable.’ It frightened me, but it’s true,” Dugan said.
“I say in the play that the savage in all of us lurks underneath this wafer-thin veil of civilization,” Dugan concluded. “He will always be a part of us. All we can do is contain him. That’s what I want audiences to take away with them, that we’re all part of this history. This is not distant from us; this is our story.”
“Nazi Hunter – Simon Wiesenthal,” Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. through June 21. $25.00; students and members of the 4A’s half price on standby at the door. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills High School Campus (off Little Santa Monica Blvd.). Free indoor parking. Reservations: (310) 364-3606.
Soulful ‘Hatikvah’ Ends Wiesenthal Farewell
It was an unscripted, final moment that may have best captured the Monday memorial at the Museum of Tolerance for Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, who died last week at age 96.
The ceremony had been held outside. As long lines of mourners waited amidst rows of folded chairs to return into the museum, an elderly, white-haired man began singing Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah,” in a loud, lone voice. A ripple of applause followed after Gedalia Arditti, a 77-year-old Greek Jew, belted out the song’s last word — “Yer-u-shal-a-yim!”
Then, Arditti yelled out: “I was there! And I walked those four miles — from the train to Mauthausen!”
He knew that it was for him and for the millions who didn’t survive that Wiesenthal had labored all his life.
The event drew more than 500, including politicians, diplomats, Holocaust survivors and their adult children. L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa delivered a short appreciation.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s associate dean, paused several times while introducing the evening’s speakers. A co-worker said it was a combination of emotion combined with very little sleep. Cooper had traveled to mourn Wiesenthal in Austria and attend his burial in Israel. And the center’s senior leadership was coping with the loss of not just its namesake, but a world figure.
“It’s a difficult evening,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, the center founder and dean, during the main eulogy. He said that Holocaust survivors “walked a little taller,” knowing that Wiesenthal was hunting their tormentors.
Hier also had a frenetic week, responding to media inquiries from around the world and attending the premiere of his new documentary, “Never Again,” which disturbingly chronicles the rise of anti-Semitism around the world. The special early screening at the Directors Guild in West Hollywood occurred the day that word came of Wiesenthal’s death. The museum staff, too, had scrambled, putting together an exhibit on Wiesenthal’s life. (See article about exhibit on Page 64.)
“I see that there is a great stirring in heaven,” Hier said at the memorial, “as the souls of the millions murdered during the Nazi Holocaust get ready to welcome Shimon ben Asher who stood up for their honor and never let the world ever forget them.”
The memorial attracted Argentine, Belgian, Croatian, Israeli, Spanish and Turkish diplomats. Austrian Consul General Martin Weiss said the Vienna-based Nazi hunter had been a longtime role model to young Austrians.
“They don’t need many heroes, they just have to pick their heroes wisely, and Simon Wiesenthal was one of them,” Weiss said.
A Buddhist peace group from Japan created the large floral arrangements for the memorial event stage. Seven boys from Yeshiva University High School carried in a Torah scroll named in the Nazi hunter’s honor. The ceremony ended with the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer of mourning, and ended again in the hopeful notes of the survivor’s song. — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer
Valley Cities JCC Makes New Death-Defying Escape
Like Houdini, the Valley Cities Jewish Community Center — ever on the verge of a permanent shutdown — has made another death-defying escape.
For the past four years, executives at the JCC have fought without pause to prevent the center’s closure and sale by its debt-ridden parent, the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles. A couple months back, Valley Cities’ fortunes took a sharp turn for the better, when a buyer/savior stepped forward to purchase/save the property. That deal fell apart for undisclosed reasons.
Now, an anonymous donor has agreed to obtain the property from the center’s parent group for an estimated $2.7 million, insiders said. The benefactor has promised to help underwrite the costs of renovating Valley Cities.
Details of this latest effort were not immediately available. The earlier deal, like the present one, called for the renovation of Valley Cities, along with the possible relocation to the center’s property of an unnamed Jewish group.
At the time of the failed original deal, several developers had expressed interest in building senior housing on the property adjacent to the JCC.
The latest Valley Cities deal is in escrow and is expected to close soon, board President Michael Brezner told The Journal. He declined to release specific details.
Relieved center supporters have formed new committees for fundraising, programming and planning, he said. The hiring of a program director is also under consideration.
“I am excited about our rebirth in the community and more excited for the people of the community,” Brezner said. The donor “has secured our future for another 50 years.” — Marc Ballon, Senior Writer
Terror Alert System
As the High Holidays approach, Jewish leaders in Los Angeles and New York are streamlining their security communications through the Secure Community Network (SCN), a new alert system tying 55 major Jewish organizations to local police and federal agencies.
“We’re the first community to take measures like this,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, vice chairman of the Council of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. “We’re a unique community in this regard, because we’re a prime target.”
SCN uses e-mails, pagers, cellphones and home and office numbers to alert community leaders to potential terrorist threats. Alerts also can deal with rumor control regarding false threats. The information comes through SCN’s liaisons with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the New York City Police Department — and, soon, the Los Angeles Police Department.
When leaders of 55 major Jewish organizations are alerted by SCN, each group decides how quickly it will pass on the alert to its members. Individual synagogues, day schools and Jewish community centers are not designated as primary contacts for SCN alerts, which currently go only to major Jewish organizations.
“That’s a problem,” said Stephen Hoffman, SCN board co-chair and a former United Jewish Communities president. Because of these limitations, “we’ve encouraging local communities to get their own security going,” Hoffman said during a conference call last week with reporters.
SCN’s leadership includes former FBI Assistant Director Steven Pomerantz, a security consultant who last week met with The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. Local security concerns and security measures have increased due to the arrests in Torrance of two robbery suspects with alleged ties to prison-based Islamic gangs. Their targets included two Pico-Robertson synagogues and the Israeli consulate, according to sources.
The alphabet soup of groups backing SCN include UJC, the Anti-Defamation League, both AJCs (American Jewish Committee and American Jewish Congress) and the three major denominational groups — the Orthodox Union, Union for Reform Judaism and United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. Each pays a $200 annual fee toward SCN’s $500,000 yearly budget, which Hoffman said comes largely from private donations. — DF
Israeli Official Lauds Gaza Pullout Benefits in L.A. Visit
Top Israeli officials got an uncharacteristically warm reception at the United Nations this month, following Israel’s pullout from Gaza. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon then returned to Israel, while Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom visited Los Angeles for two days to meet with Jewish and government leaders here.
Following a meeting with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Israel Consul General Ehud Danoch, Shalom briefed a receptive audience of more than 100 invited guests on the immediate aftermath of the Gaza disengagement.
“There is a real change in the attitude of the world to the State of Israel, and we see it even in our relations with Arab neighbors,” Shalom said during the event last week at The Jewish Federation headquarters. Shalom described this change as the beginning of “the dropping of the iron curtain between Israel and the Arab world.”
He cited diplomatic breakthroughs with Pakistan and Tunisia as an immediate expression of this new attitude. “What needs to be done in these days is to strengthen the moderates and weaken the extremists,” he said.
Syria and Iran, however, still remain a dangerous threat, Shalom said, expressing concern over Iran’s potential to become a nuclear power: “Israel can’t live with the idea that this tyranny will have the nuclear bomb.”
Despite limited, yet hopeful Arab-Israeli diplomatic progress, Shalom also pointed to some “worrying” developments in Gaza, in particular the increased strength of Hamas, a terrorist organization, and ongoing arms smuggling.
“When we ended the withdrawal, we hoped the Palestinians would take the lead,” he said. Overall, though, the withdrawal presents “a glimmer of hope.”
Shalom concluded his talk to The Federation by announcing that Schwarzenegger has approved the opening of a California economic interests office in Israel. Approximately 20 other states already have such ventures.
During his visit, Shalom also met with community business leaders and with state officials to encourage investment in Israel and to strengthen California-Israel ties.
In addition, the governor and Shalom agreed to establish a joint committee to explore cooperation in the fields of high tech, agriculture, solar energy, the environment, biotechnology and homeland security. — Orit Arfa, Contributing Writer
Chabad Telethon Raises Record $6.2 Million
The 25th annual Chabad Telethon raised $6.2 million during its nine-hour run last week. As expected, the Sunday event was marked by young Orthodox rabbis and rabbinical students dancing as if in a spiritual mosh pit, while the tote board numbers rose.
“Some of them had so much energy they came out every five minutes,” said Rabbi Chaim Cunin, West Coast Chabad spokesman and son of its leader, Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin. “It was an incredible evening, an incredible outpouring of love and support from people all over the country.”
The telethon was broadcast live on the Internet and on four TV stations in San Francisco, New York, Las Vegas and on the Asian community-driven KSCI in Los Angeles. In the first hour of the telethon, radio talk show host and Jewish moralist Dennis Prager commented that “Chabad helps everybody, so I guess everybody can help Chabad.”
Eight hours later as the telethon wound down, the still-standing Prager donned a rebbe’s black hat, while playing the accordion. Other prominent faces who appeared included L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, L.A. City Councilman Jack Weiss, attorney Marshall Grossman, actors Louis Gossett Jr. and Leonard Nimoy, Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and The Moshav Band. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared in a taped greeting.
The telethon included 25th anniversary reflections and old TV footage of the May 1980 fire that destroyed Chabad’s West Coast house in Westwood and killed three people.
“That’s how the telethon was born,” the film’s narrator said.
The $6,216,193 raised eclipsed the just-under $6 million raised at last year’s telethon. The money will go to Chabad’s 200 community centers, schools and addiction-treatment centers and also to hurricane relief. — DF
Nation & World Briefs
Israel Reacts After Gaza Attacks
Just weeks after Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, fighting with the Palestinians resumed with sound and fury — and, some feared, the potential to evolve into a full-blown border war. Israeli forces answered Hamas rocket salvoes from Gaza with airstrikes, arrest sweeps in the West Bank and, in an unprecedented move, by putting its artillery on standby to fire.
On Sunday, Hamas announced that it would stop its rocket salvoes against the Jewish state — but the declaration was quickly followed by more Palestinian rocket and mortar fire into Israel.
At the same time, Islamic Jihad vowed to avenge the death of Mohammed Khalil, commander of its military wing in the Gaza Strip, who was killed in an Israeli air strike Sunday night. His deputy was killed as well, and four other people were wounded.
The escalation began with a terrorism-sparked tragedy: At least 15 people were killed last Friday when a munitions truck taking part in a Hamas victory parade in Gaza exploded, apparently by accident.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, embarrassed by the chaotic display of arms banned under the U.S.-led “road map” peace plan, condemned Hamas as irresponsible.
But with its prestige on the line just months before a January election for the Palestinian Parliament, Hamas put its own interpretation on the blast, calling it an Israeli airstrike or sabotage. Vowing to “open the gates of hell” on Israel, Hamas launched at least 35 Kassam rockets across the Gaza border at the southern Israeli town of Sderot. At least five Israelis were wounded in the strikes.
Wiesenthal Buried in Israel
Dignitaries from the United States, Israel and Austria joined hundreds of mourners in laying legendary Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal to rest in Herzliya last Friday. Wiesenthal, 96, died Sept. 20 in his sleep at his home in Vienna. No Israeli Cabinet ministers attended the funeral, but Deputy Minister Michael Melchior represented the government and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon issued a statement: “The State of Israel, the Jewish people and all humanity owe a great debt to Simon Wiesenthal, who dedicated his life to ensuring that the horrors of the past do not recur and that murderers do not escape justice.”
U.S. Jew Arrested in Alleged Sharon Plot
An American Jew was arrested in Israel on suspicion that he planned to assassinate Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Police said they planned to deport Shen’or Zalman Hatzkolevitch, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man from Brooklyn. It would mark the first time a Jew is deported from Israel for security violations.
Iran One Step Closer to Sanctions
The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog is one step closer to referring Iran to the U.N. Security Council for sanctions. A resolution passed last weekend by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board requires Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, end construction of a heavy-water treatment plant and allow increased inspection of its nuclear facilities. Israel and the United States, believing Iran may be less than two years away from manufacturing a nuclear bomb, had been pressing the IAEA to pass such a resolution. Iran may face sanctions as early as November when the IAEA board next meets. The resolution was pushed through by European nations, which had been on the fence until this summer. It passed 22-1 with 12 abstentions; Venezuela voted against it.
Joint Peace Rallies Held
Thousands of Israelis and Palestinians held rallies calling for a return to peace talks and an end to violence. In an address first delivered Saturday in Ramallah and then broadcast in Jerusalem, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas extended greetings to the Israeli peace camp, saying that the crowds at both rallies were fighting for the same goal of peace and an end to suffering. Some 10,000 people attended the Ramallah rally and 7,000 assembled in Jerusalem. The rally in Jerusalem was characterized by the strong presence of young people and members of the Russian-speaking community.
Withdrawal Aid Off the Table
Israel’s request for additional assistance from the United States to resettle evacuees from the Gaza Strip pullout is off the table for now, a senior Israeli official said.
President Bush had expressed interest in assisting Israel following the withdrawal, but “with one disaster after another, the momentum we had before the disengagement” has been lost, Yossi Bachar, the director general of Israel’s Finance Ministry, said Sunday.
He cited the massive costs the United States faces this hurricane season. In light of the hurricanes it is appropriate for Israel not to raise the matter, Bachar said, and he could not say when it would come up again.
Israel wanted $600 million from the United States in compensation for moving its army bases out of Gaza and an undetermined amount estimated in some reports to be $1.6 billion to absorb evacuated settlers into Israel’s Galilee and Negev regions. Bachar is in Washington with the governor of the Bank of Israel, Stanley Fischer, to attend International Monetary Fund meetings. Bachar, who met with his Russian, Jordanian, Egyptian, Dutch and Chinese counterparts over the weekend, as well as with board members from major investment banks, said interest in investment in Israel was high in the wake of the withdrawal.
French Dictionary Recalled
A French dictionary was recalled after a computer virus caused the publication to revert to an edition with anti-Semitic definitions. Earlier this week, MRAP, a French anti-racism association, charged that the 2005 edition of Le Petit Littre had reverted to an 1874 edition that contained racist and anti-Semitic definitions. A computer bug caused the 19th century edition to be sent to the printer by mistake. The publisher said the 2006 edition will be published with a foreword explaining the evolution of these terms since the 19th century.
Rita Damages Synagogue Containing Rescued Torahs
A Louisiana synagogue that was housing Torahs recovered from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina was damaged by Hurricane Rita. The Torahs being kept at Beth Shalom Synagogue were not harmed, but water overwhelmed the synagogue’s rooftop drainage system, leaving an inch in the sanctuary, along with fallen tiles from the ceiling and hanging electrical wires, the Advocate News in Baton Rouge reported.
Jewish Woman Dies, 2nd Hurt in Hurricane Evacuation
A Houston Jewish woman died when a bus evacuating residents of an assisted-living community ahead of Hurricane Rita caught fire. Bessie Kaplan, 92, was among more than 20 people killed when a bus chartered by Brighton Gardens of Bellaire burst into flames as it was transporting them to Dallas. Another passenger, Ruby Goldberg, was treated for injuries at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital and released. Authorities believe a mechanical failure caused the fire.
Israel Aid Escapes Cut in GOP Committee Proposal
Funding for Israel would remain untouched in cuts proposed by Republicans in the wake of recent hurricanes. Funding for Egypt, Africa, the AIDS initiative and the Peace Corps would take hits under a Republican Study Committee document obtained by JTA. Israel is the single largest recipient of U.S. aid, receiving more than $2.5 billion a year, but is not on the list for cuts. The report is a proposal that House Republican leaders may bring to the floor.
Jewish Court to Rule on Ritual Circumcision Method
The city of New York agreed to allow a Jewish court to handle the case of a ritual circumcision practice that may have caused an infant’s death. Metzitzah b’peh, a circumcision method used only in some ultra-Orthodox communities, involves the mohel placing his mouth directly on the wound.
Rabbi Yitzchok Fisher’s use of metzitzah b’peh allegedly led to the death of a baby who contracted herpes. Fisher has agreed to suspend the practice while the beit din (Jewish court) studies the issue, the New York Jewish Week reported.
The city’s decision reportedly came after ultra-Orthodox rabbis persuaded Mayor Michael Bloomberg that the rabbinical court is the best place to resolve the issue.
Mourning for Gaza, New Orleans
The Orthodox Union has called on its rabbis to declare this Saturday, Oct. 1, a day of mourning for both the Gaza evacuation and the hurricanes that devastated New Orleans. It asks that each shul institute a ta’anit dibur — literally a “speech fast” or a period free of conversation, in commemoration of recent events.
“We ask all those attending shul that Shabbat morning to refrain from conversation while inside the sanctuary,” — including speeches or even conversation between pauses in the praying, according to a press release. Even traditional greetings of “Good Shabbos” or “Yasher koach” (good job), the OU says, “should be replaced with a handshake, a smile or both.”
The recent hurricane destruction in New Orleans and the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, which resulted in the razing of Israeli villages and synagogues, both transpired because of a loss of Torah and holiness in the world, and these events require a day of mourning, according to the OU, which is the main body representing Orthodox Judaism in the United States.
The OU interpretation is at odds with both the position of the Israeli government and that of many Jews and Jewish organizations in the United States. A majority in the American Jewish community supported the pullout. Other Jews and Jewish organizations combined neutrality with general support for the Israeli government.
The call for communal mourning has historical resonance. Throughout Jewish history, rabbis and leaders have called upon their communities to participate in speech fasts and food fasts in response to devastating world events or in preparation for repentance. — Amy Klein, Religion Editor
New Beer for New Year
North America’s only Jewish beer company has brewed a special beer for Rosh Hashanah. He’Brew’s Jewbelation 5766 is a nut-brown ale made from nine malts and hops to mark the company’s ninth anniversary, He’Brew owner Jeremy Cowan said.
More information is available at www.schmaltz.com.
Chabad to Dedicate Torah at Pentagon Chapel
The Lubavitch movement is dedicating a Torah at the Pentagon to mark the Sept. 11 terrorist attack there. The Torah will be installed Monday in a chapel built precisely where a hijacked plane hit on Sept. 11, 2001. The Aleph Institute, a Chabad affiliate that reaches out to prisoners and troops, is dedicating the Torah in coordination with the Pentagon chaplain’s office.
House Approves Funding for Faith-Based Head Start
The House of Representatives extended funding for Head Start programs to religious institutions, legislation opposed by some Jewish groups. The Reform movement strongly condemned last week’s vote, saying it would lower standards by allowing institutions to use federal funds to hire early-childhood teachers based on religion, not qualifications.
U.S. Imposed Arms Embargo, Ex-Shin Bet Chief Says
The United States imposed a limited arms embargo on Israel in the first year of the intifada, a former Israeli intelligence official said. Avi Dichter, former chief of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, said the embargo was imposed on helicopter parts, because of their use in Israel’s targeted killing of terrorist leaders, but that U.S. officials resisted calls for a wider arms embargo. The United States opposed targeted killings at the time.
Dichter was speaking at the Saban Institute in Washington, where he now is a fellow. The embargo ended after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and the United States used helicopter-launched missiles to assassinate an Al Qaeda terrorist leader in Yemen in 2002. President Bush later said he could not keep Israel from carrying out an anti-terror strategy that he himself favored.
Jewish School Chief Testifies on Hurricane Aid Assistance
The president of a Memphis Jewish school was invited to testify before a Senate committee considering compensation for schools absorbing Hurricane Katrina refugees. Michael Stein, president of Margolin Hebrew Academy, was to testify before the Senate Health and Education Committee on the needs of parochial schools that take in displaced children.
“Our school adopted a policy of ‘doing whatever it takes,’ even though there was no way of knowing the cost and where the money would come from,” Stein said in prepared remarks distributed by the Orthodox Union before his testimony last week. “During the week of Aug. 28, our school enrolled 24 students ranging in age from 3 years to 17, increasing our school’s current population by 10 percent.”
The Orthodox Union wants the government to compensate parochial schools. Some Democrats oppose such funding, saying it violates church-state separation.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Nazi Hunter Wiesenthal Dies at 96
Simon Wiesenthal, a Holocaust-survivor-turned-Nazi hunter who always spoke of justice, not vengeance, is dead at 96.
Wiesenthal died in his sleep at his home in Vienna, his office announced Tuesday. Working with a small staff from his cramped three-room office, Wiesenthal sifted through tens of thousands of documents and followed countless leads, compiling archives that helped bring some 1,100 Nazi criminals to justice.
“Simon Wiesenthal was the conscience of the Holocaust,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. The center, named for Wiesenthal, came to embody the thrust of his work as a Jewish human rights organization dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust by fostering tolerance and understanding.
Officials at the center pledged this week to continue Wiesenthal’s work and also to maintain his legacy. Hier said he last spoke with Wiesenthal only two weeks ago. An exhibit on the Nazi hunter’s life has been set up at the center’s sister organization, the Museum of Tolerance, where a memorial service also is planned for next week.
Wiesenthal “was a hero who carried the torch of justice at a time when there was a paralysis of conscience over responsibility for the Holocaust,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League and himself a Holocaust survivor. “No Nazi war criminal, big or small, was able to rest peacefully because he never knew when Wiesenthal’s voice of moral outrage would find him…. He brought a measure of justice to the 6 million victims of the Nazi genocide,” Foxman said.
Wiesenthal devoted more than half a century to tracking escaped Nazi war criminals. He and his wife lost 89 members of their families in the Holocaust.
“When the Holocaust ended in 1945 and the whole world went home to forget, he alone remained behind to remember,” Hier said. “He became the permanent representative of the victims, determined to bring the perpetrators of the history’s greatest crime to justice. There was no press conference and no president or prime minister or world leader announced his appointment. He just took the job. It was a job no one else wanted.”
“Justice Not Vengeance,” which was the title of Wiesenthal’s autobiography, became his motto and guiding principle for a commitment he considered unending.
“Survival is a privilege which entails obligations,” he wrote in the 1990 autobiography. “I am forever asking myself what I can do for those who have not survived. The answer I have found for myself (and which need not necessarily be the answer for every survivor) is: I want to be their mouthpiece, I want to keep their memory alive, to make sure the dead live on in that memory.”
Wiesenthal was best known, perhaps, for his role in tracking down Adolf Eichmann, the Gestapo technocrat who had supervised the implementation of the “Final Solution.” Wiesenthal helped trace Eichmann to Argentina, where he was abducted by Israeli agents in 1960. Eichmann was tried in Israel in 1961, convicted of war crimes and hanged for his role in the slaughter of 6 million Jews.
Though Wiesenthal had begun gathering and preparing evidence on Nazi atrocities for the War Crimes Section of the U.S. Army immediately after World War II, it was the success in bringing Eichmann to justice that prompted him to open his Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna and devote his life to hunting war criminals.
Among other high-profile fugitives he helped find were Karl Silberbauer, the Gestapo officer who arrested Anne Frank, and Franz Stangl, the commandant of the Treblinka and Sobibor concentration camps in Poland, whom Wiesenthal helped locate in Brazil.
Over the decades he also spoke out loudly against neo-Nazism and racism.
“The only value of nearly five decades of my work is a warning to the murderers of tomorrow that they will never rest,” he said in 1994. His prominent public stand sparked death threats and hate mail. In 1982, neo-Nazis left a bomb on his doorstep.
Although he maintained his office and staff in Vienna, Wiesenthal recently created something of a stir when he said that his work hunting Nazis was over. That’s not the position of the Wiesenthal Center, which Simon Wiesenthal did not direct. The center is still aiding international efforts to track down any last Nazi-era war criminals who could still be brought to justice. This month, a Spanish police unit was searching for one of the most-wanted figures still at large. A Spanish national police spokesman said new evidence points to the possibility that Aribert Heim, 91, may be living undercover somewhere near the Mediterranean coastal city of Alicante.
The Wiesenthal Center ranks Heim as the No. 2 most wanted Nazi war criminal, after Alois Brunner, an aide to Eichmann. During World War II, Heim murdered hundreds of people, largely via lethal injection, at the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria.
But there’s no question that the job of tracking down living Nazi war criminals is timing out.
“I found the mass murderers I was looking for, and I have outlived all of them,” Wiesenthal said. “If there’s a few I didn’t look for, they are now too old and fragile to stand trial. My work is done,” he told an Austrian magazine.
Leaders around Los Angeles and world this week said that Wiesenthal’s work would have lasting, universal impact well beyond its value to Jews around the world.
“He never restricted the genocide numbers to 6 million and he always insisted that people remember that Jews were not the only ones who were exterminated,” said Rabbi Harold Schulweis of Valley Beth Shalom, who himself has worked to highlight Christians who rescued Jews in the Holocaust. Wiesenthal “felt it was important that people were accountable, that you simply don’t escape into the air and conceal your crimes and your obscenities.”
Though Wiesenthal’s zeal for justice was unflagging, Schulweis said, “he was not a man of vindictiveness. He was not vindictive.”
Schulweis said he had the honor of meeting Wiesenthal twice. In person, the man projected humility. He was “certainly not the Jewish Sherlock Holmes. There was something very modest. He was not concerned with solving any crimes to show how bright he was, but so that the killers of a dream should be brought to justice.”
California’s Austrian-born Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said that he and his wife “are deeply saddened at the passing of our great friend. Simon was a lion of a man, a survivor and a conqueror, a hero in every sense of the word. Simon turned the tables on the Nazi torturers and tormentors. Though he often seemed alone in its pursuit, he did not falter and he never wavered from his goal…. I will always be grateful that I knew one of the greatest men of our time.”
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II knighted Wiesenthal last year, one in a long series of international honors testifying to the power and importance of his often uphill and once solitary battle.
“The extraordinary thing about Simon Wiesenthal is how little help he had, and how few resources, just a long memory and tremendous determination,” said John Macgregor, Britain’s ambassador to Austria, on the occasion of the knighthood.
Announcing the award, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw praised Wiesenthal’s “untiring service to the Jewish communities in the U.K. and elsewhere by helping to right at least some of the awful wrongs of the Holocaust.”
“If there is one name which symbolizes this vital coming to terms with the past it is Simon Wiesenthal’s,” Straw said.
Lord Greville Janner, chairman of Britain’s Holocaust Educational Trust, said at the time that “no one in this world deserves it more than he.”
Wiesenthal was born on New Year’s Eve, 1908, in the town of Buczacz, now in Ukraine. He became an architect, married Cyla Mueller in 1936 and worked in an architectural office in Lvov.
After suffering under anti-Jewish purges following the nonaggression pact signed between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany in 1939, both Wiesenthal and his wife were separated during the war and each barely survived the Holocaust before reuniting. They remained a devoted couple until Cyla Wiesenthal’s death in November 2003. Indeed, part of Simon Wiesenthal’s life story was a love story.
“Everyone who knew them at 17 had no doubt that the tall, dark Simon Wiesenthal and small, fair Cyla Mueller — so obviously besotted with each other — would one day marry,” Alison Leslie Gold wrote in “Fiet’s Vase and Other Stories of Survival: Europe 1939-1945,” which was published in 2003.
In 1941, invading Germans forced the Wiesenthals and other Jews into a ghetto, Gold wrote. “In fall of 1941, they were abruptly separated — without time for a real parting — and forced onto separate trucks, he with men, she with women.”
Early in 1942, the Nazi hierarchy formally decided on the “Final Solution,” the regime’s decision to exterminate all Jews. Throughout occupied Europe the genocide machine was put into operation. In August 1942, Wiesenthal’s mother was sent to the Belzec death camp. By September, most of his and his wife’s relatives were dead.
The Wiesenthals were deported to a newly built concentration camp — Janwska, then later transferred to a forced-labor camp in the same city. Wiesenthal realized that the Germans were targeting women and children, so he made plans to get his wife out. In exchange for maps and plans needed to blow up railroad yards and junctions, Gold said, Wiesenthal was able to obtain forged papers for Cyla, who was given a new identity as a Polish woman. She moved to Lublin and later to Warsaw.
She lived under the name Irena Kowalska in Warsaw for two years and later worked in Germany’s Rhineland region as a forced laborer without her true identity being discovered. Her blond hair helped her pass as a non-Jewish Pole.
The British liberated her from a labor camp in Solingen, Germany, in April 1945.
Wiesenthal escaped from the Ostbahn camp in October 1943, just before the Germans began liquidating all the inmates. In June 1944, he was recaptured and sent back to Janwska where he would almost certainly have been killed had the German eastern front not collapsed under the advancing Red Army. Knowing they would be sent into combat if they had no prisoners to justify their rear-echelon assignment, the SS guards at Janwska decided to keep the few remaining inmates alive. With 34 prisoners out of an original 149,000, the 200 guards joined the general retreat westward, picking up the entire population of the village of Chelmiec along the way to adjust the prisoner-guard ratio.
Few of the prisoners survived the westward trek through Plaszow, Gross-Rosen and Buchenwald, which ended at Mauthausen in upper Austria. Weighing less than 100 pounds and lying helplessly in a barracks where the stench was so strong that even hardboiled SS guards would not enter, Wiesenthal was barely alive when Mauthausen was liberated by an American armored unit on May 5, 1945.
By then, Simon and Cyla each had been told by friends that the other was dead.
“I had no hope my wife was alive,” Wiesenthal told Gold. “When I thought of her, I thought of her body lying under a heap of rubble and I wondered whether they had found the bodies and buried her.”
It was at that point that Wiesenthal began gathering information about Nazi war crimes. Through a series of coincidences, the couple was reunited in Linz, Austria. Both called the reunion a miracle.
The Wiesenthals settled in Vienna and had a daughter, Pauline, in 1946.
Wiesenthal’s Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna was a nondescript, sparsely furnished three-room office with a staff of four, including Wiesenthal. Contrary to popular belief and to some dramatic films based loosely on his life, Wiesenthal did not usually track down Nazi fugitives himself. His chief task was gathering and analyzing information. In that work he was aided by a vast, informal, international network of friends, colleagues and sympathizers, including German World War II veterans, appalled by the horrors they’d witnessed. He even received tips from former Nazis with grudges against other former Nazis. A special branch of his Vienna office documents the activities of right-wing groups, neo-Nazis and similar organizations.
Wiesenthal was never a man who looked only at the past. He always perceived his mission as larger than helping Jews and the victims of yesterday.
“For your benefit, learn from our tragedy,” he said. “It is not a written law that the next victims must be Jews. It can also be other people. We saw it begin in Germany with Jews, but people from more than 20 other nations were also murdered. When I started this work, I said to myself, ‘I will look for the murderers of all the victims, not only the Jewish victims. I will fight for justice.'”
He once told the Jerusalem Post: “The only value of nearly five decades of my work is a warning to the murderers of tomorrow, that they will never rest.”
Correspondent David Finnigan, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and the Wiesenthal Center contributed to this article.