Homeless in Koreatown

You can’t knock on a tent, so I had to yell. I wanted to meet the people inside the blue tent and hear their story. I had seen several sidewalk tents on my way to the Jewish Journal offices in Koreatown, and the rain storm had made me especially curious about how the homeless were faring.

I told the man who answered that I worked at a newspaper and wanted to hear his story. The man, Gary Ellison, age 42, from Chicago, was lean and balding with brownish skin and strong features. His eyes were warm and friendly. He was definitely happy to see me.

Gary tried as best he could to untangle the entrance flaps to the tent. As I crouched awkwardly to enter, he put an old grey jacket on a sitting area so I’d be more comfortable. Behind another flap was a dark-haired woman sitting cross-legged on the ground, hugging a blanket. Her name was Cierra Bartholomew, age 23, also from Chicago. Cierra had large brown eyes, olive skin and a gentle demeanor. She had laid out Christmas lights on a little rug in front of her, which created an amber glow inside the tent. Behind her was her boyfriend, Rick Rock, who was sleeping.

The sound of rain falling became like background music to our conversation.

Gary was eager to talk. He was raised by his mother in Lemont, a suburb of Chicago. He didn’t know his Dad, meeting him for the first time when he was 12. “He never respected me as his son,” Gary said. The same was true for his younger brother, who only met the Dad when he was on his deathbed.

But Gary’s mother loved him dearly. He still speaks with her whenever he can. He pulled out a few old pictures of her and proudly showed them to me.

Gary is good with his hands. In his 20s, he made a decent living working on barges at Illinois Marine Towing, before a bar fight put his life on hold. A knife stabbing had severed his main artery and he underwent open heart surgery that incapacitated him for over a year.

He moved to Las Vegas in his 30s and worked as a mechanic. One night, at a 7-11, he met Karlina, a single mother of two. They fell in love and got married.

He made enough money to get an apartment and support his new wife and her kids. But he says “she ran around” on him. “I would wake up in the middle of the night and she was gone,” he said. “She broke my heart.”

With his heart broken, he left Vegas for Los Angeles about three years ago. Unable to find work, he entered a homeless shelter in Costa Mesa but had to leave because he says people would steal his things. “There’s bad stuff going on in shelters,” he told me. “I prefer the streets.”

But not all streets are created equal. Before moving to Koreatown about three months ago, he had pitched his tent at MacArthur Park, which he says wasn’t very safe. Thankfully, though, MacCarthur Park is where he met his future best friend, Cierra.

“We’re both from Chicago,” he said. “We understand each other.”

They consider their new location on New Hampshire Ave in Koreatown a blessing. “The Korean Consulate is right there,” Cierra said. “That keeps us safe.”

As far as the police goes, “If we respect them, they respect us,” she said. In fact, officers have come by occasionally to give them information about shelters and other places that might help them find more permanent housing.

For now, they’re banking on their old tent to protect them from the rain and the elements. It does a decent enough job. I got a little wet, but that’s because I was close to the entrance. Cierra, who was inside and bundled up, seemed reasonably cozy.

I asked them if they had any plans for the future. Cierra said she’d love to open a “dispensary” where she can lawfully sell medical marijuana. Gary would love to do carpentry or any other handy work. He dreams of building a house. He told me he has a Facebook page that he hopes will help him make connections so he can get back on his feet.

Cierra is reluctant to get into a shelter because she doesn’t want to be separated from Rick and Gary. Apparently, the three have built a strong friendship.

Before I left, Gary sang me a song he wrote, called “Homeless Man.” It’s about a homeless man looking for work, who's always dressed in a suit and tie.

Pro-Palestinian protest in Westwood draws thousands, causes Wilshire to shut down

[UPDATE – Aug. 4] Law enforcement made one arrest in connection with “sexual battery,” according to LAPD-West L.A. Division Officer Hornback. No further details were available.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Department estimated 1,500 people turned out to the event.

[Aug. 2] On Saturday afternoon, thousands demonstrated on behalf of the Palestinians outside the Wilshire Federal Building.

“It’s almost not even a political conflict anymore, it’s a humanitarian conflict. If you’re a human you should care about this. You should come out, you should stand in solidarity,” 25-year-old UC Riverside graduate student Gus Hussein, who wore a kafia around his body on Saturday, told the Journal. Hussein was among those who participated in a pro-Palestinian protest that marched more than three miles, from the Wilshire Federal Building to the nearby Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles headquarters, and back again. “When genocide is being committed, when children are being killed, when civilian lives are lost, this is a humanitarian issue.”

He was also one of many who voiced his or her opposition to the Israelis on Saturday.

“Let the children of the Palestinians live like children of the rest of the world. Why do they have to pay the price for somebody like Netanyahu and the American administration who is supporting Israeli 100-percent,” Rick Ajjawi, 55, a Palestinian who was born in Lebanon and who works as an engineer in Los Angeles, said in an interview, waving a Palestinian flag as he marched on Wilshire boulevard.

They were not alone in these feelings. Everywhere one looked on Saturday afternoon were people denouncing Israel. Signs read, “Zionists, Get out of Gaza Now!” and “Israel is Mass Murdering Children.”

A few in attendance disagreed with the protestors' sentiments. Israel activist Steve Goldberg, who recently lost his bid for the presidency of the Zionist Organization of America, found trouble when he showed up at today’s rally with an Israeli flag, which angered many of the pro-Palestinian protestors. A shouting match between him and several others ensued.

The rally, which was organized by ANSWER Los Angeles, underscored Angelenos’ passion about events in Gaza, where an offensive by Israel, Operation Protective Edge, has led to more than 1,700 Palestinian civilian and 64 Israeli soldier deaths.

The event was one of several rallies that have taken place locally since July 8, when Israel launched its military engagement into Gaza, but it was also one of the most dramatic.

Around 3 p.m., two hours after the protest began and after the police closed down Wilshire boulevard, a mass of Palestinian flag-waving demonstrators marched underneath the 405-freeway underpass at Sepulveda boulevard, their chants echoing against the cement walls of the freeway underpass.

Police also closed down a nearby freeway off-ramp. “I’m not too upset…that’s like some stuff you see in the movies,” Drew Padderson, who was among the drivers affected by the closure and who exited his vehicle to watch the sea of protestors marching westbound on Wilshire toward the Israeli consulate, said. 

Pro-Israel demonstrators gathered in smaller numbers outside the Wilshire Federal Building, the lower turnout due to the fact that it was Shabbat perhaps. They, also, walked from the Federal Building to the consulate.

Pro-Israel demonstrator Kathrin Magen told the Journal that her issue is with Hamas, the governing party in Gaza, not with the Palestinians.

“We have no problems with the Palestinians. It’s the terror organizations [like Hamas that we don't like],” she said. “The existence of Israel is very important. It is the only democracy in the Middle East and a very strong ally to the U.S.”

Protestors began dispersing around 5 p.m.

Bet Tzedek conflict over employees’ health insurance

The chant coming from Bet Tzedek Legal Services employees and their supporters as they marched on the streets of Koreatown on Aug. 22 was unified: “All day, all night, health care is a human right.”

For the past several months, the employees have been fighting with the pro bono legal firm’s management over proposed increases to the cost of their employer-sponsored health care, and they have been hitting the streets to make themselves heard. 

“We’re here to tell Bet Tzedek that we can go forward, even during difficult [economic] times, without destroying [workers’ health care],” said Marc Bender, a litigation and training supervisor, while leading a picket line on Aug. 22. The demonstration took place outside of the office building at 3250 Wilshire Blvd., where Bet Tzedek’s offices are located. Employees also demonstrated Sept. 11 in the same location. They marched and carried picket signs that read: “Don’t Bleed Our Health Care,” “Protect Our Families” and “Si, Se Puede!” (“Yes, We Can!”). 

Bet Tzedek (“House of Justice”) provides services to the poor and underserved in Los Angeles. Lawyers, legal secretaries, paralegals and clerical workers, who make up its 51 non-managerial employees, are unionized members of Bet Tzedek Legal Services Union/American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 946. 

The two sides began disagreeing over health insurance costs in the spring, several months after employees’ previous contract expired on Dec. 31, 2012. Management and employees have agreed to extend the terms of the previous contract while they negotiate, said Elissa Barrett, vice president and general counsel at the nonprofit. 

Bet Tzedek employees expressed satisfaction with the existing amount they have to pay toward their health care premiums. Currently, employees are fully covered as individals, and are required to pay $20 monthly for a spouse or $30 monthly for a family, if they choose HMO coverage. Juana Mijares, an intake supervisor, earns $49,000 annually  and said coverage for her family of five could cost her $650 monthly under a proposal she said the company is making. 

Barrett declined to specify the details of management’s proposals. “That’s a subject of negotiation,” she said. 

Increases to staff members’ contributions to their health care are necessary for the financial health of the organization, according to Barrett. Health care costs have been increasing over the past several years, leaving Bet Tzedek no choice but to pass a greater portion of the costs of insurance on to to its employees

“Our staff works very hard, they do a fantastic job, we value them greatly, [but] if we did not believe it was necessary for the survival and sustainability of this organization to tackle this health care issue, we wouldn’t be bringing it this strongly to the negotiating table,” she said.

The midweek August protest took place after work hours. Approximately 35 people marched at Wilshire Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue. Among them was L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz.

The ongoing disagreement between employees and management has attracted the attention of leaders in the local social justice moment. Those who turned out last month included Leslie Gersicoff, executive director of Jewish Labor Committee Western Region, and Rabbi Jonathan Klein, executive director of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice.

Meanwhile, Barrett told the Journal that the employees’ side has “refused to engage, refused to negotiate,” despite Bet Tzedek management offering three different proposals regarding employees’ health care premiums.

“I remain stubbornly hopeful that we will be able to get down to business at the bargaining table and see if there is a solution that we can all live with,” she said.

Slavin Library collection dispersal benefits many

The 10,000 books, games, CDs and DVDs that once lined the walls of the Slavin Children’s Library at 6505 Wilshire Blvd. are on track to once more be made available to the public later this month.

Four institutions — American Jewish University (AJU), Chabad of Santa Monica, the Jewish Learning Exchange and the Tashbar Torat Hayim Hebrew Academy — have been given the bulk of the collection, with AJU receiving more than any other site. 

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, which has had oversight of the now-shuttered library, will allocate any remaining items through a lottery to local Jewish groups that agree to make the collection open to the public.

The four groups that have received collections already satisfied the Federation’s criteria: Each already has a librarian and each plans to offer programming around the books and make the collection available to the public. 

According to Jonathan Jacoby, Federation’s senior vice president of Programs for Jewish Life, “The entire collection will be made available through various institutions,” with the exception of some outdated materials.

On March 14, Federation announced that it would close the Slavin Library, located in the lobby of Federation’s Wilshire Boulevard building, to make room for an extended space of the popular Zimmer Children’s Museum, which is also in the lobby. The new space, which has been empty since the library closed on May 19, will be called the Slavin’s Children’s Center when it reopens. Construction is set to begin on June 10.

In a March interview with the Jewish Journal, Zimmer CEO Esther Netter said that the new space will allow the museum “to offer additional classes, additional school field trips, parents and educator programming, [and] performances.”

AJU has been given between 2,000 and 3,000 books for the collection of its Sperber Jewish Community Library on its Mulholland Drive campus. 

Robert Wexler, AJU’s president, said that after he found out about the Slavin’s imminent closing, he contacted Federation and expressed interest in obtaining some of the collection to become part of a children’s section at Sperber. He added that each book AJU will receive was selected on the basis of its likelihood of being valuable to future patrons and its potential usefulness for Jewish children’s teachers and teachers in training.

“The collection will continue to expand annually,” Wexler said. “We have endowment funds available for future purchases of children’s books as well as appropriate audio-visual material and educational games.”

Merav Goldman, Federation’s vice president for Management & Administration in the EJF Strategic Initiative, said Federation will give the remaining portions of the collection in coming weeks to Jewish institutions that can make them accessible to the public.

“I’m hopeful that we’ll see in uptick in programming around Jewish books now that we’ve spread the wealth, so to speak, throughout the community,” Goldman said.

Bet Tzedek moves east

Ever since Bet Tzedek’s inception in 1974, the free legal-services firm has mostly been housed in the heavily Jewish Fairfax district, with additional offices in the San Fernando Valley and the Mid-Wilshire area. In August, it consolidated all three into a single headquarters in Koreatown and will officially celebrate the move this week.

There are many advantages to this change, according to Bet Tzedek officials. 

Its new, larger space at Wilshire Boulevard and Vermont Avenue will better serve the organization’s clients, said David Bubis, vice president for development at Bet Tzedek. In the past, when clients arrived with more than one legal problem, they often had to visit multiple Bet Tzedek sites. Now they can receive all the services in one place, which also allows Bet Tzedek to work more collaboratively.

The offices include intake offices, staff offices, a multipurpose room and a calling center. At the previous location, some employees worked out of closets. Bubis said the new larger space accommodates not just Bet Tzedek’s 70 staff members, but also the flood of attorneys, paralegals and students who volunteer at the organization. 

“It really is much more professional. It looks like a law firm now, which is the way it should look,” he said.

The move makes sense in terms of clients’ demographics, as well. When Bet Tzedek was founded in the 1970s, it exclusively served the elderly Jewish community, for which Fairfax was a hub. Now Bet Tzedek serves Jews and non-Jews.

The move came out of necessity. Bet Tzedek could not afford to enter into a new lease at its former site: The neighborhood’s rent has risen as Fairfax became trendier, Bubis said. Bet Tzedek has signed a 10-year lease for the new location, which includes the entire 13th floor as well as three-quarters of the 14th floor of a 22-story office building at 3250 Wilshire Blvd. 

David Wilstein, a leader in the Jewish community, owns the building, and was instrumental in convincing Bet Tzedek to make the move. 

The organization has come a long way since its founding, when a group of 18 friends came together to start it, each pledging $5 per month to pay for a storefront office on Fairfax Avenue.

“We’re all very happy in the new offices,” Bubis said.

Drawing 1,400, peaceful L.A. pro-Israel rally turns ugly near its end [VIDEO]

With an Israeli flag wrapped around him, Rabbi Dov Elkins stood with a crowd outside the Federal building in West Los Angeles on Sunday to participate in a pro-Israel rally.

“We’re here to support Israel,” Elkins, 75, said, joined by his wife, Maxine. Residents of Princeton, N.J., the couple were in L.A. visiting their children and grandchildren; they had attended Shabbat services at the Pico-Robertson shul the Happy Minyan on Saturday, and when the rabbi announced that a pro-Israel event would be taking place the next day, they decided to attend. 

“We wouldn’t be anywhere else,” Maxine Elkins, 65, said, adding, “I’m a Jew, and this is the least American Jews can do — to come here and support Israel.”

As many as 1,400 demonstrators turned up on the afternoon of Nov. 18 to support Israel, according to police on the scene.  They came in the wake of the recent violence between Israel and Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. For approximately one week, Israel has responded to ongoing, indiscriminate Palestinian rocket fire with targeted air strikes aimed at killing Hamas military leaders and destroying weapons caches.

Story continues after the jump.

Video by Jay Firestone

The demonstration was organized by the pro-Israel organizations Stand With Us, the Israeli-Leadership Council (ILC) and the Zionist Organization of America-Western Region (ZOA). Jews of all denominations came out for the rally, staged outside the Westwood Federal Building at the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Veteran Avenue, including Americans, Israelis and Jews of Iranian heritage.

About 100 pro-Palestinian supporters held a counter-demonstration across the street, on the north side of Wilshire Boulevard.

For the most part, the three-hour event was peaceful, but during the final hour, the situation became heated when a fight reportedly broke out between a pro-Palestinian protestor and pro-Israel protestor. Police officers from the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department and California Highway Patrol officials were on scene.

In response, pro-Israel supporters charged over to the Palestinian side of the street. Police officers stepped in to bring the Israel protestors back to their side.

Demonstrators waved Israeli and American flags along with signs with slogans such as: “Israel Deserves Security;” “Hamas is the Enemy of Peace;” “Gaza Children Deserve Education Not Military Training” and more.

Community leaders supporting Israel included Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine and Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel, a 2013 mayoral candidate. Also present were Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple, Rabbi Shlomo Cunin, West Coast director of Chabad-Lubavitch, Rabbi Stewart Vogel of Temple Aliyah, Rabbi Avi Taff of Valley Beth Shalom, Rabbi Jason Weiner, a chaplain at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Rabbi Morley Feinstein of University Synagogue.

“We are here to protest the necessity of peace, the danger of those who would seek to destroy us and our determination to live both in strength and with justice and with peace,” Wolpe said.

Am Yisrael Chai,” he added.

Other speakers included Israeli actress Noa Tishby, ILC chairman Shawn Evenhaim, Roz Rothstein, CEO of Stand With Us and Orit Arfa, executive director of the ZOA-West.

Sam Yebri, president of 30 Years After, a nonprofit that organizes Iranian-American Jews in political, civic and Jewish life, was among a group of Iranian-American Jews in attendance. In addition, the Israeli Scouts of Los Angeles, a youth group from the San Fernando Valley, brought 47 teens.

All ages attended to show support for Israel. Chloe Bismuth, a 20-year-old UCLA student who said she travels to Israel every year, showed up with her knuckles painted to spell out “Israel” and tiny Israeli flags painted onto her cheeks. Israel is a “country all of us as Jews should rely on,” she said, “all of us who believe in democracy.”

Pinhas Avgani, 63, Israeli and a Woodland Hills resident, was among the dozens who gathered on the sidewalk at the southwest corner of Wilshire-and-Veteran to chant and wave flags, standing as close to the street as police officers would allow.

“When [Palestinians] put weapons down, there will be peace. If Israelis are going to put their weapon down, Israel will disappear,” Avgani said.

Naz Farahdel, a 24-year-old Iranian American Jew and a law clerk at the city attorney’s office, turned out with two friends, also Iranian American Jews.

The pro-Israel side aimed for a broad celebration of Israel. Upbeat Israeli music played loudly; people came together for Israeli dancing, and the crowd sang the Hatikva.

Until the pro-Israel charge across the street, the pro-Israel side stayed on the southwest and southeast corners of Wilshire-and-Veteran.  A line of hundreds of demonstrators began at the southwest corner of the intersection, extending eastward, halfway down the block toward Sepulveda Boulevard. People led Israel chants, speaking into bullhorns. Passing cars honked horns and waved Israeli flags out of the windows. Meanwhile, LAPD helicopters circled overhead.

On the Palestinian side demonstrators carried signs expressing support for Palestinians and also denouncing Israel and the United States: “Resist Zionism and Imperialism;” “Let Gaza Live: Free Palestine” and “Stop U.S. Aid to Israel.”  One banner read: “It’s not a war. In Palestine, it’s genocide.”

When the pro-Israeli group crossed the street after the disruption began, Rothstein called the Israel protestors back to their side. Soon, nine California Highway Patrol and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department vehicles parked in a line in the center of Wilshire. Police officers stationed themselves on foot at all four corners of the intersection, keeping the crowds to the sidewalk. Officers stood by the parked vehicles.

Chants turned ugly. When the Palestinian side chanted, “Free, free Palestine,” a man on the Israel side yelled back, “Bomb, bomb Palestine.”

Angering many on the Israel side, a pro-Palestinian demonstrator tied an Israel flag to his leg and let it drag in the street. A group of male teenagers, a middle-aged man and two elderly women on the Israel side responded by yelling out insults and curses.

Around 3:45 p.m., Rothstein, in cooperation with law enforcement, told demonstrators on the Israel side to go home. Rothstein had initially told law enforcement that the event, which began at 1 p.m., would end no later than 3:30 p.m. By this time, attendance of both sides had dwindled, but a sizable Israel group and a small Palestinian group remained.

LAPD officers accompanied the Palestinian protestors as they crossed to the pro-Israel side to walk toward their cars in the Federal building parking lot, where most of the demonstrators from both sides had parked. “We want to get those folks safety out of here,” a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department official told Rothstein.

Rothstein joined a police officer in a police car and using the car’s loudspeaker asked everyone on the Israel side to leave, as the car inched slowly in front of the pro-Israel crowd. “Thank you for your cooperation. Thank you for being here,” she said.

By 4 p.m., most demonstrators on both sides departed.

Rothstein acknowledged that the pro-Israel side had engaged in some bad behavior. “It is kind of why I sometimes worry about putting these things on. You never know who is going to show up,” she said. “But it’s a community and we have a tapestry.”

While the Palestinian side was small compared to the Israel side on Sunday, on Nov. 15, hundreds of pro-Palestinians had rallied outside the office of the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles, near Wilshire and Barrington avenue. There, one attendee blamed Israel for the recent violence. “It’s saddening but it’s not shocking, and if you’ve been following the news today [Nov. 15] it had been reported that Israel had broken the cease-fire first. Unfortunately Western media has not been quick to follow up on that regard,” she said.

“But regardless I support neither Hamas or Israel. What I support is the liberation of the Palestinian people,” she added.

In addition to Sunday’s rally, local initiatives are showing solidarity with Israel, including a project organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles that enables people to post messages onto the Federation website in support of the children of Israel.

Opinion: Fishing in Africa

To meet Ikal Angelei in a Wilshire Boulevard coffee shop, as I did this week, is to traverse oceans and travel through deserts. Angelei is an activist from Kenya specializing in the geopolitics of water, a 32-year-old powerhouse who just won a highly prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, said to be the “the largest award in the world for grassroots environmentalists.” The award, for which she was sponsored by the American Jewish World Service (AJWS) and which brings with it $150,000, was created by the late San Francisco-based philanthropic couple Richard N. and Rhoda H. Goldman, who in addition to their environmental advocacy were active supporters of the arts and Jewish culture.

It’s a long way from our world to Angelei’s, but hers is an important story for us all — raising issues of how our tax dollars are spent in faraway lands, how genocide can be prevented, how the effects of global warming have become very real to some people, and how one person can make a very big difference just by lending an ear and using her voice.

Angelei is fighting to save her land’s most important natural resource. East Africa’s Rift Valley and Lake Turkana is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the source of some of the world’s oldest fossils, as well as for its crocodiles, hippos and other wildlife. The region is home to six tribes of indigenous peoples who are farmers, herders and fishermen, and who in recent years have begun to fight one another for resources for their crops and their cattle.

“These people don’t see borders,” Angelei told me. “They see the delta that once was in Ethiopia, and now it’s in Kenya. They don’t understand the difference.” Over the past 40 years, due to climate change, the lake has receded, decreasing water supply — and increasing the salinity of what is left — a problem both for animals and for people.

“Last year, we lost 124 people in one day of violence,” Angelei told me with a disarming equanimity. She said she was in the village of Todonyang, in the northeastern corner of the Turkana region, when the attack took place. “I work in that village, and I still sleep there. My family hates that I do.”

The intertribal violence will get worse and likely could turn into all-out genocide, Angelei predicts, if a dam called the Gibe 3 Dam is completed along the Omo River, the source of 90 percent of Lake Turkana’s water, the life source for a region whose indigenous population numbers about 500,000 people. The dam project, begun in 2006 in Ethiopia, is designed to provide hydroelectric power to both Ethiopia and Kenya, supported by both nations.

Normally, we might think that providing electricity is a good thing in a primitive region, right? The problem is the Gibe 3 Dam, often compared to China’s Three Gorges Dam, would, Angelei asserts, severely damage the lake and leave people without food or livelihood.

Think of the violence and destruction in the Sudan — of the advocacy work now being done to repair lives — and consider how that could be the future of this region of Kenya, an entirely preventable outcome if construction of the dam is reconsidered. Because when the plans for the Gibe 3 Dam were put in place, no independent environmental review was done. The fact is, the dam wasn’t being built just to bring electrical power to people, Angelei says; the project, funded in part by China and, initially, with money promised by the World Bank, was expected to encourage multinational corporations to get a foothold in the region.

For the moment, Angelei, this fearless young woman with an enormously bright smile, is attempting to bring a different kind of power — a voice — to her community. And she’s had some success. She is a community organizer, and she has told the story of the coming dam to tribal elders, chiefs and anyone who will listen. Before her, they knew nothing about it, despite its looming impact. Angelei described to me how she has sat for hours listening to elders tell their own stories, just so she could get a chance to share hers as well. And in the process, she’s brought together all six tribes with just one cause: halting the construction. In 2009, the locals created a “Lake Turkana’s People’s Declaration” allowing Angelei’s organization, Friends of Lake Turkana, to represent them.

Angelei and other tribal members took their mandate to Kenya’s leaders and convinced its parliament to endorse the first independent environmental review of the project. She also was instrumental in getting UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee to pass a resolution to halt construction of the dam until further review, and she convinced the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and the African Development Bank to withdraw consideration of financing of the dam. For the moment, her voice — the people’s voice — has been heard.

So what’s our part in all of this? Allison Lee, the L.A. regional director for AJWS, host for Angelei’s visit to Los Angeles, explained that U.S. tax dollars support aid to foreign lands through the U.S. Farm Bill, which is up for reconsideration right now in the U.S. Senate. What makes this related to Angelei’s cause is that our Farm Bill, as currently written, only supports food aid to foreign lands through delivery of food products from the United States. This does not allow for how our gift might affect food production there. U.S. food gets delivered to, say, Kenya, and as a result, local farmers can’t afford to price their own goods competitively. Add that challenge to drought, wars over rights to build a dam, and we’re all complicit in a potential collision of interests where the indigenous men, women and children on the ground get hurt.

What can we do? We can advocate for reform in the Farm Bill. We can support the Friends of Lake Turkana and their right to have a voice in determining what happens to their land. In doing so, we will help prevent genocide. These farmers and fishermen need our advocacy for their efforts, not our food. As Lee put it, “We need to recognize that Ikal [Angelei] and the people in Ikal’s village are best-suited to implement change.”

Maimonides taught us that the highest form of charity is to teach a man to support himself. Similarly, an ancient Chinese proverb instructs: “Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he can feed himself for life.” 

These people know how to fish. They want to care for themselves. What we have to do is figure out how to help people like Angelei to allow them to keep their resources and their ability to continue to do so.

Israel flag flies, a Czech surprise, voter fraud, bridge to understanding

Consul General Dayan

I have been around long enough now to see many Israeli consuls general come and go (“Death to Fanatistan,” Oct. 3).

Some made a big difference; some had almost no discernible impact. But on a warm September day on Wilshire Boulevard, Consul General Yaakov Dayan, with one giant moving gesture, assured his place among the very best.

The blue and white now waves proudly on prestigious Wilshire, along with the Stars and Stripes. And we are all the more enriched for it. Kol hakavod!

Ron Solomon
Executive Director
The West Coast Friends of Bar-Ilan University in Israel

Democrat Ad

My response to David Rintels’ full-page ad (Sept. 19) telling how proud he is to be an FDR Democrat because “FDR defeated monstrous enemies in World War II without stooping to abuse” is: Is he kidding?

FDR had every American of Japanese descent forcibly removed from their homes, rounded up and put into camps where they were kept until the end of the war.

These were not Japanese who were suspected of espionage or even pro-Japan politics. To the contrary, every man, woman and child of Japanese descent lost his or her home, business and, most importantly, their freedom solely because of place of origin — place of origin of ancestors that is.

People of Japanese descent who were born here were rounded up and put in camps, just the same as people who themselves came from Japan. Maybe Rintels should speak with someone who was in Manzanar, which was open for three and a half years, or to someone kept at one of the other 10 camps where Japanese were forced to live.

Their memories of lining up for meals, or to use the latrines, or laundry, or to have no place to return to after three years in a camp might cause them to have a different reaction to FDR.

Dee Dee Quinn
via e-mail

How I Returned

What a wonderful tribute Rob Eshman wrote to his wife and marriage, a beautiful love letter that you invited your readers to share (“How I Returned,” Sept. 12).

Thank you. L’Shana tova umetuka.

Saundra Gass
via e-mail

Clash in Jordan Valley

Clash of ‘Right and Right’ Festers in Jordan Valley” by Daniel Heimpel (Sept. 26) focused mostly on Palestinian complaints, while ignoring the main reason for the Israeli army’s presence in this area of great strategic importance for Israel.

Jordan’s Palestinian majority may one day overthrow the monarchy and scrap the peace treaty with Israel. Then an anti-Israel axis would run from the Jordan Valley through Iraq to Iran. The valley must remain under Israeli control to block any ground attack from the east.

Heimpel made Israeli settlers the problem, while omitting mention of Palestinian terror attacks in the valley, by focusing on Palestinian resentment of the new, small settlement of the Maskiyot — six of whose eight families are Israeli evacuees from Gaza.

The story was illustrated by one photo of Maskiyot and four of Palestinians or their homes. Palestinian resentment is inevitable, given that most Palestinians reject Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

The Palestinian Authority demands that any final peace must allow 4.5 million Palestinians to move to Israel, thus turning Israel into an Arab state. Peace must be based on a Jewish majority in a secure Israel with defensible borders, including the Jordan River.

Bob Kirk
via e-mail

Czech Republic

Kudos to the authors of the articles “Czech Republic Surprises With Jewish Treasures” and “Propaganda Film Disguised Horrors of Terezin” (Oct. 3).

One of my ancestors was involved in the giant synagogue project around 1892.

However, the Catholic church protested against the gothic style planned originally, and the building would exceed the Catholic cathedral in height…. The plans had to be redrawn.

I was imprisoned for almost three years in Terezin and remember the filming. Before the movie was made, a monthlong “beautification” was organized, with 7,500 seniors deported to the East. A bank was shown where useless ghetto currency was used.

Shops were opened where prisoners could “buy” merchandise they had to return afterward. A true documentary type story was filmed in 2002 in the United States, showing fragments of the propaganda movie.

A famous star named Kurt Gerron is the tragic victim of the hoax. You can get the DVD called, “Prisoner of Paradise.”

Fred Klein
Los Angeles

Debates Won’t Matter

Marty Kaplan’s fear of an unfair election at the hands of the GOP ignores the overwhelming evidence that the Democratic Party has also benefited from voter fraud (“The Debates Won’t Matter,” Oct. 3).

Since John F. Kennedy’s victory in 1960, thanks in large part to the fraud of the Chicago political machine and the Teamsters Union, the Democratic Party has systematically engaged in watering down the voter pool. The Democrats and their surrogates have opposed ID checks for elections at every opportunity.

The readers of The Jewish Journal deserve fairness and should start soliciting viewpoints from both sides of the political spectrum before all journalistic integrity is lost.

Gillee Sherman
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The Pope’s Outreach

Well done article (“Pope John Paul II’s Lifetime Outreach to Jews,” Sept. 19) –very moving and I enjoyed it. Pope John Paul II did a lot to bridge the gap with many faiths. He set an example of compassion, understanding, learning, forgiving and peace. Very good qualities to have. The program at the Skirball Center is an excellent idea.

Elizabeth Kruger
Los Angeles

Celebration to mark raising of Israeli flag at consulate

The blue and white flag with the Star of David will be raised for the first time in front of the Israeli Consulate on Sunday, Sept. 28, in a community-wide celebration of the Jewish state, its 60th anniversary and the beginning of Rosh Hashanah.

The flag-raising ceremony and celebration has been almost one year in the making, starting with the arrival in Los Angeles of the new Israeli consul general, Yaakov Dayan.

He was puzzled why there was no flag flying in front of the consulate, nor, as he has learned, at any other Israeli diplomatic mission in the United States. The most common reason given for the low profile was security, but Dayan didn’t buy it.

“There are Israeli flags flying in front of our missions in much more dangerous places throughout the world, including our embassy in Cairo,” he told The Journal.

“I remember walking with my father when I was a child in Tel Aviv, and when we saw foreign flags, he would tell me about each of the countries they represented,” Dayan recalled.

“When I came to Los Angeles, I thought of how many kids pass along Wilshire each day and might ask what the blue and white flag with the six-pointed star meant,” he added.

Dayan quickly learned that putting up three flagpoles on Wilshire Boulevard for the Israeli, U.S. and California flags required numerous permits and some political help from City Councilman Jack Weiss and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

The Israeli flag to be hoisted on Sept. 28 has a history of its own, having flown originally over the embattled town of Sderot, regularly exposed to hostile fire from the Gaza Strip.

When Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Dayan visited Israel last June, the flag was formally presented to the mayor by Shimon Peres, president of Israel.

At the same time that two Israeli soldiers raise their country’s colors, the Stars and Stripes will be hoisted by U.S. Marines and the California Bear flag by the National Guard in festivities starting at 1 p.m. in front of the consulate building at 6380 Wilshire Blvd.

Dayan and his staff are going all-out to make the one-hour event a joyous and memorable occasion for the Jewish and general communities of Los Angeles.

Among the highlights planned are:

Music by the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony, which will play the Israeli and U.S. national anthems.

Performances by various school choirs.

Short speeches by Villaraigosa and Dayan.

Some 60 rabbis will join in blowing shofars to welcome the Jewish New Year.

Schoolchildren will prepare and send New Year cards to Israeli kids in development towns and communities exposed to rocket fire. Students from the Milken Community High School will wear special T-shirts for the occasion.

Vera Cruz and other Latino bands will entertain after the ceremony.

Israeli and American pop stars, among them Macy Gray, Noa Tishby and Hedva Amrani, will sing.

In addition, two youngsters will win free flights to Israel, courtesy of El Al, where they will visit schools in various parts of the country.

Diplomats from Mexico and other countries, political leaders and representatives from Mormon and Christian evangelist churches will join the festivities.

While the focus of the celebration will be on Israel, Los Angeles will also benefit. A blood donation center will be on site to benefit the bone marrow transplant unit at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. Villaraigosa and Dayan will be the first donors to the blood drive initiated by Rabbi Hershy Ten, president of the Bikur Cholim Jewish Healthcare Foundation.

“This celebration will be an apt and enjoyable way for the community to show its solidarity with the people of Israel,” Dayan said.

Shahar Azani, Israeli consul for public affairs, added, “Too many times must we come together to protest attacks on Israel or mourn victims, so it’s time for a happy get-together.”

Wilshire Boulevard between San Vicente Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue will be closed during the celebration. Free or reduced-fee parking will be available within walking distance of the consulate. For more information, visit www.israeliconsulatela.org.

Flag Day

What a weird week.

The presidential race, instead of focusing on the best energy policy, the best Mideast policy, the best health care policy, wasall about moose and pigs and pitbulls. The financial companies that once defined stability have teetered or collapsed. The stock market is on the verge of a nervous breakdown, a hurricane ate our Gulf Coast refineries and, by the way, is anybody noticing that Pakistan is imploding?

Meanwhile, over at the Israeli Consulate, they’re planning a massive, pull-out-the-stops effort to … raise the Israeli flag?

That’s right. On Sunday, Sept. 28, thousands of people are expected to rally outside the Israeli Consulate on Wilshire Boulevard to watch as the blue and white national flag is raised permanently in front of the building.

You would think there are more important things to focus on right now. To be honest, when Consul General Jacob Dayan first told me his idea, that was my gut reaction — which I kept to myself. The world is going nuts, and that’s what you want us to do — raise a flag?

But I’ve let the idea percolate; I’ve turned it over in my head, and sure enough, I’ve changed my mind. It’s the perfect thing to do. It’s brilliant.

Neither Dayan nor the building’s owner, Jamison Services, will discuss why until now no Israeli flag has been allowed to stand in front of the otherwise nondescript office tower at 6380 Wilshire Blvd.

But let’s hazard a wild guess: security.

Building owners and Israeli ambassadors themselves regularly cite concerns over protests and terrorism as the primary reasons so few Israeli diplomatic stations display their country’s flag.

It’s not an unreasonable concern. From 1969 to the present there have been at least 30 attacks on Israeli embassies, according to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (The ministry actually lists and details the attacks on its Web sites, which could not have made Dayan’s job convincing his landlord any easier). The most recent one occurred this past February, when a group calling itself “al Qaeda in the Magreb” fired shots at the Israeli Embassy in Mauritania, wounding three local residents.

It’s a fact of life: Israel’s blue and white is a red flag for the fanatics. Wave it, and they are likely to charge.

Sometimes, the reaction is horrific, as at the El Al ticket counter several years ago, when a man opened fire by the flag. Sometimes, it is boringly predictable, as at those Hezbollah rallies in Lebanon, where they actually have to make their own Israeli flag just to destroy it. Sometimes, it is pathetic: In the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem last spring, a 50-year-old Orthodox Israeli man waving his flag on Israel’s Independence Day was set upon and beaten by members of the anti-Zionist Naturei Karta Jewish sect.

Given these reactions, it’s only wise and natural to be cautious, to fear the fanatics and abide by their rule: Don’t you dare display your flag.

And now, Dayan is offering his response: tough.

In his book, “A Case for Democracy,” Natan Sharansky offers up a test to determine whether a society is truly free and democratic. He calls it his Town Square test:

“If a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society. We cannot rest until every person living in a ‘fear society’ has finally won their freedom.”

I suspect the default reflex of Jews is to rest inside a fear society. Centuries of persecution have conditioned us to cut our losses and accept a base level of fear and intimidation, so long as our families and livelihoods are not immediately threatened. Our mental public square has always been inhabited by thugs: We have grown comfortable with them.

The establishment of the State of Israel was supposed to have freed us from the physical ghettos in which Jews found themselves and from these psychic ones, as well. A free people in a free land could not be bullied, need not live in fear.

The physical and psychic shackles cracked in 1948, when the Israeli flag was first raised over the independent, sovereign Jewish state, and they broke in 1967, when the country swept to victory in the Six-Day War and the flag flew over a united Jerusalem.

But that was then. Now, with terror at our doorsteps and Israel still in peril, most of us are content to lay low. It turns out we are less butterfly than hermit crab. Survival teaches us that rather than float free, better to run from shell to shell.

But if we let our city fail the Town Square test, we delude ourselves in thinking we can forever be safe off the square, in our synagogues, at our schools. Whether we fly the flag or not, those who would do us harm will find us anyway.

In the Age of Google, there is no way to hide. We can be better or worse targets, but we are still targets.

The vast majority of us want to live in a world where disagreements don’t demand violence. We don’t want the crazy few determining how we live our lives, demonstrate our loyalties, express our identity. We want a thousand flags to fly (including, yes, the Palestinian one). We want to be free.

That’s why I love Dayan’s vision. He saw reality and raised it — hell, he went all in. Once he received approval to fly the flag, he could have just quietly run it up one morning and left it at that. But no: He has arranged to close off Wilshire Boulevard between San Vicente Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue. He has invited schools, synagogues and churches to come out and show their support. There will be a stage, speeches (short, he promises), dignitaries and performance by a recording artist Macy Gray.

The Israeli flag is going up on Wilshire Boulevard; attention will be paid, and I, for one, will be there.

7 Days in The Arts

Saturday, October 15

Joyous dance and celebration is at the heart of Russian American painter Ann Krasnow’s art. Take it in, and meet the artist in person at Solaris Gallery’s opening reception for “Ann Krasner: New Work.”

6-9 p.m. 9009 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood. (310) 273-6935.

1114 by Ann Krasner 
“1114” by Ann Krasner. 

Sunday, October 16

Your favorite glass-eyed investigator gets honored by the American Cinematheque this weekend at their “Peter Falk In Person Retrospective.” Friday, see a double feature of “The In-Laws” and “Mikey and Nickey,” with a discussion in between films with Columbo himself. Saturday, see “Happy New Year,” or come later for “Wings of Desire” followed by a talk with Falk and director Wim Wenders. And wrap up the weekend with today’s screening of “A Woman Under the Influence.”

$6-9 (per feature or double feature). Aero Theatre, 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica. (323) 466-3456.

(From left) Alan Arkin, Peter Falk and director Arthur Hiller.

Monday, October 17

In David Margolick’s new book, “Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling and a World on the Brink,” a boxing match in the days leading up to World War II carried the weight of the world. Hear all about it, as Margolick reads from and signs his book tonight at Book Soup.

7 p.m. Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. (310) 659-3110.

Schmeling, a drenched Joe Jacobs at his side. Photo courtesy New York Daily News

Tuesday, October 18

The daughter of late British Jewish actor Laurence Harvey and supermodel Paulene Stone, Domino Harvey led a turbulent existence. Tony Scott’s new biopic, “Domino,” is loosely based on her life story as a drug- and adrenaline-addicted heiress turned bounty hunter. The film opens this week and stars Keira Knightley.


Keira Knightley
Keira Knightley stars as model-turned-bounty hunter Domino Harvey. Pnoto by Daniela Scaramuzza/New Line Productions

Wednesday, October 19

“If Hitler had the atomic bomb first, we’d all be speaking German,” observes one World War II British agent in the PBS documentary “Secrets of the Dead: The Hunt for Nazi Scientists.” There’s plenty of derring-do behind enemy lines to track down Nazi nuclear and rocket scientists, and then to snatch them before the Russians could. Harrowing testimony by survivors detail the deaths of 10,000 slave laborers used in the German weapon project. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

8 p.m. on KCET. www.kcet.org.


Thursday, October 20

Theatrical readings along the theme of “In a Lonely Place” take place today at the Hammer Museum. Co-sponsored by Los Angeles Conservancy’s “Curating the City: Wilshire Boulevard” project, readers include actress Dana Delaney and prototypical L.A. writers James Ellroy and Bruce Wagner.

7 p.m. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 443-7000.

Bruce Wagner
Bruce Wagner

Friday, October 14

Recall the angst-ridden days of college application season in David T. Levinson’s new comedic play, “Early Decision.” The playwright may be more recognizable as the founder and chair of Big Sunday, Los Angeles’ largest volunteer day, but the Jewish community has a role in his play as well.

Oct. 9-Nov. 13. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica. (310) 392-7327.

Early Decision
(From left) Susan Merson, Lara Everly, Brain Chase and Bob Neches star in “Early Decision.”


Zucky’s Counter Culture


There was weeping and gnashing of teeth when Zucky’s Deli in Santa Monica, mecca of pastrami sandwich and borscht lovers far and wide, abruptly closed its doors on Feb. 16, 1993.

“We were like family,” one tearful waitress recalled in an old Los Angeles Times story. “We had elderly customers, who left their homes only to come to Zucky’s.”

Now the venerable eatery, boarded up for 12 years, is in the news again.

A new building owner, John Watkins, is about to remodel and reopen the place at Wilshire Boulevard and Fifth Street as a retail store, and some nostalgic citizens are battling to retain the ex-deli’s distinctive architectural features.

Heading the effort is Adriene Biondo, chair of the Modern Committee of the Los Angeles Conservancy, who hopes that Zucky’s might be designated as an historical landmark.

“Zucky’s was designed by Weldon Fulton as a prime example of the Googie or California Coffee Shop Modern architectural genre,” Biondo said. “In any remodeling, we want to preserve the main Zucky’s signboard, exterior ceramic tiles and stonework, the diagonal treatment along Fifth Street, and the brick wall and window sills.”

Biondo has talked with Watkins, the new owner, and said that he has been very forthcoming to her requests. The city of Santa Monica architectural review board is now considering the case.

The original Zucky’s was opened in 1946, facing the former pier at Pacific Ocean Park, by the late Harry “Hy” Altman. He named the deli in honor of his wife, born Wolfine Zuckerman, but always addressed as “Zucky.”

In 1954, the deli moved to its Wilshire location after a difficult search.

“The city fathers didn’t want Jewish merchants. Santa Monica had one Jewish merchant, a dress shop, and they said one was enough,” Zucky Altman, 86, reminisced in a recent interview with Marcello Vavala, a volunteer member of the Los Angeles and Santa Monica conservancies.

Once established, the deli soon attracted a faithful clientele of movie stars, UCLA football players, stockbrokers and dentists.

Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau were regulars, Altman said. So was everyone from Gold’s Gym, including a body builder named Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“We were also friendly with the nearby churches,” Altman recalled. “Preachers would say, ‘No one here leaves until I finish my sermon. Then we’ll all go over to Zucky’s.'”

“The girls [waitresses] didn’t have to ask customers what they wanted, they just knew,” Altman continued.

After their retirement in 1977, Hy and Zucky Altman endeared themselves to the needy and elderly of the Jewish community by launching SOVA, the free kosher food pantry.

The end of Zucky’s Deli came suddenly, after Health Department inspectors demanded extensive renovations costing more than $500,000. The then-owners decided to shut the place down on a few hours notice to customers and employees.

In an “obituary,” The Times noted mournfully, “It was not easy to find another deli with the same mélange of counter camaraderie, lean corned beef and devoted waitresses.”