February 1, 2001

Planting the Tree Of Knowledge

In 1997, an Israel-based rabbi, Yehoshua Kohl, dreamed of returning to his native Southern California and opening a center of learning for all Jews. After obtaining initial funding of about $150,000 from local donors in the Los Angeles area, along with seed money from benefactors in New York and São Paulo, Brazil, Kohl realized his dream in the fall of 1999, opening the Valley Kollel. It\’s been growing ever since. Although the Kollel offices and many of its classes are in donated space at Orthodox shul Shaarey Zedek in North Hollywood, the Kollel is itself unaffiliated, and courses are taught at private homes throughout the San Fernando Valley and at Cal State Northridge. There are classes somewhere every day except Shabbat — and even on Shabbat there is a learner\’s service. The instructors are young and energetic, well-traveled and from a variety of backgrounds, all passionate in their love of teaching Torah. Most amazing of all, however, in this day of ever-soaring tuition and enlightenment-for-the-right-price kabbalah seminars, the Kollel\’s instruction is totally, completely free of charge.

Earthquake Relief

The death toll from the Jan. 26 earthquake in India may surpass 100,000, with thousands more left injured and homeless. To contribute toward disaster relief, you can send a contribution to Indian Earthquake Relief c/o Jewish Federation Accounting Office, 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048.

What a $230 Million Deal Means to You

After last-minute negotiating, Austria, the United States and Jewish groups signed an agreement two weeks ago under which Austria agreed to pay $210 million, plus about $20 million in interest, to cover victims\’ property claims and unpaid insurance polices. The government also will pay an estimated $100 million in social welfare benefits to Austrian Jews.

Downhill Doubts

My father has disowned me. We did not get into a fight about the family business — there is no family business. I did not marry out of the faith, and I have no children about whose upbringing we can disagree. The source of our irreconcilable differences is that we went skiing together last year, and he is convinced that I cannot be his natural child.

Raising Children

What\’s the Jewish way to raise children? Simple: just teach them Torah, model your values and encourage them to be like their ancestors. Right?

Plush Reminders

Bunny. Das-tardly Bunny. Stupid stuffed, fluffy gift from his ex-girlfriend. Bunny, you\’ve enjoyed life on his pillow for awhile, but now you must die. Bunny must die.

This is what I thought as I tossed Bunny out the window of his bedroom last week. You see, there\’s something cute about a man with a stuffed animal, but when I realized they used to call each other \”Bunny,\” it was all too much. Bunny, though cute, was a symbol of a love that had already hippity-hopped on by.

The Price of Freedom

To facilitate pidyon shvuyim (redeeming captive Jews from secular prisons) we are commanded to go so far as to sell a community\’s Torah scroll. Yet it is hard to rejoice that Bill Clinton pardoned four chassidim from the village of New Square, N.Y., along with an alleged tax evader who donated megabucks to Israel. In contrast to the complex moral and ethical questions that grated pro-and-con during discussions over the possible pardons of Michael Milken and Jonathan Jay Pollard, there is something unequivocally outrageous in Clinton\’s decisions to pardon the four Squarer chassidim and the international oil merchant whose dealings prompted the Justice Department to allege, among other things, tax evasion and trading illegally with Iran.

February 11: A Rally for Israel

Talmudic sages wondered how King Achav of Israel could have reigned for decades, considering his practice and encouragement of idolatry and every type of sin. They arrived at the answer that at least during his reign there was, if nothing else, unity among the Jewish people. Today we find deep divisions among our people, perhaps nowhere more so than in our attitudes toward Israel and the peace process. It almost makes you wish for the good old days of King Achav.

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Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.