November 16, 2018

Moving and shaking: The Dead Sea Scrolls, JQ International, JIMENA and more

“Dead Sea Scrolls: The Exhibition” represents not only “the birth of modern Judaism but also of Christianity … and later, Islam. … So we’re really celebrating the Abrahamic traditions and monotheistic religions,” explained David Siegel, the consul general of Israel in Los Angeles, during a press conference last week.

Siegel was introduced by Jeffrey Rudolph, president of the California Science Center, which is hosting the highly anticipated show. Siegel spoke of partnering with the center and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) to bring to Los Angeles the scrolls, mostly religious texts that date from 250 B.C.E. to 68 C.E., as well as more than 600 artifacts from the Israelite period.

In an interview after the press conference, Siegel called it “the most significant archaeological find of the 20th century and the largest-ever exhibition coming out of Israel.

 “The exhibition is also significant in the way that it is not political,” he added.  “It’s not about news headlines, but the significance of Israel to world religions and to all peoples, all nations.”

But whenever Israel is involved, it seems, politics are likely to simmer, at least beneath the surface.  At the press conference, Uzi Dahari, deputy director of the IAA, alluded to the Palestinian Authority’s claim to ownership of the scrolls.  “[But] the Dead Sea Scrolls were written by Jews and are part of the spiritual assets of the Jewish nation,” Dahari said.  “It is our right to possess the scrolls — it’s not a legal but a moral issue.”

In an interview, Dahari explained that the first seven scrolls discovered by Bedouins in a cave near Qumran in 1947 were eventually purchased by Israeli archaeologists and are now housed at the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem.  When the northern part of the Judean desert came under Jordanian rule in 1953, it was the Jordanians and others who discovered 900 more scrolls in caves at Qumran. The area of Qumran has been in Israeli hands since the Six-Day War in 1967.

“The scrolls were not excavated by Palestinians … so they have no demands upon Israel,” Dahari said. “But the Palestinians say, “No, the excavations took place in the West Bank, and the West Bank is our property. However, according to international laws, they’re not, because Palestine is not [yet] a state. And even if it becomes a state in the future, this has nothing to do with the past.”

 Still, he admitted, “I am afraid for the future of the scrolls.”

— Naomi Pfefferman, Arts & Entertainment Editor

With a record 1,100 people in attendance, the Israeli-American Council (IAC) held its seventh annual gala March 8 at the Beverly Hilton and announced the purchase of a $10 million property in Winnetka that will be used as a community center. IAC plans to announce the exact location of the site at a future time.

The gala brought in $23.4 million for the IAC, with casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, pledging $12 million. Haim Saban, who was seated next to the Adelsons, pledged $1.2 million.

“Sheldon is 10 times richer than me,” Saban quipped to the crowd. “I said to Sheldon, ‘Listen, whatever you give, I’ll give one-tenth.’ ”

The IAC gave real-estate businessman and philanthropist Stanley Black a lifetime achievement award for his decades of support for Israel, and the evening’s honorees were Roz and Jerry Rothstein, founders of StandWithUs, a pro-Israel education and advocacy group. Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, delivered a pre-recorded video message that thanked the IAC and acknowledged its role in strengthening the State of Israel from the United States.

Comedian Modi Rosenfeld was the evening’s master of ceremonies. At one point, he asked the crowd, “How many of you don’t speak Hebrew?” When a good portion of the audience raised their voices, he responded, “This is going to be the longest night of your lives.”

— Jared Sichel, Staff Writer

JQ International honored several successful LGBTQ role models from the arts community as well as a gay religious leader during its annual awards brunch March 8 at the historic Wilson Harding Golf Course Clubhouse at Griffith Park. 

From left: Rabbi Barbara Zacky, Bruce Vilanch, JQ International Executive Director Asher Gellis, Faith Soloway and Andrea Meyerson. Photo courtesy of JQ International

Those being feted were folk musician and writer Faith Soloway (JQ Inspiration Award), who also is a writer for “Transparent,” the show created by her sister Jill Soloway; comedy writer and performer Bruce Vilanch (JQ Trailblazer Award); filmmaker Andrea Meyerson (JQ Visibility Award) and Rabbi Barbara Zacky (JQ Community Leadership Award).

“After I came out, I identified strongly as a Jewish lesbian, but there weren’t many places that honored all of me,” Zacky said in a statement. “JQ has created an open and inclusive community of LGBT Jews and I’m so glad to be a part of that.”

Approximately 165 people turned out for the event.

JQ International describes itself as an inclusive community for LGBTQ Jews that raises awareness and acceptance of LGBTQ community members in the Jewish world.  

“We create programs and services that foster a healthy fusion of LGBTQ and Jewish identity, which offer LGBTQ Jews, their friends, families, and loved ones the opportunity to connect with each other while fostering a strong sense of self,” the organization’s website indicates.

“Voices of Dissent: A Refugee’s Story,” a recent panel discussion at Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood, included topics ranging from Iranian Jews and other minorities in Iran, to Coptic Christians’ struggles in Egypt under Muslim rule, to Yazidis in Iraq who are suffering under ISIS.

From left: Raymond Ibrahim, Gina Nahai, Elias Kasem and Karmel Melamed. Photo by Natalie Farahan

The Feb. 26 event featured Jewish Journal contributor and attorney Karmel Melamed, author Raymond Ibrahim and activist Elias Kasem.

“The Iranian regime is a human rights disaster, and we’re not talking about it in the United States,” Melamed said. “No one is covering it, and it is shameful. The nuclear [issue] is getting a lot of coverage, I don’t get into that, but the plight of Christians, of Baha’is, artists, even just regular Muslims who don’t agree with the regime — they are facing horrible human rights situations.” 

Author and Journal columnist Gina Nahai moderated the event, which drew approximately 30 attendees and was sponsored by Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA).

Among those in attendance were Natalie Farahan, JIMENA’s Los Angeles program director; Kelsi Copeland, communications and program manager at Kol Ami; Sadie Rose-Stern, the congregation’s executive director; and Siamak Kordestani, assistant director at American Jewish Committee, Los Angeles.

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email