February 24, 2020

Thank you, 30 times

In honor of the Jewish Journal’s 30th anniversary, I’d like to show my gratitude not only to the paper for its extraordinary contribution to our community, but also to you — the Journal readers and members of our community. Personally, I could never have written this weekly column for nearly 11 years without your inspiration. So, in the spirit of 30, I thought I’d go down memory lane and thank the individuals who helped me write 30 of my favorite stories:

Jacob Katz, who didn’t allow Down syndrome to stop him from serving up delicious drinks at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

Rabbi Benjamin Blech, who shared his fear of facing death and transformed it into increasing his creative output.

Rabbi Yaacov Pinto, who is keeping the memory of his revered Moroccan ancestor alive at his synagogue on Pico Boulevard.

My daughter Shanni, who took me to a wild Purim party at a shul in the middle of a prairie near Bend, Ore., where she went to school.

Bassam Eid, a Palestinian activist who took me to a refugee camp in Ramallah where I experienced a little anxiety and some great hummus.

Micah Goodman, who shared the most innovative idea I’ve heard for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

One of the things you learn in journalism is that without interesting people, there are no interesting stories. Our community is blessed to have plenty of both.

Rabbi Lori Shapiro, who fused memory, music and holiness into an inspirational bar mitzvah service for my friend Steve Kessler’s son, Benny.

Sylvain Abitbol from Montreal, who has helped the world take note of Jewish refugees from Arab lands.

Rabbi Aryeh Cohen, who shared his thoughts on the dangers of “dumbing down” Judaism.

The late Eva Brown, who survived 10 concentration camps at the age of 16 and who practiced the fine art of savoring every minute of life.

Cantor Magda Fishman, trumpet and all, who led a soulful Kabbalat Shabbat service on the rooftop of Temple Beth Am.

Mark Schiff and Elon Gold, who inspired me to write a column on how American Jewish comics have nourished the Jewish-American love affair.

Rabbi Manis Friedman, a Chabad mystic who gave a class in my home on how people unwittingly look for “need mates” rather than “soul mates.”

Paul the Russian tailor, who overcame personal tragedy and changing fashion trends to keep his 35-year tailoring business alive.

Rabbi Zoe Klein, who ran a Jewish-African “freedom seder” in my home with a survivor of the Rwanda genocide, African ministers and other activists.

Dennis Brown, who was candid about his difficult work dealing with “the shmutz of life” that few people want to talk about.

The late Rabbi Shmuel Miller, a Renaissance man who gave classes on the Rambam and Levinas, and who reminded me of Lawrence of Arabia.

Adeena Bleich, who impressed on me and our readers the value of fulfilling our civic duties.

David Brandes, who shared the story of his home burning down and how a neighborhood came to the rescue.

Glenn Yago, who took me to the “tent cities” in Israel during the summer of social unrest.

Esther Kandel, a neighborhood friend who went undercover to expose radical Islamic conferences.

Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, who introduced many of our readers to the unique pleasure of reading Shmuel Agnon.

Selwyn Gerber, who took me to Warren Buffet’s “Woodstock for capitalists” convention in Omaha, Neb., where the local Chabad became the real story.

Danielle and Shlomo Meyers, a happily married couple in Pico-Robertson who also happen to have Down syndrome.

Sivan Ya’ari, who convinced me to tag along on her humanitarian mission to Uganda, which became the subject of a Journal cover story called “God’s children.”

Lassana Bathily, the Muslim employee who helped save Jewish hostages during the terror attack at a Paris kosher market.

Rabbi Yitz Hurwitz, who writes a weekly commentary on the Torah portion by using only his eyes — because he has ALS.

Gary Ellison, who sang for me a song he wrote inside his homeless tent in Koreatown.

Samara Hutman, mentor to my children, whose organization twins bar and bat mitzvah kids with child victims of the Holocaust and turns these victims into real people.

And, of course, my mother “Meme,” whose Friday night meals have made her somewhat of a mini-celebrity in my neighborhood.

One of the things you learn in journalism is that without interesting people, there are no interesting stories. Our community is blessed to have plenty of both.

So, for all of these great stories and for so many others, thank you.

David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.