January 21, 2019

GA ‘17, Limmud After Dark, Matisyahu and More

Mayim Bialik


Stand-up comedian and best-selling author Rita Rudner often alludes to her Jewish upbringing in her act. She’ll give away free tickets to two tapings of her latest stand-up special at the historic Palace Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. Don’t miss an evening with the funny lady who claims to have the longest-running solo comedy show in Las Vegas’ history. 5:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. Free. Palace Theatre, 630 S. Broadway, Los Angeles. (213) 488-2010. ritafunny.com.


The New York Times’ conservative columnist serves as Sinai Temple’s 2017 Abner & Roslyn Goldstine Scholar-in-Residence this weekend, beginning with a Friday night dinner, followed by a lecture titled “What Is U.S. Foreign Policy For?” During a Saturday luncheon, Stephens discusses “Will Israel Live Till 2048?” On Sunday he participates in a light breakfast, lecture and discussion with Sinai Temple Rabbi David Wolpe on “Writing While Jewish.” Stephens’ previous positions include writing for The Wall Street Journal and serving as editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post. His focus is domestic politics and foreign policy. Through Nov. 12. 7 p.m. Friday (community Shabbat dinner). 8:30 p.m. (lecture). $70 (Shabbat dinner; lecture is free). Noon Saturday, $45 (includes lunch). 9:30-11 a.m. Sunday, $35. RSVP required. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 474-1518. sinaitemple.org.


Celebrate Shabbat with “Big Bang Theory” star Mayim Bialik; Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum; and stand-up comedian Benji Lovitt. This evening of music, learning and community marks the official launch of Limmud North America. On the eve of the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly, Bialik discusses “Standards of Beauty and Ugliness in Hollywood and Beyond”; Berenbaum examines “21st Century Anti-Semitism: Not Your Father’s Anti-Semitism”; and Lovitt presents “What War Zone? Stand-up Comedy From Israel.” Spirituality expert Sherre Hirsch; Rabba Yaffa Epstein; and Doreen and Chaim Seidler-Feller also participate. Ikar music director Hillel Tigay performs a musical Havdalah. 7 p.m. $30. At-door tickets subject to availability. American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. limmud.org/afterdarkla.


Ken Feinberg, an attorney who has been key to resolving many of this nation’s most challenging and widely known disputes, including administering funds to families affected by 9/11, discusses “Unconventional Responses to Unique Catastrophes: What Is Life Worth?” Feinberg served as the special master of the U.S. government’s Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund, an experience he wrote about in his 2005 book, “What Is Life Worth? The Inside Story of the 9/11 Fund and Its Effort to Compensate the Victims of 9/11.” 9:30 a.m. (Shabbat service), 11:30 a.m. (lecture). Free. Reservations recommended at info@beverlyhillsjc.org. Beverly Hills Hotel, 9466 Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 276-4246. beverlyhillsjc.org.


In 1970 in Leningrad, a group of young Jewish dissidents who were denied exit visas plotted to hijack an empty plane and escape from the Soviet Union. Forty-five years later, filmmaker Anat Zalmanson-Kuznetsov revisits that incident in the documentary film “Operation Wedding.” The film tells the story of her parents, leaders of the group, who were “heroes” in the West but “terrorists” in the USSR, and even in today’s Russia. Zalmanson-Kuznetsov participates in a Q-and-A following this L.A. premiere screening, organized by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Russian-speaking Jewish young professionals network RuJuLA and the Museum of Tolerance. 7 p.m. (doors). 7:30 p.m. (screening). $15 in advance, $20 at the door. Museum of Tolerance, 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 772-2505. museumoftolerance.com.

His focus is domestic politics and foreign policy. Through Nov. 12. 7 p.m. Friday (community Shabbat dinner). 8:30 p.m. (lecture). $70 (Shabbat dinner; lecture is free). Noon Saturday, $45 (includes lunch). 9:30-11 a.m. Sunday, $35. RSVP required. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 474-1518. sinaitemple.org.

GA 2017

Julie Platt

Reuven Rivlin

The Jewish Federations of North America’s annual three-day gathering will draw Jewish communal professionals, volunteers and philanthropists. Israeli figures, including President Reuven Rivlin and the Jewish Agency’s Natan Sharansky, are scheduled to appear. Local leaders participating include L.A. Federation CEO Jay Sanderson and Chair Julie Platt, who is co-chairing the GA with her husband, Hollywood producer Marc Platt; Rabbis Naomi Levy, Ed Feinstein, David Wolpe and Nicole Guzik; the Jewish Journal’s Danielle Berrin and Shmuel Rosner; Tablet Magazine Editor-in-Chief Alana Newhouse; Tinder founder Sean Rad; and Joint Distribution Committee Global Leader Ashton Rosin. Through Nov. 14. $499 (general admission), $399 (Jewish communal professional), $189 (single-day admission). JW Marriott, downtown Los Angeles, 900 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (866) 208-2144. generalassembly.org.


Food, storytelling and a screening of Temple Beth Am member Daniel Goldberg’s 1995 documentary film, “Un Beso a Esta Tierra” (“A Kiss to the Land”) highlight this community gathering. 6:30 p.m. Free. Temple Beth Am, 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 652-7353. tbala.org.


Milana Vayntrub, a comedian, actress and activist known to many for her AT&T commercials and for her role in the television show “This is Us,” discusses “Dreams of a Hollywood Refugee.” Vayntrub is a refugee from the former Soviet Union and, after a visit to Greece, became involved in assisting Syrian refugees. Her organization, Can’t Do Nothing, which she co-founded with entrepreneur Eron Zehavi, focuses on empowering people to affect change in the world on the global refugee crisis and other issues. Proceeds from the event benefit Hadadit, formerly the Israel Free Loan Association. 7 p.m. $36. Bel Air private residence (address provided upon RSVP). milana.eventbrite.com.


The Jewish comedienne is a winner of the 2008 “Last Comic Standing” and a regular at the Improv and The Comedy Store. She’ll headline “Girls Night In,” an evening of comedy with special guests. Expect social commentary, politics and pop culture. A portion of ticket proceeds will be donated to Planned Parenthood. 7 p.m. (doors), 8 p.m. (show). $30. Largo, 366 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 855-0350. largo-la.com.


The Jewish-American reggae artist performs as part of his “Broken Crowns” tour, accompanied by Dub Trio’s Joe Tomino (drums) and Stu Brooks (bass) and his original guitarist Aaron Dugan. Expect to hear material from Matisyahu’s latest album, “Undercurrent,” as well as fan-favorites including “One Day,” “King Without a Crown” and “Jerusalem.” Also scheduled to appear are Orange County reggae-rockers Common Kings and Orphan, a Matisyahu-produced project featuring a trio of sons of Lubavitch rabbis. 6:30 p.m. $15-$120. The Wiltern, 3790 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 388-1400. matisyahuworld.com.


The Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) Women’s Leadership Network’s annual conference explores “Unstoppable: The Power of Women.” Participants in the program include Saudi filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour; acclaimed singer and recording artist Barbara Morrison; fashion editor and meditation entrepreneur Suze Yalof Schwartz; Kathy Suto, vice president and general manager at Bloomingdale’s in Century City; and actress Nikki Crawford, who hosts the event. Proceeds benefit the WoMentoring Program and all JVS programs serving women in need. 8 a.m. (networking breakfast), 9 a.m.-1 p.m. (conference and luncheon). $200. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 761-8888. jvsla.org.


Ronda Spinak, artistic director of Jewish Women’s Theatre, delivers a spirited presentation about her experience of interviewing 18 of Los Angeles’ most prominent female rabbis for a video catalog about a once-marginalized group that fought for representation in their religion. 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. $20. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 474-1518. sinaitemple.org.


Inspired by NPR’s “The Moth,” this NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change storytelling event features Jews and Muslims sharing personal accounts of solidarity and standing up for one another. NewGround is a nonprofit focused on bringing together Muslims and Jews for change. Previous iterations of this event have explored “Transformation,” “Digging Deeper” and “The Space Between.” 7 p.m. (reception), 7:30 p.m. (show). Iman Cultural Center, 3376 Motor Ave., Los Angeles. newground.nationbuilder.com/spotlight17.


Marking the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Balfour Declaration, a letter declaring British government support for the creation of a Jewish state, a panel of scholars, including Georgia Tech British historian Jonathan Schneer; University of Pennsylvania political science professor Ian Lustick; and University of Cincinnati modern Jewish history professor Mark Raider discusses the history of the Balfour Declaration and its significance for today. 4 p.m. Free. UCLA Faculty Center, California Room, 480 Charles E. Young Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 825-9646. international.ucla.edu.


A yearlong break between the end of high of school and the start of college, the gap year is becoming an increasingly popular alternative for high school graduates. This fair, the largest Israel gap-year fair on the West Coast, offers more than 50 Israel programs appealing to students of all backgrounds. Organized by the American Israel Gap Year Association, the annual event draws representatives of gap-year programs and gap year-friendly colleges as well as parents, students and educators. 7-10 p.m. Free ($10 suggested donation). YULA Girls School, 1619 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 702-0644. israelgapyear.org.

Netanyahu Delivers Speech On 100th Anniversary of Balfour Declaration

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem November 7, 2017. REUTERS/Ariel Schalit/Pool

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a speech before the Knesset on Tuesday commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.

Netanyahu hailed the document for laying “the international foundation and the support for Zionism and Europe and America and in other parts of the world,” which “contributed greatly to the resurrection enterprise of our People.”

The problem that Netanyahu sees with the Balfour Declaration was “that it took 30 years to implement” due to Britain backing away from it, preventing a place of refuge from being established for the Jews who died during the Holocaust.

Netanyahu pointed out that many in the Arab world were actually initially warm toward the Balfour Declaration, but it was the Arab nationalist spearheaded by Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, who provided “grounds for incitement and violence” and was allied with Nazi Commander Heinrich Himmler.

“Himmler is now gone, the Mufti is now gone, and Zionism has triumphed,” declared Netanyahu. “Those who seek the roots of the intra-Islamic struggle that we have been witnessing in recent years will find them there.”

Netanyahu added that Israel has been establishing alliances with moderate Arabs in the region in order to eradicate radical Islam.

“We are acting to achieve peace with other Arab countries who stand with us in the face of radical Islam,” said Netanyahu. “I can only hope that the Palestinians finally adopt this approach and turn to peace.”

Netanyahu proceeded to denounce officials in the Palestinian Authority for their recent criticism of the Balfour Declaration, which included them calling for the British government to apologize for it.

“They are not moving forward, they are going 100 years backwards,” said Netanyahu. “This is the root of the conflict, the 100-year-old refusal to recognize Zionism and the State of Israel within any borders.”

Netanyahu traveled to Britain last week to honor the declaration, where British Prime Minister Theresa May and other British officials defended their country for establishing the document.

For more on the Balfour Declaration, read Judea Pearl’s column here.

The Balfour Declaration at 100 and How It Redefined Indigenous People

It has been 100 years since the Balfour Declaration – issued by the British government on Nov. 2, 1917 – offered the first international recognition of Jewish national aspirations. In many ways, its importance is obvious: it encouraged some 400,000 European Jews to emigrate to Palestine in the years 1917-1940, and made it possible to lay the groundwork for the State of Israel.

But there is another significance that has not been fully recognized among modern historians, even though it tells us more about the current obstacles to peace than any of the usual explanations. I am speaking of the politico-philosophical precedent set by the Balfour Declaration regarding national identity, land ownership, self determination and the notion of “indigenous people.”

On the surface, the declaration’s text touches on none of these issues. Known as “history’s most famous letter,” this 67-word text actually reads like a holiday greeting card: “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice that civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

A close examination, however, reveals two asymmetries which, by today’s standards, would probably evoke bitter objections. First, the words “people” and “national” are attached to Jews, not to the non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine, who are referred to as “communities.” Second, the non-Jewish communities are assured “civil and religious” rights, not national rights, let alone a “national home.”

This asymmetry is probably what infuriated Columbia professor Rashid Khalidi who, in an emotional lecture on Sept. 25 this year, reportedly pounded the table and blasted the Balfour Declaration as “a declaration of war by the British Empire on the indigenous population of the land it was promising to the Jewish people.”

Khalidi’s outrage at former British Prime Minister Arthur Balfour and his Declaration is hardly justified. First, the idea that the Arab population of Palestine harbors national aspiration would have been news to Balfour, just as it would have been to any political observer in 1917. Khalidi admits as much in his book, “The Iron Cage,” in which he labors to explain why Arabs did not develop a ripe sense of national identity until the late 1920s, when it was too late to “crush the Zionist Movement.”

Second, the Balfour Declaration did not preclude the creation of a “national home” for other national groups in the region, side by side with the Jewish polity. Ottoman Palestine, as we recall, embraced a huge territory which included Jordan and parts of Syria. Various partitions and coexisting constellations were proposed in the course of time, most notably by the Peel Commission of 1937 and by the United Nations in 1947. While Khalidi’s book never mentions these proposals as options, and we understand why, it was in effect the Balfour Declaration that opened these opportunities for Palestinian statehood.

Third – and this is critical – the concept of “indigenous population” has undergone a profound transformation since 1917, which Palestinian society refuses to accept to this day. By championing the Jewish plight for a homeland, the Balfour Declaration made it absolutely clear that there are other claimants to the title “indigenous population of the land” and that the arguments of those other claimants are no less defensible and no less supported by hard evidence and trust deeds.

The Balfour Declaration overturned the narrow conception of “indigenous people” as a group of tribes or families who happened to own land in a particular geographic location and pass it to their heirs over a number of generations. By focusing on the Jewish narrative, the declaration broadened the concept of indigeneity to include peoples who have maintained vivid collective memories of past civilizations and who shaped their identity through dreams of returning to the cradles of those civilizations.

This shift in the definition of indigineity was only implicit in the 67-word declaration. It was made explicit two years later, however, in Balfour’s introduction to Nachum Sokolow’s book, “History of Zionism, 1600-1919. ”

“The position of the Jews is unique,” Balfour wrote. “For them race, religion and country are inter-related, as they are inter-related in the case of no other race, no other religion, and no other country on earth. … In the case of no other religion is its past development so intimately bound up with the long political history of a petty territory wedged in between States more powerful far than it could ever be; in the case of no other religion are its aspirations and hopes expressed in language and imagery so utterly dependent for their meaning on the conviction that only from this one land, only through this one history, only by this one people, is full religious knowledge to spread through all the world.”

A man of wisdom and character, Balfour considered himself primarily a philosopher, not a historian or a statesman. It is amazing how this multifaceted individual managed to take time off his duties as Britain’s Foreign Secretary and study carefully the role that the Land of Israel had played in Jewish life through the ages. He captured this essence better than some of our most revered history professors, for whom Zionism is a 19th century invention that started with Theodor Herzl in 1896 and ended with the Six-Day War of 1967.

Balfour understood that Eretz Israel is an inextricable part of Jewish identity. Accordingly, he also understood that indigeneity is based on intellectual attachment and historical continuity no less than on physical presence or genetic lineage.

In 2014, when peace negotiations seemed somewhat hopeful, Palestinian chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat was reported in The New York Times as saying: “the Palestinians could never accede to Israel’s demand that they recognize it as the nation-state of the Jewish people. … I cannot change my narrative.” A few months later, when pressed to explain what narrative defines his position Erekat told the Times of Israel: “I am the proud son of the Netufians and the Canaanites. I’ve been there for 5,500 years before Joshua. ”

On this centennial celebration of the Balfour Declaration it is worth reminding Erekat and Khalidi that the declaration’s most profound imprint on the world’s conciousness has been a universal understanding that the essence of indigineity is cultural and intellectual, not genetic or geographical.

Palestinian resistance to accepting their neighbors as equally indigenous to the region has been so obsessive and so counter-productive that it begs to be enlivened through a hypothetical scenario, however imaginary. I can’t resist imagining Balfour attending Khalidi’s lecture at Columbia, raising his hand and asking politely:

“Professor Khalidi, can you name a Canaanite figure that you are proud of? A Canaanite poem that you enjoy reciting? A Canaanite holiday that you celebrate? A Canaanite leader who is a role model to your children?

Replace the word “Canaanite” with “biblical” and you will find four questions that every Israeli child can answer half asleep.

There is merit and wisdom in hypothetical scenarios. In this case, I would hope it could mitigate the Palestinian claim to exclusive ownership of the title “indigenous people” and, God-willing, usher a genuine reconciliation effort based on mutual recognition and shared indigeneity.

JUDEA PEARL is Chancellor’s Professor of Computer Science and Statistics at UCLA and president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation.

Episode 62 – When the World Fell Apart: 100 Years to WWI

ca. 1917, West of Cambrai, France --- Members of the Royal Navy maneuver a tank, or "landship," over a trench during the Battle of Cambrai just west of the French town. --- Image by © Underwood & Underwood/CORBIS

Since 2014 the world has been commemorating 100 years for the Great War, World War I. 16.5 Million people lost their lives in that war, and its results changed the world forever.

Among many influences, the one that is most relevant to the Jewish people, is the liberation of Israel – then Palestine – from the Turkish occupation, and the beginning of the British Mandate. This November we’re also commemorating 100 years since the Balfour Declaration. Signed by the British foreign minister Balfour, that document led to the fact that we’re sitting here right now with Kobi Hubara…

Kobi Hubara has been filling up pubs and venues with his popular history lectures throughout Tel Aviv, for years. He’s a researcher of history, a writer and a publicist, and he’s with us to talk about the war we know almost nothing about, its affect on the Jewish fate and and how it reshaped the world.

Palestinian Authority to sue UK over Balfour Declaration

With the 100th anniversary of a key Zionist declaration approaching, the Palestinian Authority said it plans to sue Britain for issuing the edict.

The P.A.’s foreign minister, Riyad al-Malki, told Arab League leaders in Mauritania on Monday that the Palestinian Authority will sue over the Balfour Declaration, saying it led to all “Israeli crimes” committed since 1948, according to The Times of Israel.

Signed on Nov. 2, 1917, by British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, the Balfour Declaration stated that the British government “views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and would use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object.”

The declaration, issued while the area that is now Israel was still under the control of the Ottoman Empire, represented a pivotal victory for Zionists and has been credited with helping pave the way for the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

The declaration, al-Malki said, “gave people who don’t belong there something that wasn’t theirs.”

The United Kingdom has not responded to the lawsuit threat, and media reports did not specify in what court the P.A. would file such a suit or what, if any, damages it would seek.

Also at the Arab League gathering, Mauritania’s head of state, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, called for fresh efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Haaretz Twitter feed hacked by pro-Palestinian activists

Pro-Palestinian hackers commandeered the Twitter feed of the Hebrew-language Haaretz news website, leaving anti-Israel tweets for more than an hour.

Among the tweets posted on Tuesday afternoon were: “The Holocaust of the Balfour Declaration will continue the knife intifada”;  “The mothers of our martyrs will drink the blood of your soldiers and settlers,” and “The memory of the Balfour Declaration has changed the situation, wait for the massacre that will be arriving soon.”

The posts, including photos of Israeli leaders covered in blood, came a day after the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, which has been credited with helping pave the way for the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

Haaretz, whose editorial position supports Palestinian aspirations for a state, thanked Twitter in a tweet for helping to resolve the situation so quickly.