November 19, 2018

Producer Jason Blum Booed at Israeli Film Festival

Photo from Twitter

“Get Out” and “Halloween” producer Jason Blum received boos from the audience and was physically removed offstage Tuesday night after making political statements in his acceptance speech at the 32nd Israeli Film Festival.

“Tonight we have much to celebrate with the opening of the 32nd Israeli Film Festival, but at the same time today, Americans went to the polls to exercise our right to vote. I have been quietly checking my phone and we’re doing pretty well. The election results are pouring in as I speak and a lot is on the line,” said Blum, who was accepting the 2018 IFF Achievement award in film and TV. said. “The great thing about this country is that you can like Trump, but I don’t have to, and I can say what I feel about it — and I don’t like it!”

According to The Hollywood Reporter, a few people walked out of the Steve Tisch Cinema Center in Beverly Hills while Blum was speaking.

He continued speaking as booing became louder. At one point, Israeli reality TV star Yossi Dina approached the stage and attempted to pull the producer down, according to Variety.

Blum went to Twitter to express his feelings saying, “I was honored by the Israel film festival tonight and, unfortunately was not allowed to finish the speech I was trying to give.”

Following the tweet, Blum left a thread with his entire speech and the point he was trying to make.

“If we are not accountable, we may wake up one day in a country we don’t even recognize. Let us all hope that today’s election starts to chart a different course – not just for the U.S., but for the world – one that reaffirms the values that we all cherish,” Blum added. “Thank you.” 

“Over the past three decades, we have never shied away from allowing a filmmaker or actor to express themselves either personally or through their work,” Festival director and founder Meir Fenigstein said in a statement obtained by the Journal. “We have often highlighted films that some may deem not to their liking or are controversial. We in no way condone violence but do wholeheartedly support dialogue that allows people to share ideas and viewpoints in a respectful way.  Sadly, some audience members at last night’s opening greatly lacked that respect and turned an evening of celebration and recognition into something else.

“This is the first time we have ever experienced anything like this,” Fenigstein continued.  “I am in total shock, but I realize that yesterday was a very tense day in America with the elections.”

Women In Power—How Sharon Naim Built Her Empire

Sharon Naim sits behind her white lacquer desk embossed with crocodile skin in her office on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. As she overlooks the Hollywood sign, she seems completely unbothered by the fact that her telephone won’t stop ringing, and neither will her Skype notifications. Today she’s reviewing one of many offers for a Merger & Acquisition of her company, which resides in a highly competitive field: online education. And in a few hours, she will be picking up her three young kids from school.

Naim does everything society tells women they cannot do. She is a mother, a wife, an attorney, and an entrepreneur—simultaneously. After graduating from UCLA’s School of Law, she founded the first online traffic school in California, and then went on to launch the first online driver education course for pre-licensed teens.

“My passion was education and business from the start,” she says. In fact, while she was in law school, she worked for TestMasters, one of the nation’s largest test preparation companies specializing in the LSAT, GMAT, GRE and SAT. Naim was integral in spearheading the expansion of the company, making its California-based classes available in all states, several countries and online. It was during her time at TestMasters that she founded her company. Today, CyberActive’s classes are offered in over 25 states.

“The CEO of TestMasters, Robin Singh believed in me,” Naim says. After collaborating on many projects together, Singh gave Naim a small room akin to a storage space with a desk, phone line and computer and let her use all of his office resources and employees to get her own company started. “His mentorship and support was invaluable, as a business partner, and my success is a reflection of his amazing spirit, generosity and support.”

When Naim first started working on her own venture, traffic school and driver education were not yet sanctioned online, so she worked directly with lawmakers and judges in over 20 states to make both traffic school driver education more accessible. Today, CyberActive offers courses online and via apps, directly to consumers and through contracts, it maintains with school districts, states, municipalities, counties, courts, and private business affiliates.

CyberActive stands out because they are constantly working to keep the courses interactive, adaptive, and in alignment with the preferences of individual users.

“When we started, our courses catered to Generation X by utilizing the latest in gamification techniques and leveraging live simulation scenarios in an adaptive learning environment,” Naim says. “Our interactive experiences had to be intuitive, engaging, and straightforward. Our customers demanded it.”

But their most recent initiative targets a different generation, and offers a series of interactive focus groups with Generation-Z audiences across the country. “We’re developing new online teaching approaches that utilize the language, expectations, and needs of the new digital generation,” she says. “This means creating mobile apps and tailoring our program for increasingly smaller devices and catering to those on-the-go.”

Naim’s success seems unprecedented. But of course, like any other person who has earned this level of success, she experienced challenges along the way.

“I wish someone had told me to bring in equity partners early to grow the company faster,” she says. “I was always so busy growing the company organically that many of the roles fell on me and a few of our top employees. In retrospect, I should have kept my focus on my expertise and passion: creating excellent courses and getting them approved rather than on areas such as handling human resources.”

Surrounding yourself with smart and talented people makes it easier to find and keep other smart and talented people, Naim says. “It’s quite challenging to build a smart team. To that end, I wish someone told me early on to structure my growing business around talented people I can depend upon, and not try to shoulder so much of the burden alone with a few top employees.”

She says this would have made growing the company a lot easier, but that in retrospect, it taught her many valuable lessons about business ownership. “I know how to wear every hat at my company,” Naim says.

Like other tech entrepreneurs, Naim is meticulous when it comes to hiring great employees and software developers as technology rapidly evolves. “Finding and keeping the best engineers is a challenge, as those types of employees are in high demand. The best people are incredibly hard to come by, and recognizing that talent is a frequent challenge for any business owner,” she says.

Another challenge she faces is making sure their company stays ahead of the curve. “Pioneering the concept of online traffic school and driver education industry means you have to solve every problem with careful analysis and attention to detail,” she says. “In fact, my company has solved such problems for states that chose my company exclusively to offer to their constituents traffic school”

“There was no model to compare my company against. We took the first steps in every new development and we had to think of everything such as how to stop people from advancing to quickly, deter cheating and ensuring they were reading the material.”

Today, 7 million customers later, CyberActive has one of the most comprehensive software platforms because they seamlessly utilize their platform to create other online certification courses.

Perhaps that’s why Naim’s company won government bids over other much larger and well-funded companies. “We win these bids because of the quality of our product and the competence of our executive team,” Naim says. “We were also chosen by independent school districts who offer our driver education courses to their students as part of their curriculum.”

Among several triumphs, CyberActive was chosen by the United States Army to provide online courses to their military personnel. They also work with the Educare Foundation to make education accessible to all students, and empower them to reach their highest potential.

The popularity of CyberActive’s course content is a direct result of a number of factors. The courses are engaging, the material is delivered in a fun way, and their interactive courses are adaptive to the learning capabilities and speed of each individual. “We know that the users of our product come from all walks of life, and we are responsive to the needs of our students.”

In fact, CyberActive gives free courses to students from underprivileged backgrounds that do not have equal access to education. Naim—who lost her mother to cancer—frequently donates to the UCLA cancer research fund, and, participates in local D.A.R.E. initiatives for teenagers.

Moving & Shaking: LAJFF, Friends of IDF and More

From left: Stan Taffel; Tom Dreesen; L.A. Jewish Film Festival Founder and Director Hilary Helstein; Hal Linden and Manny Davis attend the opening night of the L.A. Jewish Film Festival. Photo by Todd Felderstein.

The 13th annual Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival (LAJFF) kicked off with a sold-out opening night gala on April 25 at the Ahrya Fine Arts theater.

The event paid tribute to the legendary African-American and Jewish entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. and featured a screening of “Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta
Be Me.”

The Sam Pollard-directed documentary examines the life and career of Davis, who was a child star, member of the Rat Pack and civil rights activist before his death in 1990 at the age of 64. Those interviewed in the film include Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal, Kim Novak and Jerry Lewis.

Speaking from a podium in the theater, LAJFF Director Hilary Helstein welcomed the crowd to the festival.

Beverly Hills Vice Mayor John Mirisch and Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz presented Helstein with proclamations on behalf of Beverly Hills and Los Angeles, respectively.

In an interview on the red carpet, Ken Davitian, co-star of the film “The Samuel Project,” said Davis transcended racial boundaries.

“He broke the barriers of these Black guys who could hang around with white guys [such as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin] and they were actually having a ball,” Davitian said. “They had a fun time; they all had the talent; they were able to do stuff other people can’t do and they liked doing it with each other and it didn’t matter if it was an Italian guy or a Black guy.”

“Or a Jewish guy,” Helstein said, standing alongside Davitian.

“A Jewish Black guy,” Davitian said.

Rabbi Jerry Cutler of Creative Arts Temple described Davis as a “great man and a great entertainer.”

Local comedian Avi Liberman, whose film, “Land of Milk and Funny,” screened at the festival, said he has always appreciated Davis’s contributions to the arts. He called Davis “one of the greatest all-around performers ever.”

Additional attendees included actor Hal Linden, star of “The Samuel Project,” which premiered at the festival on April 28; George Schlatter, who produced the breakthrough series “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In”; Manny, Davis’ son with his widow, Altovise; and Kat Kramer, the daughter of acclaimed filmmaker Stanley Kramer.

After the screening, Hollywood historian and Davis archivist Stan Taffel moderated a panel discussion.

The LAJFF is co-sponsored by Tribe Media Corp., parent company of the Jewish Journal.

Friends of Israel Defense Forces Western Region President Tony Rubin and IDF Sgt. Yaniv attended a Yom HaZikaron celebration at the Saban Theatre. Photo by Positive Vibes Productions.

Approximately 1,000 members of the Los Angeles community gathered on April 17 at the Steve Tisch Cinema Center at the Saban Theatre to commemorate Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror.

Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF), the Temple of the Arts and the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles organized the community-wide night of remembrance, ahead of Israel’s 70th Independence Day.

“Over the last 70 years, we have faced countless challenges threatening our existence as an independent sovereign country,” Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg said. “In the face of current threats stands the Israel Defense Forces and the resilient nature of the Israeli people. Their courage and spirit guarantees the security and the continuity of our nation. We bow our heads because we know that Israel is here because of them.”

More than 50 local schools, synagogues and organizations partnered for this community event. The ceremony honored the memories of Israel’s fallen service members and paid tribute to the men and women in uniform who defend Israel and Jews around the world.

“As we prepare to celebrate 70 years of a strong and independent Israel, we must acknowledge that we are able to do so because of the bravery and sacrifice of the men and women of the IDF,” FIDF National Board Member and Western Region President Tony Rubin said. “Seven decades later, these heroes must continue to fight for the survival of the Jewish state. We are forever in their debt.”

An Israel Defense Forces sergeant led the community in praying for the safety of those in Israel and the men and women of the IDF. He mourned the 26,780 fallen soldiers and victims of terror by reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish.

Additional guests included L.A. Councilman David Ryu; Rubin’s wife, Linda; Temple of the Arts President James Blatt and FIDF Western Region Executive Director Jenna Griffin.

From left: Noah Pollak; Leah Yadegar; Yael Lerman; StandWithUs (SWU) President Esther Renzer; Professor Robbie Sabel and Jonathan Bell attend the inaugural SWU Legal Dinner. Photo by Dustin Thompson Photography.

Hebrew University of Jerusalem law professor Robbie Sabel delivered a lecture about how international law is on Israel’s side at the StandWithUs inaugural Legal Dinner on April 26.

Appearing at The Mark on Pico boulevard, Sabel told the audience that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is rooted in “a hatred of Jews” and that while the likes of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Hamas and Hezbollah may not care about international law, international law does play an important role when it comes to defending Israel.

One such role for international law is that it gives Israel international legitimacy, as Sabel pointed out that it was a League of Nations agreement that helped lead to the Balfour Declaration in 1917.

“You won’t find a mention of this League of Nations agreement by propagandists,” Sabel said.

Sabel added that international law is important for negotiations, especially when it comes to particular phrases in agreements, citing particular wording in an agreement between Israel and Egypt that basically left the Gaza Strip as part of Israel during the time of the British Mandate.

On the issue of settlements, Sabel argued that they were actually legal under international law because international law states that occupation applies only when a country is occupying an “enemy state,” and there is no official Palestinian state.

“We’ve got to try and combat this attempt… to undermine Israel’s legitimacy,” Sabel said.

Also, StandWithUs thanked the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles for providing a three-year grant of $75,000 each year to StandWithUs’s JD Fellowship program, which educates participants on how to use legal advocacy to advance the pro-Israel cause.

Pro-Israel activist Noah Pollak, StandWithUs President Esther Renzer and Director of StandWithUs’ J.D. Fellowship Program Leah Yadegar spoke at the dinner as well. Among those in attendance included Israeli-American Council Chairman Adam Milstein. 

Aaron Bandler, Contributing Writer

From left: On the occasion of Israel’s 70th birthday, Beverly Hills Vice Mayor John Mirisch; Beverly Hills Mayor Julian Gold; Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg; and Beverly Hills City Councilmembers Lili Bosse, Lester Friedman; and Robert Wunderlich celebrated the Israel-Beverly Hills partnership at Beverly Hills City Hall. Photo by Vince Bucci.

The city of Beverly Hills projected the U.S. and Israel flags on Beverly Hills City Hall in honor of Israel’s 70th Independence Day and in celebration of the city’s strong ties and support for the state of Israel.

“We thank the city of Beverly Hills for the amazing show of friendship and the unwavering support throughout the years,” Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg said during the April 18 ceremony.

Those in attendance included Beverly Hills Vice Mayor John Mirisch; Beverly Hills Mayor Julian Gold; and Beverly Hills City Councilmembers Lili Bosse, Lester Friedman and Robert Wunderlich.

The relationship between the city of Beverly Hills and the State of Israel is multifaceted, including on water preservation, security and arts and culture. The city also has helped push back against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

That same day, a Yom HaAtzmaut celebration organized by Bnei Akiva of Los Angeles at Santa Monica High School drew 1,100 people, including students from Gindi Maimonides Academy, Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy, Yavneh Hebrew Academy, Emek Hebrew Academy, Shalhevet High School, YULA Boys and Girls High Schools and Harkham-GAON Academy.

“It is a privilege to speak to this audience in particular, because you are the next generation,” Grundwerg said, addressing the students. “You are the Jewish leaders of tomorrow.”

Trump Beverly Hills Visit Prompts Protest

An inflatable Trump holding a KKK hood was the centerpiece of an anti-Trump demonstration in Beverly Hills on Tuesday.

About 300 people descended on Beverly Hills on Tuesday to protest against U.S. President Donald Trump, who was in the neighborhood for a fundraiser.

The protest took place at Beverly Gardens Park, at Beverly Drive and Santa Monica Boulevard, beginning around 5 p.m. and concluding at 8 p.m.

A large, inflatable Trump, holding a Ku Klux Klan hood, stood at the southeast edge of the park. Music by rapper Kendrick Lamar played on a loudspeaker, competing with the chants of “No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA.”

A couple of women wore pussy hats, which were ubiquitous during the Women’s March. A terrier wore a sign across its body reading, “Dogs Against Trump.”

Terrier against Trump.

Protestors carried signs denouncing the president’s recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The signs read, “Jerusalem is the Capital of Palestine. Palestine Will Win!”

A protestor carries a sign denouncing the president’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.


Janice Batzdorff, a congregant of independent egalitarian community Movable Minyan who carried a sign reading, “Make America Kind Again,” also expressed concern with the president’s decision on Jerusalem.

“I have mixed feelings about it, but I don’t think it is the president’s position unilaterally to make that change,” the North Hollywood-based librarian said.

Batzdorff denounced the president’s stance on “environmental issues; his hatefulness toward immigrants and the way he did not condemn the anti-Jewish sentiment of that march in Charlottesville. And he is going into talks with [North Korean Supreme Leader] Kim Jong-Un without having any experts on Korea in his administration.”

Janice Batzdorff and Pearl Ricci attended the anti-Trump rally together.

Sandy, 83, a retired attorney who declined to provide his last name, held a sign reading, “Dump Trump, Fake President,”

Sandy, who has previously been active with the Jewish Federation, called the president “a disaster for the country, the world and the good people who live here.”

The president’s rhetoric surrounding immigration was disturbing, he said.

“The immigrants who live here are good people,” he said. “We want them here.”

Helen Hoffman, who attends Stephen Wise Temple High Holy Days services, expressed her displeasure with the president, “the as*hole in the White House,” she said. “I can’t say his name because it makes my stomach content rise up to the top.”

Based in the San Fernando Valley, Hoffman turned out with several members of Swing Left, an organization focused on regaining progressive Democratic seats in the 2018 House elections. She said she was hoping to help elect Democrats to represent California’s 25th and 21st districts, which are currently represented by Republicans.

Additional protestors spoke on behalf of labor workers, including members of Teamsters Local 396, a Covina-based union representing UPS, waste and recycling workers.

“The values we hold as Californians are not the same the president holds,” Union spokesperson Adan Alvarez, 30, said.

Dozens of Beverly Hills Police Department (BHPD) officers were on the scene. While a BHPD lieutenant said there were no reports of violent incidents at the protest, Gregg Donovan, a former employee of the Beverly Hills Conference and Visitors Bureau who carried a sign expressing support for the president, said somebody tried to knock his hat off.

“I heard the president was going to be in Beverly Hills and wanted to welcome him,”  Donovan said.

Other than the hat incident, Donovan said the event was peaceful.

“This is the safest place on earth,” he said of Beverly Hills.

A protestor in costume alludes to Trump going to jail one day for his alleged collusion with the Russians to win the White House.




Everyone Counts

Photo from Public Domain Pictures

Flashlight — check. Map — check. Safety rules — check. Police phone numbers — check.

Our four-person team jumped into the SUV and took off. No, we weren’t going on a wilderness trek. Our mission was to count the homeless — in Beverly Hills.

My journey through dark alleys that I didn’t know existed began when I received an email in early January from The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles asking for volunteers to join the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority (LAHSA), which each year conducts a three-day mission to count our homeless neighbors across Los Angeles. Knowing how many homeless people live throughout the county factors into how much funding is needed for community services. An important and sensible reason, but I was just curious — who are the homeless? Where do they sleep? Are there many children living on the streets?

As the lead agency for the regional planning body that coordinates housing and services for homeless families and individuals in Los Angeles County, LAHSA manages more than $243 million annually for programs that provide shelter, housing and services to homeless people in Los Angeles city and county.

The count has four components: a street count; a shelter/institutional count of those who are in shelters, transitional housing, hospitals and correctional facilities; a demographic survey; and a youth count of unaccompanied and unsheltered youth and young families younger than 24 years who are experiencing homelessness.

The project resonated with me as a Jew and as a retired clinical social worker who believes that each person has merit and that we are obligated to help those in need. LAHSA believes that “everyone counts.” In Judaism, we believe the same.

I signed up for the street count along with my daughter Elana and our friend Maor with no idea what to expect or where we would be assigned. I had visions — and I think hopes — of walking streets and freeway underpasses looking for and communicating with individuals and families. Instead, our team of four was assigned to — OMG — my neighborhood. My desire for adventure was unfulfilled but the anxiety that accompanied that desire diminished.

The project resonated with me as a Jew and as a retired clinical social worker.

The night began with a training session in City Hall. Looking around the room of volunteers, I was the oldest at age 73. The professional task force in front of us was impressive. Two licensed clinical social workers, police officers and para-professionals. I felt pride that our affluent community cared about the homeless. The presentation displayed great respect for the homeless — for instance, they never force or put demands on anyone to go to a shelter. They are ready to assist any person or family who is ready to accept help. We were told more than once that we shouldn’t intrude if we encounter a homeless individual or enclave. Remember, whatever it looks like, it is still their home. Respect. Human dignity. These words spoke to my humanity, my Jewish values.

And so we set out with flashlights, a map, paper and pen, and tags to wear with emergency phone numbers. Combing a 2-mile radius up and down 10 streets, 30 blocks, and 15 dark alleys; canvassing construction sites and empty lots; we were looking for the telltale signs of the homeless. We were to scrutinize collections of stuff, very large cartons, vans or cars with blankets covering the windows, shopping carts and waste materials.

Maor drove his SUV, I navigated and Elana and a young man sat in the back seat peering out the windows using their flashlights. After several hours of driving the dark alleys and streets, we spotted just one van — an old black-and-white VW van near a construction site. The windows were partially covered, stuff was inside — possibly somebody lived there. We noted this finding.

That such an organized effort took place in an upscale neighborhood impressed me. Over three nights, the 2018 greater Los Angeles homeless count drew 8,608 volunteers to 166 deployment sites, the full findings of which are yet to be tallied. The Beverly Hills effort found 15 homeless individuals, one makeshift shelter and one van.

Los Angeles is sending a message to the homeless, wherever they may live, that they all count.

Ada Horwich is active in The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and serves as a founding board member of the Jewish Democratic Council of America.

Police Investigate Defacing of Temple’s Bathroom

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Police are investigating what an Anti-Defamation League official called a “hate incident” after anti-gay graffiti was found scrawled on the door of a Beverly Hills synagogue’s all-genders bathroom last month.

The profanity-laden message, discovered after an Oct. 15 bat mitzvah party at Temple Emanuel, contained slurs against liberals, gays and lesbians, as well as the synagogue’s rabbi.

“It was definitely a hate incident and, because it took place at a temple, it could be an anti-Semitic incident,” said ADL regional director Amanda Susskind, who is a Temple Emanuel member. “We’re still trying to sort that though.”

Eric Reiter, the temple’s executive director, said the synagogue’s video surveillance system captured a suspect on camera. Reiter declined to identify the suspect, an adult male who he said had a confrontation with a temple security guard that evening. The family holding the bat mitzvah party belongs to Temple Emanuel; the suspect does not.

Beverly Hills police are seeking to obtain the surveillance video, which could yield clues about the alleged crime, Sgt. Max Seubin said in a phone interview.

An Oct. 26 statement co-signed by Temple Emanuel Senior Rabbi Jonathan Aaron and President Barry Brucker described the suspect as a “non-member attendee [who] vandalized our all-gender bathroom and wrote angry, hateful words against the LGBTQ community, and threatening language directed toward temple clergy.”

“We condemn this act of hatred and do not tolerate hate crimes in our synagogue and beyond,” the statement said.

On Oct. 29, the synagogue held a town hall meeting to discuss what took place and to address any community members’ concerns. Brucker referenced the incident as he addressed congregants during Friday night services on Nov. 3.

The defaced bathroom is located in the synagogue’s sanctuary building, at 300 N. Clark Drive, next to men’s and women’s restrooms and adjacent to the synagogue’s reception hall. A sign next to the door says, “This restroom may be used by any person regardless of gender identity or expression.”

The bathroom was a single-stall family bathroom before Temple Emanuel’s Associate Rabbi Sarah Bassin enlisted the help of JQ International — a Jewish LGBT support organization — to transform it into an all-genders bathroom in 2015.

The vandalism occurred as many Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and non-denominational communities are introducing gender-neutral bathrooms. In the Los Angeles area, these include egalitarian community IKAR and Reform synagogues Stephen S. Wise Temple, Temple Adat Elohim and Kol Tikvah.

Rabbi Rachel Bat-Or, director of the JQ Helpline and Inclusion Services, said many Jewish day schools, synagogues and other institutions from the liberal Jewish movements have inquired about ways to fund the creation of gender-neutral bathrooms.

“It is a radical statement for a synagogue to make and one that is really welcomed by the LGBTQ community,” she said. “We know if we walk into that organization, even if we see only that sign, we know we have stepped into an LGBTQ-inclusive organization and we can assume there are other ways they welcome the LGBTQ community.”

“It was definitely a hate incident and it could be an anti-Semitic incident.” — Amanda Susskind

In separate interviews, Aaron and Bat-Or said they considered the vandalism at Temple Emanuel an affront to progressive Judaism.

“It is a hate crime against Jews but more specifically a crime against progressive Judaism and liberalism — two values I will stand by until I die — to be progressive and liberal and accepting of everybody,” Aaron said.

“I don’t think that it was particularly a Jewish crime — it was an LGBTQ crime,” Bat-Or said. “The fact that it was done in a Reform synagogue and the word, ‘liberalism,’ was used was hate speech against the rabbis and hate speech against liberal progressive Judaism.”

Scott Stone, who is gay and serves on the temple’s board, said he and his partner have two teenage children who spend a lot of time at the synagogue. Years ago, Stone chaired the synagogue’s capital campaign for a renovation of the building where the incident occurred.

“We think of the temple and its buildings as our spiritual home,” he said. “To have someone enter our temple and vandalize it with homophobic and anti-reform Jewish graffiti is as if they broke into our actual home and did the same.”

Jews join Bahrain officials to promote religious tolerance

Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad al Khalifa (seated at left), who represented his father, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain, signs a declaration of religious tolerance with Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, as Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the center (far right) and Betsy Bennett Mathieson of This Is Bahrain and other dignitaries look on. Photo by Monica Almeida/SWC.

Even for Los Angeles, where spectaculars often are met with a stifled yawn, a recent international tribal gathering in a Beverly Wilshire Hotel ballroom was an eye-opener.

There were delegations of Buddhists in saffron robes, Sikhs in turbans, Muslims with keffiyehs and hijabs, Jews with kippahs and Christians in business suits.

Some 400 members of these diverse groups came together on Sept. 13, at the invitation of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, for a noble objective. The aim was to sign and support a declaration denouncing religious hatred and violence in all their forms; to support full freedom of religious choice and government protection of minorities; and to ensure that religious faith “serves as a blessing to all mankind and as the foundation of peace in the world.”

Given the past and present behavior of mankind, it doesn’t take a skeptic to view this and similar declarations as pie-in-the-sky illusions.

What was different in this instance was that the declaration was promulgated and drafted by the ruler of a country where such ideas have been in effect for centuries. That country is Bahrain, a small island nation in the Persian Gulf. Bahrain has some 1.4 million inhabitants, and a breakdown of its religious faiths indicates that 70 percent are Muslims, 14.5 percent are Christians, 10 percent are Hindus and 2.5 percent are Buddhists. The percentage of Jews is listed in different surveys as a fraction of 1 percent, but the actual number is even smaller, ranging between 36  and 40 residents.

Large parts of the Jewish population left the country following riots in 1947 and 1967, but Jewish, Muslim and British sources agree that the riots were triggered by pro-Palestinian outsiders and that resident Arabs went out of their way to protect their Jewish neighbors.

But with the ascendancy of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to the throne in 2002, domestic and foreign observers have seen an almost utopian state of relations among Bahrain’s religious groups. The monarch has enshrined religious tolerance in the country’s laws and by personal example. For instance, since 2015, he has celebrated Chanukah with both Jews and Muslims in attendance.

During the dinner in Beverly Hills, Sami Abdulla, a Bahrain government minister responsible for housing projects, was asked whether there were any problems in what sounded like paradise on earth. He responded that the main fear of his countrymen was that the surrounding region’s many problems and hostilities would at some point spill over into their nation.

Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, the two Orthodox rabbis whose unorthodox projects and initiatives as leaders of the Simon Wiesenthal Center often vex more conventional Jewish organizations, visited Manama, Bahrain’s capital, by invitation in early 2017. A walk through the city, Cooper said, was enlightening. There was a church, with a huge cross, next to a Hindu temple; and 100 yards away was an impressive mosque. A small synagogue, the only one in the Persian Gulf region, still stands in an older part of the city.

Hier and Cooper met with Hamad and discussed the ruler’s plan to establish a Museum of Religious Tolerance in the capital city by the end of this year.

Bahrain does not have diplomatic relations with the State of Israel. However, Cooper noted, during the audience with the king, the latter denounced the Arab boycott of Israel and said his subjects were free to visit the Jewish state.

Another point of discussion at the Beverly Hills event was a universal statement on religious tolerance written by the king and celebrated as the Kingdom of Bahrain Declaration.

The document’s key points emphasized freedom of religious choice, religious rights and responsibilities, and “faith illuminating the path to peace.”

The evening’s guests included officials from such predominantly Muslim nations as Kuwait, Egypt, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates and Azerbaijan. Like all others present, the Arab officials stood in respect as the colorful Bahrain National Orchestra, conducted by Field Marshal Mubarak Najem, played “Hatikvah,” preceded by the Bahraini and United States national anthems, sung by Sumaya Meer and Cantor Arik Wolheim.

The main speaker was Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, son of the king, who led the Bahraini delegation, toured the Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance and met with Jewish students.

As the evening’s climax, a group of distinguished guests on the dais signed the Bahrain Declaration, among them the speakers; visiting Arab officials; clergymen of various faiths; the evening’s master of ceremonies, television personality Mary Hart; UCLA professor Judea Pearl; and Betsy Bennett Mathieson, president of This Is Bahrain. The government-supported  booster  organization presented each guest with a lapel pin featuring symbols of the country’s seven religions, with a Jewish menorah adjoining a Christian cross and a Muslim crescent.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, a reporter asked Cooper whether the evening’s upbeat tone and hopeful notes were warranted in light of the Mideast’s seemingly endless conflicts.

Cooper responded that Bahrain, like Israel, “lives in a tough neighborhood. But if there is to be any hope for the future, it will have to be realized by voices of religious moderation.”

Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Reunion Part 3 Recap

Typos are generously sponsored by Jose Cuervo.

  • I was done with this reunion last week
  • I was done with Rinna weeks ago
  • Years actually
  • Rinna is ruining this show
  • Kim Richards looks amazing
  • Time for her to come back
  • Kim gives Rinna back a stuffed bunny
  • I LOVE Kim
  • Rinna walks off
  • Eileen chases after her
  • Rinna is a moron
  • Eileen is invisible
  • Kim goes to Rinna to explain herself
  • Rinna wants nothing to do with her
  • Rinna is humiliated
  • Really?
  • This is what humiliates her?
  • Dumbass
  • Rinna calls Kim sick
  • Rinna is mean spirited
  • She is also garbage
  • Kim calls out Rinna for being Rinna
  • Rinna says Kim used her for a storyline
  • Really?
  • Kyle steps in and calls Rinna stupid
  • Kyle points out it was Kim’s show first
  • Dorit says Rinna has a big mouth
  • Rinna has no comeback
  • She speaks her truth
  • Her truth is sociopathic
  • Apparently Eden is on the couch
  • Who cares?
  • Kyle doesn’t know what enabling is
  • Bless her heart
  • These women are not too bright
  • Rinna knew what she said in Mexico
  • Rinna must go
  • Dorit should get another season
  • Rinna swears on his kid’s life
  • Karma is watching
  • Who does that?
  • A sociopath
  • Eileen is talking
  • Eileen is invisible
  • Therefore we can skip over this
  • FYI: isn’t it clump not glump?
  • Dumbasses
  • Eileen speaks for Rinna
  • Blah, blah, blah
  • I don’t care about anything Eden or Eileen say
  • The E’s are a waste of our time
  • Xanax time
  • I love Xanax
  • No shame
  • That bag of pills is embarrassing
  • Get a nice pill box!
  • Coke time
  • Dear Lord
  • Rinna is dangerous
  • Dangerous and disgusting
  • Rinna made Xanax a story
  • Rinna has a pill list written down?
  • I thought she knew them all?
  • Rinna is painfully stupid
  • Dorit is a beautiful girl
  • Every time Eileen speaks I drink
  • Rinna wanted to hurt Dorit
  • Jealousy
  • Rinna wants Harry to love her like PK loves Dorit
  • Never gonna happen
  • Rinna is “clean and clear’
  • Bullshit
  • Eden and Kim are dismissed
  • Eileen is mumbling
  • I’m making out with Jose
  • Fire Eileen too
  • She’s an idiot
  • Lisa Vanderpump is everything
  • I ain’t got nothing but love for her
  • I love Max
  • They found his birth mother
  • LVP is gorgeous
  • She is an angel to so many puppies
  • I need to get a dog
  • A Vanderpump dog!
  • I love Giggy
  • Harrison too
  • Lisa went naked on Instagram
  • Nice for her kids
  • Gross
  • Rinna’s girls are pretty
  • They are not Gigi and Bella however
  • Why so much Rinna?
  • NOBODY likes her
  • Gigi is classy
  • Yolanda is classy
  • Rinna is garbage
  • That’s a wrap
  • Rinna must go
  • Eileen must go
  • Erika must get back to the old Erika
  • Dorit needs to come back
  • Kyle is good television
  • LVP remains the Queen
  • Glad it’s over
  • I love you Jose
  • Until next season……
  • Keep it real










































Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Reunion Part 2 Recap

  • Let’s jump right in
  • I am back in LA with my boyfriend
  • I love you Jose
  • PK is still on the couch
  • Dear Lord
  • Erika looks like an idiot
  • She needs to stop
  • PK is holding his own
  • LVP is sucked in
  • This is stupid
  • Erika needs to put on underwear
  • Move on
  • I’m done and skipping over it
  • Erika is being ridiculous
  • She was naked on camera
  • We’ve all seen her crotch
  • Enough
  • I have missed you Jose
  • Kyle is yelling at LVP
  • I love Kyle’s balls
  • They are clearly new
  • Erika is full of shit
  • She was worried about Tom and her panties?
  • Then why not tell him?
  • She’s hiding something
  • That marriage is in trouble
  • Just a guess
  • Jose agrees
  • PK is not apologizing to Tom
  • I like PK
  • I don’t like Erika today
  • That’s a shame
  • I like Dorit
  • That is a surprise
  • Lisa Rinna is a horrible human being
  • She’s also medicated
  • I’m done
  • I want to punch Rinna
  • Not kidding
  • With a closed fist
  • PK is a good husband
  • Bless him
  • I’m done blogging until he’s gone
  • I’ll make out with Jose until we’ve moved on
  • One last thing, Erika is embarrassing herself
  • Erika is also embarrassing Tom Girardi
  • Money can’t buy you class
  • Even when you marry it
  • Erika is supporting Dorit’s work
  • Whatever
  • Kim and Eden have joined
  • Kim looks amazing
  • Eden looks like Brandi
  • Eden simply cannot come back
  • She does not fit in
  • Kim Richards is a rock star
  • She’s also a smoking hot Grandma
  • Rinna is pathological
  • Also sociopathic
  • Kim is bring too kind to Rinna
  • She is unworthy
  • Kim gives Rinna back the stuffed bunny
  • Fucking right on!
  • Rinna fake cries
  • Kyle is secretly proud of her sister
  • Awesome
  • Eileen thinks it was shitty of Rinna
  • Kyle should not speak here
  • Rinna brings Harry into it
  • She is revolting
  • Rinna walks off fake crying
  • Dear Lord I cannot stand her
  • Kim is unapologetic and it is fabulous
  • Eileen is stirring the pot with Rinna
  • Eileen needs to STFU
  • These bitches don’t get it
  • Riina turns off her fake tears like a faucet
  • The bunny is hilarious
  • Kim is everything
  • Rinna is nothing
  • Round two done
  • One more week to go
  • More Jose needed
  • I’ll be back next week
  • Making out with Jose and keeping it real

Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Reunion Part 1 Recap

Typos are lovingly provided by Absolute.

After a season that found me feeling real hatred for Rinna, and real love for Kyle and LVP, nobody is happier it is over than my liver. The reunion is always fun, usually enlightening, and entertaining enough to make us wish it was not over. I’m in London, I’ve got lots of vodka, and I’m ready to go.

The ladies look beautiful, but I don’t get Eileen’s hair. Is flat hair a new thing? No. No, it isn’t. Andy starts by talking about DWTS as Erika is dancing this season. I don’t watch, but I imagine she’s a great dancer but not particularly appealing. Her personality gets lost in translation on TV. Bless her.

We start with a recap of Erika’s season, but Andy turns to Dorit with a question. I don’t get why Erika’s season is about Dorit. There is clearly an attack beginning, and that is too bad. Erika has a hard on for Dorit and that is obviously taking a lead here. Interesting but harsh approach for Andy.

Talk turns to Erika’s meltdown about her son being a police officer. I get her fear, don’t get her reaction to Eileen’s comment. I think Erika is unkind to her mother, even though she tries to make it sound like she’s not. I love Erika Jayne, but it turns out I don’t like Erika Girardi as much. Weird.

Time to review LVP and Rinna. Nothing interesting going to happen here so I’m going to make a drink. By make of course I mean simply pour vodka over ice. Rinna brings up the passing of LVP’s friend and I think it is shitty. Rinna is shitty. Try all she wants to appear to be compassionate, it ain’t happening.

We take a look at Dorit’s season and the attacking continues She is clearly the target for the reunion. Whatever. Dorit defends her lifestyle, her nannies, and her accent. At the end of the day I really like Dorit. Don’t get all the help or the accent, but I like her and I like how her husband loves her.

There seems to be more videos of the season than actual talking, but maybe that will change by part two. I hope so. It would appear they are keeping the good stuff for later in the reunion because there is nothing happening here folks and we are almost through part one. PK has joined the ladies on the couch.

Again with the panties. Ugh. Sidebar: Does anyone else want to punch Rinna in the face? I’m asking for a friend. I don’t think I can listen to this topic being hashed out again. Why the hell is Rinna talking for Erika. She needs to shut up. She also needs to be fired. Part one was a waste of time. Just keeping it real.



Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Week 17 Recap

Typos are generously sponsored by Grey Goose.

It is almost over and my liver is thrilled because she isn’t sure she can handle much more Rinna. This woman is sucking all the joy out of a brilliant season and really needs to be let go. I do not have one reader who likes her. The powers that be need to listen to the people and can her boney ass. She is a loser and we are done. I’m watching from London, with a fantastic grey goose, so here we go!

We begin in Hong Kong with Rinna being a total twat. She accuses Dorit of ding coke. Really? Rinna is a miserable bitch and a sociopathic liar. It is painful but fascinating to watch. Almost as interesting as Rinna imploding, is Erika’s apparent joy in watching Dorit can ripped a new one. Erika is perhaps not as nice or mature as we had originally thought. She is not a girl’s girl and that is a shame.

Kyle and LVP, who are both fantastically likeable this season, immediately call out Rinna on her bullshit. Rinna says LVP is the queen of low blows, and Eileen jumps on that bandwagon real quick.  Rinna says she is done, but she isn’t. Dorit repeats Rinna’s Xanax joke and in retaliation Rinna calls Dorit a cokehead? Rinna is bad for this show, bad for women, and bad for Xanax. Time for her to fuck off.

Rinna calls her kid, and is hung up on. Her kids are not fans of hers, so why does Bravo think we would be? Rinna calls LVP, who tells her she was not happy with the evening before. Rinna says she meant no harm, Really? Rinna is a whack job and LVP needs to have her head chopped off. Rinna has no regrets about what she said to Dorit? I can’t. Rinna makes me drink and no good can come of that. Oy vey.

Cut to the morning and some shopping. Erika is not apologizing to Eileen for losing her shit, which is odd. They head to shopping and everyone is doing some damage. Eden buys Erika a ring and it is sweet but really weird. Erika then tells all the girls about the ring, in a not too flattering way, and it is just mean. Erika apparently does not know how to be a girlfriend, which is why she doesn’t have any.

Time to head to the local SPCA in Hong Kong to meet some of the dogs saved from Yulin. Oh. My. God. I want all of this dogs. Every single one. Sidebar: Kyle asks that the “mongrel” breed is because she’s never heard of it. Really? I can’t. I sit out my vodka on that one. Eileen wants to adopt one of the dogs but he is not available yet. This is an amazing thing LVP and Ken are doing and I want to adopt a dog!

Back to Beverly Hills, Eileen is having lunch with Erika and Kyle. It is just strange. No word about her meltdown? It should have been the first thing she said. Eileen talks about Y&R and even that doesn’t make Erika apologize. Erika is not cool for such a cool girl. Kyle jumps right in on Rinna and her behavior in Hong Kong. Whatever. Erika then apologizes to Eileen. Really? I call bullshit. This is so stupid.

We are now being asked to watch Dorit and PK have a drink? For the love of God, make this end. I really like PK, have met him and think he is quite lovely, so it is odd to see him be so unlikeable here. I’m skipping this. Erika is finally shooting Y&R. I could not possibly be less interested in this. Was Erika’s lame and late coming apology because of Y&R? Don’t know, don’t care. I have a headache.

Kyle is on set for her scripted show. Can’t do it.  Happy for her, but no. LVP’s party planner Kevin is setting up the house and he is everything. He should have his own show. Or, even better, replace Rinna with Kevin!! He hits on the horse guy and I’m dying. Who does not love this guy? LVP is perfection this season. For real. Nobody does a party like LVP and nobody can outshine Kevin. Bravo to them both

Kyle is getting dressed for LVP’s party. She grabbed an outfit from her store and it is too long so she is cutting the lace with scissors, but keeps cutting them crooked. It is funny as hell and for the first time since the show started, I see the appeal of Kyle Richards. Over to Erika and her glam squad. No. I am over her and I think the pink wig is both hideous and Katy Perry five years ago. Thirsty.

Cut to Rinna, whose daughter says she is medicated. Out of the mouths of babes. LVP looks amazing and Erika looks ridiculous Dorit looks interesting and Eileen looks dated. Rinna is hideous inside so the outside is irrelevant. That said, hideous. LVP’s home is beyond. Next week will be the end of the season and not a moment too soon as I am ready for the reunion, where everyone is forced to keep it real.













Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Week 16 Recap

Typos are loving brought to you by a grey goose.

Oh. My. God. This show is brilliant. Thank God Beverly Hills has gotten it together and is once again giving us good TV. If they would just fire Rinna, this show would be perfect. I watched this episode last night but it was so good I caught up in it and didn’t blog as I was too distracted. A fascinating turn of events since I’m often bored. I am going to bullet point this week as there is a lot to cover. I’m still in London and had two cocktails at lunch, so this should be fun!

  • Rinna is a twat
  • They are still in Hong Kong
  • Erika has a hard on for Dorit
  • Erika has displaced anger
  • Dorit holds her own
  • I actually like Dorit
  • Erika is losing her sparkle
  • Rinna is drooling
  • Probably form Xanax and big lips
  • Erika thinks Dorit is desperate to be her friend
  • Um, no
  • Dorit tells Erika she is mean and cold
  • Erika is calm, yet unravelling
  • Erika is still mad about the underwear
  • Oy Vey
  • Really?
  • Are we still talking about this?
  • Erika said she was over it
  • Clearly not so much
  • Erika is unraveling
  • Problems at home?
  • “Allegedly”
  • LVP is a rock star
  • I love her
  • Kyle is also a rock star
  • I love her too
  • Who thought that would happen?
  • Eileen is invisible
  • I don’t even hear her when she speaks
  • Rinna is a twat
  • Erika is fabulous but crumbling
  • Dorit is hard ass
  • Eden is mute
  • Rinna is an epic bitch
  • Dorit has lost her mind
  • She is defending PK looking at Erika’s chooch
  • Erika is enjoying Rinna’s defense of her
  • Dorit calls Rinna low class
  • Dorit is wrong
  • Rinna is NO class
  • Eileen buddies up with Rinna
  • Rinna is a twat
  • For the love of God
  • LVP stands up for Dorit
  • Bravo
  • Kyle is silent during confrontation
  • Erika is hanging onto garbage
  • Dorit is trying to make things better
  • She knows it will never happen
  • Erika looks unstable
  • Erika cries
  • LVP comforts
  • Erika shut down
  • There is no way she is crying about Dorit
  • This is deeper
  • Hong Kong harbor deep
  • Rinna is a twat
  • Erika’s reaction is disproportionate
  • LVp doesn’t get why Erika is so closed
  • Kyle tries to explain Erica
  • Kyle and LV are girl’s girls
  • Rinna is a twat
  • Eden needs to get a girlfriend
  • Erika is done
  • Eileen is trying
  • Rinna is foaming at the mouth
  • Dorit calls PK
  • He’s the source of the problem
  • Oy vey
  • I can’t
  • I like Dorit
  • Hong Kong looks amazing
  • Time for fake togetherness
  • They are off to Buddha
  • Poor Buddha
  • The outfits for rain and stairs is hilarious
  • I’m never going in that glass bottom tram
  • Ever
  • Tweeter?
  • I’m having a shot
  • The Buddha is remarkable
  • Rinna is a howler monkey
  • These chicks are really loud
  • LVP walks brilliantly in heals
  • Not so smooth in flats
  • The jokes about prayer is rude
  • Don’t mock what is important to so many
  • Ugh
  • The glam squads are pathetic to me
  • Dinner looks amazing
  • Bullshit in three, two one….
  • Rinna stirs up shit again
  • Rinna is a twat
  • LVP tries to nip it in the bud
  • Erika turns on LVP
  • Rinna is a horrible woman
  • Rinna asks Dorit is she trusts he husband
  • Seriously?
  • Rinna threw glass when Kim mentioned her husband
  • I can’t with this woman
  • She is offensive
  • Everyone is yelling
  • Mostly at Rinna
  • Erika looks like an idiot
  • Not really
  • She looks like she is scared of her husband
  • Not really
  • She looks like she agrees with Rinna
  • So I guess that does make her an idiot
  • I just made a cocktail
  • There is something going at home with Erika
  • Erika is crying again
  • Prettiest crier ever
  • Erika is going on and on and on
  • Dorit apologizes again
  • Erika I a bitch
  • She wants Dorit to apologize to Tom
  • Dorit agrees
  • Then Erika wants PK to apologize to Tom
  • This is so stupid
  • Erika looks mental right now
  • Rinna is a fucking lunatic
  • Eileen is telling Rinna to settle down
  • Rinna is mentally difficient
  • Erika is still crying
  • Dorit is still apologizing
  • Epic meltdown in three, two, one….
  • Erika tells Eileen to stop
  • Eileen asks what Erika wants
  • Eileen suggest she never killed her child
  • Erika is talking about her son being a cop
  • I can’t
  • Erika is now shitting all over Eileen
  • Eileen is not sure what happened
  • Nobody is sure what happened
  • Erika has lost it
  • Rinna runs to her aid
  • Fuck me
  • Erika needs a pill from Rinna’s bag
  • Eileen tries t be kind
  • Erika shits on her again
  • Eileen is now crying
  • Erika is a twat
  • I feel bad for Eileen
  • Rinna is a twat in three, two, one….
  • Rinna asks Dorit is she did coke at her party
  • Kyle and LVP are disgusted by Rinna
  • I freaking love them this season
  • This was so bad it was good
  • Beverly Hills is back!
  • Kyle and LVP are MVP’s of keeping it real



















Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Week 15 Recap

Typos are lovingly brought to you by Sedated.

This is my second Beverly Hills blog of the day. I drinking TheraFlu instead of tequila and I must say, not as good. I better be feeling better by next week or I may have to impale myself. I love the Housewives, but they are not nearly as entertaining without a drink. Know it. It is time for the trip to Hong Kong. Everyone is fake packing and while LVP dogs are fabulous and Erika’s travel routine in fascinating, Rinna talking to her dog is just sad. Not in a feel bad for her way, but rather in a fire her way. I am painfully over Rinna.

The flying outfits of these women is hilarious and Erika’s is the only outfit that makes sense. Sidebar: Kyle sleeping with her mouth open was funny as shit. They have arrived in Hong Kong and I imagine it will get real ugly, real fast. The hotel is spectacular. Everyone is exhausted, but going to meet for drinks, which is scripted stupidity. The outfits to meet in the hotel for a drink after flying all day is just odd. I get they are on TV, but the Atlanta bitches would have been dressed more appropriately. Erika looks amazing, but it silly at this point.

Eden hits on Erika, then says she is meeting a stranger in New York. She has never met him in person, but is going to great him in a NYC hotel room naked in bed. Don’t get it, think she is an idiot, and have never been more certain she does not belong here. Ugh. LVP speaks of her documentary on the Yulin dog slaughter. She invites everyone to come, but Kyle and Erika are going shopping, while Rinna and Eden are going sightseeing. Dorit says she will go with LVP to support her. Good for her. Eileen doesn’t say what she’s doing. Hasn’t read the script I guess.

Eileen and Dorit visit Rinna, which is stupid. Eileen says she is going to go with LVP to see what her documentary is all about. Bravo. Rinna is full of shit and nothing she says matters. LVP is getting ready to go to work for the dogs and is emotional. Kyle goes to visit her and Eileen calls to say she is going with LVP, who is surprised and touched. Back to Rinna, she asks Dorit if she spread rumors about her having a drug problem. Oy vey. Rinna is a ridiculous twat and I feel bad for Dorit. Rinna is so thirsty she is trying to deflect and suck someone into her rejection.

Dorit did nothing wrong and Rinna is desperate. Dear Lord. I hate Rinna. She says someone told her, then said it was a sixth sense. Rinna is painfully stupid. Whatever. Kyle ad Erika are walking around and showing us Hong Kong before Erika gets back to bashing her mom. Not cool and not at all interesting. Rinna is out with Eden, who is invisible and I can skip over the whole thing. LVP shoes her hard work to Dorit and Eileen, who are both moved by her dedication to the cause of giving the dogs of Yulin. I like Eileen for the first time and LVP is amazing.

After skipping over Erika and Kyle, we find ourselves back with Eden and Rinna and I just can’t. Ugh. Rinna is pathetic and Eden is useless on this show.  Rinna is talking about her sixth sense again and I want to smack her. Really hard. I’m done with Rinna. Everyone is getting ready for dinner on a junk boat. The outfits are ridiculous and Eden looks silly. Rinna is really loud. Dorit jumps right in, asking who said she said Rinna had a drug problem. It is on. Rinna is hunting for Dorit. Probably in an attempt to make her not the only one hated. Dorit is holding her own.

Dorit says Rinna is changing her story. Rinna is being aggressive, then says she does not really have a sixth sense. Oh. My. God. Kyle moves next to LVP because she gets nervous, and nobody thinks Dorit did or said anything wrong, other than Erika, who now has a hard on for Dorit. Clearly Erika is still pissed Dorit’s husband checked out her hoo-hah. Erika is now being a bitch to Dorit and it is a shame because Erika’s looks bad for the first time. Next week is going to get dirty so I hope my cold s gone and I can have a cocktail while keeping it real.














Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Weeks 14 Recap

Typos are sadly brought to you by Sedafed.

I’m not sure how I missed a week, but it appears that I did, so I will have two RHOBH blogs this week. I am in London and have a miserable cold, so I cannot drink, which means I might have to impale myself to get through two weeks. My beloved Jose Cuervo is taking a break and my favorite Grey Goose does not go well with Sudafed, so I am fending for myself. I will be bullet pointing these as I must get through it quickly without the booze to help make it watchable.

 Kyle is lunching with Dorit, while Eileen is eating with Erika. They are eating at Sweet Butter in the valley, which is weird, as they love in Pasadena and Malibu. I wonder what these places pay to get on a show like this. Sweet Butter is my neighborhood breakfast place and it is awesome, so good for them, but seems so fake for anyone in the know. Whatever. Erika is going to Georgia to visit her mother. Kyle is throwing another party at her store. Enough already.

I am not a fan of going back and forth between conversations, but they are doing it. I just realized I am not ding bullet point. Oy vey! I’ll keep going this way until my liver begs for a drink. We’ll see how long I can go. Cut to Rinna, who is filming with her dog because nobody wants to be around her. Rinna is an absolute dumbass and I do not get how they can possible keep her after this season. She should have been fired after the last one, but we’re stuck with her.

Rinna is a vicious twat who lies like it is her job. Kyle and Dorit are talking about her, as are LVP and Ken. LVP is asking what we are all wondering, why does Kyle give Rinna such a pass?  Kyle should get Rinna fired in the same way she got Brandi fired. Kyle is the most likeable she has ever been and would take her popularity to a whole new level if she got rid of Rinna. Time for Kyle’s party at her store for The Fat Jewish. Oh how the mighty have fallen. Bless him.

FYI: the only person who thinks Rinna is funny, is in fact Rinna. Dorit falls getting out of the car at the party. More interesting is that none of the paps take her picture. Both were quite funny. Eileen keeps saying Erika is going to be on “her “ show. Why not plug Y&R since it is not actually her show? Dorit and Erika are just not mixing well, which you know will blow up soon. LVP is going to Hong Kong to work on stopping the Yulin Dog Festival and Invites Erika.

Erika invites Eileen, and LVP is pissed. By pissed of course I mean this is the big trip and of course everyone is going, but the fakery is lame. Den is also coming. Really? I’m desperate for a drink. Cut to LVP making lunch for Dorit, Erika, and Kyle. We hear that Kim is now a grandma. Mazel Tov. The little trip to Hong Kong is now the season’s big trip. What a surprise. Erika is talking a lot about her mother so that will be her storyline I guess. Not cool really.

Erika is bashing her mom, trying to make it sound like she is not bashing, but it is bashing. Dorit and Erika are clashing again. For the love of God. I cannot watch this show without a drink. By drink of course I mean drinks. I have never wanted to make out with my boyfriend Jose more.Erika is off to Atlanta with her glam squad. Over to Kyle, she is visiting Kim with Grandbaby gifts. Kim looks happy and healthy and whole. I love her and want her back.

Erika tells us about her grandmother getting Alzheimer’s. She is emotional and it is sad, but I don’t think anyone can claim one disease is the worse in the world. That rubbed me wrong, but whatever. Rika continues to bash her mom while not wanting us to think she is bashing. It seems unkind to me. I am not digging this path and hope it does not end with my not respecting Erika. She is fabulous in anyway and I just wish she would leave her momma alone.

Jumping to LVP, she is getting her doggy sanctuary t up. Perfection. I never thought I would say this, but I love this woman and I love her mission. Bravo. She has Rinna over so she can invite her to Hong Kong. Damn it. I was hoping Rinna wouldn’t go. LVP looks gorgeous in her one-on-one interviews. She tells Rinna to take off and hand over her eyelashes. Rinna does it, which is pathetic and hilarious. The Queen of manipulations reigns and the lashes are off.

Cut to Georgia, Erika is going to visit the graves of her grandmother and grandfather. She is speaking as if her grandmother was a saint, while sill passive aggressively bashing her mom. Not digging this at all. She praises her grandmother for always giving it to her straight, yet does not appreciate that in her mother. There is more to this than we are getting, and It makes me uncomfortable. One week own and one to go. No booze, but I’m keeping it real.

















Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Week 13 Recap

Typos are lovingly provided by Jose Cuervo.

I had to watch this episode three times because I kept getting buried under massive amounts of bullshit and couldn’t breathe. Maybe I couldn’t breathe because I was laughing at the crap coming out of Rinna’s painfully big mouth. Perhaps I couldn’t breathe due to all the tequila I was drinking to get through it. Either way, there was a whole lot of garbage and it was all coming out of Rinna.

We start with Kyle organizing her garage. Really? How is this interesting? Also, as a professional organizer, I never put labels on the outside of a cupboard. Label your boxes, create an index, and put it on the inside of the door. Kyle looks very pretty these days. Good for her. She fake calls LVP to set up the dinner at her house. This could have been set up without the scripted pieces of useless silliness.

Kyle has invited everyone to her home. Whoever is writing this clearly drinks more than I do. Cut to Eileen, she is with Erika and Vince practicing for Y&R. They have been dragging this Y&R thing out forever and while I am thrilled for Erika, this is a bit boring already. I like Ashley Abbot more than I like Eileen Davidson. Has Erika even been on Y&R yet? Vince is an acting coach now? Blah, blah, blah. I’m done.

Over to Rinna, she is calling Harry Hamlin and I want to impale myself. She starts by saying he needs to take the kids to school. If she is home and calling him, he is not home, and the party is tonight, when exactly is he taking the kids to school? He’s not. This is a desperate attempt to paint them as normal and involved parents. Does Rinna seriously think we are all stupid? Please fire her already.

Rinna is blowing smoke up Harry’s ass. She is admitting she said shit about Kim, but saying it was because she was upset about game night. Rinna is still claiming she does not remember everything, but has decided she said bad things. Rinna is mentally deficient and Harry trying to spin that Rinna was trying to help Kim is pathetic. Harry and Rinna are delusional and they really need to fuck off.

Rinna keeps saying she is saying “her” truth. How about “THE” truth for a change? Time to move on to LVP. She is showing us her new dog center, and is speaking of Yulin. No matter what you think about this woman on this show, or any show actually, she is a remarkable human being who is doing work on behalf of dogs that needs to be not only listened to, but commended. LVP and Ken are heroes here.

Watching Ken and LVP speak of the video he saw from Yulin, rips my heart out. I cried and I wish them success with their mission. If every person of privilege with a platform made the efforts they make for something they believe in, the world would be a better place. I must mention watching LVP trip while walking in flats is everything. Heals aren’t a problem, but sneakers were rough? Perfection.

Time for Kyle to do a commercial for Carnie Wilson’s new baking venture. I have met Carnie several times at our local farmer’s market and she is always, sweet, kind, funny, and approachable. She is a great girl so good for her she has this opportunity. Kim seems to like meeting Carnie, but is not interested in her sobriety. I’m not sober, but I’m thinking sober comparisons would be quite annoying.

Kim looks great and is there with her sponsor. Odd to me that Kyle hasn’t met Kim’s sponsor, but then again, not odd at all. Rinna is in the car with Erika, and tells her she said what she was accused of saying. She tells Erika as much and Erika is not surprised. She lets Rinna know she is going to get it. Rinna laughs and the entire thing is dirty and messy and dripping with desperation. Rinna simply must go.

Sidebar: I know I say a lot that people should be let go from these shows, but that is just part of the game. I watch, I blog, I follow the show, I have opinions. I don’t really care either way because this is just my job, but when it comes to Rinna, I sincerely think she needs to be released from the show. She is hurtful and mean and a pathological liar who brings nothing of interest. Time to fire her boney ass.

Everyone is arriving to Kyle’s with way too much makeup and overdressed to eat cake.  Bless them.  I like Kyle and LVP’s friendship this season. It is on another level, which is visible and oddly appreciated. LVP is lovely to Kim and brings a gift for the baby. Eden arrives and is painfully out of place. She is uncomfortable in her own skin and while I get her wanting to do the show, but it is not a good fit.

Rinna arrives and LVP is riling her up. Love it. Rinna’s voice makes me cringe and her kissing Kim after all the shit she said is lame and Kim should burn that bunny. Kim knows Rinna is fake and has no time for her. Bravo. Kim needs to come back full time. She looks amazing and has earned back her spot. Camille arrives, and yes, she should come back too. Camille is a great housewife and I want more of her.

Kim cannot stand to be close to Eden so she bales and sits separate. Rinna pulls Eileen off on her their own and tells her she said the shit about Kim. Rinna is spinning some ridiculous story about why she said what she said, and it is stupid. Rinna a liar and a bitch and she said shitty things because she is shitty. She says she meant well, and means well, and Eileen is shitty for believing Rinna’s shit.

Another quick Carnie commercial, then Kyle goes to pull Rinna and Eileen back into the group. Rinna is about to tell Kyle, then Carnie comes in, and again, the writers are hammered. Everyone is talking cake and Rinna decides to come clean in front of the whole party. For the love of God! This is so painfully stupid I can hardly stand it. Rinna is an idiot and there is simply no way around it. I am so over Rinna.

Kyle is pissed off, and Kim calls Rinna out on her bullshit. Eden says nothing, but LVP jumps in to remind Rinna how dirty she is. Dorit tries to stick up for Kim, but Rinna is a twat about it. Kim is upset, but articulate and kind.  Rinna is ridiculous, and LVP is not letting Rinna slide. Kyle is angry, LVP falters for a second, Kyle tells LVP to pick a lane, and LVP quickly readjusts her position. Brilliant television.

I do not believe anything Rinna says, including that she has sex with her husband, and don’t find her appealing on any level. Kim and Kyle are now going after Eden and the whole thing is sad. Eden says Kim is not compassionate about the loss of her sister, and Rinna jumps on it, but Kyle is not having it and defends Kim. I am loving me some Kim and Kyle Richards on this show. Kudos to Kyle for being so great.

Sidebar: Has Kim changes her shirt? Carnie plays therapist and I’m tuning out the noise by having a drink. Sorry. No sorry. I love you Jose. Kim looks great, Kyle is finally getting it, LVP is fabulous, Eden is out of place, Dorit is a one season girl, Erika is everything, Eileen is nothing, and I am done. Time will tell exactly how full of shit Rinna is. BH is picking up speed and a couple ladies are keeping it real.



















Beverly Hilton developer goes to voters with new plan

Beny Alagem wants to make a deal with Beverly Hills voters.

In 2008, the Beverly Hilton developer proposed a plan to redevelop the Hilton property into a sprawling complex, with a 12-story triangular Waldorf Astoria pointing into westbound traffic on Wilshire Boulevard accompanied by two luxury condominium towers, one eight stories, the other 18. 

The only problem: Beverly Hills building code allows a maximum height of 45 feet and three stories for commercial properties.

Despite this, the Beverly Hills City Council voted to allow the construction to proceed, but citizens banded together to offer a referendum to block it. The referendum lost by just 129 votes — less than 1 percent.

Now, Alagem wants to tweak his plan, and he’s returning to the same voters who nearly thwarted him eight years ago.

“This time, we said, ‘Let the voters decide,’ ” Alagem told the Jewish Journal. “ ‘Let’s go to the residents of the city and let’s ask them if they agree with me or not.’ ”

In March, two residents sponsored a ballot initiative to allow Alagem to scrap the smaller, eight-story residential tower and instead add another eight stories to the taller, 18-story high-rise, which would be built set back from Wilshire Boulevard. Where the shorter tower would have gone, a 1.7-acre green space, open to the public, would replace it.

Soon after the new plan went public, the Hilton rolled out well-funded signature-gathering and advertising campaigns. Twitter ads and television commercials illustrate a proposed lush park with a fountain populated by spiffily dressed visitors. On May 2, the campaign submitted enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. 

But, as in 2008, some Beverly Hills residents are none too eager to allow the developer, an Israeli American who immigrated in 1975, to raise the roof on the Beverly Hills skyline.

“This is not Legoland — it’s not like you get a certain number of blocks and you can distribute them however you want,” Mayor John Mirisch said in an interview at his office in City Hall. “That’s not how it works.”

Mirisch first objects to the initiative on the basis that it attempts to skirt the normal process for permitting construction. It would bypass a close review by City Hall and the public, he said. 

New construction projects that stretch code limits typically go before the city’s planning commission, the architectural commission and City Council. 

The mayor, a film executive, said Alagem’s decision to go directly to voters proves “there is absolutely not a level playing field” when it comes to development: Builders with enough money to throw into an election can attempt to buy special treatment.

“There is a basic question of fairness,” he said.

Alagem said these accusations miss the mark, as his project is not a new one. Before the first iteration was approved in 2008, it went through 19 public hearings and three years of review.

“This is totally misinformation,” he said of the mayor’s argument. “It’s pretty simple to analyze: Do I want open space … or I don’t want it.”

The proposed ballot initiative has raised some of the same hackles as the 2008 proposal.

“It’s another Beny Alagem sham — just like the last one,” said Larry Larson, an attorney and a longtime opponent of upward development in Beverly Hills.

Both Larson and Mirisch are committed to the idea of Beverly Hills as a low-rise community. In separate interviews, each mentioned the “village-like atmosphere” of the wealthy enclave. Most residents, they said, prefer the city’s current human scale to the towering height of other parts of Los Angeles.

In 2008, Larson spearheaded a residents group that pushed the anti-development initiative.

After it failed, he led an effort to uncover phony votes. Along with volunteers and one paid employee, he painstakingly reviewed election records and knocked on doors to investigate whether there had been double voting. He said he found 569 instances of illegal votes.

Larson brought his case to the Los Angeles District Attorney Public Integrity Division. The DA’s office confirmed it received the complaint, but said in an email that it “closed the case after a thorough review determined there was insufficient evidence to file any charges.” Larson can’t connect the Hilton to the alleged false votes.

However, no one argues whether the hotel operated vigorously within the law to defeat the measure, spending $4.67 million on the opposition campaign.

Alagem declined to say how much the Hilton has spent so far on this election. But he made no secret of the fact that he stands to profit on the development, whether or not voters approve his ballot initiative in November.

Building upward in a low-rise city would provide unparalleled views and likely increase sales prices on upper-floor condos. In addition, the developer said the new plan would create a more desirable space for Hilton guests and make them more likely to return.

“Of course we hope that [the new plan] will create better revenue, even for the Beverly Hilton, which in turn is more revenue for the city of Beverly Hills,” he said.

The Hilton currently pays more than $22 million to the city in taxes each year, not counting what Alagem has paid for permits.

“The residents are our partners for life,” Alagem said. “Every dollar that we bring into the hotel, the residents get 15 cents out of it.”

By this argument, too, Larson is unmoved.

“We don’t need the money,” he said. “We don’t need to prostitute ourselves and allow overdevelopment to make a few extra dollars.”

Larson questioned even the premise of the ballot measure that residents would benefit in the form of a public park. 

He pointed out that the initiative doesn’t require Alagem to deed the land to the city or offer an easement on the open space, and suggested the developer seeks to build there in the future, despite the fact that the initiative would mandate that the garden “shall generally be open to the public.” 

Residents are by no means united in opposition to the project.

Martin Geimer, a realtor who served on the Beverly Hills Recreation and Parks Commission for six years, said the initiative would address residents’ complaints that the city lacks open green space.

“All we ever heard was we’re under-parked, under-green space, and wish we had more,” he said of his time on the commission.

For the longtime Beverly Hills resident, who lives in the shadow of Century City near Beverly Hills High School, the additional height on the condo tower is a non-issue.

“After about two weeks, nobody will hardly notice it,” he said.

Speaking in the conference room at the Century City office of Alagem Capital Partners, yards away from the Hilton, the hotelier dismissed complaints that the 26-story tower would alter the Beverly Hills skyline.

Dominating one of the conference room windows, a nearby 40-story residential skyscraper is nearing completion just across the Los Angeles border, in Century City. Nearly double the height of Alagem’s proposed tower, he argues it negates concerns about changing the low-rise character of Beverly Hills.

Linda Briskman, a former city councilwoman who sponsored the current Hilton initiative, echoed that sentiment.

“I’m not afraid of height,” she said. “They’re already entitled to build 18 stories. Unless you’re just standing there looking straight up, you have no sense of how high it is, anyway.”

Nor is she swayed by the argument that the initiative subverts the normal planning process. Even if Alagem went to City Hall with the altered plan, residents would likely have opposed it with the same tactics as in 2008, she said.

“[The plan] would have been thrown into a referendum, anyway,” she said. “To be honest with you, why not cut to the chase?” 

Jewish education for a two-figure tuition

Late one recent afternoon in Beverlywood, a first-grader named Ben was learning about the story of the golden calf. Not happy about what he was hearing, Ben asked his teacher, incredulously: “They made a new god?!”

Across the hall, eight fourth-graders were learning the Purim story, calling out as many characters as they could from the Megillah. One boy, Yagel, who wore a kippah and tzitzit, excitedly yelled out names in a perfect Israeli accent while correcting his fellow students’ “mis-annunciations.”

These scenes are noteworthy because they didn’t take place at any Sunday school, day school or yeshiva. They took place at Nagel Jewish Academy, a  daily after-school Orthodox program, which officials believe offers a solution to the problem of expensive tuition for private Jewish education.

Unlike a traditional day school, Nagel Jewish Academy, which has three locations, operates two hours a day Monday through Thursday, after public schools let out. It focuses exclusively on Jewish and Hebrew education and costs only $25 per month, per child, for supplies and snacks provided by the school. Its budget this year is $400,000, a 166 percent increase from the 2014-15 budget of $150,000, which was financed almost entirely by founder Levi Nagel. 

Nagel said he has wanted for years to create an academy serving Jewish children who attend public schools. He says thousands of Jewish parents who want to send their children to Jewish schools don’t, and that high tuitions have other negative impacts on Jewish families, particularly Orthodox ones. 

“Families have been shrinking. People are having much [fewer] kids now than they used to because of the cost of tuition,” Nagel said in a recent interview at Shiloh’s restaurant in Pico-Robertson. 

Betty Winn, director of the Center for Excellence in Day School Education at Builders of Jewish Education (BJE), said annual K-8 tuition for the 37 private schools in L.A. within the BJE network range from $6,000 to $34,700, with a median tuition of $20,185. She also pointed out, though, that over half of families receive financial aid.

“So many of our schools really have extended the amount of need-based assistance that they give … so I think some of the families that are choosing other avenues may not have even explored the day school options,” she said. “I’m sure some have, but I’m also sure some haven’t.”

Nagel, 36, who is married and lives in the Hancock Park/La Brea area, knows all about the expense of Jewish education from personal experience. The financial manager — who was named No. 2 by business website On Wall Street in its 2015 list of top 40 advisers under 40 — pays $80,000 in annual tuition for his four young children to attend Jewish day school.

He opened Nagel Academy’s first location in September 2014 at the property owned by Chabad of Beverlywood. It has since expanded to two more locations — in Beverly Hills and Tarzana — serving a total of 265 students. They come from families with different levels of religious observance and range in age from 5 to 12 and grades kindergarten through sixth.

Nagel’s goal is for his schools’ students to be as well-versed in Judaism as students at any of the local Orthodox day schools. Its curriculum includes written and spoken Hebrew, the Jewish prayer book, the annual holidays and the weekly Torah portion. He said Nagel Academy is “still a little behind,” but argues that the two hours a day of Jewish studies students get at his schools isn’t much less than the proportion of each day spent on Jewish studies at day schools, where each day is split between Jewish and secular studies, not to mention things like lunch and physical education. 

At the school’s Tarzana location, which is provided rent-free by the Beith David Educational Center & Synagogue, more than 40 students were split up and learning in four different classes one recent afternoon. The class with fifth- and sixth-graders was learning in the synagogue’s spacious beit midrash, with five girls and one boy seated at a long table while the teacher walked her students through the Hebrew alphabet and vocabulary.

“Not only can I read this, I understand what it means!” exclaimed Eden, an 11-year-old girl whose sister, Lea, is in fourth grade and also attends Nagel Academy. 

Shlomo, an 11-year-old student in fifth grade, told the Journal that he attends Wilbur Avenue Elementary School during the day. He briefly tried another Hebrew school before his parents found Nagel Academy, which has helped him learn to read and write Hebrew words as long as four letters (so far). 

Elsewhere, a group of kindergarteners and first-graders were making their own tzedakah boxes and the second- and third-graders were playing a game of trivia about tzedakah (the theme of the week) and kashrut. 

“When do we give tzedakah?” the teacher asked one team.

After deliberating as a group, Team Tzedakah gave the correct answer: Jews traditionally make a donation every day before the morning prayer service.

In the main entrance hall of Beith David, Mahnaz Danyan, a Jewish woman from Iran, waited for school to let out at 4 p.m. Two of her children just enrolled at Nagel Academy. During the day, Melody, 11, attends Gaspar De Portola Middle School in Tarzana, and Michael, 9, goes to Nestle Elementary School.

“They need to know they’re Jewish. We were looking … everywhere, so we found out here are Hebrew classes,” Danyan said. “[Jewish day] school is perfect, but it’s expensive for us, so here is better.”

Yulia Edelshtein, who lives in Pico-Robertson with her husband and two children, enrolled her son Eli, 7, in Nagel Academy’s Beverlywood location when it opened in 2014; her daughter Ziona, 6, followed in kindergarten this year. During the day, both of them attend Canfield Elementary, a public school in Pico-Robertson with relatively high numbers of religious Jews. 

Edelshtein described herself and her Israeli husband as a “traditional, observant” family that observes Shabbat and keeps kosher. She said they would send their kids to Jewish day schools if they could afford it.

“We’re a young family and still building ourselves, so it would’ve been impossible for us to go to a private school,” Edelshtein said. “I really feel like it’s the best of both worlds — and I really love Canfield — to give the kids a secular education and a Hebrew education, and I feel that Nagel makes this possible.”

For parents like Lisa Arnold, Nagel Academy’s appeal isn’t just its affordability. The Beverlywood mother of three said that two of her children, Noah, 10, and Shaine, 8, have learning needs that local Jewish day schools haven’t been able to meet. So, for general education, her kids go to charter schools, and they use Nagel Academy for their Jewish education.

“What’s so unusual about it is the excitement and the joy for learning that’s showing itself,” Arnold said. “It’s not associated with school. It’s almost like a preferred activity if you’d drop your kid off at karate or dance.”

Is it possible that Nagel Academy could lead to an exodus of students from private Jewish schools to public alternatives? Nagel and the school’s head educational consultant, Rabbi Leibel Korf, said the answer is a resounding “no” and that it was never the intent. 

“The naysayers, before we started … they were saying, ‘Hey you’re going to take kids out of private schools and move [them] to public school,’ ” Nagel said. “The fact is every one of the kids came from public school. We didn’t take [them] from private school.”

Nagel cited one example in particular that he feels shows Nagel Academy is helping families that simply can’t afford private school, rather than giving parents an excuse to save money on tuition they’re already paying.  

“What was [a] little sad was the majority of the women dropping off their kids [at the Beverlywood site] are so religious that they cover their hair. But their kids did not know the Aleph Bet or know how to read Hebrew,” Nagel said, an indication, he feels, that their children only attend public school during the day because there’s no other option. 

Korf, who runs the Chabad of Greater Los Feliz, where Nagel attended before he moved in 2005, said the school exists because it’s needed. 

“The reality is so many children are not getting Jewish education because of the fact that people who would [otherwise] send [their children] to Jewish schools are not sending them. This is the fact,” Korf said during a recent interview at the school’s Beverlywood location. “We’re not creating an alternative for Jewish schools. We’re [responding to] a fact.”

That said, Korf suggested that nothing can completely substitute for a Jewish day school education, which is what his four kids receive at Cheder Menachem and Bais Chaya Mushka, which are Chabad boys and girls schools, respectively. 

“I’ll take the shirt and pants off me and I’ll sell my house and I’ll live in a small apartment,” Korf told the Journal. “You can’t send your kids to a public school and not jeopardize basic Jewish observances.”

Students at Nagel Academy in Beverly Hills. 

For their part, Nagel and his wife, Chaiky, send their four kids, ages 4 to 11, to Maimonides Academy. And while he said he’d rather send his kids to public school and Nagel Academy — and use the difference to sponsor more Jewish students at Nagel Academy — his wife insisted on private school.

“It’s a waste of money … but my wife has the final say,” Nagel said. 

Nagel Academy’s main expense is its teachers. Right now, there is only one full-time employee, and all of the 15 Orthodox teachers work on a part-time basis. Nagel approximates that one student costs about $1,250 per year, and he said he is working furiously to raise enough money to open three more locations for the 2016-17 academic year — in Westwood, Santa Monica and another in the San Fernando Valley.

He’s been pitching Nagel Academy to major local donors with the goal of each one sponsoring at least 100 kids a year. Nagel said philanthropist and entrepreneur Frank Menlo recently came on board, and businessmen and philanthropists Sam Nazarian and Shlomo Rechnitz have made pledges.

One way Nagel Academy keeps costs down is having a very low ceiling for rent expenses. The only location where it pays a usage fee is the Beverlywood location, which Nagel Academy Director Chana Leah Margolis said is “super-minimal rent.” Nagel added that, going forward, a condition of using any facility is that it’s provided rent-free.

“There are millions of square feet of empty Jewish real estate during those hours,” Nagel said, referring to the time of day Nagel Academy is operating. “So if it’s a community that needs it, they have to invite us in and give us a location for free. What we’re doing is paying for the teachers.”

He thinks Nagel Academy could grow to 1,000 to 2,000 students per year with enough word of mouth and enough fundraising, and he’s already talking about future locations in Brentwood, Los Feliz and even more throughout the Valley.

“We should, at a minimum, provide enough space for a thousand kids,” Nagel said. “We have the obligation to make it available.” 

Mendel Tevel released from N.Y. jail, returns to Beverly Hills

Seven months after being sentenced to a one-year jail term for sexually abusing a minor, Mendel Tevel, who once worked at a local Jewish youth center, has been released on parole from a New York jail and has reportedly been seen in Beverly Hills, where he was arrested in October 2013 on sex offense charges.

Tevel, who is 32 or 33, pleaded guilty in April 2015 to two counts of a “criminal sexual act in the third degree,” which, under New York law, constitutes anal or oral sex with someone who is a minor or is otherwise incapable of providing legal consent. This was after pleading not guilty to 37 counts of sexual abuse, most either in the first or third degree, upon his arraignment in 2013.

Tevel is the son-in-law of Rabbi Hertzel Illulian, the founder and director of the JEM youth center in Beverly Hills, where Tevel worked until his 2013 arrest.

Tevel’s wife and daughter continue to live in the Los Angeles area, and on Feb. 12 the Beverly Hills Courier published a photo showing him in the city. He does not currently appear on California’s Megan’s Law sexual offender registry, which is maintained by the state’s Department of Justice. The law requires certain sex offenders to register with the state’s Megan’s Law database within five working days of moving to California, giving the public vital information on sex offenders, including their home address.

Brenda Gonzalez, a spokeswoman with the state’s DOJ, said she cannot comment on any specific case, but said the five-day registration requirement applies to offenders “who are registered in other states.” Tevel does not appear on New York’s online sex offender registry; according to the New York State Unified Court System’s website, he is scheduled to have a sixth and possibly final “risk level assessment” hearing related to his status as a sex offender on Feb. 29.

A spokesman for the Brooklyn district attorney’s office told the Journal that the hearing will clarify Tevel’s sex offender registration requirements — which could range from 20 years to life — and that until then he’s not required to register. While a sex offender’s designation is typically established before release from prison, the spokesman said there was a technical error in Tevel’s case and the judge had to grant Tevel’s attorney’s request for a re-evaluation.

On Feb. 18, Sgt. Max Subin of the Beverly Hills Police Department confirmed that police are aware of Tevel’s presence in California.

“We are monitoring the situation and will take appropriate action if necessary and in accordance with state law,” Subin wrote in an email. “If he is found to be in violation [of registration requirements], our Detective Bureau will take appropriate action.”

When the Journal called the JEM Center on Feb. 18, this reporter identified himself and asked Illulian, who answered the phone, whether Tevel was at the center. Illulian said Tevel “is working with children, little children,” and then made clear he wasn’t being serious. He said Tevel hasn’t been to the JEM Center for more than 2 1/2 years, and criticized the Journal’s coverage of the case.

“All your articles are not true,” Illulian said. “Everybody knows [the truth] except the people who like to get headlines.”

The Brooklyn district attorney’s charges against Tevel in 2013 came two months after the Journal published an investigative report in which four of Tevel’s alleged victims described sexual abuse they said occurred from about 1995 to 2004, when their ages ranged from 6 to 14. Allegations against Tevel first became public in October 2012, when Meyer Seewald, founder of Jewish Community Watch (JCW), listed him on the group’s online “Wall of Shame,” the organization’s list of people it believes are sexual predators in Jewish communities. All of the alleged abuses cited in the Journal’s article took place in New York and Pennsylvania.

Tevel’s arrest and JCW’s activism have shed light on a divide within Orthodox communities over how to deal with sex offenders and other potentially dangerous members of the community. In November, the five-member board of the Pico-Robertson Chabad Bais Bezalel unanimously adopted a list of “Child & Member Protection Policies & Procedures.” Those policies allow the synagogue to ban any sex offenders from its property and events, and state that lashon hara prohibitions (which govern forbidden speech) cannot be used “as a means of silencing survivors, or those aware of abuse, who appropriately report abuse, or seek aid, therapy or comfort.” The synagogue’s president, Yonatan Hambourger, said the new policy wasn’t a response specifically to Tevel’s case but was necessary because of the number of people who come in and out of the synagogue during the week.

Prior to Tevel’s guilty plea, he would sometimes attend Bais Bezalel. When Hambourger was made aware, he asked Tevel to leave. Tevel hasn’t since returned. So far, Hambourger said, there’s hasn’t been any blowback to the Child and Member Protection policy.

“It’s a difficult issue for us to address because, on the one hand, we’re a Chabad shul, and we want to be open, but the stark reality is there are a lot of really, really potentially dangerous people,” he said.

On Feb. 10, Bais Bezalel’s board sent an email stating that, per its guidelines, it was advising the community of Tevel’s release from prison and assuring people “that Mendy Tevel is not welcome at Bais Bezalel.”

Deconstructing ‘ignogrance’: The truth about Beverly Hills and Metro

The Jewish Journal’s quote of the week of Nov. 26, in reference to Beverly Hills’s conflict with Metro, was former county supervisor (and Metro macher) Zev Yaroslavsky’s zinger: “Fighting Metro is not a construction project, it’s a destruction project.”

Oy gevalt.

There is so much arrogance and ignorance rolled up into Yaroslavsky’s statement, it could easily give rise to a new portmanteau word to describe the chutzpah: ignogrance. 

It is hard to know where to begin, though correcting a major deficiency in the article from which the quip was lifted would probably be a good start.  Beverly Hills is not trying to stop the subway.  Beverly Hills has never tried to stop the subway.  The sole issue for the City of Beverly Hills, along with the school district, has been the routing, which was originally planned to run down Santa Monica Boulevard, but which mysteriously was re-routed to Constellation under the city’s only high school when a well-heeled developer and a major political donor snapped its fingers and the Metro Board, led by Yaroslavsky, asked “how high?”

Yaroslavsky once famously described the county board of supervisors as “5 Kings” but the lack of factuality, transparency and logic behind his statement regarding the entire Purple Line extension seems more befitting of the Politburo.  Trying to make sense of his statement is neither a construction project nor a destruction project, but rather a deconstruction project.

The JJ’s article rehashes Metro’s argument that a fault along Santa Monica Boulevard makes it unsafe to build a subway station at the original site on Santa Monica and Avenue of the Stars.  Seismologist-to-the-stars, Lucy Jones, is quoted suggesting that evidence of a fault on Santa Monica Boulevard is “compelling.”  One must ask if this citation is pre- or post- the trenching which the school district performed.  Of course, trenching is considered to be the gold standard of seismological evidence and the trenching the school district performed along putative fault sites turned up absolute bupkes.

Dr. Jones is also serving as LA’s “earthquake czar,” and if, despite the new evidence provided by the trenching, she truly believes a dangerous fault impedes the ability to build along Santa Monica Boulevard, one needs to wonder why she hasn’t sounded the alarm about the 40 story condo tower at 10000 Santa Monica Boulevard currently under construction right next to the high school, or the major Westfield Mall addition on the other side of Avenue of the Stars, also directly on Santa Monica Boulevard.

What the article also leaves out is that last year the school district, the City of Beverly Hills, the FTA, the Department of Justice, and key Metro staff members entered mediation in an attempt to achieve a global resolution of the conflict.  In fact, after a full day of negotiations, all sides actually agreed on a mediated settlement, which would have addressed the school district’s concerns, while allowing Metro to keep the revised route — despite the fact that it will cost the taxpayers hundreds of millions more than the original Santa Monica alignment, add to travel time, and result in reduced ridership.  Importantly, the mediated settlement would have included additional trenching along Santa Monica Boulevard, which would have provided the major public benefit of ending speculation, once and for all, about any potential existence of a fault.

Ironically, while the deal was recommended to the Metro Board by Metro staff, it was Yaroslavsky himself who took the lead in killing the mediated settlement, which had been brokered by a retired superior court judge.  Being a “king” evidently has its privileges.

While it’s true that many members of the Beverly Hills community, including myself, have been concerned with some of the financial decisions made by the current school board, the concerns are much broader than funds spent on lawyers in the Metro case.  Newly elected board members Mel Spitz and Isabel Hacker, both of whom oppose Metro’s route under the high school, rightly pointed out, for example, the former school board’s much graver fiscal mistake in linking the district’s teacher salaries to Beverly Hills property values.

Metro now has a new CEO and new board members, and it is to be hoped that the institutional bullying which is Yaroslavsky’s legacy will soon be a thing of the past.  Of course, in addition to the hundreds of millions of wasted taxpayer dollars on the Century City station, that legacy includes the so-called “UCLA/Westwood” station which is not in the “center of the center” of Westwood, but actually closer to the Purple Line’s terminus at the VA than to the UCLA campus itself.  Sad that UCLA will have a station in name only, but nice, I guess, that the VA will effectively get two subway stations.  Of course, it would be even nicer if Metro would actually finally get the VA’s permission to place a subway station on its property – something which never happened under Yaroslavsky’s reign, but which hopefully can happen now.

Who knows, with the possible elimination of Metro ignogrance, we may even find Metro looking to the future and embracing the revolutionary new transit opportunities provided by automated vehicles; heck, we may even finally get a Green Line which actually connects with LAX…

And wouldn’t that just be a mechaya?

John Mirisch has served on the Beverly Hills City Council since 2009 and is currently the city’s Vice Mayor.

Budgets grow, tempers shrink as Beverly Hills Metro fight continues

Half a decade and $10 million into a turf war with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), nerves are beginning to fray in Beverly Hills. 

Outside its borders, the fight has cemented the city’s reputation as a player with too much money to spend on a game of “not-in-my-backyard.” But inside Beverly Hills, the board of education is facing the opposite charge — that the fight against Metro is an expensive folly, draining money that ultimately should go to kids.  

Since 2010, the city’s board of education has spent prodigiously from a construction bond on an array of geologists, consultants and lawyers attempting to block Metro’s Purple Line from tunneling under Beverly Hills High School. 

But the board’s decision to use funds from that bond has become increasingly controversial, as have the suits themselves.

“Fighting Metro is not a construction project, it’s a destruction project,” said Zev Yaroslavsky, a former member of the Metro board of directors who, until recently, served as Beverly Hills’ representative to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.


It’s a trope Yaroslavsky has long sounded in his Metro boosterism. But there’s reason to believe Beverly Hills residents are coming around to his point of view.

On Nov. 3, voters overwhelmingly ousted Lewis Hall, an incumbent board member who had made fending off Metro a centerpiece of his re-election campaign. On lawn signs, the words “No Subway under BHHS” appeared above his name.

One of the challengers elected in his stead, businessman Mel Spitz, has lambasted the board for its legal expenses. Money spent fighting Metro, Spitz told the Jewish Journal, “is money down the drain, absolutely wasted.”

Meanwhile, some members of the voter-mandated committee that oversees the $334 million construction bond passed in 2008 are uneasy with the board’s tactic of using those funds for the Metro dispute.

As of October, Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) has spent $10.3 million of Measure E funds on geotechnical and legal expenses related to the Metro dispute, according to district documents.

During the 2014-2015 school year, the district paid out $1.4 million from Measure E to Murphy & Evertz, its lead counsel in the Metro case, according to a district estimate.

Metro and BHUSD each maintain a different set of geological facts about the earthquake faults at the western edge of Beverly Hills, where the high school sits, and millions of bond dollars have gone toward shoring up the district’s evidence.

Metro claims that the Newport-Inglewood fault may snake under the high school, which, by state law, would make it unfit for students. The district has disputed that fact, pouring money into studies it says prove the site’s safety.

Further, Metro said a fault underneath Santa Monica Boulevard rules out an alternative route that skirts the high school, a fact some school board members dispute.

United States Geological Survey seismologist Lucy Jones, brought in by Metro as part of an independent review of the Purple Line route, said the evidence of a fault under Santa Monica Boulevard was compelling. 

The problem, she said, is that when several faults converge on the same area, as is the case with the high school, the seismic picture becomes somewhat obscured.

BHUSD has spent millions trying to bring that picture into focus during its faceoff with Metro. Now, it seems the district may as well have buried that money in the ground under the high school, where Metro seems likely to dig undeterred.

Late last month, a state appeals court affirmed a judgment against BHUSD, leaving the district’s legal campaign on life support.

The fight is not quite over. Pasadena lawyer Clifton Smith, formerly the publisher of the Beverly Hills Courier, a paper fiercely critical of the subway route, offered to represent the district pro bono in its appeal to the California Supreme Court.

In addition, the district has filed suit in federal court against the Federal Transit Administration, which is pitching in on the Metro extension. It’s unclear if the newly elected board will continue to shell out for that case.

Meeting any potential future legal costs could lead the board into a political minefield.

Beverly Hill resident Mary Weiss said that when she first joined the Citizens Oversight Committee for Measure E, members were content with rubberstamping the district’s use of funds.

From the start, though, she was convinced that spending bond money on any project not listed in the measure was “an illegal expenditure [and] that we should stop doing it.”

“Voters are entitled to know what they’re approving,” she said.

The California constitution requires school bond measures to issue a specific list of projects and prohibits school districts from using those funds for items not listed. Passed before the battle with Metro began, Measure E does not include the dispute as an approved expense.

Weiss is clear that she speaks for herself rather than the entire committee. But the ouster of a prominent Metro opponent in the November election has made her optimistic that the tide is turning in her direction. 

“There seems to be some momentum to take this seriously,” she said. “Before, it was pretty much laughed off.”

The board’s most vociferous remaining anti-subway member, Lisa Korbatov, claims that much of the cost associated with fighting Metro was foisted onto BHUSD when the county agency picked a fight in 2010 by charting the tunnel under the school.

“Metro does not respect this community, nor do they respect our only high school, our community asset,” she said. “They haven’t really dealt in a way that I felt was always the most upright, transparent way.”

One of Korbatov’s prominent allies is Tim Buresh, the district’s interim facilities chief.

Buresh has received nearly $300,000 in Measure E funds since July via his consulting firm, PrimeSource Project Management, compensation for a hefty resume: He worked on Metro’s Red Line and Blue Line and helped build 72 schools for Los Angeles Unified School District. It’s telling of Beverly Hills school politics that an ostensibly neutral district official has become a controversial figure. 

The Beverly Hills Weekly referred to Buresh as Korbatov’s “$17,000/mo lackey” (the Weekly has been repeatedly critical of Korbatov). 

Buresh maintains that when Metro, in 2011, suggested there may be active faults underneath the high school and El Rodeo School, a nearby Beverly Hills K-8, it was an act of “interagency terrorism.” 

“This is a big agency bullying a little agency,” he said.

Nonetheless, the potential threat of the fault necessitated a “very painstaking and very expensive” process that included “literally digging a trench that was 30, almost 40 feet deep, 300 feet long across the heart of the [high school] campus.”

The cost of that dig, aimed at determining the veracity of Metro’s claims, was necessary under state law in order to continue occupying the schools, he said. Along with geological analysis and a similar dig at El Rodeo, that expense has cost a majority of the $10 million in bond funds spent fighting Metro.

As for the results of the tests, according to Buresh: “We could not find the faults, at all. They weren’t there.”

Buresh and Korbatov both believe the suggestion of the faults was just a dirty trick by Metro, one of many — Buresh called the agency’s tactics “rotten.”

“What they tried to do was basically devalue the land out from under us at the high school,” Korbatov said. 

Far from flouting the bond measure, Korbatov believes that fighting Metro is the best way to protect Beverly Hills taxpayers’ investment. Besides compromising the structural integrity of the high school, the subway tunnels would inflate construction costs, she said.

“We cannot fulfill the bond as written, as stated, and as passed by the voters without doing what we can to prevent these shallow tunnels from getting under the high school,” Korbatov said.

Korbatov said the district has obtained multiple legal opinions confirming the propriety of using bond money to fight Metro but said those documents are legally privileged, for board member eyes only — a point of contention with the oversight committee.

And without seeing those opinions, Weiss and her proponents aren’t buying Korbatov’s argument.

“If there are people on the board of education that think that they are smart enough to decide for the rest of voters what the money should be spent on, that it’s tangentially close enough to the construction bond, I don’t think that’s right,” Weiss said.

Weiss worries the board’s liberal interpretation of its bond authorities will prevent voters from approving a bond in the future, which could soon become necessary.

The school district is projected to overspend the $334 million in construction funds by more than $200 million, making it likely that the board will have to ask voters to shell out again.

For the moment, the Westside extension of the Purple Line remains blank on L.A.’s Metro map, and has become the square inch of white space where Metro puts its logo. But soon enough, despite the best efforts of its opponents, the only thing standing between the Purple Line and its eventual terminus could be just a few miles of dirt. 

L.A. County, Beverly Hills discuss their own water deals with Israel

The State of Israel has entered into two separate agreements with the Beverly Hills City Council and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors related to tackling water-shortage problems and more.

The L.A. County vote Sept. 1 was unanimous, according to Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles David Siegel. Each supervisor — including Mike Antonovich, who introduced the motion, and Sheila Kuehl, who co-sponsored it — supported what is described on Kuehl’s website as “a resolution between Los Angeles County and the State of Israel for the purpose of establishing a formal relationship that fosters the exchange of research and information, facilitates joint developments, and enhances relationships and opportunities to incubate solutions to the water crisis.”

Kuehl told the Journal in a phone interview that Israel and L.A. County have been in talks for some time about coming together to work on water issues.

[READ: History of water desalination in Israel]

“I think when the consul general was first sworn in, he had indicated he was interested in working with the county on any number of issues, and one of them we discussed had to do with water and how we are in a severe drought, and how, when I was in Israel, I was impressed with technology they were developing for reuse, recycling, conservation, etc.,” she said. “So I co-sponsored to work officially with Israel to see how we can learn mutually from the research they’ve done, the technology they’ve developed — and we really need it.”

The agreement with Beverly Hills, also  unanimous, passed on the same night. 

“It’s also significant beyond water,” Siegel said in a phone interview, describing it as “a strategic agreement, deepening the relationship between Beverly Hills and the State of Israel on a host of issues — six issues — loosely based on the California-Israel [Memorandum of Understanding] from last year.”

Last year, California Gov. Jerry Brown and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu co-signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the Establishment of a Strategic Partnership for Joint Innovation, Exchanges and Cooperation. Both leaders at the time said the pact would help to solve problems in such areas as water conservation, alternative energy and cybersecurity threats.

“I co-sponsored to work officially with Israel to see how we can learn mutually from the research they’ve done, the technology they’ve developed — and we really need it.” — L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl

“Truly there is no better partnership for Beverly Hills than to be a partner with Israel,” City Councilmember Lili Bosse said during the council meeting shortly before the vote took place. 

The partnership between Beverly Hills and Israel will focus on cybersecurity, public health, emergency services, disaster preparedness, public safety, counterterrorism and art and culture. But Siegel, who attended the vote, said the most critical part of the plan involves water, as Beverly Hills residents are among the most scrutinized in terms of Angelenos’ water-usage habits. 

“I think the most urgent [part of the partnership] is going to be water because of what’s happening with the drought, and in Beverly Hills, they need to cut back 30 percent,” Siegel said. 

How will Israel and Beverly Hills work to conserve water? That’s yet to be determined, Siegel said. 

“We didn’t go into that much detail yet. It’s an overall agreement. We’re already looking at various technologies — they have significant water plans they are working on,” he said. “And L.A. County is going to be similar. We’re coming together with work groups, possible demonstrations and projects.”

Siegel said he expects more than 800 people to attend when Israel and Beverly Hills formalize their partnership on Nov. 10 at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts during a gala benefit for the Annenberg Center and American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. The evening will feature a performance by Israeli conductor Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic; the resolution will be signed during intermission.

“That’s going to be a big event,” Siegel said.

Information regarding the formalization of the L.A. County partnership was not immediately available.

Siegel said these sorts of agreements are important ways of strengthening the United States-Israel relationship. 

“It is not just top-down — it’s from bottom-up. So we are very active,” Siegel said. These include a 2014 partnership with West Hollywood toward convening an HIV/AIDS task force.

Next on the horizon, Siegel and various officials of the Southwestern United States will travel to Israel for the country’s annual Water Technology and Environment Control Exhibition and Conference, held from Oct. 13-15.

The Israeli official, who is near the completion of his tenure as consul general, said the recent agreements represent the culmination of years of work.

“This is my final year — a year to see a lot of things come to completion that we have been working on for a long time.”

From Memorial Day to Independence Day

In a few hours, Israel’s Memorial Day will end and Israel’s Independence Day will begin.

As they say here, once the clock strikes 8 p.m. we will change from a drop of red blood on green fabric to a drop of blue hope on white fabric. The colors could not be more different, but their message could not be more intertwined. 

       Today was my first Yom Hazikaron— Memorial Day– in Israel. Today, Mt. Herzl, the military cemetery  transformed from a cemetery to a mourners home. Each grave was now a person, a person surrounded by loved ones, mothers, sons, daughters, and wives. Israel, the fast-paced, won’t-wait-for-a-second, always busy country, stopped. We stopped talking, we stopped walking, we stopped life, and for a minute, we stood in complete silence. And in that silence, through the streaming tears, and broken hearts, a cry could be heard. A cry of a young boy who never had the chance to marry, a cry of a father who didn't have the chance to kiss his little girl goodbye, and the cry of a mother who never stopped waiting for her son to come home. 

       It is with those wet eyes that we must envision a better future, it is with those trembling hands that we must continue to build our country, and it is through those cracks in our broken hearts, that we must let the light of faith shine through.  It is only after proper recognition and gratitude, that we can celebrate and continue to create what we have. 

         If I may, let me ask you a favor, next time your plane lands on this holy soil: Don’t take it for granted. Even if the plane ride was a bit too uncomfortable, or the food didn't come on time, or you had to wait a little extra for the suitcases, don't lose sight of the big picture. Don't forget the young and the pure-hearted. Don’t forget those who have laid down to rest, so that you can come to a country called home. A country that wears the uniform of God. A country that is waiting for its brothers and sisters to come home, a country where green and white fabric seamlessly blend together and create Israel. 

Sabrina Mahboubi recently immigrated to Israel from Beverly Hills, CA.

Norman Lear on race in America, Judaism, World War II and his bright future

When I met Norman Lear at his spacious Beverly Hills office for an interview, he immediately told me, “The timing is good.” He didn’t say why — just that it has something to do with what he plans to do next.

That’s right, next. At 92, an age when most of us would be content to make plans for lunch, much less for the coming year, Lear looks more forward than back. In his just-published page-turner of an autobiography, “Even This I Get to Experience,” he tells the story of a long life full of “nexts”: World War II Army Air Force gunner, comedy writer for Martin and Lewis, arguably the most influential sitcom writer and producer in TV history, media entrepreneur, political activist, paterfamilias.  

Oh, and history maker.

From the moment of its premiere in 1971, Lear’s sitcom “All in the Family” revolutionized television and changed America. It dealt with racism, anti-Semitism, sex and just about every topic that until then was off limits for mass entertainment. The show went to No. 1, and Lear went on to create “Sanford and Son,” “The Jeffersons,” “Maude,” “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” “Good Times” and more. At one point, five of the top 10 television programs in America had been created by Lear.

“I grew up watching your shows,” I told him.

“So did I,” he replied with a smile.

Norman Lear (center) created, developed and produced the hit show “All in the Family,” which ran from 1971 to 1979. The politically charged sitcom starred (from left) Jean Stapleton, Carroll O’Connor, Rob Reiner, Sally Struthers and Mike Evans. Photo: CBS/Landov

His success and fortune made, Lear went on to build and sell multimillion-dollar media companies, then jumped into activism. He bought an original edition of the Declaration of Independence and organized a campaign of democracy awareness and voter registration around it, creating People for the American Way, and influencing the electoral process itself.

Lear writes of all these firsts in a book that is filled with humor and anecdote. His press appearances and interviews have focused on Lear the writer, the producer, the activist. But what surprised me in reading the book was the lifelong influence of another aspect of his identity: Lear the American Jew.

It’s there from the first chapter. All of Lear’s talent and drive emerged from a childhood in Hartford, Conn., and then Brooklyn, that at times reads like a Yiddish Charles Dickens story. Lear’s father was a hustler whose arrest left the family destitute and forced Lear to live at the mercy of less-than-welcoming relatives. His mother, a world-class narcissist, never seemed to see past her own needs.  

Along the way, his maternal grandparents, for whom being Jewish and being American were central to their lives, nurtured and shaped Lear. Judaism was less a religion than an identity. In the book (and in our interview) he recounts being 9 years old and hearing the anti-Semitic preacher Father Charles Coughlin on a homemade radio.

“That kid poking around on his crystal set, spooked by a Jew hater, still lives in me,” he writes, adding later, “I could be, and often was, at the center of things and still feel like an outsider.”

America offered him protection as a minority, and opportunity. Lear returned that with patriotic fervor and a life’s work that pushes America to live up to its Constitutional promises.

Now Lear wants to go even deeper. Married for the third time, a father of six children spanning several decades, Lear seems to have taken a spiritual turn with his life. That’s why, he told me, the timing of the interview is fortuitous. Lear’s “next” is to mount a nondenominational spiritual service and broadcast it digitally on Sunday mornings to theaters across the country. The man who once brought millions of Americans together to laugh now wants to bring them together to celebrate, to pray, to give thanks.

Lear, of course, already has set this in motion. He has been in contact with Fathom Events, the company that projects live events such as opera and theater into movie theaters nationwide. 

“I do Jon Stewart on Monday, Dr. Oz on Tuesday,” he said, impatiently. “Then I got a meeting coming up with Fathom, right after the holidays.”

Our interview was wedged between morning meetings and an afternoon tea with former first lady Nancy Reagan. In the Lear universe, political rivals often end up as friends.

Lear, dressed in blue jeans, a tucked-in shirt and his signature hat, sat in a ground-floor office adorned with photos of his family and his past TV successes. A flat-screen TV by the reception desk showed images of protests following the grand jury decision in the Eric Garner case, and that’s where our conversation began.


Rob Eshman: Last night, a grand jury in Staten Island decided not to indict the officers in the case of Eric Garner, and today there are protests nationwide. Thirty years after you started this national conversation on race, does it seem to you that we haven’t made much progress?

Norman Lear: We haven’t made any progress, because we, as Americans, don’t look at the mirror and see ourselves. I don’t want to put this only on the American people. Leadership doesn’t help us in every direction, whether we’re talking politics or business or media. The establishment doesn’t help us look in the mirror and see ourselves honestly. Our society, our families, our individuals have a tendency to racism.

RE: A couple of nights ago, Jon Stewart said that maybe we’re just race-aholics in this country and we’ll never really be cured.

NL: What we don’t do is talk about it. What we don’t do is open our eyes and our hearts to a conversation about it.

RE: Not until I read your autobiography did I see, spelled out, the strength of your Jewish identity. And I really got the strong sense that you are continuing that tradition of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marching with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Andrew Goodman and the Jewish civil rights marchers who died; that you were continuing that tradition of the Black-Jewish struggle for justice, but through comedy.

NL: Well, I think it’s clear. When I was 9 years old, I discovered Father [Charles] Coughlin.  That was a big deal in my life. I learned there were people who had it in for me because I was Jewish. And I was in shock.

That was really a major moment. I don’t know at what point it was, it couldn’t have been all that long after, that I realized what these Black kids — there weren’t that many in those schools I went to — had it far worse than I because I was Jewish. So I was empathetic at an early age.

Then I used to go to New York to see the theater. And my folks let me go when I was young — I have a long history of remembering the train pulling into 125th Street, and the tenements were already filled. You could put hands out of the train to touch the windows. And there were largely Black families living in those tenements.

And I felt something.

I felt the family orientation. I don’t know how to express it. And that was an important thing in my growth along those lines.

RE: It came from that sense that these people were discriminating against, or hated, you because you were Jewish, and then you empathized with these other people who were being discriminated against as well.

NL: Yeah. Their struggle made mine not seem to be a struggle.

RE: I had no idea how much that consciousness of being Jewish, of being discriminated against, really affected you.

NL: Oh, deeply, deeply.

Norman Lear in Rome during World War II. Photo from “Even This I Get to Experience”

RE: That was one of the things that pushed you to want to be part of World War II, to actually want to fight.

NL: I wanted to kill.

RE: You wanted to kill?

NL: I wanted to kill. As a radio operator, I was closest to the bomb bay doors. So when we dropped our bombs, I was the one who got up and looked into the bomb bay, and I was the one who let the pilots know when all the bombs had landed. So I would look down and see our bombs floating first, and then I [would] see a wider picture, the bombs from all the other planes. I see these hundreds of bombs. And I’d think we could miss a tank factory, or whatever we were bombing. I remember thinking, “What if we hit a farmhouse?” And my reaction to that was, “F— ’em!” — in those words. And then at some point I wondered — and I don’t know whether it was in the years when I was flying these missions or years after, I don’t know when — I wondered, would I have signed a piece of paper that said, “OK, I don’t give a sh– if it hits a farmhouse”?

RE: Would you have?

NL: I want to believe with all my heart that I would never have signed it, but I also have never been tested.  

RE: This was before you knew about the concentration camps.

NL: We didn’t know about concentration camps, per se, but we knew terrible things were happening to people, and Jews were trying to escape.   

RE: Instead of cowering, you really came out swinging in your life.

NL: I never lacked conviction.

RE: Even your college essay was about how important the Constitution was to you as a minority.

NL: It was for the American Legion Oratorical Contest. And maybe, because I was a member of a minority and I depended just a little more on those guarantees, maybe I honored it more, I cared more about it. Maybe it meant more to me than it meant to the average goy.

RE: Where did that Jewish identity come from?

NL: I loved my grandparents deeply, and I lived with them when my father was away. And I sat around on Friday evenings and played gin rummy.

So I sat on Friday evenings — in a sense, to show you how religious they were. We were playing cards, gin rummy, but they were very religious otherwise. My grandfather went to shul all the time but not in that political Jewish conservative way.

Lear’s maternal grandparents, Lizzie and Shia Seicol. Photo from “Even This I Get to Experience”

RE: Not politically conservative, but deeply patriotic.

NL: My grandfather loved parades. And I remember sitting on the corner with him and holding his hand and seeing a tear come down [from] his eye when this American flag went by and the marching band was playing.

RE: You have to think that this image of this Jewish man, deeply attached to America — a strong outsider identity combined with his love of this country — that just stayed with you and in some way defines you.

NL: I wanted to serve in battle; I wanted to be 50 years old and Jewish and be able to say, “I was in battle. I served in the war; in that war.” And that was as a result of the need to prove myself as a full American and as a minority. 

RE: But you didn’t come across a lot of personal anti-Semitism in your life?

NL: No. I ran into it in the service a couple of times. I was stationed in Florida and we were on a long breakfast line and somebody made an anti-Semitic crack ahead of me. I was angry at myself because I didn’t hit the guy, but that’s not what I did. And at the same time, I couldn’t wait to enlist; I couldn’t wait to serve; I couldn’t wait to be in battle.

RE: And how do you think that your Jewish identity impacted your work, your professional life, your writing, your shows?

NL: Well, on the sensitivity to all of the things we’re talking about, being Jewish was a part of that, like being American was a part of it, by understanding the rights and guarantees of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence. That was in me at an early age.

I often think I basically always was looking for a father, so I was conscious of the documents that assured your security. And then, on top of that, there were the Founding Fathers. So “father” was a big word in my life.

RE: But did your father have an impact on your Jewish identity at all or was that …?

NL: I don’t think so. Much more my grandparents, my mother’s parents.

RE: You gave a quote in the book inspired by Daniel Pearl’s last words, “I am Jewish,” and your quote was, “I identify with everything in life as a Jew.” You described yourself as a “total Jew” in that book.

NL: Well, I had to have been talking culturally, because I’ve never been religious.

But I am a total Jew. I don’t like prayer, per se. I like gratitude. So I don’t care where the prayers are coming from, and I don’t disapprove. Just keep them out of my face, and keep them out of the public square. Enjoy your relationship with the Almighty, God, the deity or whatever you care to call it, as a private act, because there are no two of us whose contact with the Almighty is the same.  

One of my “nexts,” and probably the leading next, would be to find a way to do a nondenominational religious service honoring everybody’s God. But not traditional, not out of the sacred Scriptures, not out of this church or that church, but honoring our common humanity. A river of reverence runs for thousands of miles. The temperature and climate change, and as a result, the foliage changes, but the waters are the same that nourish all of us. That’s our common humanity. I’d like to do Sunday morning services with the most kick-ass music and preaching.

RE: What do you hope would come out of it?

NL: A conversation about how we can’t have this anymore. We’ve been killing ourselves, and each other, in the name of God more than anything else. That’s got to stop at some point. That’s what I hope, to start that conversation.

RE: So you’d want this spiritual service to bring people together in conversation around the same things we talked about in the beginning?

NL: Yeah. Bring them all into the conversation. We’re all groping, except those a–holes who “know.”

RE: In your book, you call yourself an “Unaffiliated Groper.” 

NL: I love that! That’s what I am.

RE: Is that because as you’ve gotten older, spirituality has become more important to you?

NL: Groping is a big word for me, because that’s what this conversation is. Groping to say it better. Behind that is groping to understand it better. There’s nothing more important in my life. And I see that everything I do, and think, and speak — that’s at the center of all of it, groping for just a little more understanding. And I’ve learned that there’s more. It doesn’t end because one is of any age.

RE: More what?

NL: More information, more insight, more understanding of how hard it is to be a human being. And how great it is.

This interview was edited for publication.

A cup of joy at Aharon Coffee

Although Aharon Vaknin is relatively new to the business of coffee, he is long familiar with its rituals and traditions. “My first cup of coffee I ever made was when I was 8 years old,” he recalled. “One time, my cousin came to visit, and nobody was there except me, so Moroccan hospitality [means] asking if you want to drink something. My cousin wanted a coffee, so I just made it.”

Since opening Aharon Coffee & Roasting Co. on a side street just west of South Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills in September, Vaknin, with his wife, BatSheva, has professionalized this particular lifelong passion. 

Formerly a general contractor by trade, Vaknin’s gateway into the complex world of coffee came unexpectedly when he was shopping for what seemed like a simple household product: a grinder. Reading about the differences between blade (more widely accessible but bad) and burr (more expensive and yet essential to any hard-core coffee connoisseur), he went into deep research mode — watching endless hours of YouTube instructional videos, immersing himself in online discussion boards and experimenting with the product itself at home. These initial steps were “enticing me, and it was an amazing experience to educate myself.”

After about a year of patronizing a shop in Culver City that roasted its own beans, Vaknin began to try his own hand at the craft. Developing his knowledge and skills meant taking another leap, however, which led him to a intensive weeklong workshop in the coffee fincas (farms) of the Boquete district of Panama, with Willem Boot of Boot Coffee in Mill Valley. Prior to the course’s official start during coffee harvest season, Vaknin spent an additional two days with Boot, a pre-eminent figure in the field, visiting coffee farms and various facilities. 

After what BatSheva described as “that magical week” for her husband, he continued to travel weekly to Northern California to apprentice with Boot, where he also mastered working with the Dutch-made Giesen coffee roasters. One of this brand’s gleaming, imposing machines now stands in the back room at Aharon Coffee, where Vaknin roasts beans to brew and sell directly to customers in the bright, minimalist space and online. Further evidence of Vaknin’s continuing adherence to contemporary coffee culture is a selection of trade publications on display for customers to peruse, such as Barista and Fresh Cup magazines. 

The focus at Aharon is on all products coffee-related. They do, however, make a chai latte and offer a handful of options from the Art of Tea. But Vaknin and BatSheva decided to focus on the beverage that stokes their passion. 

“The outcome is amazing energy. It’s a vehicle for people to perform better, to be healthier, to have an experience of joy,” Vaknin said. “It’s awesome to be in an industry that makes people happy.”

The team offers specialty drinks seen at other top-notch, serious cafés, such as cold-brew coffee on tap and single-origin roasts prepared at a pour-over bar, along with brewed coffee and a range of espresso drinks using Vaknin’s roasts. All syrups, including dark chocolate, Madagascar bourbon vanilla and caramel, are made in-house. 

Baked goods come from Milo and Olive in Santa Monica, and thanks to an agreement with co-owner and lead baker Zoe Nathan, Aharon Coffee receives the first batch out of the ovens in the morning so that the croissants, cookies and other items are as kosher-style as possible, without coming from a kosher-certified bakery.  

BatSheva, a Washington, D.C., native and Yale graduate, and Aharon, who grew up in Tel Aviv in a family originally from Morocco, have four children. Operating a hospitality business comes naturally to Vaknin: His parents worked in some of Tel Aviv’s most distinguished hotel restaurants, including the Dan Panorama and the Hilton, before opening their own restaurant where Vaknin was the “shawarma barista,” BatSheva joked.  

Although Vaknin can discuss arcane coffee-related matters, ranging from the differences among various coffee growing regions to espresso extraction temperatures, what motivates this couple is a basic and essential human emotion. “The relationship we have to coffee is joy,” Vaknin said, “and what I care about is that the customers have the experience of joy. That’s the foundation of this business.”

 Aharon Coffee & Roasting Co., 9467 Charleville Blvd., Beverly Hills,


(424) 288-4048.

Election 2014: Elan Carr, a Republican Jew, and Ted Lieu, a Democrat, advance to round two

When the first round of voting in the race to succeed Rep. Henry Waxman wrapped up on June 3, voters in the 33rd Congressional district had handed Elan Carr, a Republican Jewish gang prosecutor, a first place finish. But it’s State Sen. Ted Lieu, the Democratic nominee who finished second, who emerged as the immediate favorite in this heavily Democratic district.

Turnout across the state was low, and only 18 percent of registered voters who live in the 33rd district, which runs along the coast from the South Bay to Malibu and includes Beverly Hills and other parts of the Westside, cast ballots. Although California’s new top-two system could have allowed two Democrats to vie for the seat in the second round, during the primary campaign, as Carr racked up donations and locked up support from local and national Republican leaders, it became increasingly likely that the 11 Democratic candidates on the ballot would split their constituency and that only one of the best-known among them would advance to the November ballot.

Indeed, Wendy Greuel, a former Los Angeles Controller and onetime L.A. City Council member, finished less than 3 percentage points behind Lieu. Two other prominent and well-funded Jewish candidates in the race, Marianne Williamson and Matt Miller, finished not too far behind.

But Lieu, who had won the Democratic Party’s nomination and the strong support of Democrats for Israel in advance of the primary, won the coveted second spot and is now presumed to be the frontrunner.

Not that it’s a done deal.

“Carr is an underdog, but you can’t write him off,” Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at CSU Los Angeles and a Journal columnist, said in an interview on June 4. “It’s a district that’s gotten a bit more Republican in the last redistricting.”

Voters in the 3rd District of L.A. County also chose two runoff candidates for the Board of Supervisors. Sheila Kuehl, who has served in the state’s Assembly and Senate, finished first, followed by Bobby Shriver, a former Santa Monica Councilman and Mayor; the pair now will face off in the second round – despite some momentum that had developed for a third candidate, West Hollywood City Councilman John Duran, near the end of the campaign, who was endorsed by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles Times.

“He probably got the endorsements he got a bit too late,” Sonenshein said. He also received the endorsement of Gloria Molina, another member of the board of supervisors who will be termed out at the end of 2014. “Probably a lot of people had already voted absentee. He probably just ran out of time and out of money.”

Keuhl garnered 36 percent of the votes, which was about eight percentage points more than Shriver got. It remains to be seen which of the self-described progressives Duran, who campaigned on a business-friendly platform, will choose to endorse for the seat currently held by Zev Yaroslavsky, who declined to endorse a successor before the primary.

While the results in the Waxman and Yaroslavsky districts weren’t entirely unexpected, other preliminary outcomes from Tuesday’s election left astute observers across the state shaking their heads.

“I said some harsh things in the past about the top two. About the dismal turnout and totally disengaged electorate back in 2012,” Joe Matthews wrote in a cheeky post for Fox and Hounds on June 4. “But after the dismal turnout and disengaged electorate of 2014, I see I was missing the point.

 “You can’t get results this fun,” Matthews continued, “with high turnout and voter engagement.”

Sonenshein also chalked up the low turnout to the adoption of the top-two system. “Most of the time, partisanship and partisan issues drive turnout.“ he said. “The top two intentionally mutes that. It sort of turns [congressional and statewide races] into the L.A. City races [which are nonpartisan], where you don’t know who’s who.”

And here’s another quirk of the top two system: Even in cases where it’s clear who’s going to win – especially where voters had a choice between an incumbent of one party running against a challenger from the opposing party – the two candidates will have to run the race a second time in November.

Assemblymember Richard Bloom, for example, will have to run again in November against Republican Bradly Torgan, despite winning almost three-fourths of the votes cast in this week’s election. (Indeed, Torgan won roughly the same percentage of the vote in 2012 when he ran against Bloom and two other Democrats in the first round of voting in 2014.)

One more novelty of the top two system is hotly contested and expensive intraparty contests, and that’s likely what we’ll see in the 26th State Senate District, which Lieu vacated to run for Congress. A preponderance of Democratic voters has set up an unpredictable, intraparty battle between Ben Allen, a Jewish member of the Santa Monica School board, and Sandra Fluke, a women’s rights activist and attorney from West Hollywood.

Fluke first became nationally known in 2012 when, as a law student, she was  denied the chance to testify at a Congressional hearing where she had hoped to advocate that all medical insurers pay for birth control, In the wake of that, Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut” on his radio show.

Ben Allen’s supporters have referred to him as a “nice Jewish boy.” Both Fluke and Allen have amassed impressive rosters of endorsements; each spent about $350,000 during the primary.

Jewish Beverly Hills couple robbed at gunpoint

A quiet Shabbat dinner at the Beverly Hills home of Samuel and Diana Hirt was interrupted May 30 when, after answering knocks at their front door, the couple were overrun by three masked intruders, one of whom shot Diana Hirt in the leg, according to police and a family friend.

The three men, at least one of whom brandished a handgun, led the older couple through the house, took valuables, shot Hirt in the leg, and tied up her and Samuel Hirt before fleeing eastbound on Doheny Road in a vehicle, the Beverly Hills Police Department said.

After struggling to untie himself, Samuel Hirt rushed to the phone and called the police. He and his wife were taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where the latter is still recovering from what is said to be a non-life-threatening wound.

Rabbi Mordechai Kirschenbaum of Chabad in the Hills, which leads a regular minyan at the Hirt home in Trousdale Estates, said he first heard about the burglary when he was walking up to the couple’s house the following morning, expecting to lead Shabbat services. He had been there the night before, leading the Shabbat evening minyan, which let out at 7:30 p.m., only one hour before the home invasion.

“When I walked up with my kids, we were greeted by a television crew,” Kirschenbaum told the Journal. “Suddenly people started coming out of their houses. They were crying and upset.”

Kirschenbaum immediately walked to the hospital to find out what happened.

“They said [to the intruders], ‘Take whatever you need. Please just leave us alone,” Kirschenbaum said, relating his conversation with Samuel Hirt. “They have a sefer Torah [Torah scroll] in their house. They were laughing that that's the most valuable thing they have at home.” The burglars did not steal the Torah.

He said that Diana Hirt is expected to make a full recovery.

“It blows my mind,” Kirschenbaum added. “They are the nicest, kindest people. Everybody loves them.”

Police spokesman Lt. Lincoln Hoshino said no one is in custody and police are still trying to identify suspects.

“We don't have a whole lot,” Hoshino said. “We are working on it.”

Journalist Matt Miller to run for Waxman’s seat in Congress

Columnist and author Matt Miller jumped into the increasingly crowded field of candidates seeking to replace Rep. Henry Waxman (D – Beverly Hills) on Friday, Feb. 14.

Miller, who writes a column for the Washington Post and is host of the weekly radio show “Left, Right, and Center” on KCRW, has never held public office, and described his bid for the seat as an “untraditional and unconventional appeal to voters on the basis of ideas.”

Miller, who spent two years working in the White House during the Clinton Administration before becoming a journalist and moving to Los Angeles, will be running in a field that already includes two prominent local Democratic politicians – former Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel and Calif. State Senator Ted Lieu. As such, Miller acknowledged he won’t be bringing too many endorsements from local elected officials, nor will the self-described “proud Democrat” be vying for the Democratic nomination at the state party’s convention next month.

“I obviously can’t compete with them for every local endorsement, because I’m not a career politician,” Miller told the Journal on Friday. “This will be up to voters to decide, but I’ve worked in the White House so I have, arguably, more direct experience trying to shape the national agenda.”

Miller is one of three Jewish candidates running for Waxman's seat – Deputy District Attorney Elan S. Carr, a Republican, and author Marianne Williamson, an independent, are also in the race.

Miller, whose family is a member of the Reconstructionist Kehilat Israel congregation in the Pacific Palisades, said that his political philosophy is informed by streams of Jewish thought. In his writings, Miller said, he outlines ways that government can ensure that “the accident of birth is not what determines people’s destiny,” by promoting upward mobility, educational opportunity and economic security for Americans.

“Those values come out of the heart of Jewish civilization,” Miller said.

Henry Waxman: Not quite the last of the just, but close

I don't fault Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) for leaving Congress. The House of Representatives is a terrible place these days, with the Senate only marginally better. The overwhelming majority of members from both parties have only one goal: it is to be re-elected. Henry Waxman's goal was to improve lives. Reelection took care of itself; his district is as progressive as he is.

Take a look at some of the laws Waxman was instrumental in enacting.

The 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, which established new programs to reduce urban smog, hazardous air pollution, and acid rain and prevent the depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer.Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments, which strengthened the standards for drinking water and established funding mechanisms for drinking water infrastructure improvements.Laws Reducing Childhood Lead Exposure, including laws removing lead from plumbing supplies, water coolers, and children’s toys, requiring disclosure of lead hazards during real estate transactions, and setting standards for safe renovations. The Formaldehyde Standards Act, which set minimum standards for formaldehyde levels from plywood, fiberboard, and particleboard.Laws Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions, including provisions requiring greater efficiency in federal buildings and procurement of clean vehicles. The Affordable Care Act, which gives all Americans access to affordable health insurance, strengthens Medicare and Medicaid, and reduces the deficit. Medicaid and CHIP Expansions, which extended the coverage and benefits available to millions of needy and working families. Nursing Home Reforms, which stopped the industry’s worst abuses and protected the rights of vulnerable residents. The Waxman-Hatch Generic Drug Act, which gave rise to the generic drug industry, saving consumers over $1 trillion in the last decade alone.The Orphan Drug Act, which gave drug companies incentives to develop treatments for rare diseases they had previously ignored.The Ryan White CARE Act, which provides medical care and other services to Americans living with HIV/AIDS. Women’s Health Initiatives,including the laws establishing standards for mammography, requiring the inclusion of women in clinical trials, and creating the Office of Research on Women’s Health at NIH. The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, which strengthened FDA oversight of vaccine manufacturers and created a no-fault compensation system for vaccine-related injuries. The Nutrition Labeling Act, which mandated the ubiquitous and popular nutrition labels that consumers rely upon to compare packaged foods. The Food Quality Protection Act, which established a strong health-based standard for pesticide residues in food. The Food Safety Modernization Act, which sets science-based standards for the safe production and harvesting of raw agricultural commodities and requires new preventative controls for companies that process or package foods. Cigarette and Smokeless Tobacco Health Warning Laws, which required rotating Surgeon General warnings on cigarette packages and advertisements and the first health warnings on smokeless tobacco packages and advertisements. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which restricted the marketing of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to children and gave FDA jurisdiction over tobacco products. The Safe Medical Devices Act, which enhanced public protection from dangerous medical devices by requiring mandatory reporting of adverse events and surveillance and tracking of implantable devices. The Drug Quality and Security Act, which strengthens FDA’s authority over compounded drugs and creates a uniform system for tracking drugs to prevent counterfeits. 

No legislator in our time (except, perhaps the late Senator Edward Kennedy) comes close to matching this record, a record that essentially adds up to the saving of millions of American lives. Waxman's successful war on tobacco alone reduced the lung cancer death rate by millions.  Add Clean Air and Clean Water to that and you come up with an incredible number of saved lives.

Waxman is a remnant of the good old days. Think back to the Progressive Era of Teddy Roosevelt, FDR's New Deal, and LBJ's Great Society when Congress fought the special interests on behalf of the American people and often won. Not always. But enough so that life in America is still far from the unregulated hell envisioned by, among many others,  the Koch Brothers, Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz  and Rand Paul.  America only remains a decent country because of the work and lives of men and women like Henry Waxman who not only resisted those two-bit Ayn Rands but beat them, over and over again.

Naturally, I will note the Jewish angle. 

Henry Waxman is utterly devoted to Israel (in fact, he is pretty conservative on Israel). He is also an observant Jew, one of the few in Congress. 

And yet his work in Congress rarely touched on Israel.  He left that to his Los Angeles colleague, Howard Berman.  Waxman focused on the needs of the American people. Like Carl Levin of Michigan, he did what he had to do on Israel, but as a legislator, he worked for America. (His opposite is Chuck Schumer who has devoted his career to supporting Wall Street, the Banking Industry and AIPAC, all cash cows). 

Waxman  comes out of the old socialist Jewish tradition which we now call liberalism or progressivism. Prophets not profits. And always, the people first.

I wish Waxman would run for something else. His governor, Jerry Brown, is a year older than Henry and he is running for re-election. But I doubt that will happen.

Of course, Waxman has accomplished enough for one political life (or 100 these days).

As was once said of Christopher Wren, the man who built St. Paul's Cathedral in London. “If you want to see his monument, look around you.”

As a Jew and as an American, Henry Waxman makes me proud. I think I'll tell my grandkids stories about him. They love hearing about the good guys who win.

Accused sex offender Mendel Tevel transferred to custody of Brooklyn D.A.

New York law enforcement assumed custody of accused sex-offender Mendel Tevel late Thursday morning, Nov. 7, according to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. Beverly Hills police arrested Tevel on Oct. 29 after receiving a warrant from the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office.

A spokesman for the Brooklyn D.A. confirmed to the Journal that Tevel was en route Thursday afternoon to New York.

“He should be here sometime tonight and will likely be arraigned sometime tomorrow,” said the spokesman, who asked the Journal to not disclose his name.

Although the information in the indictment will not be made public until the arraignment, Tevel, 30, is expected to be charged with three counts of criminal sexual acts in the first degree, five counts of criminal sexual acts in the third degree and three counts of sexual abuse in the first degree. Those are the charges listed in the warrant sent by New York police to Beverly Hills police, according to Lt. Lincoln Hoshino, a spokesman for the Beverly Hills Police Department.

Tevel is believed to have moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 2012, shortly after his marriage to Bracha Illulian, daughter of Rabbi Hertzel Illulian, who is the founder and director of the JEM Center, a Jewish youth center in Beverly Hills where Tevel worked and where he was arrested.

In an article in the Jewish Journal in August, four men alleged that they had been victims of Tevel as minors (ranging from ages 6 to 14 at the time of the alleged abuse).

They each claimed Tevel performed acts on them, which included spanking on bare skin, as well as sexually suggestive rubbing. The instances described by those who spoke with the Journal took place as early as around 1995 and as recently as around 2004.

According to the DA spokesman in Booklyn, Tevel was indicted by a grand jury before the DA’s office pressed charges against him. It is not known how many alleged victims appeared before the grand jury in the case.

Information about Tevel was first made public in October 2012 by Meyer Sewald, founder of Jewish Community Watch,  a sexual abuse watchdog that regularly publicizes information on a Web site about suspected abusers in the Jewish community, mostly in Brooklyn.

Seewald said he posted Tevel on the site’s “Wall of Shame” after multiple alleged victims of Tevel came to him.

Even after some of Tevel’s alleged victims came forward with their stories to JCW in October 2012, and to the Journal in August, Tevel continued to work around children at the JEM Center.

Seewald, who has assisted the Brooklyn DA on some abuse investigations in the Jewish community, told the Journal on Thursday that he believes several of Tevel’s alleged victims plan to come forward.

“We have other brave victims,” Seewald said, “[who] have said that they are going to the DA’s office as well.”

On Thursday, two of the four alleged victims interviewed in August for the article in the Journal said NYPD detectives have not contacted them, but that they would speak with detectives if asked to do so. They requested that the Journal not make their names public

One victim, asked whether he would testify against Tevel in court, said, “If they asked me to, then yes.”

Accused as sex-abuser, Mendel Tevel appears in L.A. court

On Thursday afternoon, Oct. 31, Mendel Tevel appeared in a Los Angeles Superior Court for the first time since his arrest two days earlier by Beverly Hills police acting on a warrant issued by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office. Tevel, a rabbi and youth worker, is accused of 11 counts of alleged sexual abuse in New York.

Handcuffed, wearing a standard blue jail suit and standing behind glass in a sealed-off section of a downtown courtroom, Tevel listened without expression as Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Shelly Torrealba verified that he had signed a form waiving his right to oppose his extradition to the State of New York. His lawyer confirmed Tevel’s signed consent, giving New York law enforcement officials until Dec. 2 to retrieve Tevel from the custody of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Tevel’s attorney, Dana Cole, asked the judge if the court would consider granting bail to Tevel based on two factors: Concern that it would be difficult for Tevel to maintain a healthy weight in county jail while observing strict kosher dietary restrictions, and the fact that Tevel has a clean record in California.

“Because of his very rigorous dietary restrictions it would be very difficult for him to maintain weight [and] health in county [jail],” Cole said.

Torrealba turned down the request, saying, “You’re not entitled to bail, and because of the very violent and serious nature of these offenses, it does appear that no bail is the most appropriate way to make sure that you get back to the state of New York to face these charges.”

Members of Tevel’s family were in the courtroom, including his wife, Bracha, and her father and Tevel’s father-in-law, Rabbi Hertzel Illulian, the founder and director of the JEM youth center in Beverly Hills, a Jewish community center where Tevel worked—and where police arrested him on the afternoon of Oct. 29.

Tevel is expected to be charged, pending his extradition to New York, with three counts of criminal sexual acts in the first degree, five counts of criminal sexual acts in the third degree and three counts of sexual abuse in the first degree.

In an article in the Jewish Journal in August, four men alleged that they had been victims of Tevel as minors (ranging from ages 6 to 14 at the time of the alleged abuse).

They claimed Tevel performed acts that included spanking on bare skin, as well as sexually suggestive rubbing. The instances described by those who spoke with the Journal took place as early as around 1995 and as recently as around 2004.

On Oct. 30, one of those alleged victims, a Brooklyn resident, told the Journal, “I would like to see him going away forever.”

Because the indictment remains sealed, whether those charges include the four men who made accusations against him to the Journal is unclear.

Tevel is believed to have moved to Los Angeles in 2012, shortly after his marriage.

Lt. Lincoln Hoshino of the Beverly Hills Police Department said that when the department investigated Tevel in August, detectives concluded there had been “no complaints” of any criminal or inappropriate sexual acts with students at the JEM center.

Illulian would not comment when contacted in August, and did not respond to multiple calls this week to his cell phone. He also declined to speak with the Journal in court.

In an interview earlier in the week, Illulian told KABC-TV, “God will help that it will show that it’s all false and will clear up, and people will see while we [JEM] will still continue our good job for the community,”

Outside of the courthouse after the hearing, attorney Cole spoke with the media, saying Tevel is “anxious to go back to New York and start the process” he hopes will “clear his name.”

Tevel “absolutely denies the allegations—he believes that they are fabricated,” Cole said.

When asked why he raised the issue of kosher dietary restrictions when the county jail is known to provide kosher food, Cole responded, “They do provide kosher food, but Los Angeles county jail is a miserable environment. It’s very difficult for a very religious person with strict dietary restrictions to really survive there.

“He’ll have to do the best he can,” Cole said.