November 21, 2018

The Sins God Can’t Forgive

If Harvey Weinstein went to synagogue on Yom Kippur hoping God would forgive him for his hideous sins against women, he’d be out of luck. Sorry, pal. God may be all-powerful, but he’s not powerful enough to forgive us for the hurt we inflict on others — whether it’s a horrible sexual assault or a hurtful comment.

This is not a new idea. I’m guessing most of us already know that if we hurt someone, the only one who can forgive us is the person we aggrieved. God can’t do it for us.

Still, it does feel awkward to acknowledge a limit to God’s power. After all, this is the Creator of the world, the almighty God of miracles who redeemed us from slavery and gave us the Torah at Sinai. How can there be any limit to this limitless divine power?

I brought this up when I spoke at Kol Nidre at the Beverly Hills Community Synagogue, and it stirred some discomfort. If we hadn’t yet received forgiveness from anyone we may have hurt this year, I said, all those appeals to God in the Yom Kippur prayer book wouldn’t be of much help.

For 25 hours on this holiest of days, I couldn’t get that thought out of my mind. It was as if God was telling me: “If you sinned against your parents, your siblings, your children, your friends, your colleagues or anyone else this year, please don’t come to me. I can’t forgive you, David. You’re on your own.”

“Learning how to stay humble when we’re sure we’re completely right is a difficult and holy act— one that I’m still working on.”

I felt alone with a God who was sending me to a place other than where I was. I kept thinking throughout the day of the people I may have offended this year, and I felt guilty that I hadn’t taken care of all that before entering Yom Kippur. From the reaction I received to my talk, I don’t think I was the only one.

As the day wore on, though, my guilt was replaced by gratitude. I realized more than ever the genius of the idea: God takes human relationships so seriously that he nullifies himself to help us work on them. How blessed we are, I thought, to be part of a tradition that doesn’t let us off the hook when we hurt one another; a tradition that compels us to repair our relationships without leaning on our Creator.

But what damages our relationships in the first place? As I mentioned in my talk, a big part is our obsession with “being right.” That certainty can blind us to hurtful language. If the price of being right is to hurt others, isn’t that too high a price?

I spoke about “being right” versus “doing right.” If my kid makes a mistake and I’m consumed with being right, I’m more likely to respond with anger. If my kid makes a mistake and I’m thinking of doing right, I’m more likely to respond with kindness.

Being right feeds our egos; doing right feeds our souls.

So many of us have “been right” this year about so many things. The chaos of our politics and the breakdown of decency and democratic norms have triggered enormous anger and emotion. I’ve seen how some of that anger has infiltrated relationships. When I asked a large audience on Yom Kippur, “How many of you have had nasty arguments this year over politics?” most hands shot up. What made those arguments so nasty? Maybe each side was sure they were completely right.

“God takes human relationships so seriously that he nullifies himself to help us work on them.”

Learning how to stay humble when we’re sure we’re completely right is a difficult and holy act— one that I’m still working on. But if conveying even strong views with humility can reduce the amount of toxic and hurtful language in our community, it’s more than worth it. 

Hurtful language jeopardizes the most valuable asset we have— our relationships. As Rabbi Steven Leder of Wilshire Boulevard Temple said in a holiday sermon, “When you are in pain, when you are lost, when you are afraid—double down on your relationships.  Cherish them.  Nurture them…Do not let the centrifuge of life’s stresses whirl your family and your friendships apart. Double down. Make things right with the people you love.”  

I can only thank God for giving us perhaps the most powerful lesson of our tradition: What counts more than anything for our Creator is how we treat one another. If you ask me, that may be God’s finest moment.

Harvey Weinstein to Surrender to Police

Harvey Weinstein will turn himself in to the police on May 25 as he faces charges of sexual assault, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Weinstein’s anticipated surrender to authorities comes as the Manhattan District Attorney’s office is expected to hit Weinstein with criminal charges. One of the charges is reportedly believed to center on actress Lucia Evans, who has claimed that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him in 2004 at his Manhattan office. New York authorities have been advocating for a warrant to arrest Weinstein for his alleged assault on Evans as well as Paz de la Huerta, who has accused Weinstein of raping her twice.

In addition to the New York authorities, police in Los Angeles and London are investigating multiple allegations against the Hollywood mogul. There is also a chance that there could be a federal investigation against Weinstein on the issue of travelling “across state lines for the purpose of committing a sex crime.”

Weinstein has been accused by more than 90 women of either rape, sexual assault or harassment since October 2017, the start of the #MeToo movement. Weinstein has denied all the allegations against him, saying all relations were consensual.

Mayim Bialik to Deliver UCLA Commencement

Mayim Bialik. Courtesy of UCLA.

Maybe expressing an unpopular viewpoint could be the theme of Mayim Bialik’s forthcoming commencement address at UCLA.

On April 4, the public university announced its selection of the “The Big Bang Theory” actress and UCLA neuroscientist alumna as the distinguished alumna speaker for the UCLA College commencement on June 15.

“Dr. Bialik embodies the values of a Bruin,” UCLA College Senior Dean Patricia Turner said in a statement. “Throughout her career, she has shown how hard work, determination and civic duty can lead to success. I know that our graduates will be inspired by her story as they set out to make their own mark in the world.”

What she will talk about when she addresses both commencement ceremonies, scheduled for 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., in Pauley Pavilion, remains to be seen, but the experience of expressing challenging opinions during challenging times would be appropriate. Throughout her career, Bialik has never shied from supporting Israel. And following the publication of her 2017 New York Times essay, “Being a Feminist in Harvey Weinstein’s World,” she demonstrated an ability to deal with backlash among those who accused her of victim blaming.

Bialik became a household name portraying the title character in the hit 1990s sitcom, “Blossom.”

After “Blossom” ended in 1995, Bialik enrolled at UCLA. While there, she was active at the campus Hillel, founding a women’s Rosh Chodesh group and participating in Hillel High Holiday services.

She is an observant Jew.

She earned her degree from UCLA in 2000, and her doctorate in 2007, before returning to the screen.

“I had no health insurance and missed performing and making people laugh,” she said in the aforementioned 2017 New York Times piece of her return to acting.

Since 2010, she has appeared on the popular CBS sitcom, “The Big Bang Theory.” She plays Amy Farrah Fowler, a neurobiologist who is romantically involved with Jim Parsons’ Sheldon Cooper.

Letters to the Editor: Harvey Weinstein, IDF Destroys Hamas Tunnel, Pickles

Harvey Weinstein: Disgrace to Judaism

I picked up a recent copy of the Journal, which I always look forward to reading. However, when I saw the photo of Harvey Weinstein on the cover, I was stunned. His picture, if in the Journal at all, should be small and on the last page of the paper, declaring that he shamed himself, his family, and that he is a disgrace to everything Jewish. The cover of the Journal should have someone we respect and emulate, who lives an exemplary life and makes this world a better place. I am sure you can choose more wisely the next time you prepare the paper.

Marion Lienhard, Thousand Oaks


A New Look, New Direction for the Journal

Congratulations on the new format, type, layout and the change in focus.

The new parsha commentaries show the variety of possibilities in interpretation.

The political differences are best shown when focused side by side on a single topic. The expansion of writers gives voice to many other topics of interest.

Mazel tov!

Enriqué Gascon, Los Angeles

When I lived in Baltimore I told people I read their Jewish News and they responded by saying, “Honey, no one reads it, we just look through it.”

One cannot say that about our Jewish Journal.  Its content is rich, diverse, readable and good enough to be savored.  All of that in addition to learning new things, human interest stories, and opinions that do not require you to want to tear your hair out.  OK maybe a little hair-tearing.

Don’t you just love change?

Sherri W. Morr via email

The Journal’s profound new tone and writers continue to amaze. In “A Deeper Feminism (Oct. 27),” Karen Lehrman Bloch’s assertion that freedom requires “thoughtfulness, a need to recognize reality and human nature” is a breath of fresh air. Although Bloch considers herself politically neutral, the media are so predominantly leftist that she seems to speak for the right. Her observation that “Women are equal to men but … different,” and “We should take pleasure in the differences,” is a mature, common-sense response to the growing, misguided progressive dogma that there’s no difference between the sexes or that it’s all cultural indoctrination. She’s a real delight!

I’ve even started reading Marty Kaplan’s column again. For a while, he was just trashing President Donald Trump every week, but his fascinating Oct. 27 rumination, “When Bad People Happen to Good Art,” explores the age-old enigma of profound art created by immoral, self-indulgent people. I wonder if it struck Kaplan that all the abusive artists he cited are likely Trump-haters, and that every Weinstein associate and political crony is a Democrat. Is the contempt some leftists have for Christianity and traditional Judaism eroding their consciences? I’m not suggesting Republicans aren’t sinners, but unlike secularists they don’t just rationalize bad behavior away. I’d love to hear Kaplan’s thoughts on this.

Rueben Gordon via email

What a great editor’s note: “Can Jewish Journalism Aim to Please?” (Oct. 27)! Note, that reveals a great journalist’s mind! Mr. Suissa, you have found that “sweet spot” already. By asking questions, you provoke thought, and by remaining true to yourself, you avoid triggering anger. The three insights you write about are excellent ways to reach out to as many readers as possible.

I am not a Jew, but I really enjoy the Journal, now more than before, finding those insights applied on all the pages. In my opinion, it is impossible to please each and every reader, but it is fully possible and necessary for journalists to be true to themselves when reporting the facts. Then let the readers be the judge! That’s how we, the readers, will be challenged to open our minds to new ideas and to “look beyond our own customs and traditions.”

Svetlozar Garmidolov, Los Angeles


Put the Brakes on Those GPS Satellites

Your interview with Barry Barish (“Barry Barish on His Nobel Prize — and Why He Never Wrote That Novel,” Oct. 27) contains an egregious error. He is quoted as saying that the GPS satellites travel at 1/4th of the speed of light. They actually travel at 14,000 kilometers per hour (kph) relative to Earth, which is 0.001 percent of the speed of light. The relativistic offset of the space-borne clocks is 38 microseconds/day relative to a stationary clock on Earth, which would cause an Earth-bound user to make a 14-centimeter position error.

As a mere PhD in engineering I hesitate to correct a Nobel Prize winner. I suspect the interviewer misunderstood him.

Myron Kayton via email


Israel’s Destruction of Hamas Tunnel

I would like to thank Aaron Bandler for the story he wrote on the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) destroying a tunnel built by Hamas (“IDF Destroys Hamas Tunnel,” Oct. 30). I 100 percent agree with what Bandler wrote about what the IDF did. Not only did I agree with it but I also completely [endorse what] the IDF is doing. In this story, I discovered that the IDF destroyed a tunnel made by Hamas. The tunnel spanned from Khan Younis in Gaza toward Kibbutz Kissufim in Israel. The reason I agree with this is because Israel warned that Hamas digs over six miles of tunnel a month toward Israel and that members of Hamas can travel through the entirety of the Gaza Strip underground through their network of tunnels. So if Israel lets this continue to happen, then many will probably die.

Nathan Tabibi via email


Israel and the Politics of Pickles

In the column “We, the Pickles,” Shmuel Rosner discusses many things. For the most part, I agree with his statements, although he wrote that Israeli President Reuven Rivlin meant that we all no longer care about the country or the people, but rather maintaining the government. But isn’t that what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is doing? No matter what Netanyahu does, the critics grumble. He does well and he gets no credit, but as soon as something bad happens, he is to blame. As I see it, if Netanyahu is just thinking about the government, he is doing the right thing to please the critics and the country.

Avner Shamtoub via email


The Cause and Cure for Terrorism

When terrorists attack, they tell us very clearly why they are killing (“8 Dead, 12 Injured in Manhattan Attack,” Nov. 3). They yell, “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is the greatest) — a jihadi battle cry. Yet we ignore it. We wring our hands and lament. We send teddy bears to the victims. That will not stop the next attack.

What will stop Islamic terror is simple but not easy. Imams, Muslims — all who practice Islam — must begin citing the many specific passages of the Quran, the Hadiths of Muhammad and sharia law that tell their flock that jihad, killing infidels and Jews are holy acts, and then denounce these passages as wrong, despite their appearance in holy texts. Unless and until this happens, we will continue to have more deaths. This is not bias. This is common sense.

Not all who practice Islam will commit jihad but some are doing so. We see their bloody work on an almost weekly basis.

Islamic and all religious leaders should stand together and denounce these passages.

Some examples: A command in the Quran: “Fight against those to whom the Scriptures were given [i.e. Jews and Christians] … until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued.”

Ginette Weiner, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Letters to the Editor: Harvey Weinstein, the Kurds, Taxes and Iran deal

Weinstein-Jewish Connection

One of the few positive things to come out of the discovery of Harvey Weinstein’s serial predatory side is that all of the reports I have seen and read refer to Weinstein as an alleged “serial sexual predator,” not a “Jewish serial sexual predator.”

I still wish his last name was O’Leary, or something similar, however.

Michael Gesas, Beverly Hills


Take a Closer Look at the Kurds

Jonathan Spyer presents a compelling and fascinating description of the case for Kurdish independence (“Kurdish Independence Movement Deserves the Support of Western Nations,” Oct. 20). Spyer asserts “the West should recognize its failure in Iraq and embrace Kurdish aspirations.” That is an oversimplification.

The Iraq War yielded mixed results. Saddam Hussein, the late-20th-century mass murderer/monster (under whom the Kurds suffered) is no longer. (Saddam’s stated desire to destroy Israel and develop nuclear weapons is beyond dispute.) It is the U.S. handling of the aftermath of the Iraq War that provokes much discussion today, including the premature withdrawal of U.S. troops eight years ago, which left a power vacuum enabling the creation of ISIS.

However, the Kurds gave us the most inspiring tale of all. While Hollywood produced comic book movies like “Wonder Woman,” the Kurds transformed this legend into reality. The Kurdish female Peshmerga soldiers fearlessly confronted ISIS, the most evil military on the planet since the Nazis, while instilling terror and fear into their enemies, who believe that death from the hands of a female condemned them to eternal hell. Now there’s a good start.

Richard Friedman, Culver City


Talk About Taxes

I appreciated the recent op-ed on tax reform, “Republican Proposals Are a Good Start,” (Oct. 27) by Larry Greenfield.

While I consider myself a left-leaning, bleeding-heart liberal, I also am open-minded and willing to change my opinions if a better idea is put forward. I have come to realize that perhaps our welfare and tax systems are in need of some reform and that our current trajectory is set to fail.

I note Greenfield’s suggestions for workable changes that could be implemented to put things on a better course.

Spencer Miller via email

I think Larry Greenfield offers true and courageous points. For example, he recommends a GOP plan that focuses more on cutting income taxes for high- and middle-income earners, instead of handing out more breaks to corporate billionaires or to low-income taxpayers who don’t pay any income taxes at all. He also is fair in promoting that blue state taxpayers deduct state and local taxes on their federal returns.

Who can disagree with a call to simplify the tax code? I’d like to see a flat tax in my lifetime. I applaud his reasoned analysis.

Rick Montaine via email


Kaplan’s Artful Discussion

Marty Kaplan’s column (“When Bad People Happen to Good Art,” Oct. 27) is rational, balanced and important.  At a time when our people are dysfunctionally polarized and unable to have nuanced discussions on controversial topics, it is a pleasure to read such a reasoned argument.

Al Jerome via email


Inspired by David Katz Story

In a few days, I will be turning a third of a century old. And until I read the story by Deborah Danan about David Katz, I never “met” anyone who has the same visual situation as me (“Legally Blind Photographer Comes Into New Focus,” Oct. 20). I have 15 of the 17 markers of albinism.

Danan wrote from the heart and medical know-how to express Katz’s life as someone legally blind. Tears still come prolifically when I watch his video, “Through My Lenses,” over and over again. I would like to send a personal note of thanks to Deborah and David, but know I have to start here.

Thank you for opening the public’s eyes regarding a disability that is not very noticeable on the outside, and for giving a voice to those who do not speak.

Faith Goldman via email


Dermer and the Iran Deal

Ambassador Ron Dermer began his presentation at Stephen Wise Temple with a plea for unity, for Jews to applaud our differences and to find strength in them (“Ambassador Discusses Israel’s Perils, Success,” Oct. 27). He posited right vs. progressive, secular vs. traditional, and made a compelling case that Israel’s values are strong, at least when compared to its neighbors, and that those values, more than military, economic and diplomatic accomplishments, are the bedrock of our strength.

But then, he dramatically changed course and dove headlong into the most raucous debate that just months ago threatened the American Jewish community, namely the Iran agreement, the unprecedented Benjamin Netanyahu speech before the U.S. Congress, indeed the partisan position taken by our own Federation. He presented strong support for President Donald Trump’s speech to decertify the agreement, to change it, and was presumptuous enough to claim that a better agreement could have been achieved but for the U.S. to join executing the agreement with its co-signatories.

Mr. Dermer, where have you been? Do you realize that you are driving a wedge between those of us who believed then, and still believe, that the agreement was the best possible? That the Netanyahu speech destroyed AIPAC’s years of nonpartisanship and attempted to place the badge of shame on Democrats who supported the agreement? Don’t you understand that the agreement is not the only remedy, that the United States and others can take aggressive action to stem the Iranian threat and still honor the agreement? That the agreement had only one focus — the imminent nuclear threat — and that the agreement succeeded in dramatically reducing it?

We understand that you are Prime Minister Netanyahu’s spokesman here in our country, but we would have thought better of you than to belie your own words and be so divisive.

Louis Lipofsky via email

Regarding Tom Tugend’s report on Ambassador Ron Dermer’s speech at Stephen Wise Temple, Dermer is correct in stating that President Donald Trump should cancel or renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal.

Iran has publicly stated that it wants to destroy the State of Israel. Iranians regularly chant “Death to America” and Iran is the biggest sponsor of terrorist organizations. Iran is responsible for the deaths of over 1,000 Americans. The Iran regime has executed more people then any other country except China.

This deal gave Iran $150 billion, which it can use to fund its terrorist ambitions and its nuclear program. There are legitimate concerns about canceling the Iran deal, but the U.S. still should try to change the terms in order to prevent the deaths of innocent people around the world.

Menashe Benperlas, Los Angeles


The Heart of a Champion

I read the online article on Tal Flicker (“Israeli judo champion sings Israeli anthem to himself since Abu Dhabi wouldn’t play it,” posted Oct. 26), and I don’t think it is OK to live in a world where two types of people hate each other so much that one of them couldn’t even show the smallest amount of respect by just displaying the flag and playing the anthem of the country the winning athlete represents. I also think this is an act of anti-Semitism because Israel is a Jewish county. I disagree on the United Arab Emirates’ decision on this situation.

Daniel Harpaz via email


Protesting Kuwait Airways

I want to thank Aaron Bandler for bringing awareness to an important topic with his online story “Germany to Investigate Kuwait Airways for Israeli Discrimination,” posted Oct. 25. I strongly agree that Kuwait Airways is discriminating against Israelis and that there should be no tolerance for this. Kuwait Airways has admitted refusing to carry Israeli nationals. In December 2015, the United States found Kuwait Airways violated the law by refusing to allow Israelis to fly between New York City and London.

I feel, as a community in Los Angeles, we need to protest, as anti-Semitism is still very much alive. We can’t let it continue and have airlines deny people entrance just because they are Israeli. I would like anyone treated like this by these airlines to report it.

Ely Gabbaypour, Beverly Hills

What We Talk About When We Talk About #MeToo

Actor Adam Sandler said it was a "friendly gesture" that was "blown out of proportion" when the actor recently touched actress Claire Foy's knee on a talk show. Photo via a screenshot.

Since news broke in October of Harvey Weinstein’s decades of alleged rampant sexual violence and assault, women have come out in force to tell their stories of being on the receiving end of unwanted sexual behavior.

As the Weinstein effect has taken down journalist Mark Halperin, former Amazon executive Roy Price, Oscar-nominated writer-director James Toback, and public intellectual Leon Wieseltier, social media has become the site of confessionals.

Nearly 2 million posts have appeared with the hashtag #MeToo in response to a tweet from actress Alyssa Milano asking those who had been “harassed or assaulted” to speak out.

The five-letter hashtag collapsed everything — from rape to crude humor to being stared at on a train — into a single, powerful catch-all category. Any stripe of sexual misdeed was recognized as part of a mass culture of violence by men against women.

Then an Australian journalist named Benjamin Law launched another campaign, #HowIWillChange, with men confessing their deeds and promising to change their ways.

“Facebook’s algorithm are not the way to combat the plague of abuse.” – Sivan Rahav Meir

Law wrote in a series of tweets that men need to recognize they “don’t need to be a perpetrator to be a bad guy.” Questioning allegations, Law wrote, is the equivalent of being a quiet bystander while watching an offense take place.

Men’s #HowIWillChange vows included promising to not interrupt a woman speaking or ask at a job interview how many female executives are with the company, and to shut down catcalls.

Perceived improprieties are now immediately taken up by Twitter. Recently, appearing on a British talk show, actor Adam Sandler touched English actress Claire Foy’s knee.

In the social media whirl that followed, some called Sandler’s act inappropriate and asked whether he would have touched the knee of a man in the same setting. (He had, in a recent interview with Dustin Hoffman). Sandler’s spokesperson said it was a “friendly gesture” that was “blown out of proportion.” A representative for Foy said the actress took no offense.

Sivan Rahav Meir, an Israeli journalist and popular Torah lecturer, characterized the social media approach to addressing sexual assault as dangerously unhealthy.

“Facebook’s algorithms are not the way to combat the plague of abuse sweeping through society, and they may possibly be harmful,” she wrote on her blog.

Rahav Meir cautioned that the indiscriminate outpouring of personal anecdotes may unintentionally normalize sexual assault, giving the mistaken impression that all women have been or will at some point be abused.

“The nonstop flood of heartbreaking stories with the accompanying violence is exaggerated and too intimate,” continued Rahav Meir. “There is a total mishmash of posts between the serious cases of abuse and those of mild harassment as if they are all equally offensive. However, the story of a woman who once had an unpleasant or unwelcome comment directed at her is not in any way connected to a woman who is the victim of a violent assault who requires professional therapy.”

While online indictments of nameless alleged perpetrators may raise awareness, they hold no guilty parties to account and contribute to a “sensationalis[t] and gossipy” exercise, she wrote.

Instead, Rahav Meir encouraged women to work the legal system to crush sexual violence.

Trading sober assessment, exacting definitions and legal action for frenzied narrative and confused terminology can have disturbing consequences. It’s a trend that has been playing out on America’s college campuses.

Shortly before the media were consumed with Weinstein and company, the country’s institutions of higher learning released campus security reports containing three years’ worth of data, as universities that participate in federal financial aid programs are required to do annually under a policy known as the Clery Act.

The reports lack clarity. “Consent,” a word that sits at the core of the conversation about sexual violence, especially on campuses, has no uniform definition in Clery Act reporting. An offense classified as “dating violence” must have occurred while the victim and alleged offender were in a relationship, yet there are no clear parameters for what constitutes a “relationship” — and college students often aren’t engaged in relationships in any traditional sense. “Stalking” is defined as causing “substantial emotional distress” on at least two occasions, but the report offers no specific measure of what that looks like.

Federal reporting that most people don’t look at may not have direct impact on this national conversation but may signal the rabbit hole we have headed down: victims left to navigate a confusing landscape, alleged offenders robbed of their legal right to know what they have been accused of and adjudicators who are unqualified to handle the psychological or legal elements of sexual offenses.

Campuses again offer a useful corollary when considering the numbers. The hundreds of thousands of posts in recent weeks suggest that every woman is the victim of a sexual offense and every man an offender.

As Law, the journalist, wrote, he had to “acknowledge that if all women I know has [sic] been sexually harassed, abused or assaulted, then I know perpetrators. Or am one.”

On campus, an oft-cited claim is that 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted during her time in a U.S. college. The statistic originated in a widely disputed 10-year-old survey, but its results have been replicated in surveys by individual universities and in a larger report published by The Washington Post.

Critics cite overly broad definitions and concerns with the reports’ methodologies when disputing the horrifying statistic.

A similar argument already has begun to take hold over #MeToo.

Washington Post writer Lisa Bonos asked those who might be shocked at the number of posts to “consider this: There are far more stories of #MeToos than the number of posts on Facebook.”

Women may be holding back because they don’t think their stories rise to the level of #MeToo, or they may not be ready to share them on such a public forum, Bonos posited. But many more stories are out there, she assured her readers.

Meanwhile, an anonymous writer at the free speech-promoting site Quillette offered a hypothetical breakdown in which he attempted to demonstrate that the internet “can cause an awareness campaign to go viral with millions of posts even if it is raising awareness of something that affects only a small percentage of the population.” In his experiment, 812,500 #MeToo posts were quickly generated if 5 percent of Milano’s 3.25 million Twitter followers participated, and then each of those followers in turn had five friends who posted.

“Of course, this analysis does not prove that abuse is rare; it only shows that the success of #MeToo does not prove the contrary,” according to the author, a software engineer.

Each day, women continue to reveal painful stories of personal and professional lives derailed by influential men who systematically violated them. We easily can be transfixed in disgust and communal shame. But for the national conversation to move forward and force away the lies and grime that have hid sexual assault, it cannot stay boxed into hashtags and tweets.


Rachel Frommer is a reporter with the Washington Free Beacon.

Change? Not So Fast

Harvey Weinstein attending the 'Can A Song Save Your Life?' premiere at the 38th Toronto International Film Festival on September 07, 2013 | usage worldwide (Newscom TagID: dpaphotosthree087710.jpg) [Photo via Newscom]

There is great excitement among feminists in America that our culture finally is heeding the voices of women.

Over the last several weeks, hundreds of women — millions, if you count Twitter — have come forward with their tales of alleged sexual harassment, assault and rape, mostly against men who have wielded their power to extort sexual acts. Throughout the media, this was heralded as a watershed moment, and we have since been inundated with grandiose declarations that a “sea change” has occurred in the way we understand and acknowledge sexual predation in the workplace and elsewhere.

The only sea change I detected at this gathering was the fish of the day.

A handful of accused men even faced consequences, albeit not legal ones: Harvey Weinstein was fired from his own company, expelled from the motion picture academy and abandoned by his wife. Journalist Mark Halperin was dismissed by NBC News. Leon Wieseltier, weeks from launching a new publication, was dumped by his financial backer, Laurene Powell Jobs. All this after Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly already had been fired from Fox News, though not without multimillion-dollar compensation packages.

“Our consciousness has been raised,” declared journalist Rebecca Traister.

But I say: Not so fast.

Last week, I had dinner with two high-level film producers, both male, and two women who worked for one of them. The only thing we discussed for three hours was Harvey Weinstein and the sexual politics of the entertainment industry.

And let me tell you something: The only sea change I detected at this gathering was the fish of the day.

Both male producers agreed that Harvey Weinstein is an “ugly, pock-marked, smelly bully.” But a rapist? Not so much.

“Most of the women accusing Harvey made a deal with the devil,” one of them said. “If you go to a man’s room at 11 at night, you know what you’re in for. And believe me, I stayed down the hall from him at the Hotel du Cap in Cannes, so I saw the processional of actresses who knocked on his door at all hours.”

So, I guess sexual assault is permissible if it occurs after 11 p.m.?

Next, I was told “the vast majority” of women accusing Weinstein of sexual impropriety really were trading sex for career advancement.

If that’s true, I asked, shouldn’t more of his accusers be movie stars?

When I puzzled over the fact that so many women would claim abuse if they had made “deals” with Weinstein, I was told their confessionals were born of shame for having prostituted themselves early on.

I brought up the actress Annabella Sciorra, who told The New Yorker that Weinstein violently raped her in the early 1990s.

“I’ve known Annabella Sciorra for many years,” one of the producers said, going on to offer a preposterous claim intended to disparage her.

“If you don’t want sex,” the other admonished, “why would you open the door to a man in the middle of the night?”

Actually, “It wasn’t that late,” Sciorra told The New Yorker. “Like, it wasn’t the middle of the night, so I opened the door a crack to see who it was. And [Weinstein] pushed the door open.”

I also asked about Rose McGowan, who suggested Weinstein raped her in 1997. She, too, was callously dismissed.

And when the subject turned to other infamous Hollywood abusers, I was lectured on how “each year, 2,000 young actresses come to L.A. and they will do anything — anything — to be famous.”

I got the feeling these producers feel like victims themselves, since so many young women must use them for parts.

“It’s called ambition,” one of them said.

“Decades ago, I was desperate to sell a TV show and I slept with the female executive who could give it the green light. So I closed my eyes during the act and fantasized about someone else. We do what we must.”

Consensual sex is the sort of ordeal that afflicts men in power.

But when it comes to women, any objections I made about gender inequity, discrimination, intimidation, subjugation, threats, lawyers and hush money were batted away. Even the women at the table referred to one known Hollywood predator as “sweet.” When I suggested he, too, soon would be outed, one producer got so “sad” he skipped his appetizer.

“It’s a witch hunt,” one of them declared.

And he is scared. Because, just like Weinstein, these two are old guard “dinosaurs” whose era serving as gatekeepers to the entertainment industry, with its attendant sexual perks, will soon become extinct.


Danielle Berrin is a senior writer and columnist at the Jewish Journal.

My Story with Leon Wieseltier

Leon Wieseltier.

“Are you waiting for Shmuel?”

“I’ve been waiting all my life for Shmuel,” I said.

He laughed. “You’re funny.”

We’re at the fax machine; it was my first interaction with Leon Wieseltier. I was in my twenties; he was roughly 10 years older. A bit shy, I couldn’t believe I actually said that, but out it came and so began a literary friendship that lasted for the nearly four years that I was at The New Republic.

We talked a lot. About everything. He loved to talk. He found intelligence sexy before it was cool to find intelligence sexy. He also encouraged me a great deal. With Leon’s guidance, I wrote three major essays on feminism for The New Republic, one a major cover story that led to a book contract. As an editor and a writer, he brought a fierce, distinctive intelligence to his work and never shied from an intellectual fight.

Were our conversations tinged with sexual innuendo? Sometimes. But for me they fell into the realm of flirtation. Other men in the office flirted, too. Only once did something “happen.” He asked me if I wanted to watch a movie in his apartment. I said yes. He tried to kiss me; I said no. He stopped immediately. That moment never came up again, and never affected our relationship.

We talked a lot about Judaism. I told him that right before my Bat Mitzvah, my family had moved to a big, sterile synagogue, which I hated. I hated it so much that I literally didn’t set foot in a synagogue again for a decade. When he heard this story, he said, “We’re going to synagogue this Shabbat.” And we did. At one point during the services, I cried. Tears of sadness, joy, reconnection. Leon said nothing, just offered quiet support by sitting next to me. He let me reconnect privately and never took credit for it.

Because of an email chain that I was not a part of, Wieseltier has now been Weinsteined. Shamed and disgraced. As far as I can tell, the worst he is being accused of is trying to plant an unwanted kiss and boorish behavior; perhaps there is more that we don’t know.

I respect—in fact, insist on—a woman’s right to speak up. If someone finds something offensive, it’s not for me to judge. But speaking out works both ways. I also have a story to tell, and part of that story is that I did experience harassment in the offices of TNR, but it didn’t come from Leon, and it wasn’t sexual.

It was verbal bullying. One editor in particular would look for reasons to scream at me and at the other young women. His bullying was well known. We put up with it, but it wasn’t pleasant.

With Leon, there was a lot of laughter. No matter what was going on in the world, we laughed. And he listened. He listened to my ideas, to my thoughts about men, women, sex, anything and everything. There was no quid pro quo; there was no manipulation. Wieseltier was nothing like Weinstein.

My purpose here is not to defend Wieseltier against the charges of other women. I have no special interest in defending him. We haven’t worked together in years. I bumped into him last year; it was the first time I had seen or spoken to him in ages.

I’m writing not to negate anyone else’s story, but simply to tell my own. I want to say that this particular man inspired me to be my best self, made me into a thinker, and helped me reconnect to my Judaism.

I’m telling my story also because we’ve reached a very sensitive point. I’m tremendously grateful that Harvey Weinstein’s monstrous behavior has come out—it should have come out decades ago. And the #MeToo campaign has enabled women, and men, to talk about inappropriate behavior from many others.

At the same time, we have to resist the temptation to turn every incident into a Harvey Weinstein scandal. Not all stories are similar. Not all sexual innuendo in the office is harassment. Not all women are victims.

Some, like me, have been empowered by men who came into our lives at a particular moment, took no for an answer, and then raised us up and let us go.

SOUL BITES: Highlights from Shabbat Sermons

Photo from Pixabay.

Rabbi Ari Lucas, Temple Beth Am

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein revelations that the Hollywood mogul had serially abused women sexually, and repeatedly created situations where women saw themselves as having to choose between submitting to his unwanted advances or give up any hopes of a career in Hollywood; in the wake of all the publicity his actions were getting, many women have taken to social media and posted: “MeToo”. And the floodgates opened.

In Parshat Noah, God opens the floodgates of the heavens in response to the corruption He witnesses on Earth. The text tells us vatimalei ha-aretz hamas – the land was filled with hamas. We’re not certain what the word hamas means in the Bible. In other contexts, it appears to mean corruption or injustice. Ibn Ezra, a medieval commentator on the Bible claims that hamas refers to stealing and “taking women by force.” According to his interpretation, some kind of sexual violence leads God to regret at having created the world such that God chooses to start over with one family.

The way we speak and behave are reflections of the choices we make. The earth may continue to be filled with hamas – way too many stories of sexual violence. But God has promised never again to purify the land with floodwaters, so the responsibility falls to us – the rainbow after the storm – to do the work of pursuing justice and uprooting evil from our land. Let’s continue that work together.

Rabbi Mordecai Finley, Ohr HaTorah

This week’s Torah portion, Noah, has a verse that has become a foundation for the spiritual and mystical approach to prayer. In Genesis 6:16, we find God saying to Noah, “Make a tzohar (light) for the teivah(ark).” The Hebrew word “tzohar” has two basic interpretations in the Talmud: “radiant gemstone” and “skylight”, but they both mean “a source of light.”

Jewish commentators have creatively mistranslated the word “teivah” in Genesis 6:16, that refers to Noah’s “teivah” (ark), as “word”, so that we can read this verse “put a light in the ark” as “make a light for the word.”

The Baal Shem Tov teaches that when one places the radiant light of consciousness into a word of the prayer book (or any sacred text, for that matter) one perceives “worlds, souls and divinity.”  The letters, the pronunciation of a word of the prayer book or the Bible, are a vessel that holds an inner depth.

I think that one must first have some experience in a contemplative practice so that one can reach deep within. We have to be able to create that skylight of consciousness to illuminate the hidden chambers of holy words.

And we must take the time to enter into the holy books like a spelunker. It is dark in there, and the journey inward is tough, and maybe boring, but then you detect that the atmosphere has changed. You find yourself in this cavern, thick with souls, words and divinity.

Rabbi Gabriel Botnick, Mishkon Tephilo

Most people forget it’s there, but at the end of Parshat Noach is the story of the Tower of Babel.  The Torah states that for many generations after the flood, the people of the world were unified in both language and matters – namely, building a tower to challenge the heavens.  God – worried there’d be no end to human achievement if this trajectory continued uninterrupted – decides to confuse the people, “so that no one would understand the language of their fellow” and thus cease being so productive.

However, the Hebrew word for “language” is “Safah”, which can relate to a culture’s unique language or the collection of words a person speaks. And the word for “understand” here is “Shama”, which is more often translated as “listen.”  With this in mind, one could translate this line so that it reads “no one would listen to the words of their fellow.”  In other words, God knew the best way to keep us from achieving greatness would be by having us not listen to one another.

We often get so caught up in our own narratives that we fail to listen to the narratives of others.  As Jews, our tradition teaches us that no one should go to bed hungry, sleep without a roof over their head, or suffer without medical care.  However, as humans, we may differ in how we prefer to achieve these goals. Imagine how much more we could achieve if we saw the Tower of Babel not as a punishment, but as an invitation:  if we actively listen to one another, nothing can stop us from achieving whatever we desire.

Helena Lipstadt (Guestspeaker), Beth Chayim Chadashim

A rainbow always comes as a surprise. Usually after rain and when the sun comes out. What do you say when you see a rainbow? “Wow,” “it’s unexpected,” “magical,” “beautiful.”

Ten days ago I was in Poland. It rained nearly the whole time I was there. My friends and I were walking around in the drizzle and suddenly we turned around and saw a rainbow in the sky behind us. Wow! The rainbow made us feel happy and hopeful.

This was my sixth trip to Poland in six years. It is the place my family comes from. In the middle of the 20th century, Poland was the site of an enormous flood of anti-Semitism. The Polish Jewish community was almost completely destroyed in this flood, including my grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. There was no ark to hold this community.

I never expected to find rainbows in Poland but I did. The rainbow – an ineffable combination of fire and water – is shocking in its possibilities. It is once again a sign of change, of hope, of beauty. A surprise, when it appears. Everything depends on our being able to see it. See it and remember our time of floating together above the flood in one, life-saving ark.

Rabbi David Wolpe, Sinai Temple

I’m going to talk about Harvey Weinstein.

We read this morning the story of Noah, which by the way, if you read the verse carefully, is in part about sexual immorality. But we don’t know the name of Noah’s wife. It isn’t until Abraham comes along that [Sarah], the female partner is named. Just as the female partner is named in the original intention of creation with Adam and Eve and then somehow falls out of the picture. And that is a lesson, both in how easy it is to erase and how important it is to restore. About how often through history women didn’t have names and voices and position and power, and what that can mean.

When you sexually violate someone, you are taking part of the core constituent of their identity, part of their soul and saying it’s yours and not theirs. Remember the biblical word for sex is yada – to know – to know someone. So what are you saying when you violate them? “I know you. And you’re worthless.”

When you have monsters of ego and desire, it is our responsibility as Jews, as human beings, not to just laugh over stories like this or have a prurient interest or to read about them because after all it’s interesting, but to be outraged and to speak up and to say how wrong it is.

It is a long way from Noah’s wife to Sarah. We are the children of Sarah. It is our job to teach that to the world.

Rabbi Sharon Brous, IKAR

It strikes me this year is maybe what’s happening is that the story of the tower of Babel is coming to drive home the lesson of Noah, that there’s power in community but the real danger comes from uniformity. It comes from when we’re all so busy working for some greater goal that we’re silent when we see things happening along the way that are cruel, that are indecent, that are simply wrong.

The world sometimes finds itself upside down. Sometimes what’s normative is what’s wrong. And what’s right is to stand up and to speak out against whatever that pervasive culture is. Whether that culture is in the White House or whether that culture is in the studio offices.

This is incredibly hard to do because these challenges sometimes lose us friends, and they sometimes lose us our jobs. They sometimes lose us opportunities and deals. But resistance is built into the Jewish ethical and moral and religious system.

We’ve seen over the last few weeks exactly what’s at stake when everybody knows what’s happening but few, too few, are willing to speak about it. We’ve seen the dangers of silent complicity. The Torah of Noah is that it’s not enough to just stay decent and to not join in to the evil.

It’s not enough to just be good in times like these. We also have to find the courage to defy God, to defy colleagues, to defy authorities, to defy anyone who’s willing to contribute to the normative practices that are so toxic in our current climate.

What Should Our Community Do After Weinstein?

Harvey Weinstein attending the 'Can A Song Save Your Life?' premiere at the 38th Toronto International Film Festival on September 07, 2013 | usage worldwide (Newscom TagID: dpaphotosthree087710.jpg) [Photo via Newscom]

For a crime as pervasive as sexual assault, the general response to Harvey Weinstein’s alleged misdeeds was appropriately uniform: Nobody was surprised. Or at least, in hindsight, they realized they shouldn’t have been. Men abusing their power is perhaps the world’s oldest professional hazard, and it goes without saying that no culture is immune — certainly not our own.

If the Jewish community hopes to adhere to our golden rule of tikkun olam, or repairing the world, we must articulate a strategy to address the sexual assault and gender inequity in our midst. Among Jewish female leaders, there appears to be a resounding consensus on the form this remedy should take: In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the burden falls on Jewish men to rectify the injustices of sexual assault.

“I think what this whole Weinstein thing uncovered is the need for male colleagues to speak up about these things, as well,” said Rabbi Laura Geller, rabbi emerita of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills and the first woman ordained on the West Coast. “What the Jewish community could be doing, which it’s not doing, is really encouraging male colleagues to call out behaviors that they know are wrong.”

Rabbi Sarah Bassin, associate rabbi at Temple Emanuel, attended a rabbinic fellowship conference the week after the Weinstein allegations became public. There, she spoke to colleagues about preventing sexual harassment and assault. She said she focused on the way our desire to be part of the in-group recalibrates our moral compasses, and she implored men in particular to push past the fear of upsetting a friend and rebuke those who make off-color jokes about women.

Bassin, who delivered a sermon about her own sexual harassment in 2014, said she was gratified when a male colleague asked for her advice on how to write a responsible sermon about sexual assault that doesn’t exacerbate the problem.

“The greatest challenge [to addressing sexual harassment and assault] I’ve witnessed over the last week is a proclivity for men to turn toward a defensive posture, to say, ‘Well, I haven’t done it,’ ” Bassin said.

“The greatest challenge [to addressing sexual assault] I’ve witnessed over the last week is a proclivity for men to turn toward a defensive posture, to say, ‘Well, I haven’t done it.’” – Rabbi Sarah Basin

Rabbi Jonathan Sarna, professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University, said the Jewish community has made immense progress in eliminating the gentlemen’s agreement-like silence surrounding sexual assault among our own. When he began his career as a rabbinical school professor in the early 1980s, he said, it was common to hear about certain rabbis who had a “zipper problem” and were simply moved to another congregation after a slap on the wrist.

In 2000, journalist Gary Rosenblatt wrote a cover story for The New York Jewish Week that revealed three decades of alleged teen sexual abuse by prominent New Jersey Rabbi Baruch Lanner, who later was sentenced to seven years in prison, and accused the Orthodox Union of turning a blind eye.

“At least for the Jewish press, that was a major turning point,” Sarna said. “Earlier, reporters wouldn’t touch a story like that.”

More recently, in October 2016, Danielle Berrin wrote a story in this paper detailing her sexual assault by a renowned Israeli journalist. Ari Shavit, who subsequently named himself as the perpetrator, was forced by media scrutiny to resign from his post at Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

“It’s nothing new that there are predatory men, but what’s changed is the response,” Sarna said. “Punishment has generally been swift and unforgiving.”

Geller agreed that there’s been a profound cultural shift in how we hold men accountable in the Jewish community, and attributes much of the change to institutionalized sexual harassment policies and formalized complaint processes. For example, in 1991, the Central Conference of American Rabbis established an ethics code addressing sexual harassment by its members.

Beyond sexual assault policies, however, is the imperative that employees and staff at Jewish institutions are thoroughly trained, both in the expectations of workplace conduct and their options for reporting violations.

Eli Veitzer, incoming president and CEO of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, said his organization has a zero-tolerance policy for harassment and holds annual mandatory trainings for supervisors and staff, where they review complaint procedures and whistleblower policies.

“The challenge is to make sure the issue [of sexual harassment] remains in the forefront,” Veitzer said. “In order to address that, we don’t just train a new hire once and then forget about it. The way to do that is frequency of training.”

Maya Paley, director of advocacy and community engagement at the National Council for Jewish Women L.A. (NCJW/LA), said sexual harassment education is important in the workplace but also needs to start at a much earlier age.

Paley directs NCJW/LA’s program “The Talk Project,” which enables teenagers to conduct workshops at local schools about sexual assault and rape culture. Through her work, Paley said she’s heard many stories about sexual assault among teenagers at Jewish high schools and summer camps.

Paley said she thinks the Jewish community too often is shocked when a sexual predator happens to be a Jew, as is the case with Weinstein and Leon Wieseltier, the former editor of The New Republic, who apologized Oct. 24 after several women accused him of sexual harassment.

Leon Wieseltier.

 

“The worst thing that the Jewish community could do after a story like Harvey Weinstein’s is to say that this is an isolated case and it doesn’t reflect our community,” Paley said. “[Our community] needs to take a hard look in the mirror.”

Rabbi Mark Dratch, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Council of America and creator of the anti-domestic violence website JSafe, said one challenge the Jewish community faces in addressing sexual violence is its minority status, which engenders a fear of tarnishing its reputation in the public eye. Further, the tight-knit nature of the Jewish community creates a reluctance to ruin the names or risk losing the financial support of prominent families.

Moreover, it’s important to note that the vast majority of institutional stakeholders with the power to hold predators accountable ultimately are men.

“We’re still living in a male-dominated Jewish community,” said Jay Sanderson, president and CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. “We can talk around it and make excuses for it, but that is what it is. The way that Judaism is constructed and the way institutions have been led are built around that.”

Sanderson said Federation prioritizes empowering women and creating a clear path for women, LGBTQ individuals and other marginalized groups to achieve leadership positions at Jewish organizations.

By and large, though, it is Jewish women who hold up the mantle of supporting fellow Jewish women who face sexual harassment.

“When it comes to sexual assault, there’s been so much burden on women forever,” Paley said. “Let’s take the burden off of women. We are tired. We are exhausted.”

An earlier version of this post incorrectly indicated Rabbi Sarah Bassin spoke about being  a victim of sexual assault.

Me Too Versus Not Me

I’ve never been much for crowds. I remember once at a music festival pushing through a mass of people waiting to see Thom Yorke. As my friend and I tried to get closer to the stage, I felt my chest tighten as bodies closed around mine. After a brief but awkward explanation of my discomfort, we moved back out of the crowd, away from the center and toward the edge.

Some people like the energy of being part of something larger than them — being surrounded by bodies and voices into which they can disappear, becoming one of many. But I prefer the margins, where I can be both inside and outside of something.

The crowding that happens on social media is no exception.

In the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein allegations, countless people have taken to social media with the hashtag #MeToo. In fact, my entire Facebook newsfeed has been dominated by the hashtag and by women’s stories of being sexually harassed or assaulted.

Some of the confessions have moved me to tears. Some have shocked me, and I recognize the bravery behind such admissions. But as a crowd of confessors began to converge, I also saw posts lamenting that some women who could say #MeToo are choosing not to — the implication being that refraining from doing so makes one an accomplice to all sorts of nefarious behaviors.

Well, I chose not to.

It felt intuitively wrong for me. Not for others, but for me. It goes back to being part of crowds and mass movements. In the midst of a crowd, I discover that I can’t see everything. My vantage point has changed. I become caught up in something that has the potential to turn back on itself and become counterproductive if not nurtured in the right way.

In fact, when I first saw the hashtag, I thought to myself: If I were going to create a hashtag, it would be #NotMe. Not me, I would say to potential abusers and harassers. Not me, I would say to everyone.

It’s not because I haven’t experienced what many of the #MeToo movement have experienced. I have. But I think I must have been saying all along, instead, on some level: Not me. I will not be your victim. I am no one’s victim.

I remember, nearly 20 years ago, standing near the wall of a nightclub, watching my friends dance. Even then, I preferred the safety of the perimeter to the chaos and energy of the center. A man walked by and slapped my rear end and made a crude comment that he thought I would appreciate. He hit me hard. And I was enraged. I turned around and pushed him with all of my strength without thinking about it. He was inebriated, and so he fell easily.

He was terrified. And I felt powerful. I was vindicated.

I share this not to criticize those who have shared their stories of victimhood or to suggest that they should have fought back, but to raise the question of what happens next.

What happens after #MeToo?

What happens after scores of women make themselves vulnerable as they prove how normal it is to be harassed or assaulted? What effect does highlighting the apparent pervasiveness of sexual harassment and assault have if it becomes a movement that demands that every woman identify herself as a victim?

My fear is that we will begin to see ourselves as powerless. That we will begin to see ourselves as victims first, and women second. And that in doing so, we will turn on those women who resist the #MeToo crowd, who opt for a response of a different nature.

As for me, I’m not sure I owe anyone a confession of victimhood right now.

In most cases, fighting back physically is not an option, but we can all fight back in a way that feels right to us. For many, #MeToo is the beginning of fighting back. Words create worlds, and stories string those worlds together into a meaningful chain.

But not everyone needs to be part of every movement.

We need people willing to stay on the margins as much as we need people who are willing to be the crowd that moves things along, makes things happen and makes them happen better. Crowds can carry with them the possibility of change, but let’s not forget that one voice, from the margins, can also be powerful.


Monica Osborne is a writer and scholar of Jewish literature and culture. Her book, “The Midrashic Impulse and the Contemporary Literary Response to Trauma,” will be published later this year.

Fixing Hollywood’s Shameful Culture

FILE PHOTO: Harvey Weinstein arrives at the 89th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, U.S. on February 26, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

The past month has seen the near implosion of Hollywood. That’s because of the revelations about mega-powerhouse Harvey Weinstein’s regular habit of allegedly sexually assaulting and harassing women, and the apparent industry-wide willingness to look the other way.

Many on the right have correctly condemned the left’s reticence to talk about such issues when applied to heroes of the left (see, e.g., former President Bill Clinton and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy); in response, many on the left have rightly condemned the right’s newfound willingness to look the other way when its own oxen are gored (see, e.g., then-candidate Donald Trump’s “Access Hollywood” tape, the late Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes).

We all should be on the same side regarding sexual harassment and sexual assault. That doesn’t mean that we have to agree to avoid voting for those who engage in such activities (although I have done so and think doing so would be a good rule of thumb); it’s quite possible to openly admit the evils of a candidate and still feel that the candidate would be a better legislative alternative than his or her opponent. It does mean, however, that “whataboutism” is perhaps the worst response to stories of sexual harassment and assault: Just because Clinton did it doesn’t mean that Trump’s behavior is acceptable, and vice versa.

Putting partisanship aside, the question next becomes how to curb such behavior. In this arena, there’s truly only one solution: changing the prevailing societal standards, and naming individuals. The latter is easier than the former, of course — it’s a tragedy that major stars and starlets who knew about Weinstein’s reputed predations did nothing for years. It’s difficult to expect young, up-and-coming actors and actresses to speak out when victimized: Few will believe them, their careers will be ruined and they are eminently replaceable in a city where every barista has a script and every waitress wants an audition. But those who already have established themselves do have an obligation to protect those aspiring actors and actresses from predators.

Why hasn’t that happened?

This raises institutional issues in Hollywood, and the requirement that societal standards change. Hollywood has been replete with sexual assault and harassment from the very beginning. Despite its supposedly feminist credentials, Hollywood has made the general choice to favor a libertine version of feminism — with consent as the only important value — over the stricter version of feminism that decries power relationships driving sexual relationships.

Unfortunately, the first version of feminism hasn’t just won out in Hollywood, it’s won out in society more broadly, pressed forward by Hollywood. Society now condemns any limits on sexual relationships, and sees “consent” as a binary value; transactional sex is just fine, in this view, and cannot be condemned. This makes it incredibly difficult to police both sexual assault and harassment because the same set of facts can be seen as either people doing what they want to do to get ahead, or sexual exploitation. Removing meaning from sex means treating it as a purely physical act, degrading both sex and those who participate in it.

The result: more sexual confusion and less willingness to step forward and condemn egregious conduct.

Hollywood has made the general choice to favor a libertine version of feminism – with consent the only important value.

Here’s what we need, then: some rules. We need to know about — and uniformly condemn — exploitation of women by powerful men. We need to know about — and uniformly condemn — the Hollywood casting couch, which has been joked about for decades and treated as a way of life for that same amount of time. And we, as a society, have to let Hollywood know that if it doesn’t change its ways, we will take action: We will stop seeing their movies, stop watching their television shows. We will not participate in making people wealthy and famous so that they can abuse others, or watch silently as that abuse takes place.

We should listen to and respect women who tell their stories of sexual harassment and assault. But this can’t be just another hashtag campaign. We must have hard conversations because sexual dynamics are fluid and difficult to police. If we don’t, Weinstein will be just a blip — and then things will go back to business as usual until the next Weinstein crops up.


Ben Shapiro is a best-selling author, editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire and host of the conservative podcast “The Ben Shapiro Show.”

Roman Polanski faces allegation of molesting an underage girl

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Director Roman Polanski is facing an allegation of molesting an underage girl in 1975, adding to the torrent of sexual assault allegations against members of Hollywood in recent weeks.

Marianne Barnard, an artist, told The Sun in an interview that she met Polanski on a beach at the age of 10 through her mother, where he took photos of her in a bikini and a fur coat. Barnard said she started to feel “uncomfortable” when he asked her to take off her bikini bottoms.

“At some point I realized my mom had gone,” said Barnard. “I don’t know where she went and I didn’t really register her leaving but she was no longer there. Then he molested me.”

Barnard revealed to the Sun that she has suffered from claustrophobia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since.

“I’ll probably always have post traumatic stress and have claustrophobia be afraid of the dark – there are some things that will never go away – but I have come out the other side of a tremendous amount of darkness and I live a full and healthy life,” said Barnard.

She felt compelled to speak out after being inspired by the women in the #MeToo movement.

“I felt like I wasn’t doing the right thing by being quiet and I needed to speak out,” said Barnard. “I want him to be exposed so he cannot carry on this behavior.”

Barnard has launched a petition calling for Polanski to be expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences board. Over 17,000 people have signed the petition, putting her close toward her goal of 18,000 signatures.

“We’ve stayed silent until now,” Barnard wrote in the petition. “We feared. But, we can no longer be silent and allow this man who sexually assaulted little girls to enjoy fame, recognition or an honored place in history.”

Barnard is the fifth woman to level an accusation of sexual assault against Polanski. Polanski has been living on the run in Europe to avoid being sentenced for raping Samantha Geimer at the age of 13 in 1977. There is still a warrant out for his arrest in the United States.

This accusation is the latest among many against Hollywood moguls following the wave of sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein.

When Bad People Happen to Good Art

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Bad people can make and love good art. Can good people love bad people’s art?

Judgy words, I know. But certain kinds of conduct bring out the Jeremiah in me.

Harvey Weinstein is a producer, not a director or writer, but entertainment is a collaborative enterprise. Even if the Academy Award-winning women who’ve thanked him from the stage did that from fear of his power, he wielded it over women, men, money and media not only for alleged sexual assault, but also to get movies made. “Shakespeare In Love,” “The King’s Speech,” “Inglourious Basterds,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Lion,” “The Artist”: Whatever favorites of yours the Weinsteins produced, he was arguably as essential to their existence, let alone their success, as their directors, writers and actors.

I realize I’m making Harvey Weinstein as responsible for his output as Roman Polanski, Bill Cosby and Woody Allen are for theirs. I do that to use his disgrace as a prompt to wrestle with the pleasures that art and entertainment can offer even when they cohabit with behavior by their creators that makes you want to throw up.

I admit my ambivalence. Do I have to strike “Chinatown” from my top-10 list because Polanski pleaded guilty to raping a 13-year old? Does still finding “The Cosby Show” funny make me the comedian’s co-conspirator? From its first seconds — that glorious montage, that Gershwin — Woody Allen’s “Manhattan” floored me. But after he left Mia Farrow for her adopted daughter, Soon-Yi; after their adopted daughter Dylan claimed he sexually assaulted her at age 7; after Mariel Hemingway said he tried to seduce her when she was a teenager: Has “Manhattan,” a story about a 43-year old hitting on a 17-year old, now become a symptom, a confession, a cry for help? Or is it just the same movie?

It goes beyond entertainers. I’ve been crushed by enough biographies and memoirs of writers, painters, architects and other artists whose work I admire, but who turn out to be brutal spouses, monstrous parents, racists, fascists and worse, that I’m tempted to swear off their life stories entirely.

One example: I loved “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” until I found out what an anti-Semite T.S. Eliot was. I still don’t know how to process that. I curse how it distracts me from the text. I’m discomfited by the enjoyment I can still get from his poetry. It makes me question the gospel of the liberal arts — the faith that the humanities humanize. If poetry didn’t civilize Eliot, what makes me believe it lofts his readers?

I’ll never forget my first encounter with these words from George Steiner, which led me to become his pupil: “We know that a man can read Goethe or Rilke in the evening, that he can play Bach and Schubert, and go to his day’s work at Auschwitz in the morning.” If you say such a man is reading or hearing wrongly, you’re begging the question. The problem isn’t misinterpretation; it’s the secular church that we’ve built from the arts. It’s a miracle, not a mission, when aesthetic pleasure makes for moral enlightenment.

Hollywood is a business, not a religion, but its stories touch deep chords, and they shape how we see the world and ourselves. When Oscar winners say that their pictures depict “the triumph of the human spirit,” there’s some unctuous self-congratulation in that, but also a truth. Of course a lot of inane schlock gets made and makes money. Some of it is so violent and degrading that I can’t bring myself to watch, and I fear that it serves as a kind of curriculum for some of its viewers. But gorgeous, uplifting work gets done, too, and though some stories include — may even require — violence, sex and foul language on the journey to their endings, those pictures can move moral mountains.

Harvey and Bob Weinstein produced some schlock and some beauts. Both brothers had awful reputations as people to work for and with. Now, because some 50 women have had the courage to accuse Harvey, we know chapter and verse on being a bully and pig in Hollywood. On that evidence, the soaring movies his name is on did nothing to enlighten or redeem their producer. But it would be a pity if his grossness were to deprive us of the light that those creations let shine.

Canadian entertainment leader resigns in face of sexual assault allegations

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Gilbert Rozon, a household name in Canada through his work in the field of entertainment, is stepping down from his programs after facing several accusations of sexual assault and harassment.

Rozon was the founding president of the Just For Laughs comedy festival and a co-host of the France’s Got Talent TV show until nine women accused him of sexual assault and harassment in a span of over 30 years. Rozon has since resigned from the comedy festival. France’s Got Talent has been suspended, although M6, the channel that runs the show, announced that the show would eventually be back on the air.

In a statement on Facebook, Rozon wrote, “Shaken by the allegations against me, I want to dedicate all my time to review the matter. To all those I may have offended in the course of my life, I’m sincerely sorry.”

One of the women that came forward, actress Salomé Corbo, claimed that Rozon sexually assaulted her at a party when she was only 14 years of age. Corbo alleges that Rozon used his finger to penetrate her, prompting her to loudly exclaim that she was only 14.

“I spoke loudly and hoped that witnesses around me would react, but nobody reacted,” Corbo told the Montreal newspaper Le Devoir. “Gilbert let me go and I left.”

Another one of the women, Penelope McQuade, claimed that Rozon made a move on her in the bathroom during one of the Just For Laughs festivals and she had to beg nonstop for a minute until Rozon ceased his behavior.

Photographer Lyne Charlebois is alleging that Rozon brought her back to his place to review her portfolio, where he proceeded to jump “on me and pulled down my pants.”

“I was afraid I was going to die,” said Charlebois. “I let him do his thing, waited until he finished, and left.”

Charlebois added that the incident caused “tremendous damage to me.”

Rozon had previously pled guilty to sexual harassment in 1998, although he only received a slap on the wrist because the judge thought that a criminal record would prevent Rozon from traveling internationally and thus harm Montreal’s economy.

In 2011, Rozon said in an interview, “I looked at politicians here and abroad, like Bill Clinton, and I asked myself, ‘Does power go with the obligation to seduce and conquer?’”

The accusations against Rozon come at a time when Harvey Weinstein is facing a wave of sexual harassment and rape allegations in the United States. It appears that the #MeToo movement has reached Canada as well.

LAPD investigating Harvey Weinstein over rape allegation

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Harvey Weinstein is being investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) after an unnamed actress is claiming that Weinstein raped her in 2013.

The 38-year-old Italian actress told the Los Angeles Times that she once met Weinstein in Rome, where she rebuffed his invitation to his hotel room. She ran into him again in February 2013 at the Los Angeles, Italia Film, Fashion and Art Fest, where at first it seemed like he didn’t remember her.

Later that evening, Weinstein asked the actress if he could meet her in her hotel room. The actress declined and suggested meeting downstairs instead, but Weinstein “bullied his way into my hotel room,” according to the actress.

“Once inside, he asked me questions about myself, but soon became very aggressive and demanding and kept asking to see me naked,” the actress told the Times. “He grabbed me by the hair and forced me to do something I did not want to do. He then dragged me to the bathroom and forcibly raped me.”

The actress added that Weinstein “acted like nothing happened” when he left.

“It was the most demeaning thing ever done to me by far,” said the actress. “It sickens me still. … He made me feel like an object, like nothing with all his power.”

She confided to a few people after the alleged rape occurred, but didn’t initially report it to the police out of fear of Weinstein’s power. The actress is now reporting it after her children told her she needed “to be strong.”

The LAPD announced on Twitter that they were in fact investigating Weinstein:

Journalist Yashar Ali suggested that there is more to come:


The Times notes that Weinstein could face legal trouble over this rape allegation since it wouldn’t have expired under the statute of limitations.

There has been a torrent of sexual harassment and rape allegations against Weinstein, who is also facing being investigated for sex crimes in New York and London. The full list of his accusers can be seen here. Weinstein has recently been fired from his company and was expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as well as the Producer’s Guild of America.

Weinstein has denied ever engaging in sexual intercourse that wasn’t consensual.

An Ocean of Tears

Photo from Pixabay.

There are moments when everything changes. In my lifetime, one of these was seeing the picture of our planet Earth from space. With that photo of our home, ​I, along with everyone else ​was able to see for the first time that we were one whole, living, breathing, connected planet. This is the image I hold in my head saying the Shema because, for me, this represents that God is One.

After seeing that photo, our consciousness shifted.

​As human beings, we could no longer justify our separateness. Being confronted with the reality that we were connected, we knew that we needed to act differently. We couldn’t “un-see” the Earth as a shining marble, fragile and precious, because it is right in front of us as truth.

Right now, we are experiencing another paradigm-shifting moment.

The Harvey Weinstein sex abuse scandal has unleashed a spontaneous response of #MeToo posts on social media. Thousands upon thousands of women and some men ​are speaking out on Facebook and Twitter, sharing their personal experiences of sexual harassment and assault from childhood up to now. It’s raw. It’s true. It’s painful.

My entire social media timeline on Facebook and Twitter is overflowing with #MeToo reports. A river of stories and a flood of tears in the Jewish community. Real stories from women I know:

We can’t unsee these stories. And we can’t pretend these wounds don’t damage souls.

“The boys on the playground snapping our bras and shaming us for being flat chested or too developed.”

“The time when I was a student rabbi and the temple president insisted on walking me to my hotel room despite my saying no thanks. I felt so threatened that I put a chair against the door after he left.”

“My 7th grade religious school teacher sexually molested me and my rabbi didn’t believe me.”

“The nice Jewish guy who raped me on my first date while I was sleeping and then said — oh I thought you were fake sleeping and wanted it (I didn’t).”

“The unwanted hand on my knee and up my skirt. The catcalls and the feels on the subway.”

“My husband’s friend slipped a Playboy magazine under the table on my son’s 21st birthday, while winking at me. That man told dirty [stories] throughout dinner.”​

Over the past few days, as I read these stories, I could hardly move. Post after post brought up my childhood of constant comments by boys about my body and the accompanying shame that I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough or filled out enough. Other stories reminded me of incidents I had brushed aside as “no big deal” — but upon reflection, were formative and painful.

We can’t “un-see” these stories. And we can’t pretend these wounds don’t damage souls.

This ocean of tears needs to evoke a sea change. Each precious human is a world we need to learn to protect and help flourish, just like planet Earth.

We have texts in our holy books about treating others with dignity. They are simple, but not easy. We are holy because are made in the image of the Divine, b’tzelem Elohim, as we just read in the beginning verses of the Torah.

We also need new texts: stories that include the voices of the vulnerable and those hurt by sexual abuse and a culture of degradation.

We need these new texts to make sure that this moment in time becomes a moment in eternity; that a new consciousness honoring human dignity becomes the default position of humanity.

In embracing the reality that we are all connected, we must pray for the strength and wisdom to live up to our Divine image.


Rabbi Jill Berkson Zimmerman is the founder of The Jewish Mindfulness Network.

How the Weinstein Sex Scandal Began a Movement Against Silence

FILE PHOTO: Film producer Harvey Weinstein attends the 2016 amfAR New York Gala at Cipriani Wall Street in Manhattan, New York February 10, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

‘You Need to Decide’

I used to consider it a badge of honor that Harvey Weinstein once threatened me. By some twisted Hollywood calculus, it sort of meant you had made it.

It was during the awards season of 2012, after I had written a profile of Michel Hazanavicius, the director and screenwriter of the silent film “The Artist,” which Weinstein was peddling for the Academy Awards (it later won for best picture). Not long after the story appeared, I was surprised to receive a note from Weinstein.

“You are a poet of prose,” it read.

It struck me as an absurdly hyperbolic compliment for a 1,200-word newspaper story. But I was delighted that one of the most powerful producers in Hollywood seemed to like my work.

But then came another email, this one from his publicist: “Saw the piece! It’s great,” she wrote, adding, “One smallish thing … can you call me?”

It turned out Weinstein was bothered by one of the quotes I used from Hazanavicius, and he wanted me to take it out of the story. I explained to the publicist — repeatedly — that I couldn’t change the piece.

Then my phone rang. It was Weinstein.

“Danielle,” he said firmly, “this is the first time we’ve worked together. You need to decide if you want Harvey Weinstein to be friend — or foe.”

For 20 minutes, he enumerated the reasons why this one quote would be ruinous to the film, the filmmaker and its chances at the Oscars. I reiterated what I had told his publicist — that I wouldn’t change the quote or take it out. If Hazanavicius wanted to clarify the comment, I said, I could add an editor’s note.

Weinstein became angry.

“Danielle,” he said firmly, “this is the first time we’ve worked together. You need to decide if you want Harvey Weinstein to be friend — or foe.”

I held my ground, citing the demands of journalistic ethics. But that incensed him even more. “You’re a stubborn Jewish girl,” he finally said, “just like all the other Jewish girls I’ve dated.”

Then he hung up.

That mild episode came to mind earlier this month when allegations were made public that Hollywood’s notorious, Oscar-decorated mogul reportedly had spent three decades abusing his power to sexually harass and assault women — most of them colleagues and employees. It surprised no one in Hollywood that Weinstein was a bully — he’s been using his power to intimidate and coerce industry colleagues, from reporters to studio executives, since he first started in the business. Not even Michael Eisner, the former CEO of the Walt Disney Co., was spared Weinstein’s legendary wrath. The reported lengths to which Weinstein would go to get what he wanted were illimitable. No one was immune.

But the revelations of alleged extreme sexual misconduct over decades revealed the extent to which Weinstein’s expectation of complicity and compliance had subsumed an entire industry. Either you were one of his many alleged victims, sexual or otherwise, or you were indifferent to the machinations of a tyrant. It’s only Hollywood, many thought. Anything goes.

Not anymore. The public response to the stunning accusations against Weinstein was swift and nearly unequivocal.

Through the media, long pent-up rage and outrage exploded into cultural consciousness, and a suffocating silence around the oppression of women in the film industry turned into a symphony of comeuppance.

Within days of the initial report published by The New York Times, the Weinstein Co. suspended him indefinitely, and half of the company’s all-male board resigned. When The New Yorker published a second, more detailed and damning report, Weinstein was fired.

In the days that followed, the floodgates burst open, as more and more women — including famous and powerful celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie — stepped forward with their allegations of abuse. An industry whose constitution depended on an “open secret” policy of ignoring and condoning the exploitation of women had finally reached a crescendo: Would it regress into defensiveness or start pulling out its rotted root system?

The reason Harvey Weinstein allegedly was able to get away with his abhorrent behavior for so long is because the perception of his power cowed others into submission and silence. His mythic status in an industry that prides itself on pandering to human fantasy further reinforced the powerlessness of his reported victims. Everyone wanted what Weinstein was selling: dreams, access, wealth, fame. His power was individual, but it also was industrial, supported by the belief that Hollywood’s prevailing patriarchal system would protect the engines of its own existence. And so for too long, his alleged victims and collaborators internalized a sense of helplessness in the face of crassness and corruption. They chose to preserve a poisonous status quo, whether out of ambition, resigned complacency or fear.

Now we can see that Weinstein’s accusers weren’t the only ones “crushed” under the weight of transgression: An entire industry acquiesced to an unspoken rule that what matters is human achievement, not human dignity. Not everyone committed a crime, but everyone sinned. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “Indifference to evil is worse than evil itself; in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.”

Weinstein, through a spokesperson, issued a statement “unequivocally” denying “[A]ny allegations of non-consensual sex … ”

From Complicity to #MeToo

“I know that everybody — I mean everybody — in Hollywood knows that it’s happening. He’s not even really hiding. I mean, the way he does it, so many people are involved and see what’s happening. But everyone’s too scared to say anything.” — actress Emma de Caunes, accuser

“Everything was designed to make me feel comfortable before it happened. And then the shame in what happened was also designed to keep me quiet.” — Lucia Evans, accuser

“I wish I could have done more. I wish I could have stopped it.”  — executive at the Weinstein Co.

When it comes to encapsulating the most appalling part of the Weinstein debacle, New York Times columnist Bret Stephens put it best: “Of all of the dismaying and disgusting details of the Harvey Weinstein saga,” he wrote, “none is more depressing than this: It has so few heroes.” And maybe none.

In an age of social media self-aggrandizement, it is astonishing how many consciences shrank from the courage to intervene. For three decades, Weinstein’s reported bad behavior ensnared everyone — from his accusers, to his boardroom, to the famous actors, directors and film executives with whom he worked, to reporters who were eager to do his will in exchange for access to his world.

It is a fitting irony that in an industry where everyone tries so hard to look good, so few had the guts to do good.

Weinstein’s reported behavior has been described as “an open secret”: the subject of an Oscar joke, red-carpet interviews, even late night TV. Everyone knew, we’re told. It was “a conspiracy of silence,” as actress Glenn Close put it. So it seems even more unseemly that an industry associated with championing causes and giving charity would abet systemic corruption and then play dumb.

Yet here’s George Clooney on the subject: “I’ve known Harvey for 20 years. He gave me my first big break as an actor.  … He gave me my first big break as a director. … We’ve had dinners, we’ve been on location together, we’ve had arguments. But I can tell you that I’ve never seen any of this behavior — ever.”

Perhaps in a horror story without heroes, the least you can do is act clueless. But with no one to save the day, the burden of truth telling falls to the damsels in distress. Although it is too much to ask to flout fear, trauma, helplessness — someone has to go first.

The reason Harvey Weinstein allegedly was able to get away with his abhorrent behavior for so long is because the perception of his power cowed others into submission and silence.

It took 30 years for enough brave women to break their silence about Weinstein and share their stories with The New York Times and The New Yorker. Our country has a history of brave, lone voices erupting from time to time — from Anita Hill to the women who accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct while he was on his way to the White House. Now the long-sleeping giant is awake. And for the first time, it isn’t one or two or a dozen women accusing one individual, but a rising chorus of women’s voices determined to end the “conspiracy of silence” around sexual assault.    

What the “MeToo” hashtag phenomenon reveals is just how commonplace the experience of assault and harassment is for women in the United States. By press time, the #MeToo campaign spilled over from Twitter to Facebook, where it was tagged 12 million times. Countless people shared their stories of alleged rape, assault and harassment, whether it occurred at work, school or home, during childhood or adulthood, among the famous or not-so-famous. Celebrities America Ferrera, Debra Messing, Lady Gaga and Anna Paquin used the hashtag, as did some men in a show of solidarity.

The outpouring was intergenerational. Even women who came of age in earlier eras finally felt this was the moment to speak up. The Forward’s editor-in-chief, Jane Eisner, told a story of alleged sexual harassment that took place early in her career and the toll silence took on her conscience.

“What if that editor preyed on someone else after me? What if my silence translated into complicity, and what if that enabled harm to continue? What if I’m somehow guilty, too?” Eisner wrote. “That’s the insidious aspect of sexual harassment. The victim becomes isolated in a prison of her own making and unwittingly allows the exploitation to continue.”

Now that so many of these stories are meeting the hot glare of the spotlight, will anything really change?

Philosopher Edmund Burke famously said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” But it is a failure of imagination to imbue only men with moral will. To right the wrongs in our society and in our world, women also must be elevated and empowered to live in accordance with their conscience.

From Trauma to Teshuvah

I felt trapped. … I was very afraid of him. … I opened the door terrified. …

The most excruciating and uncomfortable hour of my life. … I was so horrified. … He overpowered me. … I was disgusted with myself. … I had eating problems for years. … I have nightmares about him. … Just talking to you about it, my whole body is shaking. … I’ve been damaged.  — statements from Weinstein’s accusers, cited in The New Yorker

“I think now is the right time, in this current climate, for the truth.” — former executive, the Weinstein Co.

The reign of Harvey the Great is over. And to the others just like him: Beware. Hell hath no fury like millions of women scorned.

As Hollywood stories go, the Weinstein saga is by every measure a tragedy.

Today, tomorrow, the next day will bring another news cycle, perhaps a new alleged predator unmasked, but this story will never be over for the women who lived it; their suffering is irreparable. The feelings of pain, violation and helplessness inflicted upon them is something they must live with. It is no small triumph that an alleged abuser of power has been brought low, but Weinstein is one accused perpetrator in a world of many. Just because he finally was outed doesn’t mean the trauma ends for his reported victims, or change the fact that the world these women inhabited was unsafe and unfair.

What the public revelation of Weinstein’s reported pestiferous behavior brought into harsh relief is that he is not alone.

“Mr. Weinstein may be the most powerful man in Hollywood to be revealed as a predator, but he’s certainly not the only one who has been allowed to run wild,” writer and actress Lena Dunham wrote in The New York Times. “His behavior, silently co-signed for decades by employees and collaborators, is a microcosm of what has been happening in Hollywood since always and of what workplace harassment looks like for women everywhere.”

Actress and director Sarah Polley wrote that she gave up acting nearly 10 years ago because she grew tired of feeling “humiliated, violated, [and] dismissed” on set.

“It wasn’t worth it to me,” she wrote in the Times, “to open my heart and make myself so vulnerable in an industry that makes its disdain for women evident everywhere I turn.”

Hollywood, as an industry, is culpable. But so are we. And it on us to ensure that Weinstein and Hollywood do not become the sole scapegoats for a more pervasive problem, one that cuts across industries, communities and political aisles. If our whole society is sick, then our whole society must atone and reform.

Calls for institutional change are beginning. Some are urging Hollywood’s talent agencies to institute policies forbidding professional meetings in hotel rooms; others are calling on the guilds to defend and protect industry workers who come forward with accusations of harassment.

Most notably, however, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences board of governors voted to expel Weinstein from the academy, citing a new no-tolerance policy.

“[T]he era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over,” read the academy’s statement.

It is now up to those who averted their eyes from this problem to end the dark legacy of “the casting couch” in all of its ugly iterations. There should be no impunity for those who flout the rules of basic human decency. The epidemic of bullying and intimidating women; of using sexual violence to diminish or suppress them; of extracting sexual favors in exchange for career advancement needs to end not only in Hollywood, but in all halls of power.

It is time for a cultural cheshbon ha-nefesh (accounting of the soul) to account for the state of our soullessness.

“We need to look at ourselves,” Polley wrote. “What have we been willing to accept, out of fear, helplessness, a sense that things can’t be changed? What else are we turning a blind eye to, in all aspects of our lives? What else have we accepted that, somewhere within us, we know is deeply unacceptable? And what, now, will we do about it?”

The reign of Harvey the Great is over. And to the others just like him: Beware. Hell hath no fury like millions of women scorned. 

Women of the World Say: Enough

One of the quirks of publishing a weekly paper is that the news moves so fast that by the time you’re on the newsstand, everything can shift.  For this issue, we were preparing a cover story on “the complicity of silence” around the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal.

And then Sunday happened.

Actress Alyssa Milano posted on Twitter the words “Me too” and suggested that women who have faced sexual assault and harassment post “Me too” as a status. Well, within 24 hours, the words were repeated millions of times. Her tweet had more than 40,000 comments. On Facebook, more than 8.7 million users were posting or “talking” about it.

By the time we arrived at the office on Monday, the floodgates had opened. Instead of a complicity of silence, we were seeing the reverse — millions of women rising up and saying, Enough. No more silence. No more abuse. No more complicity.

A movement was unfolding before our eyes.

Our coverage shifted to reflect this fast-moving development. The story became larger than Harvey Weinstein and even larger than Hollywood. And it’s not new. Women are sharing incidents from their high school years, from college, from jobs. Women rabbis wrote about being harassed by colleagues and by congregants.

A movement was unfolding before our eyes.

First, we had to cover the event that precipitated these floodgates and explain how we got here. Senior writer Danielle Berrin does just that in her cover story on the Weinstein sex scandal and its many repercussions. We also asked Rabbi Jill Berkson Zimmerman to share her thoughts on the #MeToo movement that has exploded across social media.

“The ocean of tears needs to evoke a sea change,” Zimmerman writes.

Will a sea change happen? Or will this movement evaporate until the next scandal or hurricane or terrorist attack comes along? In the coming weeks and months, the Journal will continue to keep an eye on this story and examine the role of our own community.

From Israel, one of our new contributors, Dahlia Scheindlin, asks if there’s a “Jewish answer” to the disease of sexual harassment. Her answer may surprise you.

While the Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo movement were reverberating last week, the news kept churning.

Senior writer Eitan Arom reports on the devastating wildfires in Northern California and how the Jewish community is responding to the destruction at URJ Camp Newman. On our debate page, two experts argue the merits of President Donald Trump’s changes to the Affordable Care Act.

On a more uplifting note, Kelly Hartog covers a synagogue in Pico-Robertson that invites homeless people to engage with one another over a meal. They’ve been doing it every month for the past 13 years.

From Portland, Ore., Alicia Jo Rabins writes about how teaching the Hebrew alphabet connects her to her ancestors, while from Washington, D.C., Joshua Horwitz tells us why he’s not letting cynicism get in the way of his gun control activism.

Can Judaism help us regain our balance in a crazy world that is moving too fast? Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson writes about the special energy that greets us after a long month of Jewish holidays, and how that energy can help us attain that balance. Arianna Huffington shares her own ideas on the subject in our back-page Q-and-A.

And speaking of balance, this week we are trying something new — an exchange between denominations. Orthodox Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn and Reform Rabbi Laura Geller engage in an email discussion around the “true meaning of tikkun olam.” The idea for this page came when someone said, “Instead of preaching civility, why don’t we give an example?”

Can Judaism help us regain our balance in a crazy world that is moving too fast?

Of course, we can’t forget food. In addition to a full serving of the arts, we have Yamit’s Table. Just as she was passionate last week about egg salad, this week Yamit Behar Wood devotes her culinary passion to the miracle of the phyllo dough. It seems as if every culinary tradition in the world has its own version of phyllo dough stuffed with unique flavors and ingredients. In this issue, Yamit shares a Bulgarian recipe from her childhood, the Spinach Banitsa.

In her own words: “Nothing beats a fresh, hot, crisp banitsa right out of the oven. NOTHING!”

Yes, even in a world where darkness strikes, there’s still room to emote over a good banitsa.

Shabbat shalom.

Harvey Weinstein’s brother accused of sexual harassment

Screenshot from YouTube.

Bob Weinstein, the brother of Harvey Weinstein, is now facing a sexual harassment allegation from a TV producer.

Variety reports that Amanda Segel, the executive producer of “The Mist”, is claiming that Weinstein kept harassing her for three months in 2016 until she threatened to leave the show. According to the report, Segel had dinner with Weinstein to establish a working relationship with him, but Weinstein kept making suggestive remarks. He asked her to drive him to his hotel, where Segel rebuffed his request to join him in his hotel room.

After that, Segel alleges that Weinstein kept trying to establish a romantic relationship with her, which Segel continually declined. Segel eventually threatened to leave the show if Weinstein didn’t cease his actions, prompting Weinstein to launch into a tirade against Segel on a conference call over “a production issue that she says was out of her control.”

An agreement was worked between the Weinstein Co. and Segel that she would never have to be around Weinstein or talk to him over the phone and that she could leave the show after the second season.

Segel told Variety, “After ‘no,’ anybody who has asked you out should just move on. Bob kept referring to me that he wanted to have a friendship. He didn’t want a friendship. He wanted more than that. My hope is that ‘no’ is enough from now on.”

A Weinstein representative issued a statement to Variety that read, “Bob Weinstein had dinner with Ms. Segel in LA in June 2016. He denies any claims that he behaved inappropriately at or after the dinner. It is most unfortunate that any such claim has been made.”

Weinstein recently told The Hollywood Reporter that his brother Harvey at times subjected him to “physical abuse” and “avoided getting the help” he needed despite Bob Weinstein’s repeated pleas, although Weinstein claimed he didn’t know about his brother’s sordid behavior.

Mayim Bialik under fire for suggesting women should dress modestly to avoid sexual harassment

Television star Mayim Bialik questioned the timing of the March for Racial Justice on her Facebook page. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Actress Mayim Bialik has faced criticism for writing in a column that women should dress modestly to avoid sexual harassment in Hollywood.

In a New York Times op-ed published on Saturday, the Big Bang Theory star wrote that she began her career in Hollywood “as a prominent-nosed, awkward, geeky, Jewish 11-year-old” and that while she was “shocked and disgusted” by the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, she was not necessarily surprised.

“I have always had an uncomfortable relationship with being employed in an industry that profits on the objectification of women,” wrote Bialik. “Though pressure to ‘be like the pretty girls’ started long before I entered Hollywood, I quickly learned even as a preteen actress that young girls with doe eyes and pouty lips who spoke in a high register were favored for roles by the powerful men who made those decisions.”

Bialik proceeded to recall how she was the butt of jokes over her looks when she was younger, yet she’s had a successful career in Hollywood. She noted that she takes precautionary measures to avoid scenarios of sexual harassment in Hollywood.

“I have decided that my sexual self is best reserved for private situations with those I am most intimate with,” wrote Bialik. “I dress modestly. I don’t act flirtatiously with men as a policy.”

She acknowledged that engaging in that kind of behavior “might feel oppressive to many young feminists” but it’s the best course of action.

“In a perfect world, women should be free to act however they want. But our world isn’t perfect,” wrote Bialik. “Nothing — absolutely nothing — excuses men for assaulting or abusing women. But we can’t be naïve about the culture we live in.”

Bialik concluded her column with a note of encouragement to women who are “not a perfect 10.”

“There are people out there who will find you stunning, irresistible and worthy of attention, respect and love,” wrote Bialik. “The best part is you don’t have to go to a hotel room or a casting couch to find them.”

Bialik was criticized for her op-ed:

Others were less critical:

Bialik addressed the outrage on Facebook Live with New York Times editor Bari Weiss.

“I really do regret that this became what it became, because literally I was trying to speak about a very specific experience I had in a very specific industry,” said Bialik. “I was not looking to speak about assault and rape in general.”

She then said she was “deeply hurt” if anyone thought she was “victim-blaming.”

Jewish women share #MeToo stories

(Reuters)

Twitter has been trending with the #MeToo hashtag in response to Harvey Weinstein being expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The hashtag began with actress Alyssa Milano tweeting on Sunday that if all women who experienced sexual assault, shared the hashtag, “we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” Numerous women began issuing #MeToo tweets to share their stories of sexual harassment or assault, including many prominent Jewish women.

Here were some examples:

Danielle Berrin, a senior writer for the Journal, has written several times about inappropriate conduct she experienced while on-the-job: in 2008, when Berrin interviewed Hollywood director Brett Ratner, and in 2016, when she interviewed Israeli journalist Ari Shavit.

Weinstein has faced an outpouring of sexual harassment and rape allegations that stretch as far as the United Kingdom. His alleged behavior has been an “open secret” in Hollywood for years, and yet his behavior was generally kept under wraps, until The New York Times and The New Yorker broke the story.

The Day Twitter Fell Silent: How Harvey Weinstein Inadvertently Caused a Twitter Boycott

Actress Rose McGowan, who’s been leading the Twitter crusade against Harvey Weinstein, was penalized by Twitter for posting a tweet about Weinstein that contained a private phone number – a violation of their Terms of Service. On Thursday morning, Oct 12, Twitter issued a statement that McGowan’s account would be temporarily frozen because of this violation.

This didn’t fly well with the Twitter community. The freeze manifested into a worldwide one-day Twitter boycott on Friday, Oct 13, with many users adopting the hashtag #WomenBoycottTwitter.

In solidarity with McGowan (a victim of Weinstein’s sexual transgressions), comedian Chelsea Handler, Emmy-nominated host Billy Eichner, and “Catfish” host Nev Schulman joined the protest.

(Although, it should be mentioned, Eichner broke his Twitter silence to post about President Trump addressing the Values Voter Summit, but he resumed his boycott soon after.)

Where Were the Liberals When Weinstein Betrayed Them?

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

When I first heard about the Harvey Weinstein scandal, my initial reflex was to see it through a Jewish lens: Oh no, I thought, not another Jewish scandal. As anti-Semitism reaches a tipping point, this is the last thing we need.

And then I read The New York Times story detailing three decades of sexual misconduct, and the stories that have come out since then. Sickening stories that, as a woman and as a mother, make my blood boil. Stories that would make me sever ties with a man who was capable of just one of them, let alone dozens. Stories that have apparently been an “open secret” in Hollywood for years.

As an outsider looking in, I am dumbfounded that the women of Hollywood, the women of the Democratic Party, would keep silent about these transgressions. For what? His money? His glamorous parties? His ability to “make your career”? After a certain point, you don’t get to claim that you’re a feminist, that you support women’s rights, if you know that there is a very powerful man destroying the emotional fortitude of young women on a daily basis.

As an independent, I have no dog in the Democrat versus Republican hyper-partisan mega-fight. Both sides play up the scandals of the other side, and play down the scandals on their own side.

But as a liberal, as a feminist, I care about women subjected to repeated abuse — verbal, physical, psychological, sexual. And so I ask the liberal women of Hollywood: How could you let this happen for three decades? I ask Hillary Clinton: How could you take money from this man?

I ask the liberal establishment: How could you allow your hatred of the GOP — and we’re talking pre-Trump here — to undermine your ability to honor your own principles? To stop you from stopping Weinstein from scarring yet another young woman’s life?

We have come to over-politicize nearly everything. If it’s bad for the other side, we go hysterical. If it’s bad for our side, we stay quiet. If the abuser is a right-winger like Bill O’Reilly, the left goes ballistic. If it’s a Democratic lion like Harvey Weinstein, it goes silent.

Perhaps the ugliest episode of the Weinstein saga is that, according to a report by Sharon Waxman at The Wrap, the Times gutted a story on Weinstein’s sexual misconduct in 2004, after coming under pressure from Weinstein and his liberal Hollywood pals. How many women would have been spared the scars of sexual abuse had this predator been called out earlier?

While the Times’ explosive piece on Weinstein should be applauded, the “paper of record” was one of his enablers. “So pardon me,” Waxman writes, “for having a deeply ambivalent response about the current heroism of the Times.”

There’s nothing ambivalent or partisan about the moral depravity of using power to abuse women. To its credit, the Times published an op-ed by Bari Weiss that nails this point: “Will Liberals Give Weinstein the O’Reilly Treatment?” In her piece, Weiss notes that “prominent feminists like Gloria Steinem didn’t waste any time discarding sexual harassment guidelines when it came to Bill Clinton’s sexual predations as president. Principle rapidly gave way to partisanship and political opportunism.”

The one good that can come from all this is a deep self-reflection on the part of everyone who knew what was going on but chose to remain silent. Some liberals, like Meryl Streep and Lena Dunham, have begun to speak up. Of course, now that Weinstein’s star has dimmed, it’s a lot easier to show outrage.

Streep, who has worked with Weinstein for years, says she didn’t know anything about the overt daily harassment — he was known for throwing tables at employees when he was angry — and huge financial settlements. Perhaps she didn’t. But with her statement of outrage, Streep now can go back to attacking the right for its moral failings.

To redeem politics and scale back the cynicism that is corroding our discourse, both sides must choose moral principles over politics. We can’t hate “the other party” more than we hate sexual predators or Islamic terrorists. Every time we put politics ahead of what’s obviously right, we put another nail in the political coffin.

We’re running out of nails.  


Karen Lehrman Bloch is a cultural critic and curator. Author of “The Lipstick Proviso: Women, Sex & Power in the Real World” (Doubleday), her writings have appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, The Wall Street Journal and Metropolis, among others.

Jewish site refers to Harvey Weinstein as a ‘Jewish kind of pervert’

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The Jewish site Tablet published a piece on Monday that referred to Harvey Weinstein as “a deeply Jewish kind of pervert.” The author of the piece received considerable backlash and has issued an apology on the Tablet Magazine website.

Mark Oppenheimer, an editor-at-large at Tablet, wrote a piece titled “The Specifically Jewy Perviness of Harvey Weinstein” and stated that what differentiated Weinstein from the likes of Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly and Bill Clinton was that he “is a deeply Jewish kind of pervert.”

These despicable gents [Ailes, O’Reilly] have power and influence, and they aren’t above promising a lucrative gig—or threatening to take it away—to get laid,” wrote Oppenheimer. “In these transactions, women are nothing but objects, and any ‘consent’ is just an illusion.”

Weinstein, on the other hand, sought “unattainable Gentiles” as if it were part of “one big performance piece,” argued Oppenheimer.

Growing up in Queens, he fantasized of fame and fortune, and, once he got them, he struggled to maintain them by building himself into a larger-than-life figure,” wrote Oppenheimer. “He yelled at employees like he was a studio boss from the 1920s—the only thing missing was a riding crop. He ran Oscars campaigns like they used to in Old Hollywood. And he harassed women not necessarily to use them as instruments of his pleasure, but to use them as instruments of his power.”

Oppenheimer concluded his piece by pointing out that most of the women who have come forward about Weinstein were Gentiles.

The piece received fierce backlash on Twitter:

Oppenheimer initially defended the piece, telling The Wrap in an email, “What I was trying to do in this case was examine how common narratives — particularly those transmitted by literature — might influence how people may be processing Weinstein’s Jewish identity in this story.”

However, Oppenheimer eventually wrote an apology on Tablet’s website.

Yesterday I published a piece on Harvey Weinstein that many found offensive. The analysis I offered was hasty and ill-considered, especially in light of the even graver accusations that were published by the New Yorker this morning,” wrote Oppenheimer. “I take this as a lesson in the importance of knowing as much as one can about a given story, and in taking the time to think and feel things completely through before opining. I apologize for not doing so in this case.”

Not everyone was satisfied with the apology.

Several women have come forward accusing Weinstein of sexual harassment and three women have accused him of rape. Audio has emerged of Weinstein admitting to groping a woman.

Moving and Shaking: Jeffrey Katzenberg, Harvey Weinstein, Rabbi David Wolpe and more

As the night’s master of ceremonies at the Simon Wiesenthal Center/Museum of Tolerance annual national tribute dinner, Jeffrey Katzenberg had two big jobs — to keep the presentations to heroes who’d risked their lives to save others moving along like clockwork and to convince the crowd that the night’s top honoree, Harvey Weinstein, is a good guy and a true humanitarian. The notoriously hard-driving and prickly head of the Weinstein Co., one of Hollywood’s most decorated and esteemed multimedia companies, is not known for soft-heartedness, so in his introduction, Katzenberg told the crowd of 850 gathered at the Beverly Hilton on March 24, “I’m going to tell you something you don’t know: He’s actually just a really nice Jewish boy.” 

Actor Christoph Waltz followed, listing substantial contributions from Weinstein and the company he co-founded with his brother, Bob, to amfAR, the AIDS research foundation, to New York City’s public school system, to the organization of a concert to raise funds for victims of Hurricane Sandy (which raised $62 million in one night) and more. Weinstein appeared humbled by the recognition for deeds other than moviemaking, yet his usual bravado showed through even as he addressed the issues of tolerance fundamental to the Wiesenthal center’s mission, saying of ISIS: “We’d better stand up and kick these guys in the ass.” 

He also spoke of his father, who served as a sergeant stationed in Cairo during World War II, who would “forget to close the door” to the cargo warehouse so the Haganah fighting for Israel’s independence might find some supplies. Noting the rapid rise in anti-Semitism in today’s world, Weinstein asked, rhetorically, “We’re all Semitic; what is there to be anti about?” And he spoke of being deeply moved during a trip with his wife to Jordan, where he witnessed the massive Syrian refugee camps. In a note of cautious optimism that could be a one-line description for a movie plot, Weinstein closed the evening by saying, “Good can triumph over evil — if the angels are as organized as the Mafia.”


Rabbi Marvin Hier (center) with the evening's Medal of Valor recipients (from left): Lassana Bathily, who hid Jewish shoppers at a kosher market in Paris during a hostage crisis; Rinal Trudi, widow of Zidan Seif, a policeman from Israel’s Druze minority killed trying to protect a West Jerusalem synagogue; Priscilla Schulte, who accepted the medal on behalf of her late grandfather, Eduard Schulte, who risked his life to cross the border into Switzerland to warn the West about the Nazis; and Kevin Vickers, who shot and killed a terrorist gunman at the Canadian parliament. Photo by Marissa Roth/courtesy of the Simon Wiesenthal Center

The evening also honored four others for acts of heroism with “medals of valor”: Eduard Schulte, the late German industrialist who risked his life by leaking the first report to the West of the Nazi’s plan to murder all Jews; the late Zidan Saif, a Druze police officer killed while trying to protect the congregation at the Jerusalem synagogue at Har Nof while it was being attacked by terrorists; Kevin Vickers, the sergeant-at-arms of the Canadian House of Commons in Ottawa who killed the terrorist who attacked the Canadian Parliament, and Lassana Bathily, the Muslim shop assistant working at the Parisian kosher supermarket, who saved many Jews’ lives by hiding them in a cold-storage unit when terrorists attacked the market just before Shabbat earlier this year.

Katzenberg also announced that the Wiesenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance in recent months raised 87 percent of the campaign’s goal for the building of its new museum in Jerusalem. The legacy gifts include: a naming gift of $26 million from Dawn Arnall in memory of her late husband, Roland; $10 million from Michael and Lori Milken plus $10 million from Larry and Carol Mizel to jointly name the Jerusalem museum’s campus; $18 million from Gordon and Leslie Diamond of Canada to name a 1,000-seat amphitheater; and an anonymous gift of $5 million.

— Susan Freudenheim, Executive Editor



CLI participant Mark Tseselsky and his wife, Marsha Shagalov. Photo by Ryan Torok

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles Community Leadership Institute (CLI) held the graduation for its inaugural class on March 15. 

Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple, the commencement speaker, told the approximately 60 graduates that with power comes responsibility.

“If you’re going to be a Jewish leader, know something about the tradition that you are leading. Read Jewish books; visit Israel; listen to people who are educators — everything is online, everything is available, there are podcasts, lectures and so on,” he said. 

“Take pride in the depth of your own Jewish knowledge and, if not, then take pride in the deepening of your Jewish knowledge, so, when you say, ‘I’m a Jewish leader,’ you know that means from your own perspective and not because someone else tells you.”

CLI is a 15-month leadership-training program of Federation that offers four tracks for young professionals ages 25 to 40 who are part of the Russian-Jewish community or who work in real estate, entertainment or any other field. CLI participants travel to Israel, and each is paired with a mentor from a similar background.

Mark Tseselsky, 37, one of this year’s graduates and a lawyer originally from Azerbaijan, told the Journal that he joined the CLI Russian-Jewish track because he cares about his children’s future.

“I want my children to be involved with the Jewish community, and this is my way in,” he said at the recent event.

The event, held at a private home’s backyard in Sherman Oaks, started with a cocktail hour. Waterfall sounds from a grotto pool competed with the sounds of a live band playing from a second-floor balcony, while open bars served specialty cocktails named after each of the four CLI groups. The likes of Tal Gozani, Federation’s senior vice president of young adult engagement, mingled with Gamal Palmer, senior director of CLI.

Attendees then made their way to a large tent for the graduation ceremony. That’s where Wolpe — along with Jay Sanderson, Federation CEO and president; Federation chairperson Les Bider; Rachel Richman, a CLI graduate who works in entertainment; and Federation board member Brian Shirken, who helped create CLI — were among those who offered remarks.

Afterward, the graduates raised their glasses during a champagne toast. The next CLI class begins in the fall; applications open April 15.



From left: Righteous Conversations Artistic Director Cheri Gaulke, wth survivors Curt Lowens and Gabriella Karin. Photo courtesy of LAMOTH

The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust’s Righteous Conversations Project short film “Curt Lowens: A Life of Changes,” won top prize in the Harvard-Westlake School Film Festival on March 20. Curt Lowens was a member of the Dutch resistance during World War II whose family had fled Berlin after Kristallnacht.

Students from a variety of schools worked together on the film, which blends animation with a live interview. The students were Justin Binder (Milken Community Schools), Robert Carlson (Milken), George Khabbaz (AGBU Vatche & Tamar Manoukian High School), August Blum (Aveson Charter Schools), Levi Glaser (Wildwood School), Kayla Mossanen (Milken) and Tammy Shine (Milken).

They worked in collaboration with Lowens and with Righteous Conversations mentors Alyssa Sherwood, a Harvard-Westlake animation teacher; Cosmo Segurson, a CalArts animation teacher; and Liran Kapel, an Israeli animator, during a workshop last summer.

Lowens, who was among those who attended the festival at the ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood, said he was honored to have been the subject of the six-minute film.

“It was a wonderful evening,” Lowens said, as quoted by a press release. “The variety of student work was fascinating.”

The festival also honored a second Righteous Conversations Project film, a public service announcement about gun violence in schools titled “It Shouldn’t Be This Easy.” The one-minute, 30-second film shows a high-school student who is able to purchase a firearm from an innocuous-looking vending machine. The film won Official Selection honors. Students Trey Carlisle (Aveson Global Leadership Academy), Ned Jacobs (Colina Middle School), Connor Reese (Harvard-Westlake) and Cameron Stine (Harvard-Westlake) worked on the film. 

The Righteous Conversations Project is a program of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust in which high school students, working with Holocaust survivors, develop short films and public service announcements that are upon completion gifted to nonprofit organizations. 



Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback serenades Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin. Photo courtesy of Stephen Wise Temple

Three generations of Stephen Wise Temple senior leadership — Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin, Rabbi Eli Herscher and Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback — came together during the synagogue’s Founder’s Day on March 20.

The event spotlighted Zeldin, who is in his 90s and who established the hilltop Reform community in 1964. It has since grown into one of the largest synagogue communities in the world, with 2,200 member families. 

Herscher became the temple’s senior rabbi in 1990; in December, it was announced that he would be succeeded by Zweiback, head of Wise School.

The event also celebrated Metuka Benjamin, the synagogue’s former director of education, the community’s staff and lay leaders. Many elementary students from Wise School participated in a presentation about the life of Rabbi Stephen Samuel Wise, for whom the school is named and who led American-Jewish efforts to denounce Germany during World War II. 


Camp JCA Shalom in Malibu is one of four Jewish camps across North America chosen for a new joint project from the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) and the Ruderman Family Foundation, known as the FJC Ruderman Inclusion Initiative. Aimed at increasing the number of children with disabilities in attendance at Jewish camps, the program is possible because of a three-year grant funded by the Ruderman Family. The $45,000 grant will go toward the hiring and training of inclusion coordinators.

“We are pleased to be able to bring this specialized training to fruition at Camp JCA Shalom and begin to increase access to Jewish camp, making our camp population more reflective of the overall Jewish population,” Jeremy Fingerman, FJC CEO, said in a press release.

Camp JCA Shalom, a program of the Shalom Institute, a camp and conference center, has had an inclusion program for the past 15 years and has a goal of professionalizing its program, according to Bill Kaplan, Shalom Institute executive director.

“In previous years, we had a community inclusion specialist, but we had to share them with other camps,” he said. “The grant will allow the new coordinator to be full time during the summer and part time during the year.” 

Rachel Adler has been hired as the new inclusion coordinator; her job responsibilities will include meeting with the parents and children. The camp hopes to immediately start bringing in more campers for summer 2015. 

“I’m very excited about this opportunity to build on our supportive environment at Camp JCA Shalom,” Joel Charnick, director of Camp JCA Shalom, said in a press release. “Rachel Adler is a phenomenal individual who will help us grow as an organization.”

— Leilani Peltz, Contributing Writer



Past AJC President Fredrick S. Levin appears at an event commemorating the Armenian genocide.

More than 300 people gathered to recall the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide during a March 22 event that stressed the tragic histories shared by Armenians and Jews.

Titled “100 Years Later: The Shared Reflections of Two Communities,” the event, at St. Leon Armenian Cathedral in Burbank, was sponsored by American Jewish Committee Los Angeles (AJCLA) and the Western Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church of North America, and honored the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. 

An array of guest speakers included Western Diocese Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, AJCLA president Dean Schramm, and Rep. Adam Schiff, of the 28th Congressional District.

“We believe … that it is critically important for the Jewish community to stand with the Armenian community to embrace the shared tragedy of our peoples’ history,” Schramm said, as quoted by a press release.

Additional attendees included Assemblyman Matt Dababneh and L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz.

More than 1 million Armenians living in present-day Turkey perished during the killings, which occurred in 1915. The Turkish government has rejected calling what happened a genocide — saying it was the result of civil war — but a number of countries and organizations, including the AJC, have called on Turkey to recognize it as such. 

“The process of healing of this nearly century-old wound can only begin when the truth of that sorrowful era is confronted,” a 2014 AJC statement read.


Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com.

Harvey Weinstein urges Jews in the fight against anti-Semitism

Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein urged Jews in the fight against anti-Semitism to “stand up and kick these guys in the ass.”

On Tuesday night, the famously combative Weinstein made his remarks at a gala dinner given by the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, where he was presented with the organization’s Humanitarian Award.

Jews, he told the audience, “better stand up and kick these guys in the ass,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Weinstein, who has produced a litany of hit films, including the Holocaust action movie “Inglorious Basterds” and “Pulp Fiction,” reportedly urged “understanding of our Arab brothers and our Islamic brothers,” but also warned, “We can’t allow the bad guys to win. So as they say in “The Godfather,” ‘back to the mattresses,’ and back to the idea that we will not ever forget what happened to us.”

At the National Tribute Dinner, fellow Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg also reportedly announced that the Wiesenthal Center had raised another $50 million toward the construction of its long-delayed and controversial Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem. The project has been dogged by a host of problems, including two architects who have resigned as well as long-running protests that the museum is being partially built on top of the historic Muslim Mumilla Cemetery.