February 17, 2019

Israeli Technion Will Make a Stop in Los Angeles for 2019 Tour

From Left: Tamar Rott Shaham and Dmitry (Dima) Glinets. Photos provided by Miller Ink.

Israeli Technion will once again visit Los Angeles as part of its yearly U.S. tour to spread awareness of Israel’s latest technological advances and start up culture.

For more than 25 years, students have traveled to the U.S. on behalf of the American Technion Society to meet with supporters, and share their Technion experiences and studies.

They are the ambassadors for the Technion, Israel and the ATS.

Two tours are happening simultaneously and both kick off Feb. 19. One runs through March 5, which goes to New York, Detroit, San Diego, Palm Springs, San Francisco and Seattle. The other which ends March 2, stops in New York, Miami, Houston and Chicago.

One of the tours will be in Los Angeles from Feb. 23-Feb. 26.

Tamar Rott Shaham is one of the two ambassadors making an appearance in Los Angeles to share how she is actively participating in advancing women in technology.

Shaham, a second generation Technion alum, received the Cederbaum Fellowship in 2016 and is already accomplished in the fields of image processing and computer vision. In 2018 she received the KLA Award for distinguished paper, the Freud Award for outstanding female doctoral students and Women in Computer Vision International Travel Grant.

A year ago, Shaham co-founded the women in electrical engineering forum known as “WomEE,” which helps advance women in technology from childhood through academic and industrial leadership.

She is also working on initiating a summer school for young girls in the field of Artificial Intelligence.

“I feel highly committed to promoting excellence in teaching standards, as well as educating for values such as pluralism and mutual respect among all people,” she said in a statement. “I hope to further contribute to society, both by conducting innovative research and creating novel technology and maintaining my social activities. I feel the Israeli academia is a great place to do so.”

Technion Faculty of Materials Engineering student, Dmitry (Dima) Glinets will also be a part of  the Los Angeles Technion stop.

In 2017, Glinets was an Israeli Delegate to the United Nations 8th University Scholars Leadership Symposium in Bangkok, where he was one of 20 delegates out of 900 chosen to be part of the Symposium’s leadership team.

At Technion he serves as a class representative and mentor for freshman students in the faculty.

“Being Technion’s emissary, being able to share my story and make friendships with so many great colleagues from all over the world, fills my heart with great pride,” he said in a statement.

Dima did his military service in the IDF International Media Department, where he served as a Public Diplomacy Specialist. After his service, Dima worked briefly with the Rape Crisis Center before starting at the Technion in October 2015. He also took part in the StandWithUs Israel Fellowship program, which trains students on six different Israeli campuses to become an advocate for Israel.

Glinets hopes to pursue an MBA degree in the United States and become a leader in Israel’s tech economy.

“The greater goal of my career is to serve the state of Israel in diplomacy field as well as technology and business.”

Shooting Outside Etz Jacob Synagogue in L.A., Security Guard Arrested

Update: Feb. 15 – 8:30 a.m.

A security guard at Etz Jacob synagogue/ Ohel Chana Girls High School has been arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon with a firearm, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

The guard has been identified as 44-year-old Edduin Zelayagrunfeld. The incident occurred around noon on Feb. 14, on Beverly Boulevard in the Fairfax District, when he allegedly shot 45-year-old Orange County transgender woman and Youtube personality,  Zhoie Perez in the leg. Perez was recording video of the area at the time.

An eyewitness posted on twitter: “Nut case security guard just shot a innocent person on the sidewalk for filming with a camera. Yes, you read correctly. Shot a person on the sidewalk from behind a fence.”

Another person posted on twitter that it was a man who was shot and he is ‘conscious and breathing. Transported 2 Hosp.”

The following video was reportedly taken by the victim at the time and posted on Youtube by user Funny Potato Live. (Please note, explicit language is used in this video).


A self-described “1st Amendment auditor,” Perez held a brief news conference after being discharged from the hospital where she described her leg injury as a “deep graze.” The Los Angeles Times reported that Perez said, ““I was just filming the exterior of the synagogue here, and getting a lot of, like, the architecture and all that, and the guard came out and just started freaking out, started putting his hand on his gun.”

— Additional reporting by Ryan Torok and Jewish Journal staff. 


Cartoon of the Week: ‘Yetzer Hara’ License Plate

Illustrated by David Mamet

Illustrated by David Mamet

‘Guardians’ 80th, Canadians, Sundance Shabbat

From left: Jeff Schlesinger, Tony Berns, Marilyn Freeman, Zane Koss, Larry Schnaid and (back row) Peter Steigleder attended the 80th anniversary celebration of the Guardians of the L.A. Jewish Home. Photo courtesy of the L.A. Jewish Home

The Guardians of the Los Angeles Jewish Home celebrated its 80th anniversary on Jan. 26 at the Hollywood Palladium.

The event, dubbed “1938: A Comedy Night for the Ages,” honored Michael Koss, who established Koss Real Estate Investments in 1971; and presented the Ambassador Award to Josh Flagg, a reality television star and real estate agent. 

Koss, who specializes in the acquisition and development of commercial real estate, has been a supporter of the Guardians for 25 years and is a former board member of the organization. Flagg, who has a starring role on Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles,” serves on the Guardians’ executive board.

The event drew more than 650 attendees and raised over $630,000, said Jessi Cazary, manager of the Guardians.

Tony Berns, Marilyn Freeman, Zane Koss and Peter Steigleder chaired the event. Richard Ziman served as honorary chair. 

The mission of the Guardians is to provide financial support for seniors and needy members of the Jewish community served by the Los Angeles Jewish Home, through residential and community-based programs. The organization was founded in 1938 by a handful of volunteers.

Daniella Alkobi, vice president of Marino. Photo courtesy of of Marino

Marino, a strategic communications and public relations firm based in New York with an office in Los Angeles, announced the promotion of Daniella Alkobi to vice president, on Jan. 23.

Alkobi, who joined the firm in 2012, has handled accounts including American Friends of Tel Aviv University, which raises funds and awareness for the educational institution.

“Daniella has been instrumental in the build-out of our Los Angeles office and California presence,” said John Marino, the company’s president. “Her incredible work ethic has been invaluable to our agency as she continues to elevate our clients to new levels of visibility.” 

Alkobi, 32, received her bachelor’s degree in communications and professional writing from UC Santa Barbara. A San Francisco native, she resides in Ventura with her husband, Sagi Alkobi, and their son, Mason. 

Philanthropist Julie Bram enjoys the traveling exhibition, “The Canadian Jewish Experience,” in Beverly Hills. Photo courtesy of Sharon Krischer

More than 40 people gathered Jan. 13 at the Beverly Hills home of Sharon and Joel Krischer to view the traveling exhibit, “The Canadian Jewish Experience,” curated by Tova Lynch, an immigrant member of the Ottawa, Ontario, Jewish community.  

The exhibit, created to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada in 2017, honors Jews who made contributions to the building of the country. Nine panels cover Jewish contributions to government, the legal system, business, architecture, sports, the arts, pop culture and other aspects of Canadian life. 

Speakers at the gathering included Consul General of Canada in Los Angeles Zaib Shaikh; Jewish Journal Publisher and Editor-in-Chief David Suissa, who spoke about his life after emigrating to Montreal from Morocco; and Lynch. Attendees included local Jewish philanthropist Julie Bram.

The exhibition acknowledges the challenges faced by Jews in Canada, specifically immigration barriers and prejudices targeting Jews in the 1960s, while recognizing the growth of the Jewish community that today counts nearly 400,000 people living in all the provinces and territories, with particular concentrations in Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver.

“All Canadians take pride in our 150th anniversary, but Jewish citizens celebrate with a special appreciation,” the exhibit’s website says. “Canada’s peoples come from many backgrounds and religions. Our spirit of tolerance and diversity helps cultural communities thrive within the mosaic.” 

Lynch worked with her husband, Jim Lynch, a former diplomat, as well as a team of volunteers, in creating the exhibition. 

Students at the Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies. Photo courtesy of Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies at UC Berkeley  

The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation of Los Angeles has awarded the Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies at UC Berkeley a $1 million matching grant toward the institute’s goal of building a $10 million endowment by 2024.

According to the Jan. 23 announcement of the grant, the Berkeley Institute’s endowment campaign has also received grants totaling nearly $2 million from the Koret Foundation and the Jim Joseph Foundation. 

“We’re issuing a challenge to other funders who care about proven campus models for engaging students around the study of Israel and Jewish identity in the modern world,”  Gilbert Foundation trustee Martin Blank Jr. said in the announcement. “This is an exciting endeavor, and we hope others join us in this cause.” 

The Berkeley Institute houses two programs: the Berkeley Program on Israel Studies and the Berkeley Program on Jewish Law, Thought and Identity. 

The institute, which was launched in 2011 and has a faculty of 22 members hailing from a variety of academic disciplines, allows students to integrate Israel studies throughout different campus departments, courses and programs; and to complement Jewish studies’ traditional focus on history and literature with a range of classes engaging Judaism from different vantage points. 

The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation supports a variety of academic programs at UC Berkeley and UCLA, including a monthly colloquium at the Berkeley Institute for presentations and discussions related to Israel and Judaism.

Dawne Bear Novicoff, chief operating officer of the Jim Joseph Foundation, said the Berkeley Institute has transformed the possibilities for Israel study at UC Berkeley.

“The strong desire for rigorous academic engagement with Israel at Berkeley is undisputed now,” Novicoff said. “Each year, the Institute offers even more to students, contributing to an Israel studies landscape that is completely transformed compared to what it was seven years ago. With its proven model, the Institute can work to ensure its future viability and long-term impact.”

At the Sundance Film Festival, Peter Yarrow of the folk music trio Peter, Paul and Mary dropped by the Shabbat Lounge and reminisced about the 1960s. Photo by Emily McLean

Rabbi Yonah Bookstein and Rebbetzin Rachel Bookstein of Pico Shul in Los Angeles held a Shabbat dinner and other programming at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, on the weekend of Jan. 25–27.

Among those who came to the Shabbat Lounge, organized by the Shabbat Tent and the Chai Center, were Peter Yarrow of the folk music trio Peter, Paul and Mary; sex therapist Dr. Ruth and rapper Kosha Dillz. Attendees enjoyed a Friday night dinner while meeting and networking with film industry leaders and enthusiasts from around the world. 

Want to be in Movers & Shakers? Send us your highlights, events, honors and simchas.
Email ryant@jewishjournal.com.

Garcetti Has Work to Do for a Presidential Run

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. Courtesy of the L.A. Mayor's Office

It appears Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has gotten the idea of running for president out of his system — at least for the time being. Now he can get on to the much more serious business of becoming secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Garcetti admitted the inevitable on Jan. 29, when he announced that he would not seek the Oval Office in 2020. The election of the last two presidents should teach us not to mistake the politically improbable for the impossible, but most observers believed that the best outcome for a credible but unsuccessful Garcetti presidential campaign would have been a Cabinet appointment under the next Democratic president. That objective should still be plausible for him, and is more likely to be attained by a successful mayor than an unsuccessful presidential hopeful.

Garcetti had spent most of the last two years fanning the flames of speculation about his potential candidacy. But events beyond his control ultimately forced him to put his White House dreams on hold — just not the ones you’re probably thinking of. 

None of the high-profile challenges Garcetti has faced recently — the teachers strike, the ongoing homelessness crisis and an FBI investigation of City Hall corruption — would have been particularly harmful to his candidacy.

The recently settled teachers strike in the Los Angeles Unified School District would not have been a significant obstacle. If anything, the labor-friendly settlement, and his role in mediating the outcome, could have favorably contrasted Garcetti with the gridlock and dysfunction in Washington.

The homeless crisis would have been a more complicated challenge, and he would have been forced to explain to Iowa and New Hampshire voters the videos of Skid Row posted by his opponents. But homelessness is not a problem unique to Los Angeles, and Garcetti could have framed it as a federal-government failure to provide adequate support to cities.

The FBI investigation into potential local-government corruption does not appear to be focused on Garcetti. Unless information becomes public that implicates him directly, it’s difficult to see the probe causing him significant political problems. 

The biggest obstacle to Garcetti’s presidential hopes was the prospect of being overshadowed by a too-crowded Democratic primary field with potential opponents better positioned to attract the public and media attention needed to claim the party’s nomination.

“Garcetti has plenty of time to develop a national following. Eight years from now, he will be about the same age as George W. Bush when the Texas governor began his White House campaign. “

The excitement surrounding the candidacy of California’s U.S. Senator Kamala Harris allowed her to parlay her recent campaign announcement into a solid week of rallies, interviews and town hall meetings. In Texas, defeated U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke has leveraged an innovative social media presence into a draft presidential movement, and he now occupies the generational space in the Democratic firmament that could have belonged to Garcetti. 

Garcetti is smart, articulate and personable, but he has a less-than-electrifying presence. Even while he traveled the country to raise money for Democratic candidates and state parties last fall, Harris was lambasting Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on national television and O’Rourke was trolling Ted Cruz on Instagram. The enthusiasm shown for politicians like Harris and O’Rourke has not been generated by our low-key mayor. 

Garcetti has plenty of time to develop a national following. Eight years from now, he will be about the same age as George W. Bush when the Texas governor began his White House campaign. And seven presidential elections from now, in the year 2048, Garcetti will still be younger than Bernie Sanders is today.

This week, Garcetti testified before Congress on housing and transportation issues. That’s not as exciting as being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey or Rachel Maddow. 

But using opportunities like these to become a national spokesman for America’s cities can be the first step toward a presidential campaign in the future — with better prospects than he would have faced now.

Dan Schnur teaches political communications and leadership at USC, UC Berkeley and Pepperdine. He is the founder of the USC-L.A. Times statewide political survey and a board member of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaustpre

Satirical Semite: Virtual Insanity

Photo from PxHere.

I love L.A. We have sun, sea and 24-hour traffic jams that offer slow scenic drives through the city and mountains, day and night. When I miss the gray skies of England, there is an easy solution: Go on Facebook, compare myself with more successful friends, and create an emotional storm of dark clouds. It is free and does not require air miles.

If you feel left out of the 13 percent of Americans taking antidepressants, social media helps you join the club. Why have self-worth and feel good with high self-esteem when you can begin each day with high anxiety like a good Jew? 

The clever thing about this addiction is that most people cannot see it. Adam Alter’s book, “Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked,” charts how social media companies hire psychologists who specialize in addiction so they can reverse-engineer things and get us hooked. Their parents must be proud. “My son the doctor created 2 million addicts!” 

Our dopamine receptors spike when we get approval from a total stranger who presses “Like.” Unlike proper recreational narcotics, this high only lasts a few seconds. At least a good cocaine rush lasts for a few hours. Apparently. 

Vacation photos are fabulous. A wealthy friend of mine says he won’t post family vacation photos out of sensitivity for other families who can’t afford such trips. His values are clearly antiquated in The Age of Human Dignity. What a loser.

“I was weird. I still am. That’s why I moved to Los Angeles.”

If I’m at home on a winter day and experiencing a financial squeeze while friends share tropical beach photos, there is solace in knowing they are unable to fully enjoy the moment because they are continually planning and then adding filters to their next “sunset #blessed” picture. 

One friend posted daily pregnancy photos showing everything except the conception and delivery. Clearly, nobody in the world had ever been pregnant before. It was so exciting I started lactating.

Someone I know bans online images of her children to protect their safety and allow them the freedom to choose what they will share when they are older. This backwards thinking is stuck in The Age of Respect for Your Children.

As for parents sharing vacation pictures of their children semi-naked, maybe they should receive an official thank-you from the Pedophiles of America who circulate similar photos among their sick networks. Seriously folks, stop doing this. It is dangerous. 

Last September, I wrote a song titled “Please Stop Posting Pictures of Your Kids on Facebook.” It hasn’t yet been released, so I can’t tell you what the song is about. 

To be fair, those endless first-day-of-school pictures from paparazzi parents are inspiring. They inspire me to join a lemming colony and leap off a cliff.

Perhaps we need a law firm to help photographically oppressed children sue their parents for breach of privacy. The only downside is that the money kids win will be deducted from their inheritance, but at least it will help two other oppressed groups: the IRS and litigation lawyers.

The No. 1 problem is internet bullying. Micro-aggressions appear to be part of the online zeitgeist, and the anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label reports that 70 percent of “screenagers” admit to having been abusive to somebody online. Following the suicide of Molly Richards, 14, the BBC recently reported that material about depression and suicide were found on her Instagram. The company took control and hashtags like “suicide,” “cutting” and “self-harm” now lead to helplines. Is this the world of “social” media?

I am so glad this wasn’t around when I was a teen. It was horrible enough being called names by my entire class when I was 14. They bullied me for 12 months because they thought I was weird. Thank God there was no Facebook. In retrospect, they were correct. I was weird. I still am. That’s why I moved to Los Angeles.

One question I ask before sharing something online is whether it will contribute to others, be spiritually uplifting, or if I am just seeking attention and validation? Then my dopamine addiction kicks in, I forget everything, stand in front of the Hollywood sign and take a selfie wearing my tefillin and swimsuit. #LosAngelesForever.

Marcus J Freed is a Los Angeles-based actor.

Meet Elan Carr, The New Anti-Semitism Envoy

President Donald Trump chose Elan Carr as Anti-Semitism Envoy

On Feb. 5, President Donald Trump’s administration announced that it had filled the two-year vacant position of Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. The appointee is Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Elan Carr, who is Jewish.

The 50-year-old former GOP congressional candidate and Iraq War veteran has spent most of his career prosecuting criminal and terrorist suspects. In his role as deputy district attorney, a position he has held since 2005, Carr’s work also has focused on prosecuting hate crimes as well as cases of domestic violence, sexual assault and child molestation.

In his new position, Carr will spearhead the fight against anti-Semitism. 

The post was established when then-President George W. Bush signed the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004 into law. According to the State Department’s website, the anti-Semitism envoy “develops and implements policies and projects to support efforts to combat anti-Semitism.”

“I see this fight as a big challenge that we’re going to be dealing with 24/7,” Carr told the Journal in a phone interview. “We’re going to hit the ground running and we’re going to fight anti-Semitism in a full-court press from every angle and every form anti-Semitism takes.”

Carr said his desire to fight for the Jewish people stems from being the son of Iraqi Jewish refugees who experienced anti-Semitism firsthand.

“In 1948, my mother was a young girl. She watched her father [being] arrested. There was a knock at the door. It was early in the morning; he still had shaving cream on his face. He answered the door and Iraqi soldiers dragged him away.”

“My career has been about two things: fighting evil and keeping people safe.”

Carr said his grandfather was a victim of the Iraqi government’s roundup of Jews as part of its war on Israel. His mother was forced to watch her father “be paraded through the streets in leg irons like a slave.”

Carr’s family initially stayed in Iraq as his grandfather languished in prison, but in 1950 the family fled to Iran, where Jews were then safe under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Later that same year, they moved to Israel.  Carr’s grandfather joined the family in Israel in 1951 after completing his three-year prison sentence. 

Carr’s wife’s family members are also no strangers to anti-Semitism. The maternal grandparents of his wife, Dahlia, survived Auschwitz. 

“My family has lived through anti-Semitism and seen it, and that has really informed my entire life, and my passion for public service,” Carr said. “One of the reasons I became an Army officer and one of the reasons I became a criminal prosecutor was because I understand what it means to have one’s safety taken away.”

Carr said he views his new position as “extremely important” in fighting increasing global anti-Semitism. “It is a hatred that crosses geographical boundaries, ethnic boundaries, boundaries of economic development,” he said. “It has been a ubiquitous pathology in human history.”

He also thanked Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for filling the vacancy. “I want to stress that the administration could not possibly be more serious about this issue,” Carr said. “President Trump and Secretary Pompeo are passionate about this. They are making clear that this is going to be a serious position and they are investing me with the full backing of the administration and the state department to confront this issue in all its forms and from every place it emanates.” 

Asked about the Anti-Defamation League’s recent report that right-wing extremism was responsible for almost all hate-related killings in 2018, Carr said, “Hatred of the Jewish people or of the Jewish state is despicable whether it comes from the right or from the left, and I intend to fight anti-Semitism in all its forms, regardless of the ideological clothing in which it dresses itself.”

That, he said, includes anti-Zionism. “Zionism, which I define as the national aspirations of the Jewish people to express themselves Jewishly in the land of Israel, is a basic, fundamental tenet of Judaism,” he said. “Anyone who seeks to deny the Jewish people that form of expression is seeking to deny the Jewish people the ability to express themselves as Jews, and that is anti-Semitic.”

Carr conceded that while certain criticisms of the Israeli government are not anti-Semitic, he said he believes it is anti-Semitic “to deny the Jewish people one of the basic aspects of our self-definition, namely that we are an ethnic people, a nation.” 

Carr said he developed a greater understanding of the daily existential threats that Israel faces when he worked as a legal adviser to the Israeli Ministry of Justice in 1996 during the implementation of the Oslo II Accord.

“There was a rash of suicide bombings throughout the country and the anguish and the torment and the pain that all of Israel experienced was something that I was there to live through,” he said.

 “Hatred of the Jewish people or of the Jewish state is despicable whether it comes from the right or from the left, and I intend to fight anti-Semitism in all its forms, regardless of the ideological clothing in which it dresses itself.”

It was also in April that year that Operation Grapes of Wrath — Israel’s war with Hezbollah — saw thousands of people from the north of the country evacuated to cities like Tel Aviv, where Carr was living at the time. 

“I went to one soccer game and it was announced that all these children from up north didn’t have a home and they were brought to the soccer game so they could have some entertainment,” Carr said. “It was incredibly informative to me to see that despite its modernity and marvelous achievements, Israel labors truly under existential threats.”

Carr also said he views the worldwide boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel as anti-Semitic. “The idea that Israel should be singled out for disparate treatment and should be subjected to boycotts and to demonization is anti-Semitism,” he said. “An obsessive hatred of the Jewish state is nothing more than an obsessive hate for the Jewish people.”

He equates hostility to the State of Israel as the anti-Semitism of today, particularly when it comes to Jewish and pro-Israel students on college campuses. 

“[There’s] an effort to marginalize [those students], to subject them to open hostility, to limit their ability to express themselves and even conduct their ordinary activity as students on campus, and it’s a grave challenge,” he said.

He also spoke of how he fought these very issues when he was a member of the Council of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations and on the National Council of AIPAC from 2013-14. And as the president of Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) International from 2012-14, he and the fraternity leadership team established several leadership programs to train college students to defend Israel on campuses. 

One of those programs was Israel Amplified, which formed the Israel Engagement Chair for AEPi chapters worldwide. There are now annual summits for these chairs usually held in Washington, D.C. 

Another was the Civic Engagement Program that teaches students (including non-AEPi members) how to run for student government on campus as advocates of Israel. 

“That program has had a staggeringly high success rate in terms of election victories on campus,” Carr said, “and what we saw after that program is a change in the outcome of these anti-Israel votes, because we would win the elections, and those [anti-Israel] votes would be doomed from the first day that the new elected officers took office.” 

Other programs that Carr helped establish included the Michael A. Leven Leadership Institute, which gives students the opportunity to develop better leadership skills, and the three-day Hineni Jewish Identity Enrichment Conference.

These programs, Carr said, have made a dramatic impact on AEPi’s presence on 190 campuses around the country. “That’s not just my opinion. That’s what the AIPAC campus leadership division would say. That’s what StandWithUs says, and that’s what [all 14] organizations we partnered with would say.” 

He added that many of the Israeli emissaries who visited Israel told him they relied heavily on AEPi to get things done. “That’s not by accident, that’s by design and that’s by policy,” he said. “Those are the policies that we instituted, to be pro-Israel, to work with the Israeli government, to work with many organizations to make the defense of Israel and protection of the Jewish people a matter of international policy in AEPi. I’m very proud of that record, and that passion and lifelong record of fighting for the Jewish people is the same passion I’m going to bring to my new role as special envoy.”

Carr’s experience in the field, however, extends beyond college campuses.  During his second assignment in Iraq in 2004, he worked to preserve Jewish artifacts and helped lead Hanukkah services in Saddam Hussein’s former presidential palace. Despite being advised to avoid leading any Jewish services over fears of it drawing possible terror attacks, Carr said, “I thought about it, and I did it anyway because I said, ‘This is the history of our people. We have to stand up and lead.’ ”  

Carr said that he was generally “discreet” about his Jewish identity during his time in Iraq from 2003-04, but leading a Jewish service in Hussein’s former presidential palace was “an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.” It was, he said, the first time the observance of a Jewish holiday had ever been held in that building. He recalled the experience as “very moving.”

In a 2004 op-ed he wrote for the Miami Herald headlined “Hanukkah in Baghdad,” Carr drew parallels between Saddam Hussein and Hellinist King Antiochus IV.

He equates hostility to the State of Israel as the anti-Semitism of today, particularly when it comes to Jewish and pro-Israel students on college campuses.

“Like Antiochus, Saddam thought himself to be like a god, or at least like those demigods of Mesopotamian history, Nebuchadnezzar and Hammurabi, with whom his boundless vanity inclined him regularly to equate himself,” Carr wrote. “Epiphanes’ indeed — Saddam dispensed licentious pleasure and horrible pain, life and death, with the nonchalance of one who thought himself above humanity itself …. By lighting the Menorah, the Jews in Iraq, civilians and servicemen alike, symbolized the same defeat of darkness that the Maccabee Jews did in beating Antiochus’ army.”

Carr told the Journal that everyone who participated in that Hanukkah event at the palace felt their lives had been changed by the experience. “There’s something that being in Iraq and being in a war zone and having the sensitivity to one’s mortality that prompted them to want to come together with their fellow Jews.”

The event, he added, was the beginning of a trend of more frequent Jewish observance in the building. Every week he would lead Shabbat services in Hussein’s former presidential palaces, which were attended by a combination of civilians and service members.

“It was a great privilege for me to lead Jewish services in a place that had been a place of evil and anti-Semitism and now was a building of tolerance,” he said. 

The services eventually prompted other regular Jewish services to occur around the country, including in Camp Victory, which was the headquarters for the Multi-National Corps–Iraq, where a rabbi led the services. The services continued after Carr’s assignment ended. 

“My career has been about two things,” Carr concluded, “fighting evil and keeping people safe. I became a U.S. Army officer to keep my country safe and fight the kind of evil that we see threatening our country and our safety. I became a criminal prosecutor to keep my community safe to fight the kind of evil that we see on the streets of Los Angeles, the violent gangs and the sexual predators and all of the horrific people that I’ve prosecuted and helped put away.”

“And now,” he said, “I’m honored to take up this mantle — to fight the evil of anti-Semitism and keep the Jewish people safe throughout the world.”

Alan Canter, Owner of Canter’s Deli, Dies at 82

Canter's Fairfax. Image from Canter's Facebook

Alan Canter, whose father, Ben Canter, opened the original Canter’s Brothers deli in 1931 in Boyle Heights with his brothers, has died at age 82.

The Canter’s Facebook page announced:

Our beloved owner, Alan Canter, has passed away at age 82. He kept his family legacy alive and built an LA landmark. He worked 18 hour shifts and took pride in hand-cutting each fruit cup. He taught his children how to run this business just as his father taught him. We are deeply saddened by this loss. A memorial will be held Monday, the 28th at 12:30 at Mount Sinai Memorial Parks, 5950 Forest Lawn Dr. Los Angeles CA 90068

In 1953, the restaurant moved to its current Fairfax location and changed its name to Canter’s Fairfax. The deli was known for its connection to local politics as much as for its pastrami

Al’s son, restaurant co-owner, Gary Canter, died in 2017. The deli, which has hosted many celebrities over the years, has been featured on HBO’s “Entourage,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Be Cool,” Enemy of the State,” and Neil Simon’s, “I Ought to be in Pictures.”

Holocaust Survivor, Tefillin Reunited

Al Kleiner, shown with his wife, Regina, wears the long-lost tefillin set.

It’s not uncommon to hear miraculous reunion stories involving Holocaust survivors. They usually revolve around finding long-lost family members or friends. However, the story of 91-year-old Polish Holocaust survivor Al Kleiner being reunited with the tefillin set he had in his youth is just as miraculous. 

After the war, the then 16-year-old Kleiner and his parents spent almost five years in a displaced persons camp in Germany. His father passed away in 1948; the next year, Kleiner and his mother made their way to Los Angeles. However, Kleiner’s tefillin set took a longer and more circuitous route, via Budzanow, Poland, and then to Tel Aviv, before finally making its way to Los Angeles and to Kleiner himself last year.

The tefillin set was discovered in May 2018 in a cupboard in the Tel Aviv home of Kleiner’s first cousin, Gershon Leisner, by Leisner’s 62-year-old daughter, Uvi. “They pulled out this burgundy-colored, small velvet pouch, eaten over the years with small insect holes, showing its fragility and its age,” Kleiner’s daughter Janet Rosenblatt told the Journal via phone from her home in Los Angeles. “Inside was a child’s tefillin set, a child’s tzitzit, and a small Torah.”

Uvi thought the items belonged to her late father and kept them. But when she showed the bag to her younger sister, her sister immediately noticed the case was hand-embroidered with the word “Zion” in Hebrew on one side and the initials “BK” on the other. She realized the initials on the tefillin bag were those of Al Kleiner’s older brother, Benuman. 

“Finding this personal artifact while my father is still alive is just a miracle.” — Janet Rosenblatt

“The question was,” Rosenblatt said, “how did the case from Budzanow end up in Israel?” Rosenblatt knew that Kleiner and his parents survived the Holocaust hidden by their righteous Christian neighbors, the Witomskis. While Kleiner’s older brothers Benuman and Meyer were killed at the beginning of the war, Kleiner and his parents managed to survive by living in a hole in their neighbors’ field from the end of July 1943 until March 1944, when Poland was liberated by the Soviets. 

“I remember that my grandmother said that [her parents] gave everything that was left to this Christian family,” Rosenblatt said. In 1942, the Kleiners were sent to a camp but managed to escape in 1943. They were hidden by two non-Jewish families. However, fearing reprisals, both families forced the Kleiners to leave, and the Kleiners then approached the Witomskis. The Witomskis asked a priest what to do. He told them to dig a hole in a field and bring the family food every few days. 

At some point after the war, the Leisners returned to Poland to see if anything was left of their home. Rosenblatt believes that’s when they recovered the tefillin bag. When Rosenblatt’s daughter and son-in-law visited Israel last June, they were finally able to bring the bag back to Los Angeles.  

“We looked at it with tears in our eyes and saw all this bag had gone through, how it survived and [was] returned to my father,” Rosenblatt said. “My father unfortunately has Alzheimer’s disease, so he did not really recognize it.”

However, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur last year, Rosenblatt invited the family rabbi, Rabbi Chaim Mentz of Chabad of Bel Air, to come to the house, along with the rest of her family, to see the long-lost treasure. “The miracle is, when Rabbi Mentz wrapped the tefillin around my father, my father continued to wrap it himself, like his memory came back,” Rosenblatt said.

Rosenblatt plans to donate the bag to either the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. or the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust after her three grandsons’ bar mitzvahs. 

“Finding this personal artifact while my father is still alive is just a miracle to me,” Rosenblatt said. “It survived the terror of the Holocaust. That it made its way from Budzanow, Poland, in its harshest times to our great holy land of Israel, and was then returned to my father’s hands in Los Angeles, can only be a miracle.” n

IKAR Brings Supplies to Migrant Shelter in Mexico

IKAR representatives pass out clothing to migrants at shelter.

“Be the first to greet every person.” — Rabbi Matya, the son of Charash

Mention the word “immigrant” and most people agree we have been subjected to an endless stream of facts, statistics and even falsehoods. 

Sometimes the only way to understand the truth is to witness it.

After reading and listening to the countless news stories — “There’s a crisis at the border” — on Jan. 12-13, my husband and I decided to follow our religious tradition and directive: help the stranger, and even go toward them, sharing what we had, just as our forefather Abraham did outside his tent.  

We drove our truck from our home in Los Angeles to Tijuana last weekend, towing a trailer stuffed with humanitarian supplies for a needy migrant shelter. 

Our plan was to share what our IKAR community had donated: diapers, toilet paper, towels, blankets, new socks and underwear, bags of rice and beans, detergent, personal care items and art supplies, and because our community is so generous, we had enough money for a new, heavy-duty washing machine.

We arranged to meet Pedro Rios, the program director for the American Friends Service Committee in San Diego. Rios is a quiet and kind man. As director of migrant programs for the San Diego Quaker community, he volunteered to serve as our guide and translator.   

Crossing the border was easy. The Mexican customs agents were curious about our items and X-rayed our entire truck as we watched from the sidelines. We rendezvoused with Rios at the Costco in Tijuana and loaded up the shiny new Samsung washing machine.  

It was a 15-minute drive to the Benito Juarez “Colonia,” a gritty, working-class neighborhood about a mile south of the border. We had barely put the truck in park before we were welcomed by the radiant smile of Leticia Herrera, the founder of Una Luz de Esperanza. Her shelter, a Light of Hope, is populated by migrants who made the long trek from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and southern Mexico, all of them hoping to gain asylum in the United States.  

That morning, there were 69 residents in the small shelter, the vast majority women, young children, toddlers and babies. A handful of men eagerly pitched in to unload the washing machine. 

The children hovering around our truck immediately touched our hearts, everyone keen to carry all our supplies to waiting tables. Herrera asked me to help hand out the socks, underwear and diapers to a growing line of patient residents. In less than an hour, everything had found a new owner.  All the women were smiling and laughing, embracing their colorful new socks and underwear. The children were busy drawing pictures with chalk and crayons or piecing together puzzles. Others waited patiently for their turn with a noisy toy car. 

Herrera instructed an older boy, whose job it was to ensure no child had a toy car for more than five minutes before passing it on to the next child. A group of children shared the art supplies without squabbling. Whatever tension, anxiety or fear these folks were carrying, they were enjoying a respite from their worries.

“We decided to follow our religious tradition and directive: help the stranger, and drove our truck to Tijuana, towing a trailer stuffed with humanitarian supplies for a needy migrant shelter.”

Herrera showed us where families were staying, opening a door to a large, unfurnished room. Mattresses lay on the floor — one per family. All migrants can stay as long as they need a place to stay.  

Every day, the shelter receives a phone call from the Mexican government informing it how many people seeking asylum have been processed. The government asks Herrera how many people she can shelter until United States immigration officials call their number for an interview. That afternoon alone, Herrera said she could accommodate an additional 15 migrants. It was hard to comprehend how 15 more souls could fit under her roof. “I love my people,” Hererra said, so she finds a way.  

As we prepared to leave, my husband and I vowed to return. The need is great and the situation precarious. We each must ask ourselves the question: Is this who our country is fearful of? If that’s the case, then we have a much bigger problem than we realize.  

Leaving Tijuana, looking at my photos of all the people we had helped make it through another day, I reflected on the emotional experience. I watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean and felt calm.

But then a politician declared over the radio, “We are not a nation of immigrants. This is America!” He was referring to a recent change on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services webpage. An edit to the mission statement eliminated a phrase that has always defined our country as a nation of immigrants. 

I suppose politicians and revisionists can change words, but they cannot change history. I feel as if I exist in an Orwellian era. I prefer the truth I find every week at IKAR, the truth in our Torah.

And I will continue to run toward the stranger. 

Just like Abraham.

Cipra Nemeth is on the board of the National Council of Jewish Women Los Angeles. She has been honored by the L.A. City Council, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, the city of West Hollywood and the Obama White House for her volunteer work. 

I Want the Women’s March to Succeed

People gather for the Women's March in Washington. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

I am a privileged white man and an avowed centrist. As such, I want the Women’s March to succeed.

I want to support a movement committed to reforming politics, culture and society. Over the years, young women at USC and UC Berkeley, where I teach, and many others throughout the country have been victimized by teachers, employers and fellow students. They have watched as powerful administrators made excuses for those transgressors. These brave women have not only persevered but fought back so that they can work, learn and live without having to fear the potential threats of sexual harassment, misconduct and assault.

In a world changing far too slowly from the rules prescribed by Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump, these women are smart enough to realize that these indignities aren’t going to disappear anytime soon. But they are also determined enough to keep fighting so that their daughters and granddaughters can live in a world without those fears.

These courageous young women deserve to be heard. They deserve to march. But they shouldn’t be forced to choose whether to march with people who hate Jews or with people who make excuses for people who hate Jews. 

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and his defenders decided long ago that the Jewish people are less than human. No one who makes it into the fifth paragraph of a column like this needs to be reminded what Tamika Mallory, the national Women’s March co-president, has said about our community and the Jewish homeland, or the lengths she went to last week to avoid criticizing Farrakhan. People like her deserve to be held accountable, and then to be ostracized and marginalized. Instead, they are permitted to hold leadership positions of a laudable and necessary movement. The result has been to allow them to pollute that movement and to undermine its efforts.

“Let’s just agree that racists, bigots and anti-Semites — regardless of party registration — don’t get to march with us anymore.”

After two years of pretending that the leaders of the Women’s March were not anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic, this past fall the ugliness from Mallory and her compatriots became too obvious to ignore. The reaction from our community was a confusing but somewhat encouraging mix of oral and written responses, alternative marches and intersectional hand-wringing. 

Many courageous women from across the country took steps to separate themselves from Mallory and her fellow haters. Others in our community — somewhat more conflicted and perhaps less courageous — found reasons to justify their participation in, and implicitly sanctify, those gatherings. March leaders in Los Angeles promised to remove the anti-Semitic screeds from their program. As my new hero, Rabbi Nicole Guzik has recounted in these pages, the March leaders lied. 

So what do we do now? The question of when and how it is permissible to collaborate with anti-Semites and their apologists is too important to be answered in a rush over the days and weeks before such high-profile events. Better to start working immediately on next year’s marches to ensure that there is no more room for those who hate Jews than there is for those who would objectify, denigrate or assault our daughters and granddaughters.

Voices of intolerance on the right must be condemned just as forcefully, of course. But until the overall climate in our society becomes more accepting and mutually respectful, it may be necessary to recognize that, for now, the Women’s March is primarily for those with left and center-left political allegiances.

The unrepentant centrist in me would love to see a Women’s March with room for liberals and conservatives. A truly unifying march could make a tremendous impact to create a better and safer world for women and for the men who honor and respect them. Unfortunately, this country’s politics have become far too balkanized for such unity to occur in the public square anytime soon. 

So, for today, let’s just agree that racists, bigots and anti-Semites — regardless of party registration — don’t get to march with us anymore. And that next year, we can march more effectively and more inspirationally without including them.

Dan Schnur teaches political communications and leadership at USC, UC Berkeley and Pepperdine. He is the founder of the USC-L.A. Times statewide political survey and a board member of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust.

Revealing Los Angeles

David Kipen is a real mensch. He is the celebrated founder of Libros Schmibros, the nonprofit lending library in Boyle Heights. As the former literature director of the National Endowment for the Arts, he supported the work of countless writers and artists, and he did the same during his tenure as the book editor and critic of the San Francisco Chronicle. Today, he continues to play a crucial role in California arts and letters as a writing instructor at UCLA, a book critic for Los Angeles magazine and a critic-at-large for the Los Angeles Times. 

Now Kipen has made yet another contribution to the literature of Los Angeles, something audacious, unique and valuable. “Dear Los Angeles: The City in Diaries and Letters, 1542 to 2018” (Modern Library) is an anthology of musings about Southern California that span four centuries, each one a little gem of observation or reminiscence or commentary and, taken together, a glittering constellation of lapidary prose. Somewhere in those points of light, we begin to see the shape and meaning of the elusive place where we live.

“This book is a collective self-portrait of Los Angeles when it thought nobody was looking,” Kipen explains. “Joyous, creative, life-giving. Violent, stupid, inhospitable to strangers. Cerebral, melancholy. Funny.”

The entries for Jan. 1, for example, start with the pioneering attorney and jurist Benjamin Hayes (1853) and end with contemporary urban activist Aaron Paley (1985): “What a city! Widen the streets! Tear down the past! Destroy the trees.” And the entries for Dec. 31 start with an 1889 snippet from Charles Lummis, whom Kipen describes as not only a newspaperman, librarian and archaeologist but “also a booster, self-promoter, windbag, mountebank, and rapscallion,” and ends with English expatriate author Christopher Isherwood, the bard of Santa Monica Canyon (1975): “What I am trying to say is that it is doubtless easier to feel that God is the only refuge when you don’t have any human being to love and be loved by. But I do.”

Kipen is unapologetic about what he calls its “hiccupping” principle of organization: “One step forward, two centuries back — the perennial, quixotic spectacle of L.A. forever finding fresh mistakes to make.” He includes many luminaries of Western letters, ranging from Richard Henry Dana to Nathanael West to Jonathan Gold, although he confines his selections to diary entries and letters with only an occasional blog posting or other published work. As if to make the point, we read a line written in 1903 by the Californio diarist Don Juan Bautista Bandini: “Bought a book for a diary in Los Angeles,” and Anaïs Nin’s private affirmation of “my belief that if one goes deeply enough into the personal, one transcends it and reaches beyond the personal.”

Even so, the principle of selection produces an extraordinarily rich and diverse collection of writing. The authors range from Fray Juan Crespi to Albert Einstein to Brian Wilson, from Helen Hunt Jackson to T.S. Eliot to Octavia Butler, and include such odd literary bedfellows as Simone de Beauvoir and Richard Feynman, George Patton and Groucho Marx, Charlton Heston and Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath and Eric Idle, Rudolf Schindler and John Lennon. Kipen even finds room for a fateful, if hateful, remark about Robert F. Kennedy by Sirhan Sirhan in advance of their rendezvous with destiny at the Ambassador Hotel.

Kipen’s discerning eye has sought out a few deserving figures who otherwise are mostly forgotten. To be sure, he quotes the famous photographer Edward Weston: “I am disgusted this morning for not having slept longer. Probably I overworked yesterday, having made 12 enlargements from as many negatives on an order. It will bring me $120, then I’ll sleep better.” But he also includes Charis Wilson, Weston’s much-photographed muse and model, whose nude images are remembered but whose words are forgotten: “Through San Clemente — all white blgds. with red tile roofs — such an uncomfortable looking place — one rebel gas station has painted green bills on his window and we bet the town council will soon see to him.” 

“This book is a collective self-portrait of Los Angeles when it thought nobody was looking.” — David Kipen

Kipen is respectful and savvy enough about Los Angeles’ literary and journalistic traditions to include writers whose bylines have long since disappeared from our public prints. “Medieval castles will tumble and antique oriental temples will fall,” wrote beloved L.A. Times columnist Jack Smith in 1959. “It will be the end of a make-believe world — the 176-acre acre; false-front world of film sets on the famed 20th Century-Fox lot … will be razed and cleared to make way for a $400 million complex of steel and concrete towers to be known as Century City.”

Indeed, and on a strictly personal note, I am moved to point out that my late father, Robert Kirsch, is one of the writers whom Kipen invokes in “Dear Los Angeles.” Robert Kirsch was the literary pole star of Los Angeles for the four decades during which he wrote daily book reviews in the Los Angeles Times, but his name has not appeared in print since his death in 1980, except when one of his reviews is quoted in an obit or when the Times bestows the lifetime achievement award that bears his name. I can imagine no greater tribute to my dad than what Nin wrote in the letter to him that Kipen quotes in “Dear Los Angeles”: “Of all the things which have been said, written about the Diaries, you wrote what has the deepest meaning for me — you answered as only someone who is a writer and a critic and a human being could.”

Jonathan Kirsch, attorney and author, is the book editor of the Jewish Journal.

2018 An Amazing Year: WSGT December News

Dec News 2018 with We Said Go Travel:

Happy December and festivals of light. I hope you are bringing light to your corner of the darkness!

Where did I wander in 2018? What happened this year? I was on TV, I went traveling, my YouTube channel grew and grew and I went to so many different conferences. Read all about it here: Where were Lisa’s Wonderful Wanderings in 2018?

Lisa Niver is a Travel Expert on KTLA TV in Los Angeles

Thank you to Ms. Magazine for publishing my story about empathy:

Lisa Niver Ms Magazine Empathy

We Said Go Travel was read in 212 countries in 2018.

We Said Go Travel was read in 212 countries in 2018

Thank you to Artworks PC on Main Street in Park City, Utah! I am so excited to have my art on exhibit in your gallery! Read more about my art here.

Lisa Niver at Artworks PC gallery in Park City, Utah

Thank you to Erin from Explore with Erin for including me in her Travelocity article on where to celebrate Christmas.

Lisa Niver in Travelocity

Thank you to Travel Awaits for interviewing me for their series. Read: Interview With Adventure Travel Blogger Lisa Niver:

“. talks about staying in gers in Mongolia, skiing in Banff, classes in Thailand, and more!”

“Remember you do not have to go alone in this world. Take a buddy and try something new! It is amazing!” – We Said Go Travel

Thank you again Travel Awaits!

Travel Awaits interviews Lisa Niver

Thank you to Lindsey Tiger for including me in her Travel and Leisure article: talking about using my MacBook Air on plane rides.

Thank you to everyone who entered our 2018 Travel Photo Award. I am publishing the fantastic photos once a day! Click here to see the most recently published entries. Once all the entries are published, I will announce the finalists most likely at the end of summer 2019.

In December, I traveled to Las Vegas for the DEMA Scuba show and I enjoyed London with friends before ILTM Cannes 2018. I will share photos and stories next month.
See VIDEOs from all the conferences I went to this year:



Here is the link to my video channel on YouTube where I have over 857,133 views on YouTube! Thank you for your support! Are you a subscriber? I hope you will join me and subscribe!

Recent video from my trip to Philadelphia:

My YouTube channel had over 1.4 million impressions in 2018.

We Said Go Travel YouTube 1.4 million impressions 2018

Thank you for your support! My YouTube channel has over 850,000 views and 1948 subscribers. We Said Go Travel YouTube 850000 views 2018

Thank you! I am so proud of all I have accomplished this year. Thank you for watching my videos, reading my stories, following along on social media and asking me about booking your travels!

I am now planning and booking travel! Where do you want to wander? Find more information about me and my luxury travel advising as an independent affiliate of CRUISE and RESORT, Inc with Virtuoso Luxury Travel Network on my new microsite!

My fortune cookies said:

“Your keen sense of humor will make you many good friends.”

“Your laugh and enthusiasm pleases those around you.”

“Cheerful company and a merry time are ahead for you.”

I hope you have enjoyed many festivals of light this holiday season and that you feel you have accomplished many of your 2018 goals. I cannot wait for 2019 so I can have more exciting adventures and share great stories.
Thank you for your all of your support. Lisa

Discover more on my social media accounts:  InstagramFacebookTwitterPinterestYouTube, and at LisaNiver.com. My social media following is now over 140,000 and I am verified on both Twitter and Facebook.

On Fohr card, I have 131,729 followers on December 12, 2018

We Said Go Travel Stats Dec 2018 Fohr

On Buzzoole, I have 205,000 followers on Dec 12, 2018.

Thank you for your support!

Buzzoole Stats for We Said Go Travel Dec 2018

Happy New Year!
Lisa Niver at Alta

‘Tis the Season

I have a lot of people in my life who do important work to help others, help the planet, help animals, and make a difference. I am proud of my friends for being good people and am inspired by their generosity of spirit. Life is better when you lend a hand and share your blessings. I do my best to be kind and help those who need it. Sometimes it is through charitable giving, other times through volunteerism, and on many occasions, I help people who cross my path in unexpected ways. Helping simply requires one to be kind. You don’t always have to spend money or give up your time, you just have to be willing to give with no expectation of return.


I am inspired by people who help. They make me want to help more purposefully, and that makes me happy. Rich Singer and Travon Muhammad are remarkable people who help with purpose and direction. We recently met and they spoke of how they founded and run a registered 501(c) called Sole Brothers, based in Los Angeles. They are selfless with their time and talents and make a difference in a lot of lives. They help people who need shoes, or financial assistance to help with sports and recreation activities. It is not a charity I thought would speak to me personally, until they explained the kinds of things they do. One story in particular, touched me.


Important to note I am not really a sports person and don’t follow sports unless it’s the playoffs, and even then it is mostly because I like to bet on the games, not because of real interest. I follow athletes because they have compelling stories more than their accomplishments in their selected sports. As a single, working mother, sports became interesting through my son Charlie. He played basketball and soccer as a kid and excelled at both. It wasn’t always easy to get him the shoes he needed, or get him to all the practices and games, but I did. I would save up for weeks to buy him proper basketball and soccer shoes.


When Charlie was young there were times I didn’t have a lot of money, but I made sure he had what he needed to succeed, and sometimes something as simple as a pair of shoes impacts a child. It changes their self-esteem and gives them a push that as a mother, is something we value. My son would never ask for expensive things, and I remember his face when he got the newest pair of designer basketball shoes. He looked at me with a joy that was rooted in his soul, and I will forever be grateful for that moment. He would only wear the shoes to his games and practices, cleaning them when he got home. I remember it vividly and am thankful.


I was talking with Rich and Tra and they told me about giving shoes to one young kid who was playing basketball with regular shoes. To hear them speak of the little boy crying when he put on the shoes, made me think about Charlie and his shoes. They were able to provide to this child what his parents could not, and that is an amazing gift to not only the child but his mom and dad. I can promise you the mother of that boy cried more than he did. I never would have thought an organization like Sole Brothers would speak to my heart, but it has, so I am compelled and proud to share their work with you because there but for the grace of God go I.


Sole Brothers not only provides shoes to kids, but they provide gift cards for groceries, so they can have lunches and snacks. They help kids and their parents with kindness, and that is both powerful and important. These men are parents and coaches, and Sole Brothers is their passion. They have propelled kindness into action. These two lovely friends, a Jew and a Muslim, could teach a few things, to a few people. At a time of year when we often hear “‘Tis the season,” this is a reminder that kindness is always in season. Thank you Rich and Tra for what you do, and thanks to everyone who is showing kindness. We are all in this together, so be kind and remember to keep the faith.

Jewish Journal City Guide 2019

Need to know what’s happening around the Greater Los Angeles Jewish community? Fear not, The Journal has compiled everything you need to know right here (just click the magnifying glass).



Table of Contents:




Summer Camp






Religious Life



Goods & Services


Pnina Tornai Sees Blessings in Brides Who Say ‘Yes’ to Her Dresses

Wedding gown from the Pnina Tornai collection. Photo by Alexander Lipkin

Brides who want to make a showstopping statement when walking down the aisle turn to Pnina Tornai, whose sexy, bejeweled wedding creations are not for the faint of heart. The Israeli-born designer, familiar to viewers of the TLC series “Say Yes to the Dress,” is known for gowns with corseted, Swarovski crystal-studded bodices, plunging backs and tattoo lace that combine traditional and modern elements.

“My design aesthetic is fashion-forward and sexy. My customer is confident and knows what she wants,” Tornai said. “She likes to step out of the box a little bit and wants something truly one of a kind. Often my brides are looking for unique laces, intricate details and the ‘wow effect.’ I have perfected my corset construction over the years, and it’s something that truly sets my gowns apart from the rest.”

For Jewish brides who want something more modest, “I make customizations to raise the neckline, back, or add sleeves onto the gown,” she said.

Tornai’s couture creations start at $6,000 and can soar to as much as $50,000, but her Love by Pnina Tornai gowns cost between $2,400 and $5,100. They’re all showcased in her boutique at Kleinfeld Bridal in New York, at her Tel Aviv flagship store and at shops around the world. Family members are part of her company: Her husband is her business manager; her son is her graphic designer; a sister is her makeup artist; and she hopes her granddaughters will take over the business one day.

Pnina Tornai backstage at her Fragile Collection show. Photo by Joseph Lin

The oldest of four daughters of an Egyptian-Jewish father and a mother born in Tangier, Morocco, Tornai grew up in Kfar Saba, northeast of Tel Aviv. “The big families in the Sephardic culture, along with the big celebrations, are so grand and inspiring,” she said. “Huge weddings come with the territory of being a Sephardic Jew, so of course that influenced me.” 

Tornai considers herself “a very spiritual person. I am observant and I am, overall, very proud to be a Jewish woman from Israel,” she said. “My Jewish identity is extremely important to me and influences my work immensely.” 

A self-taught seamstress and designer, “I learned by taking apart my own dresses and then learning the construction,” Tornai said. “I used to design outfits for myself and my friends and realized that people really loved what I was doing. I was sewing ready-to-wear, but after having a dream about wedding gowns falling from the sky, I knew that God was calling me to change directions. It’s considered the biggest mitzvah in Judaism to make a bride happy on her wedding day. I love designing bridal because I feel like being a part of a bride’s big day is sacred.”

When Tornai first approached Kleinfeld about carrying her line in 2005, the store’s executives didn’t understand her aesthetic.

“The American bride was much more traditional. Israel always had sexier, more daring designs. I modified my designs slightly while still keeping that sexy touch, and the brides went crazy for them,” she said. “A few years ago, I received an award from the Israeli ambassador in New York for helping pave the way for other Israeli designers entering the
U.S. market.

“Brides want to celebrate their shapes and be sexy, and I think that is why Israeli designers are so successful today,” she added. “Tel Aviv is an environment that breeds creativity and entrepreneurship, which is why I love it so. But Israel is not Paris or Milan, where fashion is encrusted in the DNA. This has always made it more challenging for me to bring it out to the world.”

Being a part of “Say Yes to the Dress” has certainly increased awareness of the Tornai brand. “I am so blessed to have so many fans who watch the show and know my dresses by heart,” she said. “For now, the show is taking a break from filming, but we are gearing up for more episodes soon.”

Wedding gown from the
Pnina Tornai collection. Photo by Alexander Lipkin

Tornai attributes her success to “staying true to my vision and never taking no for an answer. If I had let Kleinfeld tell me ‘No’ and didn’t insist that my designs be in the store, who knows how my life would be different?” she said. “I truly believe that if you have faith in yourself, others will have faith in you.”

Reflecting on her accomplishments, Tornai said she is “most proud of making thousands upon thousands of brides’ dreams come true. To know that I contributed to one of the most important days in a woman’s life is a blessing.”

Pnina Tornai’s Advice for Wedding Dress Shopping
Have a budget in mind and be honest with your consultant. You don’t want to fall in love with a gown and then not be able to purchase it.

Consider where and when the wedding is going to be. While I believe that you should wear whatever you desire on your wedding day, if traveling, you may want to choose a lighter gown.

While a bride should do her wedding gown research before her appointment, it is always a good idea to keep an open mind.

Once you find the gown, stop looking. You’ll only drive yourself crazy if you think there is something better out there.

Enjoy the process. This should be one of the best times of your life. Try not to stress about all the small details. At the end of the day, you are marrying the love of your life, and that is the most important part.

Read more from the 2018 Chuppah Edition here. 

JFLA Increases Cap for Fire Victims

The nonprofit Jewish Free  Loan Association (JFLA) of Los Angeles has increased its personal emergency loan cap to $15,000 for those affected by the Woolsey Fire, while small business impacted by the fires can apply for up to $30,000 in loans. JFLA has been offering interest-free loans to Los Angeles and Ventura County residents on a nonsectarian basis since 1904.

“Jewish Free Loan is pretty well positioned to help in emergency situations, whether it’s fire, an earthquake, a medical issue, any emergency,” Executive Director Rachel Grose told the Journal.  

JFLA quickly got the word out about their availability to help following the fires. However, once the organization grasped the depth of the losses, it raised its regular $5,000 personal loan cap.  

“People need to rebuild,” Grose said. “And a lot of times, even if insurance is going to cover everything, there’s a lag time. They still need clothing and basic essentials: pots and pans, sheets, blankets. They are out-of-pocket for those items, and not everyone has the savings to cover that.”

Among those the JFLA has already helped since the November fires is a 77-year-old widow whose mobile home burned. “Everything she owned was destroyed, so we gave her a loan to help with moving expenses and to purchase everything new,” Grose said. 

 “We’re going to be here as long as people need [loans] for the fires.” 

— Rachel Grose

Another woman, whose house survived but was left without power, had to stay in a motel. She received a JFLA loan to pay that out-of-pocket, short-term expense.

Grose said despite many people’s immediate needs, they aren’t necessarily emotionally ready to move forward. “They need to absorb the shock, assess what they need and understand what their insurance is going to pay for,” she said. “One of the things that we’ve been hearing is that a lot of the insurance plans don’t help with smoke damage.”

Fire victims can apply for a JFLA loan by filling out the pre-loan application at www.JFLA.org. Intake staff will then call them to go over the details. 

After that, applicants will meet with a loan analyst to discuss their budget, what they need and what kind of loan they can afford.

“Normally the clients come in and meet with a loan analyst, but in some cases the borrowers don’t have transportation because of the fire,” said JFLA Outreach Manager Batya Ordin. “We’re willing to do the interview over the phone or Skype when that’s necessary.”

Applicants will need guarantors for their loans and once all the paperwork is in order, the information will be presented at the weekly loan committee meeting. “The loans are reviewed, the checks are issued and the clients are notified,” Grose said. “They can come in and pick up their check or we can mail it to them.”

JFLA currently has nearly $11 million in microloans out in the community, ranging from $500 to $50,000.  Loans are available for a variety of needs including life events, home healthcare, fertility treatments and adoption, post-high school education, children with special needs and women fleeing domestic violence. JFLA loans accrue neither fees nor interest.

“Our underlying goal is to make these loans to help people,” Grose said. “We’re going to be here as long as people need [loans] for the fires and afterwards for all their other needs.”  

Ayelet Shaked: Mideast Peace Plan Should Wait

MK Ayelet Shaked presented Natalie Sopinsky of Rescuers Without Borders with an award for excellence at Beth Jacob Congregation. Courtesy of Sopinsky

Israel Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked has been a major force behind the ascent of the Jewish Home party, the third most powerful party in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government coalition, which maintains a slim one-seat majority in the Israeli Knesset.

The Jewish Home party, known in Hebrew as HaBayit HaYehudi, is to the political right of Netanyahu’s Likud party, with its support of Israeli settlements and opposition to creating a Palestinian state in the West Bank, among other positions.

Hoping to raise awareness of her message and connect with Diaspora Jewry, Shaked, 42, visited Los Angeles on Nov. 29 for a day that included meetings with local Jewish leaders, a community address at Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills and an interview with the Journal at the Koreatown office of the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles.

During the interview, Shaked stated her views on why now is not the time for a Middle East peace plan, the security challenges facing Israel, her journey from secular Jew to a leader in a conservative religious Zionist party, her political aspirations and the relationship between young American Jews and Israel. An edited transcript of the interview follows.

Jewish Journal: What are some of the greatest challenges currently facing Israel?

Ayelet Shaked: From a security perspective, of course, Iran. And we are very happy with [President Donald Trump’s] decision to back off from the Iranian deal. This is something we are definitely supportive of and happy with. And we have huge challenges in the north regarding Hezbollah, which is working on getting precise missiles that can reach everywhere in Israel. And we have a challenge that Iran now is trying to entrench itself into Syria, and we are not going to let it happen. Of course, in the south, with Hamas in Gaza [it is also a challenge]. We are in a pretty good diplomatic period. We are strengthening the relationship with the moderate Sunni countries in the Middle East, and the economy is good.

JJ: You recently said that a proposal from the Trump administration for peace in the Middle East is a “waste of time.” What conditions on the ground would have to change for you to welcome a peace proposal from the U.S.?

AS: I want to say that I really appreciate the effort that the [Trump] administration is doing to promote peace, because we want peace and this administration is very friendly to Israel. We definitely appreciate the efforts. To be realistic, I think the gap between the Palestinians and Israel is much too big in order to be bridged, but we will wait and see what will be the proposal. I can tell you that my party and I are against a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria. We did this experiment once in Gaza, and we are not going to do this experiment again in Judea and Samaria. But let’s wait and see what the administration has to offer.

JJ: What’s your current relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? It is rumored you may one day be prime minister. Is that something you are interested in?

AS: We are working together on a daily basis. Everything is fine. Prime Minister Netanyahu will be the prime minister after the next election. It is a well [-known] fact. With every poll you see, there is a right [-wing] majority in Israel, so I believe there will be a coalition with Netanyahu as the prime minister. The question is what will be the coalition. And I do hope to be part of the government after the next election, which will be in 2019, but we don’t know when.

JJ: What are your personal political aspirations?

AS: Right now I am in the Ministry of Justice and I am doing a lot of work. It is a very powerful and important ministry in Israel, and I want to stay in the office for the next election. After that, in politics it is hard to predict the future.

JJ: Can you try?

AS: No, I think it is really hard. I’ve said many times I think, after Netanyahu, [Jewish Home chair] Naftali Bennett is the most suitable person to lead Israel.

JJ: Can you talk about your personal journey? You worked in tech and are from a secular background, and now you are in politics and one of the most visible faces of a religious Zionist party. How did that happen?

AS: I was always interested in politics. When I was in the army in the Golani troops, I served with Zionist and modern Orthodox guys and I became friends with them. I was always a right-wing girl as far back as I can remember. I went to study electronic engineering and computer science because I was good at math and my father told me it is a very good profession. And so I did it, although it wasn’t really my passion. Then I went to work at Texas Instruments. But after the [2005] disengagement from Gaza, I felt I needed to be where the decisions were being made, and I left Texas Instruments and I joined Netanyahu to work with him. Then I met Naftali Bennett and the rest is history.

JJ: What are some of your passions besides politics?

AS: I have no life, just work and family. It is very tough work, and I have two little kids, so I try to be with them every time I am not at work. So I am just left with work, my kids and books.

JJ: What kind of books?

AS: Actually I am in the middle of a very interesting book. “Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter” by Scott Adams, about President Trump.  Have you heard about it? Very interesting. I recommend reading it. I started to read it on the airplane here.

JJ: What role does Judaism play in your life?

AS: I was raised in a traditional family and my father arrived from Iran. He is Iraqi, but arrived in Israel from Iran. My mother was in Israel for five generations, they came on the first aliyah to Israel, and we were a very Zionist home.

JJ: Does your mother’s family history have a lot do with your Zionist beliefs today?

AS: Maybe, but my father is also very Zionist, he came from Arab countries and those weren’t the best place to live in. Although when he was living in Iran it was a very good period under the shah.

JJ: What are some of your goals pertaining to the relationship between American Jewish youth and Israel?

AS: We definitely want to strengthen the relationship of the youth with Israel. It is very important to us. I think the youth here in the U.S. need to understand that around the world and in the very liberal communities to be anti-Semitic it is not politically correct. But to be anti-Israel is super in [vogue], and the anti-Israeli movements are just another shape of anti-Semitism today. I hope the Jewish community and also the liberal community will understand that; and they will understand they will always have two homes, one here and one in Israel. 

Germany Criticized for Not Leading Support of Israel

From left: mayor of Jordan Valley Regional Council David Elhayani, mayor of Frankfurt Uwe Becker, Palestinian human rights activist Basem Eid and Elie Pierpz. Photo courtesy of Jordan Valley Regional Council

Although Germany has developed a reputation as one of Israel’s strongest allies in the European Union, keynote speakers at the fifth Israel Congress recently held in Frankfurt criticized the host country’s recent failings on several fronts.

More than 3,000 people from across Europe attended the Nov. 25 event in one of the continent’s strongest displays of grassroots support for Israel. 

Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Gilad Erdan, the highest-level Israeli official to address the gathering at the Frankfurt Convention Center, struck a conciliatory tone as the grandson of Auschwitz survivors, but he then rebuked Germany for funding nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) hostile to Israel and for clinging to the Iran deal.

As he expressed optimism for strong Israel-German relations, Erdan said his grandmothers “never imagined their grandson would be standing here in Frankfurt celebrating Israel and Germany’s friendship.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he added, “has been clear in rejecting attempts to delegitimize Israel, and the CDU (Christian Democratic Union), as you know, has labeled BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) coarse anti-Semitism.”

However, Erdan also called on Germany to lead the European Union in withholding funding of NGOs that indirectly support BDS efforts that seek to delegitimize Israel. 

“Germany can and should lead such a reform in the [European Union] because German taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill for BDS,” he said. “German government funds are also still going, unfortunately, to [United Nations] bodies that openly promote the demonization and delegitimization of Israel.”

Keynote speaker Hillel Neuer, executive director of U.N. Watch, chastised Merkel’s government for joining anti-Israel regimes in voting for eight recent anti-Israel resolutions put forth by the U.N. General Assembly’s Special Political and Decolonization Committee. The resolutions condemned Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and called on Israel to return the Golan Heights to Syria. 

“When we speak about the challenges of human rights today at the United Nations, it’s time for us to ask our leaders — and here in Germany — to ask [German foreign affairs minister] Heiko Maas and the government: It’s time to stand up for the true principles of human rights and not those that are distorted by dictatorships and their apologists.”

Maas sought to justify Germany’s U.N. voting record on Israel, particularly in the wake of criticism from fellow German parliament members, by saying Germany’s engagement softened the language of the resolutions. 

Neuer mocked Maas’ justification. “Maybe Mr. Maas will help Israel more and support 100 resolutions against Israel. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Ladies and gentlemen, this is nonsense,” he said to applause.

Maas has also been leading efforts to salvage the Iran Deal by finding workarounds against the United States’s renewed sanctions. In his address, Erdan emphasized Iran’s financing of terrorism in both Israel and Europe as well as Iran’s repeated death threats against Israel. 

“It simply cannot be that, from the point of view of Germany, it is business as usual with Iran. Germany should join the American sanctions on Iran,” Erdan said to applause. “Rather than trying to get around them —because as I said Germany is a leader in Europe, and Germany, especially Germany, must show moral leadership on this issue.”

Unlike at the last Israel Congress two years ago, Merkel sent a video greeting, in which she praised Israel’s diversity and friendship, saying “preserving the memory of the betrayal of Germany of all civilized values that was the Shoah, and learning lessons for a good and peaceful co-existence is the enduring responsibility of Germany.”

“Germany can and should lead … reform in the European Union because German taxpayers should not be footing the bill for BDS.” — Gilad Erdan

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu likewise sent a video greeting, saying German-Israel relations were stronger than ever. “We remember horrors,” he said. “We will never forget them, but despite the horrors of the past, we’ve transformed our relationship into a warm and constructive relationship.”

A highlight of the conference was a speech given by the former Miss Iraq, Sarah Idan, who made waves when she posed with Miss Israel, Adar Gandelsman, at the 2017 Miss Universe pageant. Idan, who called for peace between the people of both countries, voiced her most political statements yet, despite the string of death threats she continually receives from anti-Israel Iraqis.

Idan described the relentless anti-Israel bias she experienced while growing up in Baghdad. “They injected us with lies and fueled us with fear. It’s that same fear that won’t allow us to grow, and the same lack of trust that will keep us at war,” she said. 

Idan moved to the Los Angeles area in 2009 after working as a translator for the U.S. army in Iraq. She traveled to Israel for the first time this summer.  

“First, we must acknowledge vital facts, like the purpose behind every terrorist organization like Hamas or ISIS and the fact that they don’t care about a cause or a soul, and how we can stop them. That being said, Israel has a huge task — as well as Palestine, as well as the rest of the world — and that is to fight those who promote hatred and violence,” she said. “It may be hard to convince Arabs to accept people they’ve resented for ages, to co-exist, but I don’t think it’s impossible.”

Idan believes change can happen in Palestinian society, especially should Israel invest in educating Palestinians against hate and helping them improve their lives. “Slowly, but eventually, we are building a less violent generation,” she said.

For the first time, the Congress showcased products from Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria, which are labeled as such by the European Union. Members of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, representing a region and agricultural industry tended by Israelis and Palestinians, sponsored a booth featuring wine, dates, treats and beauty products from the region. 

Erdan raised a toast at the booth. 

“In this region, both Jews and Palestinians live and work together in harmony,” he said. “It’s important for our friends in Europe to realize that the key to peace, stability and good neighborly relations between nations begins with economic development, especially in the joint industrial zones. Furthermore, the European continent has already suffered the effects of the ill-fated boycotts against Jewish products, and therefore should be wary and resist anti-Semitic actions of the BDS movement.”

Orit Arfa is a journalist and author based in Berlin. 

I am Grateful: WSGT November News 2018

Nov News 2018 with We Said Go Travel:

I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving holiday and time with the people who are important to you. My aunt and uncle hosted 48 family members for a wonderful dinner with not one, not two but three turkeys! Thank you to everyone who has asked about my mother, she continues to recover amazingly quickly from her fall and has a great attitude!


Ms Magazine Polar Bears Can't Vote So You Have toThank you to Ms. Magazine for publishing two more of my stories:

  • Polar Bears Can’t Vote, So You Have To!

    Dr. Stephen Petersen, head of conservation and research at Leatherdale International Polar Bear Conservation Centre, has only one word of advice for the environmentally conscious this week: “Vote.” …. Polar bears are at the top trophic level of the food chain, and climate change is having a massive impact on their lives. As their environments evolve, Petersen is calling for more marine protected areas and doing work to protect the denning areas where polar bears have their babies. But there are many species that need to be protected—birds in Papua New Guinea, orangutans in Indonesia and polar bears in the Arctic among them.

  • Are You Ready for the Feminine Revolution?

    I have been told that I am too sensitive or too emotional. I’ve been told that I use too many capital letters. I have been told repeatedly that my emails scared someone, that I should tone it down to appear professional. (I was even named “Most Likely to Clap Her Hands for No Reason” in my high school yearbook.)

    It’s true: I have always been enthusiastic and had more obvious feelings than others in a room. That’s why I loved reading The Feminine Revolution: 21 Ways to Ignite the Power of Your Femininity for a Brighter Life and a Better Worldby Catherine Connors and Amy Stanton, which flipped the narrative—and encouraged women like me to reframe old standards that have claimed that “traditional” feminine traits are weak or bad.

I am honored to write for this incredible magazine. My first print story for Ms. Magazine will be in the Winter issue.


Are You Ready for the Feminine Revolution? Ms. Magazine by Lisa Niver

Thank you to Mike Wreyford for having me on his radio show, The Good Life, for my 3rd visit. Listen to us here: Talking Travel on The Good Life.

Thank you to everyone who entered our 2018 Travel Photo Award. As soon as my tech wizard gives me the okay, I will start publishing the fantastic photos!

Walking with Polar Bears by Lisa Niver with Churchill Wild near Hudson Bay

Walking with Polar Bears by Lisa Niver with Churchill Wild near Hudson Bay

Recent Travels to Canada and Vegas:

Did you see all of my stories and videos from my Adventures in Canada with Churchill Wild:
Part OneDo You Want to Walk with Polar Bears?
Part TwoAre You Ready for an Adventure? Walk with Polar Bears
Part ThreeHow Do You Get To Churchill Wild?
and my time in Winnipeg: Are You Ready to Discover Wonderful Winnipeg?

Lisa Niver private tour at Bellagio Fountains

Have you always wanted to go behind the scenes at the Bellagio Fountains? Join me for a private daytime fountain tour:
VIDEO: Join Me Behind the Scenes at the Bellagio Fountains
Learn more about my Vegas adventures with Virtuoso when I stayed at ARIA this summer:



Here is the link to my video channel on YouTube where I have over 842,627 views on YouTube! Thank you for your support! Are you a subscriber? I hope you will join me and subscribe!

Recent video from Nashuva Band: Happy almost Chanukah! May your holiday season be filled with music and light.
Thank you! I am so proud of all I have accomplished this year. Thank you for watching my videos, reading my stories, following along on social media and asking me about booking your travels!

I am now planning and booking travel! Where do you want to wander? Find more information about me and my luxury travel advising as an independent affiliate of CRUISE and RESORT, Inc with Virtuoso Luxury Travel Network on my new microsite!

My fortune cookies said:

“Don’t be afraid to take that big step.”  And

Our greatest glory is not in never failing but in rising every time we fall.

I hope your entire year will be filled with celebrations!
Thank you for your all of your support. Lisa

Discover more on my social media accounts:  InstagramFacebookTwitterPinterestYouTube, and at LisaNiver.com. My social media following is now over 140,000 and I am verified on both Twitter and Facebook.

Lisa Niver's selfie with a Polar Bear with Churchill Wild

Lisa Niver’s selfie with a Polar Bear with Churchill Wild

Chief Rabbinate’s List Has Glaring Omissions

This week, Israel’s Chief Rabbinate, for the first time in its history, published an official list of non-Israeli rabbinical courts whose authority it accepts for the purposes of conversion to Judaism and divorce. The list’s publication resulted from a near-daily battle waged by the organization I founded and direct — ITIM: The Jewish Advocacy Center. In the past six years, ITIM has held meetings, filed legal petitions, initiated Knesset hearings and more to pressure the Chief Rabbinate to make its decision-making — which affects the lives of thousands of Jews in Israel and around the world — transparent to the public it is supposed to serve.

I welcomed news of the list’s publication. But within moments of reviewing it, I was hit with the reality: Yes, there is now a list, but it again shows the Chief Rabbinate’s incompetency, even as it tries to be more transparent.

The list of 70 Orthodox rabbinical courts approved for conversion and 80 approved for divorce is out of date and inconsistent. Some of the rabbis listed no longer reside in the communities they are meant to serve. Others appear twice. Although the list purports to be comprehensive, there are major American rabbinical courts that have been omitted.

But the real flaw isn’t about who is or isn’t on the list. Rather, it is the glaring lack of concern that the list demonstrates for the tens of thousands (perhaps hundreds of thousands) of Jews whose rabbis “don’t make the cut,” according to the Chief Rabbinate. Rather than embracing Jews — particularly Jews by Choice — the Chief Rabbinate is dismissing and excluding them. This is a biblical prohibition: Our tradition teaches us to love the convert, certainly not to persecute him or her. 

As I write this, my inbox is teeming with emails from people around the world who converted through rabbis not on the list. “Where does this leave me?” they are asking.  I don’t yet know how to answer.

And what about Los Angeles? The Chief Rabbinate’s list of approved rabbis consists of four rabbinical court directors in Los Angeles: Rabbis Avraham Teichman, Avrohom Union, Shmuel Ohana and Nissim Davidi. And although another seven rabbis are included, it is unclear whether their conversions will be accepted without approval of one of the four directors.

Moreover, there are prominent Los Angeles Orthodox rabbinical courts that have been operating for decades but have been left off the list. Who will speak up for their hundreds of converts? What about the hundreds of conversions that took place more than two decades ago, when virtually none of the rabbis on the list was performing conversions?

“Our tradition teaches us to love the convert, certainly not to persecute him or her.” 

The list makes a travesty of halachic [Jewish legal] thinking and drives a further wedge between Jews in Israel and around the world. The Chief Rabbinate’s deliberate politicization of conversion — by choosing some rabbis and not others — highlights its attempt to extend its monopoly on Jewish life beyond the borders of Israel into the rest of the Jewish world, where, frankly, it isn’t wanted or needed. With both intermarriage rates and religious extremism on the rise, the Rabbinate ought to be a body that promotes moderation and diversity rather than one that espouses fundamentalism and exclusion — the very things the list demonstrates.

In the coming weeks, ITIM will take every possible step to rectify the situation. It will file petitions on behalf of rabbinical courts that wish to be included on the list, and will assist individuals concerned about their official Jewish status in Israel. As ITIM does this, I will be thinking back to January 2016, when I stood in a Jerusalem municipal court as Justice Naava Bar Or demanded the Chief Rabbinate make a list of acceptable rabbinical courts available to the public. She concluded by dressing down the director of the Chief Rabbinate’s Personal Status Division. “Your office is acting with no moral or Jewish values,” Bar Or told him.

And I will be thinking back to July 3, 1950, when Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion spoke in the Knesset on the issue of “Who is a Jew?” He said, “The State of Israel is not a Jewish state merely because the majority of its inhabitants are Jews. … It is a state for all the Jews wherever they may be and for every Jew who so desires.”

Rabbi Seth (Shaul) Farber is the director of ITIM: The Jewish Advocacy Center. He lives in Raanana, Israel, with his wife, Michelle, and their five children.

Will Mars Landers Save Us From The Firestorms?

Smoke from the fires in Butte County completely obscure the hills that would normally be visible in this photo. Photo by Susan Barnes

On Monday this week, I was driving to lunch when I heard, live on the radio, the last few minutes of the landing of NASA’s InSight lander on Mars. It was a suspenseful few minutes, and I could hear the emotion in the voices of the announcers as the good news started to come in. The heat shield successfully separated. The telemetry looked good. The lander located the ground and approached at a reasonable speed.

Unexpectedly, I found my eyes growing misty. Human beings had, once again, against stiff odds, managed to do something that would have been impossible in my parents’ childhood. A lander had been deployed on another planet, and it gave me great hope about what we can accomplish when smart people work together to find a solution to a complex problem.

On Wednesday last week, I was grateful for the rain that finally cleared out the dense smoke and debris from the air that was plaguing the community where I live since shortly after the wildfire in Butte County started. It made my eyes water, it made my chest feel tight, and it kept me indoors, even more than usual for an indoors type like me.

The three largest wildfires in California history have occurred in the last 12 months. Many of us believe these large wildfires have been caused, at least in part, by climate change, with fuel loads increased after the recent long drought in the state.

Last Friday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a special report that states, “Warming from anthropogenic emissions from the pre-industrial period to the present will persist for centuries to millennia and will continue to cause further long-term changes in the climate system, such as sea level rise, with associated impacts.” In other words, climate change is here to stay.

Is it any wonder, then, that after seeing the devastation of these recent wildfires, and the release of this report that seems to say they’re only going to get worse while the President continues to deny the need to do anything about it, that I got a bit emotional about the triumph of human endeavor over long odds embodied in the InSight Mars landing?

In Breshit (Genesis) 1:26 we read, “And God said, ‘Let us make a human in our image, after our likeness, and they shall rule over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the heaven and over the animals and over all the earth and over all the creeping things that creep upon the earth.’”

Some say this passage means that since God gave the world to us to rule over, we have every right to do anything we want with it, including causing mass extinctions and climate change. Others say this passage means that, since we were made in God’s image, we are responsible for trying to behave like a benevolent ruler, and are tasked with taking great care of the earth and all the living beings on it.

Given the evidence I’ve seen over the last 20 years or so, I’m not overly optimistic that we’re going to have the will to try to stop climate change before it gets much worse than it already is. I’m even less certain that we’ll ever find a way to reverse it, and return the earth to a pre-industrial “normal.”  I have long thought the only way to save humankind may be to find a way to get off this planet, to colonize elsewhere, so our descendants can learn from our mistakes and do better on other worlds in our solar system and others.

So part of my emotion about the success of the Mars landing is not just about the triumph of mind over matter. It’s also a hope, however small, that it will be followed by a viable, self-sustaining human colony on Mars, as a first step toward human colonization on other planets in other star systems. It may seem like a far-fetched thing, but I fear that if we don’t soon change course, it may be our only hope for the human species to thrive, rather than to just try to survive trapped on a harsh, weather-beaten earth.

Man Arrested for Allegedly Trying to Run Over Jewish Men

A 32-year-old man was arrested over the weekend for allegedly attempting to run over two Jewish men in Los Angles.

The man, reportedly identified as Mohamed Mohamed Abdi, can be seen on security footage making a sudden U-turn before attempting to run over two Jewish men, ages 37 and 57, leaving Bais Yehuda Shul at La Brea Avenue and Oakwood Avenue; the victims say that Mohammed put the car in reverse to strike them.

Video also shows Abdi driving through a stop sign and then striking another car, where he was arrested and taken into custody. No one was injured.

One of the victims said Abdi was shouting “F***ing Jews!” before attempting to run them over.

“Why he chose us?” one of the victims told CBS Los Angeles. “Probably because of the yarmulkes on our heads.”

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) said in a Monday press conference that the incident has been classified as a hate crime and they found a knife in Abdis car; they also found no evidence that he was inebriated. The police believe that he acted alone.

City Councilman Paul Koretz said during the press conference that he was thankful for law enforcement’s prompt response to the matter.

“This type of hate and violence will not stand, ” Koretz said. “My colleagues and I will do everything in our power to make sure that our communities are protected and secure. We will continue to fight anti-Semitism and bigotry and we continue to shine light on the darkness of hate.”

Ivan Wolkind, chief operating and financial officer of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, told the Journal in a phone interview that “this is our new normal” and urged Jewish community members to take precautionary measures.

“When you leave a place of worship, when you leave a school, when you’re in public, just be conscious of congregating in groups in areas by a street that could be vulnerable to this kind of attack,” Wolkind said.

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Los Angeles Regional Director Amanda Susskind said in a statement, “We are appalled by the allegations of this potentially-deadly assault targeting Jews, particularly in the aftermath of the shooting at Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh.”

“According to the FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics Act report, there was a 17 percent rise in hate crimes in 2017, including a 37 percent increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes against Jews. ADL’s internal audit, which includes anti-Semitic hate crimes and incidents, paints an even starker image with a 57 percent increase in the same period,” Susskind added. “We applaud LAPD Chief Michel Moore and LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey for their prompt investigation and hate crime charges.”

Abdi was originally born in Somalia but is currently a United States citizen who had been living in Seattle before coming to Los Angeles about a week prior to the incident. It is not known why Abdi decided to come to Los Angeles.

He is currently being held on $55,000 bail.

This article has been updated.

‘Come From Away’ Lands in L.A.

Photo courtesy of Centre Theater Group

When United States airspace was closed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, 38 planes were ordered to land in Gander, Newfoundland, increasing its population of 10,000 by 7,000 overnight. The story of how the town’s residents opened their homes and hearts to strangers from all over the world is the subject of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical “Come From Away,” which opens Nov. 28 at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles.

Guitarist Adam Stoler was with the show on Broadway and segued to the touring company in October. He’s part of the band of onstage musicians who perform the music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein. 

“Not only are we onstage for the entire show, we’re in costume and we get to interact with the cast,” he told the Journal. “I love it because I didn’t get into this business to sit in a pit. I wanted to be part of the action.”

Stoler wasn’t familiar with the story before he came on board, but he loves its message. “It’s about the Ganderites who took these people in and housed them and fed them. It’s about the relationships that were forged between the Ganderites and the passengers. It’s about treating people with love and respect and helping each other,” he said. “There are little things that we all can do every day to be kind to each other. Little things can make a big impact.”

The characters are based on real people, many of whom have seen the show multiple times. One, an American Airlines pilot, is planning to bring a large group to see it in L.A., Stoler said. “Two of the characters, passengers from different planes, met and ended up getting married.”

For Stoler, who was living in Manhattan during 9/11, the show “brought back memories of my own experience. I woke up that morning to a phone call from my brother saying, ‘I’m still alive.’ He was getting off a bus in front of the World Trade Center as the first plane hit and narrowly escaped with his life. So the show is very cathartic for me. There are parts that are very difficult, but in general, it’s a very uplifting show. You should feel good when you leave the theater.”

Stoler grew up in a musical family. His father played guitar, bass and piano and introduced him to music. “I had my first guitar at 5 and by 10 I was taking lessons,” he said. “I knew instantly that it was what I wanted to do.”

After earning undergraduate and graduate degrees in jazz performance and composition from New York University, where jazz and world music artist Richard Bona became his mentor, Stoler toured the world with Bona. “It was an extremely formative experience,” he said. “It also opened a lot of doors for me.”

His itinerary included Israel, where he’d visited twice before. “I got to perform in Tel Aviv at Philharmonic Hall. It was a wonderful experience. I cannot wait to go back. My wife hasn’t been there and wants to go.”

Of German and Russian Jewish heritage, Stoler grew up in a “Conservative, somewhat observant kosher home. I had a bar mitzvah and can still read Hebrew, but can’t understand it,” he said. “I’m less observant these days but [Judaism] is still a significant part of my identity. I like to think it makes me more open to different types of music. I’ve always been interested in world music, music from the Middle East, and music from our prayers are influenced by that. My heritage has broadened my perspective.”

In “Come From Away,” “a lot of the music has a traditional Irish vibe to it because that’s what a lot of the culture is in Gander,” Stoler said, calling it a “very challenging score.” He plays several differently tuned acoustic and electric guitars during the show. “There’s a lot of back and forth and fast changes between scenes.”

He has a one-year contract, “but they’re already booking this production into a third year. I’m going to take it one year at a time and see how it goes,” Stoler said. So far, he’s enjoying life on the road. “It’s a luxury situation compared to what I’ve had touring with solo artists and bands. We’re in L.A. for six weeks. It’s really nice. You feel like you’re living in the city and really get to see the place. Our spouses are able to come out for portions of the tour. My wife came to Seattle and will come to L.A.”

Stoler loves the city and is looking forward to hitting Venice Beach, trying restaurants in different neighborhoods and “exploring outside of L.A., hiking and doing other outdoorsy stuff.”

Although Broadway “wasn’t something that I was particularly going after, it fell in my lap in a wonderful way,” Stoler said. But he continues to compose and record his own material with the mobile recording equipment he takes with him on the road. 

“Each experience brings new challenges and I enjoy bouncing back and forth to keep things interesting. I see myself continuing to do Broadway, my own music and music for other artists,” he said. “I’ll probably do some of that while I’m in L.A. After the show is over, I’ll be out the door and in Hollywood.”

“Come From Away” runs Nov. 28-Jan. 6 at the Ahmanson Theatre.

Read more from the 2018 Holiday Arts & Entertainment Edition here.

What’s Happening: Boyle Heights, ‘GI Jews’ and Distant Cousins

Distant Cousins


Amos Oz — Shabbat Lunch and Learn
The work of Amos Oz, one of Israel’s best-known living authors, is the subject of the latest Shabbat Lunch and Learn class at Sephardic Temple, part of the series called “Masters of Prose: Great Israeli Writers.” 9:30 a.m.–1 p.m. Free. Sephardic Temple, 10500 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. To RSVP, call (310) 475-7000 or email melissa@sephardictemple.org.  

“Remembering Boyle Heights”
“Remembering Boyle Heights” — an audience participatory, immersive and theatrical celebration — brings to life the early history, stories and memories of Boyle Heights, once the heart of the Jewish community of Los Angeles, while revealing the mythical and human dimensions of the neighborhood that was called the “Ellis Island of the West” Panel discussions follow select performances. Through Dec. 16. Fridays and Saturdays, 7:45 p.m.; Sundays, 4:45 p.m. Tickets $15, $17, $19.99. Tickets with dinner or desert $19.99, $29.99, $39.99. Casa 0101 Theater, 2102 E. First St., Los Angeles. (323) 263-7684.


Hanukkah Drum Circle
Make Hanukkah crafts and enjoy sweet holiday treats with South Bay families at the JKidz Club Hanukkah drum circle and gathering at Polliwog Park in Manhattan Beach. 3–5 p.m. $10 family admission. Polliwog Park, 1601 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Manhattan Beach. (424) 543-4648.


JNF Breakfast for Israel
Alon Ben-Gurion, grandson of Israel founding father David Ben-Gurion, speaks at the Jewish National Fund’s annual Breakfast for Israel. Ben-Gurion is committed to seeing his grandfather’s dream of making the Negev desert bloom a reality and uses his hospitality business to promote development in the Negev. Israel’s Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked also delivers a greeting. 7:30–9 a.m. Free. The Beverly Hilton, 9876 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (323) 964-1400, ext. 966.

“Nuclear Proliferation in the Middle East”
A panel discussion on “Nuclear Proliferation in the Middle East: Power, Politics and Regional Threats” examines nuclear proliferation issues in the Middle East in light of the recent U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran. Speakers are former UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale, a specialist in arms control and national security; Chen Kane, director of the Middle East Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies; and David Menashri, professor emeritus at Tel Aviv University. UCLA School of Law professor Kal Raustiala moderates. 6–7:45 p.m. Free. UCLA Fowler Museum, Lenart Auditorium, 308 Charles E. Young Drive North, Los Angeles. (310) 825-9646.

“Home is Where the Heart Is: A Biological Reunion”
Thirty years after being taken away from her parents and given up for adoption, singer-songwriter Jenni “Cami” Alpert began searching for her birth father, Don. When she found him, he was a homeless, toothless drug addict. Their reunion forms the basis of this concert and presentation, which they lead. Actress Mayim Bialik (“Big Bang Theory”) moderates a Q-and-A. 7:30 p.m. Free. Temple Beth Am, 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 652-7353.

“When the World Comes Crashing Down”
Sinai Temple Rabbi Sam Rotenberg addresses the young professionals of Sinai Temple’s Atid program about “When the World Comes Crashing Down” — what Judaism teaches in regard to surviving, and even thriving, in a violent time. Attendees are encouraged to donate to the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ L.A. Wildfire Relief Fund. 7:30–9:30 p.m. Free. For people in their 20s and 30s. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 474-1518.

L.A. Jewish Symphony Kids Concerts

L.A. Jewish Symphony Kids Concerts
Culminating a two-month education outreach program, the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony, with conductor Noreen Green and soloist Cantor Marcelo Gindlin, presents an interactive concert for third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students at Valley Beth Shalom Day School. The one-hour performance celebrates Jewish-Spanish music and history. 11 a.m. Free. Valley Beth Shalom Day School, 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino; Another concert takes place on Dec. 3 at Adat Ari El, 12020 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village. (818) 646-2844.


“Conversations With God”
Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, vice president of American Jewish University, tackles the question, “What difference does God make in a human life?” during “Conversations with God,” a series that runs for eight Wednesday evenings at Valley Beth Shalom. VBS Senior Rabbi Ed Feinstein hosts the series — open to rabbis, scholars and thinkers — which continues through Jan. 9. 7–9 p.m. Free. Valley Beth Shalom, 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 788-6000.

“Myth Makers and Breakers”
How did Israel shape Israeli music? How has Israeli music changed Israel? A musical celebration of Israel’s 70th birthday features Daniel Stein Kokin leading an exploration of seven iconic Israeli songs: three myth makers, three myth breakers and one that takes off in a new direction. The professor of Jewish literature from Germany, who is a visiting professor at UCLA, also highlights the songs’ original artists with film clips of their performances. 7 p.m. $15. American Jewish University’s Familian Campus, Sperber Jewish Community Library, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 440-1572.


Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked

Ayelet Shaked
[UPDATED DATE] Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks at Beth Jacob Congregation about the “Internal and International Challenges of the Jewish People.” A computer engineer, Shaked is the only secular woman in the leadership of the Jewish Home party, which is to the political right of Netanyahu’s Likud party and is opposed to any evacuation of West Bank settlements. 7:30–9 p.m. Free. Beth Jacob Congregation, Shapell Sanctuary, 9030 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 278-1911.

“Shabbat in Your Home”
Adat Ari El Senior Rabbi Jonathan Jaffe Bernhard leads a monthly workshop for parents of school-age children designed to bring the rituals and philosophy of Shabbat into the home. Gatherings are hosted in homes of participants. If interested in participating and/or hosting, contact Diana Weinberg at dweinberg@adatariel.org. 7:30–9:30 p.m. Free. RSVP required. (818) 766-9426.

G.I Jews

“GI Jews”
The PBS documentary “GI Jews: Jewish Americans in WWII” — which tells the story of American Jewish troops who fought against fascism, helped save European Jews and assisted survivors of Nazi concentration camps — screens at Wilshire Boulevard Temple. After years of struggle, these soldiers emerged transformed, determined to continue the fight for equality at home. 7:30–9:30 p.m.  Free. Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Irmas Westside Campus, 11661 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles.  (213) 388-2401.

Distant Cousins

Distant Cousins
Los Angeles-based folk-pop trio Distant Cousins perform songs exploring the group members’ deep connections and a variety of musical genres. Their original music is the collaboration of its members, Ami Kozak, Dov Rosenblatt and Duvid Swirsky. They appear at The Mint. Zev the Wolf opens. Ages 21 and over. Doors 7:30 p.m. Show 8 p.m. $12 in advance, $15 day of show. The Mint, 6010 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 954-9400.

NewGround Shares Muslim and Jewish Stories

Six Jewish and Muslim leaders read stories about taking risks during the NewGround storytelling event. Photo by Ryan Torok

Ralph Fertig was a Jewish freedom rider who challenged the segregation on public buses during the civil rights era. 

This year, on Nov. 14, Fertig sat not on a bus but in a wheelchair in the front row of the IMAN Cultural Center in Los Angeles as Leo Baeck Temple member Gary Stern read a passage from Fertig’s memoir, “A Passion for Justice: One Man’s Dedication to Civil Rights,” detailing Fertig’s experience as a white man standing up for African Americans.

It was an evening demonstrating the power of disparate groups standing up for each other and featured six Jewish and Muslim storytellers sharing stories of taking risks. The event was part of NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change’s annual Spotlight Storytellers event. NewGround is a community-building organization that creates, connects and empowers Jewish and Muslim change-makers in America. 

Around 200 people attended the event, where the readers spoke about their experiences as NewGround Change-Makers in 2017, a NewGround program for those 25 and older to engage in topics including anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Among those who read at the event was Samara Hutman, the former executive director of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, who has a background in Holocaust education. She shared a story of how a Muslim in her group helped her come to terms with previous experiences of sexual harassment. Hutman addressed the power of the #MeToo movement and detailed her experience going to a #MeToo Shabbat service together with her Muslim peer. 

Another of the storytellers, Ramy El-Etreby, spoke about being a gay Muslim and how he came into conflict with a Jewish person over gay rights in Israel and surrounding countries. He said they both eventually came to better understand each other.

Daisy Khan read an excerpt from her memoir, “Born with Wings: The Spiritual Journey of a Modern Muslim Woman.” The wife of an imam, she described herself as one of the most empowered Muslim women in the world who has grappled with whether to use her privilege to help other Muslim women find their voices. She is the founder and executive director of the Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality, which convenes and promotes solidarity among Muslim women leaders so they can collectively pursue social change.

Gabriela Böhm, a documentary filmmaker from Buenos Aires, talked about being the daughter of émigré refugee parents who survived the Holocaust and her challenges in making a life for herself in the United States.

Finally, Seema Ahmad told a moving story about being a lawyer for undocumented citizens and the struggle to stay dispassionate when she feels her clients are being treated unfairly in the courtroom. She discussed a specific incident in which she had to keep all of her emotions at bay as a judge berated her client. 

Punctuating the evening was Ani Zonneveld, who took the stage and sang the song “Prayer of Life.”

“O Allah! Grant me the light in my heart, light in my grave, light in front of me,” Zonneveld sang over soothing music.

In essence, the evening was about giving people the chance to use their voices, said Aziza Hasan, executive director of NewGround, who introduced the readers to the crowd and spoke of her own family’s experience being uprooted from their homes in the Middle East and their difficulty in finding a place to belong. 

If just for one night, everyone felt like they belonged.

Shootings, Elections and Dust in the Wind

There are certain weeks in the news business when the pressure becomes almost unbearable. Last week was one of them.

First, there was the continuing shock of the deadliest attack against Jews in U.S. history, when 11 Shabbat worshippers were shot dead by a neo-Nazi at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh. This was not an event that we could just grieve over and move on. This was a communal trauma. The shock lingered. The questions multiplied. The grieving stayed.

Virtually every synagogue in the world honored the 11 victims on the Shabbat following the massacre. If you’re looking for signs of Jewish peoplehood, consider that Exhibit A.
A few days later, on Nov. 6, all eyes were on what some called the “most consequential midterm election of our lifetime.” That night at the Journal, we extended our print deadline to midnight so we could include an initial take of the results in the Nov. 9 print edition.
In the aftermath of those two major events, our online staff was tested. Day after day, they posted stories and analyses on both Pittsburgh and the elections, including videos and special podcasts.

For this week’s cover story, our plan was to do a deep dive into the election results.
Then, before we could catch our breath, another mass shooting grabbed our attention late on Nov. 7, this one at a bar in Thousand Oaks that left 12 people dead.
We managed to get in touch with one of the survivors, Ben Ginsburg, who put into words the story of his nightmare, which you can read in this week’s issue.
Then, the next night, all hell broke loose as vicious Santa Ana winds unleashed their rage across large swaths of Malibu, Westlake Village, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Agoura Hills, Calabasas and surrounding areas, forcing hundreds of thousands of residents to evacuate and wreaking devastation over the next two days that damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes and some Jewish institutions.

“So, which nightmare to put on the cover?”

Nightmare was following nightmare.

On Saturday morning, Nov. 10, as I walked out of synagogue on Pico Boulevard, I could smell the burn. Shifting winds had brought smoke and tiny flakes of ash from those distant fires to our cozy Jewish neighborhood, creating a reddish haze that hovered in the distance. We felt the pain of our faraway neighbors through the dust in the wind.
Dark stories were colliding and overlapping. Some of the families touched by the Thousand Oaks shooting had to evacuate their homes because of the fires. A rabbi from the area, Rabbi Paul Kipnes, who had written a poem of mourning for the shooting victims, now wrote a special prayer for these “fire-filled days.”

So, which nightmare to put on the cover? I had already asked our columnist Ben Shapiro to write a cover story on how to deal with the madness of mass shootings. But we couldn’t ignore these apocalyptic fires, which have touched everyone in the greater City of Angels (not to mention all those in Northern California).

“Dark stories were colliding and overlapping. Some of the families touched by the Thousand Oaks shooting had to evacuate their homes because of the fires.”

As you can see, we decided to feature both events on the cover and give each story top billing. Shapiro analyzes the complexity of the mass-shooting phenomenon, and what we can do to address the epidemic of gun violence; and the Journal’s reporting staff and editors cover the devastation of the fires and the compassionate response from our community.

We also have a column from Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles head Jay Sanderson on how he and his team dealt with the crises over 72 hours.
And, as if all that weren’t enough, the winds of war were blowing again in Israel, with nearly 500 rockets fired at Israel from Gaza within a few days. (As I write this, it looks like a ceasefire is in the works.)

One of the cruel aspects of journalism is that it doesn’t allow much time for emotion. We hear about a horrible event and, almost instantly, we have to think about getting you the story, and how quickly and accurately we can do so.
As we continue our coverage during these nerve-wracking times, I’m tempted to come up with words that will make us all feel better, or at least help us cope. Beyond the usual cliches, I don’t really have any.

My only wish is that we will be blessed, very soon, with a few weeks free of human tragedies.

Obituaries: Dave Lux, Holocaust Survivor, 85

Dave Lux, Holocaust survivor and Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust community member, died on Oct. 29. He was 85.

Lux was born on April 12, 1933, in Negrovec, Czechoslovakia, to Mordechai and Esther Pinkasovic, and had an older brother, Yaakov. In March 1939, Germany invaded Czechoslovakia, and soldiers forced the Lux family to flee its home. The family resettled in a crowded building with other refugee families.

While living there, Lux said a woman approached the refugee parents to ask who was willing to entrust her with their children. Lux said his parents were the only ones. As he and Yaakov were led away from his parents, Lux recalled the confusion he felt as a 5-year-old, at the sight of his mother crying inconsolably.

What Lux didn’t know at the time is that he and his brother were being sent on the Kindertransport to live in England indefinitely without their parents. The brothers spent the war years in England, where, through limited correspondence, they learned that their parents had a third son, Irwin. However, all correspondence eventually stopped, and after the war ended, the brothers realized that their family had most likely perished in the Shoah.

In 1949, Dave and Yaakov moved to Israel, where Dave served in the military. In 1958, he moved to the United States, where he married Helene, and they had three children, and eventually five grandchildren.

Lux never fully understood the details of his rescue until 50 years afterward, in 1989, when he attended a Kindertransport reunion in England. At the reunion, he discovered that the woman who approached his mother in the resettlement area had been working for Nicholas Winton, the British stockbroker who arranged for the rescue of 669 children from Czechoslovakia to England.

Although Lux had few memories of his parents, and could barely even picture them, he always remembered that his mother was a strong woman, and that his father had a sharp sense of humor. In the last few years of his life, Lux frequently told his story to honor the courage and sacrifice of his brave parents.

Lux is survived by his wife, Helene; daughter Beverly; sons Steve, Danny and his wife, Andrea; and five grandchildren. 

After the Fires, I Got a Lesson in Repairing the World

The great poet Robert Frost wrote, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” I am proud to say that my school, de Toledo High School, has been home to so many this past week. Fires damaged and devastated many homes and several Jewish communities throughout the Calabasas, Thousand Oaks and the Malibu area. Although in recent days, so many communities were shattered or even destroyed, I saw how the Jewish community came together as one — like a family.

The combined efforts, unity and hard work by students and staff from my high school as well as the Jewish Federation, Hillel 818, Temple Aliyah, Temple Or Ami, Ilan Ramon School, PJ Library and C Teen have made it possible for there to be a day camp for children and a gathering place for families at de Toledo High School for as long as needed. 

There have been more than 50 volunteers on campus ready to give back to the Jewish community of greater Los Angeles. Within us all is the drive to restore the kehillah together. Ranging from middle school students to rabbis and other clergy, the efforts from all volunteers have been remarkable. “I am here because I was taught the importance of giving back when I am fortunate enough to do so,” said 17-year-old Juliette from Oak Park High School. She went on to describe the “human drive my Jewish and non-Jewish friends have to help.” 

“The community has mobilized so quickly, so many people are stepping forward, we have more volunteers than we could have imagined. It is beautiful,” Rabbi Ben Goldstein of Temple Aliyah said. Smiles and laughs are prominent around campus today. Students smile as they walk past young toddlers playing in the grass; a friendly game of basketball in the gym has players from all ages, happy and engaged. 

“From the moment we realized we were displaced, de Toledo High School opened its doors to our community as well as to others,” Rabbi Paul Kipnes of Congregation Or Ami said. “Their answers to our requests were not just ‘yes,’ but ‘what else do you need?’ The space, resources  and comfort that de Toledo High School is providing is the true definition of community.”

“The community has mobilized so quickly, so many people are stepping forward, we have more volunteers than we could have imagined.” — Rabbi Ben Goldstein

The relationships we have formed help those who were affected by the fires but also heals those who were able to reach out and help. “It has been our honor and privilege to open our campus to the various impacted organizations,” said Mark H. Shpall, Head of School at de Toledo High School. “The ability of de Toledo High School to open its arms wide allows us to put our mission statement of ‘raising the next generation of Jewish leaders’ into practice. As leaders, our students are engaged in meaningful acts of giving to those affected. In addition, the tremendous outpouring of resources, love and tangible support from the Jewish community for the affected synagogues, camps and day schools has been awe-inspiring.” 

For my entire life, I’ve been taught the value of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), and in a time of great brokenness, the Los Angeles Jewish community has shown me the power in repairing together. We built a home together because that is who we are as a Jewish community.

Ariela Zweiback is a student at de Toledo High School.

Police Arrest L.A. Man Suspected of Grabbing Wigs Off Orthodox Jewish Women

Screenshot from YouTube.

An unidentified man was arrested on Wednesday for allegedly grabbing the wigs off of Orthodox Jewish women.

One of the victims, a 36-year-old who identified herself as Chaya, told ABC7 that the man followed her as she was walking out of a synagogue in the North Hollywood area on Yom Kippur, then tore off her wig and then threw it back to her.

The man also is suspected of tearing the wig off an 80-year-old Orthodox Jewish woman earlier that day and of doing the same to a 58-year-old Orthodox Jewish woman on Tuesday, both of which also occurred in the North Hollywood area.

In the latter case, the man reportedly gave a sarcastic apology when he tore off the wig  and then tossed it on the ground.

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) said in a statement that the man was likely engaging in these actions to humiliate Orthodox Jewish women.

“Orthodox Jewish women often wear wigs, scarfs or hats to cover their hair as a symbol of modesty,” the LAPD said.

LAPD Detective Martin Contreras told ABC7 that police arrested the man at his Sherman Oaks residence; police believe that there may have been more victims that haven’t been reported yet.

The man is believed to be somewhere in the 25- to 30-year-old age range.