April 21, 2019

What’s Happening: Passover Seders


Pico Night of Freedom
Rabbi Yonah Bookstein and Rebbetzin Rachel Bookstein hold an inspiring first-night seder for young professionals and the community. The evening includes a retelling of the Exodus, singing, Torah insights and a reading of the haggadah in English and Hebrew. Organized by the Pico Shul, the seder is held at the nearby Community Shul. 7–11 p.m. $75 for single ticket. Remaining prices include sponsorships at $118, $360 and $1,000. Those unable to afford tickets, email rabbi@picoshul.com. Community Shul, 9100 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles.

Chabad Pesach
Chabad of Westwood’s first- and second-night seders discover historic but perhaps overlooked meanings in the haggadah. Enjoy hand-baked shmura matzo and a dinner spiced with traditional customs. 8 p.m. on April 19; 8:30 p.m. on April 20. $36 per adult, $18 per child. Chabad of Westwood, 741 Gayley Ave., Los Angeles. To order shmura matzo, call (310) 709-1556 or email zeldie@chabadwestwood.com.

Seeking a Seder?
Don’t be a slave to the kitchen. Instead, join Valley Village congregation Adat Ari El at its innovative first-night seder. The Conservative synagogue’s Rabbi Jonathan Jaffe Bernhard and other clergy lead the evening. 6–9:30 p.m. Members: $78 adult, $55 children under 13; General: $99 adult, $70 children under 13. Adat Ari El, 12020 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village. (818) 766-9426. Contact dweinberg@adatariel.org for more information.

Persian Seders
The Chabad Persian Youth Center in Pico-Robertson holds interactive seders rich in the traditions of Judaism. The back-to-back evenings are family-friendly. Handmade shmura matzo is served. 8 p.m. April 19 and 20. $50 adults, $25 children 3 and older. Chabad Persian Youth Center, 9022 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 777-0358.


“Passover Seder Quest”
Find redemption in Venice Beach during Open Temple’s “Passover Seder Quest.” The quirky evening includes a “Seder Walk Through Venice,” matzo and puppet theater, goat yoga and more. Vegetarian and vegan food served. 4–8 p.m. Advance tickets are $50 for adults, $18 for children 12 and under; at the door, $55 adults, $18 children. Open Temple, 1422 Electric Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 821-1414.

Second Seder at BCC
Blending modernity and ancient traditions during a musical, second-night seder, Beth Chayim Chadashim offers a catered kosher-style meal that includes vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. This is an especially meaningful experience for LGBTQ Jews, families and allies as the haggadah tells a story of redemption and freedom that resounds for many in this LGBTQ congregation. 5:30 p.m. $54 for adult members, $72 for adult non-members, $36 for children ages 13–18, $18 for children 12 and under. For kosher meal options, add $60. Beth Chayim Chadashim, 6090 Pico Blvd. (323) 931-7023.

Seder at VBS
Valley Beth Shalom Senior Rabbi Ed Feinstein and Cantor Phil Baron lead a community seder featuring songs, afikomen for the children, and a kosher, catered meal. 6 p.m. Members: $75 for adults, $40 for children ages 5–12, $20 for children ages 2–4, free for children under 2; non-members: $95 for adults, $55 for children ages 5–12, $30 for children ages 2–4, free for children under 2. Valley Beth Shalom, 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 788-6000.

Family Seder Experience
A second-night family seder at Sinai Temple includes a full seder plate at each table, complete with dinner and dessert. Sinai Rabbis Nicole Guzik and Erez Sherman lead the program. 5–7 p.m. $45 adults, $30 children. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 474-1518. Contact Rachel Polansky at (310) 481-3228 or rpolansky@sinaitemple.org for more information.

Beth Am Invites Everyone
Temple Beth Am Rabbinic Intern Ariel Root Wolpe leads the second-night musical and interactive seder at Temple Beth Am. Everyone — whether married, single, young or old — is welcome. 7:30 p.m. Adult members $60, adult non-members $65, $30 children ages 5–12, $20 children ages 2–4. Temple Beth Am, 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 652-7353.

Spago Seder
Spago Beverly Hills co-founder and owner Barbara Lazaroff hosts Spago restaurant’s 35th annual seder. The menu includes Spago’s famous oven-baked matzo, as well as Alaskan king salmon, braised beef short ribs, vegetable ratatouille and roasted Moroccan carrots prepared by chef de cuisine Tetsu Yahagi and executive pastry chef Della Gossett. Paired with kosher wines. Rabbi Arnold Rachlis, Cantor Ruti Braier and the West Los Angeles Children’s Choir participate. Proceeds from the evening benefit Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger, a national nonprofit working to end hunger among all faiths and backgrounds in the U.S. 5:30 p.m. $195 adults, $80 children under the age of 9. Spago Beverly Hills, 176 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills. (310) 385-0880.


Change and Justice Seder
Finding themes of social justice in the Exodus story, the National Council of Jewish Women holds a community seder affirming the group’s commitment to equity and fairness. The event begins with a wine tasting at 5 p.m. The seder follows from 6–9 p.m. $100–$5,000. National Council of Jewish Women, Los Angeles House, 543 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 651-2930.

“Global Justice Seder”
West L.A. congregation University Synagogue holds a “Global Justice Seder,” where attendees are asked to relive the Exodus and the Jewish people’s long walk toward freedom. The goal is to connect and compare the Jews’ journey from bondage with the crises of contemporary refugees. 6 p.m. $40 adults, $25 children 12 and under. University Synagogue, Klein Hall, 11960 Sunset Blvd. (310) 451-1980, Los Angeles. Contact Marilyn Weitz at cmweitz@incloud.com for more information.

A Therapist’s Tell-All Book

Anyone who has spent time in a therapist’s office has wondered: “What is my therapist thinking?” An even more unsettling question is: “What is my therapist saying when she talks to her own therapist? Both of these questions are answered — and much more is put on public display — in Lori Gottlieb’s smart, funny, high-spirited and highly confessional memoir of her life and work, “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

Gottlieb is a practicing therapist in Los Angeles, but that’s not everything you need to know about her. She is also the author of four previous books (starting with the best-seller “Stick Figure”), and she contributes the “Dear Therapist” column to The Atlantic. She is a frequent talking head on the subject of psychotherapy on television. And her newly published book is already a hot item — it appeared on The New York Times best-seller list immediately after publication, and it is in development at ABC as a television series starring Eva Longoria.

The success of Gottlieb’s tell-all is hardly surprising. She takes us to places where many readers have never gone before, both inside on our own heads and inside hers. She tells us secrets that most therapists keep to themselves, including secrets about herself. And she describes her own tumultuous course of therapy after she finds herself in a sudden relationship crisis that begins when she asks her boyfriend, “Hey, is something up?” For a working therapist, it’s a fraught question.

“The answer is obviously yes, because in the history of the world, nothing reassuring has ever following this question,” she writes. “When I see couples in therapy, even if the initial response is no, in time the true answer is revealed to be some variation of I’m cheating, I maxed out the credit cards, my aging mother is coming to live with us, or I’m not in love with you anymore.”

“Lori Gottlieb takes us to places where many readers have never gone before, both inside on our own heads and inside hers.”

The most vulnerable readers may not be thrilled to know how they come across to their therapists: “[I]f I’ve learned anything as a therapist, it’s that most people are what therapists call ‘unreliable narrators,’” Gottlieb writes. She is open about the trade secrets of her profession: “High-functioning is therapist code for ‘a good patient,’ the kind most therapists enjoy working with,” she writes. And she discloses that even therapy can have a placebo effect: “[P]atients often feel hopeful after making that first appointment, before even setting foot in the therapy room.”

Sometimes, Gottlieb describes what goes on in the therapy room with such brutal honesty that we began to feel sorry for the clueless patient. She describes one man named John who “is telling me about all of the people in his life who are ‘idiots’ ” and who wonders out loud if “it has something to do with all the artificial chemicals that are added to the food we eat nowadays.” The patient concludes: “That’s why I try to eat organic. So I don’t become an idiot like everyone else.” Gottlieb stifles a yawn and it comes out as a burp. “Of course,” she writes, “John doesn’t seem to notice.” Her conclusion? “Today he just seems like an asshole.”

But Gottlieb is no less candid when it comes to telling the truth about herself. She is so shattered by her confrontation with her boyfriend that she shows up at her office the next day in a pajama top that says “Namast’ay in Bed.” She carefully considers what she will tell her own therapist, Wendell, at their next session, but when she enters his office, “all that comes out is a torrent of tears.” She points out that insight is overvalued as the goal of therapy: “ ‘Insight is the booby prize of therapy’ is my favorite maxim of the trade,” she quips.

“So while the image of me with mascara running down my tear-streaked face between sessions may be uncomfortable to contemplate,” she confesses, “that’s where this story about a handful of struggling humans you are about to meet begins — with my own humanity. … Of all my credentials as a therapist, my most significant is that I’m a card-carrying member of the human race.”

While she is honest about what therapy can and cannot accomplish, she is also hopeful. “Why would we choose a profession that requires us to meet unhappy, distressed, abrasive or unaware people and sit with them, one after the other, alone in a room?” she muses. “The answer is this: Because therapists know that at first, each patient is simply a snapshot, a person captured in a particular moment. … Therapists have to be interpreters of those blurry snapshots, aware that patients need them to be fuzzy to some extent, because those first snapshots help to gloss over painful feelings that might be invading their peaceful inner territory. In time, they find out that they aren’t at war at all, that the path to peace is to call a truce with themselves.”

So Gottlieb wants her readers to understand the inner workings of therapy itself. For that reason, and entirely aside from its sheer entertainment value, “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone” is the book that you should read if you’re contemplating therapy or if you’re already in it.

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

A Remarkable Life: From Arab Sahara to Jewish Los Angeles

As I read Ed Elhaderi’s powerful memoir — “Nomadic Soul: My Journey From the Libyan Sahara to a Jewish Life in Los Angeles” — I kept hearing the words God said to Abraham, our Biblical father: Lekh lekhah, “Go forth from your land, the land of your birth, the house of your father to the land that I will show you.” A Chasidic master once pointed out that the phrase lekh lekhah, ordinarily translated as “go forth,” has a more literal meaning: lekh means to go or walk, and lekhah means “unto yourself” or “for yourself.”

Elhaderi’s journey outward is also a journey inward. As he discovers a new land and language, a new world and people, a new sense of inner tranquility and direction, he also goes on an inner journey of discovering how to stitch together the world from which he came — the rural, primitive, poor village in Libya of the 1950s and early 1960s — with the world in which he now lives, as a Jew-by-choice in Los Angeles.

I must confess that I thought I knew Elhaderi. We attend the same synagogue each week and greet each other as friends. He is always respectful and courteous, even a bit shy. It is apparent his manners were shaped by a different culture, one more traditional than the avant-garde world of the city in which we live. But the more I read of his life, the more I understood that I had only glimpsed the surface of his story and the length of his journey.

Elhaderi was raised with little contact with the outside world. His family occasionally read newspapers and books, but they had no television and limited access to radio broadcasts. His world was oral — words were spoken, stories were told.

In his book — written with the critically acclaimed memoirist Tom Fields-Meyer of Los Angeles — he is able to convey that world, to depict his distant father and his loving mother, his extended family and his brother, the friends that shaped him and the restrictions of that world.

Elhaderi’s work reminds us of how diverse the Jewish community is today, how many stories we have to tell, and how in our synagogues and communities we must remember to discover one another.

Education offered him an opportunity. His intellect took him from his village to the big city and ultimately to the United States. Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi wanted to transform his country and bring it into the modern world, so he invested in the education of his most gifted youth. The nonathletic and lower-class Elhaderi took advantage of the opportunity by studying at the University of Tripoli and then pursuing a doctorate at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Qaddafi believed that the young people like Elhaderi who were now educated would return home, but education changed Elhaderi, making him realize that he could not return to the land of his birth and the house of his father.

In Libya, Elhaderi had been raised to distrust Jews, even to despise them, though he never met one. Nearly all of Libya’s Jews had left after Israel achieved statehood in 1948, but after Israel’s decisive victory in the Six-Day War, anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist sentiment (one and the same in Libya) intensified. Raised in that atmosphere, Elhaderi came to the United States and almost immediately experienced cognitive dissonance between the Jews he was taught to hate and those he encountered in his university’s classrooms and laboratories. They were accomplished men and women, gifted and dedicated teachers, helpful colleagues, not the horned monsters he had been led to expect.

Author Ed Elhaderi

He was smart enough and hard-working enough to succeed in his education, and open enough to let his journey take him where it was to take him — to encounter the enemy as a person. That courageous openness transformed his life in ways he could not have imagined, in large part because he encountered a Jewish woman who was equally open to him, and a rabbi and a community that welcomed him with open arms. 

William James in his “Varieties of Religious Experience” distinguishes between the “once born” and the “twice born.” My Judaism is that of a “once born,” a natural inheritance from my parents and theirs before them; a tradition transmitted to me by teachers and community, from my land, the place of my birth, and the house of my father. Jewish tradition was the first language of depth that I encountered; the melodies of my childhood were deepened by the adult sensibilities I have developed. At times, particularly in those moments when the theology of the prayers I recite challenges the world I inhabit, I return to the native belief of my childhood, suspending disbelief, at least for a time.

Elhaderi is a “twice born” — at least a twice born; perhaps many more times than that. He stands at a distance from his childhood, the world of his youth, the community and tradition that shaped him. He came to Jewish tradition and to the Jewish people as an adult, already with a family and a sense of self. He experienced that community and that tradition as the goal of a long journey. He encountered it as transformation and not just continuity.

The Talmud wisely states that “In the place of one who returns” — teshuvah means repentance but more basically return — “even the righteous cannot stand.” I am certainly not righteous but I am deeply indebted to Elhaderi, whose story has enriched my experience and deepened my community. I cherish him as a man and revere the place where he stands.

Elhaderi’s work reminds us of how diverse the Jewish community is today, how many stories we have to tell, and how in our synagogues and communities we must remember to discover one another. I know for certain that we will be enriched by that encounter.

Michael Berenbaum is director of the Sigi Ziering Institute and a professor of Jewish Studies at American Jewish University.

Cocktails and Conversation with Cherríe Moraga: Ms. Magazine Book Club

Join Ms. for Cocktails and Conversation with Cherríe Moraga!

Click here to register

At the inaugural #MsBookClub meeting, author and activist Cherríe Moraga will join Ms. digital editor Carmen Rios in Los Angeles for a conversation about her memoir Native Country of the Heart.

The reception will feature custom cocktails from Yola Mezcal. The event will include a book signing.

Join us on April 17, 2019
6:30 PM: Doors Open + Reception Begins
7:00 PM: Q&A begins

…at the Ms. Offices
433 S Beverly Drive
Los Angeles, CA

$10 for Ms. Members | $20 for Non-Members

Non-member tickets include admission to the reception and book signing with Cherríe and a one-year membership to Ms.—including print and digital access to the magazine and discounted access to future Ms. events.

About Cherríe

Cherríe Moraga is a writer and cultural activist whose work serves to disrupt the dominant narratives of gender, race, sexuality, feminism, indigeneity and literature in the United States. A co-founder of Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, Moraga co-edited the highly influential volume This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color in 1981. After 20 years as an Artist-in-Residence in Theater at Stanford University, Moraga was appointed a professor in the Department of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2018—where, with her artistic partner Celia Herrera Rodríguez, she instituted Las Maestras Center for Xicana Indigenous Thought and Art Practice. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Theatre Playwriting Fellowship Award and a United States Artist Rockefeller Fellowship for Literature.

About the Book

In her intensely moving new memoir, Native Country of the Heart, Cherríe Moraga writes with piercing intimacy about her mother’s past and her own coming-of-age in a half-Mexican, half-Anglo household, where she struggled to come to terms with her own burgeoning queer identity within her family’s Catholic community. “Who needs Juan Preciado or Pedro Paramo when there is Elvira Isabel Moraga and her daughter?” author Myriam Gurba wrote of the “double memoir” in the latest issue of Ms. “As Moraga demonstrates compellingly, they are the stuff of literature, too.”

About Carmen

Carmen Rios is the Digital Editor at Ms., co-founder and Contributing Editor at Argot Magazine and co-host of Trigger Happy, a weekly feminist webseries on Binge Networks. Her writing—which has been published by outlets including BuzzFeed, BITCH, Everyday Feminism, ElixHER, GrokNation, GIRLBOSS and Feministing—spans the political and personal, emerging from her own background as a mixed-race queer woman of color raised by a working-class single mother.


I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday April 17!

Lisa Niver, Ms. Magazine contributor

Creating Art for the Streets of L.A.

Southern California native Michele Weisbart had two of her designs chosen for the Bigbelly trash bins in Mar Vista. Photos courtesy of Michele Weisbart

When Los Angeles artist and graphic designer Michele Weisbart had the opportunity to showcase her work at the Mar Vista Art Walk in 2017, she had no idea it would lead to having her art literally displayed on the city’s streets two years later. 

In December 2018, the Mar Vista Art Walk posted on social media a call for 15 artists to create designs for the Bigbelly trash bins situated along a mile-long stretch of Venice Boulevard as part of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Great Streets of LA initiative, announced in 2013. The initiative aims to transform streets throughout the city into more vibrant, safer and community-oriented public spaces. In 2014, a Great Streets mile corridor was identified in each of the 15 city council districts for the project. Venice Boulevard from Inglewood Boulevard to Beethoven Street was designated for Councilman Mike Bonin’s 11th District, which includes Mar Vista. 

Lenore French, president of Green Communications Initiative Inc., a nonprofit that organizes the Mar Vista Art Walk, said the art walk was looking for the best interpretations of the Mar Vista neighborhood identity and artists’ ability to work with the dominant light blue color palette to harmonize with the preformatted trash bins that display the city’s departmental logos and the councilman’s office crest. 

When Weisbart heard about the contest, she treated it as she would any other client, researching Mar Vista and its history.

“Even though I do brush painting and flowers, I also wanted to see what would be important to them,” Weisbart told the Journal. “I took some of my flowers — you had to match the three blues, because of the recycling part on the side of the bin — and also did some mandalas, because they represent wholeness, unity, harmony. These are things that I thought would express Mar Vista and how they support the artistic community.”

Weisbart submitted two designs in December and both were accepted within the month. She then received a template for creating the designs, which she submitted in January. The Bigbelly bins hit the streets the first week of February.

“I love Michele’s work because of her use of mandalas,” French told the Journal, “and that her work is at the same time abstract and references a very specific spiritual belief system.”

“Mar Vista has a very vibrant art community,” said Weisbart, 61. “While I plan to do more things along these lines — public art — the fact that this is the first place [to have my art displayed on the street] is really exciting.”

“I love Michele’s work because of her use of mandalas, and that her work is at the same time abstract and references a very specific spiritual belief system.” — Lenore French

The designs are displayed on both sides of the bins, so people can see them from all angles. 

“They are solar bins, so they compact the trash using solar energy, which is part of the city’s new interest in implementing projects that can be seen as part of the sustainable future for Los Angeles,” French said. 

Weisbart, who grew up in Thousand Oaks and now lives in Westwood, said, “I love the idea of trying to bring beauty to all the [streets of Los Angeles] in little steps. I love that [my work is] in a part of the city that is very active for the artistic community, is very cognizant of going green and does a lot for street planning. I’ve worked with urban planners, so it does many things that align with my personal philosophy.” 

Her appreciation for the arts along with a focus on education was a major part of Weisbart’s life growing up. “Education goes hand in hand with Jewish upbringing,” she said. “My parents have always opened my eyes. We were members of museums, we were taken to plays. They made sure we weren’t just educated in the traditional sense, but also in fine arts. Everything we’ve done, we look at [things] in a Jewish way.”

A graphic designer and illustrator for more than 18 years, Weisbart has worked with clients in the entertainment, financial, medical and food industries. Among other projects, she was the lead designer for the award-winning 2011 “Model Design Manual for Living Streets,” commissioned by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

“As an artist, I do things for clients all the time,” she said. “This was the first time I put myself out there just as an artist, and it was very self-affirming.”

The Miserable Side of Dining Out

Dining out always has cost a lot more money than eating at home, but these days, it could cost a small fortune. I can make myself a dinner at home for about $2 or $3. At a restaurant, it might cost me $30 or more. 

Recently, I was in a vegan restaurant and ordered a buckwheat shake and cage-free melon. When I got the recycled paper check, I wanted to start eating meat again. 

For me to take my family out to dinner at an upscale kosher restaurant, I must either start a Go Fund Me page or call my broker to sell some stock. I’m waiting for the day that they tell me that the meal is over my credit card limit. 

I figured with all the money I’ve spent in kosher restaurants, I could have installed an Olympic-size pool in my backyard. That’s if I had a backyard. But I live in the Pico-Robertson area of Los Angeles, so what I have is a few blades of grass and concrete. I once timed a fly going from one end of my yard to the other. Three seconds and it wasn’t even out of breath. 

Going to restaurants has gotten so complicated. You used to walk in and a server set glasses of water on the table. But in 2015, because of the long-running drought, it became against the law for restaurants to provide diners glasses of water if they didn’t ask for them.

And now, if you ask for a plastic straw, you’re labeled a porpoise killer.

I don’t remember anyone ever dying from drinking tap water in a restaurant, but I’m sure there have been plenty of heart attacks when the bill came.

Today, if you order tap water, they make you feel like you’re drinking water out of a rat-infested sewer filled with muck, slime and bubonic plague. “Tap water? I hope you’re not planning to have more children. May I suggest some bottled water?” And of course, it’s $8 for a bottle of water; $10 if you want sparkling water. It’s cheaper to get a 2-year-old with a plastic straw to blow bubbles into your water. And you can’t take the water bottle home with you if you don’t finish it. “I’ll have a to-go cup for my water.” It sounds so cheap. 

Some of these upscale joints have a different person just for drinks. “Hi, I’m Ed. I’ll be taking your drink order.” 

“I figured with all the money I’ve spent in kosher restaurants, I could have installed an Olympic-size pool in my backyard.”

My wife might order a glass of wine. Most places used to have a “house” wine. Now, if you order the house wine, they treat you like you’re some wino derelict who doesn’t care if you destroy your liver. “Oh, the house wine? I’ll go out back into the alley and grab the bottle from the homeless guy in his tent. I’ll be right back.” 

And whatever you do, don’t ever ask them to recommend a wine. That’s like asking a dog to recommend a nice steak. Once the waiter says to you, “We have a lovely …”, the word “lovely” means expensive.

Why not just be honest with us? “We have a very, very expensive Cabernet Sauvignon, which you can get by the glass.” Which is a lie. You never get a full glass of wine. Restaurants sell it by the thimble. Maybe a third of a glass, if you’re lucky. They pour it like it’s liquid gold. This will ensure you’ll need another three ounces in the next minute and a half. 

I don’t know about your family, but when mine knows I’m paying for dinner, suddenly everyone acts as if they’ve just ended a 12-year hunger strike. They want soup and salads and appetizers. They walk around the restaurant to see what other people are having so they can order that.

Going out with my family is like going out with a family of chimpanzees. They sit with the menu in their hands, jumping up and down, making sounds. Bring on the bananas.

Then when the appetizers come, if I try to take one, they look at me as if I’ve lost my mind. I recently had to beg them for a lettuce wrap.

I get nauseous listening to them order, “I’ll have two of these and three of those” while I sit there adding up the bill in my head. By the time the waiter is ready for my order, I’ve lost my appetite.

Worst of all, when we get outside, they want me to pay for valet parking. I give up.

Mark Schiff is a comedian, actor and writer.

Trump’s West LA Visit Prompts Pre-Shabbat Road Closures

U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he arrives at Akron-Canton airport in Canton, Ohio, U.S., March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

President Donald Trump is visiting the Southland on Friday April 5 for a fundraiser in Beverly Hills, which means traffic on the West Side before Shabbat will be more of a mess than usual.

Air Force One is expected to touchdown at LAX at approximately 3:15 p.m. and then the president will take Marine One to Santa Monica Airport.

To prepare commuters, the LAPD has posted the following closures:

2:30-3:30 p.m.: The area around Bundy Drive between Airport Avenue and W. Pico Boulevard.

3-4 p.m.:  The area around Sunset Boulevard between S. Sepulveda Boulevard  and N. Hillcrest Drive (Beverly Hills)

6-7 p.m.: The area around Sunset Boulevard between S. Sepulveda Boulevard  and N. Hillcrest Drive (Beverly Hills)

6:30-7:30 p.m.: The area around Bundy Drive between Airport Avenue and W. Pico Boulevard.

Closures / Restrictions (no bus routes impacted by the hard closures)

1-7 p.m.: Sunset Boulevard  between Foothill Road and Hillcrest Road will be closed from 1-7 p.m.: Foothill, Elm and Maple Drives will be closed between Sunset Boulevard  and Elevado Avenue.

Candle Lighting for Shabbat in Los Angeles is 6:59 p.m.

LA Playwright Wendy Graf Named 2019 Gold Medallion Winner

Wendy Graf; Photo by Rich Schmitt

Los Angeles playwright Wendy Graf has been named the inaugural Gold Medallion winner by the Moss Hart & Kitty Carlisle Hart New Play Initiative for her play “Exit Wounds.”

Graf is a member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA and Pacific Resident Theatre writing units, and of the Dramatists Guild of America. Her work was one of two Silver Medallion winners that beat out 1,241 plays from five countries and 43 states submitted to the Hart Initiative.

“I’m thrilled and honored. It’s been a long journey but I’m thrilled,” Graf told the Journal. “I learned so much about the pay along the way and I want to especially thank the actors who were so game and tremendous and helped me learn about the play. I hope it will go on to have another life because unfortunately, I don’t think the subject is outdated.” 

There were 23 semi-finalists resulting in two Silver Medallion winners, “Exit Wounds” and “Confederates” by Suzanne Bradbeer. Both plays were being produced at the Grove Theater Center in Burbank last fall.

“I was honored and thrilled to be on the same bill as [Bradbeer] because she is a mensch,” Graf said. “That’s the best way I can put it. We were very supportive of each other. We have a friendship that will last a lifetime.”

Graf’s other works include “Unemployed Elephants–A Love Story”; “Please Don’t Ask About Becket”; “All American Girl”; “Closely Related Keys”; “No Word in Guyanese for Me” and “Behind the Gates” — to name a few.

Her latest winning piece, “Exit Woundsexplores the effect a horrific tragedy can have on three generations of a family.

“There were times in my life where I couldn’t breathe but it paid off,” Graf said touching on her writing process. “You never know what you’re gonna have each step of the way but the reaction I got was so incredible and so intense. People were thinking about it for days and they would email me after they saw it and tell me they were still thinking about the play. If I can accomplish that, what better gift can you give to a playwright?”

Details on the next cycle of the Moss Hart and Kitty Carlisle Hart New Play Initiative will be announced later this spring.

March 2019 WeSaidGoTravel News: Spring is Here

March News 2019 with We Said Go Travel:

Look for me on March 31st at 9:45am on KTLA TV with my 4th segment so far in 2019.
Watch the first three here:


For Women’s History Month, I had many new stories!

Gloria Steinem at Gloria A Life in NYC with Lisa Niver

Find me in the news:

Thank you to Rise Global! In March, We Said Go Travel and I are AGAIN #3 on the top 1000 Travel Blog list! AND I am the TOP FEMALE TRAVEL BLOGGER! Yahoo! #travel1k

Lisa Niver is the top female travel blogger March 2019

Lisa Niver is the top female travel blogger March 2019

I loved being in NYC with my family and going to International Media Marketplace as well as the New York Times Travel Show. Please enjoy the videos of my time at the conferences. I also went to the Los Angeles Travel Show.

VIDEO: Travel Conferences in Los Angeles and New York City

Learn more about my writing and see all my latest outlets with this pdf.

Saturday Evening Post by Lisa Niver 12 Travel Experts Share their bucket List Destinations

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 in July 2019, I will announce the finalists. I expect to announce the winners in September 2019.



Here is the link to my video channel on YouTube where I have 917,691 views on YouTube! Thank you for your support! Are you one of my 2064 subscribers? I hope you will join me and subscribe!

Thank you for watching my videos, reading my stories, following along on social media and asking me about booking your travels!

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:

Nothing is impossible to a willing heart
Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the conquest of it.
All things are difficult before they are easy.”

Are you making it happen in 2019? Good luck in taking the next small step to make your 2019 goals come true! 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 interviewed for Intellifluence

Coming SOON my photos and video from Sandals Montego Bay in Jamaica

Jamaica Sandals Montego Bay Sunset Jamaica Sandals Montego Bay Sunset by Lisa Niver

Here Comes the Judge

Everyone hates to be judged, yet most of us do it. 

Hillel wrote in “Ethics of Our Fathers”: “Do not judge your fellow, until you have reached his or her place.”  

My cousin Sarah recently died five days short of her 34th birthday. She left behind a 12-year-old son, the father of the boy, and her divorced mother and father. She had a brother who killed himself a few years earlier, another brother with heart issues and a close family member who is a pill addict. Sarah’s life was not an easy one.

When Sarah (technically, my first cousin once removed) was around 9 years old, my wife and I offered to have her mother — my first cousin —  and Sarah fly out from Long Island all expenses paid to sunny California and stay with us for a week. Just come and have a good time. The plan was Sarah would go to Disneyland and see a taping of a TV show. The works. When Sarah and her mom exited the plane, I noticed that Sarah was holding a small bag over her face — an airsick bag. Her mother said Sarah had been sick during the entire flight.  

Heading to our house, she just sat with the bag over her face in the back of the car. When we got home, I showed Sarah to a guest room, where she immediately went to sleep. A few hours later, we woke her for dinner. Still carrying her airsick bag and a little doll, Sarah said she wanted to go home. The rest of the night she sat watching TV and holding the bag and the doll. 

The next morning, Sarah’s mom told me Sarah didn’t want to do anything except go back to the airport and go home. After trying to talk Sarah into staying, we all agreed it would be best if they headed home. A part of me was glad to be rid of them. And as soon as Sarah heard I booked them a return flight for that evening, she perked up and had her first meal. She seemed like a completely different person. That’s when my judgments of Sarah really began.  

After sending them home, all I could think was how ungrateful she was. And what a little brat she was. I made those judgments without knowing anything about what her life was like. I was convinced she was just a spoiled, ungrateful kid. 

Over the next few years, except for sending her a birthday card with $15 in it, I don’t remember much communication. When Sarah got older and Facebook became ubiquitous, I read some of her very dark and depressing posts. She seemed like a very sad person. Once again, I judged and I decided to stop following her on Facebook.  

A few years later, her brother came out to Los Angeles and stayed with us for a few days. I helped get him into rehab at the Salvation Army. A few months later, he blew his brains out with a shotgun in a motel room. I phoned Sarah to express my condolences and didn’t talk with her much after that.

Then I found out that she, my Jewish cousin, had found Jesus and was attending church regularly. Her Facebook posts were filled with crosses and Jesus quotes. More judgments on my part. I thought this girl must be so lost even though, admittedly, I knew very little about her. I thought if only she had stayed Jewish blah blah blah blah blah. More judgments. 

Then about two years ago, I heard Sarah had cancer. At this point, I had almost zero communication with her, but I did have a trunkful of judgments and stories I had conjured up about her and her life. I thought I knew everything. 

I happened to be heading to New York, so I thought, “Why not call Sarah and ask to visit?” Isn’t it a mitzvah to visit sick people? So I phoned and told her that I wanted to visit. She was thrilled. She said, “I’d love to see you.” It had been at least 20 years since I’d last seen Sarah. And so, I rented a car and drove out to Long Island. 

“About two years ago, I heard Sarah had cancer. At this point, I had almost zero communication with her, but I did have a trunkful of judgments and stories I had conjured up about her and her life.”

Sarah was living in a tough neighborhood known for its MS-13 gang members. After my first visit, something happened to me. Most of my judgments seem to fall away completely. After visiting with her, I realized how sweet and wonderful this young woman was. She was a beautiful young person with a great smile and a heart of gold. Her friends loved her. Her religion was giving her strength. She had a huge poetic heart. She even had a motto, “Save the world.”  

I realized how wrong I had been about her. How so much of what I thought about her was based on misinformation. I made it all up. We visited with each other many more times and spoke on the phone and exchanged email and Facebook messages. She was always so kind and so loving and so fragile. Never ever did she guilt me with, “Where have you been for the past 20 years?” or “Sure, now that I’m sick, you drop by.” Zero. She was just happy to see her cousin, and I felt the same. 

As her cancer progressed, she never complained. It just made her sad that she would soon have to leave her son, her friends and family. She said she knew she was in God’s arms and would be protected. Although she told me she didn’t exactly know what that meant, it still gave her great comfort. 

Little by little, as her pain increased, communication became less frequent. When she could talk, she apologized for not calling back sooner. I can honestly say that I felt nothing but love for Sarah since reconnecting with her. Without knowing it, she taught me that I needed to be much less judgmental, and that what you think you know about someone is not the whole picture. Sarah was deep.  

Then one day I got a call from Sarah’s mom. She told me that according to Sarah’s doctor, Sarah had six weeks to live. I immediately made a plane reservation to go to New York the following week. I figured I’d see Sarah one more time. I figured wrong. Sarah died a few days later.

After her death, I asked one of my cousins about the funeral. He said there would be a wake and then a funeral the next day. I asked if she would be buried. Then I decided to shut my mouth before I started judging all over again because her burial wasn’t what I would choose or how Jews would do it. 

Sarah was buried on her 34th birthday. I love you, Sarah. Please forgive me for judging you.

Mark Schiff is a comedian, actor and writer.

The Eventual Honeymoon


Being an observant Jew in Los Angeles is great, if you can afford it. So after my wife, Chanie, and I were married, the starting gun went off and the race was on. We had a future to prepare for, and that future included children, tuition, a house — there was no time for a honeymoon. The idea of a “newlywed” vacation was tabled for another day.
Sixteen years and six kids later, and I am now the director of Jews for Judaism, a job that requires me to visit Jewish communities worldwide. Chanie is a full-time teacher. So between my busy itinerary and my wife’s demanding schedule, our dream getaway was going nowhere.

But then I received a call from Rabbi Shneur Hecht, inviting Chanie and me to their upcoming Shabbat 180, a program intended to deepen community ties, where I would have the honor of visiting as their guest speaker.

Hecht and his wife, Mushkie, are emissaries of Chabad of Puerto Vallarta in Mexico, where they oversee a successful Jewish community center, featuring a synagogue and religious day school. They also run Vallarta Kosher, a full-service restaurant that offers kosher food to Jewish locals and tourists. As their guest, I would have the opportunity to spend the weekend speaking to fellow Jews in one of the most beautiful locations in all of  Mexico  and my wife would be joining me. The offer was irresistible.

We landed safely in Puerto Vallarta, and as any red-blooded Orthodox Jew will tell you, there’s nothing like a hot, kosher meal after a long flight, which is exactly what was waiting for us at the hotel, compliments of the Hechts. Chanie and I enjoyed a relaxing lunch together — just the two of us.

That evening, we walked the boardwalk and joined Shneur Hecht at the local farmers market. Each week, Mushkie Hecht bakes hundreds of challahs in preparation for Shabbat, and sets aside a large number of them for her and her husband to sell at the busy outdoor mall. I was amazed at how many Jewish community members came out to buy the homemade loaves.

The rabbi explained that aside from its many tourists, Puerto Vallarta has about 250 Jewish residents and snowbirds, and most of them grew up with almost no connection to Judaism. That being said, they were inspired to move to Mexico by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who always stressed that the act of inspiring one person is akin to saving the entire world. The Hechts believe and live by the rebbe’s words.

“Before the Hechts arrived, there was practically no organized Jewish life in the entire area.”

Friday came, and Chanie and I spent most of the day preparing for my presentation. Shneur Hecht had rented space at a hotel, anticipating a bigger crowd than usual. Meanwhile, I was wondering how many people would even attend. Sure, many people turn out for challah but will they show up for my lecture on “Cults and the Power of Persuasion”? 

Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised.

We arrived to find the hotel lobby packed with Jewish locals. Women lit candles, Shabbat services followed, and dinner was served. I shared my presentation, and a large portion of the audience remained for an impassioned discussion. The atmosphere was harmonious and lively, and Saturday was equally as meaningful. 

One community member told me that before the Hechts arrived, there was practically no organized Jewish life in the entire area. Synagogues were nonexistent, and only a few Jewish residents would gather on Passover to perform a seder. 

The Hechts changed everything, and they did it together. 

On Sunday, Chanie and I toured the area as a couple. We agreed that it was our time to focus on each other, and the busy world would just have to wait. The rabbi and rebbitzen reminded us that success within the home is vital to success outside the home.

This was the honeymoon we should’ve taken long ago, and we look forward to our next one.

Rabbi Zalman Kravitz is the director of Jews for Judaism and host of #SMARTalks, a weekly webcast that strives to develop young leaders.

The Pleasures of Commitment

Los Angeles. Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Ever since I moved to Los Angeles seven years ago, I’ve noticed something: People here are flakes. 

Often I make plans to get together with people but they flake out. I invite them for coffee or to come to my house for Shabbat but they will cancel, reschedule or just not show up. It’s especially bad on Shabbat; I wonder if the person is OK but I have no way to reach them because I’m not using my phone.

The flakiness extends beyond social gatherings. My husband Daniel and I have tried to hire many gardeners to cut our lawn and repairmen to help around the house but they just don’t show. I’ve had job interviews rescheduled and appointments moved without reason. I’ve been ghosted countless times. 

People blame traffic, the rain, their exhaustion or their “incredibly busy” schedules for flaking out. Sometimes they don’t even offer an excuse. 

I’m not alone in being the victim of people’s flakiness. Many people I know have moved from the East Coast, like I did, and comment on how flaky people here are. Once, an acting agent gave Daniel some clarity on the situation. She said, “Nobody is anybody in this town unless they’ve canceled on you at least twice.”

Maybe that flies in show business but in the real world, I can’t accept flakiness.

People of my generation are especially guilty of being flakes. It’s true that most of us are busy because we’re working to pay the bills. We don’t have the time and money to socialize and spend our paychecks on entertainment. 

 “I’m not alone in being the victim of people’s flakiness. Many people I know have moved from the East Coast, like I did, and comment on how flaky people here are.”

However, if you’re going to make plans with someone, it’s hurtful and rude to cancel, even if you don’t have much money. Go to Coffee Bean and get a small drink, which is $2. Or offer to cook dinner or watch a movie on Netflix. There’s no excuse not to show up.

And what about the benefits we get from socializing, like validation, relaxation and connection with another human being? Do we think we can survive without it?

I used to be flaky when it came to shul attendance. Sometimes I would go, sometimes I’d sleep in and miss it. I never felt good about not going, but I thought it was a habit I could never break. 

I decided at a certain point last year not to give myself that leniency anymore. I was going to go to shul on Friday night and Saturday morning, every week. Although I still have to work on being on time for davening, I am always there. 

I used to be a flake when it came to my weight as well. I was pre-diabetic, getting heavier and feeling awful physically and emotionally. I would flake out on diets and exercise and revert to my old ways. One day last October, my husband and I decided to commit to something. We switched to a mostly vegan, plant-based diet and have lost a combined 70 pounds since then (thanks to the help of fellow Journal writer Mark Schiff).

Even though other people in Southern California are flaky, I don’t have to be, and you don’t, either. Good things happen when you don’t flake. When you commit to something, whether it’s a dinner date or a diet, you have to give it 100 percent, even if you don’t feel like it. The payoff is incredible. 

When I go to shul, I get to connect with HaShem and my community. When I eat healthfully and exercise, I look and feel better. When I spend time with friends, I feel great. All these things help me achieve inner peace and feel centered in this crazy town. And achieving that feeling? That’s something worth not flaking out on.

Kylie Ora Lobell is a Journal contributing writer.

Interfaith Solidarity in Wake of New Zealand Terror Attacks

Rabbi Sharon Brous and Edina Lekovic hug in a show of love and support between a rabbi and Muslim-American leader. Photo by Ryan Torok

After the deadly attacks at the Masjid Al Noor mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand, last week, Los Angeles interfaith leaders and elected officials quickly convened a press conference at the Islamic Center of Southern California (ICSC) in Koreatown on March 15.

Close to 100 people attended the gathering, including Jewish LGBTQ leaders; members of modern Orthodox congregation B’nai David-Judea and egalitarian community IKAR; clergy from Wilshire Boulevard Temple and Beth Shir Shalom, and American Jewish University faculty and students.

“We are a city that is called ‘the City of Angels’ and today I feel those wings stretched out and joining together,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told attendees. “Our angels weep today as well for our brothers and sisters in New Zealand, for an attack on the most basic human impulse that we have — to talk to ourselves and to our God.”

IKAR Senior Rabbi Sharon Brous denounced the role Islamaphobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry play in mass violence.

“Today we lift up all the survivors of violent hatred, from the Tree of Life to Sutherland Springs, to Mother Emanuel, to Oak Creek,” Brous said. “Today we lift up all the survivors and all of those who have lost loved ones to gun violence in this country and around the world, including some in our own family, who stand here today.”

ICSC Civic Liaison Hedab Tarifi said the way to prevent further acts of violence was for people of different faiths to unite. “We have no choice but to come together and work together in protecting the human family,” she said, “and working against and exposing that there is no one race that takes over and is supreme to the others. God created us all as one human family. It is our responsibility to protect that human family and keep the world safe for new generations.”

Tarifi added that she was annoyed after hearing that following the attacks, the mosques in New Zealand had been closed. “They need to come to L.A. to learn from example we have,” she said.

Tarifi made her comment after Los Angeles Police Department encouraged everyone to visit their various places of worship over the weekend to send a message that they will not let acts of hatred deter them from freely practicing their religions.

“The way we show the world our humanity, the way we show that this will not stand and the cowardliness of it, is by leaning into our faith, by leaning into our ability to demonstrate that the good of this world far outweighs the evil,” Moore said.

Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said pluralism has the power to combat hate. “We are calling on our congregants to stand tall against hate, stand together as one country and one people,” he said.

Beth Shir Shalom Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels chose to share his message via song, calling on everyone to fight hate with love. “Love, only love with all your heart; love, only love with all your soul,” he sang, finger picking the guitar strapped across his body.

“We needed that,” American Muslim leader Edina Lekovic said, thanking Comess-Daniels.

Rachel Simmons, a third-year rabbinic student at American Jewish University and a rabbinic intern at Shomrei Torah Synagogue, told the Journal that when she learned about the attack she cried. She then reached out to her teacher, Rabbi Aryeh Cohen, asking what to do.

Cohen, a professor of rabbinic literature at American Jewish University, told her about the gathering and they attended together. “The only way we to get through this is if we have each other’s backs,” Cohen told the Journal.

Simmons agreed. “For me, one of the holiest things you can do is accompany someone in their grief,” she said. “My duty is to show Muslims their pain is my pain.”

“See,” Cohen said. “She is my student.”

For many Jews, the gathering was also an opportunity to repay the favor after last year’s shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, when Muslim community members raised funds for the families of the 11 victims and even offered to stand guard outside synagogues on Shabbat.  

“For me, one of the holiest things you can do is accompany someone in their grief. My duty is to show Muslims their pain is my pain.” — Rachel Simmons 

“I saw the amount of support the Jewish community was shown with Pittsburgh,” Wilshire Boulevard Temple (WBT) Cantor Lisa Peicott told the Journal, “and I just knew I had to be here to show the Muslim community we are in full support and we stand together against all kinds of hate and intolerance.”

“As Jewish people, we are standing up for those who are dealing with such horrible acts of violence, showing that we not only are thinking of them, but we are here standing and reaching out, as they have done with us,” WBT Rabbi Susan Goldberg said. 

And as Jewish communities come together to support their Muslim brothers and sisters, the Tree of Life congregation in Pittsburgh currently is raising funds for families of the New Zealand victims. As of press time, it had raised nearly $16,000 of its $100,000 goal.

“We stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters and mourn alongside the families and friends who have lost loved ones in this unconscionable act of violence,” Tree of Life said in a statement. “We will continue to work toward a day when all people on this planet can live together in peace and mutual respect.”

Los Angeles-based NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change also issued a statement, saying, “As we begin another week here at NewGround, our team is thinking of the families mourning in New Zealand. We are also thinking about how our emphasis on understanding and plurality becomes more relevant by the day.”

Michael Jeser, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of San Diego County, also issued a statement saying, “Today, our Jewish community should say, unambiguously, that these acts of murder cannot be tolerated. Today, we reaffirm our core belief that the hate and bigotry that fuel such acts must be challenged, confronted and condemned in every corner of our society.”

Update: Women of the Wall Activists Shoved, Spat On During 30th Anniversary Event

The Western Wall

Protests broke out at the Western Wall on March 8 when thousands of women who were part of the egalitarian group Women of the Wall were reportedly spat on and shoved by ultra-Orthodox Jews.

The ultra-Orthodox men and women tried to prevent the Reform group from praying at the site; the service marked the 30th anniversary of Women of the Wall and coincided with International Women’s Day.

Women of the Wall is a feminist prayer group that advocates for equality of worship at the Kotel.

One of the women coming to pray alongside Women of the Wall was Rabbi Laura Geller of Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills. Geller has been a supporter of Women of the Wall since its origin and said she’s never seen anything like this in all her years attending services at the wall.

“I once had my tallis confiscated, there has been lots of time where there has been harassment but I have never personally experienced direct violence but it was really bad,” Geller told the Journal Monday adding it was “so bad that for the first time in 30 years we stopped prayer in the middle of hallal, and we evacuated ourselves out which was miraculous in itself.”

Currently, there are three sections at the Wall: a female-only side, a larger men-only section and, since 2000, an egalitarian section south of the main plaza where men and women pray together.

Orthodox Judaism prohibits men and women from praying together.

According to the Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation, 6,000 Charedi protesters gathered to protest the 150 female activists of Women of the Wall.

Geller said busses of orthodox men and women showed up that morning to harass the women and men who were supporting the women’s group. The rabbi added that it came from billboards and posters of the new Israeli conservative group Hazon encouraging followers to protest.

One flyer read, “Reform Jews at the Kotel? That’s not normal! The question of whether, on Friday, there will be sanctification of God or, God forbid, the opposite, depends on the attendance of each and everyone of you, and your encouragement of friends and family to join and organize additional shuttles! Below are a list of subsidized shuttles, and contact people. Sign up in advance! Hazon: Setting a Jewish agenda in the country.”

“What we were doing ‘which was offensive’ was praying out loud, wearing tallit, wearing tefillin,” Geller said. “Those behaviors initially, it wasn’t legal to do because the wall is essentially an ultra-Orthodox synagogue. But it is now legal. It is legal for women and most recently on March 6, the day before Rosh Chodesh, the attorney general sent a letter to the rabbi of the wall saying it is not a violation of local customs. So nothing we were doing was illegal.”

In a statement, Rabbi of the Western Wall Shmuel Rabinowitz said, “the Western Wall plaza is not a…demonstration area and asked [for attendees] to refrain from provocations, and to guard the Western Wall as a unified place, and not a place of division.”

Police intervened and the wall worshipers said they were spat on and shoved by girls attending the religious seminaries, the report from Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation said. The Women of the Wall activists moved to the egalitarian plaza, known as the Ezrat Yisrael section, to prevent further backlash.

New York Times reporter Bari Weiss, who attended the Women of the Wall event at the Kotel, tweeted: “I had never been spit on in my life before this morning — when I went to the Kotel to check out Women the Wall. Turns out their opponents are *really* into spitting.”

Police confirmed a 20-year-old ultra-Orthodox man had been arrested after he tried to attack an officer in the area, the Jerusalem Post reported.

“We are not at war,” Women of the Wall wrote on Twitter. “We just want to pray as we believe.”

This story was updated Monday, March 11 to incorporate quotes from Rabbi Laura Geller. 

Downtown L.A. Mural Triggers Accusations of Anti-Semitism

Photo courtesy of Artists4Israel

A mural in downtown Los Angeles depicting the Grim Reaper wrapped inside an American flag emblazoned with Jewish stars, gripping a baby, cradling a missile and surrounded by snakes, has been deemed anti-Semitic by several civic leaders and organizations, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office. 

“This mural is a shameful act of anti-Semitism,” Alex Comisar, a spokesman for Garcetti, said in a statement. “Imagery like this should have no place in our city.”

The image, on the exterior wall of The Vortex, a performance and event space in an industrial downtown neighborhood, was first painted in 2011 by local artist Vyal Reyes as part of an art show titled, “LA vs. WAR.” In 2018, Reyes said on his Instagram page that the work was inspired by a trip he took “to Palestine some years back.” 

However, the controversy didn’t erupt until Feb. 25, when Zhenya Rozinskiy of boutique consulting firm Mirigos shared a photograph of the mural on his Facebook page and it went viral. 

Among those condemning the mural was Progressive Zionists of the California Democratic Party. The group posted a picture of the mural on its Facebook page and tagged the Vortex, stating: “Hey The Vortex, Is this a real thing on your building? If yes, why? It’s wildly anti-Semitic. If not, you should probably clear up the confusion. Signed, Some confused and concerned community members.”

“This mural is a shameful act of anti-Semitism. Imagery like this should have no place in our city.” 

— Alex Comisar

But in an email to the Journal, Reyes said he isn’t anti-Semitic and that he intended the mural to be “critical of the U.S. and its increasing focus on war.

“That particular neighborhood that the mural was painted in was in worse shape at the time and homeless people lived all around there,” Reyes said. “It seemed to me at the time that the U.S. was more into funding war than helping its homeless. Even at that time, the U.S. was funding massive amounts of money to Israel, as they still are. That’s not anti-Semitic; that’s just a fact.”

Jeff Norman, a representative of the Vortex, also defended Reyes. “The Vortex stands for free expression,” Norman said in an email to the Journal. “The artist whose mural includes the Star of David (created for the LA vs. WAR show to acknowledge 9/11 about 5-6 years ago) did not intend to express an anti-Semitic message. We believe his intent deserves considerable weight. We invite those who feel otherwise to paint another mural next to it. We are also open to hosting a public discussion about this controversy at The Vortex.”

But on the night of Feb. 25 or the morning of Feb. 26, the words “No place for hate” were painted over the mural. While it’s unclear who was responsible for defacing the mural, the artists’ rights organization Artists 4 Israel sent a photograph of the defaced mural to their email list subscribers on Feb. 26. 

When asked if his group was responsible for painting over the mural, Artists 4 Israel CEO Craig Dershowitz told the Journal that he did not have any comment, although he conceded that he was troubled by the mural’s imagery.

As of press time, The Vortex had not made any effort to repair the mural or to notify the police about the defacement, Norman said.

Meanwhile, the Anti-Defamation League has called for the mural’s removal.

“For a venue that purports to welcome the community, The Vortex should join us in condemning hateful imagery that invokes anti-Semitic canards conflating Jews with death, snakes, bombs and killing babies,” the organization said in a statement.

Swastikas, Bloodstains Found in L.A. Park

Screenshot from Twitter.

Police are currently investigating a series of bloodstains and two swastikas drawn in blood discovered March 4 at Pan Pacific Park in Los Angeles’ Fairfax district.

KTLA reports the bloodstains were found in a bathroom at the park, and the swastikas were drawn on a cement wall close to the playground. Red footprints could be seen going to a nearby 7-Eleven and Coffee Bean. The site of the blood and swastikas is close to the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust.

According to the Los Angeles Police Department, the .discovery was made around 6:45 a.m. LAPD Officer Norma Eisenman said investigators believe the blood came from someone who had suffered an accident, a self-inflicted injury or a criminal act.

Bloodhounds were brought in and followed a scent for several blocks going south, then east, before losing the trail, Eisenman said.

City Councilman David Ryu issued a statement, saying, “Acts of hate and anti-Semitism are deeply painful and have no place in the city of Los Angeles.”

The Anti-Defamation League’s Los Angeles chapter tweeted:

A hate incident report was generated. Detectives are still searching for the injured party.

The Many Faces of 21st-Century Anti-Semitism

Some of the 80 gravestones vandalized in a Jewish cemetery in the eastern French village of Quatzenheim, Feb. 19, 2019. (Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images)

The ancient Greeks imagined shape-shifting monsters of myriad faces. Today’s anti-Semitism is chimeric or kaleidoscopic. Choose from these up-to-date manifestations of age-old Jew hatred: 

  • Don ski masks and attack an aging rabbi in Buenos Aires in front of his terrified wife
  • Shame a French schoolgirl by ripping off jewelry identifying her as Jewish as she walks home from school
  • In the dead of night, use spray paint and black markers to deface New York public school playgrounds with anti-Semitic graffiti
  • Toss bricks through the window of a synagogue — then throw firebomb
  • Overturn tombstones in ancient Jewish cemeteries
  • As a Labour Party politician in the United Kingdom, spout conspiracy theories that the Mossad is already plotting to steal the next national election
  • Parade missiles promising “Death to Israel” through the streets of Tehran
  • Pass a fetid stream of United Nations Human Rights Council resolutions ignoring real culprits while condemning Israel for imaginary crimes against human rights
  • If you are an American Democratic congresswoman who tweeted that evil Israel is “hypnotizing the world” — wait seven years to mumble an unconvincing apology
  • As a Latino muralist in Los Angeles, which has the second-largest Jewish population in the world, proudly paint a giant mural on a high-profile commercial space depicting Israelis as the devil incarnate murdering children. Then, after the company owning the space defends you against charges of anti-Semitism, explain how you visited Israel and saw the genocidal face of Jews murdering Palestinians
  • Write an op-ed in the prestigious New York Times implying that staunchly pro-Israel Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was instead the spiritual founder of the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement
  • Preach to African Americans that Jews that their traditional civil rights allies instead are members of “the Synagogue of Satan”
  • Turn Jewish summer camps into vehicles for anti-Israel indoctrination
  • As a college professor in Michigan, renege on a promise to write a letter of recommendation for a Jewish student who wants to study in Israel
  • Organize a whisper campaign to blackball students who visited Israel from running for campus office
  • Harass Jewish-American college students who voice support for Israel or wear yarmulkes on campus
  • Flood the internet with notorious anti-Semitic images dating from the Middle Ages that show hideous Jews as child murderers, shylocks and well poisoners
  • Falsify history by denying the Holocaust or the Jewish people’s 3,000-year link to Jerusalem and the Holy Land
  • Accuse Israel Defense Forces soldiers of murdering innocent Palestinians in order to sell their body parts on the international market
  • Deny Israel the rights to self-determination and self-defense while brushing off criticism with the lie that “anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism”

Welcome to the 21st-century’s horrible house of mirrors in which every reflection distorts the truth about the Jewish people and Israel. Our ultimate vindication against tormentors and traducers will be in the Lord. Until then, we will keep our powder dry.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the associate dean and director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Harold Brackman is a historian and consultant to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Make It Happen

Feb News 2019 with We Said Go Travel:

In 2019, I have been honored to share THREE segments on KTLA TV in Los Angeles for Critics Choice Awards, President’s Day and most recently on “Countdown to GOLD!” as part of the Oscars! Watch them all here:

Lisa Niver on KTLA Oscars Countdown to Gold

Thank you to Rise Global! We Said Go Travel and I are #3 on the top 1000 Travel Blog list! AND I am the TOP FEMALE TRAVEL BLOGGER! Yahoo! #travel1k

Lisa Niver is #3 on the TOP 1000 Travel Blog list #Travel1K

Lisa Niver is #3 on the TOP 1000 Travel Blog list #Travel1K

Lisa Niver is the top female travel blogger on the TOP 1000 Travel Blog list #Travel1K

Thank you to Ms. Magazine for publishing my story about a women’s economic development project in Zambia in their Winter PRINT issue, “A Bicycle Built for Many,” and my article about social media and loneliness, “Unfiltered: Why Jessica Abo’s Book is the Perfect Galentine’s Day Pick!”

I have written for USA Today 10best since I returned to the USA in 2014 but in January, I had my first photo slideshow about my trips to Africa, Canada and Mongolia! Enjoy “Clear your mind in these open spaces made for exploring.”

Thank you to Hannah Lott-Schwartz for featuring me as a travel and cruise expert in her Travel and Leisure article, “10 Amazing Ways to See the U.S. by Cruise Ship!

Lisa Niver in Travel and Leisure

As part of my interview on GRIT for Thrive Global, I was featured in Buzz Feed as well!

Lisa Niver in BuzzFeed Jan 2019

Thank you for following my travels! Here is part two of our adventures in London and my first ILTM conference in Cannes in December.

From Cannes:

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 in July 2019, I will announce the finalists. I expect to announce the winners in September 2019.

Lisa Niver and Patricia Schultz Feb 2018 at the Travel and Adventure Show

Thank you to Patricia Schultz for being our Travel Influencer Interview #100! I hope you get to see 1000 Places Before You Die!

Thank you TEAM ILTM 2018!

Thank you TEAM ILTM 2018!


Here is the link to my video channel on YouTube where I have 899,320 views on YouTube! Thank you for your support! Are you one of my 2031 subscribers? I hope you will join me and subscribe!

Thank you for watching my videos, reading my stories, following along on social media and asking me about booking your travels!

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 discouraged because every wrong attempt discarded

is another step forward!”

“The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it.”

Are you making it happen in 2019? Good luck in taking the next small step to make your 2019 goals come true! 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 on KTLA with Glamsquad

Image of the Week: ‘Skin’ Oscar Victory

Israeli director Guy Nattiv and his wife, actress-producer Jaime Ray Newman, accept their Oscars for best live-action short film for “Skin.”

From left to right: Sharon Maymon, Jaime Ray Newman, Guy Nattiv and Andrew Carlberg onstage during the 91st annual Academy Awards on Feb. 24 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. 

(Photo: Kevin Winter / Getty Images)

‘Spider-Verse’ Director Reveals Peter Parker Is Jewish

Scene from “Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse.” Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Animation

When he was 3 years old, Rodney Rothman made his parents drive by the local movie theater so he could find out what was playing. “I was always fascinated by movies and dreamed of making them,” he told the Journal. Now he’s nominated for his first Academy Award for his directorial debut, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” one of five films vying for best animated feature.

“I never thought that it would happen for me, so, on a personal level, it’s really gratifying and cool,” Rothman, 44, said of his nomination. He also gave credit to the “massive team” that worked with him on the movie. “It required an incredible amount of hard work and trial and error and hundreds of artists working together,” he said. “So, in a bigger way, I felt happy for our whole team because it encompasses everybody’s contributions.” 

Now Sony Pictures’ highest-grossing animated film, “Spider-Verse” introduces a young half-black, half-Puerto Rican hero who is bitten by a radioactive spider and takes up the Spidey mantle. The story takes place in part in a parallel universe where young and older Spideys of both genders — and a spider-pig — join the fight against the villains. 

“We wanted to tell a very intimate story about a teenage kid and his family and express the emotions that he’s feeling,” said Rothman, who wrote the script with Phil Lord. “Animation was a tool for us to make the movie feel even more real than a live superhero movie does. We could take gigantic risks in the way our movie looks and feels. No matter how stylized or abstract the world we’re depicting is, we find that once audiences adjust, they’re completely immersed and engaged.”

Rothman and co-directors Bob Persichetti and Peter Ramsey “all brought different areas of expertise to the movie, writing or animating or storyboarding. We had to divide and conquer and work together to make it happen,” Rothman said. “The movie was so complicated technically. It was like running five relay races at the same time. We’d meet in the editing room every day and talk and argue and figure out what we wanted to do next.”

Continuing the tradition of his movie cameo appearances, the late Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee, who died last November at 95, appears in “Spider-Verse” as a shop owner. “We recorded Stan’s part over a year ago. His scene took on a whole other meaning after he passed away,” Rothman said. “We screened the movie before and after [his death], and we saw the audience’s reaction change. It was very important to us to have him in the movie and have his blessing. He invented an art form that has been interpreted in many different ways by thousands of different people.”

Rodney Rothman; Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures

In the comics, Peter Parker is a nebbishy kid from the largely Jewish neighborhood of Forest Hills and was considered to be Lee’s alter ego. Rothman, who is himself from that same Queens, N.Y., neighborhood, took that notion a step further in “Spider-Verse.” There is a scene that shows Peter B. Parker — the older, alternate-universe Spidey — breaking the glass at his wedding. 

“Peter B. Parker is unique to our movie, but [his Jewishness] definitely came from a strong conviction I had and a joking argument we were having in the office,” Rothman said. “It’s our interpretation, knowing what we know about Stan Lee.”

Growing up in Forest Hills and then in Scarsdale, Rothman was raised in a Reform Jewish home where Judaism was “always part of our lives,” he said. “I was bar mitzvahed. We observed all the holidays and traditions, and I’ve maintained that. It’s an important part of who I am. I have children now and it’s definitely part of how I raise them. I belong to a temple in Los Angeles and I’m looking forward to becoming more involved as my kids get older.”

Rothman, who joined an improvisational comedy group while attending Middlebury College in Vermont, began thinking about how he might combine his flair for writing, comedy and love of movies as a career. At 21, he landed an apprenticeship at “The Late Show With David Letterman” that turned into a staff job. As the show’s head writer, he received five Emmy nominations during his tenure.

In 2001, Rothman came to Los Angeles to work with Judd Apatow on the short-lived series “Undeclared” as a writer and producer. “Even though it was only on for a little while, it was a launching pad for a lot of people who became prominent in film comedy, Seth Rogen and Jason Segel among them,” Rothman said. “I got lucky in that regard. We all liked working together, so they brought me along and I ended up writing and producing other things.” 

After working on projects including the films “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “22 Jump Street,” Rothman said he became “more interested in trying my hand at more visual storytelling and relying less on dialogue, [to] find ways to make it compelling and entertaining without words. That led me to ‘Spider-Verse.’”

Rothman’s next project is a new “Jump Street” movie, “24 Jump Street.” “It’s a continuation of the story,” he said. “But it skips over ‘23.’” 

As for the possibility of “Spider-Verse 2,” “that’s well above my pay grade, but there’s certainly talk of it, and hopefully it will happen,” Rothman said. “Everyone is excited, not only to keep telling the story but also to take the spirit of innovation behind this movie and see where it will lead us next time.”

Behind the Admissions Process at de Toledo High School

de Toledo High School

On March 8, dozens of high schools across Los Angeles, including several Jewish ones, will send out notices of admission. It’s a stressful time for families applying. It’s also an extra-busy time for the admissions professionals charged with making the decisions. 

The Journal spoke with de Toledo Director of Admissions Michelle November about the process at that high school. 

This year, as in recent years, de Toledo will accept approximately 100 students into ninth grade and take a much smaller number for 10th and 11th grades. Unlike some schools, de Toledo does not release the number of applicants it receives. 

“We’re not really about a rate,” November said. “We’re about the fit. Is this child a good fit for our school and are we a good school for that child?” 

However, she did make it clear that de Toledo does not accept everybody who applies. Although it may seem obvious, de Toledo accepts only Jewish students. However, they don’t have to have attended a Jewish elementary and/or middle school, or speak fluent Hebrew. 

“Jewishly, we are very diverse,” November said. “And that’s our goal. It’s exciting to be a point of entry for a family. Maybe they have not participated much [in Jewish life] and this is an exciting first step. That’s just as valuable as a family that has always participated.”

The school seeks students from a range of middle schools, both public and private, Jewish and not. “It’s refreshing and it’s more reflective of the real world,” November said.

De Toledo seeks students from a range of middle schools, both public and private, Jewish and not. “It’s refreshing and it’s more reflective of the real world.”

— Michelle November

Not surprisingly, grades and test scores matter. “We’re looking for students capable of being successful with our academic program, which is a dual curriculum, with extra Jewish studies and Hebrew class,” she said. “De Toledo is a rigorous, college-prep high school.” That said, a B-minus in seventh-grade science isn’t going to disqualify someone. November and her colleagues also recognize that not everyone is an ace when it comes to taking standardized tests. “Most people aren’t strong in everything,” she said. “We are really big-picture people.”

Nonetheless, there are deal breakers, including significant disciplinary issues. Another is an excess of unexcused absences and tardies on a transcript.

One factor that does not come into play in admissions decisions at de Toledo is a family’s finances. Admissions decisions are made blind. That means whether or not a family can afford the approximately $39,000 yearly tuition has no impact on a student being admitted. Financial aid decisions regarding what the school calls “tuition assistance” are made separately.

For families who are thinking about de Toledo for their current sixth- or seventh-grader, November said it’s important to get to know the school. While families don’t accrue points for coming to the annual open house (typically held in early November) or taking a parent tour, for example, she said these opportunities are invaluable in seeing what de Toledo is about — “raising up A-plus human beings.” 

The school, November said, seeks families “that get who we are and value who we are.” She added it’s difficult to get the full picture if your only experience of the school is via the website or a brochure. Students in eighth grade and older also have the option to do a half-day shadow day, during which they are paired with two student ambassadors and get to attend classes, clubs and stay through lunch.

For those who do decide to apply, honesty and transparency are key. “We like to be upfront with everything,” November said. “We hope and ask that parents will do the same for us. Surprises later are usually detrimental to the student.”

November also recommended allowing prospective students to speak for themselves. She said it usually is obvious when a parent has filled out the student portion of the application. She gave the example of asking applicants about their stated interests on their applications during the interview only to find out they actually have very little interest in those areas. What happened? “Sometimes parents check off interests for students,” she said. 

Because November and her two colleagues who also do interviews make every effort to get to know each student, she discourages advance prepping. “I would rather the child be him- or herself,” she said. “I have more of a sense of who that child is, who to introduce them to next, whether a particular athletic coach, the engineering teacher, or the director of drama, musical theater and vocal performance.”

Each year, November does have to make tough admissions decisions. But, she said, “my goal is to have all my interactions be kind and compassionate and truth-telling.”

ISIS Supporting Group Posts Image Threatening LA Building

Photo from Pixabay.

A group that supports the terror organization ISIS posted an image online that showed a building in downtown Los Angeles exploding.

The photo, which was posted on Feb. 14, shows the explosion photoshopped onto the AON Center on Wilshire Boulevard, with a masked man watching on and holding an ISIS flag. The name of the group has not been publicly identified.

The Los Angeles Police Department tweeted on Feb. 15 that they didn’t believe the threat was “credible,” but they are taking it “very seriously.”

“You have to take this very seriously because the fact is that skyscrapers here in Los Angeles have been a target by terrorist organizations,” terrorism expert Steve Gomez told ABC7, pointing to a 2002 al-Qaeda plot targeting the U.S. Bank Tower that was ultimately thwarted by law enforcement.

Those working at the AON building reportedly didn’t notice anything suspicious on Feb. 15.

Anyone who sees something suspicious is encouraged to contact law enforcement by calling (877) 284-7328.

Israel’s 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.

Israel’s 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. as guests 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 Detroit, San Diego, Palm Springs, San Francisco and Seattle. The other which ends March 2, stops in 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 student, 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.”