November 16, 2018

What’s Happening in Jewish L.A. Mar. 31-April 5: Spago Seder, Nancy Spielberg and More

SAT MARCH 31
SPAGO SEDER

Spago Beverly Hills’ 34th annual seder serves up unleavened flatbread seasoned with shallot and thyme; homemade gefilte fish of whitefish, carp and pike; Judy Gethers’ matzo balls; and other items prepared by chef de cuisine Tetsu Yahagi. Meanwhile, executive pastry chef Della Gossert offers a menagerie of macaroons and macarons, fromage blanc cheesecake and more. Husband and wife Rabbi Arnold Rachlis and Cantor Ruti Braier of University Synagogue of Irvine lead services. The evening raises funds for Mazon: The Jewish Response to Hunger. 5:30 p.m. $195 per adult, $80 per child under 12. Spago, Beverly Hills. 176 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills. (310) 385-0880. exploretock.com/spagobeverlyhills.

“EXODUS SEDER CRAWL”

You’ve heard of a pub crawl? Venice spiritual community Open Temple holds “Exodus Seder Crawl: A Freedom Seder Experience Through Venice.” Instead of sitting at one table for the entire evening, attendees move from one table to the next on a quest driven by the Four Questions. Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for surprises. 4-7 p.m. $36. The Open Temple, 1422 Electric Ave., Venice. (310) 821-1414. opentemple.org.

MALIBU SEDER

Join Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue for an inspirational, communitywide seder, led by Rabbi Michael Schwartz and Cantor Marcelo Gindlin. The family-friendly evening features a fully catered, four-course meal; an English-Hebrew hagaddah; and traditional songs, stories and spiritual insights. 5-9 p.m. $60, adults; $20, children younger than 13. Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue, 24855 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu. (310) 456-2178. mjcs.org.

SILVERLAKE SEDER

The seder experience held at the Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center revisits elements from its past seders, including a cocktail hour, with child care; a Beyond Bubbie’s Build-Your-Own-Charoset Bar; and a human tableau to tell the Passover story. In addition, an interactive art installation, Ruckus Roots’ “Freedom of Speech Wall,” provides a giant magnetic poetry wall on which participants can arrange words to express their thoughts or collaborate by building on an existing poem. The band Mostly Kosher performs live, and caterer Par Terre provides vegan, vegetarian and meat options. 5 p.m., cocktails; 6 p.m., seder; 7 p.m., dinner. $40, adults; $12, kids; free for children younger than 3. The Courtyard at Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center, 1110 Bates Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 663-2255. sijcc.net.

SINAI TEMPLE SEDERS

Nicole Guzik (left) and Erez Sherman (right).

Sinai Temple husband-and-wife Rabbis Nicole Guzik and Erez Sherman and Cantor Lisa Peicott lead a community seder ideal for families and children. The kosher menu includes chicken marsala, grilled shiitake mushrooms and flowerless chocolate cake. A traditional seder plate and wine will be placed at each table. Simultaneously, 20- and 30-somethings come together for a traditional seder led by Sinai Temple Rabbi Jason Fruithandler. Organized by ATID, Sinai’s young professionals group, the evening is open to ages 21-39 only. Family seder, 6:30 p.m. $72, Sinai Temple members; $78, general admission; $45, children 12 and younger. Sinai Temple, Gold Hall, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 474-1518. sinaitemple.org. ATID seder, 6:30-9:30 p.m. $25–$45. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 474-1518. atidla.com.

SOME ENCHANTED PESACH SEDER

Historic congregation Hollywood Temple Beth El tells the Exodus story in song. Attendees sing along to parodies of songs from Stephen Sondheim, the Beatles, Disney, Adele and more. Enjoy a fabulous meal with friends at one of the oldest synagogues in Los Angeles. 7-11 p.m. $20-$80. Hollywood Temple Beth El, 1317 N. Crescent Heights Blvd., West Hollywood. (323) 656-3150. eventbrite.com

SECOND SEDER AT MISHKON

A catered kosher-for-Passover meal, plenty of wine, singing and even some games highlight the seder dinner at Santa Monica congregation Mishkon Tephilo, one of the oldest continuously operating synagogues on the Westside. 7:30 p.m. $30-$70. Mishkon Tephilo, 206 Main St., Venice. (310) 392-3029. mishkon.org.

TRIBE PESACH SEDER

Join IKAR young professionals group TRIBE for its third annual Passover seder. The kosher meal features options for those who eat kitniyot — legumes, grains and seeds — and those who do not. Dairy-free and gluten-free options are available. 8-10:30 p.m. $30. Habonim Dror, 8339 W. Third St., Los Angeles. (323) 634-1870. ikar-la.org.

TUE APRIL 3
ANNUAL WOMEN’S PASSOVER SEDER

Experience the seder through the eyes of women. The National Council of Jewish Women/Los Angeles (NCJW/LA) holds a kosher-for-Passover dinner celebrating prophetess Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, and other women who are “passed over” in traditional Jewish conversations. 6-9 p.m. $45, NCJW/LA member; $55, general. NCJW/LA Council House, 343 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 651-2930. ncjwla.org.

THU APRIL 5
THE FORAGED SEDER

Rob Eshman.

Los Angeles forager, naturalist and self-styled “culinary alchemist” Pascal Baudar and “Foodaism” blogger and former Jewish Journal Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman take a fresh look at Passover. With the flavors and themes of the holiday in mind, they discuss the array of plants that grow wild on hillsides, some having “migrated” from other countries and others native to California. Baudar will share samples of foraged greens to try, and Eshman will note which greens are relevant to Passover dishes. A light tasting of treats conceived by Baudar, Eshman and Skirball Chef Sean Sheridan follows. 8 p.m. $25, general; $15, Skirball members. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. skirball.org.

SUN APRIL 1
JOKES FOR JEWS

Rachel Wolfson.

Stand-up comedy showcase “Jokes for Jews: April Shmuel’s Day” takes place on April Fools’ Day, which also happens to be Easter this year. Performers include Or Mash, Matt Kirshen, Jason Visenberg, Joshua Snyder and Rachel Wolfson. Texas comedian and Flappers regular Adam Feuerberg emcees. Interested in an interfaith comedic experience? The event immediately follows “Jokes for Muslims,” an evening of humor and hummus, beginning at 5 p.m. Jokes for Jews, 7 p.m. $20. Flappers Comedy Club, 102 E. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank. (818) 845-9721. flapperscomedy.com.

TUE APRIL 3
NANCY SPIELBERG

Writer-producer Nancy Spielberg joins Camp Ramah in Ojai for a kosher-for-Passover dinner, Q-and-A, movie screening and dessert reception. The Conservative Jewish summer camp will screen Spielberg’s 2015 film, “Above and Beyond,” about a group of Jewish-American pilots who flew for Israel in the country’s War of Independence. 5:30 p.m. $150. Zimmer Retreat and Conference Center at Camp Ramah, 385 Fairview Road, Ojai. RSVP required at teri@ramah.org. ramah.org/passover.

“REACHING ACROSS THE DIVIDE”

Spend an evening with the Sinai Temple’s Men’s Club as the organization screens a prerecorded debate from August 2017 featuring Sinai Temple Max Webb Senior Rabbi David Wolpe and conservative commentator Dennis Prager weighing in on the great issues of the day. Men and women welcome. 6:30-9 p.m. $10, general; Free, Sinai Temple members. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 474-1518. sinaitemple.org.

THU APRIL 5
COMMUNITY SEDER

The ChaiVillageLA community seder is a lively communal experience featuring a specially written hagaddah and Cantors Lizzie Weiss and Tifani Coyot. Members of ChaiVillageLA — a multigenerational, multisynagogue community that enables congregants to age in place as they grow old — as well as adult members of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills and Temple Isaiah are welcome. The theme of the evening is “Sharing Our Journey.” In the spirit of the Passover holiday, the organizers are collecting new clothing to donate to Syrian children in need. 6 p.m. $36. Temple Isaiah, Social Hall, 10345 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 277-2772. chaivillagela.org.

“500 YEARS”

Filmmaker Pamela Yates’ documentary “500 Years” follows the indigenous resistance movement in Guatemala and how a group of people committed to social justice stood up to power, racism and corruption to transform their country. The 2017 film, screening at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, documents events that led Guatemala to a tipping point in its history, from a historic genocide trial to the overthrow of a president. A Q-and-A with members of the cast and crew follows the screening. 7 p.m. Free, RSVP required. Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, 100 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles. (323) 651-3704. lamoth.org.

Moving & Shaking: Shelley Berman Celebrated, Spotlighting Mizrahi Jews

From left: Actor Cheryl Hines; writer and actor Larry David; Shelley Berman’s widow, Sarah; comedian David Steinberg; and Journey Gunderson, executive director of the National Comedy Center, celebrate the National Comedy Center’s acquisition of late comedian Shelley Berman’s archive of material. Photo by Mike Carano

Comedy stars Larry David, Cheryl Hines, David Steinberg, Lewis Black and Fred Willard gathered on Jan. 30 at the Comedy & Magic Club in Hermosa Beach to celebrate the National Comedy Center’s acquisition of the archive of late comedian Shelley Berman.

Additional attendees included radio broadcaster Dr. Demento (Barret Eugene “Barry” Hansen), comedian Laraine Newman, producer Alan Zweibel and National Comedy Center Executive Director Journey Gunderson.

Sarah Berman, Shelley’s wife of more than 70 years, also attended. She expressed appreciation to the National Comedy Center for preserving her late husband’s legacy.

“No longer the stepchild to the arts, comedy and those who make us laugh are about to have their own place in the world,” Sarah Berman said. “When I found myself surrounded by all of Shelley’s writings, I wondered what to do with all of it. Do I give it to some museum where they let it gather dust before they throw it away? Along came the National Comedy Center, driven by people who have the vision to know that this material and the material of other comedians has a value.”

Shelley Berman died in 2017 at the age of 92. His archive, which spans from the 1940s to the 2010s, includes photographs, contracts, scripts and rare footage chronicling his career in stand-up comedy, improv, television, comedy writing, film and theater.

The National Comedy Center is a nonprofit cultural institution and visitor experience dedicated to the art of comedy. A ribbon-cutting for the center, which is located in Lucille Ball’s hometown of Jamestown, N.Y., is scheduled for Aug. 1-4.

From left: Angel and Susan, two Iranian-Jewish participants of the 30 Years After Legacy Project, attend the launch event for the initiative. 30 Years After requested their last names be omitted for their safety. Photo courtesy of 30 Years After

About 300 people gathered at the Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills on Jan. 30 to celebrate the launch of 30 Years After’s new initiative, the Legacy Project, an archive of video testimonies of Persian Jews who fled Iran after the Iranian Revolution.

The Legacy Project aims to professionally record and collect testimonies as a way to link the second, third and future generations of Iranian-American Jews to their history.

During the event, Legacy Project Chair Megan Nemandoust, Iranian American Jewish Federation President Susan Azizzadeh, American Jewish Committee Assistant Director of Interreligious and Intercommunity Affairs Saba Soomekh, 30 Years After President Sam Yebri and 30 Years After community member Liora Simozar shared their reasons for supporting the project.

“With an eye to the future, it is imperative that an easily accessible, professional digital archive exists, capturing the stories and experiences of my family, your family and countless others,” Nemandoust said in her speech at the event. “We are the heirs to Iranian-Jewish history, and through the Legacy Project we’re committed to preserving it for generations to come.”

The Legacy Project is supported by individual donors and families, and 30 Years After is seeking sustained funding from, and partnerships with, institutions and foundations as well as broader community support.

The project also is seeking additional testimonies.

“This project not only preserves these powerful stories and memories for posterity and academia but uses them to connect new generations of Jews of Iranian descent to their rich heritage, traditions and values,” Yebri said. “As we learn from Pirkei Avot (“Ethics of the Fathers”), no hurricane can uproot a tree with more roots than branches. It is imperative that our entire community join us in nurturing our roots in order for our community’s branches to flourish.”

The event began with a reception featuring nontraditional Iranian food, dessert and tea. The screening of the recently recorded interviews followed.

Since 30 Years After was founded in 2007, it has served to promote and engage Iranian-American Jews in American political, civic and Jewish life, as well as connect local community organizations with the large Los Angeles community of Persian Jews.

Esther D. Kustanowitz, Contributing Writer

Cantor Jack Mendelson (far right) is joined by Temple Judea Rabbi Cantor Alison Wissot and Cantor Yonah Kliger in “The Cantors Couch,” Mendelson’s one-man show at Temple Judea in Tarzana. Photo courtesy of Temple Judea

Temple Judea in Tarzana held a journey through Cantor Jack Mendelson’s real-life stories based on growing up in 1950s Brooklyn in “The Cantor’s Couch,” which was staged at the synagogue on Jan. 21.

More than 400 people attended to listen to Mendelson paint a picture of a bygone day in Jewish America when Jews would flock to hear cantors at synagogues as if they were performing in a concert hall.

The one-man show wed a relatable story of childhood with joyous memories of music and celebration. Mendelson’s collaborator and accompanist, Cantor Jonathan Comisar, wrote original music for the production. Additional participants included Temple Judea Rabbi Cantor Alison Wissot and Cantor Yonah Kliger.

Proceeds benefited the music program at Temple Judea.

Los Angeles Jewish Home honorees Michael Heslov (left) and Dana Roberts. Photo courtesy of L.A. Jewish Home

The Los Angeles Jewish Home’s annual gala on Jan. 23, “Celebration of Life: Reflections 2018,” honored Michael Heslov, a member of the Jewish Home’s board of directors and co-partner at Soboroff Partners, and Dana Roberts, chief executive officer at C.W. Driver, a contracting company that has worked with the L.A. Jewish Home.

The event at The Beverly Wilshire Hotel kicked off with cocktails, followed by dinner and the awards program. Actor and director Mike Burstyn emceed. The Skye Michaels Orchestra performed.

Co-chairs were Lenore and Fred Kayne, Karl Kreutziger, Pam and Mark Rubin, and Steve Soboroff.

“This was a great opportunity for people from the Home and the community to come together and celebrate philanthropy and what they’ve accomplished,” said Kathy Gutstein, senior marketing associate for the L.A. Jewish Home. “We’re always looking toward the future.”

The L.A. Jewish Home is one of the leading senior health care systems in the U.S., serving 6,000 seniors a year.

Rabbi Naomi Levy presents her husband, former Jewish Journal Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman, with the Americans for Peace Now (APN) Press for Peace award at the APN gala. Photo courtesy of Americans for Peace Now

Americans for Peace Now (APN) honored former Jewish Journal Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman and Israeli music icon and peace activist David Broza during its Jan. 29 Vision of Peace Celebration at Paper or Plastik Café/Mimoda Studio.

On behalf of the organization, event co-chair Rabbi Naomi Levy presented Eshman, her husband, with the APN Press for Peace Award. Also presenting Eshman with the award was APN founder Mark Rosenblum, who hired and worked with Eshman at APN, Eshman’s first job in the Jewish world.

In his acceptance remarks, Eshman said he was “very honored to receive this award from the organization where I started my journey in the community, and I still believe what I learned three decades ago: Sometimes dissent is more important than unity, and we must never, ever, ever lose hope.”

APN President and CEO Debra DeLee presented Broza with the Cine-Peace Award.

Following the awards program, Broza treated the audience — veteran and newer supporters of APN, members of the board of directors, executive staff and friends, and family and fans of the honorees — to a short musical performance, closing with “Yihiye Tov” (Things Will Get
Better), a song written in 1977 that became the anthem for the Israeli
peace movement.

APN, the sister organization of Shalom Achshav, was established in 1981 to mobilize support for the Israeli peace movement. It has since advocated for positions that include the evacuation of Israeli settlements and the creation of a Palestinian state.

From left: Odin Ozdil, Los Angeles program coordinator at JIMENA; Iraqi-Jewish activist Joe Samuels; CUFI National Outreach Coordinator Dumisani Washington; Journal contributing writer Karmel Melamed; and Mizrahi Project filmmaker Raj Nair. Photo courtesy of Karmel Melamed

More than 50 local Jewish and Christian pro-Israel activists gathered at the Skirball Cultural Center in West Los Angeles on Dec. 3 for a viewing of the “Mizrahi Project,” a film hosted by the San Antonio-based Christians United For Israel (CUFI), a nonprofit pro-Israel organization, and the nonprofit Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA).

The documentary is a collection of short, personal accounts from nearly a dozen Jews from Arab countries and Iran explaining the persecutions they faced in their home countries and their miraculous stories of escape.

“For almost 70 years, the stories of the nearly 850,000 Jewish refugees who fled or were forced out of the homes in the Middle East and North Africa after 1948 have been forgotten,” said Dumisani Washington, national outreach coordinator for CUFI. “With this film, we are hoping to educate pro-Israel Christian activists and others about these refugees who went on to become nearly 50 percent of Israel’s population and helped grow Israel into the thriving country it has become today.”

CUFI launched the “Mizrahi Project” in July 2016, recording video interviews of Jews living in the United States and Israel who left Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Yemen, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Turkey and Morocco.

Washington said CUFI has shown the film to large groups in St. Louis, Chicago and San Francisco, and will continue to have screenings across the country. Likewise, CUFI staff members involved with the project said they will continue to record more interviews with Mizrahi Jews in the coming year to aid the project’s growth and to help their organization’s Israel advocacy efforts. Individual interviews from the film are available on YouTube and have garnered thousands of views to date.

After the film’s screening, a panel of Mizrahi refugees featured in the film spoke to attendees. The panelists included Joe Samuels, a local Iraqi Jewish activist, and Karmel Melamed, a Jewish Journal contributing writer and local Iranian-Jewish activist.

“We do not see ourselves as refugees or a victim because remaining a victim is a miserable way to live life,” Samuels said. “We picked ourselves up after fleeing the Arab lands and rebuilt our new lives in Israel and America — and, thank God, we’re very successful.”

Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer

Moving & Shaking: Federation Lights Menorah at City Hall; Jewish Communal Professionals Honored

Los Angeles City Councilmembers, City Attorney, City Controller and Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles celebrate Hanukkah with the Menorah lighting ceremony in Los Angeles City Hall Rotunda. Photo courtesy of City of Los Angeles

Marking the first day of Hanukkah, the Los Angeles City Council and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles held a menorah lighting ceremony on Dec. 13 at City Hall.

“The Federation was honored to partner with our elected officials to host and celebrate Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, at City Hall,” said Alisa Finstein, Federation’s senior vice president of community engagement. “This event brings all corners of our community together each year to light candles, sing songs, eat sufganiyot and remember the miracle that happened long ago.”

Among the elected officials and Jewish community leaders who attended the morning event in the City Hall rotunda were City Council members Paul Koretz, Bob Blumenfield, Mitch O’Farrell, Paul Krekorian, Monica Rodriguez and David Ryu; Becky Sobelman-Stern, Federation’s executive vice president and chief program officer; and Federation board member Jesse Gabriel. Rabbis Joshua Hoffman and Jaclyn Cohen led the celebration.

From left: Shalom Institute Executive Director Bill Kaplan and Shalom Institute honorees Michael and Linda Bennett, Adam Weiss, and Arthur Pinchev and Shalom Institute Associate Executive Director Joel Charnick attend the Shalom Institute gala at the Skirball Cultural Center. Photo by Dmitry Rogozhin Photography.

Shalom Institute, the home of Camp JCA Shalom in Malibu, honored four leaders’ contributions and commitment to its organization and to the Jewish community.

About 330 people attended the Dec. 2 event at the Skirball Cultural Center that celebrated the achievements of Adam Weiss, Linda and Michael Bennett, and Arthur Pinchev.

The gathering also raised nearly $200,000 for the Shalom Institute’s Sherut L’Olam Teen Leadership and Advocacy Program, the Marla Bennett Israel Discovery Center and Garden, and Camp JCA Shalom scholarships.

Weiss, president of the Shalom Institute, received the Rae and David Finegood Leadership Award. He has helped the organization secure its land in Malibu, solidify its financial position and begin to implement its strategic plan.

The Bennetts were honored with the inaugural Marla Bennett Inspiration Award, named for their daughter, a Camp JCA Shalom camper, counselor in training, unit head and program director who was killed in a 2002 bombing at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. “Linda and Michael’s unwavering support and vision ensures that future generations can benefit from all Marla was passionate about,” a Shalom Institute statement said.

Pinchev, director of Shalom Institute’s Sherut L’Olam: Teen Leadership and Advocacy Program, which trains students to become leaders on environmental and social justice issues, received the Vision Award. He was recognized for improving the program and engaging more teens from bar and bat mitzvah age through high school.

Shalom Institute staff who attended included Executive Director Bill Kaplan and Development and Community Engagement Director Marsha Katz Rothpan. Other attendees included Jacob Knobel, recipient of the Shalom Institute’s 2013 Emerging Young Leaders Award; and David Spieser, who serves on the Shalom Institute board of directors.

Front row, from left: Camp Ramah in California Executive Director Rabbi Joe Menashe, board members Karmi Monsher and Lesley Wolman and board chair Andrew Spitzer and (back row, from left) Camp Ramah in California honorees Abner and Roz Goldstine and Abby and Jonny Mars. Photo courtesy of Camp Ramah in California

Camp Ramah in California, which operates a Jewish summer camp in Ojai, held its annual gala celebration on Dec. 3 at Sinai Temple.

More than 530 Ramah families, friends and community members celebrated the evening’s honoree couples: Roz and Abner Goldstine, and Abby and Jonny Mars.  The Goldstines are involved in a number of community organizations. Jonny, who is a member of the organizaton’s board of directors, and Abby Mars received the inaugural Alumni Leadership Award.

Proceeds from the evening established Camp Ramah in California’s Mercaz Yisrael: Endowment for Israel Programs, to enhance programs that include Ramah’s Israel Seminar summer experience in Israel for campers, and Mishlachot, a program bringing Israeli counselors to Ramah for the summer.

The event began with cocktails, followed by dinner and the program.

The Conservative camp in Ojai draws young Jews from around the world, who become known as “Ramahniks.”

From left: Masa Israel Journey Project Manager Julia Smelensky, Masa Israel Journey’s new southwest regional director Avital Khaazanov and American Israel Gap-Year Fair founder and Executive Director Phyllis Folb participate in the American Israel
Gap-Year Association Fair. Photo courtesy of Phyllis Folb

The fifth annual American Israel Gap-Year Association (AIGYA) Fair was held at YULA Girls School on Nov. 16.

Participants included Masa Israel Journey’s Project Manager, Julia Smelensky, and its new southwest regional director, Avital Khaazanov; AIGYA founder and Executive Director Phyllis Folb; The Israel Experience at Bar Ilan University’s experiential education director, Meir Balofsky; and Artzi Executive Director Yishai Ashkenazi.

Students attended the event to learn about gap-year opportunities in Israel after they graduate from high school. They spoke with representatives of various Israel-based gap-year programs.

Skirball Cultural Center Founding President Uri Herscher (left) presents Rob Eshman, former Jewish Journal editor-in-chief and publisher, with the Career Achievement Award. Photo by Marvin Steindler Photography.

The Jewish Communal Professionals of Southern California held its JCPSC Honors 37th annual dinner on Dec. 14 at Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel, honoring the contributions and achievement of eight outstanding Jewish communal professionals.

The event honored former Jewish Journal Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman with the Career Achievement Award.

“I’m proud to say that for a good period of my life I was a Jewish professional, and it is so humbling to count myself among people who have dedicated their professional lives to serving this community, upholding its values and making those values come to life every single day,” Eshman said upon receiving the award from Uri Herscher, founding president and CEO of the Skirball Cultural Center.

The other honorees and their awards were: IKAR Executive Director Melissa Balaban and MAZON President and CEO Abby Leibman, the Alan J. Kassin Award for Outstanding Professional Achievement; Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles Executive Vice President Carol Koransky, the Bobbi Asimow Award for Professional Mentorship; Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles Senior Vice President of Philanthropic Services Dan Rothblatt, the Award for Professional Excellence in Fundraising; Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles Director of Community Engagement Ashley Waterman, the Mark Meltzer Young Professional Award; and Jewish Federation and Family Services of Orange County Director of Senior Care Cally Clein and Senior Director of Program Impact Terri Moses, the Dora and Charles Mesnick Award for Achievement in Senior Adult Programming.

“We all stand on the shoulders of the people who came before us,” Rothblatt said. “Recognition from one’s peers is sweet and rare.”

The approximately 230 attendees included Jay Sanderson, president and CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles; Rabbi Sharon Brous, founder and senior rabbi at IKAR; Marvin Schotland, president and CEO of the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles; and Becky Sobelman-Stern, Federation’s executive vice president and chief program officer.

JCPSC Co-Presidents David Bubis and Randy Lapin delivered opening remarks.

Esther D. Kustanowitz, Contributing Writer

 

Letters to the Editor: Rob Eshman, David Myers, forgiveness and Holocaust deniers

Rob Eshman’s Fans Give Him a Shoutout

I will be one of those people who will miss you, Rob Eshman. Your column was always the first thing I read when I opened the Jewish Journal (“The Last Column,” Sept. 29). I truly enjoy your perspective and the many things happening locally and in the world.

Many people think your viewpoint is slanted, but I have found you to be the common sense in the middle of the controversy. Your column has often made me think about how I feel about something, about whether I agree or disagree. I like that. If you decide to have a public email commentary, I would love to be included.

Thank you for your many years of Jewish Journal involvement. It has been your column that has kept me reading the Jewish Journal because I live in the eastern area of Los Angeles County and do not get involved in most the Jewish happenings around the city.

Myra Weiss via email

I’m so sorry you’re leaving the Journal.  (Maybe you’ll write an occasional opinion piece, for old time’s sake?). Even though I feel like I should begin my cover-to-cover reading of the Journal with the rabbinic column on the weekly Torah portion, in reality I’ve always turned to your column first.  They are so insightful and to the point. I don’t know what I’ll do without my weekly fix.

You have led the Journal exactly where it needs to go.  May you find whatever you do next to be rewarding.

Phyllis Sorter via email

In his final column, Rob Eshman announced he is leaving as editor-in-chief and publisher of the bravely open Journal, reassuring the Journal’s faithful readers that the most “Jewish” worldview is an honestly open worldview that the Journal’s staff and readers can, as a complex yet unified community, benefit by if they maintain their grounding in the Judaic belief that “God is One,” while creating an increasingly complex world. Eshman states that the role of the Jewish journalist is to publish stories that reflect the complexities and uncertainties of living, knowing that in publishing stories regarding the complexities of even the smallish Jewish world, one will receive negative responses from somewhere — the Jewish communities in the United States, in Israel or even the small Jewish community in Iran.

A Jew must be courageous in the face of complexity, diversity and even anti-Semitism, yet have sufficient humility to accept those conditions without losing faith in ehad (unity). “Complexity within the context of unity” should continue to be the editorial policy of the Journal.

William E. Baumzweiger, Studio City

How about pitching your personal story as a modern Jewish contemporary replacement to parenthood? That way, the ache in my sad heart would weekly be replenished! Your parents have raised a fine human being. You have been a godsend as well as a blessing to my husband and me. Surviving daily now in this bleak age of that man occupying the White House is horrifying as well as preposterous. But your column (Marty Kaplan’s often, as well) have embraced our hearts, fears and humanism. But asking you to hold back your obvious talents is selfish.

I simply want my letter to be one more of the many you have already received saying you left me in tears and take with you my heart. 

You are never alone or unloved.

Elaine Kretchman via email

Your last column, not surprisingly, was deeply reflective, filled with gratitude and hope. You sound ready for the next (unknown) chapter in your life.

Thank you for enriching us every week with your humanity, your intelligence and your informed reporting. Your column helped me gain perspective on complex issues facing us during turbulent and confusing times in the news.

You will be missed.

Perla Karney via email

I love the Jewish Journal for its ability to reflect different points of view. And the most nourishing in form and content has been Rob Eshman. He will be missed, particularly by this Bronx Jew.

Also, Danielle Berrin’s column (“A Conversation With God,” Sept. 29) reflects humor and wisdom. It’s a distinct pleasure to read a column that makes me smile, think and experience a spiritual backbone.

Rick Edelstein via email

L’shanah tovah to you and your family, Rob. I know that I will miss you on jewishjournal.com and look forward to hearing somehow about your future endeavors. You are doing a wise thing, I think. This is a good time to make a change. I let go of the trapeze at just about the same age as you and I ended up grabbing on to some good bars on the other side.

Howard L. Hoffman via jewishjournal.com

Rob, I am a major Eshman fan, which you know, and although I am also a David Suissa fan because David is a mensch through and through with a heart as big as the Jewish world, I found myself reading your columns weekly often to learn what I thought about this, that or another issue. So, I will miss you in these pages, but am glad that we are friends and I hope that that friendship will continue until we’re both really old men — I have 10 years on you, by the way, but who’s counting? Gmar chatimah tovah v’hatzl’cha b’chol dar’checha!

Rabbi John Rosove, Temple Israel of Hollywood, via jewishjournal.com


David Myers Is Qualified for His New Job

Let’s see if I have this right. David Myers, a professor of Jewish history at UCLA, becomes CEO of the Center for Jewish History in New York, and is deemed by some people to be unfit for that position because they don’t like some of his political positions, not because of his credentials.

My reply, in the words of the Distinguished Professor of Tennis John McEnroe, is, “You cannot be serious!”

Stephen J. Meyers via email


Why Should I Ask for Forgiveness?

I am a Jew and I don’t like nor participate in Yom Kippur. I am a decent person throughout the entire year and there is absolutely no reason for me to participate in a holiday during which I am required to repent for the monstrous acts that I have committed all year long. None exists for me.

Now, I do know many Jews who have been horrible, lying cheats all year long. On Yom Kippur, they fast and attend shul. I ask myself, do they ask forgiveness from God or do these lowlifes consider cheating, etc., as nothing particularly offensive? I spent my Yom Kippur day enjoying a sandwich outdoors and gardening, and I felt completely at ease with myself.

Alexandra Joans, Los Angeles


Science vs. Holocaust Deniers

We never need to fear the Holocaust revisionists (“Rare Holocaust Photos Resurface in North Hollywood Home,” Sept. 29). The secret lies in the paper that the Germans used to print their images. Most of the companies that made the went out of business around 1945. Using fibers, taken from the photographic paper that the Germans used to make their images, today’s science and technology can trace almost to the exact year, month and country from where the images were printed. Because of this, Holocaust deniers can rant all they want about doctored images, but the truth is revealed in the paper, much like the words are revealed from the Torah.

Hallie Lerman, professional photographer, Los Angeles

To Rob, with love

When my friend Rob Eshman suggested I write a weekly neighborhood column in the Jewish Journal in August 2006, my immediate response was, “How can I do it every week? I can’t write about the same neighborhood week after week.”

His response: “So write about whatever you’re passionate about that week.”

Those words have stayed with me ever since, and whenever I wasn’t sure what to write about on any given week, I just followed Rob’s advice.

Well, now that I have to fill Rob’s pretty considerable shoes as the Journal’s publisher and editor-in-chief, I will try to do the same.

My first issue in my new role will be next week’s Sukkot issue. I approach this moment with some trepidation. Already, from my experience of just the past two weeks, I can tell you it is a huge amount of work to produce quality journalism every week.

When I started a spiritual magazine many years ago called OLAM, we had months to put it together. We could agonize for weeks over the articles, the writers, the images, the design, everything. Will I have as much time to agonize at the Jewish Journal? Not a chance. Will I try to be as meticulous? Yes. Wish me luck.

Producing a weekly community paper is, above all, an enormous responsibility. The eyes of a community are on you, on every word and on every image. The more I get into it, the more appreciation I have for what Rob did over the past 17 years as editor-in-chief, week in and week out.

First, I’m learning that everyone thinks they’re Ernest Hemingway, everyone has a piece that absolutely must be published. Rob knew how to manage sticky situations like this — where you want to be honest without hurting people’s feelings — with class and grace. Will I have the same grace? I don’t know. I’ll try.

Second, many readers get angry when they read content with which they disagree. Rob had this remarkable willingness to publish letters to the editor that completely reamed his own paper. Will I be as fearless? I don’t know. I’ll try.

Third, Rob was a journalist at heart. He loved news. He loved everything that would advance a story. He loved stories, period. Will I be as great a journalist and storyteller? I don’t know. I’ll try.

One of Rob’s great contributions to the Journal and to our community is his appreciation for diverse voices. I know from experience. Occasionally, I would send him an op-ed from another writer that I knew he would sharply disagree with, and I’d get this kind of response: “I disagree with it, but it’s well written and well argued.” And more often than not, he’d publish it.

You can never underestimate this talent. At a time when the nation has been as polarized as ever, when people are repulsed by views they disagree with, when disagreements easily turn into animosity, it takes guts to publish stuff you completely disagree with.

Will I have that same courage? I don’t know. I’ll try.

One thing I do know is this: If there is one thing that has bonded Rob and me over the years, it is our love of fresh and different voices, our love of trying new things, our love of shaking things up and keeping readers on their toes.

In fact, when he first brought up the idea that I take over his role, one thing he said was, “Hey, maybe the place can use some new blood.”

Am I that new blood? I don’t know. I certainly hope so.

What I can tell you is that Rob had a genius for constantly providing that new blood. His eyes and ears and taste buds were always open for something new to share with readers. If he tasted something he liked at my Shabbat table, he’d show up at my home the following week and film my mother making her famous galettes.

It is that openness I will miss the most. Those impromptu conversations in our offices about movies, food (always food), the Jewish community (don’t ask), a new book, Israeli politics (always polite), a new person we met, a cool event we attended or that was coming up, a story about one of our kids … there were always new stories to share.

Will I continue to follow Rob’s lead and tell all those new stories with fairness and passion? I’m not Hemingway, but I’ll try.


David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

The last column

Rob Eshman stands in front of his favorite Jewish Journal cover, which never ran. Photo by Lynn Pelkey

So this is goodbye.

I walked into the offices of the Jewish Journal 23 years ago, and it’s time for me to walk out.

As I announced a month ago, I’ll be stepping down as editor-in-chief and publisher as of Sept. 29 and moving on to the next chapter of my life, focusing full time on writing and teaching, and being open to new possibilities as well. If the urge to return to a regular column proves irresistible, you’ll have to find me elsewhere. So this is my last column as editor. I’m truly touched by the numerous kind letters and Facebook posts from people who say they will miss me. For those of you who won’t miss me, I’m glad I could finally make you happy.

A while ago, I realized I had better move on before it was too late. The Journal has been my home since 1994, and it was time to leave home. Twenty-three years. The voice in my head kept nagging, “If not now, when?”

When I told my therapist maybe this was all just a midlife crisis, he raised an eyebrow. “Rob, you’re 57. Midlife?”

As my friends and family (and therapist) can attest, I’ve struggled with this decision. It didn’t come as an epiphany but as a gnawing sense that I had given this place my all, and it was time to stretch myself in new ways.

Each Yom Kippur, we come face to face with our mortality. The liturgy urges us to make good our vows and repair our wrongs before the closing of the gates. And each Yom Kippur for many years, I sat in services and struggled with the reality that the gates are closing, and I had to decide. I would recite the Al Chet prayer, which asks God to forgive us a litany a sins. I would get to the last one — “For the mistakes we committed before You through confusion of the heart” — and beat my breast extra hard. The rabbis understood how indecision could paralyze us, stifling our potential.

In her new book, Rabbi Naomi Levy (who also happens to be my wife) tells how the rabbis believed that an angel hovers over every living thing, every blade of grass, whispering, “Grow! Grow!” Since I first read that passage, the angel’s voice has only grown louder. By last year, that still small voice — kol d’mama daka — was screaming.

Still, I wavered. Letting go of this job turns out to be really hard. It has given me a public platform, a voice. It has taken me around the world: Poland, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Morocco, Germany, France, England, Mexico and, of course, Israel. It has brought me into the vice president’s mansion and the White House — twice — and enabled me to meet and speak with intellectuals, diplomats, artists, writers, actors, activists, rabbis, educators, politicians and world leaders. It has put me on stages from Encino to Oxford, to speak with people like Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Tony Kushner, Ehud Barak, Amos Oz and the brave Muslim journalists whom the Journal has hosted as Daniel Pearl Fellows.

It has paid me to do what I would do for free: keep up with current events, learn all that I can about Judaism, Los Angeles, politics, food and Israel. It has put me into the heart of the Los Angeles Jewish community at a remarkable time, when we Jews are freer, more secure and more powerful than at any other time in our history. It also put me into journalism during a thrilling moment, when the future of media changes weekly, and when what began as a small community paper can now, with the click of a button, have an impact on people around the world.

Maybe I should stop with this litany before I change my mind, but ultimately, those are just the perks of a fascinating job. I am under no illusions about what really made my role so rewarding.

First, you.

When I say the Journal has been my home, I mean you readers have been like family. You are smart, caring, engaged and opinionated. Not for a second did I ever feel I was writing into a void — and, on occasion, I wished I were. “Eshman is a total moron when it comes to Israel,” a letter writer wrote last week. I’ve been doing this so long and have developed such a thick skin, I actually took it as a compliment. Hey, he didn’t say about everything, just Israel.

I’ve always been keenly aware the Journal serves one of the world’s largest and most diverse Jewish communities. As our online presence has grown, so has our community of readers, from L.A. to Tel Aviv to New York to Tehran. My goal has been to make the Journal the easiest and most interesting place for all these disparate voices to meet, to argue factually and honestly, to understand one another if not to agree. I’ve met or spoken with thousands of you over the years and I take comfort in knowing the Journal, 30 years after its founding, remains the one place where all of our many voices can gather and be heard, day after day, week after week. Even as online media catered more and more to ideological ghettos, the Journal remained committed to reflecting the broadest array of views.

My other deep sense of fulfillment comes from having been part of the Jewish Journal board and staff. I was fortunate to work under three chairs of TRIBE Media, the nonprofit that publishes the Journal: Stanley Hirsh, Irwin Field and Peter Lowy. All three fiercely respected the Journal’s editorial independence. Stanley tapped me to be editor and Irwin devoted himself selflessly to the Journal for years. Peter came in at a dire moment and has stuck by the Journal’s side ever since — he continues to be a selfless supporter and loyal defender. If anything, I often felt that if we weren’t raising a ruckus, we were letting Peter down. To me personally, he is a role model for fearlessness and generosity. If you have received any benefit from this enterprise, Peter Lowy deserves more credit than he will ever take.

I’ve appreciated all of our board members over the years, but I owe four of them special thanks. Uri Herscher believed in this paper when the recession had all but finished it off. His commitment to local, independent Jewish press, his moral authority and his wisdom helped bring it back to life. Uri continues to be a mentor and inspiration to me, as he is to so many. Art Bilger was part of the original rescue squad and saw us through very hard times with insight and creativity. Michael Parks, a Pulitzer Prize winner and former editor of the Los Angeles Times, has always been an unflappable editorial sounding board for me. Jonathan Kirsch has acted as the Journal’s pro bono counsel for 30 years. His expertise has been an important part of the Journal’s success, and occasionally its salvation. Tough stories often make for tough enemies. Jonathan Kirsch is our shield.

As for the staff, what can I say? There’s a word for an editor without a staff — it’s called a blogger. An enormous amount of work goes into putting out a weekly paper and a constantly updated website. That work is unceasing, always under deadline with never enough time or money. Whether it’s Tom Tugend, who fled Nazi Berlin and fought in three wars — and still reports for us — or our newest interns, the people who do this work on the advertising, production, administrative and editorial sides are the paper. They are an extraordinary group of people, from all different faiths and backgrounds. I’ll take full blame for any criticism you may have of this paper, but any compliments must be shared with them.

Six years ago, when I asked David Suissa to join the paper, I knew that there were few people in L.A. who share his passion for Jewish life combined with his commitment to fine journalism and an intense creativity. Three years ago, when I first told David I was thinking of leaving, he said, “No!” David can be very persuasive, so no it was, and I’m grateful I stayed. These past few years have been the most exciting.

I know there are Suissa people out there and Eshman people, but as David takes the reins, I want you to know that I am a Suissa person. I am sure under David this enterprise will go from strength to strength.

There is a second “staff” that also has been a blessing: my family. Raising a family in the Jewish community while reporting on the Jewish community has been tricky at times, and often personally hard for them. To protect their privacy, I chose to write about my son, Adi, and daughter, Noa, very sparingly in this space, but know that is in inverse proportion to the amount of room they take up in my heart and soul. Adi and Noa have been my constant joy and inspiration.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in those decades, it’s that nothing is as important to individual success as community. Yes, the community can offer connections and a leg up. But it also will be there when you fall.

My wife Naomi approaches Jewish learning and practice with utter commitment and total joy. She doesn’t just inspire me, she revives my faith when the politics of communal life can sometimes sour it. Being married to a brilliant rabbi and writer has also helped me fool you into thinking I know far more than I do.   

My parents, Aaron and Sari Eshman, are my role models for community and caring. My dad was born in 1927 in Los Angeles, where his father, Louis, was on the original medical staff of what was then Cedars of Lebanon Hospital. I have vivid childhood memories of Mom and Dad heading off to charity events and volunteering for Cedars, Vista Del Mar and other organizations. Like so many of their contemporaries, they have left this city and its Jewish community far better than they found it. I hope I have been a worthy link in the chain.

That chain includes my predecessors at the paper. Founding editor Gene Lichtenstein set an example of journalistic excellence I have tried to emulate. The cover of the first issue on Feb. 28, 1986,  featured a story on Jews and the school busing controversy. Clearly this was never going to be a paper content to run puff pieces.

Gene accepted men-seeking-men ads long before mainstream papers did. After he left, we were the first Jewish paper to run cover stories on gay marriage and transgender Jews. Religion that doesn’t wrestle with contemporary issues belongs in a museum, not a newspaper.

In the pantheon of columnists I most admire — William Safire, Peggy Noonan, Tom Friedman, Steve Lopez, Bret Stephens, Nick Kristof, Jeffrey Goldberg — I put the late Marlene Adler Marks on the highest pedestal. She was a dear colleague who died too young, and could never be replaced.

When I started at the Journal, almost all Jewish papers were exactly what the late Rabbi Stephen S. Wise called them: “weaklies.” They were parochial community organs. The lead  story of one such paper that arrived in our offices back then was, “Jewish Community Center Gets New Deck.” And yes, the entire cover photo was of a wooden deck. This is some business I’m in, I thought.

Today, Jewish journalism is in a golden age: The Jewish Journal, The Forward, The New York Jewish Week, Moment, Tablet, JTA, not to mention The Times of Israel and Haaretz (let’s face it, they’re pretty Jewish) are attracting great talent, breaking stories, providing deep insights and playing a leading role in shaping communal and international conversation. I am indebted to and often in awe of my colleagues in this corner of the journalism world. Of course, Jewish journalism still is, compared with the big guys, a small endeavor. But Jews also are small in number — and that hasn’t stopped us from making a difference. So can our media. Please support it.

I can’t tell you I’m not a little scared. I will miss being in regular contact with the remarkable people who make up this community, many of whom have become dear friends. I have this recurring, chilling thought that nothing will work out and I’ll be the guy at home in my pajamas writing those cranky letters to the editor, instead of the guy at the office who selects which ones to print.

But there’s some comfort, excitement and strength in being open to the uncertainty. That’s the lesson of Yom Kippur:  We know our days are numbered, that life is a passing shadow, and so we resolve to make changes today — haYom! the liturgy repeats — because the future is beyond our control. 

Last week, I was talking all this over with an older and far wiser attorney friend over lunch. I said I’d heard a life transition can be like a trapeze — sometimes you have to let go of one bar before the next appears. “Well,” he said, “as long as there’s a net.”

At first, I gulped. Oh, damn, I thought, he’s right. What was I thinking?

But then I remembered, I have a net, and so do you. It’s called community. It’s the reason this paper exists and thrives, it’s the reason I’ve been doing this job for 23 years.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in those decades, it’s that nothing is as important to individual success as community. Yes, the community can offer connections and a leg up. But it also will be there when you fall. It’s there for you when you get sick or a loved one dies, and it’s there for you to celebrate your successes and your joys. They say journalism is the first draft of history. But journalism’s true purpose isn’t to record history; it’s to strengthen community. No matter what comes next — trapeze bar or net — I am proud to have helped the Journal fulfill that role.

Over the years, many letter writers have accused me of being overly optimistic. Guilty. This was never the column to turn to if you wanted to read the same old dire warnings about how the Jews are disappearing, anti-Semites are everywhere, the younger generation is lost, Israel and the Palestinians are doomed, and every other gloomy prediction that passes as realism.

But it is impossible to do what I’ve done for the past two decades and not be optimistic. I leave this job with a deep sense of the abiding power of community and tradition and the ability of Judaism to meet the challenges of an unpredictable and often cruel world. To be a Jewish journalist is to see an ancient faith renewed in real time in the real world, in all its variety, abundance — and endurance.

Just this week, I was planning an upcoming trip to Berlin for a conference. When I told my wife I was thinking of finally visiting Auschwitz, a place neither of us has ever been, she became  upset.

“Please don’t go to Auschwitz without me,” she said.

The instant she said it, we had to laugh. Seventy-five years ago, who would have thought?

To this day, that somewhat over-the-top 2003 video of Israeli jets flying over Auschwitz still moves me. The weak can become powerful. Refugees can find a home. In a matter of years, enemies can become allies. Things change, often for the good.

But among all that change, the need for spirituality and tradition abides. Just last week, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg posted a photo of him and his wife celebrating Shabbat with their baby daughter, Max. They gave Max a 100-year-old Kiddush Cup that belonged to her great-great-grandfather.

No amount of money or power, no new technology and no social upheaval can erase our deeply human need for meaning, connection and purpose. Judaism has helped people meet those needs for millennia. After 5,778 years, the burden of proof is on the pessimists. Judaism will evolve, of course, but as long as it changes to meet these eternal human needs, it will endure.

So, now comes the time for my personal evolution. I do hope we can keep in touch. After all, I plan on staying in L.A. and, more than likely, remaining Jewish.  This Yom Kippur, you definitely will find me in shul, thankful for having made my decision, grateful for the past 23 years, and eager to open new gates as the old ones close.

In the meantime, I wish you a sweet and healthy New Year. Serving you has been my deepest honor. May you come to know all the blessings that being part of your life has brought me.


If you’d like to keep in touch with Rob Eshman, send an email to robeshman@gmail.com. You also can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism, and on his public Facebook page. Rob will still blog at foodaism.com — without a staff.

I Love You Rob Eshman

It was announced today that Rob Eshman is stepping down from his post as editor-in-chief and publisher of the Jewish Journal. When I read the news my heart paused, then I sighed, then I was sad for me, then I was happy for him, then I stared at the picture accompanying the announcement and thought about how much I love this wonderful man, and will miss him as my boss.

Important to note that my remarkable Rabbi, Naomi Levy, is married to Rob and I love her just as much, so there is no shame in professing my love for this great man. As I begin my ninth year as a writer at the Jewish Journal, I owe everything to Rob. He not only heard my voice through my writing, but fought for others to hear it, even when some wanted me to be quiet. I have built a wonderful life as a writer and I will forever be grateful to the man who started it all for me.

Rob Eshman is my hero for a lot of reasons. He loves his family in a way that makes me believe in love. He comments on my writing in a way that makes me want to do better. He inspires me to be a more informed Jew. He makes me laugh, and think, and hope, and pray. I am a better writer for having worked alongside him and will forever been honored to have been taken under his wing.

To the divine Rob Eshman, you are amazing and I am happy for you. I wish you nothing but good things on your new adventure. I look forward to buying your cookbook and seeing you in temple. You are a wonderful journalist, an exceptional human being, and I love you. Always have, and always will. Mazel Tov Mr. Eshman. Be happy, be safe, and always keep the faith.

 

 

Rob Eshman, longtime Jewish Journal editor-in-chief and publisher, to leave post for writing projects

Rob Eshman

Rob Eshman, longtime editor-in-chief and publisher of the Jewish Journal, has announced he will be leaving his position on September 26.

Eshman, who has written and sold two movie projects while at the Journal, said that after 23 years at the paper, he wants to switch the focus of his career to full-time writing. He will be working on a food book—Eshman writes the blog “Foodaism”—and another movie project.

“I couldn’t be prouder of what the Journal has become,” Eshman said. “And I am honored and grateful to have been a part of it. I will always love this paper, its staff and this community.”

Peter Lowy, chairman of TRIBE Media, which produces the Jewish Journal, said that current President David Suissa will be stepping into Eshman’s role.

“Rob has been integral to the Journal and the Jewish community,” Lowy said. “He brought curiosity, intellect, and a sense of humor to his work.  Most of all he cares passionately about journalism and Judaism—and he showed that every week.”

Lowy said Eshman approached him in late July to begin discussing the move, and together with Suissa they worked toward a smooth transition.

“What makes the Journal great is a great staff, its board, and the community we serve,” Eshman said. “Those will remain the constants of the Jewish Journal.”

The Journal combines news of the 600,000-person LA Jewish community –the third largest in the world after New York and Tel Aviv–with commentary, features and national and international news.  It publishes 50,000 print copies each week in Los Angeles, and updates jewishjournal.com, one of the world’s most widely-read Jewish news sites, throughout the day.

In 1994, Eshman arrived at the Journal after working as a freelance journalist in San Francisco and Jerusalem. The paper’s founding editor, Gene Lichtenstein, hired him as a reporter. At the time the Journal was a print-only publication. The Journal was independently incorporated but distributed via the Federation membership list.

Eshman became Managing Editor in 1997. In 2000, then-Chairman Stanley Hirsch named him Editor-in-Chief.

As editor, Eshman expanded the reach of jewishjournal.com from 4000 unique visitors to upwards of 4 million today. He brought on a greater mix of political and religious voices. He also overhauled the print circulation model, completely dropping Federation distribution and making the Journal a free weekly, distributed throughout the city. Then-chairman Irwin Field was instrumental in seeing these changes through, Eshman said.

“I wanted to reach every Jew,” Eshman said, “especially those who weren’t connected to the organized community. I realized a good Jewish paper was the easiest way into Jewish connection, and I wanted to make it even easier.” 

In 2009, the Journal, like most newspapers in the country, fell into dire financial straits. Eshman turned to Lowy, CEO of Westfield Corp. to rescue the company and help steer it through the double blow that the Internet and the recession dealt the industry. With a handful of other philanthropists, Lowy formed a new board and came on as Chairman. A year later, Eshman tapped Suissa, formerly the founder of Suissa/Miller Advertising and editor and publisher of OLAM Magazine, to run the Journal’s business side. At that time, Eshman was named Publisher as well.

In the process, Eshman chose a new name for the company –TRIBE—to reflect the its growing multi-media nature and broader mission. These moves ensured the paper’s survival, and eventual growth.

“David Suissa brought his passion and creative genius to the paper, and has been an invaluable partner,” Eshman said.

While Eshman leans left and Suissa right, the two wrote often-opposing columns and the Journal came even more to reflect—and combine—strongly divergent voices that would otherwise stay secluded in separate media bubbles.

During the 2016 Iran nuclear deal, which Eshman supported and Suissa opposed, their ability to spar publicly while maintaining a close friendship and partnership drew media attention.

L.A. Jewish Journal’s heads spar over Iran deal, but stay friendly,” read a headline in the Times of Israel.

Under Eshman, the Journal has won numerous press and community awards. It has expanded across other media platforms, including video. Its livecast of the Nashuva congregation’s Kol Nidre service draws 75,000 viewers each year, making it the world’s most-watched High Holiday service.

Asked to name highlights of his tenure, Eshman pointed to two. In 2015, Islamic terrorists in Paris massacred the staff at Charlie Hebdo magazine for printing cartoons they found offensive. The Journal renamed the Jan. 16 masthead of the paper, “Jewish Hebdo,” and ran the offending cartoons inside.

A year later, Eshman oversaw the first poll of American Jewish opinion during the Iran nuclear deal. It found most American Jews supported a deal that the vast majority of Jewish organizations, as well as Israel’s Prime Minister, opposed. The results reverberated internationally, and the White House acknowledged the Jewish Journal as “One of the most widely read Jewish publications online.”  

“To go from a small locally-circulated newspaper to a media company that reaches millions around the world, and has an impact on the great debates of our time while still serving its core readers with the kind of independent journalism that serves and builds community–that’s very gratifying,” said Eshman. “But it wasn’t at all just me. It was us.”

Eshman credits his past managing editors Amy Klein and Howard Blume, former executive editor Susan Freudenheim, and current managing editor Ryan Smith—as well as a slew of talented writers—as instrumental to the Journal’s editorial accomplishments.

Eshman, 57, is a native of Encino, CA and a graduate of Dartmouth College. He is married to Rabbi Naomi Levy, an author and founder of Nashuva. They have two children, Adi and Noa.

During his tenure at the Journal, Eshman, a member of the Writers Guild of America, wrote and sold a feature film screenplay and a multi-part television project. He also created the food blog, “Foodaism,” named one of L.A.’s best food blogs, and created and taught “Food, Media and Culture” at USC Annenberg School of Communication, where he will continue to teach. He has served on several non-profit boards, including, at present, The Miracle Project.

“We wish Rob well and look forward to an exciting future with David building off the base that Rob and his team has built,” said Lowy.

Eshman pointed out that there has been at least one Jewish newspaper in Los Angeles since the first one was founded in 1870. 

“I was so honored to serve this community and be part of that history,” he said. “And it goes on.”

 

 

Letters to the Editor: Money & religion, comparing Trump with Obama

How Trump Is Judged, Compared With Obama

Rob Eshman’s last column was 100 percent on the mark (“The Double Standard,” July 28). Thank you for pointing out little-remembered but very important facts about the Barack Obama administration to Donald Trump supporters within and outside of the Jewish community.

Every ray of truth shines like a beacon in this dark night of Trump.

Myra Newman, via email


Money, Religion and the Alternatives

Enjoy your provocative columns!

Regarding Rob Eshman’s “Religion and Money” (Aug. 4): Why not set up some sort of program for the donation of previously used bar mitzvah suits for those parents and sons unable to afford a new form-fitted, expensive designer suit. This would truly be a blessing.

Joe Goldstein, via email

Many synagogues do allow people with financial difficulties to get reduced-price or free High Holy Days tickets, but it is difficult to get those tickets. Jewish families have been known to have to jump through multiple hoops, which include speaking with temple employees, showing tax returns, writing essays and more in order to get those discounted or free tickets to services that every Jew is entitled to.

“Progressive cost models” are attempts to maintain a balance between the financial needs of the temple and the cost of tickets and/or membership. But here again, these are models that do have heavily “suggested” donation amounts.

Many of us have been unaffiliated for years, and this has been a sticking point. We are bothered and offended that synagogues demand fees, rather than having faith that those of us who can give will support our communities.

The Chai Center in Los Angeles, and Temple Ner Simcha in Westlake Village operate without dues, membership or ticket fees. After 30 years, Chai Center is still open and inviting to everyone. Temple Ner Simcha switched to the no-dues/cost model last year. The Journal published a nice article about the motivations for the switch last year. 

As a donor and board member of Ner Simcha, I can vouch that there are significant financial challenges to creating and maintaining this model. I also can vouch for the positive feelings I have knowing that my support helps Jewish families.

I encourage every temple to examine this model.

Mark Mushkin, Westlake Village


A ‘Bold’ Choice to Become Orthodox

Columnist Gina Nahai’s shock over bumping into a childhood schoolmate, one she referred to as having been “least likely to become domesticated” but now bewigged, long-skirted and with several children in tow at the kosher supermarket, is utterly patronizing (“I’ve Seen This Woman Before,” Aug. 4).

Nahai assumes that the “boldness” she once knew in her former friend had been replaced by a “tamer, more rewarding connection to motherhood and religion.” As one who also traded some degree of social defiance for a similar path of Orthodoxy, I can tell you that choosing to become Orthodox, which went against the paths of all my friends and family, was the most daring and bold decision I ever could have made.

Judy Gruen, Los Angeles


Times Have Changed Since the Days of Leviticus

Dennis Prager is absolutely right that Muslim immigrants are causing Europe to go into a death spiral (“Wisdom vs. Compassion,” July 21). The Journal reader who invoked the line in Leviticus, “When strangers sojourn with you in your land, you shall not do them wrong,” conveniently forgets that in that time, the strangers did not assault, rape and kill their hosts.

Stephen Meyers, via email

A double standard for Trump on Israel

U.S. President Donald Trump holds a rally with supporters in an arena in Youngstown, Ohio, U.S. July 25, 2017. Photo by Jonathan Ernest/REUTERS.

The double standard that too many Jewish supporters of Donald Trump apply to this president was on sad display last week.

A young Palestinian man entered the home of a Jewish family in the village of Halamish on July 21 and stabbed Yosef, Chaya and Elad Salomon to death. No justification. No mercy. No humanity. 

Our hearts cried out for universal condemnation. Our president needed to set the example of moral leadership. As of this writing, he has said nothing. 

Well, not nothing. Immediately following news of the butchery, President Donald J. Trump did tweet. This is what he said: “It’s very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their President.”

Trump was so focused on the perceived treachery of Republicans who refuse to go along with some half-baked Obamacare repeal that he passed on the opportunity to call out terrorists, fanatics and their enablers.

My reaction to Trump’s bizarre tweet was, What if President Obama had done this?

What if Barack Obama had said nothing about the indescribably awful photos of the Salomon family murder scene? His Jewish detractors would have pilloried him — and rightly so.

The contrast points to something more and more apparent: a double standard applied by the pro-Israel community to Trump and his predecessor.

Three weeks ago, Trump recertified Iran’s compliance with the Iran nuclear deal. I believe this was the right thing to do, but then again, I supported the deal originally.  Trump didn’t. But when he reversed himself, did Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fly to Washington and speak to Congress to publicly condemn Trump? Did Trump’s Jewish supporters call him a traitor to Israel and an Iranian puppet? Nope. Double standard.

One week ago, the Trump administration cut a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin on a Syrian ceasefire that leaves Hezbollah troops close to Israel’s northern border.  Israel vehemently opposed the idea. But Trump sided with Putin. “The Americans completely conceded to the Russians,” a senior Israeli military official told Al-Monitor. “The very names of Iran or Hezbollah do not appear in the agreement, and there is no expression of Israeli concerns at all. Our security needs are completely ignored.”

I’m not sure the ceasefire wasn’t the right move. But I do know what holy hell the pro-Israel right would have raised if Obama had signed that deal. In this case, they said nothing. Double standard.

During the presidential campaign, Trump promised he would move the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem  “on Day One.” Jewish and Christian audiences leapt to their feet at Trump’s promise.

Two months ago, Trump declined to move the embassy. The protest from those who applauded him? Barely a word. Double standard.

Keep in mind these all are examples from the past couple of months. Want to go back further? Imagine what the Republican outcry would have been if Obama refused to mention Jews on Holocaust Remembrance Day? Or if Obama had said he “doesn’t know anything about” Louis Farrakhan, as candidate Trump said of KKK Grand Nincompoop David Duke.   

A healthy swath of the Jewish community, and the larger Republican crowd, reviled Obama. But time and again they grade Trump on a curve. Obama signed a $38 billion aid deal with Israel, helped fund its Iron Dome program, stood by Israel during the Gaza War and firmly declared anti-Zionism is a form of anti-Semitism — two years before French President Emmanuel Macron did. Did it matter? Nope. Double standard.

With one notable exception — the Zionist Organization of America’s Morton Klein — the president’s Jewish supporters give him a pass on issues, statements and actions they would have slammed Obama for.

Obama could do no right, Trump can do no wrong. Can you even imagine the derision if Obama’s State Department had blamed Israel for Palestinian terror, as Trump’s State Department did in a report released this week?

Here’s what I wonder: Why does Trump get a pass? Maybe United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley buys Trump all the indulgences he will ever need. Maybe Obama haters simply used Israel as a wedge issue to gain Jewish votes when their real concern was other Democratic policies. Or maybe these supporters cut Trump slack because they believe he supports Israel deep down in his kishkas, or guts, and — so they like to say– Obama just didn’t.

If it’s the last reason, then I have one question that Jewish supporters of the president must consider: Does it matter if you have Israel in your kishkas if you are otherwise incompetent, unprepared, uniformed and relentlessly self-concerned?

In July 2014, the bodies of three Israeli teenagers were found murdered by Palestinian terrorists — a horror no less shocking and unjustifiable than the Salomon murders last week. Almost immediately, then-President Barack Obama sent his condolences to the families of the teenagers and condemned the “senseless act of terror against innocent youth.”

It’s not asking too much of a president to respond with humanity to inhuman acts. And it’s not expecting too much of his supporters to call him out when he falls short.


ROB ESHMAN is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email
him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism
and @RobEshman.

Who killed the Armenians?

Armenian civilians are marched to a nearby prison in Mezireh by armed Ottoman soldiers. Kharpert, Ottoman Empire, April 1915. Photo from Wikipedia

The Journal’s editor-in-chief, Rob Eshman, recently wrote a column under the headline “Morgenthau’s Children,” about the film “The Promise,” whose subject is the Armenian genocide, and he addressed the subject of genocide in general. It was important to remind — or inform — people about the lesser-known genocides of the 20th century and the present century.

He noted the following genocides:

  • The Armenian genocide
  • “Those in Syria in Iraq”
  • The ISIS extermination of the Yazidis
  • “The failed state of Somalia”
  • The Myanmar government’s “persecution, deportation and starvation” of the Rohingya

But there is a word missing from all the genocides mentioned in Rob’s column.

That word is “Muslim.”

Every one of the genocides listed — with the exception of Myanmar (formerly Burma), where the victims are Muslims — was, or is being, committed by Muslims.

I don’t believe Rob intentionally omitted the fact that the perpetrators of all but one of the annihilations was/is Muslim. The fact is that with all the attention paid to the Armenian genocide, one always hears that the Armenians were mass murdered by the “Ottoman Empire” or the “Ottoman Turks” or the “Turkish regime” — but they are never identified as Muslims.

Rob rightly suggested that readers go to GenocideWatch.com for more information.

I took his advice, and here are headlines I saw on the site’s front page:

“Holocaust museum condemns ‘torture and killing of gay men’ in Chechnya”

“Violent Mortality in the Darfur Genocide”

“Syria: ‘Glimmers of humanity’ overshadowed by brutality of attacks on civilians”

“How Germany used Islam during World War I”

(Other headlines included news about Brazil, Auschwitz, Rwanda and Cambodia.)

Again, almost all genocide discussion was about Islam.

One of the least truthful major statements in the history of the modern American presidency was that of President George W. Bush, when he famously declared after 9/11 that “Islam is a religion of peace.”

I understand why Bush felt he had to say and keep repeating that line. But there is no excuse for all the academics and journalists who say it. Islam was a religion of war and violence from its inception, when Muslims forcibly converted surrounding tribes and then all of North Africa to Islam.

Muslims perpetrated the greatest slaughter of one group in history — the slaughter of about 80 million Hindus during the thousand-year history of Muslim rule in India. They even boasted about this slaughter by naming a large area of present-day of Afghanistan “Hindu Kush,” which means “Hindu-Slaughter.”

If Islam is to be reformed, as it needs to be, that reformation most likely will originate with Muslim Americans.

Jihad, or “holy war” — meaning the forcible conversion of non-Muslims to Islam — is part of the very fabric of Islam. The greatest Arab writer, and one of the world’s greatest writers, Ibn Khaldun, wrote in his seminal work, the “Muqaddima” (“Introduction to History”), that what distinguishes Islam from all other religions is its doctrine of jihad.

“In the Muslim community,” he writes, “the holy war is religious duty, because of the universalism of the Muslim mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force.”

Nor was there a “Golden Age” of Muslim tolerance in Andalusia (Muslim Spain). Jews and Christians often were persecuted terribly there. They just weren’t killed in large numbers. Read the recently published “The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise” by Dario Fernandez-Morera, associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Northwestern University.

I note this not to incite resentment against fellow Americans of the Muslim faith. I regard them as precisely that: fellow Americans of the Muslim faith, deserving of the same respectful behavior that any other American deserves. More than that: If Islam is to be reformed, as it needs to be, that reformation most likely will originate with Muslim Americans.

The reasons it is vital to note that Islam is not simply “a religion of peace” are:

• To understand what the West is dealing with when it takes in additional millions of Muslims, especially from the Middle East, where Islam is most violent.

• To understand how much the left — most perniciously in Western universities — lies about Islam, or refuses to confront its negative aspects (while dwelling inordinately on the faults of Christianity).

• To understand why peace with Palestinians is unlikely. Palestinian society is first and foremost a Muslim society. That is why it honors suicide terrorists as the finest examples of the Palestinian people. The Arab and Palestinian conflict with Israel has always been caused by Islamic beliefs, not by a dispute over land.

• To understand why people whose hearts break for Syrian children nevertheless oppose bringing hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees into America and Europe. One is importing a vast number of people, many of whom share few values with Western civilization, and who are the products of contemporary Arab culture, the most Jew-hating culture outside of Iran.

• And because truth matters.

So, to return to the beginning, Rob Eshman is right to remind us to remember the Armenian genocide. We also need to remember who perpetrated it.


Dennis Prager’s nationally syndicated radio talk show is heard in Los Angeles on KRLA (AM 870) 9 a.m. to noon. His latest project is the internet-based Prager University (prageru.com).

Passover and xenophilia

During the traditional liturgy of the Passover meal, the haggadah, we lift up the matzo and say aloud, “This is the bread of affliction, let all who are hungry come and eat.”

When I was a child, my particular affliction was literal-mindedness. My family followed the 3 + 1 branch of Judaism — going to synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, celebrating Chanukah, and holding a Passover seder. For Chanukah, there was no liturgy, and most of the words the rabbis and cantors mumbled during High Holidays were Hebrew — arcane and mysterious to me then.

But the genius of Passover is it brings the service to the home and fuses it to a meal. The congregation shrinks and the rabbi becomes that person whose questions or answers move you most. 

In that intimate setting, the words hit home to me. More than anything else, seders shaped my Jewishness. I had time to read and re-read the words and, as I was prone to do, take them seriously. When it said to question, I questioned.

Oy, did I question. My uncle, an observant Jew, ran a very traditional seder. I asked him, “Why do I have to wear a kippah?”  Why not a baseball cap?  Did God really find the Dodgers so offensive? 

Then it came to the part of the seder when we dipped our fingers in our wine glasses, then tapped our plates to symbolize our sorrow at the Egyptian blood God had to spill to free the Jews. Why, I asked my uncle, did he lick the wine off his fingers afterward — wasn’t that taking enjoyment from the Egyptians’ blood? That poor man. For years, he had to watch me make a show of wiping — not licking — the wine off my fingers like I was a murderer, erasing evidence.

Years later, I continued my antisocial habit. The haggadah declares, “Let all who are hungry come and eat.”  “Why,” I asked my college Hillel rabbi, “don’t we go out and invite all who are hungry to come and eat?” 

My liberal rabbi changed the subject.

Even more strange and mysterious than the Hebrew was why I believed some words I read to be true and others to be just fiction. I never thought for a second that the sea really parted, that the Nile turned to blood, or even that 600,000 Jews ran into the desert all at once.

Yes, what I’m saying is, much of the Passover story we just spent two days reading always struck me as fake news. The story lacks hard evidence. But I still believe in its meaning and guidance. 

At Passover, we 21st-century Jews slip into our pre-modern minds, when the facts of what happened don’t matter — there was no Wikipedia to record them, or Siri to recall them. What matters is the meaning.

“Since the eighteenth century, we have developed a scientific view of history; we are concerned above all with what actually happened,” Karen Armstrong explains in “A Short History of Myth.” “But in the pre-modern world, when people wrote about the past they were more concerned with what an event had meant. A myth was an event which, in some sense, had happened once, but which also happened all the time. Because of our strictly chronological view of history, we have no word for such an occurrence, but mythology is an art form that points beyond history to what is timeless in human existence, helping us to get beyond the chaotic flux of random events, and glimpse the core of reality.”

The genius of Passover is it brings the service to the home and fuses it to a meal.

When the haggadah tells us to remember the stranger because we were once strangers, I take it to heart. When I read that we have to think of ourselves as if we were slaves — even though there is no historical evidence we were — I embrace the ethical imperative of empathy. There is so much wiggle room for the facts in the myth of Passover, but none for the truth.

“A myth demands action,” Armstrong writes. “The myth of the Exodus demands that Jews cultivate an appreciation of freedom as a sacred value, and refuse either to be enslaved themselves or to oppress others.”

In a series of interviews with Laure Adler, published this month in book form as “A Long Saturday,” the philosopher George Steiner zeroes in on this essential truth of Passover.

“Don’t forget (people forget this all the time),” Steiner said. “In ancient Greek the word for ‘guest’ is the same as the word for ‘foreigner’: xenos. And if you were to ask me to define our tragic condition, it’s that the word ‘xenophobia’ survives, and is commonly used, everyone understands it; but the word ‘xenophilia’ has disappeared. That’s how I define the crisis of our condition.

This Passover, I am hoping we Jews do all we can to bring that word, xenophilia, the love of the stranger, back into existence — and do I really have to explain why?

The Exodus may be a myth, but when it comes to its lessons for this holiday, which comes to a close next week, it tells the God’s honest truth.


ROB ESHMAN is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email
him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism
and @RobEshman.

Five Myths (((We))) Tell Ourselves About Anti-Semitism

A children’s playground in Brooklyn Heights, New York was vandalized with a swastika in November 2016. Screenshot from Twitter

My print column this week went to press just hours before news broke that the source of numerous bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers across the United States is a troubled Jewish teenager in Israel.

That crazy turn of events changes everything and nothing.

It doesn’t obviate the problem of anti-Semitism on the Left or Right. It doesn’t explain the increase in cases of anti-Semitic vandalism and online harassment.  It does fuel the partisan divide over anti-Semitism, with the right pointing to the evidence that American Jewish concerns, or “panic,” are veiled attacks on President Donald Trump, and the left countering that there’s more to the problem than one troubled Jew.

Last week, on this very issue,  I got into one of those online winner-take-nothing tugs of war with Washington Post columnist David Bernstein.

He wrote a column criticizing what he called “panic” within the Jewish community over anti-Semitism. Bernstein said it’s not clear that anti-Semitism from the right is on the rise, or that the many reported acts of bomb threats and vandalism are even coming from the right. He argued that the left may be using the reports as a way to delegitimize President Donald Trump (whom, he made clear, he did not support), and that, in any case, these critics willfully dismiss anti-Semitism when it comes from the left, such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

I wrote a column in response, and in the course of our back-and-forth, it became evident to me, based on the hundreds of comments that followed, that anti-Semitism, like Israel before it, is turning into a political football game, and we Jews, for no good reason, are being forced onto opposing teams. 

That makes no sense.

If we can’t come together with a common understanding and response when we are all being attacked, we are in trouble. Circling half the wagons never did the cowboys any good.

So here’s my attempt to get us on the same page: five contentious points on which we can reach some consensus.

1. “Jews are panicked.” No, we aren’t. This was the original point of contention between Bernstein and me, and it’s important. “Panic” implies that vandalism and threats are creating terror in Jewish life, changing our patterns of behavior. There is no evidence of this. Local Jewish groups have wisely reviewed and strengthened their security measures. Life goes on. There is definitely concern, just as you’d expect. But more Jews are upset about Russian hacking and having to cook two Passover seders. Saying Jews are “panicked” gives a victory to the perpetrators that they don’t deserve.

2. “Anti-Semitism is getting worse.” Maybe, maybe not. The Los Angeles and New York police departments both report 100 percent increases in anti-Semitic incidents over the same period last year. But the FBI, which tracks statistics nationally, has yet to release the numbers for 2016. So the answer is: We don’t know. And even if the numbers come in high, we need to be wary of pointing fingers. According to the New York Hate Crime Task Force, from 2011 to 2012 hate crimes in New York City jumped 54.5 percent, from 242 to 375. That was long before Donald Trump.

3. “Jews don’t pay attention to anti-Semitism on the left.” Can this pernicious talking point go away? It simply isn’t true. The entire mainstream Jewish community, which includes all those Obama-loving liberals, has mobilized far more time and resources countering the BDS movement than it has this recent outbreak of anti-Semitism. New initiatives, conferences, policy studies — heck, entire organizations — have been launched and funded to counter BDS and the anti-Israel push on college campuses. Liberal Jewish groups like New Israel Fund and J Street have taken clear stands against BDS precisely because it is founded on the deeply anti-Semitic idea that of all the people on earth, Jews alone have no right to live securely in their own country. These left-leaning groups deserve as much support and praise as the conservative Jews who have stood up to forces from the Trump camp at the risk of losing support within their own constituency.

4. “It will pass.” No, it won’t. Whether you lean left or right, don’t think of anti-Semitism as a pimple to be popped, but more like a chronic disease to be treated.  It’s not going anywhere.  Witness the rise of hard-core fascist movements in Europe.

“Before, pro-fascist sentiments were kept hidden,” a Slovakian activist told The New York Times’ Rick Lyman. “Parents would tell their children, ‘You cannot say this at school.’ Now, you can say things in the public space that you couldn’t say before.”

This is true on the left and right fringes of American life as well — and nothing indicates it is ever going away for good.

5. “Israel will save us.” It may, or it may throw us under the bus. So far, the response from Israel and the Israeli press has been a combination of ignorance, obfuscation and wish fulfillment. In his first public meeting with Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, instead of speaking forcefully against anti-Semitism and Trump’s refusal to mention Jews in correlation with the Holocaust, stayed mum. The opposition leader, Isaac Herzog, went to the other extreme, asking for a plan to absorb American Jewry, who presumably would evacuate en masse at the first tipped-over tombstone. And the Israeli press is full of foreboding stories on the beginning of the end of American Jewry, though, of course, more of them end up moving here. As Shmuel Rosner has pointed out in these pages, how Israel reacts will always have more to do with Israel’s agenda. American Jews have to assume we’re on our own — which means we are better off united than apart. n

Letters to the editor: Fear of Muslims, praise for Bret Stephens, quiet Trump supporters

Photo from Pexels.

‘Kapos’ and Auschwitz

I read the letter from a survivor indicating that all “kapos” at Auschwitz were of the German criminal groups assigned to Auschwitz (Letters, Feb. 24). With all due respect, and I hesitate to take historical issue with survivors whose act of witness I revere, but I must. While that may have been true of his experience, it is not true of Auschwitz and certainly not of other camps.

Michael Berenbaum, Director of Sigi Ziering Institute, American Jewish University via email

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

My husband is not afraid of heights. He is not afraid of snakes. And he is not afraid of the sun (“The Rabbi Speaks Out,” Feb. 10). But, he is very scared of Muslims — Muslim mentality and Muslim savagery. I know because I have heard him repeat it daily for the past 46 years. 

He is afraid of Muslims because as a child living as a Jew among them, he was already witness to many atrocities committed by them.

Your mother-in-law’s aunts and uncles and cousins were murdered in the Holocaust, as were mine, but my husband’s kin were slaughtered in the streets of Algiers by Muslims.

Yes, Jews have been refugees and immigrants and have been given safe haven, myself included.

But Jews do not terrorize. Jews do not massacre. Jews do not create havoc worldwide.

I am proud of my husband because, unlike many North American Jews who either suffer from short-term memory or are brainwashed, he always remembers the inhumanity and is never afraid of being politically incorrect.

He is not afraid of speaking out against Muslims, the perpetrators of so much repeated evil against the Jews and against the world.

Naomi Atlani via email

Smart Words About Trump

I read your article on Bret Stephens taking on Donald Trump (“Five Dumb Words,” Feb. 24.) I have never been so moved. This put everything in perspective.

I want everyone I know to see this, even though I know true Trump supporters would make an excuse that this is liberal BS. They will not hear it.

Thank you for publishing this and do not stop.

Sherry Pollack via email

Daily Bruin Cartoon

I can see how some people would find the editorial cartoon that appeared in the Daily Bruin offensive, but as a Jew I believe it’s important not to assume that cartoons and articles critical of Israeli policies are necessarily either anti-Israel or anti-Semitic (“Bruin Cartoon Assailed as Anti-Semitic,” Feb. 17). I protested vigorously against the policies of the United States during the Vietnam War and approved of cartoons and articles that did the same. However, I certainly was/am not anti-American. Likewise, many of us who decry the continued building of settlements that encroach on Palestinian land are against this Israeli policy, but are not against Israel and are not anti-Semitic.

Barbara Bilson via email

No Bull From Suissa

Recently, I was introduced to David Suissa in a restaurant. When he asked me which side I am on, I responded, “On the right side: the left.” Thus, one might surmise that I often disagree with his views. However, in his recent column (“Is Trump Worse Than a Liar?” Feb. 24) he hit the nail on the head regarding Donald Trump. To summarize, he explains how bullshit is the greater enemy of truth than lies. While liars know, but manipulate the truth, bullshitters are unanchored to the truth and create “alternate realities.” I would go a step further. Although I am neither a psychiatrist nor a psychologist, I believe that a tenuous connection to reality is usually diagnosed as schizophrenia. The more common term is madness. May God have mercy on us all.  

Michael Telerant, Los Angeles

Instigating the ‘Haters’

While I agree with the nuances covered by Shmuel Rosner (“Spite Doesn’t Make Trump Anti-Semitic,” Feb. 24), unless one has been and still is like a proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand, Trump’s vitriol, rhetoric and hate encourages haters to act out. Yes, some are anti-Semitic.

Whether or not he is a friend of Israel and has a daughter and grandchildren who are Jewish, actions have consequences and his are the worst ever in the White House.

Bottom line: Anti-Semitism is on the rise due to his comments and lack of respect for all.

Warren J. Potash, Moorpark

Silent Support for Trump

The demonizing of Donald Trump in the Jewish Journal will solidify his victory in the 2020 election, as it did in 2016. Unlike the liberal opposition, unlike the Democratic opposition, the backers of Trump are a quiet lot. They do not send hate letters, they do not burn office buildings, they respect the U.S. Constitution, they do not denigrate the founding fathers, but their determination to restore the values that enabled us to defeat the enemies of freedom in World War II will again prevail, thanks to them.

Philip Springer, Pacific Palisades

Letters to the editor: Responses to immigrants and Trump, Journal’s 30th anniversary, Stephen Miller on Stephen Miller

Iranian Jews and Trump

I enjoyed reading Gina Nahai’s column (“Trump’s in the Torah,” Feb. 3). I am an immigrant of the post-World War II era. I, as well as most of my fellow immigrants, was grateful for the opportunity to live in a civil society. Most of us felt that liberal democracy gave us, as well as the rest of the nation, the opportunity for a better life and to thrive.

This has not been true of most of the later immigrants from despotic regimes. Nahai describes the situation among the Iranian-Jewish community. I also notice similar attitudes among the immigrants from the former USSR.

What is it about those who escaped despotism but admire autocracy? The general feeling that I get is they believe that allowing freedom of action and tolerance of opposing opinions are signs of weakness. They feel that leaders who allow dissent are foolish and taken advantage of.

What is so good about intolerance and autocracy that it prompted them to escape? How well has it worked out for the countries that adopted these ideologies?

Michael Telerant, Los Angeles

30 Years and Counting

Thank you Jewish Journal for 30 years of diverse thought and opinion! I’m saddened by the nasty comments against Rob Eshman’s columns, particularly letters in response to “Thank You, Obama” (Jan. 20). It’s important for differing opinions to be expressed — through civility.

May your/our Jewish Journal continue in strength and diversity! 

Robin Siegal via email

Congratulations on the Journal’s 30th anniversary. I am thrilled you continue to make it a great paper providing a real service to the Jewish community.

Gordon Gelfond, Beverly Hills

Rob Eshman: Agree or Disagree?

The omission of Jews from the Trump administration’s Holocaust statement cannot be defended as Rob Eshman makes clear (“A Holocaust Without Jews,” Feb. 3). But we would be well advised to watch what he does, because saying the right thing is no indication that actually doing the right or smart thing is likely to follow.

Let us hope, for example, that Trump’s Middle East policies and his handling of Iran will help control the fires lit in the Middle East during the Obama administration and that are still raging. 

Stupidity abounds in politics. Let us hope Trump learns more quickly than the previous administration.

Julia Lutch via email

I read Rob Eshman’s workout of Stephen Miller’s ancestry (“Stephen Miller, Meet Your Immigrant Great-Grandfather,” Aug. 12). My name is Stephen Miller and my ancestry is similar to my namesake’s.

My Jewish grandparents came to the U.S. from Romania and Poland and Austria to escape persecution. I disagree with my namesake on the question of immigration. In my book “Walking New York: Reflections of American Writers from Walt Whitman to Teju Cole,” I talk about how New York has been revitalized by immigration. The immigration policies espoused by my namesake are deplorable. I usually vote Republican, but not in this past election. Trump is a disaster — and so is my namesake.

Stephen Miller via email

Douglas Mirell rightly believes that repeal of the Johnson Amendment would be an attack on the wall separating church and state, and that we need to cover our ears and ignore President Trump’s call for doing away with it (“Preserving the Barrier Between Church and State,” Feb. 10). 

On the other hand, Rob Eshman’s column in the same issue (“The Rabbi Speaks Out”), which described Rabbi Naomi Levy’s rebuke of Trump from the pulpit over the Muslim travel ban, demonstrates how criticism of the president by the clergy could mount were Trump to succeed in his efforts. I am pretty sure this is not the result he has in mind. 

Joan Watson via email

Trump and Nazism

Generally, I read [Dennis] Prager’s column when I haven’t had my cup of coffee and I need a jolt to wake me up.  His column about progressives trivializing Hitler, Nazism and Auschwitz got my juices flowing (“Progressives Now Trivializing Hitler, Nazism, Auschwitz,” Feb. 10). The purported examples he cites as support pale in comparison to a glaring omission on his part. President Donald Trump’s Holocaust Remembrance Day Proclamation fails to mention its impact on the Jewish people. If Prager is incapable of criticizing Trump and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer for their insensitivity to the Holocaust’s impact on the Jewish people, then he lacks any moral authority to berate those who fail to see the world through his eyes.

Andrew C. Sigal, Valley Village

Letters to the editor

Thanks … but No Thanks?

Thank you, Rob Eshman, for writing what is in so many of our hearts (“Thank You, Obama,” Jan. 20). Well done, but missing one paragraph:

Thank you, Obama, for selecting Joe and Jill Biden, also fine people, who set the bar as high as you and Michelle did as examples for our nation and our youth.  

Again, Rob, a fine and important column.

Pam Pacht via email

I thank you for your “Thank You, Obama” column, and sadly say thank you to the departed Mr. and Mrs. Obama, who graced us with intelligence, wit, kindness and style. Which makes it even more difficult to face our current president, who lacks exactly those qualities.

Rick Edelstein, Los Angeles

Rob Eshman’s column overlooks many of the highly problematic issues of Obama’s presidency. To say that, “In my lifetime, there has never been an administration so free from personal and professional moral stain,” is to look at the world through rose-colored glasses, to say the least.

Obama can be credited with deporting more immigrants than any of his recent predecessors, expanding military operations in addition to Iraq and Afghanistan, and granting more powers to the executive branch, which makes the Trump administration so frightening.

Aaron L. White, Los Angeles

For too many years, the Jewish Journal has been, thanks to Rob Eshman, a Democrat Party publishing organ. Naively, I always thought that the Journal’s mission was to represent all of Los Angeles’ Jewish community’s schools of thought and politics. Marginalizing readers who are not “left of center” will ultimately guarantee the demise of this publication. It is high time for the board to choose a nonpartisan editor with an inclusive world view. Let Eshman embark on his anti-Trump campaign elsewhere.

Ron Rutberg via email  

Rob Eshman should be ashamed of himself and resign as editor-in-chief of the Jewish Journal.

Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for more than 3,000 years, since King David moved it from Hebron (where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are buried) to Jerusalem.

It has been our capital long before Berlin, London, Moscow or Washington, D.C.

Why are you so fearful about establishing its rightful position among the nations of the world?

What can the Arabs do to us that they haven’t already tried? What can the world do to us that Hitler hasn’t already done?

Eshman: Resign.

Betzalel “Bitzy” N. Eichenbaum, Encino

Eshman’s expressions of gratitude have almost brought tears to my eyes but vomit to my mouth.

Keep up the good work, Rob. Your popularity is soaring in Gaza, Jenin and Ramallah.

Giorgio Berrin, Lake Balboa  

It’s hard to believe that a publisher could write such gratuitous fantasies about the Obama administration’s past achievements. There is no doubt that many readers would find this article offensive and misleading. Eshman’s blind admiration of Obama’s “accomplishments” is biased, one-sided, politically wrong and far from Jewish interests.

Fortunately, in the same edition, the Jewish Journal had a sense of balance by publishing the excellent opinion piece by contributor Larry Greenfield (“A Legacy of O,” Jan. 20) describing the true Obama disasters.

I urge all readers to read his op-ed.

Alex Chazanas via email 

This has been such an ugly campaign that it’s no wonder the ugliness continues. Larry Greenfield’s piece on the Obama years surpasses even the alt-right distortions. I was shocked to read this in the Jewish Journal. 

Theresa McGowan, Santa Monica

Opposing Trump

David Suissa (“When Values Divide Us,” Dec. 23) draws a false comparison between those who hate Obama and those who oppose Trump. While I can’t speak for his Shabbat guests, Trump’s ubiquitous lying, hateful speech and winks to racists must be opposed. Yes, Mr. Suissa, these violate Jewish values. The hatred of Obama is, at best, partisan politics and, at worst, latent racism.

Rabbi Mitchel Malkus, Washington, D.C.

At the center, battling left and right extremism

It’s not going to end. 

I’m talking about the increasing demonization of Israel by progressive organizations and individuals. This month it was Black Lives Matter’s platform, and the vulgar cold shoulder given the Israeli Olympic athletes by some Lebanese and Egyptian athletes. 

Next month it will be the BDSers waiting to greet your college kids back to a new school year with mock Israeli checkpoints, divestment drives and protests against Israeli speakers.  

More and more progressive voices are falling prey to the simpleminded and extreme formulations of the radical anti-Israel crowd. These are not people who want a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — they see Israel’s existence itself as unjust. 

The Black Lives Matter platform is the perfect example. It took legitimate concerns over the amount of United States aid to Israel and turned it into hate speech. The platform accused Israel of “genocide” against the Palestinian people — something that should come as a shock to the 4.1 million more Palestinians alive today in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza than in 1948, when Israel came into being. 

Black lives do matter. But when it comes to Israel, so do facts. The only genocide in the Middle East is being perpetrated by Syrians against Syrians. On that, the BLM platform is unconscionably silent.

But BLM’s seemingly out-of-the-blue illogical attack on Israel should come as no surprise to people watching what’s happening everywhere from college campuses to the Bernie Sanders campaign — pro-Israel progressive voices are playing defense. 

“So-called intersectionality and identity politics,” Omer Benjakob writes in Haaretz, have been “conflating progressivism with blind support for BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions], creating an impossible dilemma for liberal Jews who want to be supportive of Israel.”

The fringes have bought the arguments of the Israel haters, and the extremes are eating toward the center.

And who are their greatest enablers? The extremists on the other side. 

In their persistent defense of the occupation, their cynical attempt to paint every act of Palestinian resistance as a stalking horse for Islamic fundamentalism, and their constant support for — or silence in the face of — the settlement project and its attendant injustices, the pro-Israel extremes continue to undermine the strategic and ethical standing of the Jewish state. 

These are the people who keep telling us that Israel is nothing but a victim, that the problem is only anti-Semitism, that if Israel could just do a better job of telling its story, of teaching our children to defend its actions, then the world would understand. 

What they don’t get is you can’t change the narrative without changing the reality. You can’t fix the image without fixing the facts. And the fact is that a democracy cannot deprive millions of people of their democratic rights and remain viable, much less popular. 

Occupation and the settlement project behind it undermine Israel’s security, its morality, its very existence. That’s why the strongest voices against the occupation have always been pro-Israel and pro-security. That’s why people who put Israel’s security first, like Ariel Sharon and Yitzhak Rabin, stood up to their extremists. 

Whether you are Israeli or Palestinian, Jew or Arab, the center is an increasingly lonely place these days. In the center are those of us who understand that the occupation does not justify anti-Semitism, and anti-Semitism does not justify the occupation. 

In the center are those who choose to fight BDS as if there is no occupation, and fight occupation as if there is no BDS. In the center are those who believe neither Israel nor the Palestinians need to justify their existence to anyone. In the center are those who believe the happiness and security of both peoples are inextricably linked to one another. 

The center might not be dead, but it is shrinking. From the left and the right, extremism shows no sign of ending. And if that continues, none of this is going to end well.

ROB ESHMAN is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism and @RobEshman.

Letters to the editor: Immigrants, Trump, kosher rules and more

Immigrants and America

Rob Eshman’s analysis of the world situation that Stephen Miller’s great-grandfather faced as an immigrant versus that presently addressed by Donald Trump regarding immigrants from Muslim countries is fatally flawed in at least three ways (“Stephen Miller, Meet Your Immigrant Great-Grandfather,” Aug. 12).

First, those immigrants who arrived in New York at the turn of the century were not laced with potential terrorists among them. Presently, ISIS boasts of placing members of their community in with present-day immigrants to serve as potential cells in the country they infect. What Mr. Trump said was that he wanted a complete ban on Muslims entering the United States until we can figure out, “What the hell is going on.”

Secondly, your concern about how a Trump administration will handle Israel, where “far more terrorist acts are committed than in Morocco,” is a bit myopic. It avoids the issue of who is committing these acts —  Muslims in Israel or Jews? I’m sure you would agree that it is the former, and hence Mr. Trump’s policies still apply and there would be no anti-Israeli bias (unlike that which exists in our present administration).

Third, if there was no illegal immigration at the turn of the century, then isn’t it obvious and indeed true that Mr. Miller’s family came to the U.S. legally, since all immigration was indeed legal? This is not a ruse but rather the facts.

Michael A. Kamins, Professor and chair of marketing at Stony Brook University

Eshman responds:

1) Immigrants to the United States go through a rigorous multiyear vetting system. Politifact rated Trump’s claim to the contrary as “false.” At the turn of the century, immigration opponents stirred up fears against Jews and Italians, just as Trump and Miller are doing now.

 2) When asked to clarify Trump’s remarks on the ban on immigration from terrorism-infected countries, Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence indicated the ban would apply as well to Christians and Jews. You can’t make this stuff up. 

3) Yes, Jewish immigration was legal, but only because cooler heads prevailed over the drumbeat of prejudice. Our failure to acknowledge the arbitrary and often racist nature of immigration policy should inform our policy choices today — and our compassion.

Rob Eshman displays the all-too-familiar traits of the sheepish and ignorant Jewish left. What is omitted from his diatribe on Donald Trump’s adviser Stephen Miller reveals the fundamental lack of understanding of the risks involved in an open-border policy, which Eshman and others promote. One needs only to look to Western Europe, whose lax immigration policies have led to constant terrorist attacks, rape and abuse of women, and high crime rates. Immigration of French Jews to Israel is at an all-time high. Many neighborhoods within France, Belgium and even England are unsafe for police to enter, all telling evidence the U.S. electorate should ponder come November.

Ultimately, it is liberals like Eshman who will suffer alongside the rest of us from hordes of immigrants whose religious affiliations do not allow them to integrate into an American way of life. Criticizing Miller, given his immigrant ancestors, is as tragically shortsighted as it gets. 

Gabe Vorobiof, Los Angeles

Eshman responds: I don’t advocate for open borders, just for sensible, compassionate ones.

Excellent article about Stephen Miller, son of my cousin Miriam. I guess every good family must have a mutant strain from time to time. This was incredible to read! I grew up in Johnstown and am part of the extended Glosser clan. Had Mr. Miller actually grown up in Johnstown, he probably would have experienced for himself the animus felt by many against the Jewish residents in Johnstown. 

Lawrence S. Glosser, Seattle

The Truth About Trump

It is futile to expect Donald Trump to change his speaking strategy as he promotes domestic discord in his American presidential campaign (“Managing Trump’s Anger — and the Enablers,” Aug. 12). It is foolhardy to believe that he will ever change from being a discord promoter on both the domestic and international scene.

It will mainly be up to Hillary Clinton to expose Trump’s negatives, which are many, in the forthcoming presidential debates. To rely mainly on journalists to do the job for her and her supporters is wishful thinking.

Marc Jacobson, Los Angeles

Scrutinizing Clinton

Raphael J. Sonenshein wrote that Trump’s “behavior and attitudes alienate these [college-educated white] voters” (“A Choice Between Two Stark Visions of America,” Aug. 5). As a college-educated white, Hillary Clinton’s behavior and attitudes alienate me.

First, she is immature. When the FBI director said she was “extremely reckless” in her email handling, she immediately discounted his comment and refused to take responsibility for her own actions.

Second, she bragged how she wanted coal miners out of work, then she denied she said that.

Third: “Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are.” Guess who was within earshot of Clinton at her campaign stop on Aug. 9? The father of the Orlando nightclub Pulse shooter.

Wake up, people, and vote for Donald Trump. And you can bet that Trump would be a greater supporter of Israel than President Barack Obama and, by extension, former Secretary of State Clinton ever was!

David Tulanian, Los Angeles

Jews and Kilts

Your article by Danny Lobell says the Scottish Register of Tartans just registered its first Jewish tartan (“Freedom! (From Pants)” Aug. 5). It is my understanding that there are no traditional clan tartans. The tartans were invented by the Manchester woolen mills as a way to increase sales in Scotland in the early 19th century. They distributed them to kilt-makers in Scotland at random. There probably weren’t enough Jews to make them a unique tartan.

Myron Kayton via email

Letter of the Law

I have great respect for Dennis Prager but, with all due respect, find his arguments about keeping kosher logically flawed (“If You Don’t Eat Bacon, You Keep Kosher,” Aug. 5). Even with man-made laws, one cannot claim to be a law-abiding citizen and violate the majority of laws! I doubt that a traffic court would dismiss Mr. Prager’s speeding ticket because he never runs red lights.

Contrary to his assertion, we are not stricter about observance of ritual laws than the laws between man and man. A thief who steals only from the rich because in his opinion they do not pay their fair share is still called a ganav (thief).

Why, then, do we characterize one as baal tzedakah for giving 5 percent of his income, when “the Torah commands us to give 10 percent of our income to charity”? In fact, neither the negative commandment not to “close your hand against your destitute brother,” nor the positive commandment to “open your hand to him” (Deuteronomy 15:7-8) includes a provision to give 10 percent of one’s income. Therefore we praise a Jew for giving any amount.

According to many rabbinical authorities, a custom of giving 10 to 20 percent of one’s income to tzedakah is not one of the biblical or rabbinical commandments. If it were, then a person who gives less would be criticized for not observing applicable laws of maaser — tithes, which are similar to taxes. Indeed, when the laws of maaser are applicable, separating even 9.9 percent of the produce would not make the remainder kosher for consumption until it is properly tithed. The secular law is the same in this respect — despite paying millions in taxes, a philanthropist may be still prosecuted for tax evasion while being praised for his generosity. 

I want to end my letter on a positive note. I am sure that Mr. Prager recognized the logical flaws of his argument. Nevertheless, he decided to use his poetic license to emphasize that instead of looking with disdain at a Jew who refrains from only pork, we should judge him favorably and say that it is a praiseworthy step toward keeping kosher.

Alexander Freylicher, Sherman Oaks

Editor’s note: Prager responds to his critics on p. 10.

Another Owens Story

I would like to add to recollections of Jesse Owens (“Letters: Jesse Owens’ Winning Ways,” Aug. 5). In 1936, my father, Harry Lipser, and my uncle traveled to Europe on the Queen Mary. Also on that same voyage was Jesse Owens, on his way to compete in the Olympics. Fortunately, they were assigned to the same dining table, which also included Marshall Field from Chicago.

The maitre d’ privately told Mr. Field that there were those at the table who had requested that Jesse Owens be assigned to another table. Mr. Field consulted with my father and some of the others, and suggested that those that were unhappy with the seating arrangements might want to make a change, but Jesse Owens would remain seated.

Years later, my sister, Sally Lipser Korobkin, a teacher in Potomac, Md., had the opportunity to meet Mrs. Owens when she visited their school. Sally said, “You probably would not remember my father’s name.” Mrs. Owens replied, “How could I ever forget?”

Pauline Witkin Polansky, Arcadia

Left Is Losing Its Religion

I am stunned that so many Jewish liberals are apparently buying the exaggerations, lies and double standards of Jew-hating anti-Zionists and turning their backs on Israel, even while our French and Ukrainian cousins, among others, are escaping persecution by making aliyah (“Outlier or Reflecting Anti-Zionist Trend?” Aug. 5). For 4,000 years, we’ve been a covenant-based religion, and God’s promise to us is Israel. Every year for two millennia, seders worldwide have ended with “Next year in Jerusalem!” — will liberal Jewish seders no longer end this way?  

I think Dennis Prager has it right: Liberal Jews are no longer really Jews; their religion is leftism, so they hate Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israelis who elected him. I believe this is a stunning, irreversible mistake, and I predict their children will either cease to be Jews or worse, become anti-Semites — historically many of our worst enemies have been apostates — or will bitterly resent their parents for their unforgivably poor judgment.

Rueben Gordon, Calabasas

Caroline Glick and me

You know you’ve made it in the Jewish world when you get to speak to 1,000 Hadassah women at their national convention. 

For its annual convention in Atlanta last week, Hadassah asked me to converse onstage with columnist and author Caroline Glick, a discussion moderated by journalist Linda Scherzer. In addition to the live audience, a video camera would livestream and archive it for web viewers. 

The women’s Zionist organization has been sponsoring conversations on the subject of Zionism: What is it? How’s it doing? Where is it going?  

“It’s not a debate,” an organizer warned me the week before. “It’s a dialogue.”

Really, a dialogue? I have been reading and virulently disagreeing with Glick’s writing for years. I’ve printed her columns — inclusion is what we do here at the Journal — but I’d never spoken to her. I imagined we’d jump down each other’s throats in about 30 seconds.

Then we met. She is diminutive, with short auburn hair, a tightly drawn mouth and dark eyes. We shook hands and made small talk about mutual friends. I knew she had asked some of them how to score points off me, and I’d asked them the same about her.

After just a minute of fake nicey-nice chit-chat, there was an awkward pause. Glick said, “Your, um, pants.” She blushed.

I looked down at my black wool suit slacks and — the horror, the horror! About half of the toothpaste I’d spit out of my mouth that morning had ended up as a series of large white splatters covering my crotch. It was bad. It was Jackson Pollock-meets-“There’s Something About Mary” bad.  We were two minutes from showtime. 

I ran backstage, grabbed a water bottle from a tech guy, poured it on a nearby rag, gave my pants a few wipes, and, presto, Crest-free.

The lights were already dimming when I raced back into the convention hall. And when I thanked Glick, I realized I could no longer possibly see her as just a ferocious kneejerk right-winger. The lion had pulled the thorn from Androcles. I had nothing but gratitude for this woman who saved me from total embarrassment.

So when Glick launched into a long indictment of the Democratic Party as being overrun with the anti-Israel sentiments of the “left,” I pushed back firmly — but gently. If “left” means Democrat, I pointed out, the standard-bearer of that party is Hillary Clinton, who is hardly anti-Israel, nor is the party’s platform. Even their new progressive hero, Bernie Sanders, made clear his support for Israel. 

I agreed with her that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is anti-peace and a stalking horse for straight-up Israel bashing. But I did point out that the best way to deprive it of more mainstream support is to fight the status quo of the occupation. Most people cannot abide by a situation in which millions of Palestinians are deprived of their democratic rights by a democratic nation. They support Israel but cannot support Israel-as-oppressor. Simple.

The solution, I admitted, is not so simple. And that’s where things got a little heated.

Last year, Glick published a book, “The Israeli Solution,” which advocates for a so-called one-state solution to the conflict. That is, Israel would annex the West Bank and Palestinians would have the option of becoming Israeli citizens. 

After she outlined her idea, I took a deep breath. I started by praising Glick for the effort. Mainstream Jews once thought Theodor Herzl was nuts when he proposed political Zionism, and now he is seen as a Jewish savior. Who knows, I said, maybe Caroline Glick is the new Herzl. The important thing is that a moribund peace process needs new ideas, for better or worse.

But, I added, the one-state solution is the worst possible idea. My reasons? One, why would Israel want to make people whom Glick describes as born and bred Israel- and Jew-haters citizens of a Jewish state? Two, Israel is already struggling to incorporate Charedim and Arab Israelis into its economy and educational systems. How could it possibly absorb 2 or 3 million Palestinians? 

“There are way too many Arabs and Jews who are uneducated and unemployed, before even one Palestinian receives Israeli citizenship,” I said, quoting Dan Ben-David of the Shoresh Institution.

Three, experts disagree on the actual population numbers — wouldn’t it be smart to have a census we can all rely on before even arguing such an idea?

And finally, the only one-state solution I can think of in the Middle East is Syria — and that hasn’t worked out so well. If states with Shiite and Sunni Muslims implode, imagine a state of Arabs and Jews.

What was my solution? Actress Gwyneth Paltrow had just been honored at Hadassah’s gala the night before. She’d once famously described her separation from husband Chris Martin as “a conscious uncoupling.” That, I said, is what the Israelis and Palestinians need — a conscious uncoupling. 

Before I could finish, Glick interrupted me. Then I jumped in on her. I wouldn’t say it got heated, just spirited. The debate style these days is to attack not just the ideas, but the person. That didn’t happen this time. Because you never know when that person will be for one critical moment maybe not Israel’s savior, but your own.

ROB ESHMAN is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism and @RobEshman.

Why Jews don’t want Trump

Donald Trump must be very powerful because he’s done something no one has managed to do since Moses: He’s united the Jews.

The problem for him: He’s united them against Donald Trump.

Just before Trump decided to run for president, the American Jewish world was clawing at itself like two cats in a bag. The debate over the Iran nuclear deal didn’t exactly divide American Jews — most were for it — but the arguments it created went deep. The rhetoric was apocalyptic.

There have been rifts, too, over President Barack Obama’s policies toward Israel and the Middle East. In the 2012 election, Obama’s Jewish vote dropped by almost 10 percent, from 78 percent to 69 percent, and Republican Jews were looking forward to putting the Jewish vote even more in play in 2016.

Then came Trump. In a sense, he’s the anti-Moses: He speaks, and American Jews run the hell away. But how nice that we have finally found something to do all together.

Almost all together. There are a few in the American Jewish community who will still support Trump, beyond those on his payroll or directly related to him. They either like him or they hate Hillary Clinton even more than Trump.

For eight years of Obama’s presidency, these same people gilded their Facebook pages with the essays and opinions of the very same conservative thought leaders who are now, largely, #NeverTrump. 

During the Iran debate, one reader constantly sent me anti-deal columns by Wall Street Journal editor Bret Stephens (just in case I hadn’t read them, which I always had). Now that Stephens is leading the charge against Trump, I get to send that reader Bret Stephens’ tweets and columns.

“Tim Kaine is normal, decent, intelligent. Quick, let’s demonize him,” Stephens tweeted last week. And when Klansman David Duke weighed in on Trump’s convention speech, saying, “Couldn’t have said it better,” Stephens retweeted it with the message, “Need we say more?”

When you follow the reactions to Stephens’ anti-Trump tweets, you find they quickly become a cesspool of anti-Semitism. This was the case with conservative Jewish columnist Bethany Mandel, who received so many anti-Semitic threats that she went out and bought a gun for personal protection. (When New York Times columnist Nick Kristof wrote a piece on Trump’s racist past, he received the same anti-Semitic attacks. The fact that he’s not Jewish didn’t inhibit the zealous Trump-ites a bit.)

After years of right-versus-left fighting in the Jewish world, this moment has the ring of prophecy. The lion shall lie down with the lamb, and Peter Beinart with Bret Stephens, and Jeffrey Goldberg with Bill Kristol, and Jennifer Rubin with Laura Rozen. All these Jewish columnists, not long ago at each other’s throats, are in each other’s corners.

The rallying cry went out from Jennifer Rubin, before turning her firepower full force against Trump.

“The dividing line is now crystal clear,” she wrote in The Washington Post in May. “To one side stands an angry nativist mob and to the other men and women of decent character and honorable purpose. Choose sides. You cannot be in both camps. And if you claim to be bound by ‘party loyalty’ to support Trump, there will be scores who will refuse to be in the same party.”

Who else? Ben Shapiro; David Frum; Jamie Weinstein, senior editor for the conservative Daily Caller website; John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary magazine; nationally syndicated talk show host Mark Levin; Elliott Abrams, a former George W. Bush adviser and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations; and Jeff Jacoby, a conservative columnist for the Boston Globe, who told the Jewish Journal that Trump “undermines basically everything that conservatives especially, and Republicans generally, have said they stand for.”

It’s one thing for liberals and Democrats to oppose Trump. But the conservatives above are going against their natural constituencies and readerships. They are doing tweet-to-tweet combat with people who revered them, bought subscriptions to read them, tuned in to their shows. But when considering the alternative — the consequences of not speaking up before it is too late — they are willing to pay the price.

There are a lot of reasons they cite for taking a tough stand: Trump’s coarseness, xenophobia, the way his campaign gives cover to anti-Semites and racists, not to mention his utter lack of seriousness when it comes to policy, and — let’s not kid ourselves — the fact that Trump is not conservative enough. 

But if you want to find an even deeper reason, it was fully on display in Trump’s convention acceptance speech: pessimism. For Trump, pessimism is policy. America is a dark, dangerous place, he was saying, and “leave it to me” to fix it. 

The vast majority of American Jews aren’t buying the pitch. Not just because we’ve heard it from a long line of dangerous delusional demagogues throughout history, but because we are essentially a hopeful people. I know that might sound strange considering our comedy is rooted in a neurotic sense of imminent disaster, but it’s true. The secret to our survival is that we are able to move beyond panic to pragmatism, from fear to hope. 

It’s why Ronald Reagan got the largest percentage of the Jewish vote of any Republican in modern history. And it’s why Trump — mark my words — will get the lowest.

ROB ESHMAN is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism and @RobEshman.

Letters to the editor: Cost of medication, Elie Wiesel, restroom laws and more

Medications’ High Cost to Society

A point that stands out in the story of Laurie Ritz is the high cost of the medications needed to treat his mental illness (“The Failure of L.A.’s Mental Health System,” July 8). The high prices of meds that can treat mental illness and alcoholism are surely a contributing factor to homelessness and to other weighty public and personal burdens (which are hardly confined to L.A.). It would be interesting to see a follow-up story about these important kinds of medications, including why they cost so much.

Kathryn Kirui via email

Recognize Terrorism in All Its Forms

Wow, Rob Eshman. “After the Istanbul airport terror attack that left at least 44 dead and hundreds wounded,” instead of imploring that all terrorism is wrong, you instead choose to engage in hypocrisy (“Istanbul and Hallel,” July 8).  

This works both ways. How often do you call out Israeli terrorism, including collective punishment against innocent Palestinians? Now in the 50th year, the military occupation is by definition terrorism.

Estee Chandler via email

California Needs Restroom Law 

Thank you, Michelle Wolf, for your enlightening column “The Politics of Pee,” detailing Illinois’ Ally’s Law, the Restroom Access Act (July 8). Too bad our California legislators, with their selective liberalism, cannot see how easy it would be to require retailers with three or more employees present to permit individuals suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis (UC), to use “employees only” restrooms on the premises.  

Notwithstanding the complaints by small business protesters, the law could be easily limited — as it is in the 14 other states enacting this legislation — simply by mandating a licensing procedure, the bureaucratic cost of which could be covered by an annual fee (with appropriate exemptions for low-income sufferers) and the application for an ID card, which would require a physician’s written diagnosis. Unlike handicapped-parking placards, there would be little incentive for fraudulent abuse.  

IBD sufferers can have a sudden, immediate and uncontrollable need for a toilet, most often without the normal physical warning signals our bodies give. I guess none of our legislators has a child with Crohn’s or UC; otherwise, they would champion this very simple solution. Perhaps to our elected representatives, this failure, among many other things they do, should be retitled “The Politics of Poo.”

Reeve Chudd Pacific Palisades

Al-Noor on Target With “Hypocrisy”

I want to thank the Jewish Journal for including the words of Nadiya Al-Noor in this week’s opinion page (“Palestinian Terrorism and Muslim Hypocrisy: An Open Letter From a Muslim Woman,” July 8). Her words come as a refreshing reminder of the hypocrisy within the Muslim and Palestinian reactions to terror wherever it occurs. 

Terror and killing innocents wherever they are found is wrong by every standard known. Neither the Bible nor the Quran can support these actions. Hopefully, more Muslims will read and appreciate her words! I thank her for her courage!

Ron Spiegel via email 

Prager Loses His Way in Palestinian Argument

As a liberal Jew, I agree with Dennis Prager’s assertion that moral people cannot support the Palestinians (“Moral People Cannot Support the Palestinians,” July 8). I commiserate with his objecting to liberals who err in reflexively condemning Israel as the heartless oppressor of Palestinians they see as innocent victims of Israeli occupation.

However, as a psychotherapist who specializes in couples work, I have long since learned that Prager’s characteristic style of judging, blaming and setting one side as right and good against the other as wrong and bad is a losing strategy. It is no more effective coming from the right than from the left. Consequently, I doubt that many liberals are influenced by his polemics.

The Journal would do well to assign his column to other conservatives whose communication styles might more effectively stimulate liberals like me to think twice about our positions.

Roger Schwarz, Los Angeles

Elie Wiesel Worthy of the Cover

I am VERY disappointed. Elie Wiesel passed away a week ago Shabbat. I am shocked that he was not on the cover of this past week’s Jewish Journal. 

The cover story regarding mental health is important but could/should have been pushed back one week. 

What a shame and discredit to such a special and unique human being as Elie Wiesel, the voice of the victims. You missed a great opportunity to honor him properly! 

Elke Coblens Aftergut via email

Editor’s Note: Because of the July 4 holiday, the Journal’s cover went to press on the Friday before Elie Wiesel passed away. Our coverage was inside that issue, and inside this one, as well.

Changing Three Cultures: A Q&A with Joe Domanick

We all feel awful about last week’s violence; we all wonder what can be done. Well, author and investigative journalist Joe Domanick has been feeling awful about police conduct and urban violence for decades. 

When I called Domanick to ask him to write about the tragedies that unfolded last week in Minnesota; Baton Rouge, La.; and Dallas, he said he couldn’t.

“Even though I knew I had things to say that most people don’t know, I have said it so many times that it just rang hollow to me,” Domanick said. “I guess I just shook my head and said, ‘Oh, not again.’ ” 

In a series of seminal articles and books, the Queens, N.Y.-raised Domanick has studied the failure of American police forces, largely by focusing on the cops in his adopted city, Los Angeles.  

Domanick began his career 30 years ago at the Jewish Journal — really. He wrote the first issue’s cover story on school integration and busing, but passed on a promotion partly because he didn’t think an Italian Catholic should be editing a Jewish paper.

Currently, Domanick is the associate director of New York’s John Jay College’s Center on Media Crime, and West Coast bureau chief of The Crime Report. He’s written two books about the LAPD: “To Protect and to Serve” and “Blue: The LAPD and the Battle to Redeem American Policing,” out in paperback this August.  

When current LAPD Chief Charlie Beck read Domanick’s 1994 history of the LAPD, “To Protect and to Serve,” he told the author it was like reading an angry letter from his first wife — but Beck took the book to heart. 

“At least that’s what he tells me,” Domanick said. 

In his latest book, “Blue,” Domanick charts how the LAPD has changed — how one of the country’s worst and most divisive forces has gone from being an “occupying force” in minority neighborhoods to a partner in building community. 

I wondered how those lessons can apply to forces nationwide, and asked Domanick to explain how to untangle the knot of urban and police violence that all too often sends us all into anguish.

Rob Eshman: What was your reaction as the events of last week unfolded?

Joe Domanick: I wasn’t at all surprised about either one of the two killings by the officers, because [each is] just one of the string of shootings that have come to public attention, really, ever since Ferguson [Mo.], because of cameras and other technologies.

And then when the five officers were killed in Dallas, that made me very anxious because, No. 1, we had a chief of police in Dallas who was really doing all of the right things to alleviate these kinds of situations.  

RE: You’ve said there were 900 officer-involved shootings that led to fatalities in 2015, and 2016 is on track to have even more. Why? Iceland has one in 71 years. Germany has six.

JD: An even better comparison is Canada, which per capita has more guns than the United States, but has very few shootings. 

I just think that America is a very, very violent country. It was born in violence. It started with genocide. Then it followed up with the most brutal, dehumanizing kind of slavery, which was enforced strictly through brutality. Then you had the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850, when it really became the job of the police to closely monitor African-Americans, and that became a tradition. And the whole country, of course, was racist —  it wasn’t just the South.

So I think that this is a very violent country. We worship violence. We see it everywhere in our advertisements. It’s hard for me to think of a movie star, man or woman, who I haven’t seen on a billboard off Sunset Boulevard holding a gun, holding a .45, wearing a police badge. So I think that we worship violence, we do, and I think that’s a big part of it.

REYou really can draw a direct connection from the Fugitive Slave Law to what’s going on now in these communities?

JD: You had decades of people living in very violent communities, and the violence becoming almost a norm. And the African-American people that could get out of the ghettos got out, but what you had left was a kind of social pathology that imploded. That’s what’s made our ghettos so dangerous. We refuse as a society to do anything about it, to take the steps to alleviate, to change the values in that subculture.

RE: Like what?

JD: Well, there’s so much that can be done. One thing that can be done is community policing, which Charlie Beck is trying to do, and good police chiefs like the one in Dallas are trying to do, which represents an entire change. 

The other thing is just the old liberal bromides, which happen to be true. You’ve got to put money into these communities. You’ve got to get the best schools and health care. All these things have to be done, and then you have to understand it is not going to change overnight. 

RE: A lot of people say that the focus on acts of police violence obscures the greater problem, which is Black-on-Black crime in places like Chicago, which leads to many more deaths.

JD: We keep hearing people say we have to have a conversation about race, but you notice that we never really have. My supposition is that we don’t have it because liberals and many African-American leaders don’t want that to be a subject of conversation, because it’s further stigmatizing an already stigmatized people. 

You have such a strong, vital African-American middle class and working class right now. So they’re trying to get out from under that stigma. But, at the same time, there is this rage at the police because the police have always, always, always screwed them over. And you have this inherent racism, and that exists in most white people in this country. It’s a difficult thing to get rid of.

What you need is to change three cultures. You need to change police culture. You need to change the value system that exists among these young Black guys in these communities — many of whom can’t even conceptualize a way out. It’s intra-tribal violence — powerless people warring with other powerless people, a rage turned inward on itself. 

And you need a change in the white culture. I would say that this generation, 35 and under, they get it. I think they are much more multicultural, much less tolerant of any kind of racism or sexism or ethnic prejudice. The coverage of Ferguson and then of Eric Garner [who died in police custody in 2014 in New York] and all the other shootings and killings that happened were amazing to me because it was so critical of the police — a far cry from the ’80s and ’90s. 

RE: So you agree with what Newt Gingrich said, that white people “don’t understand being Black in America.”

JD: Absolutely. White people tend to think that because of the Civil Rights Acts of 1963 and ’64, African-Americans suddenly had equal opportunities, and centuries of cultural degradation and extreme disadvantage would disappear overnight. The attitude was: “What more do they want from us?” Most white Americans have no idea of the killing nature of the Black experience. They really don’t.

Take Jewish Americans — sure there was anti-Semitism against Jews. There was discrimination against the Irish, the Italians, Mexicans and against the Japanese and Chinese. But I would argue that it’s nothing compared to what has been done to African-Americans.

They feel hurt and they feel enraged. If people would just read history and understand sociology and anthropology, they’d understand it. 

RE: Then why were there no riots in L.A. last week? 

JD:  Because I think the Los Angeles Police Department has done a good job of changing its culture and behavior. LAPD’s Charlie Beck has been working hard on that. 

He’s really built on all of the good things that [former LAPD Chief William] Bratton started, but he hasn’t changed one of the things that Bratton brought, which was an increase at stop-and-frisks. 

The one thing that the LAPD is still challenged by is the amount of people that they’re shooting. It’s way less than it used to be, but it’s still high compared to other cities like New York. 

I think part of that is because of stop-and-frisk. They don’t call it “stop-and-frisk” here and they might not be frisking everybody, but they’re stopping a hell a lot of people, most of them minorities.

So when that happens, officers get themselves in a position where people are pissed off after being stopped. They didn’t do anything, and one thing leads to another, and people end up getting shot.  

RE: In your book “Blue,” you documented how a policing culture in the LAPD that seemed so entrenched really could change. Why hasn’t that message gone out to other police forces?

JD: There’s great resistance to it. The criminal justice system in this country is criminal. It’s just awful, it’s terrible. It’s not just the police. It’s prosecutors and their political careers. It’s politicians, the jails, it’s the prisons. They’re  just hellholes. 

The whole system is not designed to salvage human beings, to stop people from committing crimes. It’s not designed to reform people. That used to be the goal. Now, no more.  

RE: Do you believe that when groups like Black Lives Matter capitalize on this legitimate hostility, they create a mentality that leads to events like the murder of police officers in Dallas?  

JD: It’s not for me to say how African-Americans should react to the police. There’s enough African-American leadership and enough African-American young people who understand everything that’s going on. They’ll decide on how they should act.

But to bring about change, you have to have all levels of pressure. Some of the pressure is from journalists writing about the police. Right now, Black Lives Matter is pushing from the grass-roots level and you need to have that. I do agree, however, that it’s really counterproductive to be violent. But for the most part, I think  Black Lives Matter hasn’t been violent. They’re speaking their truth.  

RE: And what about the rest of us?  We often feel so hopeless; what what can we do?

JD: I would argue now is the time to support Charlie Beck, because Charlie Beck and police chiefs like him are the best folks for solving this problem.

RE: You started by saying you feel burnt out writing about these issues. Are you at all optimistic? 

JD: I don’t feel the tension is anywhere near what it was in the ’60s, but I do agree that it’s a dangerous time. And I think it all depends,  so much depends, on this election. 

And I think that you see that things can be optimistic if you look at California, things are getting done. So it’s hard to say which way we’re going to go. Human nature is human nature, so I just don’t know. I’m hopeful but not optimistic.

This interview was edited and condensed

Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism and @RobEshman.

Brexit in Bali

It’s not the JFK assassination or 9/11, but even so, I’ll never forget where I was when I first read about Brexit.

I was on a beach on Lembongan Island, just off the coast of Bali.

Look it up on Google Maps: It’s a dot in the Indian Ocean. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more remote place.

And yet, there I sat at Nyoman’s Warung, a slab of concrete on the beach fitted out with battered teak tables and chairs, a thatched coconut-mat roof overhead. Just a few feet from my table, impossibly blue water lapped against the crushed white coral. Bamboo wind chimes sounded a timeless echo. Just behind me, I could hear Nyoman herself cooking the day’s fish on a sheet-metal grill primed with coconut husk charcoal.  

I popped open a cold Bintang and told myself to just enjoy the moment, the astonishing view, the edge-of-the-world quiet. But I couldn’t help noticing the strong cell signal on my iPhone. OK, just a quick peek at the New York Times app.

In Britain, some 8,000 miles away, a majority of voters had just chosen to leave the European Union. The pundits were calling the results of the historic referendum a rebellion against globalization. Britain’s disgruntled working class failed to sense the benefits of a system of open trade and porous borders. They saw it benefiting urban elites, leaving everyone else vulnerable to an influx of cheap foreign goods and labor and increased regulations. Globalization, they felt, undermined their economic stability and their English identity. 

Well, I thought, at least they had a vote.

My wife and I were winding down a two-week trip to Bali — for our 25th anniversary — and one indelible impression was that globalization had hit little Bali like a tsunami. Even if people there wanted one, there would be no Balexit.

The challenges of globalization that have been rocking the developed world — blamed for everything from Brexit to Trump — are even starker in the developing world. 

The Bali of your dreams, the Bali of “Eat, Pray, Love” has become a globalized tourist mecca. Cars, motorcycles and tour buses choke the small roads lined with global brands. The village of Ubud, where author Elizabeth Gilbert discovered the “Pray” part of her journey, now makes the Venice boardwalk look pastoral. I don’t think she would have been as taken by the Ubud Starbucks or Polo store.  

“People come here because it’s quiet,” our driver, Ketut, told us, “but then it’s not quiet. They come for the culture, but for them we give up our culture.”

Bali has lured foreign tourists ever since the first travel posters of bare-breasted Balinese women hit Europe in the 1930s. But what’s different now is the sheer rapidity of change, fueled by foreign investment, technology and international tourism. 

“That book was like a bomb that went off — boom!” Ketut said. All over Bali, people spoke of the island pre- and post-“Eat, Pray, Love,” a love letter turned wrecking ball. 

But it wasn’t just the book. Globalization has also spawned a gigantic middle class in India and China, and guess where they were all spending their holiday? With us, in Bali.

It is a blessing and a curse. The average Balinese lives on $1,800 per year. Tourism has enabled our guides to make that, or more, in a good month. That means better education and health care for their children. But they also complain that payoffs enable developers to plant hotels and restaurants next to sacred temples, and the fragile Balinese environment is being bled for the last dollar.  

With all these pressures and few controls on development, plus a lot of graft, the spiritual, quiet Bali is now harder and harder to find. 

We found it on the mainland’s back roads and on Lembongan — there is still remarkable beauty, romance and culture in Bali. But as I sat in Nyoman’s café, I wondered how long that would last. International hotels were engulfing the island’s fishermen’s shacks. Oil from the motorboats that show tourists the wonders of Lembongan have already destroyed the island’s once-thriving seaweed farms and are now choking out the coral and killing the plankton. When I looked more carefully at my photos of the island, I noticed just how many cellphone towers were nestled among the coconut palms. 

“We were too late for Ubud,” my wife said, “but just in time for Lembongan.” 

The Balinese we spoke with see these forces at work but feel powerless to control them. And the truth is, it isn’t even clear Britons have a choice. Now that the full implications of Brexit are beginning to become clear, there are calls for a do-over, or at least for making the implementation something less than a clean exit. The angry Brits are realizing what the Balinese already know: There is no going back; you can only learn to surf the tsunami.  

As I left Nyoman’s, I stopped to thank the small, middle-aged owner for one of the simplest and best meals I’d ever had. 

“You’re welcome,” Nyoman said as she took my hand. She looked up into my eyes. “But please say you like on Trip Advisor.”

ROB ESHMAN is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism and @RobEshman.

Letters to the editor: Orlando, Dennis Prager and atheism, Muhammad Ali and more

An Astute Reaction to Orlando

I’d like to thank Rob Eshman for his insightful response to the Orlando tragedy (“Pulse and Pride,” June 17). It had the merit of being the smartest and most comprehensive reaction I read this week, while remaining succinct and clear. He legitimately referred to the violent attack as an example of Islamic terrorism, but criticized the Donald Trump supporters’ unfair rhetoric against the general U.S. Muslim population. Eshman’s prescriptions for gun control were moderate and respectful to Second Amendment rights. His comparison to last week’s terror attack in Tel Aviv, and Israel’s response to it, was justified.

Guy Handelman, Sherman Oaks

Words That Were Left Out 

I am surprised that the quote you reported by Rabbi Michael Lerner speaking at the memorial for Muhammad Ali did not include his shameful comment that he stands shoulder to shoulder with Palestinians against the unjust rule by Israel (“Best of Our Blogs,” June 17). 

Jerry Freedman, Los Angeles

Atheists Are Unhappy — With Prager

Here is Dennis Prager’s statement of faith and ironically the reason that so many of us have become atheists: “For to know how awful the consequences of atheism are and still be convinced that there is no God is an unhappy fate indeed” (“Two Questions for Atheists,” June 10). 

To assume that atheists cannot possibly be happy and are deluded is a form of moral supremacism. Atheists have moved past that.

Larry Shapiro, Rancho Mirage

Why does Dennis Prager persist in peddling his discredited myth that because they don’t believe in God, heaven or hell, for atheists “there is no ultimate meaning in life,” no “objective morality” and “no ultimate justice in the universe”? Far more profound thinkers than Prager have long rejected the idea that there is no morality without religion.

The Dalai Lama has pointed out that “the reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate. This is why I am increasingly convinced that the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics beyond religion altogether.” According to Albert Einstein, “Man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hopes of reward after death.” 

According to Greg Epstein, a Humanist chaplain at Harvard University, to “suggest that one can’t be good without belief in God is not just an opinion … it is a prejudice. It may even be discrimination.”

Prager needs to practice what he preaches by extending as much tolerance and mutual respect to nonbelievers as he does to believers. It’s called the Golden Rule.  

Stephen F. Rohde, Chair of Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, Los Angeles

Prager responds: To Mr. Shapiro: Regarding atheists and happiness, I stand by the common sense position that to care about human suffering yet be convinced that there is no beneficent God and no ultimate justice — so that, for example, the Six Million and their murderers have identical fates — must make any sensitive human being unhappy. If it doesn’t, there is something wrong with the person’s heart.

To Mr. Rohde: When I debated the subject of God and ethics at Oxford University, the first thing the Oxford professor of morals, Jonathan Glover, an atheist, acknowledged was that if there is no God, ethics is subjective. I know of no serious philosopher who denies that. Thus, one of the greatest liberal philosophers of the 20th century, Princeton’s Richard Rorty, a nonbeliever, wrote that for nonbelieving liberals such as himself, “There is no answer to the question, ‘Why not be cruel?’”

Finally, I have never written, implied or said that an atheist cannot be a good person. 

CORRECTIONS:

An article about a local Shavuot celebration (“A Shavuot All-Nighter at Temple Beth Am,” June 17) misidentified the congregation at which Charlie Carnow is a member. He belongs to Congregation B’nai David-Judea.

Due to a production error, an article by Scott Edelman and Jesse Gabriel (“Dependable Steps to Defeat BDS,” June 17) did not appear in its complete form. The full story is now online.

Trump and Weiner

This week, as the firestorm was building over Donald Trump’s racist comments about the “Mexican” judge presiding over lawsuits against Trump University  — you know, the judge who was born and raised just outside that great Mexican city of South Bend, Ind. — I went to see the new documentary “Weiner.” And I had a feeling I never thought I’d have: Poor Anthony Weiner.

It wasn’t that I felt sympathy for the seven-term congressman. He resigned from Congress in 2011 after pictures he texted of his private parts became public, then made a remarkable second-act comeback, leading by 10 points in New York City’s Democratic mayoral primary — until he was caught lying about new texts he’d sent of those same private parts, to a different woman. Weiner’s second round of apologies and promises went nowhere. He got 4 percent of the vote. His political career, for the foreseeable future, was finished.

Make no mistake: The man got what was coming to him, and then some. The superb documentary reveals that not only did he lie to the voters and his wife, Huma Abedin, he also treats her, in several onscreen private and public moments, with withering rudeness and contempt. The creepy underwear pics turn out to be his most forgivable behavior.

But I felt sorry for him nonetheless, because, when the movie ended, I realized that Weiner was simply a victim of bad timing. You see, he was running in 2013 B.T.— Before Trump. In the world of politics before Trump, politicians who got caught doing awful things had to be contrite. They got a second chance to get their act together, but not a third. Before Trump, there was such a thing as shame in the public square.

Trump has shown politicians there is a way to rewrite that old script: Throw it out. 

Here are the rules in 2016 A.T. — After Trump: You make a blunder, you blame others. You say something awful, you attack the people reporting it. You don’t criticize your opponent, you call them names.  Whatever asinine thing you say or do, you never take it back; never apologize. In fact, you double down.

So when Trump demeaned all veterans by calling Sen. John McCain “not a hero” for being captured by the North Vietnamese, he explained, “I like people that weren’t captured.” And his poll numbers went up.

When he called Mexican immigrants “rapists,” he didn’t apologize — he doubled down. He declared he’d build a wall to keep immigrants out. His poll numbers grew.  When the media tried to hold him to his word about his boast that he’d raised $6 million for veteran causes, he blasted the media. After he mocked a disabled reporter, he never apologized.   

When he faced a firestorm of criticism for saying he would ban people from entering the United States because of their religion, he clinched the nomination.  

When U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel ordered that documents revealing the predatory sales tactics of Trump “University” be unsealed, Trump attacked Curiel’s integrity and accused him of being biased because he’s “Mexican,” even though Curiel was born and raised in Indiana. Trump’s response to the backlash: Everyone else “misconstrued.” He went on TV and continued the accusation, simply adding “heritage” to the word “Mexican.”

Even Trump’s most high-profile American-Jewish supporters, such as Sheldon Adelson and Ari Fleischer, have given him a pass on that — unbelievably. What if Trump had said an American-Jewish judge couldn’t be fair on a case involving anti-Semitism, or that a Jewish diplomat couldn’t be fair dealing with Israel?  It is the height of hypocrisy for a Jewish American to pretend he or she wouldn’t be outraged if the same accusation were directed at a fellow Jew. I suppose the silence of these supporters means they think Trump has a good excuse: He’s Trump.     

That’s politics in 2016 A.T. — you say or do something awful, you get caught, you do it more. 

Trump’s supporters not only don’t care, they enjoy the perception of “toughness” all of this gives their man. The media shower him with more free attention. He rides it until the media move on or the next outrage hits. Remember the outcry over Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns? Trump didn’t bend. And then the “Mexican judge” storm came along and seemed to wash away all discussion of those tax returns. 

Anthony Weiner has got to be thinking: If only I were running now.  What Weiner actually did is a flea on the elephant of Trump’s flaws. Weiner didn’t harass or assault a woman. He didn’t even come close to breaking a law. He just made a jackass out of himself. Sure, he misled voters about the extent of his texting, but Trump’s entire candidacy, from his hair weave to his wall, is lie after lie after lie.  

In politics 2016 A.T., Weiner could simply follow Trump’s script: You don’t like my texts? Don’t look at them. You think I’m a jerk? You’re a jerk. You call me a perv? I call you an imbecile.

This will be Trump’s real contribution to our Republic. Taking accountability out of politics, along with every last shred of honor. 

There’s a scene in “Weiner” in which an outraged constituent tells the congressman, “Shame on you.” That’s a phrase we won’t be hearing any more.  

Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism and @RobEshman.

Last night with Bernie

Last night at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Bernie Sanders waited a long, long time to say the “C” word.

He took the stage late.  At about 11 pm—an hour after Sanders was expected to speak–  the crowd of at least a thousand people started screaming and chanting.  For hours, they had been pumped up with rock music, waving “Bernie 2016” placards, bursting into spontaneous cheers. 

When their man finally appeared, it was several minutes of exultation.

“BERNIE OR BUST! BERNIE OR BUST!” a middle-aged blonde woman started screaming from the back of the crowd.

A man standing in front of her, wearing an American flag like a prayer shawl, turned around and asked her to stop it.

“That’s not what this is about,” he said, calmly.  He suggested she let Bernie deliver his own message.

Bernie Sanders speaking at the rally

The candidate stood high above the crowd.  Behind him rose a bleacher full of mostly young supporters,  a high-energy backdrop for the solid bank of television cameras and print reporters in the press section across the cavernous room.  Between them the floor was packed with a mixed crowd of young and old, die-hards and the curious. Some people wore their “Occupy” buttons.  Many kept their iPhones high, to record the moment.

A Bernie puppet made an appearance among the throngs of Sanders supporters

“Our vision is the future of America,” Sanders said. “We will not allow the right wing to control our country. We will not allow Donald Trump to become President!” 

The crowd was with him.  A man kept a Bernie puppet aloft on his shoulders.  A woman waved a placard showing Bernie in an elf hat.  There was something moving about seeing such acceptance and popularity for the first serious Jewish American candidate for President.  As much as Hillary cracked the glass ceiling for women, Sanders, without making too much of it, cracked the blue-and-white ceiling for Jews. 

There was speculation that Sanders would take the stage and acknowledge defeat and throw his support behind Clinton.   When Bernie did, finally, late in his speech, congratulate Clinton for her California victory, the wave of boos was deafening.  

“You know Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief?” Avery Krut, a campaign consultant said. “He’s in denial.  And the crowd is in anger.”

And Sanders fed their anger.  He vowed to fight on to the primary in Washington, DC and the convention in Philadelphia.  Big cheers. 

Taking a page from Trump’s playbook, he accused the media of bias against him.  At that point a chorus of boos rose up and the crowd turned and faced the press section, motioning their thumbs down and jeering.   Most of the reporters didn’t look up from their MacBook Air’s to see the reaction—probably for the better. 

Could Bernie, if he wanted, have really turned the crowd toward Hillary?

Richard Greene, a communications strategist among the crowd, said that’s what a leader does: take the crowd where it needs to go. 

“Here’s what he could have said,” Greene said. “’The battle for the Presidency is over. The battle for America has just begun.’”

Perhaps Sanders hinted at that, by focusing more on Trump than on Hillary, by reminding his audience who the real enemy was.  It’s possible his strategy was to let his supporters take a day or so to grieve, then concede.

Who knows?  Sanders wrapped up his speech to wild applause.  He spread his arms, basking in the adulation, looking like Larry David at the Emmys.

Then he turned and quickly departed. 

The crowd spilled out into the warm Santa Monica night. Outside the security team was dismantling the metal detectors.   

A man in a tall pointed felt hat was yelling. “Bernie’s the man! Bernie’s the man!” over and over.   Another man was just screaming something unintelligible at anyone who would listen.

A woman turned to her companion as they climbed into their Uber ride.

“I didn’t realize there’s so many homeless people for Bernie,” she said.

Rob Eshman is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TRIBE Media Corp/The Jewish Journal of Los Angels. He can be reached at robe@jewishjournal.com

Letters to the editor: Lee Baca, Memorial Day, Trump and more

Political Cronyism

The issue is not why Congregation Bais Naftoli, an Orthodox synagogue, chose to honor ex-Sheriff Lee Baca at its annual event (“Ex-Sheriff Awaiting Sentencing Honored by Orthodox Congregation,” June 3). The real issue is political cronyism and why our elected political leaders still abide by the same “old-boy network” of political spoils and nest-feathering.

Former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who’s “secretly” exploring a run for governor, and Los Angeles Councilman Paul Koretz openly sitting at an event honoring a disgraced former sheriff (who resigned with federal charges pending) is political cronyism at its worst. Sheriff Baca lied to federal investigators about serious constitutional violations occurring on his watch at the county jails. That makes him a liar who may very well go to jail for his deception. Shame on our elected political leaders Koretz and Villaraigosa for turning a blind eye to Baca’s corruption and embracing his corrupt form of politics.

Michael Rubinstein, Beverly Hills

Bad Grammar? It Was for a Reason

That headline — “Who Do You Love?” (June 3) — made my eyeballs hurt! Oy!  How about, “Whom Do You Love?” Yes, please use the objective case. Would you write, “Do you love she?”  Or, “You do love I?” No. You would use the objective case. 

Judi Bloom via email

Editor’s note: We purposely used the familiar colloquial phrase to give impact to the headline.

Respect The Fallen in All Wars

Whether I agree or disagree with why a war is waged, the combatants in that war who died need to be remembered positively and unconditionally. “Greenberg’s View” (May 27) belittling the valiant efforts of those who gave their lives in the Iraq War, making their ultimate sacrifice secondary to other actions taken on behalf of this country, is simply unconscionable. If Greenberg wants to show his wit as to the matter, then he should use another subject as his launching pad, instead of stepping on those who served bravely and honorably. 

Gerry Burk via email

Looking Back on Memorial Day

I would like to commend Tom Tugend for his stirring piece “Looking Back at War on Memorial Day” (May 27) and for his service during World War II. He fills my Jewish heart with pride. Mr. Tugend was absolutely right when he eloquently opined that the most heroic among those of his generation were righteous gentiles who hid Jews from the Nazis at the probable cost of their own lives. 

Marc Yablonka, Burbank

Who’s for Trump?

I read Rob Eshman’s column “Trump and Israel” (May 13) and I was relieved. And then I read Dennis Prager’s endorsement of a vote for Trump “even if only to block a democratic win” and I was shocked (Where Do Jewish Conservatives Stand on Trump?” May 13). I find it incomprehensible that anyone who is aware of what happened when the Nazis came to power would endorse a candidate for “economic well-being or endorse a candidate for any reason — and I mean “any reason” — who speaks of mass transports of human beings as a part of the plan for his presidency! Have we forgotten that quickly?

Dagmar Moscowicz, Los Angeles

Sheldon Adelson and I grew up in the same Jewish neighborhood in Boston. I remember him well, and can readily understand his strong support of Israel. In those days, anti-Semitism was rampant: Kids from neighboring gentile areas often attacked us: police were openly anti-Semitic; and there were Jewish quotas in colleges. And so Adelson strongly advocates for the State of Israel.

While I would not like Trump as our president, I believe Rob Eshman is not being fair. Yes, Trump is crude in his working of his position as he calls for banning Muslims coming into the U.S., but Eshman overlooks that Trump added words to the effect that the ban would be only until each Muslim was checked out to ensure he was not a terrorist; and the Mexicans to which Trump object are the criminals seeking entry to the U.S.

Adelson, I believe, has chosen Trump because he trusts him more than he does Hillary, especially where Israel is concerned.

George Epstein, Los Angeles

Letters to the editor: Tom Tugend, Hillary Clinton, Wexler’s Deli and more

Truth From Tom Tugend

In these times of unfettered narcissism, especially among current political candidates, it is inspiring to read Tom Tugend’s thoughtful essay exploring his war history and the question of heroism (“Looking Back at War on Memorial Day,” May 27). His point that “hero” is a much overused word and that almost anyone who has ever been in uniform can be referred to as a hero speaks to the troubling tendencies in our society to glorify what is unremarkable.

As a French child survivor of World War II, I am certainly grateful that American infantry regiments fought along with the First French Army to liberate France during that bitterly cold winter of 1944-45. They, too, were “following orders,” but, thankfully, on the side of freedom and humanity.

Tugend’s examples of real heroes were individuals not following orders, but following their conscience and willing to take enormous personal risks to save innocent lives. In my own case, Soeur Saint Cybard, the Catholic nun who hid me for nearly a year in a small school, was heroic, and in 2010, she was honored by Yad Vashem as “righteous among the nations.”

Ultimately, it matters that we use words accurately. Tom Tugend has done so consistently as a journalist. Would that there were more like him. He certainly deserved to be on the front cover of the Jewish Journal.

Josie Levy Martin, Author, “Never Tell Your Name”, Montecito

Like Tom Tugend, I had a problem convincing others in the U.S. Army that I was a Jew. When, as a draftee during the Korean War, I asked the company clerk of my basic training unit at Camp Atterbury, Ind., for my pass to attend a seder, he informed me that the executive officer wanted to see me. That officer, a first lieutenant of German-American background, noted from my record that I was born in Germany and demanded to know when I became a Jew. I replied that I was born a Jew. His response: “Don’t give me that sh–. I’m a German and I wasn’t even born there. You tell me you were born in Germany and you’re a Jew. Make up your mind — what are you, a German or a Jew?”

He would not believe that you could be both German-born and a Jew, and he made me get a written note from the regimental chaplain that it is possible. After much anxiety, I found the chaplain, got him to write the requested note and only then obtained my pass. 

Peter L. Rothholz, Santa Monica

Required Reading

The article by Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson should be required reading for every religious school teacher and discussed at their teachers’ meeting in August (“Judaism as World Wisdom,” May 27).

Jeff Kaplan, Los Angeles

Some Choice Words About Hillary

In response to Rob Eshman’s column, I was not able to make it to Wexler’s Deli to argue with him, so I will argue by email instead (“Politics and Pastrami,” May 27).

He described Hillary Clinton as “a brilliant woman with deep experience and a long record of accomplishment.” Those first two descriptions are basically correct, but the third is questionable. Most of her accomplishments seem to consist of intimidation of enemies, cover-ups, compulsive lying, and (a more recent revelation) an amazing ignorance of computers and basic email procedures.  

There is no doubt in my mind that a Republican couple who had been responsible for even half the viciousness and corruption that the Clintons have been involved in would be considered the scum of the earth by Democrats. The idea of having them back in the White House is extremely scary. Of course, Donald Trump might be even worse, but … 

Marc Russell via email 

The primary lesson in winning presidential election contests in 2016 has been (and will be) the use of zingers (e.g., Low Energy Jeb, Little Marco, Lyin’ Ted and Crooked Hillary) and one-liners (e.g., “reduce income inequality”). The use of zingers and one-liners has gained more votes than the use of detailed arguments relating to policy goals.   

How can Hillary Clinton combat and utilize the aforementioned tactics? One thing is for her to give credit to Marco Rubio for calling Trump a con man, and then refer to Trump as Con Man Donald as often as Trump refers to her as Crooked Hillary. She should ask voters if they would buy a used casino (or some similar questions) from Trump as much as she should appeal for votes on the basis of her experience and actions.

To defeat Trump, she will have to authentically conduct a campaign that relies as much on the aforementioned factors as on the important elements of clearly stating achievable policy goals; justifying her integrity; and getting the Democratic base, anti-Trump Republicans and independent voters to the polls.

Marc Jacobson, Los Angeles

Political lessons for June

Two big things are happening in the coming week: the California primary and the 49th anniversary of the Six-Day War. Absolutely no relation? Think again. There are lessons in what happened on June 5, 1967, that can help guide the decisions we make on June 7, 2016, and in November.

We all know about the election, but a quick refresher on the war: In the months leading up to June 1967, tensions mounted between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Dozens of terror attacks by Palestinian fedayeen plagued Israel’s northern border, followed by Israeli reprisals. Egypt massed tanks and troops on Israel’s southern borders, expelled United Nations peacekeeping troops from the Sinai and closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli vessels, a clear act of war. Egypt sent fighter jets over Israel’s nascent nuclear weapons installation at Dimona, and Egypt, Syria and, eventually, Jordan signed a mutual pact to create a united Arab front against the 19-year-old state. 

As Arab leaders envisioned a victory lunch in Tel Aviv and Arab mobs in the streets called for “Death to the Jews,” Israelis waited for the inevitable attack. Though Israel held a qualitative military edge, the combined Arab nations had several times Israel’s number of planes, guns, tanks and soldiers. Israel had no margin for error.

“The vast array of Arab forces on all of Israel’s borders, combined with the anti-Zionist frenzy sweeping the Arab world, produced a momentum for Israel’s destruction that no Arab leader could resist,” Michael Oren says in an interview addendum in his book, “Six Days of War” (2002), the best history on the subject.

Then, at dawn on June 5, 1967, the Israelis launched “Operation Focus,” a pre-emptive strike against Egypt. Within hours, the air forces of Egypt, Syria and Jordan lay in smoldering ruins. By the last day of the war, Israel had captured territories four times its former size. The war changed the map of the Middle East — of the world — in ways so profound, the fight over the spoils of that conflict continue to this day.

So what are the lessons?

Leadership Matters

Let’s start with Levi Eshkol. He was prime minister of Israel during the war and seemed to be a nebbish, a kind of nothing. At least, that’s what most Israelis thought of him. He was soft-spoken and deliberate, a shtetl-born, Yiddish-speaking bureaucrat who had none of the charisma or youth of the younger generation of sabras like Moshe Dayan and Yitzhak Rabin. One joke about Eshkol — there was literally a whole book of them — was that when a stewardess asked Eshkol if he preferred coffee or tea, he responded, “I’ll take half and half.”

Yet, in hindsight, Eshkol is the unsung hero of the war. He held out against his generals’ and his Cabinet’s repeated calls for action in order to give America and the rest of the world a chance to intervene diplomatically. What looked like dithering insecurity was actually a keen awareness that, after the war, Israel would still need to rely on foreign leaders and international opinion to rearm and maintain security.

Experience Matters

Eshkol knew the nation’s infrastructure because he’d helped build it. He was a man of wide learning and substance. Dayan, Rabin and other generals were already battle-tested. The other men and women at Israel’s helm at its moment of greatest crisis were seasoned military, political and national leaders. If it had been amateur hour in Israel’s war room, it would have been lights out.

Strategy Matters

One huge difference between the bellicose Arab leaders and the Israelis was that the Israelis had a plan. The Arab leaders gave blood-boiling speeches that whipped up the crowds and played like gangbusters on television. Eshkol could barely orate — he fumfered his way through one infamous radio address. But the Israelis had spent five years meticulously and quietly perfecting a first-strike capability should the need arise. Eshkol didn’t focus on empty promises and big speeches, but on policies and plans.

Allies Matter

As the noose tightened around Israel’s neck, Eshkol’s reason for waiting and waiting can be summed up in two words: Lyndon Johnson. Eshkol understood that a small country — every country, for that matter — needs friends. Privately, Eshkol was livid with Johnson for his refusal to push for a diplomatic or international solution to the crisis. But to his generals, he made the case that without Johnson’s tacit “green light,” Israel would be alone in battle, and in victory. It was a smart move. Once war broke out, Johnson kept the Soviets from rushing to Egypt’s side. When the war was over, America swung firmly into Israel’s camp. Of the billions of dollars America has given Israel in foreign aid, the vast majority came after 1967.

So those are the lessons. Sure, the crises of today may not be as immediate as the one Israel faced, or the solutions as lightning-quick. But our challenges — from nuclear weapons to climate change — are no less existential.

Feel free to decide which of the candidates for president of the United States best understands and could follow these lessons. I’m not naming any names. 


Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. E-mail him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism and @RobEshman

Politics and pastrami

This week two topics are dominating the conversation of Westside Jews: the election and Wexler’s Deli. And they are not as unrelated as you think.

The California primary is less than two weeks away, on June 7, a Tuesday. And Wexler’s Deli opens at 6th Street and Santa Monica Blvd in Santa Monica on May 27, a Friday. 

The lead-up to the primary has brought in a steady stream of candidates and fundraisers. But going strictly by the number of tweets, Instagram posts and emails over the past week, I’d say Wexler’s is getting more buzz.  

“… I drove by Wexler’s deli that opens next Friday,” my friend Bryan texted. “(I’m foaming at the mouth just thinking about it) we should all go next week — can’t wait.”

Eater LA did a breathless curtain-raiser. LA Weekly tweeted out a picture of chef and co-owner Micah Wexler with his face semi-hidden behind the counter, as if his full glory won’t be revealed to us mortals until this week.  MSNBC gave the deli an on-air shout-out.

What’s the deal? There are many delis west of the 405. Izzy’s, less than a mile away, has been around for 40 years — you’ve seen Larry David hold kvetch there on many “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episodes. Fromin’s, on Santa Monica Boulevard a few blocks from the new Wexler’s location, has been a mainstay of the Elders of Brunch for years. What’s the big tsimmis with Wexler’s?

In a word: authenticity.

From the moment Wexler and his business partner, Mike Kassar, opened their first small outlet in the revitalized downtown Los Angeles Grand Central Market, authenticity set Wexler’s apart.  They smoked their own lox, cured their own pastrami, pickled their own pickles. Their breads and bagels are co-crafted with local artisanal bakers. If pickled herring was on the menu, guess who pickled it?

Delis that return to the techniques of handcrafted food had opened in other cities — Miles End in New York, Wise Sons Jewish Deli in San Francisco, to name a couple — but never before in L.A.  One reason is L.A. didn’t lack for delis, many of them classic.  Another reason, as Wexler himself explained to me, is that it’s very difficult, expensive and time-consuming.  

But it’s also the reason Wexler’s is a success. Authenticity. Coming of age at a time when much of life is virtual — from texting to sexting, the millennials, in particular, yearn for something real. That’s where food comes in — it’s the one big thing left that can’t be digitized. It’s something they can literally sink their teeth into. The more their world is coming to them as-if, the more they demand their food be true.

On May 15, when Sandor Katz, author of  “The Art of Fermentation,” led a workshop on DIY sauerkraut in the Grand Central Market basement, just below Wexler’s, guess how many people showed up? 50? 100? Try over 1,000 — most of them young. 

I volunteered as an assistant to Katz and helped walk giddy 20-somethings through techniques familiar to their great-great-grandparents, lost to their moms and dads.

“That’s it?” a young woman asked as I handed her a finished jar of pounded cabbage and salt. “So cool!”

And that’s why everyone is talking about Bernie and Donald, too.

The two candidates who are the real story of Election 2016 are not polished politicians. To the overwhelming percentage of millennials who’ve voted for Sanders and turned out to his rallies, that’s what attracts them to the man. He screams authenticity — especially when he screams. True, Bernie has been a professional pol most of his life, and Donald Trump is anything but a rube. But you can describe each of them using words that just as easily describe the kind of food millennials love: raw, unfiltered, homemade, salty, sour, tough.  In a world of political tenderloins, they are brisket.

Now, if you’ve read this column before, you know what I think of Trump. His authenticity is a ruse. Don the Con, aka Con Man Trump, aka Conald Trump is none of what he claims to be — not anti-gun or anti-abortion or pro-middle class or pro-Israel. He knows far better than his gullible followers that there will be no wall, no deportations, no end to NAFTA or Obamacare or the Iran deal.  

By contrast, Bernie believes the things he says. He may have a less-than-illustrious Senate record, but he’s creating a grass-roots movement by aiming for the treetops — and perhaps, if he knows how and when to turn his true believers into effective activists, he will have accomplished something big.

That leaves us with Hillary Clinton. She’s a brilliant woman with deep experience and a long record of accomplishment, whether you agree with her or not. Polls show a majority of Americans think she’s not trustworthy or honest. Millennials disdain her for her lack of, yup, authenticity.    

One could make an argument that Hillary’s travails are more about her inability to project the real Hillary than they are about the real Hillary. But, in any case, that’s her task — to get raw and real at a time when those are the flavors people crave.

Disagree?  If you want to argue it out, you know where you can find me this Friday. After all, elections come and go. Lox is forever. 

Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. E-mail him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism and @RobEshman.