November 21, 2018

Moving & Shaking: LAJFF, Friends of IDF and More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A Jewish Black guy,” Davitian said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aaron Bandler, Contributing Writer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving and Shaking: L.A. celebrates Purim, IDF soldiers celebrated, Elon Gold reignites Jewish comedy

From left: Michael Robin, Melanie Zoey Weinstein, Marnina Wirtschafter and Jaclyn Beck sing a politically themed song parody of “Seasons of Love” as part of IKAR’s Purim celebration. Photo by Len Muroff.

Mayim Bialik suited up for the Velcro wall at Valley Beth Shalom’s March 12 Purim carnival. Photo courtesy of Mayim Bialik.

Los Angeles Jews celebrated Purim across the city and around the world on March 11 and 12.

On the Westside, Shtibl Minyan and Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills held “Hamilton”-themed shpiels, “Hamalkah: A Purim Musical” and “Esther: A Purim Musical,” respectively. Temple Isaiah hosted “The Late Late Show Purim,” with Rabbi Joel Nickerson playing talk show host James Grogger and featuring characters from the Purim story as his guests. At Temple Beth Am, senior staff and interns dressed as either Little Orphan Annie or her dog, Sandy, to convey the message that “the sun will come out tomorrow.” Aish Los Angeles held a jungle-themed Purim party for young adults ages 21 to 32 at Morry’s Fireplace.

Venturing to Club Fais Do-Do, IKAR held a combination Megillah reading and shpiel, featuring slides with funny images. Between chapters, the shpiel team screened a number of video shorts, including “IKARaoke,” starring “Royal Pains” actor Mark Feuerstein. The spiel ended with a politically themed song parody of “Seasons of Love” (from the musical “Rent”). Costumes, too, skewed political, with Rabbi Sharon Brous dressed as the Statue of Liberty.

Festivities continued Sunday around the region, with carnivals at Temple Judea, Temple Isaiah and Valley Beth Shalom (VBS), among other places. At VBS, actress Mayim Bialik (“The Big Bang Theory”) was one of the carnival-goers who suited up for the Velcro wall.

In Israel, Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, was spotted dancing after a Megillah reading at the Tel Aviv Hilton with his son, Avi Hier, and Andrew Friedman, president of Congregation Bais Naftoli.

— Esther D. Kustanowitz, Contributing Writer

Soldiers who traveled to Los Angeles as part of Lev Chayal “Trip of a Lifetime” gather around businessman and philanthropist Marvin Markowitz (top row, seventh from left, seated). Photo by Debra Halperin Photography.

Soldiers who traveled to Los Angeles as part of Lev Chayal “Trip of a Lifetime” gather around
businessman and philanthropist Marvin Markowitz (top row, seventh from left, seated). Photo by Debra Halperin Photography.

Lev Chayal held its second annual “Toast to Our Heroes” party on March 4 at The Mark for Events on Pico Boulevard. The party honored 10 Israel Defense Forces soldiers who were wounded during hostilities with Hamas in Gaza in 2014.

Lev Chayal, which translates to “Heart of a Soldier,” is a group dedicaxted to honoring wounded Israeli soldiers by offering them free leisure trips to Los Angeles. Chaya Israily and Brocha Yemini founded the group in 2016 under the auspices of the Chabad Israel Center.

The black-tie evening coincided with the second trip for soldiers sponsored by Lev Chayal. During their 10-day tour of Los Angeles, dubbed “The Trip of a Lifetime,” the soldiers attended a Lakers game, toured the headquarters of dating app Tinder and visited the Getty Villa museum, among other attractions.

Businessman and philanthropist Marvin Markowitz donated the use of the event space and paid for a significant amount of the event’s expenses.

Some 200 people attended the event, which raised nearly $50,000. Lev Chayal is preparing for the next trip for soldiers in December.

— Eitan Arom, Staff Writer

Alan Dershowitz and Roz Rothstein at “Combating the Boycott Movement Against Israel” conference. Photo courtesy of StandwithUs.

Alan Dershowitz and Roz Rothstein at “Combating the Boycott Movement Against Israel” conference. Photo courtesy of StandwithUs.

More than 250 people participated in the “Combating the Boycott Movement Against Israel” conference on March 4-6, organized by the group StandWithUs, which focused on countering the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

Supported by the Diane Shulman and Roger Richman Israel Education Fund, the conference at the Hyatt Regency Los Angeles International Airport drew students, professionals and activists from the United States, Canada and Israel. Attendees and members of StandWithUs, a nonprofit pro-Israel organization, shared their experiences with the BDS movement and the tactics they have used to challenge it on college campuses and other places.

“Today, you can’t say anything about minorities, about gay people, about Palestinians, about Muslims or about Arabs,” said Harvard University law professor emeritus and defense attorney Alan Dershowitz. “But when you put a shoe on the other foot, you can say analogous things about the nation-state of the Jewish people, about the Jewish lobby, and ultimately about Jews.”

He said college campuses should “demand a single standard” that is fairly applied to both sides.

“Whatever the left says is hate speech against them, we must demand that that be deemed hate speech against us on the other side,” Dershowitz said.

Other guest speakers included Judea Pearl, father of late Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl; Yaki Lopez, consul for political affairs at the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles; and Anne Bayefsky, director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust.

Hannah Karpin, 17, StandWithUs High School Intern at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, said the conference enabled her to learn more about the BDS movement.

“I think it should be acknowledged as an anti-Semitic movement,” said Karpin, who is planning to attend college next year. “It was shocking to hear that some recognizable organizations were behind the BDS movement.”

— Olga Grigoryants, Contributing Writer


Elon Gold. Photo by Ryan Torok.

Comedian Elon Gold performed at a Purim comedy concert at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills on March 9, during which he talked about why Israel is the nipple of the Middle East breast (Gold said Israel is the most sensitive area and he doesn’t get to visit it as much he would like) and acted as Abraham negotiating with God over how much should be cut off during a circumcision (with God sounding like Marlon Brando and Abraham like Woody Allen).

Gold is Modern Orthodox and his material focused almost exclusively on the Jewish experience. He asked at one point if any gentiles were in the crowd. When nobody raised a hand, he insisted there were a couple of goy but they were hiding. He then asked the non-Jews how it felt for them to be the ones hiding.

Alex Edelman, a stand-up comedian who opened the show, gleaned material from his Jewish upbringing and did an eight-minute bit about the year his family celebrated Christmas, much to the chagrin of his yeshiva teacher.

The several hundred attendees included Pico Shul Rabbi Yonah Bookstein and his wife, rebbetzin Rachel Bookstein; Jacob Segal, co-chair of the Southern California Israel Chamber of Commerce; David Suissa, president of TRIBE Media Corp., and his daughter, Tova; and Scott Jacobs of JooTube.

On a more serious note, Gold took the opportunity to denounce the anti-Semitism that has been on the rise over the past couple of months, with Jewish community centers being targeted with bomb threats and several Jewish cemeteries vandalized.

“You mess with the Jews, you lose,” Gold said.

From left: FIDF Chairman Ari Ryan and FIDF board members Francesca Ruzin and Michael Spector. Photo courtesy of S&N Photography.

Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) held its Young Leadership Western Region Spring Mixer on March 9 at the Nightingale Plaza dance club on La Cienega Boulevard.

Some 650 young donors mingled over cocktails under violet lighting as house music blared, celebrating the work FIDF has done to support Israeli troops. Life-size posters of IDF soldiers in uniform beamed at the guests.

For an extra $18 above the $36 ticket price, attendees were able to send a Purim gift package to an IDF soldier.

The event, chaired by Danielle Moses, Mimi Paley, Francesca Ruzin and Miles Soboroff, raised more than $41,000 for FIDF.

In 2016, FIDF supported, by its own count, 66,000 soldiers, veterans and bereaved family members, including 14,500 through educational programming, 2,800 through assistance to so-called lone soldiers who don’t have immediate family in Israel, and 8,000 soldiers needing financial assistance.

— Eitan Arom, Staff Writer


Michael Janofsky

Michael Janofsky, a former correspondent for The New York Times and more recently managing editor of LA School Report, has joined the Jewish Journal as an assistant editor. Janofsky was a sportswriter, national correspondent and Washington, D.C. reporter over 24 years with the paper. After moving to Los Angeles in 2006, he worked as a speechwriter for the dean of UCLA’s business school and a freelance writer and editor before joining the Journal.

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email 

South Carolina House adopts State Department definition of anti-Semitism

South Carolina state capitol in Columbia. Photo from Wikipedia.

South Carolina’s House of Representatives passed a bill endorsing the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism as part of an effort to fight discrimination on college campuses.

The bill, which passed unanimously on Friday, defines anti-Semitism to include the State Department’s definition, which considers demonizing, delegitimizing or applying a double standard to Israel to be forms of anti-Semitism.

Under the South Carolina bill, the new definition would be used in probes of possible anti-Semitism at state colleges and universities.

The pro-Israel groups Stand With Us and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for For Human Rights Under Law, a nonprofit that conducts research on campus anti-Semitism, hailed the measure.

“We applaud the South Carolina legislators for standing up against this growing anti-Jewish bigotry, and in a way that fully protects free speech on campus,” the Brandeis Center’s president, Kenneth Marcus said in a Friday statement.

Stand With Us said South Carolina has “taken a lead addressing the rise of anti-Semitism across the nation.”

The State Department definition has drawn criticism for deeming certain types of criticism of Israel to be anti-Semitic, a theme critics of the South Carolina bill echoed on Friday.

“This language would shut down legitimate debate on South Carolina campuses about policies of the state of Israel and would equate criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish racism,” said Caroline Nagel, a professor at the University of South Carolina, according to The Post and Courier.

Witness the Resilience, Resolve and Valiance of a Nation

I recently had the privilege of traveling to Israel on a solidarity mission, arranged by Stand With Us, a prominent Israel advocacy group.  This amazing program was put together in a matter of days and was intended to show our unwavering stance with the people of Israel. Our trip was packed with amazing events, such as visits with IDF soldiers, meetings with dignitaries, tour of a Kibbutz in the line of rocket fire at the border of Gaza and much more.  Our small group was made up of likeminded individuals from across the U.S., with a mix of professionals ranging from a Rabbi, a number of business people, physicians and representatives of a non-profit organization.  This life changing experience left a lasting impression on each one of us, as we stood in awe and were inspired by the resolve of a nation under attack.

We were witness to the resilience of a nation going about its day to day life amidst the constant rocket fire from a sworn enemy.  In one instance, we experienced hearing the red alert and having to find shelter from an incoming rocket.  Grateful that alert was canceled, we were delighted to see Israelis continue to go about their daily life, go out to shop and eat at restaurants.

We were witness to the determination of high ranking Israeli cabinet members who have vowed never allow Israel’s enemies to reach their goal of eliminating the state of Israel – as proclaimed by the Hamas Charter.

We were witness to the valiance of Israeli soldiers, who sustained injuries, lost comrades and best friends, yet, were determined to continue the fight for the preservation of the State of Israel.  We stood in awe and respect as these young men told us their stories and shared their concerns for the families of the fallen.

We were witness to the unshakable faith of one remarkable mother, Rachel Frankel, whose son along with two other teenagers was abducted and brutally killed, before the current conflict had even begun. Mrs. Frankel’s presence filled the room and had she not uttered a single word, her message was clear. While hoping for peace and the continued unity of the nation of Israel, not once did this amazing mother utter a word in hatred of the murderers of her beloved son.  What a stark contrast when compared to Palestinian mothers, many of whom dance with joy, when their sons take the innocent lives of Israeli people through suicide bombings.

We were witness to the unparalleled technological innovation of a nation that is only decades old. Several times, we watched the Iron Dome in action, as it eliminated incoming rockets from Gaza in midair. Call it ingenuity caused by necessity or call it an open miracle – it boggles the mind that a small country with limited resources can develop what many other countries cannot even begin to dream of.

Most importantly, we were witness to oneness of a nation, as it came together, united in its cause. We visited a make-shift tent, put together by a civilian in the middle of the Negev desert, to provide refreshments to Israeli soldiers. Soon many families from near and far joined in and a flood of food, supplies, blankets, benches and more piled up under this tent.

Having experienced the resolve of this great nation along with its military superiority, one could surmise that at the end, Israel will yet again triumph over its enemies. However, one should not rush to celebrate. By all indications, the war with Hamas may prove to be a prolonged war of attrition. Even if the new ceasefire brokered by Egypt holds, the diametrically opposed interests of the two parties may make a lasting truce near impossible.   While Hamas may not hold high hopes of victory on the field of battle, they continue to dream of new ways to fulfil the aspirations of their founding charter, which calls for the murder of Jews and the elimination of Israel.

For those of us who live outside the land of Israel and yet feel connected and inspired to take part in this life changing journey as it takes shape, we must never be indifferent. While we may not be able to take up arms and join in the defense of the country, we should participate in any and all means available to us. We should take an active part in counteracting the deceptive tactics of the propaganda war against Israel, by disseminating the truth and advocating for Israel. We should buy Israeli products to counteract the BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanctions) campaign which is used by pro-Palestinian activists to cast Israel out of the global community. We should invest in Israeli companies and participate in real estate investments, when possible. But most importantly, we should take the initiative to travel to Israel, and we should do so NOW. We can show our solidarity with the people of Israel by traveling, lodging, shopping, dining and experiencing all that this beautiful country has to offer.

Kamran Benji is an LA resident coming from the Persian community

Violence at pro-Israel rally underscores passion over Israeli-Palestinian conflict

A sea of bodies jumped up and down to the beat of Israeli dance music. Tiny Israeli flags flapped in the sky. 

On July 13, an Israel solidarity event organized by Stand With Us and the Israeli American Council (IAC) drew between 1,200 and 2,000 people — depending on who’s counting — who showed up in front of the Federal Building on Wilshire Boulevard in Westwood to demonstrate their support for Israel. 

Across the street, on the north side of Wilshire Boulevard, some 200 pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered for a counter-protest. 

At around 5:30 p.m., 90 minutes into the pro-Israel rally, violence overshadowed the festive atmosphere when a clash broke out between pro-Israel demonstrators and a group of pro-Palestinian men driving a pickup truck eastward on Wilshire, where Israel demonstrators lined the north-facing sidewalk.

According to eyewitnesses, everything started innocently enough. 

“Cars were going very slowly on Wilshire, most of them had Jewish flags and music playing, and it was almost in a way like a festival — we were responding to them and singing with them, and it was very relaxed,” eyewitness and Beth Jacob Congregation member Batia Zimmerman said in an interview with the Journal. “Once in a while, a [pro-]Palestinian car would drive by, and we would yell at each other — we’d say, ‘Am Yisra’el Chai’ — and they’d look at us, and they’d yell something at us” but nothing more.

“And there is one car, and it’s a truck, they have a large Palestinian flag hanging out of their car, so of course, somebody [on the pro-Israel side] was boiling … something angered them [the pro-Palestinians in the truck] and … in a split second this happened, they all jumped out of their car waving … sticks and lunging at us.” 

“When police became aware of the situation, they came to the front line. Security came in and got smacked two to three times with a wooden pole, and everybody was screaming and running and people were moving back,” Barry Poltorak, an off-duty Los Angeles County deputy sheriff who witnessed the incident, said in an in-person interview minutes after the incident occurred. “I moved up to back up the security guy.”

Jennifer Sabet, who identified herself in an email to the Journal as a “46-year-old Jewish woman, pro-Zionist,” said she witnessed the pro-Israel side starting the fight after someone grabbed a Palestinian flag from the truck and began stomping on it.

“The reason the [pro-]Palestinian men got out of their truck in the first place was in direct response to a pro-Israel supporter running up to their vehicle on Wilshire and taking one of their flags from out of their hands, and throwing it on the asphalt, repeatedly stomping up and down on it in front of them,” Sabet wrote in an email. 

Amid the chaos, the pro-Palestinian men returned to their vehicle. According to Poltorak, a law enforcement official grabbed the back of the pickup truck. 

“When [the pickup truck] … gained speed, the police officer could no longer hang on,” Poltorak said. 

The officer ordered the men to stop, but they kept driving, and the officer fired at the truck, he said. 

Shortly after the incident, authorities pulled over the pickup truck and arrested four pro-Palestinian demonstrators, Mostadafa Gamaleldin Hafez, 19; Haddah Mustapha Kreidieh, 41; Mohammed Said Elkhatib, 35; and Fadi Ali Obeidallah, 38; who now face charges of assault with a deadly weapon, according to a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department news release. Authorities released the men on July 14 after they each posted a $30,000 bond, the release said.

Meanwhile, the still-to-be-identified Federal Protective Services (FPS) officer who fired his weapon has been put on paid leave as a result of his action. His firearm has also been taken into custody.

“An FPS law enforcement officer on-site attempted to stop the four male suspects who were attempting to flee the scene in a vehicle, and discharged one round from his service weapon,” FPS spokesperson Jacqueline Yost said in a statement.

FPS requested an ambulance for a girl who allegedly was struck by the four males, Yost said. There were no other serious injuries, witnesses said. 

As for the gunshot, Edmon Rodman, a Jewish Journal contributor who was at the rally, said he was surprised by the officer’s decision to fire, “given how close the crowd was.”

“The people around didn’t have any strong reaction. I am not sure if they understood what had just happened,” he said in an email.

The pro-Israel rally took place as violence was escalating in the weeklong conflict between Israel and Hamas-run Gaza in the wake of the killing of three Israeli teens and one Arab boy. Israel launched Operation Protective Edge in response to missiles from Gaza. As of early this week, more than 100 Palestinians have died as a result of the operation. Israel has suffered only one casualty, attesting to the effectiveness of the country’s Iron Dome anti-missile system. 

At the rally, many high-profile speakers addressed the crowd. Israeli actress Noa Tishby directly addressed Israel’s critics who have pointed to the imbalance in casualties. “What is a ‘proportionate response’ to [hundreds of] rockets being launched on you?” she said.

Lihi Shaar, the aunt of one of the teens whose murder sparked the current conflict, spoke to the crowd, as did Israel Consul General in Los Angeles David Siegel; Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz; L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer; Simon Wiesenthal Center dean and founder Rabbi Marvin Hier and other leaders from the Los Angeles community. StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein served as moderator of a speakers’ program. 

Attendees crowded the lawn at the southeast corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Veteran Avenue, and many stood on platforms to see above the crowd and catch glimpses of the speakers. 

A festive tone was struck, as well, by musicians brought in by the IAC, one of the co-organizers of the event. When the DJs spun high-energy music, which blared from large speakers next to their booth, the crowd went wild: At times, the day resembled a dance party more than a community rally in the face of war.

Pro-Israel demonstrators lined the edge of the north-facing sidewalk, their bodies pressed up against banners, hands holding high their pro-Israel signs. At times, they appeared engaged in a competition with the counter-protest across the street over who could chant the loudest. 

After the fight that led to the gunshot, several law enforcement agencies worked together to shut down Wilshire Boulevard from Sepulveda Boulevard to Gayley Avenue.

Dozens of law enforcement personnel, including some wearing riot gear, arrived on the scene after the incident, but the rallies did not end right away. Authorities escorted the Israeli rally to the Federal Building parking lot, but not before law enforcement broke up a much smaller scuffle that erupted on Veteran Avenue, across the street from the parking lot where authorities were escorting pro-Israel demonstrators to their cars.

Authorities cleared out both rallies by 7 p.m.

Because the incident occurred as the pro-Israel rally’s speakers program already was underway, many event organizers did not know about the fight until after the rally was over. The sound of the gunshot was drowned out by the music, the speakers’ amplified voices, and the cheering and chanting of the crowd. 

Community members from across the city attended the rally.

Aimy Zodieru, a paralegal and a member of Nessah Synagogue, said the State of Israel faces tough choices in determining how to respond to the rocket fire from Gaza. 

“I think what they’re doing is the best decision they can make, considering the circumstances in Gaza. I just feel really badly for the families in Sderot and the innocent civilians in Gaza,” she said, wearing a tiny
Israeli flag tucked behind each ear. 

Sinai Temple’s Rabbi David Wolpe also attended the rally. During a phone interview, Wolpe said that the fight shows how polarizing the conflict can be, even thousands of miles away from the action. 

“It’s just frightening, and this is in the most peaceful possible setting — in Westwood, in Los Angeles,” he told the Journal.

Jewish groups react swiftly to escalation of Gaza rocket attacks on Israel

Jewish organizations had an outpouring of reaction on Wednesday to the escalation of Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel that had started Saturday—conveying their prayers for the safety of southern Israelis, condemning the Hamas terrorism, and affirming the Jewish state’s right to respond.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched a broad Gaza operation targeting Hamas terrorists, called “Pillar of Defense,” which killed Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari. After Jabari’s death, Hamas intensified its rocket fire.

In Kiryat Malakhi, where three Israelis were killed by a rocket that hit their home, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) said its Better Together program “is taking care of 30 displaced families whose building was bombed and deemed uninhabitable by providing basic needs and finding them temporary shelter.” JDC is also delivering food to the homes of the elderly.

“JDC’s Emergency Response Team is already helping the elderly, people with disabilities, and youth at risk, providing basic needs and emotional support during this distressing time,” JDC President Penny Blumenstein and Interim CEO Darrell Friedman said in a joint statement.

Roz Rothstein, CEO of the pro-Israel education group StandWithUs, expressed “hope for the day when Palestinian leaders lay aside their hatred and arms, and reach out for peace with Israel.” She also said Hamas’s onslaught “endangers the citizens of Gaza who are being used as human shields.”

The Conference of President of Major American Jewish Organizations noted that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “remains silent” despite daily Palestinian terrorist attacks.

“He has yet to condemn or criticize these blatant violations across an international border that put one million innocent Israelis in jeopardy,” Conference of Presidents Chairman Richard Stone and Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein said in a joint statement. 

Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, said “These latest unprovoked attacks follow years of unrelenting terror that has forced so many Israelis to live in a constant state of fear— conditions which no country would tolerate.”

“We proudly stand shoulder to shoulder with the people and state of Israel during this difficult time and pray that such attacks will soon end,” Silverman said.

American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris on Thursday criticized the United Nations Security Council for not being able to agree on a statement of concern regarding Israel’s situation during a Wednesday night emergency session in New York.

“The inability of too many world leaders to distinguish between the arsonist, Hamas, and the firefighter, Israel, is gross negligence,” Harris said. “No UN member state can honestly say it would respond differently to a neighbor dedicated to its annihilation and launching rockets to provoke a larger confrontation.”

The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) said it “stands with Israel as it exercises its sovereign right to respond to the rocket attacks launched by Hamas terrorists from Gaza.” NJDC added that it is “relieved to see that the Iron Dome missile defense system has intercepted many incoming rockets, helping to save Israeli lives and property as well.”

Three top Jewish women activists endorse Obama

Three past and current leaders of Jewish women’s advocacy groups endorsed President Obama, citing their concerns about women’s rights.

Nancy Ratzan, the immediate past president of the National Council of Jewish Women; Barbara Dobkin, the founding chairwoman of the Jewish Women’s Archive, the chairwoman of the American Jewish World Service board of trustees and a major donor to a number of causes; and Millie Sernovitz, the chairwoman of Jewish Family and Community Services of South Florida and a past president of Jewish Women International, signed an Op-Ed in the Jewish Journal of Broward County titled “Stand With Us.”

The newspaper is located in Florida, which is seen as a swing state. Both campaigns are focused heavily on its substantial Jewish population.

Speaking of the Republican presidential candidates, the Op-Ed claimed: “They all support ending access to reproductive choice, including basic contraception. Indeed, their likely nominee, Mitt Romney has called Roe v. Wade ‘one of the darkest moments in Supreme Court history,’ he supports the ‘personhood amendment’ that would outlaw all abortion, and he says he will repeal health care reform on his first day in office.”

Romney has said he would stop government funding for Planned Parenthood, but has never said he would stop access to contraception.

He has pledged to initiate a rollback of some aspects of the health care reform passed in 2010, but has suggested that he will keep some of its provisions and replace others with models he believes will be more efficient.

Romney does favor the overturn of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that guarantees a woman’s access to abortion as a matter of privacy, but he also has said that he favors legal abortions in cases of rape, incest or when the woman’s life is in danger.

Regarding Obama, the Op-Ed stated that, “With respect to Israel, our security assistance has increased every year, we’ve quelled attempts to isolate Israel, and Iran is under greater pressure than ever before. With respect to domestic achievements, his historic health care reform has created access to better and more affordable health care for millions of Americans.”

Obama’s increases in security assistance to Israel are partly the result of a memorandum of understanding framed by the previous Bush administration.

The Op-Ed noted Obama’s mandated inclusion of contraceptive care coverage in health care plans whatever the religious inclinations of the employer.

Ratzan is a donor to Democratic candidates and acts as a surrogate for the Obama campaign in Florida. Dobkin has been a major giver to Democratic candidates.

Calendar Girls Picks and Clicks Dec. 13- 19: Chanukah, Heeb, Israel, Yiddish


If you lost your brother in combat, would you enlist in the army? If your father was killed on the battlefield, would you sign up for the same unit? The 28 IDF soldiers who will be guests of honor at a luncheon today did exactly that. Required to get written consent from a parent or guardian to serve as kravim ” target=”_blank”>

Get your holiday sizzle on at the OC Young Leadership Division’s “Latkes & Vodkas” Chanukah party. Aside from rhyming, latkes and vodkas sound like a delectable pairing. But food and drinks (of which there will be plenty at the open bar) are not the only appealing aspect of this bash. Themed “Hanukkah in Hawaii,” this party at a lush private estate will include desserts, dancing, entertainment and a chance to do good — bring gift cards to donate to families in need through Jewish Family Service. Singles on the prowl and couples looking for a good time are all welcome, but you must be between the ages of 21 and 45 to attend. Sat. 8 p.m. $36 (advance), $40 (at the door). Private home, 11611 Arroyo Ave., north Tustin (call for directions). (949) 435-3484. ” target=”_blank”>

For women only: a concert starring Julie Geller (described once as “Ani DiFranco meets Deepak Chopra”) and artist Barbara Keller. Other women to be featured in the concert include: Cathy Heller, Enny Wax, Joni Krevoy — and you! Join along in a magical night of singing in “Lend Your Voice and Unite the Light,” all in support of the “Happy Minyan,” whose motto is: It’s a great mitzvah to always be happy. Sat. 8 p.m. $15. The Happy Minyan, 9218 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. ” border = 0 vspace = ‘8’ hspace = ‘8’ align = ‘left’>Jewish Book Month Breakfast. Learn how performer and author Wex has helped bring Yiddish back into the mainstream, all while making people laugh. Co-sponsored by the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies, the library’s annual used book sale will follow the program, giving holiday shoppers a fantastic way to stock up on favorite reads. Sun. 9:30 a.m. $25. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 481-3217. ” target=”_blank”>

The Skirball’s Chanukah Family Festival is loaded with activities for children of all ages. The daylong celebration will include extraordinary balloon twisters, interactive musical puppet shows exploring the history of the festival of lights, workshops where kids can make sand-filled Chanukiahs and custom dreidel game kits, an energetic performance by the Stein Brothers and holiday treats like latkes and jelly donuts. In addition to all this fun, you and your family can also enjoy the “Lights of Hanukkah” tour in the museum and take a stroll through the Skirball’s current exhibits, including “Visions and Values: Jewish Life From Antiquity to America” and “Becoming American: Teenagers and Immigration.” Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. $7 (seniors and students), $10 (general), free for Skirball members and children under 12. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4657. ” target=”_blank”>

Seeking relief from all those Yuletide ditties blaring while you shop? Look no further than the Yiddish Culture Club, which is presenting a concert of favorite Yiddish songs, featuring Cantor Herschel Fox from Valley Beth Shalom. So sit back, relax and let music take you to a very different winter wonderland. Sun. 2-4 p.m. $8-$10. Los Angeles Yiddish Culture Club, 8339 W. Third St., Los Angeles. (310) 454-3687.

Well, you’ve probably heard of Lollapalooza. But have you ever heard of Hanukkahpalooza? It’s happening here in Los Angeles, featuring a puppet show, kosher lunch, boutique, Israeli dancing and a concert with Naom Katz — called one of the most exciting new voices in contemporary Jewish music. In short, the perfect weekend event for the whole family. Sun. 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. $10-$15. University Synagogue, 11960 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 472-1255. ” border = 0 vspace = ‘8’ hspace = ‘8’ align = ‘left’>watched in amusement. Who knows what will come off and who’ll be wearing a Star of David, as Irish Catholic Farrell did, at this next installment of “the biggest, baddest, sexiest Jewish storytelling series on the planet.” The Heeb happening, which is quite realistically expected to sell out, will be hosted by Brett Gelman and will feature seven-minute Jewish-themed stories by Rebecca Adelman, Iris Bahr, Samm Levine and others. Mon. 9:30 p.m. $10 (food and drink minimum). M Bar, 1253 Vine St., Los Angeles. (323) 856-0036. ” target=”_blank”>


Millions of couples worldwide encounter complications related to infertility. Are you one of them? Bonei Olam is an organization that provides funds and services to couples who are having difficulty conceiving a child. According to Bonei Olam, to date more than 1,200 Jewish children have been born thanks to its help. Services the charity organization offers include: fertility medication, genetic diagnostics, high-risk pregnancy care, among others. If you’d like to learn more, attend “Miracle of Joy.” Wed. 8 p.m. Free. Home of Chavi Hertz, 525 N. Hillcrest Road, Beverly Hills. (718) 252-1212. ” target=”_blank”>


Valley Ruach — a Jewish summer camp meets a young professional Carlebach niggunim community — likens its fun, casual and brief Shabbat services to a hot air balloon ride for your soul. If you’ve never given Ruach a whirl, tonight’s Pre-Hanukkah Shabbat Celebration is as great a time as any to meet the young (20s and 30s) members of this innovative, song-filled and intimate congregation. The guitar-led service will be followed by a kosher Shabbat dinner, where you can swap tales from Camp Alonim, discuss hip Valley living and rediscover the ruach — Hebrew for both spirit and wind — in religion. Fri. 7:30 p.m. Service are free. $10 (dinner). Adat Ari El, 12020 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village.