“Mommy, I’ll be right back.” Irene Rosenberg — then Irene Grunfeld — said as she was leaving the apartment of her cousin Mancy Weiss, where she and her mother were staying temporarily.
Arrow Cross soldiers banged on the front door. Eva Brettler, then Eva Katz, hid behind her grandmother as the soldiers, members of Hungary’s fascist party, ordered Eva’s grandmother and aunt to quickly pack and prepare to leave.
"They’re going to come with the dogs. They’re going to start beating me.” Pola Lipnowski spoke in Yiddish, an expression of sheer terror on her face. She turned to her daughter, Hendel Schwartz, for protection.
"Sorry, children. I’m not going to jeopardize my life for your father’s money.” The Christian forester smuggling three Jewish children across the border from Poland to Slovakia had stopped abruptly, wished them luck and told them to keep walking. But Gloria Ungar — then Gitta Nagel — gripped his arm, promising that her father would make him very rich if he continued. She, her younger brother Nathan and her cousin were wending their way through a pitch-black forest. “It was terrifying,” Gloria recalled; she knew they wouldn’t make it alone. Her cousin had broken her ankle, and Nathan was crying that he couldn’t walk anymore. Plus the Germans were scanning the forest with floodlights, siccing attack dogs and then shooting whenever they saw a shadow. The children threw themselves against trees whenever the floodlights came near.
"Abe, go. You’re young. You’re not afraid to work.” Bronia Rosenstein, Abe’s older sister, urged him to answer a call for strong, healthy men to work outside the Lodz ghetto. It was November 1940. Abe was 21 and for nine months he had been living in one small room with his parents, two sisters and one brother. Abe signed up to work. Living conditions in the ghetto were deteriorating, and people were dying from hunger on the street daily. On the day he reported for work, he spotted his mother standing behind a barbed-wire fence, crying. “It was the last time I saw her,” he said.
"The Jews are going to be taken from the ghetto and killed.”
The train arrived at Dachau one morning in late November 1944. As the doors opened, German soldiers wielding big sticks yelled, “Raus, raus” (“Out, out”). Alex Friedman and the other Jewish prisoners exited, were marched toward the camp and, outside in the snow and cold, ordered to strip.
“Leave your possessions. We will bring them to you,” a Jewish commando greeted the trainload of Jews arriving at Auschwitz. He pointed to Regina Landowicz’s mother: “Too old.” And to her sister Lillie: “Too young.” Sally, another sister, took scissors from her rucksack and quickly trimmed their mother’s hair and lopped off Lillie’s braids as German soldiers shouted, “Raus, raus!” (Out, out!) On the platform, a German soldier tried to grab Lillie from their mother’s arms, but their mother clutched her tightly, even as he beat her.
"Hey, you Jew. Open up the door.' It was 4 a.m. on a Sunday morning, just before Passover 1944, when two gendarmes in the village of Chiesd, Transylvania, banged on the door where 12-year-old Edith Izsak lived with her parents, three siblings and two young cousins.
The cattle car doors opened onto the Auschwitz platform and Hedy Markowitz, abruptly separated from her mother and younger brothers, was pushed along a walkway. She was first detained at a building where two Jewish prisoners shaved her head, and was then ushered into another building and ordered to undress. She took off the pink and blue plaid suit that her mother’s friend had sewn for her 16th birthday.
“Where are the dollars?” two plainclothes Gestapo officers demanded as they appeared without warning on both sides of Sol Berger. Sol denied any knowledge, even though the daughter of a local currency dealer was hovering nearby at the train station in Tarnow, Poland, holding the dollars he desperately needed to immigrate to Palestine.
From the upstairs bedroom she shared with four girls, Sonja Blits heard the soldiers marching through the quiet village of Zaandijk, outside Amsterdam, where she was being hidden by a generous Dutch family. "Remember, stay below the windowsill," Moe Haidel, the other girls' mother, reminded her. But, drawn to the unusual noise, Sonja stood up and peeked through the curtain. Her eyes fixed on the SS troops' black boots making clicking noises on the brick street. That sound continued to haunt her.
As Masha Sapoznikow returned to the Kovno ghetto just past noon on March 27, 1944, she sensed an eerie quiet. German and Lithuanian soldiers, armed with machine guns, were uncharacteristically posted at the gate.
Edith Klein and her mother lined up on the Auschwitz II-Birkenau roll-call field. It was September 1944, and they feared being transported to a different camp. “Let’s hide,” Edith’s mother suggested, and the two darted into an empty barracks. But soon, afraid they would be missed, they rejoined the roll-call lineup, only to be caught and dispatched to the crematorium, where they faced another selection.
Gitta Seidner -- known at the time by the Christian name Jannine Spinette -- was abruptly awakened around 4:30 a.m. by a large commotion outside her farmhouse bedroom in Waterloo, Belgium. "No, no, no. What do you want with my goddaughter?" she heard her godmother, Alice Spinette, say. SS soldiers then kicked open the door and pulled the crying girl from her bed. "She's not Jewish," Alice insisted. The soldiers didn't listen. They ordered Alice to get Gitta dressed and drove them to SS headquarters in Brussels.
Jack Seror didn’t know what to do. He was 25 and knew he had to leave Salonika; it wasn’t safe for Jews. And now a contact from the Greek resistance had come to fetch him. Jack stood with his parents in their living room, crying. They hugged, kissed and hugged some more. “We have to leave,” the contact said. Half of Jack wanted to stay with his parents; the other half wanted to escape. Finally, his father, with tears in his eyes, said, “Go. And remember, if you survive, to say Kaddish for us.”
This Memorial Day, World War II Veteran Bea Abrams Cohen will be attending ceremonies at Los Angeles National Cemetery, paying tribute to all the men and women who have died fighting while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
The morning stillness was shattered in the German village of Ober-Ramstadt, as people started running through the streets, crying out that the synagogue was burning. Julius Bendorf, 23, could see the flames from his house. Later, around 1 p.m., a group of men broke into his father’s butcher shop at the front of the family’s house. The Nazis had already closed down the shop, as they had all Jewish businesses, but the intruders destroyed the counters, scales and other equipment. “These were men we knew really well, who bought meat from us,” Julius remembered. The men then entered the family’s living quarters, but Julius, his parents and brother had already escaped through the back door. The next day, the family returned to find their feather bedding shredded, their food tossed on the floor and the house in shambles. It was Kristallnacht, Nov. 9, 1938, and, as Julius said, “It all happened so fast.”
“Raus, raus!” (Out, out!) Jack Adelstein — then Janek Eidelstein, 4 years old — was abruptly awakened by a dozen SS soldiers and Polish farmers. He was sleeping in a cave in a dense forest outside Krasnik, Poland, where he was hiding with his father, brother and an older sister.
In early October 1943, a day or two after Rosh Hashanah, Julia Moshe — née Conti — was walking to her bookkeeping job at the Atlas Watch Co. in Volos, Greece, when she heard footsteps behind her. “Mademoiselle, don’t turn around your head,” a male voice warned. “Yesterday SS soldiers came to city hall asking for a list of the Jewish people.” Julia started trembling. She recalled her mother’s words, “If the Germans come here, it’s OK if they take us.” Julia gave notice at work and hurried home. “Please don’t say no,” she begged her mother. “We have to go from here.”
“I don’t know where I am.” After three days and nights in a cramped cattle car, Miriam Rothstein — neé Farkas — was thrust onto the Auschwitz-Birkenau platform. Her sister Margaret and Margaret’s three children were sent to one side, her brother Baruch to another. Where was Rachel?
Albert Rosa spied his older sister Luna across the chain-link fence. He remembered her as beautiful, with big, blue eyes and long, dark hair. Now she was skinny and filthy, her head shaved. “It broke my heart,” he said. Albert had been at Auschwitz only three weeks and had given up two days’ rations to persuade a bunkmate to trade uniforms and work details so he could see his sister.
The train carrying about 1,600 Jews from the island of Rhodes pulled up to the Auschwitz platform in mid-August, 1944. Ezra Hanan, along with all the other men, was corralled into one line. His wife and six children were pushed into another.
Liselotte Hanock — née Ortner — was sent by her grandmother to buy food on a cold, rainy November afternoon in 1944. She was wearing only a light raincoat when she left her yellow-star apartment in Budapest — a de facto ghetto, where she lived with her paternal grandparents and two other families. Suddenly, she was approached by a group of Arrow Cross soldiers — boys 16 to 18 years old carrying rifles. “Come with us,” they said. Liselotte, who was just 11, knew not to resist.
Ernest Braunstein was walking back to his barracks at the Bor labor camp, in Yugoslavia, when he spotted a man suspended from a post by his wrists, which had been tied tightly behind the man’s back. He had passed out, and Ernest brought him water. A guard, witnessing the interaction, gave Ernest the same punishment. When Ernest blacked out from the pain, the guard lowered him, revived him and hung him again, repeatedly. After three hours, Ernest estimates, he was sent back to his barracks, where his friends surreptitiously fed him until he recovered. To this day, he can lift his right arm only to his shoulder.
In the pounding rain, lined up five abreast, Greti Herman — then Margit Berger — and her parents were marched from Hungary’s Csillaghegy Ghetto to the nearby train station. As they walked, her mother motioned for her and her father to remove five of the six threads that attached the yellow stars to their canvas raincoats. They arrived early evening, into “a big chaos,” according to Greti, as the Hungarian gendarmes — the police force — shoved people into the waiting cattle cars, tossing their belongings in after them.
Suddenly, midday on Sept. 1, 1939, Donna Tuna — then Golda Tajchman — spotted planes flying low over her small town of Ryki, Poland, machine-gunning the inhabitants, who were running, panicked, in all directions. Donna, along with her mother, sister Regina, and younger twin siblings, Feige and Avrum, raced to the riverbank.
“Schnell, schnell,” the SS soldiers, with dogs and guns, yelled at the newly arrived Auschwitz prisoners. “Hurry, hurry.” Twins Rita and Serena Siegelstein, then 17, were suddenly separated from their parents and two brothers and rushed into a large building.
“It was such a winter, with wind and snow. It was Dante’s night.”
Violet Raymond, then Ibolya Friedmann, and her new husband, George Singer, stood under a chuppah at Nagyfuvaros Synagogue in Budapest, Hungary, on May 27, 1944. She was 17, and he was 19. Three days later, George was ordered to report to Bethlen Ter 2, a labor camp housed in another of Budapest’s 22 synagogues.
Jason Ramin is eagerly waiting to be matched to a Little Brother by Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles. The 24-year-old marketing consultant and Beverly Hills resident envisions taking his Little Brother to Magic Mountain, to the movie theater or just hanging out, providing him with a positive male role model.
Zane Buzby, co-founder of The Survivor Mitzvah Project, is spearheading a 14-day whirlwind emergency humanitarian mission to central Ukraine in December to bring urgently needed financial aid to more than 70 elderly, impoverished and forgotten Jewish Holocaust survivors.
April 8 marks the Blessing of the Sun.
“The Blessing of the son?” asks my fourth-born, Danny, who coincidentally turns 18 on the same day.
With its iconic angular form tucked between a ramshackle limousine company to the north and a feed and pet supply store to the south, Temple Akiba rises behind a black tarp-lined security fence on a well-traveled stretch of Sepulveda Boulevard.
After a three-year battle with alleged religious nonprofit Or Khaim Hashalom, tenants of the historic 28-unit Teriton Apartments in Santa Monica have won the right to remain in or return to their apartments for up to seven years under their former rent-controlled leases, according to a settlement made public Dec. 4.
It was an elegant opening for a gallery exhibition. It was difficult to discern, on the surface, that the artists represented some of Los Angeles' most impoverished citizens, residents of Skid Row and South Los Angeles, who are actually using the broken bits of tile, stone and other rejected and recycled materials to rebuild their own lives.
In Jewish tradition, the act of seeking forgiveness from someone we have harmed is clear and specific.
Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin, head of Chabad of California, has a dream -- a block-long, five-story "village" on Pico Boulevard that would provide a girls day school and boarding school along with affordable, safe housing for Holocaust survivors and other elderly people and for teachers with large families.
A traditional Jewish funeral is simple and not ostentatious -- good news for people concerned about the high cost of dying. But while Jewish law doesn't require embalming, elaborate floral displays or 16-gauge metal caskets with tufted crepe interiors, it does require Jews to be buried in the ground. And that costs money.
While not everyone is jumping on the 'I gotta be me' funeral bandwagon, a funny thing is happening on the way to the mortuary. When it comes to thinking about the end of life, be it in the business of funeral homes or in the minds of Jews everywhere, the world is changing.
An eight-to-one vote by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Board -- along with a unanimous vote by the Conservancy Advisory Board -- last night soundly defeated Chabad of Pacific Palisades' appeal to temporarily extend the lease for its preschool site at Temescal Gateway Park from September 2008 through January 2009
Not only are survivors alive in large numbers -- estimated at 700,000 worldwide, with about 85,000 in the United States -- but they are projected to be a part of Jewish society for another 10 to 15 years, and even longer for child survivors.
The recent discovery of a long-overlooked legal document could substantially alter the situation, potentially allowing for a public street to be constructed that would lead directly to the entrance of the proposed site.
Everything went smoothly until April 2, when Getty Trust attorney Lori Fox informed Cunin that Chabad does not have the right to approach the building via a private Getty service road -- which Chabad disputes
Against a backdrop of threatening skies, clearly not a metaphor for the future of Israel's film industry, two Israeli feature films premiered on May 15, opening day of the 61st Cannes Film Festival. And a short by Israeli student filmmaker Elad Keidan took first prize in the Cinefondation, a competition supporting new talent.
"It's amazing. It's awesome," Nicole Lavi said. "I have an older 'sister.'"
Israel, girlfriend, what is your problem? Why all this hoopla and hype? Does the whole world have to know that you and I -- hey, break out the Botox -- are turning 60?
More than 60 years after the Holocaust, the descendants of survivors continue to be undeniably and deeply shaped by an event that preceded their birth. Together they share a unique upbringing that many say is both an onus and an inspiration.
Farmer Phil McGrath had just made his inaugural delivery of 25 boxes of fresh, organically grown fruits and vegetables to Sinai Temple, where organizers of the synagogue's new CSA (community supported agriculture) venture stood admiring and even sampling the boxes' contents.
"What is this chuppah? We didn't order it."
Maria Shvarts, 80, spotting the wedding canopy standing on the dance floor at West Hollywood's Cafe Troyka, asked the restaurant staff to remove it. She and her husband Boris, 84, were hosting a 60th anniversary party. Guests were arriving, and the chuppah -- obviously from a previous celebration, she thought -- was an obstruction.
The problem of plastic grocery bags is explored.
Lillie Hill knew that 16 marked a turning point in her son DJ's life. And while she had looked into several African rites of passage, she believed the Jewish bar mitzvah ceremony, with its emphasis on family heritage and good deeds, gave her the best blueprint to validate her son's dedication to family, school, community and church and to pass on her family's values of education, worship and social outreach.
After a protracted and often contentious battle, Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School West got the green light in late November to build a permanent school on a bucolic, 72-acre site adjacent to Agoura Hills when the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved its application for a conditional-use permit.
As a teenager in Ukraine, Yakov Margulis worked every day except Saturday from morning until dark. During the summer, he toiled long hours on a farm. In winter, he repaired machinery.
"In exchange for work, they gave me food to eat," Margulis says.
In a groundbreaking collegial but hard-hitting conference sponsored by the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies, a slate of top scholars, public officials, diplomats and Polish Jewish community leaders met to discuss the controversial and complicated relationship of Poles and Jews.
Next July 6, more than 1,000 Lithuanian folk dancers decked out in authentic woven costumes, representing close to 40 dance ensembles, will perform the windmill, the scarf dance and other traditional dances at the XIII Lithuanian Folk Dance Festival, hosted for the first time in Los Angeles.
Last summer, Bonnie and Marc Gottlieb calculated their carbon footprint, measuring the impact on the earth's environment of such activities as driving their car, turning on their furnace and tossing out their trash. They discovered that they emitted about 56,000 pounds of carbon dioxide annually into the atmosphere.
On a ferociously cold evening in November 1978, Rabbi Everett Gendler climbed atop the icy roof of Temple Emanuel in Lowell, Mass., and installed solar panels to fuel the synagogue's ner tamid (eternal light).
"We plugged it almost directly into the sun," said Gendler, who rejoiced that the ner tamid was no longer dependent on the finite and politically questionable energy resources of the Middle East.
Four years after Shirley T.'s husband died, the anniversary of his death was more painful than she could have anticipated. She spent the day before cooking the foods he loved and somehow navigated emotionally through the anniversary itself.
There are an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 Holocaust survivors living in Los Angeles, according to Federation spokeswoman Deborah Dragon. Of these, 3,000 are determined to be financially needy, a figure based on a United Jewish Communities Report published December 2003, which found 25 percent of Holocaust victims in the United States living in poverty.
Galina's renewed sense of hope for her future -- for the chance to relax and to read and memorize her beloved poems about Victory Day -- comes as a result of the work of comedy director/producer Zane Buzby and the Survivor Mitzvah Project, a nonprofit humanitarian organization that brings direct financial assistance to about 700 elderly and ill Holocaust survivors in Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova and Lithuania.
Profiles and pictures of volunteers of the Survivor Mitzvah Project and some of the Holocaust survivors they serve.
There are not enough hours in the day for Zane Buzby.
Gabriel Shacket stood on the bimah, before the Holy Ark, and led the morning service for a group of 75 family members and friends. He recited the prayers and blessings, chanted from the Torah and delivered a speech. In short, the 13-year-old became a bar mitzvah.
Sukkot ("tabernacles" or "booths" in English) is one of three major Jewish pilgrimage festivals (shalosh regalim) and begins at sundown on Sept. 26. The eight-day festival, which ends with Simchat Torah on Friday, Oct. 5, is celebrated in a variety of ways. Here is The Jewish Journal's guide to Sukkot around town.
In sermons on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur throughout Southern California this year, rabbis will continue to exhort their congregants to look inward and outward, to reflect upon and repair themselves, their families and communities, the nation and the world.
It's a typical bustling weekday at this Jewish center in West Hills, and it's a sharp contrast to the situation only a few months ago when the center was facing a deficit of $250,000, an uncertain future and a loss of nearly one-third of its members, following the abrupt closure of the pool on April 25 by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.
Forget the Bible, the Talmud or even the Code of Jewish Law. When it comes to figuring out who pays for what at a contemporary Jewish wedding, today's families are more apt to consult Modern Bride or TheKnot.com.
While the JCC and The Federation argue over what brought the two Jewish institutions to this impasse, larger issues are at stake. Are JCCs, in fact, viable and desirable in Los Angeles? Can they ultimately survive here?
A contested Santa Monica apartment complex owned by a Jewish nonprofit, which had hoped to raze the property in favor of a synagogue and condos for Middle East refugees, has had its landmark status upheld. But Teriton residents are still facing eviction.
Up to now, the New JCC at Milken has avoided closure and selling off its property, the fate of many former Los Angeles JCCs, because of its unique history.
Photo essay on Poland.
Many Jews still view Poland as the land of pogroms, persecution and prejudice; a terminally anti-Semitic and blood-drenched country where 3 million Jews were mercilessly murdered during World War II; a land dotted with death camps, desecrated cemeteries and deserted synagogues. What most Jews don't know is that Poland has changed radically over the past couple of decades, and these days, it is reaching out to Israel and to Jews --and not just socially, either.
Asaf Korman's 25-minute short is one of three Israeli student films at Cannes this year. The other two were selected for the Cinefondation category, a competition exclusively for short films produced by film school students.
This is Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's dream: On one weekend a year -- known as Big Sunday -- 50,000 volunteers of all colors and creeds from neighborhoods throughout the region, all donning T- shirts preprinted with the Big Sunday logo, will fan out throughout Los Angeles and as far as Ventura, Anaheim and even Fontana to paint murals on classroom walls, plant trees, refurbish recreation rooms, clean homeless shelters, give blood, teach literacy, make cards for the sick and engage in hundreds of other do-good projects.
Marsha Marcus came running into the kitchen of their Northridge home. She saw her husband staring into the pot of oatmeal he was cooking on the stove. As she peered inside, she saw why her husband had summoned her.
"Pardon me, sir, are you perchance a Jew?"
Ralph Goodman immediately reached for the .45 on his hip. The 24-year-old American soldier didn't know what to expect from the approaching middle-aged man wearing a felt hat, one side folded up, and speaking Australian-accented English.
So what is Purim about? This short guide explains the various holiday traditions and celebrations, as well as a few suggestions of unique and fun ways to partake in the festivities.
This year, as Jews living in Los Angeles, we are teaming up not only with God but also with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has launched an ambitious drive to plant 1 million new trees in Los Angeles neighborhoods, schoolyards and parks, on both public and private properties, over the next several years.
The Agoura Eruv, a project conceived by a small group of local Chabad congregants, covered portions of Agoura Hills and Oak Park, as well as a small sliver of Westlake Village. The Oak Park segment of the eruv had been taken down prior to the Jan. 23 meeting, and on Jan. 25 the Eruv Committee officially ordered the elements in Agoura Hills and Westlake Village dismantled.
First, let me say that by the time I announced to my family that I was actually getting married, at the already questionable child-bearing age of 34, they would have been ecstatic had I said I was marrying a Martian.The fact that Larry was a lawyer, on the partner track at a reputable Los Angeles law firm, was a bonus. The fact that he was a Jewish lawyer, strongly identified as a Member of the Tribe and actively engaged in the community, was beyond their wildest hopes.
Rebecca Levinson grew up always doing things for the community.
"This is what you do," the 17-year-old junior at North Hollywood's Oakwood School, said matter of factly.
"Eve is the soul of the Food Pantry. She just knows that people cannot be hungry and we need to do whatever is necessary," said Joy Grau, a member of St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church in Studio City and a 15-year volunteer.
Public lightings of Chanukah menorahs in the United States have grown exponentially since 1974, when Rabbi Abraham Shemtov of Philadelphia's Chabad-Lubavitch Center lit a small menorah at the foot of the Liberty Bell at Independence Hall.
Dobkin doesn't play bingo, and she doesn't own a television. She occasionally attends a lecture or musical event, but generally, when she isn't working, she is reading, usually The Forward in Yiddish or English or The Jewish Journal. She reads without glasses, except for very small print.
Last Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Memorial Day, Walter Essinger did not attend any community vigils or synagogue commemoration services. Instead, the 73-year-old survivor spent that day, April 26, being interrogated by Ventura County detectives. He was then arrested, handcuffed and eventually booked into the Ventura County Jail.
The notion may sound unlikely, but a widely circulated e-mail bearing the subject heading "Druggist won't do business with 'Jews or Jew Doctors'" sparked concern and outrage in recent weeks as it landed in hundreds of computer mailboxes across the country. After all, the source -- a Jewish woman in Florida -- appeared to be without hostile intent, and the allegation, targeting the Wilshire Roxbury Medical Pharmacy at 436 North Roxbury Drive, allegedly had been vetted.First, to put rumors to rest, the charge is definitely false. The pharmacist/owner, who preferred not to have his name published, is Jewish, as is his assistant. They cater to Jewish customers as well as Jewish doctors.
The Santa Monica Landmarks Commission, in opposition to an unambiguous recommendation by the city's Planning Division to deny landmark status to the contested Teriton apartment building at 130-142 San Vicente Blvd., voted unanimously in favor of designating the building a landmark.The 7-0 vote at the commission's regularly scheduled Nov. 13 meeting at Santa Monica City Hall marked a victory for tenants of the 28-unit, three-story garden apartment in their very public battle with a nonprofit religious organization, Or Khaim Hashalom, which purchased the building in April.
Erika Levy and Alie Kussin-Shoptaw, seniors at New Community Jewish High School in West Hills, easily spotted in their bright orange volunteer vests, stood by the escalators at the Los Angeles Convention Center, greeting arriving United Jewish Communities General Assembly (GA) attendees and directing them to meeting rooms, halls and hospitality suites.
Question and Answer with Rabbi Michael Graetz
Rabbi Hertzel Illulian, a rabbi active in the Los Angeles Persian community, is embroiled in a revolt. It's taking place in the normally laid-back city of Santa Monica and concerns the future of the Teriton apartment building.
True Joy Through Water, a new outreach program created by Canfei Nesharim ("the wings of eagles"), an Orthodox environmental organization, it's designed to educate about the importance of water, its imperiled state and ways to conserve it.
The difficulties of being in an interfaith family.
Here are the stories of these American servicemen who observed the High Holidays not in conventional synagogues, but on far-flung battlefields. The worship services they participated in were often improvised and incomplete. But the jarring juxtaposition of war and prayer, faith and fear, continues to resonate with these men.
Walk up the steep pathway and into the sanctuary of Temple Beth Israel of Highland Park and Eagle Rock on any Shabbat morning. Congregants will jump up out of their wooden pews to greet you and introduce you to fellow worshippers, even if the service has begun. Chances are they'll also honor you with an aliyah and invite you to join them for the potluck Kiddush luncheon that follows their traditional but egalitarian Conservative service.
"There's a challenge for Reform Jews around the observance of Tisha B'Av, and communities make all kinds of choices," said Rabbi Sue Ann Wasserman, the Union for Reform Judaism's director of worship, music and religious living.
Tonight is a Yiddish service, Zol Zahn Shabbes -- literally, we should have Shabbat -- and it's happening at Beth Chayim Chadashim (BCC), founded in 1972 as the world's first synagogue for lesbian and gay Jews.
On Jan. 25, 1997, my oldest son, Zachary, became a bar mitzvah, a ceremony that inaugurated him into the Jewish community as a responsible young adult. It also catapulted me into the world of Jewish journalism as a family columnist. Call it writing therapy. Call it black humor. Dealing with the bar mitzvah preparations -- from the trivial to the transcendent -- sent me scrambling for books explaining the ritual's history and meaning.
Jewish Lamaze was first sponsored by the Los Angeles Bureau of Jewish Education in the early 1980s and taught in various synagogues until the funding ran out toward the end of the decade.
And while it's no longer being offered in Los Angeles, as far as anyone knows, similar programs exist elsewhere.
The 200 closely knit families of Burbank's Temple Beth Emet, heeding the precept that all Jews are responsible for one another, are accustomed to providing aid and comfort quietly and inconspicuously. But the congregation has been galvanized to very public action by news that the mother of fellow congregant Roni Razankova's mother, a citizen of Macedonia, has contracted liver cancer and needs urgent medical attention in the United States.
Minerva "Min" Leonard doesn't have time for breakfast. She's too busy shopping for ingredients and preparing a salad bar luncheon for 80 people at Adat Ari El Sisterhood's weekly Multi-Interest Day. Or making 10 lokshen kugels for her friend's daughter's bat mitzvah. Or baking "I can't even begin to tell you how many" batches of cranberry and chocolate-chip mandelbread to bestow on friends, neighbors and an appreciative Jewish Journal reporter.
March of the Living, the international educational program that began in 1988, has brought approximately 90,000 teenagers, accompanied by Jewish educators, social workers and survivors, to Poland for a week. Critics worry it has become a "March of the Living Dead"
Not all seders are sit-down affairs. When "Dayenu" begins at the home of Simone Shenassa of West Orange, N.J., everyone takes bunches of scallions and hits everyone else, to imitate the whipping of the slaves.
Reading the Megillah in esoteric tongues is part of the Purim fun at this Los Angeles synagogue, and congregant Maggie Anton Parkhurst has chosen this infinitely tongue-tying imaginary language of the Trekkies to make her bid at hilarity.
MASA, Hebrew for journey, started funding students who qualified on a need-basis in 2004-05, subsidizing more than 100 approved five- to 10-month Israel programs that assist 18- to 30-year-olds in building a solid connection to Israel. This year, MASA is helping to send 7,000 young adults worldwide to Israel, with hopes of sending 20,000 a year by decade's end.
The Yiddish words flew -- sometimes fluently, sometimes haltingly and occasionally "shreklich" or awful as the seniors reached for a word long forgotten or the students for a word they had not yet learned. They raised their voices, gesturing with their hands as they spoke.
At Temple Beth Israel, the planting project, which is being done in phases with funding and physical assistance from a Jewish environmental group, has transformed congregants' preconceived notions of drab native plants.
Ten ways to begin greening your synagogue from Barbara Lerman-Golomb, associate executive director of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life:
Drive into The Brandeis-Bardin Institute, up the pepper tree-lined main thoroughfare and through the gates leading to 3,000 acres of rolling hills in the Santa Susana Mountains. Enter a setting so magnificent that it's easy to believe, as Rabbi Ed Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom does, that God lives there.
Generally taught once a year, with 10 to 20 girls enrolled per class, the program affords mothers and daughters special time together. It also introduces the girls to peers from other schools, allowing them to view bat mitzvah as a more universal experience.
One mother thanked every one of her daughter's teachers by name and grade, beginning with preschool. A father enumerated the scores of all his son's soccer games. And another mother, with tear-filled eyes and a choked-up voice, used the occasion to present her daughter with her first diamond.
Joyce Rabinowitz, 76, is a volunteer Braille transcriber. She takes the printed word and, using a special computer program called Braille 2000, transforms it letter by letter into a prescribed set of dots that she saves to disk and gives to the Braille Institute. Each disk, with the help of an embossing machine, is used to produce a book written in raised dot text that a blind person can read with his or her fingers.
On Dec. 25, Rod Shapiro and Pat Wong will exchange Christmas and Chanukah gifts spread under a seven-foot Christmas tree. They will listen to carols sung by Johnny Mathis and Chanukah songs by the Klezmatics.
As soon as incoming freshman Chana Ickowitz received her UC Berkeley e-mail address, she registered on the online directory facebook.com. There, on her personal profile, she described herself as someone with moderate political views who likes sushi, rainy days, Urban Outfitters and "Jane Eyre" ... and who is a member of a group called Jew Crew.
While some Jewish community centers are shutting their doors, the New JCC at Milken in West Hills flourishes.
Summer Human Relations Workshop at Loyola University in the summer of 1964 are, from left to right, Dr. Neil Sandberg, director; Wally Porter, student; Sister Maria Mercedes, professor of sociology; and Dr. James Craig, professor of psychology.