If Disney Hall has competition for beautiful acoustics in a magnificent setting, it is Wilshire Boulevard Temple.
One day in early March 1954, Uri Herscher, just 12 at the time, ran away from his parents. His father, Joseph, a cabinetmaker, and mother, Lucy, a laundress, were having trouble making ends meet living in Israel. Together with Uri and his younger brother, Eli, they were meant to leave from Haifa the next morning to travel to the United States. There, the family would find a new home in San Jose, Calif., a thriving middle-class community with very few Jews, where Joseph’s sister had already set down roots.
On Rosh Hashanah in 1992, Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis stood before his Conservative congregation at Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) in Encino and declared that despite the words of Leviticus, homosexuality is not an abomination. He argued that the same understanding and compassion Jews afford all human beings should be extended to those attracted to others of their own sex, and he told his congregation:
“Live your values, embrace your traditions, but open yourselves up and never stop trying to heal the wounds of the world,” former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton implored an audience of 4,000 at Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City on June 24.
On May 11, Rabbi Ed Feinstein, senior rabbi at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, will be feted for his two decades of service to the synagogue. He talks in this edited version of an interview about changes in synagogue life, his theology and what he prays for.
Late on a recent Wednesday afternoon, Judith Golden and Suzanne Rosenthal perched at their desks in a small room in the depths of American Jewish University (AJU).
A shofar blasted as Cantor Tannoz Bahremand of Stephen S. Wise Temple stepped into the historic downtown sanctuary, raising her voice in prayer as she walked from the back of the pews, down an aisle packed with people, toward the bimah of the newly founded Pico Union Project. The cantor’s haunting song was answered by the equally vibrant chant of a Muslim call to prayer, sung from the front of the sanctuary by Ben Youcef of the Islamic Center of Southern California.
In 2000, an urban congregation of 1,000 families found itself at a crossroads. The synagogue had a balanced budget and a beloved rabbi who was retiring after three decades, but its building was badly in need of repairs and the congregation was aging. To survive, the leadership felt they had to upgrade, so they took four steps: They hired a big-name rabbi, renovated the building, and put together an ambitious schedule of lectures and other programs to attract new faces. They also borrowed $1 million to pay for it all.
The rich and satisfying story of peanut butter is told by Jon Krampner in “Creamy & Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, The All-American Food” (Columbia University Press: $27.95), a serious work of scholarship that is enlivened by the author’s irrepressible love for all things peanut-related.
The talk at the second annual Jewish Women’s Conference of Southern California focused not so much on the Jewish part, as on the women’s part. Some 300 women (and one man — a devoted husband, perhaps?) filled the ballroom of UCLA’s Covel Commons on Nov. 11 for a series of sessions on activism, feminism today, women’s health, the effects of the recession on women, plus one session on Israeli women and another on rabbinical interpretations of women’s equality within Judaism.
We take light for granted. But in the Torah’s opening chapter of Bereshit, it was God’s first gift. It seems fitting, then, that when a local synagogue committed itself to helping an impoverished village in rural Uganda, the first gift would be to turn on the lights — to give the gift of solar-powered electricity.
After all the political speechmaking of the past few weeks, in the wake of all the claims and fact-checking, name-calling and back-slapping, one simple word has stuck in my mind and my heart. It was spoken at the beginning of Barack Obama’s short tribute film that was shown just before the president made his speech to accept the nomination for re-election.
Early on a recent Wednesday morning, architect Brenda Levin bounded up the metal steps temporarily installed at the center of the historic sanctuary of Wilshire Boulevard Temple. Leading the way up 10 flights — that’s 100 feet — she climbed to the normally inaccessible domed ceiling, high enough to touch the enormous Hebrew letters circling the oculus' opening.
The much-discussed article in the July/August Atlantic magazine begins with a story that likely will be familiar to any working mother. The author, Anne-Marie Slaughter, is at an evening work event talking to very important, very professional people, and all that’s really on her mind is the plight of her teenage son, who’s floundering at home without her.
To meet Ikal Angelei in a Wilshire Boulevard coffee shop, as I did this week, is to traverse oceans and travel through deserts. Angelei is an activist from Kenya specializing in the geopolitics of water, a 32-year-old powerhouse who just won a highly prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, said to be the “the largest award in the world for grassroots environmentalists.”
Ed Asner, aka Lou Grant, walked slowly to the front of the stage at the Museum of Tolerance on Sunday night, and in his familiar growl — this time with a Latvian accent — he softly spoke: “Thank you for the help that is not only material, but also moral. A person lives through hope, and I hope it will get better.”
On April 29, 1992, the acquittal of four white Los Angeles police officers involved in the beating of Rodney King, an African-American man, triggered riots in Los Angeles that resulted in more than 50 dead, thousands injured and some $1 billion in property damage.
Director of national advocacy and organizing for MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, leading local and regional campaigns around issues of food insecurity and access. He is also a research associate at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at University of Southern California.
Last Sunday, I took my first trip to Beit T’Shuvah. I’ve been hearing about this highly successful addiction treatment center for years and had met some of its staff, but I’d never visited its campus on Venice Boulevard, with its sanctuary adorned with stained-glass windows, as well as some 80 to 90 bedrooms housing double that number of residents in various stages of recovery.
A week ago last Monday, my daughter brought her laptop to the dinner table and insisted, “We have to watch this.” This never happens in our house. We don’t watch TV at dinner, nor does my very independent 16-year-old tend to share.
Amid all the boozing, smoking and jumping from bed to bed in “Mad Men,” there’s a certain 1960s persona that’s missing from the popular TV show — and that’s the sort of dedicated young woman who devoted herself not just to her husband and family, or even to her work, but to causes.
Amid all the hubris and rancor flying around the subject of women’s reproductive rights these days, I suggest we stop for a moment and send a word of thanks to Planned Parenthood for its 100 years of caring for both women and men with nowhere else to turn — almost 50 of those years in Los Angeles.
“I learned a lot from WikiLeaks,” David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker magazine, told a full auditorium at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management when he spoke on Jan. 30 at the 10th annual Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture, sponsored by the Pearl Foundation, in partnership with Hillel at UCLA and UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations. “One thing I learned,” he said, “is that our diplomats are not bad.”
One evening last February, 1,500 people poured into the vast sanctuary of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, filling every inch.
If Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy teaches us one thing, it’s that the fight for civil rights is not particular to a time, a place, a people or a gender. It’s still shocking to watch vintage 1960s TV footage and see moms and dads yelling at someone else’s children for simply walking up the steps of a high school.
Each autumn, the Milken Family Foundation throws one of the best luncheons of the year, and it’s not the fine kosher fare at the Luxe Sunset Boulevard hotel that draws us in.
The draw of a Hollywood premiere for a film written, directed and produced by Angelina Jolie is irresistible. True to her A+-list status, Jolie’s “In the Land of Blood and Honey” got the glam treatment at the ArcLight on Sunset Boulevard last week, complete with a red carpet for formally attired movie stars.
On a particularly beautiful day like last Sunday, I, to be honest, had a hard time facing the prospect of spending the afternoon in windowless conference rooms at the Sheraton Universal Hotel.
At the Los Angeles County Museum of Art right now, in the ground-level hall of the Art of the Americas building, right off the main courtyard, a life-sized, lifelike sculptural installation shows a black man being castrated by a group of five white men wearing cartoonish masks.
It takes a little effort to find the exhibition “Women Hold Up Half the Sky” at the Skirball Cultural Center. You have to bypass three alluring gift shops and a bunch of other special exhibitions as well as close your ears to the children laughing in “Noah’s Ark” to get to a quiet gallery at the back of the museum, where a display of photos and wall texts will punch you in the stomach, then fill you with hope.
Last week, everyone was scurrying around Zane Buzby’s small but serviceable office, high up in a rather creaky building in downtown Los Angeles. Right inside the door, one person packed tubes of arthritis creams, soaps, magnifying glasses and Star of David necklaces. Someone else carefully counted cash into envelopes. And yet another entered data into a computer.
About 200 women, as well as a couple of men, turned out on Oct. 30 for the first Jewish Women’s Conference, sponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women of Los Angeles (NCJW/LA), Hadassah and Na’amat USA, and held at the NCJW/LA headquarters on Fairfax Boulevard.
Last weekend, I was talking to a friend in New York who is a top IT manager for an advertising firm. My friend is in the process of remaking the Web presence for a hair-products conglomerate, and his staff is divided among the firm’s offices in New York, Argentina, Singapore and London. On one level, he told me, it’s not a problem: The work can be shared via the Internet, and group conversations can take place on Skype. But here’s the catch: In order to manage people on three other continents, my friend is working at 2 a.m., 5 a.m., noon, 4 p.m. — around the clock. This isn’t “Mad Men,” with time for two-martini lunches, it’s insanity.
When an e-mail arrived in my inbox recently announcing a public conversation between Gloria Steinem and Mona Eltahawy, I knew I had to be there, even though it was scheduled for midday on a Thursday across town at UCLA’s Hammer Museum.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, the Israeli Consulate and the Israeli Leadership Council announced Sunday that they are jointly organizing a community program for Tuesday, Oct. 18, to allow the community to come together to watch and commemorate the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who has been held captive by Hamas since 2006.
Wearing a three-piece suit and looking more elder statesman than the artist he is, Art Spiegelman addressed an audience of about 100 at the high-toned Soho House on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood late in the afternoon of Oct. 9. The occasion was the taping of a conversation with book scholar Michael Silverblatt, host of the KCRW public radio program “Bookworm,” who on this occasion was recording for a new online-only program, “UpClose,” which KCRW will edit and then post on the Web on Oct. 19.
Are you hungry? Chances are you’re only a short reach away from your next meal or snack. If you’re reading this on Yom Kippur, your wait is probably longer. But either way, when you say you’re hungry, you probably know where your next meal will come from.
I broke a bone in my foot several weeks ago, and I’ve been limping around in an expensive, ugly boot and shlepping to doctors ever since. A simple slip costs lots of money — happily, not entirely to me. I have health insurance; I’m lucky.
I’m standing in a room with Sheldon G. Adelson, the tough, outspoken billionaire casino magnate. And I’m wondering: Where is he?
I’d love to know if, in the long history of human evil, a great musician ever became a mass murderer. I ask this question because I’ve always had this crazy theory that when someone is busy and obsessed with creating and playing music, he or she doesn’t think about killing other people.
When a Hollywood synagogue wants to draw upon the strengths of its congregation, is it surprising that there’s a surfeit of attorneys and actors? Such is the case at Temple Israel of Hollywood (TIOH), which heralded the talents of both sets in last weekend’s performance of “The People vs. Kastner,” a dramatic imagining of a trial for Rudolph Kastner that never happened.
It seems obligatory to open any review of yet another Holocaust book with the disclaimer that compassion fatigue and déjà vu might set in simultaneously. As Jonathan Kirsch, book editor of The Jewish Journal, noted last year while reviewing—what else?—yet another Holocaust tome, “I could easily fill every column inch of our book coverage with titles about the Holocaust…”
Phil Donney, who graduated in 2006 from Hamilton High School's Music Academy, home to many Jewish students as well as talented students throughout the city, has created this video in the face of huge looming cuts that threaten the very existence of the LAUSD public school Magnet programs, particularly the music programs like Hamilton's.
Right around the time the curtain was dropping on the opening night of Broadway’s new “South Park”-inspired musical, “The Book of Mormon,” I was in Salt Lake City, Utah, having dinner with two top-level elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, plus a few other saints (as observant Mormons are known), as well as three rabbis and a scholar of ancient Hebrew from American Jewish University (AJU). As the satire about missionaries was playing to rave reviews in New York, we Jews were engaged in a conversation completely lacking in irony in a penthouse dining room overlooking Temple Square — guests for two days of LDS church leaders from Los Angeles and Salt Lake, who hosted us with a graciousness of a sort only Emily Post could dream up.
Revolutions spreading through the Middle East added timeliness and weight to the convening of three former secretaries of state by American Jewish University (AJU) on Feb. 28, at the Gibson Amphitheatre at Universal CityWalk. Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, all active authors and advocates on the international scene, joined AJU President Robert Wexler on stage to agree on just about everything and bicker over only a few matters.
Frederick M. Lawrence, the new president of Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., came to Los Angeles and environs in early February for a dozen meetings with donors, alumni, prospective students and more. With about 1,800 graduate and undergraduate alums in Southern California alone, Lawrence had good reason to see this as fertile ground for fundraising and Brandeis consciousness-raising. Plus, the newly anointed president has ties to the region — his wife, historian Kathy Lawrence née Kurtzman, who happily dons the name “first lady of Brandeis” — is from Beverly Hills, having grown up at Hillcrest Country Club and in a house that once was home to Betty Grable.
Revolutions spreading through the Middle East added timeliness and weight to the convening of three former secretaries of state by American Jewish University (AJU) on Monday evening, Feb. 28, at the Gibson Amphitheatre at Universal CityWalk. Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, all active authors and advocates on the international scene, joined AJU President Robert Wexler onstage to agree on just about everything, and bicker over only a few matters.
Barack Obama has been fated to lead the nation in interesting times, including a free-fall recession, a natural disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, a bitter and ongoing battle over healthcare reform, and the sea-changes that are only now welling up in the Middle East.
Al-Jazeera TV and The Guardian revealed Sunday the details of 1,600 confidential documents on negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians over the last two decades.
As I was driving to one speech last night, I was listening to another in my car. “Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame,” President Obama said in the aftermath of the violence in Tucson, “let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.” Uplifting words, and good advice for those of us hurting on the sidelines – those of us hoping for news of the next uptick in Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford’s condition, or wishing we could just stop thinking about the guns, hatred and accusations of “blood libel” -- images that keep hitting us like the aftershocks of a emotional earthquake. Good advice, particularly if you’re sitting on the sidelines, feeling the pain and sharing the experience vicariously, through news reports, and wondering what you can do to help.
group of leaders from my synagogue, Temple Israel of Hollywood, and I were excited to join The Women of the Wall for Shacharit services on Rosh Hodesh Kislev on November 8.
There’s something about the year’s end that pushes us to count our blessings — and our obligations. Maybe it’s the seasonal gift giving, or the end of the tax year, or the pressure to reconcile ourselves with last New Year’s unmet resolutions.
I was driving my 15-year-old daughter to her bus stop, frantic over whether we’d get there in time. She was digging through her backpack for the bus pass that too often seems to go missing. She snapped at me, and I took a deep breath and asked her as kindly as I could not to address me that way.
It’s rare that we are given an opportunity to look inside the life of someone whose job it is to study our lives, but that’s exactly what happens in “Not by Chance Alone: My Life as a Social Psychologist” by Elliot Aronson (Basic Books: $27.50).
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to announce Friday that Israel and the Palestinians will return to direct negotiations for the first time in 20 months, delivering the Obama administration a small victory in its protracted effort to revive the Middle East peace process, two officials briefed on the situation said Thursday evening.
Among the most crucial but also volatile relationships in human life is the one between a domestic worker — a housekeeper, a nanny, a caregiver — and his or her employer. Various aspects of such relationships have been considered in novels ranging from “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” to Kathryn Stockett’s “The Help,” and most recently in Mona Simpson’s smart, endearing, and bittersweet new novel, “My Hollywood” (Knopf: $26.95).
One lemonade stand set up to raise a few dollars for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School district has grown into a community-wide effort, backed by local businesses ranging from the growing Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt chain to Huckleberry Café and Bakery on Wilshire. With an Aug. 15 deadline to collect money for the Save Our Schools campaign, kids, parents, and community members are putting their all into raising funds to bring back teachers, aids, and programs cut for the 2010-11 school year.
Rise and Shine: The Extraordinary Story of One Man’s Journey From Near Death to Full Recovery” by Simon Lewis (Santa Monica Press: $24.95) A car accident on the crowded roadways of Southern California is a wholly unremarkable event. For producer and writer Simon Lewis, however, the crash that killed his wife — and nearly ended his life, too — was the beginning of a saga of struggle and redemption that is truly heroic.
Whenever my son was upset or hurt or scared, I used to whisper in his ear, "Don't worry, Eli, mommy will always save you." A few weeks ago, I almost wasn't able to keep that promise.
An Israeli officer was killed during border clashes between Lebanese and Israeli troops.
Israelis faced down a deeply divided debate Monday over what to do about approximately 400 children of undocumented workers who are set for deportation, the New York Times reports.
As Jewish groups struggle against increasing attempts to delegitimize Israel, they are claiming at least partial victory when it comes to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
It all started with cake. Well, almost. The truth is, the cake was just one of the early signs of distress.
“Collective Memory,” a theater program at Shalhevet High School last weekend, was the culmination of a process that brought together student playwrights with various seniors who gather at the Westside Jewish Community Center.
As I squeezed into my seat at Sunday’s Citywide Holocaust Remembrance Day at Pan Pacific Park, I listened as the woman next to me addressed a man in
the row in front of us.
On a cloudy Sunday afternoon, April 11, a crowd numbering almost 3,000 gathered under blue-and-white stripped awnings to listen to speeches in commemoration of Yom HaShoah, the day of Holocaust commemoration.
Be aware that these delicious matzah balls in a recipe brought over from Germany are denser than typical "Eastern" ones, and are akin to a German dumpling or "knoedel". I have enjoyed these many times at Passover seders at the Ermans, and to me they are more authentic than what we usually eat. Enjoy!
Sometimes you have to go to Orange County to learn about Israel.
The third annual LimmudLA was held over Presidents’ Day weekend in Costa Mesa; it’s a conference run by a volunteer-based grass-roots organization that transforms an otherwise nondescript Hilton into a vibrant campus for Jewish study.
Fresh on the heels of a piece by The New York Times’ ombudsman calling for the removal of the Times’ Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner from his current post, the author and journalist spoke to a small group of American Jewish University supporters at a private home in Beverly Hills on Feb. 9.
When architect Frank Gehry turned 75 some five years ago, he was hugely famous, much in demand and aware that even beyond his prolific output, his legacy needed some explanation. So he started thinking about how to go about preserving his thoughts.
“I don’t need an introduction, I need a conclusion,” Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis said on Sunday, June 7, as he stepped up to a microphone on the Pierce College campus in Woodland Hills to address the well over 2,000 people gathered for Jewish World Watch’s third annual Walk for Darfur.
Fifty miles of driving, three very different experiences, a million jumbled thoughts about life in this very diverse city. One Sunday in Los Angeles.
On Sunday, May 3, I will be at the city animal shelter in South Los Angeles, creating gripping mini-biographies about the dogs, cats and whatever other strays are residing there that day. The idea is to write those stories on cards, affix them to the cages, and make those wannabe pets attractive to wannabe owners. Want to join me?
As kids slid and bounced at the Purim carnival in the courtyard of Valley Beth Shalom Synagogue a couple of weeks ago, a handful of people accompanied Rabbi Noah Zvi Farkas down to a tiny space in the shul’s basement for a very different kind of celebration. In a room that had once been just a dark, cluttered storage space, shelves are now filled with neat stacks of food and rows of grocery bags, each stuffed with enough provisions to feed a family of four for a day or two.
Would you sell off your precious family jewels to save your house?
Just three miles east of the happiest place on earth lies a small strip of shops and fast-food outlets where, last Sunday, people were anything but pleasant to one another.
This is not the time to extinguish the many institutions that have risen up to create a civil society. The arts nourish the soul, schools nurture the potential of our youth and promote the scientific and creative research that will secure our future.
It is not a secret that many beachfront homeowners in Malibu have a disproportionate sense of ownership of the surf and turf that fronts their properties. They pay millions for the illusion that they own the beach. It's also not a secret that they don't.
Dad has always been reaching -- not just to satisfy himself, but also to prove himself to the big guys, the great newspaper people in his head who might, somehow, in their wisdom, someday give him their blessing of approval
There are moments when half a world away seems right around the corner. At Young Israel of Century City (YICC) on Sunday afternoon, Israel's pain at the murder of eight young yeshiva students burned through the Los Angeles Jewish community, just as it has in Jerusalem, where the boys lived, and as it has through Jewish communities throughout the world. The death of eight innocent boys studying Torah at Yeshiva Mercaz Harav shrunk the world.
The occasion was not a party, but rather a "Taste of Limmud," a precursor to something called LimmudLA. The Presidents' Day weekend conference will be volunteer-led, and organizers expect it to bring together hundreds of local Jews of all denominations for three days of conversation and learning.
From October 2003 to February 2004, workers at those three supermarket chains went out on strike to ensure affordable health care, as well as to protect their pensions and job security. It was the longest strike in the history of the supermarket industry, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers' Web site, and the first major strike of the 21st century.
"We're all healing -- emotionally, psychologically, ecologically," said Paul M. Ginsberg, director of the Forest Department in the Northern Region Office of Keren Kayemeth Leisrael (KKL), the Israeli arm of the Jewish National Fund. He stood on a hillside looking over the Hula Valley, north of the Sea of Galilee. At his back was a hillside forest of trees, many of them charred from last summer's rocket fire.
Sitting in a nondescript hotel conference room, Abu Siam and five others described challenges faced as Israeli women. Among them, no one seemed both more foreign and yet more immediate than Abu Siam, who appeared dressed in colorful Muslim garb sparkling with jewelry, covered from head to toe so that only her beautiful and expressive face was visible. She appeared alternately angry and sad, fierce and broken, and as we heard her story -- translated from Hebrew by our group leader -- the reasons for her emotions became both understandable and unfathomable.
Maya Nahor learned she wasn't Jewish from an Israeli bureaucrat.
It all began with a Purim spiel. Seven years ago, the much-loved New Yorker magazine writer Adam Gopnik was living in a kind of secular New York Jewish limbo.
"I do not think that the Holocaust can be forgotten," Elie Wiesel said. "It is the most recorded event in history. But I am afraid it will lose its uniqueness. I'm afraid it could be cheapened, diminished, trivialized."
My first instinct in any new city is to mingle. I like to walk the streets, stop into ordinary shops -- grocery stores and electronic shops, not just the Judaica stores or Dead Sea skin care outlets for tourists. I like to take public transportation.
My daughter Rachel is a Jewish American girl from China. She is not the only Asian girl in her school -- there are three, all adopted (two from China, one from Vietnam) -- and she says she feels no different from anyone else. But among the mix of mostly Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews that make up our community, she adds a special spice. And in her own discreet style, I believe she has helped teach her friends to be colorblind in ways that could last a lifetime.