Jewish Journal

Marlene Adler Marks

  • First Person - God Laughs?

    June 29, 2006 | 8:00 pm

    This column first ran on July 26, 2002, and is one of a series that the beloved former managing editor of The Journal wrote about her life and her battle with cancer. She died on Sept. 5, 2002. She was 54.

    My girlfriend "E" was the first to declare what others had been observing for...

  • Oh So Sorry

    August 29, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    I'm sorry I haven't eaten more hot dogs.

    Saturday is Selichot, the time when the whole Jewish world sings with Connie

    Francis, "I'm sorry," and vows to do better next time. Many of us are focused on the wrongs we've done to others, or even to God.

    This year, however, as I...

  • The Way We Were

    August 22, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    I've been reconsidering what the 1973 schmaltz-filled classic, "The Way We Were," means to younger women.

    I never liked the movie, though I can't tell you how many women modeled their lives after the pursuit of Robert Redford.

    On its own, "The Way We Were" created a hothouse for...

  • Friends

    August 15, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    One glorious sunny day, my girlfriend "C" and I share a seaside restaurant table with a married couple, call them Harry and Sylvia.

    Harry gazes at Sylvia with such a glow. I tingled with memory.

    "What a look!" I say to Sylvia, while Harry goes to the pickup window for their order....

  • Merit and Mazel

    August 1, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    I'll be 54 this weekend. Not for me the modesty of hidden age. I'll take my years, gladly, as I'm given them.

    My mother's age was 29 for more than a dozen years. My brother was amazed when he overheard her tell a friend that her upcoming birthday party was to celebrate her 50th.


  • God Laughs?

    July 25, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    My girlfriend "E" was the first to declare what others had been observing for a while.

    "God sure is having a good laugh," she said. "You write a column called 'A Woman's Voice.' And yet you have no voice."

    The irony had crossed my mind.

    Lance Armstrong, the bicyclist, had...

  • Living Through Chemistry

    July 18, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    The ancient rabbis practiced a relatively simple form of medicine: cabbage for sustenance, beets for healing.

    It was easier then to prescribe, although harder to heal.

    "Woe to the house through which vegetables are always passing," sums up the Talmud. There were no guarantees then...

  • Fears After El Al

    July 11, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    Shortly after Sept. 11, I spent an evening with an imam from a local mosque.

    A member of my synagogue had arranged the dinner, and she was anxious about how it would go.

    "Is it a good idea?" my friend asked. "I'm afraid we don't even want to know each other."

    It was a great idea. As...

  • Minority Report

    July 4, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    Would I really care to know the future? Facing lung cancer, I am periodically asked, "How long do you have?" I respond, "How about you? How long do you have?"

    No one of us knows the number of our days, or anything else for sure. A fortuneteller in New York read my Tarot cards.


  • Talk to Me

    June 27, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    I owe my life's work to Ann Landers. And, of course, her sister, Dear Abby. Dr. Rose Franzblau. And Dr. Joyce Brothers.

    It happened this way.

    In our New York home, my parents subscribed to three daily newspapers. Mom and Dad are enthralled by the tabloids. Even today, they read...

  • Seeking Solid Ground

    June 20, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    One day, my oncologist was in a talkative mood. He was raised Roman Catholic, but after 30 years in the lung cancer world, he knows that religion doesn't always help his patients.

    "How are you doing?" he asked. "I mean, this has to be a big test of faith."

    Now, 18 months after...

  • The Salesman

    June 13, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    A few months ago, I asked my father, now happily retired, what profession he would choose if he were starting over again.

    "Oh, I'd do the same thing," Dad said. "I'd be a salesman."

    "A salesman?"

    "Yes. I'm good at it."

    It's Father's Day, and I am so glad that Dad is around to read...

  • Insider, Outsider

    June 6, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    I check in periodically with David Tokofsky, who has represented the Eastside on the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) since 1995, just to find out how long it takes to stop being considered an outsider.

    For a Jewish boy on the Eastside, the answer is: more than two terms....

  • Banners Unfurled

    May 30, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    Generals, it is said, are always preparing to fight the last war, and so it also may be for American Jews.

    Middle East terror and Palestinian suicide bombings have roused us to action. The torpor is receding. Except, we can't quite agree on which last war we expect to be fighting:...

  • Talking to Gabby

    May 23, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    Gabriela Jacobo, known as Gabby, at age 17 is a rising radio star. Her supervisor Rebecca Martin, of NPR's Youth Radio, told me, "She's one of our best writers and a great commentator."

    Which is why we in the Jewish community should listen up. If she's the future, she is unaware of...

  • Thinking Ahead

    May 16, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    My attorney, Irwin Goldring, is a wise man. Never pushy, never alarming. Fifty years in estate planning, you learn something about people.

    "Hey, for me this is just a questionnaire," he tells me. "For you, it's something more."

    I'll say. Irwin has sent me two legal forms stating when...

  • Jewish Mother Jokes

    May 9, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    Mother's Day is not exactly a Jewish holiday, but it does provide an occasion to consider whether anything new can be noted in that old war-horse, the Jewish mother joke. Surprisingly, I do note several new wrinkles that help explain why even now this Borscht-belt holdover is not...

  • In the Soup

    May 2, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    My parents visited a year ago while I recuperated from lung cancer surgery and they developed a division of labor.

    My father would do odd jobs around the house. My mother would feed me.

    This was a good plan in theory, but in reality, it had loopholes. My father's tasks were...

  • Travel Machismo

    April 25, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    As Israeli-Palestinian violence makes daily life in the Jewish state a living (as opposed to a virtual) nightmare, American Jews are raising the ante on expressions of loyalty. A rabbi recently told me he wants every Jew to travel to Israel this year. A lay leader puts his name on...

  • Young Man on Campus

    April 18, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    Last week I worried in this space that our college students were ill-equipped to defend American Jewry's pro-Israel position. I asked for a volunteer to explain what's going on. Luckily, Donald Cohen-Cutler, a UC Davis freshman and an international relations major, stepped up to the...

  • The Women of Worcester

    April 11, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    The third annual daylong symposium sponsored by the Jewish Federation in Worcester, Mass., was titled, "A Woman's Voice," without the slightest hint of irony. Less than a generation ago, "a woman's voice" meant only one thing, the talmudic prohibition of Orthodox men toward hearing...

  • Stand With Us

    April 4, 2002 | 7:00 pm

    "Tell the truth, don't you think we need to create a wall between Israel and the Palestinians?"

    "Be honest, don't you think the United States should send in peacekeeping troops?"

    I'll tell the truth. I'm uncomfortable with American Jews, rising from spiritual slumber to suggest...

  • Men in Black

    March 28, 2002 | 7:00 pm

    The 74th Annual Academy Awards program will be remembered, at least by me, for women's gowns with faux see-through gauze fronts and men's suit jackets down to the knees.

    Sunday night. For my town, Malibu, Oscar night is a kind of Yom Kippur. Roads are deserted; the local restaurants...

  • New Plagues

    March 21, 2002 | 7:00 pm

    At last year's seder, my friend, Jason, then 14, asked about the Ten Plagues: how could Egyptian deaths be justified even by those of us spilling 10 guilty drops of wine? It's a fitting question by which to begin Passover 2002 in light of recent plagues: the World Trade Center...

  • Frequently Asked Questions

    March 14, 2002 | 7:00 pm

    I was the oldest child at the Passover table during two decades of social turmoil, and so invariably I was the one to whom questions were directed.

    "Why does your generation think it can have everything its way?" my relatives began after the afikomen was eaten. They wanted my opinion...

  • Riordan’s Primary

    March 7, 2002 | 7:00 pm

    Say what you will about Richard Riordan's abortive primary strategy, and the way he naively stepped into Gov. Gray Davis' trap, but Riordan certainly understood one of his key customers: the Jewish electorate. Too bad we'll never see the Davis/Riordan face-off that would have told us...

  • Sacred Text

    February 28, 2002 | 7:00 pm

    "We're coming to Ki Tisa," said my daughter, Samantha. "I remember how I studied the golden calf, and how Aaron asked the Israelites for their jewelry."

    Samantha's bat mitzvah was seven years ago this weekend. Ki Tisa was her Torah portion. Since then, we've reminisced about the...

  • Echoes of Esther

    February 14, 2002 | 7:00 pm

    The Purim beauty pageant of 1956 is long forgotten in the shtetl that was Queens Village, N.Y. But for me it is the stuff of personal destiny.

    In those postwar years, women stayed home with their children, and men went from job to job before landing at their ultimate careers. The...

  • A Map Is a Mirror

    February 7, 2002 | 7:00 pm

    No one said redistricting is fun. But this once-a-decade political ritual does provide a mirror to how much leverage a community has, or lacks.

    In the case of the proposed map for the Los Angeles City Council, this time the mirror says what many in our community are still reluctant...

  • On My Mind

    January 31, 2002 | 7:00 pm

    The hardest part about writing about brain radiation is writing the words "brain radiation." I assure you that I'm OK. It's my fingers that are typing these words on my computer. It's my thoughts that are deciding which of the Yip Harburg lyrics from the Scarecrow's song, "If I Only...

  • The Rabbi’s Wedding

    January 24, 2002 | 7:00 pm

    The bride wore blue, the color of the covenant.

    The groom wore a light gray business suit.

    The crowd of 300 wore smiles of satisfaction, and relief.

    When Rabbi Judith HaLevy of the Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue exchanged rings with Edward Toppel of Chicago last Sunday, hope,...

  • Judaism From the Bottom Up

    January 17, 2002 | 7:00 pm

    One of the most exciting experiments in Jewish transformation is taking place right here in Los Angeles.

    Beit T'Shuvah is one of the nation's only homes for rehabilitation and return that integrates the 12 steps and Judaism. To hear Rabbi Mark Borovitz's interpretation of the Torah...

  • Nothing’s Fishy

    January 10, 2002 | 7:00 pm

    "Welcome home, Marlene. It's about time you joined my family," my father said.

    He was greeting the news that well into the age of wisdom, I've finally begun eating sardines.

    Dad eats sardines the way I once ate rugelah or eggplant parmigiana -- with gusto. It's a way of life for him....

  • Red String

    January 3, 2002 | 7:00 pm

    I wear a piece of red string around my right wrist, a talisman for healing.

    Since receiving a diagnosis of lung cancer a year ago, my life has continued in a relatively "normal" vein, recognizable to secular Jewish Westerners like myself. I meet with the best oncologists and take...

  • JCC Mission

    December 20, 2001 | 7:00 pm

    Halfway through my conversation this week about the Jewish Community Centers (JCC) crisis with super-fundraiser Emanuel Forster, we learned that both of us are members of the Santa Monica Family YMCA.

    For two Jewish activists to seek recreation at a YMCA goes a long way toward...

  • Relying on Miracles

    December 13, 2001 | 7:00 pm

    Before the last Chanukah candle is lit, I'd like to say a word about miracles.

    As one who lives daily with the diagnosis of cancer, I find that the lighting of the menorah has a special resonance this year. I know more than I care to about dark, unpredictable fortune. I have a...

  • Light One Candle

    December 6, 2001 | 7:00 pm

    By rights, this should be a one-candle Chanukah.

    Tradition tells us, of course, that we light two candles on the first night, three the next, and so on for eight days. In all, Jews would ordinarily light 44 candles over next week.

    But after the World Trade Center attacks and the Ben...

  • Entering the New World

    November 29, 2001 | 7:00 pm

    Brave New World, here we come.

    A Worcester, Mass., biotech company reported this week that it had created a human embryo directly from human cells. A cell implanted with adult DNA split into six cells, then died, stopping far short of the 150-plus needed to create viable stem cells,...

  • Saying Thanks

    November 22, 2001 | 7:00 pm

    I say a prayer of thanksgiving first thing every morning.

    "Mode ani lefanecha" are the words, said even while I'm still in bed. "I thankfully acknowledge before You." The English translation is awkward, so I'm glad to say the Hebrew words. I wish I didn't mean them quite so much.


  • Ready for Battle

    November 15, 2001 | 7:00 pm

    Bad news on the cancer front. My CT scans, which had been 99 percent tumor-free for almost six months, show a few tiny lesions. A few tiny lesions in non-small-cell lung cancer is not a good thing. My oncologist nearly cried.

    What I would give not to have to write about this. I hate...

  • Breaking Ground

    November 8, 2001 | 7:00 pm

    Pericles said it for us: The secret of happiness is freedom, and the secret of freedom is a brave heart.

    Two months after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, small acts take on a magnified historic context, and large acts are dwarfed by human peril. Freedom and courage seem...

  • End the Silence

    November 1, 2001 | 7:00 pm

    Only three weeks ago it was possible to speak in optimistic terms about a united front against terrorism. History seemed to be blowing at our back, pushing the forces of civilization onward and upward to victory against the scourge of modern times. Writing in this space in early...

  • Take 12 Steps

    October 25, 2001 | 8:00 pm

    It would be hard to exaggerate the significance of The Jewish Federation's Addiction Conference held Monday at the Skirball Cultural Center. But to compare, think back to the Shechinah Conference held 20 years ago at Hebrew Union College, which helped consolidate and shape Jewish...

  • Confused and Tangled Times

    October 18, 2001 | 8:00 pm

    My favorite words of Torah are the very first: "In the beginning." They beg us to ask, what was there before the Creation that made God want to do more? And the answer provided in the text is especially fitting for our own warring time: tohu va'vohu, which Rabbi Samson Hirsch, the...

  • Despair vs. Joy

    October 11, 2001 | 8:00 pm

    Last week in New York, I attended one bar mitzvah, one 80th birthday party and, it seems, several hundred funerals.

    That's what it means these days, to be a Jew in post-Sept. 11 America. We must live in two worlds at once, the personal and the communal: shepping nachas over the...

  • “We” Judaism

    October 4, 2001 | 8:00 pm

    NOW THAT THE HIGH HOLY days are over, we can begin to appreciate how the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington may alter American Jewish life.

    Like the rest of America we are stunned. Grieving. Angry. Afraid.

    The enormity of loss cast a dark spiritual shadow across the holiest...

  • Echoes of History

    September 27, 2001 | 8:00 pm

    Ecclesiastes was right: Even in a world clouded by international terrorism, there's nothing new under the sun.

    Since Sept. 11, I've taken comfort, however small, in the echoes of history. The attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, with an estimated 6,300 dead, using American...

  • Terror, Grief and Awe

    September 20, 2001 | 8:00 pm

    In past Yom Kippurs I've been known to bring a stack of books with me to synagogue, works both historic and intellectual, to focus on when neither prayer nor imagination can fill the time. Not this year.

    The terror, grief and awe of Sept. 11 will preoccupy my thoughts for many long...

  • Fuzz

    September 6, 2001 | 8:00 pm

    A day before I left for a vacation cruise to Alaska, I looked in the mirror and spied, atop my clean, bald head -- Hair! There wasn't much of it, standing less than one-sixteenth of an inch tall. But when I ran my hand over my crown, I felt the delicious tickle of stubble.


  • And Many More

    August 9, 2001 | 8:00 pm

    There's nothing like completing chemotherapy to spice up a birthday party. Last weekend, 40 of my dearest friends performed a commemorative Havdalah ceremony to mark a really great CT scan and year 53. My "re-birthday" celebration was just the ticket, restorative not only for me but...