Jewish Journal

Ellen Jaffe-Gill

  • Tova’s Songs Good for Yiddish’s Image

    December 15, 2005 | 7:00 pm


    As a youngster in Calgary, she was the Yiddish valedictorian of her high school. As a theater major in Edmonton, she was "the first Jewish Medea." Later, she became known across Canada as a character in a popular prime-time drama.

    Now Theresa Tova is Canada's reigning...

  • Israeli Conductor Soars in ‘Butterfly’

    December 8, 2005 | 7:00 pm

    Madame Butterfly," the story of a trusting 19th-century Japanese girl who falls in love with a fickle American naval officer, first captivated American audiences in 1900 as a play by impresario David Belasco. The Italian opera composer Giacomo Puccini saw the play's London production...

  • Sacred Sounds All Over Town

    September 15, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    There's an inescapable irony in vocalist Vanessa Paloma performing Ladino songs at the San Gabriel Mission, which was founded by Spanish Catholics. It was, of course, Spanish Roman Catholics who expelled Ladino-speaking Jews from Spain in 1492. Paloma called the venue "emotionally...

  • The Silver-Haired Bar Mitzvah Boy

    August 11, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    "I'd like to order a cake for a bar mitzvah," I said to the lady behind the counter at the kosher bakery. "Please put on the top, 'Mazal tov, Spencer.'"

    "Your son's name is Spencer?" she asked.

    "No, my husband's name is Spencer," I replied.

    "But you said this is for a bar mitzvah."

  • Emanuel’s Jumpin’ at the Synaplex

    March 25, 2004 | 7:00 pm

    It's erev Shabbat, and this joint is jumpin'. As dusk deepens, seniors who have just emerged from a talk on globalization mingle with new arrivals in the lobby of Temple Emanuel's school building on Burton Way in Beverly Hills, where "Cafe Synaplex" has been set up. In the building's...

  • Off the Bimah: A Concerted Effort

    February 19, 2004 | 7:00 pm

    With her slender figure, long, shining strawberry-blonde hair and big hazel eyes, Alison Wissot looks more like a stage ingénue than most people's conceptions of a cantor -- not surprising, since that's what she was 10 years ago.

    Wissot's cantorial career is off to a brilliant...

  • L.A. Music Man Is Homeward Bound

    November 27, 2003 | 7:00 pm

    Zubin Mehta, one of Southern California's favorite musicmakers, will return to his old stomping grounds Dec. 10 to conduct the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra's (IPO) first Los Angeles concert in three years.

    The performance at Walt Disney Concert Hall will open an eight-date tour...

  • Mothers, Daughters Bond Over Torah

    October 23, 2003 | 8:00 pm

    Netivot, the women's Torah study institute, will begin a program next month on a subject not often associated with Orthodoxy: bat mitzvah.

    Beginning Nov. 16, Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills will host a "Mother/Daughter Bat Mitzvah Seminar," in which girls ages 11-13 and...

  • Bias Hits Rabbis on Mommy Track

    September 25, 2003 | 8:00 pm

    When Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), the Reform rabbinical seminary, ordained its first female rabbi, Sally Priesand, in 1972, the event was more inevitable than revolutionary. It had been 50 years since HUC-JIR had come within a whisker of ordaining...

  • Part-Time Work, Full-Time Families

    September 25, 2003 | 8:00 pm

    Around the time Sally Priesand was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Conservative women began to press the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) to ordain women. In contrast to the matter-of-factness with which Priesand's ordination took place, the ordination...

  • Hebrew High Parents Accept The Shlep

    September 18, 2003 | 8:00 pm

    West Side and South Bay parents who send their teenagers to Los Angeles Hebrew High School (LAHHS) had to contend with some extra miles and a longer school day this week as the program moved its Sunday classes from the University of Judaism (UJ) to Pierce College.

    With growing...

  • Symphony’s Sephardic Premier

    September 11, 2003 | 8:00 pm

    Ten years ago, it was a first -- and it's still an only. When Noreen Green established the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony (LAJS) in 1993, Los Angeles became the only city in the world with a resident symphony orchestra devoted to Jewish music, and the city maintains that unique status...

  • Orthodox Mother Opens New Opera

    September 4, 2003 | 8:00 pm

    File under Incongruities, Major: One of the latest luminaries in the world of grand opera is an Orthodox mother of four from Brooklyn.

    In the male-dominated world of opera composition, Deborah Drattell is a rarity, but from childhood she never doubted she would excel in the world of...

  • Power of Song Gives Hope to Mourners

    August 28, 2003 | 8:00 pm

    A project that began 10 years ago as a tribute to a dead brother has been expanded as a memorial to the victims of terrorist attacks in Israel.

    Chayim Frenkel, cantor at Kehillat Israel in Pacific Palisades, conceived "Nishmat Tzedek" ("A Righteous Soul") in 1993 after his brother...

  • Milken Opens Vault of Jewish Music

    July 24, 2003 | 8:00 pm

    The Milken Family Foundation, well-known for its philanthropy to education and medical research, has announced that it will begin to issue recordings this fall from its 13-year-old music archive project, an enormous undertaking spanning more than three centuries of American Jewish...

  • Seminaries Issue New Crop of Rabbis

    May 15, 2003 | 8:00 pm

    Los Angeles' three rabbinical schools will present the Jewish community with 26 freshly minted rabbis this month as the seminaries hold their ordination ceremonies.

    The University of Judaism (UJ) will ordain seven men and three women as Conservative rabbis Monday night at Sinai...

  • Conservative Cantors Converge

    May 8, 2003 | 8:00 pm

    Several hundred cantors associated with the Conservative movement will be making beautiful music together in Los Angeles this week, even as they examine the roles of the cantor beyond that of liturgical jukebox.

    The Cantors Assembly will base its annual national convention at the...

  • Goodbye, Rabbi

    April 30, 2003 | 8:00 pm

    As posted on its Web site, part of Leo Baeck Temple's mission is to "develop an island of serenity within a complex, troubled world." This spring, the Reform synagogue says goodbye to a rabbi whose decades of calm, scholarly leadership is responsible for much of that serenity.


  • Beyond ‘Avinu Malkeinu’

    April 10, 2003 | 8:00 pm

    To most people, "Jewish music" is something familiar: the "Avinu Malkeinu" they hear every Rosh Hashana, a Yiddish lullaby or the theme from "Schindler's List."

    Neal Brostoff thinks way outside that particular box.

    Brostoff is the impresario responsible for "Beyond Bim-Bam: New...

  • A New Voice for Jewish Music

    March 20, 2003 | 7:00 pm

    When Dr. Richard Braun started hanging out with his temple's organist in the late '60s, he probably didn't think he'd become a player in the evolution of synagogue music.

    But the Valley doctor's 30-year friendship with composer Aminadav Aloni was the nucleus of the Jewish Music...

  • To Life, L’Chayim

    February 27, 2003 | 7:00 pm

    It was his first pulpit as a cantor, a smallish shul up above Palisades High School. He was just 23.

    Eighteen years later, Kehillat Israel, now the largest Reconstructionist synagogue in the United States, remains Chayim Frenkel's only pulpit, and he and the temple couldn't be...

  • The Musical Sound of ‘Lights’

    November 21, 2002 | 7:00 pm

    Not all Chanukah music is kiddie music -- even when it's played by kids. On Sunday, Dec. 1, the Skirball Cultural Center will host the West Coast premiere of Russell Steinberg's suite, "Lights On!" Steinberg will conduct the Stephen Wise Youth Orchestra, a group of 70 youngsters ages...

  • A Life to the Mind

    November 7, 2002 | 7:00 pm

    What you notice in almost every shot is the hair: abundant, snow-white, carefully coiffed.

    It's an apt metaphor for Jacques Derrida's mind, which is prolific with ideas, yet well-ordered and consistent in its probity and depth. In a new documentary, filmmakers Amy Ziering Kofman...

  • Music in a Universal Key

    September 12, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    A Turkish-born cantor will bring tunes of his Sephardi heritage to a festival next week celebrating Southern California's religious diversity. Haim Mizrahi, who sings at Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel in Westwood, will be the Jewish representative at "A Universal Harmony of Souls:...

  • A Song in His Heart

    September 12, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    Singer-pianist-archivist Michael Feinstein's new album, his first with a symphony orchestra, is all standards and all Jewish.

    "Using all Jewish composers didn't take effort," Feinstein said, describing his latest CD, "Michael Feinstein With the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra"...

  • Harmonic Convergence

    August 1, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    Singers and lovers of Jewish music will gather in Sepulveda Pass this week for a festival celebrating Jewish choral music of the past and present.

    The first David Nowakowsky International Jewish Choral Festival, which begins Sunday at the University of Judaism (UJ), will present a...

  • A Tough Farewell

    June 13, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    It's hard to know who will suffer the greater wrench this summer: Rabbis Jackie and David Ellenson, as they leave Los Angeles, or Jewish Los Angeles for losing them.

    A year after being named president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), David Ellenson is...

  • Maseng of Many Hats

    June 6, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    Somebody must have perfected human cloning, because no way is Danny Maseng just one person.

    When the singer-songwriter-guitarist-actor-poet-dramatist-lay rabbi-teacher-visionary, who will headline the Fund for Reform Judaism's annual fundraiser at Temple Isaiah in Rancho Park on...

  • Hess Kramer Turns 50

    May 23, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    It has been a training ground for hundreds of Jewish professionals, and it has caused Shabbat candles to glow in countless homes.

    This summer, Camp Hess Kramer in Malibu turns 50, and its birthday party on June 2 is a celebration not just of a specific collection of facilities in an...

  • Worth Waiting For

    May 9, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    With pomp, ritual and the added joy that comes when a long wait precedes a happy event, the Los Angeles school of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) ordained its first rabbis May 5 at Wilshire Boulevard Temple.

    "The kvell factor is huge," said Rabbi Lewis...

  • Into the Words

    April 25, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    People are always asking Dvora Weisberg's parents, "Where did you go wrong?"

    They ask not because Weisberg has fallen away from Judaism, but because two marginally affiliated parents produced a traditionally observant daughter who thought -- more than once -- about becoming a rabbi.


  • Heart and Soul

    January 31, 2002 | 7:00 pm

    The voice on the CD is smoky, sultry, exotic, spinning out messages of devotion in a foreign tongue. But when a reporter calls at 9 p.m. on a Monday night, the owner of that voice says, prosaically enough, "Let me turn down the TV," and the next thing coming over the wire is Peter...

  • No News Is Bad News

    January 24, 2002 | 7:00 pm

    The Los Angeles Jewish community is harboring a deadly secret.

    Thousands of Jews in Southern California, among hundreds of thousands worldwide, carry the gene for a fatal disease that's as prevalent as Tay-Sachs and just as devastating, but local Jewish leaders have failed to let...

  • Why I Love Yom Kippur

    September 20, 2001 | 8:00 pm

    To many if not most Jews, Yom Kippur is an enormous drag. You're not supposed to eat or drink, which, considering how food-centered most other Jewish holidays are, just seems weird. If you don't eat, you wind up with a nasty headache by midafternoon. If you do eat, you feel guilty,...

  • A Different Path

    June 28, 2001 | 8:00 pm

    Update July 29, 2007: Rabbi Meyers passed away last week. Obituary here.

    This has been a poignant month for Rabbi Carole Meyers. When The Journal visited her study in late May, she had just filed her last column for the temple newsletter. The next week was also her last family...

  • Rabbi Geller Honored

    May 24, 2001 | 8:00 pm

    In front of the temple office's fridge, Rabbi Laura Geller grunts "oy" as she stoops to get something out. "That's how you know you're getting old, you know," the receptionist teases the rabbi, "when you say 'oy' when you bend down."

    But at 51, there is nothing remotely old about...

  • A Fresh Crop

    May 24, 2001 | 8:00 pm

    A delicious breeze wafted through the white tent erected on the brand-new, football field-sized parking lot of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) on May 14, cooling gowned graduates, faculty, and alumni -- plus a bevy of proud relatives and friends -- as the...

  • Two Mothers

    May 10, 2001 | 8:00 pm

    At first glance, it would be hard to imagine two women with less in common than my mother and my husband's mother. You can begin with the obvious differences in cultural and religious background: my mother grew up Jewish in the Bronx, while my mother-in-law, a Presbyterian, has lived...

  • Grasping the Shoah

    May 10, 2001 | 8:00 pm

    In a small town in eastern Tennessee, a town without Jews, teenagers are almost halfway through a project that will give them a visual handle on the enormity of the Shoah.

    Eighth-grade students at the 425-student Whitwell Middle School -- whose student body is all white except for...

  • Leading With His Left

    April 26, 2001 | 8:00 pm

    Rabbi Leonard I. Beerman's art-filled home on a quiet, verdant Brentwood street is a world away from the gritty industrial world in which he lived as a child during the Depression and again as a young man on the cusp of World War II. But it's his experiences in that world of...

  • Benefiting Women’s Theater

    April 19, 2001 | 8:00 pm

    America's favorite Italian mother from Long Island -- who's really a Jewish gal born in St. Louis -- will headline a benefit Monday for one of Los Angeles' most innovative cultural contributors.

    Doris Roberts, who plays Marie Barone on the popular sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond,"...

  • 125 and Still Growing

    April 19, 2001 | 8:00 pm

    It's been a landmark year for the four-campus seminary serving Reform Judaism, which has been celebrating its 125th anniversary since last September.

    And it's a time of growth and new visibility for the 47-year-old Los Angeles campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of...

  • Strangers at the Feast

    April 5, 2001 | 8:00 pm

    My worst Passover was my first in Los Angeles, more than half a lifetime ago. I had nowhere to go the first night, and the second night, a college friend took me to an institutional seder that was so sterile and faceless that I went home early and, paraphrasing Scarlett O'Hara,...

  • Passover Escapes

    March 22, 2001 | 7:00 pm

    At our Ski Passover, experience the thrill of the 2002 Winter Olympics ... Ski the mogul run and view the aerial jumping hill; ride the snowboard half-pipe and ski the giant slalom course ... take a bobsled or luge ride or even try Nordic jumping ...

    More than 3,000 years ago, at...

  • Help Wanted

    March 22, 2001 | 7:00 pm

    If the New Economy has let you down and the Old Economy holds no charms, there may be a career opportunity for you in the Shul Economy.

    Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), the seminary that trains men and women for professions in Reform synagogues and other...

  • Keeping Connected

    February 22, 2001 | 7:00 pm

    Rigor With Vigor

    "How can anyone command us to be joyous?"

    Bill Cohen, director of Los Angeles Hebrew High School (LAHHS), paces in front of the junior seminar meeting in the University of Judaism's (UJ) chapel, his hands in the air, his eyes delighted as he conducts a spirited...

  • Yiddishe Shvestern

    February 15, 2001 | 7:00 pm

    Women always have been the private voice of Yiddish, which is, after all, called the mameloshn (mother tongue). When we think of women and Yiddish, we hear Jewish mothers crooning lullabies, whispering prayers, gossiping over fences. With few exceptions, the public voice of Yiddish...

  • Open for Discussion

    February 1, 2001 | 7:00 pm

    When Kelly Smith and Brian Bloch met at a convention in Long Beach in 1999, sparks flew. As they developed their long-distance relationship via e-mail -- Brian at his computer in Houston, Kelly at hers in the Valley -- they were astounded to find out how much they had in common.


  • Tough Dames in a Tough Game

    January 18, 2001 | 7:00 pm

    Glamour, betrayal, influence and heartache, all in a day's work. In her first book, "Is That a Gun in Your Pocket? Women's Experience of Power in Hollywood," Rachel Abramowitz, a former writer for Premiere magazine, lays out in impressive detail what the first significant wave of...

  • Welcome Home

    January 4, 2001 | 7:00 pm

    When her first liturgical tune popped into Debbie Friedman's head almost 30 years ago, she had no clue that she would become the queen of contemporary American Jewish music.

    And when three little Conservative synagogues on the Westside decided to band together for a fundraiser,...

  • Nostalgia Trip

    December 21, 2000 | 7:00 pm

    A roundup of recently released CDs featuring Yiddish tunes yields albums that evoke the past, some with original settings and contemporary arrangements of classic subject matter, others with sounds from an earlier day.

    In his new CD, "Garden of Yidn" (Naxos World), violinist and...

  • Best-Kept Secret

    December 21, 2000 | 7:00 pm

    Most of the Jewish women in the group are old enough to remember a time when Jewish kids got beaten up by Catholic kids for being "Christ-killers." Most of the Catholic women are old enough to have been taught that the Jews, as a people, were partners in the Romans' murder of...

  • A Modest Proposal

    December 14, 2000 | 7:00 pm

    It's that happy, happy time of year when store windows call out "Happy Chanukah" in a blizzard of white, blue, silver, and gold right next to the "Merry Christmas" and "Season's Greetings" banners, when menorahs are strung across boulevards after every third Santa-in-his-sleigh. And...

  • Great Music

    November 30, 2000 | 7:00 pm

    One was a U.S. resident from the beginning of his long life to its end, creating music as American in its sound and subject matter as "Yankee Doodle Dandy." The other, after making his mark in Germany, fled his homeland through France and spent his final, tragically few years adding...

  • Hot Dog!

    November 9, 2000 | 7:00 pm

    Vegetarianism may be trendy and maybe even healthy, but when Jeff Rohatiner was looking for a product on which he could base a restaurant, he knew that most of us are carnivores at heart. So he figured there'd be a market for the wares at Jeff's Gourmet Kosher Sausage Factory, opened...

  • Sounds of Healing

    October 26, 2000 | 8:00 pm

    Half of Tina Feiger's family fled from there in 1938. Barbara Ravitz became so anxious on a visit there in 1969 that she hasn't been back since. Sherri Lipman, like so many American Jews, has never been there.

    On Nov. 25, they will be in Germany, part of a huge, largely Jewish choral...

  • Out and Proud

    September 28, 2000 | 8:00 pm

    For some prospective rabbis, the greatest challenge is getting into rabbinical school. For Benay Lappe, the challenge was getting out, coming out and being out.

    Lappe is the new scholar-in-residence at Milken Community High School's Advanced Jewish Studies Center, where she is...

  • Unaffiliated? How to find the right synagogue for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

    September 7, 2000 | 8:00 pm

    Every fall, hundreds of Jews who don't belong to synagogues fan out across greater Los Angeles for a once-a-year dip into Jewish worship, buying tickets or wangling free seats at services for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Some are motivated by parents, others tag along with friends;...

  • Balancing Acts

    September 7, 2000 | 8:00 pm

    A common complaint of the unaffiliated Jew is having to buy tickets for the High Holy Days services they choose to attend. They see it as being required to "pay to pray" and often get quite huffy about what they see as a predatory hunger for cash on the part of synagogues.


  • Unaffiliated? How to find the right synagogue for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

    September 7, 2000 | 8:00 pm

    Every fall, hundreds of Jews who don't belong to synagogues fan out across greater Los Angeles for a once-a-year dip into Jewish worship, buying tickets or wangling free seats at services for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Some are motivated by parents, others tag along with friends;...

  • Collective Wisdom

    August 31, 2000 | 8:00 pm

    From personal to political, low-key to bombastic, a sampling of the Jewish wisdom rabbis will be imparting during the High Holy Days was on display Aug. 22 at Stephen S. Wise Temple.

    The Board of Rabbis of Southern California (a beneficiary agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater...

  • One of Them

    July 27, 2000 | 8:00 pm

    To watch Rabbi Mark Borovitz work the room during Friday night services at Gateways Beit T'Shuvah is to observe someone completely happy doing what he does. As the congregation, more than 200 strong, sings "Yedid Nefesh" and "Shalom Aleichem" and Borovitz, draped in a tallit, shakes...

  • A Tale of Two Women

    June 15, 2000 | 8:00 pm

    It's only fitting that Abigail Yasgur and Johanna Cooper met at Temple Beth Am, home of the Library Minyan. Both Yasgur and Cooper champion Jewish literature - Yasgur as director of Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles and Cooper as producer of NPR's "Jewish Short Stories From the...

  • The Class of 2000

    June 15, 2000 | 8:00 pm

    In this era of school violence and body piercing, teenagers, never the most applauded demographic segment of our society, have been getting some amazingly bad press. To hear the media tell it, adolescents who aren't destroying themselves or others are just too lazy and apathetic to...

  • Eastward Ho!

    May 25, 2000 | 8:00 pm

    Helped by a pair of hefty donations, a Jewish elementary school in southern Orange County is folding its tents, so to speak, and reestablishing camp where a sizable proportion of the county's population - including its Jewish population - is settling.

    Morasha Jewish Day School,...

  • Called to the Torah

    May 11, 2000 | 8:00 pm

    "I think the experience of going through [Bar Mitzvah] when it meant something to me personally and spiritually... was so much richer an experience than it might have been doing it as a stupid 13-year-old kid." - Ron, almost 30 at the time of his Bar Mitzvah

    Adults much younger than...

  • Their Crowning Glory

    May 4, 2000 | 8:00 pm

    Long hair -- straight or with a little wave, but definitely not curly -- was de rigueur for young women at Brandeis University in the early '70s, and it was my misfortune, as an 18-year-old sophomore in 1972, to have hair that grew out to the sides, not down. Unless I kept my hair...
  • 50 Years and Counting

    April 13, 2000 | 8:00 pm

    The Academy for Jewish Religion, a transdenominational rabbinical seminary, will open its doors in Los Angeles this fall, giving formal expression to a longtime trend toward a more personalized, spiritually oriented, pluralistic Judaism, academy founders say.

    The branch in New York,...

  • An Oasis in Irvine

    March 30, 2000 | 7:00 pm

    The first thing you notice is how pretty the campus is, with its pale beige Jerusalem stone and desert landscaping; if it were on a higher hill, it would look like a small version of the Getty Center. In the foyer, you see some puppets of characters from the book of Esther on...