For those of us who follow the careers of Jewish ballplayers — a small, eccentric niche of fandom — checking the Jewish Baseball News Web site is an essential part of our sports routine.
One of the most interesting findings of the respected Pew Research Center’s poll of American Jews was the continuing theme of Jewish liberalism and approval of Barack Obama’s performance — a vote of confidence in the president exceeded only by that of African-American Protestants and Hispanic Catholics.
How does an irreligious Jew find consolation at a religious service? Seeking such consolation, I attended the Hillel at UCLA High Holy Days services conducted by Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller. I don’t often go to services, but in February our oldest daughter, Robin, died, and I felt drawn there.
When Frances Browner, then 21, announced she was joining the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) during World War II, her mother and most of the rest of her family were appalled. They thought that this wasn’t something a Jewish girl should do.
Controller Ron Galperin is City Hall’s new numbers guy, hoping to bring the era of Big Data to the creaking bureaucracy. His plan is to use computers to analyze huge amounts of information as is now done by police departments, baseball teams, other businesses and, infamously, the National Security Agency.
James Coley and Robert Warfield, case workers for the Integrated Recovery Network, walked into the Twin Towers Correctional Facility with purpose and confidence, exactly the qualities needed for talking to some of the approximately 2,500 mentally ill inmates confined in the downtown Los Angeles jail.
The small turnout at the Los Angeles polls for the mayoral election on May 21 is cited as evidence that most Angelenos don’t care whether City Hall is open, closed or simply blown away.
Years ago, I was complaining about one of our governors to a colleague, Jack Germond, an experienced and highly respected national political reporter. Germond, who had reported from many states, regarded my analysis with skepticism.
After surviving opposition funded by the mayors of America’s two biggest cities, newly re-elected Los Angeles Unified School District board member Steve Zimmer says his win has preserved a “system of checks and balances” in running L.A.’s huge school district.
Mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel, born and raised Christian, is married to a Jew. The couple’s 10-year-old son studies Hebrew and is being raised in the Jewish tradition. The family attends synagogue.
Someone in the audience asked the mayoral candidates about the county’s foster children program. Eric Garcetti answered in a particularly well-informed manner, mentioning that he and his wife have cared for seven foster children.
I first met Carmen Warschaw when I became a political writer for the Associated Press in the mid 1960s. I thought she was one of the most interesting, challenging people I'd met on my new beat, an opinion that has not changed over the years. Carmen and her husband Lou -- they were teenage sweethearts -- became active in the Democratic party in their youth.
I’ve covered many political campaigns, but none quite like Berman versus Sherman.
The biggest challenge in covering the congressional race between Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman lies in determining how to judge the two men and compare their performances in Congress.
I asked City Council member Jan Perry, a candidate for mayor of Los Angeles, if she was on a spiritual quest when she converted to Judaism. “Right,” she replied. “Your question is a good way to put it.”
Much of the debate in the San Fernando Valley contest between Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman has revolved around their congressional records, but I’m having trouble deciphering them. And if it’s hard for me, after spending years writing about legislation, pity the interested voter. In their years in Congress — 29 for Berman, 15 for Sherman — they have cast many votes and introduced bills, either as a main author or collaborator. Because there’s a public record of this activity, you’d think it would be easy to look it up, rather than rely on the candidates’ speeches, charges and counter charges.
When Morrie Stanley Mosk decided on a political career, he began referring to himself as M. Stanley Mosk and then Stanley Mosk. It was the 1940s and ’50s, and anti-Semitism was much more virulent than it is today. Mosk feared his Jewish name would hurt his chances of being elected.
In a city where some of the very rich are willing to pay $1 billion-plus for the bankrupt Dodgers baseball team, why can’t anyone spare $500,000 to support an Academic Decathlon program that brings luster to the often criticized Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)?
Always interested in the gritty and unpredictable side of participatory politics, I dropped in on Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman, both of whom are vying to represent the newly reconfigured 30th congressional district, as they each hosted community meetings at San Fernando Valley schools last week.
No doubt Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman will be confronted with questions about Iran as they campaign in the new West San Fernando Valley 30th Congressional District. Iran is likely to come up as they speak at meetings and debates and through the online messages and mailings that will besiege voters in the expensive, high-profile battle between these two candidates with remarkable similarities in their views and even their names.
The race for the “Who Loves Israel Most” title has been one of the most interesting developments in the Republican presidential election. It’s skewed the contest in a way that turns every vote for a candidate into a vote for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party.
As I stopped at the sukkah in the Occupy L.A. encampment outside City Hall, I thought of the Jews’ role in the upcoming presidential election, which will be taking place amid a recession and doubts about President Barack Obama’s attitude toward Israel.
Rep. Brad Sherman doesn’t intend to follow Rep. Henry Waxman’s advice to give up his San Fernando Valley congressional race against Rep. Howard Berman.
The Howard Berman-Brad Sherman story is loaded with angles — Jewish, Latino and, what may be most important, financial.
Los Angeles’ new school superintendent, John Deasy, says one of his top goals is to persuade middle-class families, including Jewish parents, to return to the Los Angeles public schools. “It’s one of the major projects I have to deliver,” he said.
“A great school is an anchor for a neighborhood,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said. “A great school district is an anchor for a great city.”
Much of the recent history of the Los Angeles Unified School District is also part of the past of Tamar Galatzan, who now sits on the governing board of that giant bureaucracy of a school district.
Zev Yaroslavsky’s latest nation-building assignment wasn’t easy. Dispatched to Nigeria as part of an international corps of election observers, he checked on polling places during elections this month in a nation better known for ethnic violence and corruption than orderly changes in government.
If there was ever a time for Jewish parents to fight for Los Angeles public schools, this is it.
When Susan Kent was a child in Westchester County, N.Y., she read her way through the public library children’s section and then headed over to the adult books. When the librarian told Kent they were for adults only, she called in her father. “My father came to the library and said, ‘She can read anything she wants,’ ” Kent recalled.
The teacher evaluations recently posted on the Los AngelesTimes Web site deserve acareful but skeptical reading.
In 1947, Stanley Mosk, then a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge, was confronted with a case that divided the city. Three African American families had moved into the all-white Mid-Wilshire district, and the neighbors were trying to run them out, invoking restrictive covenants banning blacks from the area.
When this recession is a memory, the Jewish community’s unemployed and their children — just like the rest of the country — will still feel the psychic impact of prolonged, desperate days of job hunting and scraping for house payments or rent. Making it worse will be the injury to their pride, as people with a distinct work ethic face the humbling experience of explaining their plight to family and friends.
What’s the place of Jewish life in the multiethnic mixing bowl of the Los Angeles public schools? It’s a complex question in a district where young people from Mexican, Central American, African American, Armenian, Persian, Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Syrian homes, among others, bring their traditions, religions, sensitivities and prejudices to the classroom and school yard.
I’ve covered the ugly side of race relations in Los Angeles for many years. Among my memories are the Watts Riots, the 1992 riot, the public school desegregation
fight and the breakup of the Tom Bradley black-Jewish political coalition.
“Raw power, an unabashed transfer of political power to parents.”
Looking for clues to help save public schools, I visited teacher Ellie Herman’s drama class at Animo Pat Brown Charter High School.
L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz hustled into his fourth-floor office suite followed by two aides, just after he finished a long council session. I followed him into a back office to interview this City Hall newcomer, the latest person to represent the difficult 5th District.
Recently, I talked to new Los Angeles school board member Steve Zimmer about convincing middle-class parents to send their children to public schools.
Los Angeles Schools Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines has a strong message to Jewish parents and others nervously considering public school education for their children — unite and take over the schools.
Karen Bass, speaker of the California Assembly, looked remarkably calm, considering that she’d just arrived to speak at The Jewish Federation in mid-Wilshire following a freeway trip from the airport. At the Capitol, she had just taken part in another fruitless budget meeting with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other legislative leaders, an experience as difficult as riding the freeways.
Throughout the Los Angeles Unified School District, the recession is prompting middle-class parents to take a look at public middle and high schools they have long disdained.
As chair of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, Waxman is poised to play a leading role in putting the Obama agenda into law, particularly in health care and in pushing the auto industry into manufacturing energy-efficient and minimally polluting cars.
Faculty members at the USC Annenberg School for Communications are deep into a controversy that should be of interest to the Jewish community.
It concerns a proposal from USC for a $3 million contract for Annenberg to work with the American University in Dubai to create a journalism and communications school in the Middle Eastern nation.
When Ed Guthman died Aug. 30 at the age of 89, the Los Angeles Jewish community lost one of its most distinguished members
Zukin is particularly interested in an important issue that places the ethics commission at odds with the city council -- the future of the neighborhood councils
Sophisticated Los Angeles Jews don't have to turn to a Jewish newspaper for political advice or for guidance through the pitfalls of American society.
One criticism of Villaraigosa's predecessor, Jim Hahn, was that he didn't understand the importance of symbolism, that he was too desk bound, too reluctant to make the grand gestures important in a sprawling city of many diverse communities.
A visit with Dr. Eugene Gettelman, who celebrates his 100th birthday on June 17, shows how much medicine has gained and lost in the last half century
In defending middle-class neighborhoods, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky is taking on an issue that reaches to the heart of Los Angeles' ethnic, political and class divide
An evening at Shomrei Torah Synagogue got me thinking about Barack Obama and how much the San Fernando Valley has changed since I first roamed there in 1970.
It's an odd combination of thoughts, I know. Or, perhaps not. The more I thought about it, the combination made perfect sense to me.
I write about education a lot because it's important for the Jewish community to have a strong public school system. Education is part of the Jewish culture. Many Jews can't afford private schools, and their kids deserve an education good enough to send them to college. Moreover, strong public schools are good for everybody, Jews and non-Jews.
What makes a good politician? What makes a good Jewish politician? Zev Yaroslavsky, Henry Waxman and Laura Chick each, in his or her own way, illustrates how the values of Jewish life can be carried over into the secular obligations of public affairs. They have set an example for a new generation that will make sure our community is deeply involved in Los Angeles civic life.
The meeting at Daniel Webster Middle School, in the heart of the Westside, embodied all the difficulties of convincing parents that their children will be safe when they leave the cocoon of the public elementary school for the unknown world of middle school.
I've been following the Los Angeles housing story for a few months because of its special relevance to the Jewish community.
In Jewish communities in Los Angeles, tenants are uneasily contemplating a fate increasingly familiar to renters - the conversion of their building to condominiums.
Breaking the commandment against adultery shouldn't disqualify you for public office. Still, I don't think the adulterer should expect cheers from the Jewish community. This is especially true when the official is Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has made his family and his life story a big part of his persona.
She was absolutely right. Movements don't start with specifics or 10-point plans. They start with people meeting up and talking. Ideas are generated, plans are made and one day, action is taken. It's a slow process. This is where Reboot is now. Perhaps from this generation -- prompted by leaders like Levin -- an articulate minority will emerge and point the Jewish community in a fresh direction, just as Heschel and Herzl did many years ago.
The Democratic presidential candidates' attitude toward Israel is undergoing the same sort of word-by-word examination that was such an important feature of the 2004 campaign.
More than 25 years ago, Los Angeles' senior Jewish renters joined with young progressives and persuaded a reluctant city government to adopt rent control.
Happily for them, most of the old-time Los Angeles anti-Semites who used to hang out at the downtown California Club are either dead or too old to care that a Jew is on the verge of owning the L.A. Times.
There is a preconceived notion about the Los Angeles Jewish community being affluent, increasingly conservative and preoccupied with Israel to the exclusion of other issues.
Times are changing, and the Times, with circulation and advertising dropping, can no longer afford to be so high and mighty. At long last, the paper is going to juice up its Web site, and community input like your synagogue discussion meeting and your opinions and activities may be a big part of it.
In contrast to the 1960s, when the fabled and overblown black-Jewish alliance was obsessively chronicled and debated by Jewish academics, journalists, essayists and community leaders, the rise of the Latino population has not seemed to capture much Jewish interest, either pro or con. That is especially true now, when so many activist Jews are focused only on Israel.
One day at lunch with a group of reporters and editors, Dave Laventhol, then the publisher of the Los Angeles Times, was musing that journalists had become elitist,
separated from their communities, maybe even too educated.
These days no judge is safe from the assault of the religious right, anti-government crusaders and law and order zealots.
Because of their intense activism, Jews have been among the paper's most devoted readers and fiercest critics. A substantial part of the paper's circulation base has long been in the broad Jewish belt extending from the Westside through the West Valley.
Decades of Latino battles to save the schools -- not just for Hispanics, but for everybody.
I've spoken to many groups all over Los Angeles during extremely volatile times. I've never seen such rudeness, narrow mindedness and just plain boorishness.
As Antonio Villaraigosa campaigns for mayor in the Jewish community, he will face the same big question asked by all non-Latino voters: Are you too Mexican?
The question is especially important to Jews, because our community's long-time relationship with Latino and African American Los Angeles has been a powerful force in the city's history.
The sanctuary of Congregation Beth Knesset Bamidbar in Lancaster evokes the mood of the Mojave Desert, which reaches far to the north, west and south of the small synagogue.
It's easy to be a Jew on the Westside or in the West Valley. The nonobservant or even the alienated can be part of the Jewish ambience, especially in places like Pico-Robertson or parts of Ventura Boulevard.
It's different in the Southland's far suburbs. Elections aren't swung by the Jewish vote nor are hotel banquet rooms full of Jewish political contributors. There is a scarcity of Jewish religious, educational and cultural institutions and even delis.
Last week, I pulled out a big, unsorted folder from my desk filled with material I had used for my Jewish Journal columns.
The faint of heart should not apply for this job: Needed, a sensitive but thick-skinned person who can get along with a combative mixture
of Los Angeles' Jews, blacks, whites, Asians, Latinos, Catholics, Baptists, Muslims, students, retired people, lawyers, doctors, homeless and many, many more.
By chance, Bet Tzedek Legal Services sponsored a program on the American Patriot Act just about the same time readers were beginning to get their copies of Philip Roth's "The Plot Against America."
As election day gets closer, I'm beginning to wonder how many of us will vote on a single issue-our perception of how President Bush and Sen. John Kerry will stand up for Israel.
The "swift boat " attack on Sen. John Kerry, supporting the Republican effort to portray him as a weak liberal, has special resonance among those Jews who will base their vote on whether they think a candidate will be tough enough in standing up for Israel.
"I will concede that conservative Jewish Republicans like myself are in the minority, especially out here on the Left Coast," reader Gillee Sherman e-mailed me. "But we are growing in numbers every day, and this election should see a huge improvement for Bush in the Jewish community."
The election analysis is all the same. For days, the political press was almost totally occupied with Sen. John Kerry's choice for the vice presidential candidate. When Sen. John Edwards was selected, everyone I saw or read had the same take: Terrific speaker; inexperienced; shady trial lawyer; fighter for the forgotten.
It was as if the journalists were afraid to stray off the beaten track or leave the reporting pack to have an original thought. Today's political reporting is a compendium of conventional wisdom. The motto of the press corps is: "On one hand.... And on the other...."
I can't remember many Jews around Ronald Reagan when I met him at the very start of his political career. Politics were simple. Jews were Democrats. Republicans were from country clubs that didn't admit Jews.
Reagan seemed unconnected to all that. His experience with Jews was far different than that of the country club Republicans who followed him. True, he grew up in small-town Illinois, where Jews were a rarity, and he graduated from Eureka College, a puritanical Disciples of Christ school. But his movie career was nurtured and shaped by Jews, who remained loyal to him through his days in films and politics and shaped his political life.
The Republicans are praying that President Bush's embrace of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Gaza withdrawal plan will sway the Jewish vote.
The angry man in the back of the room at El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana was shaking his fist and calling us crooks.
I made a big mistake -- eye contact. With me in his range, he raised his hand, and I think his middle finger, and yelled, "You!" Being a city ethics commissioner, I didn't think I should be called a crook in public.
I set out to write about the presidential election, but I changed my mind when I ran into Eric Gordon, the director of Workmen's Circle.
As both a Los Angeles city ethics commissioner and a Jewish community journalist, I was in a skeptical mood as I took a seat in the audience of a discussion on "Jewish Ethical Values in the Halls of Power: From the Board Room to the Council Chamber."
Listening to Howard Dean reminds me of going to a doctor who starts out the visit by saying, "Bill, you really look sick."
Maybe I do, but I don't want to hear it expressed quite so bluntly. Just like I didn't want to hear Dr. Dean saying in Los Angeles Dec. 15, "The capture of Saddam has not made America safer."
Dean's pessimism was hard to take, especially right after the bearded villain was hauled out of the ground by American troops.
If you want to know what's going on, talk to the guy who runs the newsstand.
That would be David Mallel, who owns the well-stocked newsstand at Fairfax and Oakwood avenues in the heart of the Fairfax District. He keeps attuned to the political feelings of his well-read clientele by seeing what they buy and mixing those observations with his own experiences as a lifelong member of the Los Angeles Jewish community.
Exploring the Pico-Robertson neighborhood, where Republicans once were the smallest of minorities, I happened upon a nest of recall supporters who were also great admirers of President Bush. Talking to them, I got a sense of the changing politics of Los Angeles' Jewish community, where votes can no longer be taken for granted.
They were students of Netan Eli High School, seated around a table in the lunch-room, talking politics. I'd happened on the school the previous afternoon while looking for people to interview about the Oct. 7 election. I introduced myself to Rabbi Sholom D. Weil, the principal, and general studies principal Avi Erblich, and they were nice enough to set up a meeting with students.
How does a Jewish community journalist cover such a non-Jewish election?
When Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis was the eloquent young rabbi of Temple Beth Abraham in Oakland, he gave many uncompromising sermons against the social and economic injustices that afflicted the community.
When I arrived in Los Angeles, I was drawn to Boyle Heights, a Latino community that had once been the home of Los Angeles Jewish radical life.
It wasn't that I was looking for Eastside, left-wing Jewish roots. I didn't have any. When my grandparents lived in Los Angeles before moving north, they had a grocery store in Eagle Rock and later one near Bunker Hill. My mother commuted to UCLA by bus and streetcar to attend the first classes on the Westwood campus.
The crowd in front of the Jewish Republicans' booth didn't approach the size of those at some of the better food stands at the Israel's Independence Day celebration at Woodley Park in the San Fernando Valley. Still, it was big enough to interest me after having watched the GOP's long courtship of Jews; for years, it's been a romance that sometimes reached the engagement party but usually fell short of the chuppah.
Budget cuts are inevitable. The deficit is huge.