Beverly Hills WelcomesJordanian Royalty
Visiting California for the first time since he took over following his father's 47-year reign last year, King Abdullah II of Jordan attended a Beverly Hilton Hotel luncheon Monday and told his audience that prospects of Middle East peace in the near future look good.Speaking before the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, Abdullah said, "We can have peace in the Middle East and have it quickly." The 38-year-old prince, who assumed the throne after his father, King Hussein, died in February 1999, said that Israel's recent withdrawal from southern Lebanon may bring the peace process to fruition as long as Israeli, Arab and U.S. leaders follow through on this intention. Abdullah also mentioned that he had been encouraged by a recent meeting with Syria's President Hafez Assad."The door is definitely open," said the king, with his wife, Queen Rania, and the evening's master of ceremonies, former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, sitting beside him on stage.Abdullah also won cheers from his audience of Angelenos when he congratulated the Lakers on their previous night's victory in the NBA playoffs.The king's quick stop in L.A. was part of a broader U.S. visit, which included Silicon Valley - from which Abdullah hopes to crib strategies on how to develop a software and communications empire in the desert - and a trip to the White House.The Anti-Defamation League's western regional director, David Lehrer, who was among the luncheon's attendees, told The Journal that Abdullah's comments and spirit were "very optimistic and upbeat." Overall, Lehrer found Abdullah's positive remarks on peace in the Middle East "very reassuring to hear from someone as well-placed as the king." - Michael Aushenker, Staff Writer
Prosecutors May Seek Death Penalty for Furrow
At a court hearing in Los Angeles Monday, a federal judge refused to prevent prosecutors from pursuing the death penalty for white supremacist Buford O. Furrow. Furrow is being held for the racially motivated murder of Joseph S. Ileto, a Filipino American mailman, on Aug. 10, 1999, which followed a rampage at the North Valley Jewish Com-munity Center in Granada Hills, where Furrow allegedly wounded three small children, a teenager, and an adult.Prosecutors in the case have announced that they will seek the death penalty for Furrow, 38, who will go to trial in November. If convicted of Ileto's murder in federal court, Furrow, who was not present at Monday's federal court hearing, will be eligible for execution for the slaying of the federal employee, who was shot at close range while on his mail route. At the hearing, Furrow's team of public defenders attacked the Federal Death Penalty Act and its application to the Furrow case as unconstitional and vague. However, U.S. District Court Judge Nora Manella rejected this argument, telling the defenders that similar death penalty issues have precedence in such high profile cases as those of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy J. McVeigh.Following his arrest in Las Vegas, Furrow admitted to FBI investigators that he was at war with the "Jewish controlled" government and had planned to commit mass murder of nonwhites such as Ileto throughout L.A. At press time, Furrow's defense team had not announced whether or not Furrow would plead insanity come November. - Michael Aushenker, Staff Writer
New Sefer Torah for B'nai Hayim
In her estimation, Rabbi Sally Olins has officially arrived - she is now a Sefer Torah maven."I learned so much," she said of the process of preparing a new Torah scroll for Congregation B'nai Hayim in Sherman Oaks. "I picked the scribe [in New York], the size of the lettering, which determines the weight of the Torah - everything."An anonymous congregant came to Olins to contribute a Torah to the temple in memory of her husband and unwittingly started a whole communal ball rolling.Olins, the 10th woman to be ordained as a Conservative rabbi, invited the congregation, young and old, to participate in the creation of the Torah by having members sponsor a particular passage, section, word or letter. Half of the 200 members dedicated a portion in their names. Even the youngest members got involved by picking letters of their Hebrew names.This Saturday, on Shavuot morning, the entire congregation will march down Ventura Boulevard, celebrating their new Sefer Torah. They plan to arrive at the temple at 9:45 a.m., where Olins will lead the group in prayer before the scroll is taken into the building. At 10 a.m. there will be a special Shavuot service, followed by a kosher dairy luncheon with Congressman Brad Sherman, L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and L.A. City Councilman Mike Feuer in attendance."This Torah has caused a lot of energy, not just for me, but for the entire congregation. They love the Torah as much as I do," Olins said enthusi-astically. "The whole temple is ecstatic."For more information, call Rabbi Sally Olins at (818) 788-4664. Congregation B'nai Hayim is located at 4302 Van Nuys Blvd. - Charlotte Hildebrand Harjo, Contributing Writer
Playing for Peace
Recently named by the FBI as the safest city of its size in the United States, Simi Valley seems an appropriate location to hold the first in a series of events entitled "Music and Peace." On May 25 and 28, the Simi Valley Cultural Center played host to concerts featuring acclaimed Bosnian-born Israeli pianist Sasha Toperich and Israeli Arab violin and oud virtuoso Nabil Azzam. The Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity, one of the evening's sponsors, called the event "a transcultural musical dialogue of Western and Eastern classical works... part of the global celebration of the year 2000 as a 'Year of Culture of Peace' as proclaimed by the United Nations."
Having played together at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center in 1996, both Toperich and Azzam expressed their affection for the city. "I am very pleased to return to the embracing atmosphere of the Simi Valley," said Azzam, "and to add my instruments to the sound of peace." Toperich, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) ambassador of peace and the coordinator of international projects for the Los Angeles and Israel-based Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity, Toperich said, "Simi Valley was selected as the first community in the series because of its traditional emphasis on and support for the cultural arts and multicultural programming."Film star Mickey Rooney, an International Federation of Festival Organizations ambassador, served as special guest host for the May 25 invitation-only event.
The music for the night progressed from quite serious to light and playful as the musicians individually and in tandem presented Western classic works of Bach, Rachmaninov and Chopin, followed by Eastern and Jewish pieces of Kreisler, Afanda and Oshrat. The audience was also treated to the U.S. premieres of the artists' own compositions: Toperich's "Nesicha" and Azzam's "The Crescent."
The highlight of the evening was those pieces which centered on the oud, a Middle Eastern lute. Azzam, a noted composer, ethnomusicologist and master of the violin and oud, presented a variety of original pieces and variations on ancient and familiar tunes, often inviting the audience to clap along.Embodying the spirit of the evening, Toperich and Azzam showed a genuine pleasure in each other's presence, sharing hugs and playful exchanges throughout the evening, much to the delight of the audience.The concert concluded with the recognition of the city of Simi Valley as a City of Peace. In his role as ambassador for peace, Toperich presented Mayor Bill Davis with a book of writings by Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi on the power of nonviolent action.
The May 28 concert, a cultural educational event, was open to the general public and dedicated to the students of Simi Valley High School. The concerts were the result of a collaboration between the Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity, UNESCO, the Palestinian Cultural Center and the City of Simi Valley. -Susanna Crosby Perrin, Contributing Writer
Cedars-Sinai Launches SecondFundraising Campaign
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center has launched the second phase of a $500 million campaign, billed as the most ambitious fundraising effort ever by a non-university health system. During the campaign's first phase, $140 million was raised between 1992 and 1997. The current $360 million phase is to be completed in 2005 and will support hospital-wide modernization and facility construction, new patient care programs, and medical research and education. Described as the largest teaching, research and nonprofit hospital in the western United States, Cedars-Sinai, which is heavily supported by the Jewish community, will mark its 100th anniversary in 2002. Its origins go back to the Kaspare Cohn Hospital, founded in 1902 by the Jewish Benevolent Society to treat destitute consumptives arriving from the East Coast. - Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor