Jewish Journal

His Summer Vacation

Posted on Sep. 4, 1997 at 8:00 pm

Brad Sherman easily remembers what was the most enjoyable time hespent during his week-long visit to Israel. "It was," he says, "thehour I slept."

The first-term congressman from the 24th District spent the restof his time in briefings with Israeli and Palestinian officials,touring sites of strategic importance to both sides, and listening tothe opinions of settlers, peaceniks, soldiers and terrorism'svictims. In other words, there were "no perks, no lollygagging" andnot a lot of fun -- unless your idea of fun is a public confrontationwith Yasser Arafat.

The purpose of the trip, organized by the American JewishCommittee's Project Interchange, was to reacquaint Sherman with thefacts on the ground, and to provide him an opportunity to see forhimself the principal players and issues. As a member of the HouseInternational Relations Committee, he is "just steeped in" thepolitics of the Middle East.

For most of Sherman's constituents, Israel is hardly some vagueforeign policy objective. His district, which runs from Sherman Oaksto Thousand Oaks and from Malibu to Northridge, includes what isprobably the largest expatriate Israeli population in the UnitedStates, as well as tens of thousands of American Jews. Whether theyare twentysomething or eightysomething, they take a keen, knowinginterest in Israel.

So Sherman marched. He visited with Binyamin Netanyahu; Cabinetministers; Hebron settlers; Esther Waxman, the mother of murderedsoldier Nachum Waxman; and Yasser Arafat, whom he had met previouslyin Washington. This time, when Arafat protested against an anti-Arabcartoon distributed in Hebron by a fanatic Jewish settler, Shermantalked back. "He wanted sympathy over the actions of one racistwoman," said Sherman, "when Syrian textbooks still containanti-Jewish caricatures and statements."

Sherman also extracted a promise from the Palestinian leader thatthe murderer of Waxman, if ever found in areas under Palestiniancontrol, would be arrested. Sherman said that he intends to readArafat's promise into the Congressional Record and hold him to it.

After a week, Sherman, a 42-year-old Monterey Park nativeand UCLA grad, returned to Washington, then to his field office inWoodland Hills. His take: Israelis, Palestinians, the U.S. governmentand American Jews have a "hidden consensus" on most of the thornyissues, except Jerusalem. The trick, of course, is getting from hereto there. -- Robert Eshman, Associate Editor"Classic on Collins," by Alan S. Maltz, from his newbook, "Miami: City of Dreams."

Miami Nice

The last book I read about Miami was called "The Corpse Had aFamiliar Face." It's by Edna Buchanan, the legendary former policereporter of The Miami Herald, and it features true tales of gore (andcrooks such as "Murph the Surf") in the drug capital of the world.

You won't find any gore, or criminals, or anything even remotelyunpleasant in Alan S. Maltz's new, gorgeous and slick coffee-tablebook, "Miami: City of Dreams" (Light Flight Publications, $60).

You won't find much that is Jewish either, although South Floridahas roughly 645,000 Jews, 64 synagogues and 14 Jewish day schools(Maltz does throw in the occasional image of the local Holocaustmuseum or Orthodox Jews debating at Miami Beach).

What you will find is lots of rosy sunsets, translucent,turquoise seas, and vast, downtown cityscapes. You'll see thecolorful, bustling streets of Little Havana; the fancifulfaçades of Miami Beach's art deco district (onepink-white-and-yellow building towers like a wedding cake); and thegarishly cheerful storefront of Wolfie's coffee shop. Thelily-covered reflecting pool at the Holocaust museum shimmers like aMonet.

For 16 months, Maltz rose before dawn to wander the area with his35mm Nikon, snapping images from dawn to 10 a.m. and from 4 p.m.until after dark. It's no wonder the quality of his light is subtle,ethereal, perfect.

But Maltz, who won the 1995 award for best coffee-table book fromthe National Association of Independent Publishers, makes noapologies for his persistently pretty, upbeat vision of Miami. As hetold The Miami Herald, "I feel there's enough negativity out there inthe world...that's not my focus."

To order "Miami: City of Dreams," call (800)329-7297. -- Naomi Pfefferman, Senior WriterThomas Elias and Mary Jo Siegel

Defending the Good Doctor

Out of Jewish holiday workshops come many wonderful things:challah and charoset recipes, knowledge of Jewish history, lastingfriendships. But an investigative book about "the century's mostpromising cancer treatment, and the government's campaign to squelchit"? Not usually.

However, the topic, which is the subtitle of a fascinating andextremely readable new book from General Publishing Group, "TheBurzynski Breakthrough," was suggested by a woman the author, ThomasElias, had first met 18 years ago in a workshop he took at hissynagogue, Kehillat Israel in Pacific Palisades.

When Mary Jo Siegel first brought the idea to him two years ago,Elias was busy covering the O.J. Simpson criminal trial for ScrippsHoward News Service and loath to take on what appeared to be adubious story about a miracle cancer cure.

Still, since he knew Siegel, he decided to look into her claimthat the government was trying to jail the doctor who Siegel said hadsaved her life, and those of many others, through the infusion of anunusual mixture of enzymes and peptides called antineoplastins.

The procedure had led to the disappearance of a huge tumor on herneck, Siegel said, and her apparent victory against non-Hodgkin'slymphoma, a slow-growing but almost always fatal type of cancer.

But Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski, the Polish-born, Houston-basednon-Jewish doctor who had discovered the medicine, was likely to losethe ability to treat his many patients, and he faced the prospect ofspending the rest of his life in prison.

Elias, who co-authored a highly praised book on the Simpsoncriminal trial, began to lose his skepticism after he talked toofficials with the major cancer organizations and the Food and DrugAdministration. None said that Burzynski was a quack or that hisanti-cancer regimen didn't work. "All said simply that it was anexperimental, unproven treatment," Elias writes. And when the authorinterviewed Burzynski's patients and the relatives of some who haddied, he heard "not a single negative word."

Ironically, while in the process of commuting to Houston to coverBurzynski's grand jury trial, Elias' ongoing problem with kidneydisease worsened, leaving him in need of a transplant. He was touchedwhen many members of the chavurah to which he and his wife, Marilyn,belong, as well as Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben, his wife, Didi, andCantor Chayim Frenkel of Kehillat Israel volunteered to donatekidneys.

Elias has since found a donor and is awaiting surgery. The book,just published in the last month, chronicles Burzynski's David-andGoliath fight to gain approval for his drug, and offers severalheart-wrenching case histories, including Siegel's.

The dynamic mother of three college-age children, who now saysthat she's cancer-free, founded an organization with her husband,Steve, that has raised $600,000 for Burzynski's legal defense andthat is seeking FDA approval for the anti-cancer therapy.

"I am very sure that without [Burzynski] and his drug," Siegelsays in the book, "I would be dead right now, like the people I knewwho were diagnosed with the same disease at the same time I was."-- Ruth Stroud, Staff Writer

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