Jewish Journal


August 4, 2005

Community Brief


Discrimination Suit Tossed Out

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit in which tenants alleged a Jewish landlord evicted them for sharing their apartment with a non-Jew. U.S. District Court Judge Gary Allen Feess threw out the lawsuit on technical grounds, saying the tenants should have raised the discrimination claim in an earlier legal proceeding.

The suit by Lawrence "Chaim" Stein alleged that he was wrongly evicted in 2004 by the board of Torat Hayim, a nonprofit that manages a Pico-Robertson school and synagogue as well as a handful of apartments.

Stein, who is Orthodox, was sharing the apartment with a non-Jewish friend. Stein's central piece of evidence was a voice mail left by one of the defendants that seemed to chide him because he "rented to a goy."

The trial never got that far because of how Stein handled the initial appeal of his eviction. Stein got his eviction overturned on a rent-control issue, but his court papers omitted the discrimination claim. By the time he won the appeal, Stein was living elsewhere and his old apartment, in the 8800 block of Alcott Street, had new tenants. Thus, getting back the apartment was a moot issue, but Stein decided to raise the discrimination claim in federal court and pursue damages.

Feess wouldn't go for it.

"Whether or not a claim was actually litigated in a prior dispute, it cannot be raised in a second suit if it was within the scope of the prior dispute," Feess wrote in his decision.

"He should have appealed on all the grounds" raised in the initial eviction, including discrimination, said Stacy Sokol, an attorney who is authorized to speak for Torat Hayim even though Sokol did not handle the court case.

"You don't get a second bite at the apple," said Sokol, who asserted that the real reason was eviction was nonpayment of rent.

Stein's attorney, Raymond Zakari, criticized the ruling.

"Evictions are summary proceedings for landlords to recover possession of their real property, not a forum for these issues," Zakari said. -- Bobbi Murray, Contributing Writer

Anti-Jewish Rally Fizzles

A handful of neo-Nazis was outnumbered and out-shouted at what they called a "rally for justice and peace" outside the Simon Wiesenthal Center on July 29.

A Holocaust denial group, the Newport Beach-based Institute for Historical Review, staged the noon rally outside the center's Pico Boulevard headquarters, across the street from the Museum of Tolerance. The event attracted no more than eight Holocaust deniers and neo-Nazi supporters. The crowd also included Orthodox high school boys who absorbed the event's mosh-pit energy, anti-Nazi socialists and anti-they-were-not-exactly sure-what progressives.

The intersection at Pico Boulevard and Doheny Drive eventually became balkanized. Some media, six cops and the neo-Nazi/Holocaust deniers occupied the corner in front of the Wiesenthal Center.

Another corner held those who were both anti-Nazi and anti-Israel. One woman shouted: "Everyone who is not a Holocaust denier but is against what Israel stands for -- go across the street!"

A Jewish Defense League contingent stood at a third corner, and at the fourth corner were assembled about seven pro-Israel/anti-JDL Jews.

The half-dozen JDL members were the most volatile; one hit a young protestor with a long Old Glory flagpole. Police are investigating that alleged battery.

Two African American women accepted and carried anti-Israel placards from Holocaust deniers, who denied that they were Holocaust deniers. Seeing this, an elderly Jewish women shouted: "Go back to the South!" The sight of Jews yelling at blacks prompted smiles among the Holocaust deniers.

The women returned the placards after getting more information about the protest organizers.

The event fizzled within one, loud hour. -- David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

Vigil for Darfur Draws 500-Plus

More than 500 people attended a late July vigil at the Federal Building in Westwood, where Jews and non-Jews held a candlelight protest against the ongoing genocide in Sudan's Darfur region.

"Folks, time is running out," said Armenian American activist Armen Carapetian, who likened the situation in Darfur to the past century's Armenian genocide.

The early evening rally signified an expansion of Darfur activism in the Jewish community, spurred on by Jewish World Watch, based at Valley Beth Shalom temple. The Conservative Encino shul's leader, Rabbi Harold Shulweis, was among the speakers, who also included Rabbi Sharon Brous of the Westside IKAR congregation.

"I don't want to stand here next summer," Brous said, "and say, 'Another year has gone. What have we done?'"

Human-rights experts estimate that 300,000 villagers have been killed since 2003 by Arab janjaweed horsemen tacitly supported by the Sudanese government.

The drive-time rally was a little smaller and more secular than a day of fasting held on May 26, when about 600 Southern California Jews attended Darfur events at synagogues in Pico-Robertson, Bel Air and Pasadena. Sponsors of the event at the Federal Building included Protestant, African immigrant, Catholic and Armenian groups.

Participants took part in making murals, singing and playing instruments and signing White House-bound petitions.

"It's my sister's birthday, and she asked that we all come here for this," said Sarah Ham-Rosbrock, whose family, including her 28-year-old sister Lena, attends Temple Israel of Long Beach.

"I'm involved because I am black," said homeless activist Ted Hayes, a speaker.

Progressive Jewish Alliance board member Eric Greene said Jews must be more involved in non-Jewish issues such as Darfur, even when the effort seems futile.

"It's so daunting because it feels so big that it's hard to know what you can do," he said. -- DF


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