July 4, 2002
A Quiet Fiesta
They ran out of churros, but the bands played on. It was strange to encounter the shortage of the popular pastry, what with the lighter-than-expected turnout at Fiesta Shalom, the Jewish Latino festival held Sunday at Woodley Park in Encino. Organizers estimated about 5,000 visitors to the event over the course of the day, less than one-fifth the number who turned out for the Israeli Festival held on the same spot just two months ago.
However, festival staff pointed out this is only the second such event in as many years and that, with time and a better advertising campaign, attendance would improve.
"This is something that over the years will grow into a community event respected by both cultures, and will serve, years from now, as one of the premiere events of the Valley," predicted Steve Koff, regional director of B'nai B'rith who helped organize both this year's festival and the one in 2000.
Despite some public debate on Valley secession by participants at the welcoming ceremony, most festival-goers came to enjoy the music, the food and the blending of two cultures that rarely get such an opportunity. Children worked on art projects with volunteers from both Latino and Jewish community groups. On stage, performers included Jewish Latina vocalist Vanessa Paloma, as well as the charming Mariachi Juvenil Cobras de Jalisca, a youth mariachi band.
City Councilman Eric Garcetti, who is of both Mexican and Jewish descent, said he was pleased to see the efforts of festival-goers to explore and understand each other's culture but would like to see it go further.
"It's not so much just learning about each other's cultures that brings us together, it's finding common projects [like] immigration policy or working on civil liberties or even on improving our parks," he said. "It's nice to get to know each other but to become long-term friends we need to find those projects that can bring us together and keep us together." -- Wendy Madnick, Contributing Writer
Saban's New Center
Local billionaire Haim Saban has added another feather to his cap with the recent opening of the Saban Center, a new Washington-based think tank on the Middle East, affiliated with the Brookings Institute.
Saban, a former sergeant major in the Israeli army, who became a children's entertainment magnate and open-handed political donor, gave $3 million to launch the center, citing his "abiding interest in promoting Arab-Israeli peace and preserving American interests in the Middle East."
Martin Indyk, former U.S. ambassador to Israel, has been named director of the Saban Center. -- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor.
Hip Hop for Israel
While many Jewish entertainers have stayed idle on the ideological and charitable front during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Hip Hop Hoodios have not. The Los Angeles-based Latino Jewish collective will donate all of the profits from sales of their recent "Raza Hoodia" CD to Magen David Adom and the Asociación Tepeyac (a New York-based organization helping out Latino victims of the Sept. 11 attacks). They are also speaking out at their concerts about the reality of the situation in Israel to their non-Jewish audience.
"All of us in the band consider ourselves fairly liberal, yet we were appalled at many mainstream liberals' rationalization of the Palestinian homicide bombings as a justifiable response to the Israeli military actions," says Hoodios member Josh Norek. "It's easy for people to see images on TV, and automatically assume that just because Palestinian kids are throwing rocks against tanks, they're automatically innocent victims. We wanted to put a very difficult situation into a balanced context that a lot of people aren't exposed to."
Though decidedly not a political band, the group still feels the responsibility to speak up about it. "While each band member has a different stance on Israel's actions, we all have a regard for the sanctity of human life," Norek says. "It shouldn't take being Jewish to respect that."
To order the "Raza Hoodia" CD, visit www.hoodios.com . -- Gustavo Arellano, Contributing Writer
The Left Comes to Town
More than 70 people attended "Pluralism in Time of Conflict," a program sponsored by the Progressive Jewish Alliance, the New Israel Fund, Congregation Beth Chayim Chadashim and Congregation Kol Ami. Held on Tuesday, June 18, at Kol Ami in West Hollywood, the evening featured a conversation with David Ehrlich, a founder of the Israel AIDS task force, a published author, a reserve officer in the Israel Defense Forces and the owner of the bookstore-cafe Tmol Shilshom. Ehrlich discussed the current situation in Israel from his unique perspective as an artist, gay rights activist, soldier and member of the Israeli peace camp.
Last Monday night, Gidi Grinstein, a member of the Israeli negotiating team at Camp David, also spoke to some 60 "industry" people in Beverly Hills at an event sponsored by the New Israel Fund and moderated by Leonard Fine. Grinstein, a Wexner-Israel Fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government Mid-Career Masters of Public Administration Program, spoke about the challenges facing Israel and the peace camp. "I see it as a conflict between moderates and radicals," explained Grinstein, noting that there were moderates on both sides willing to negotiate. Grinstein served as the secretary and coordinator of the Israeli delegation for permanent status negotiations in the office of the prime minister between November 1999 and January 2001.
To learn about upcoming Progressive Jewish Alliance programs, visit www.pjalliance.org or call (323) 761-8350. For more information on the New Israel fund, visit www.newisraelfund.org or call (310) 282-0300. -- Amy Klein, Managing Editor
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