Jewish Journal


August 14, 2008

Debating Presidential politics, Chanukah in August


Larry Greenfield (left), director of California Republican 
Jewish Coalition, and Iranian Jewish activist Frank Nikbakht. 
Photo by Karmel Melamed

Larry Greenfield (left), director of California Republican
Jewish Coalition, and Iranian Jewish activist Frank Nikbakht.
Photo by Karmel Melamed

Presidential Politics Debate

A crowd of 250 Iranian Jewish young professionals gathered at the Luxe Hotel on Aug. 6 to hear a panel of Jewish community leaders speaking on behalf of both presumptive presidential candidates -- Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.

Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys) and retired Federal District Court Judge Bruce Einhorn made the case for Obama as the candidate best suited to deal with the threats from Iran. Berman, who chairs the House Foreign Relations Committee, said he was pleased to see members of the Iranian Jewish community engaging in the political process and defended Obama's calls for direct negotiations and dialogue with Iran's Islamic regime.

"When members of the community look at what is going on now, I don't know how they could reach any other conclusion than the current policy [toward Iran] is not working," Berman said. "What we need to be doing is leveraging our relationships with our allies to create a level of sanctions that can change the behavior of Iran. To me, the rising anger of Iranian Americans should be toward the current policy that is not working against that regime."

Larry Greenfield, California regional director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, and local Iranian Jewish activist Frank Nikbakht pointed to McCain's extensive foreign policy experience as the candidate of choice.

The gathering was sponsored by 30 Years After, a Southern California-based Iranian Jewish nonprofit seeking to engage young Iranian Jews in civic and political affairs.

-- Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer

Chanukah in August

It was difficult to determine the oddest part of Craig Taubman's PBS Chanukah special, "Lights," during its taping on Aug. 5. Was it a room filled with Jews singing Chanukah songs in the middle of Little Tokyo's Japanese American Cultural and Community Center? Reciting the blessing over a beautiful chanukiah in August? Having a celebration immediately before the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, Tisha B'Av?

Amid all the questions it was impossible to keep from being entertained, amused and excited. With myriad Christmas specials that overcome public broadcasting during the winter, Taubman felt that the Jews and Chanukah were getting cheated.

"I think what you need to do is cater to an audience that's underserved in this time of year. I mean, how many Chanukah specials are there?" Taubman said to PBS of the program that will air in December.

With a group of eclectic and talented performers, the show was an endless night of lights and sounds: from the Klezmatics, the Grammy Award-winning klezmer group, to tenor Alberto Mizrahi, famed chazan at Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago, to renowned saxophonist Dave Koz and actress/country-bluegrass singer Mare Winningham. Taubman's multiethnic cast celebrated the joy of a community singing together, and the evening inspired the audience to appreciate the miracle of Chanukah, despite the unusual circumstances.

Although celebratory events are prohibited during the days leading up to Tisha B'Av, "Chanukah is also a festival of darkness," said Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple. "Only against the backdrop of darkness can you see light."

Through the darkness in the month of Av, "Lights" was a reminder of the miracle of Chanukah -- even if it is a few months early.

-- Jina Davidovich, Contributing Writer


All the performers "light" the stage with the spirit of Chanukah for this PBS special to air in December. (Above, from left, front row) Dave Koz, Joshua Nelson, Mare Winningham and Josh Nelson.

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