Jewish Journal


January 2, 2003

Up Front


JCC Wants a Few Good Maccabis

The Jewish Community Center (JCC) is on the lookout for teen athletes who want to compete in the 2003 JCC Maccabi Games, a week-long international Jewish youth summer games competition, to be held Aug. 8 through Aug. 15.

This year, 70 local athletes will be able to participate in games to be held in Houston and St. Louis, said Matt Lebovits, a Maccabi coordinator. This year's sports include boys basketball and soccer (for those 14 and under), boys and girls soccer (for those 16 and under), girls volleyball (16 and under), baseball, tennis, dance and swimming.

Last year, the 82-person local contingent included a newly formed girls volleyball team that defied expectations by competing in the final medal round against Israel. Though gold medals eluded the Cinderella-team, their coach said the six girls returned enriched and pride-filled from Baltimore, which hosted 2,000 athletes from six countries.

The experience proved infectious to another adult chaperone, Julie Rubin, the JCC's assistant director. Her goal is for Orange County to host the games in the near future.

Israel Merchants on Tour

With violence scaring off trinket-buying tourists, Israeli merchants are turning the tables and bringing their wares to shoppers. On Jan. 5, a caravan of 30 Israeli artists and craftsmen will open up shop in the high school campus of Irvine's Tarbut V'Torah Jewish Day School, the first stop in a 75-day national tour of 35 cities from Hawaii to Maine.

"With tourism at all-time lows in Israel, this is a great way for us to show solidarity with Israel by helping her economy," said event chair Charlene Zuckerman of Laguna Niguel. The fair is the second initiative of the Orange County Israel Solidarity Task Force, a community-wide group, and the Jewish Federation.

While sympathy has stimulated shop-in-Israel initiatives online, Zuckerman figures personal chemistry will help draw a projected 2,000 visitors for the event, which will include kosher refreshments. "It's nice to see who you are helping. It's also nice to be able to see the goods," such as the contemporary kiddush cups created by Judaic artist and silversmith Dan Givon, or the contemporary jewelry crafted by his wife, Stacy. Their studio is in Zur Hadassa, in Jerusalem's Judean mountains.

A similar fair, organized independently and held last summer on Long Island drew 17,000 people and netted merchants $750,000, said Stuart A. Katz, president and owner of New York-based Tal Tours, an Israel-tour operator who organized the national merchant tour. "Frankly, I was surprised," he said.

With his own business down 70 percent compared to 2001, Katz figured he could apply his skills in reverse. By aiding merchants, who pay their own way, he might still serve his own interests. "Our goal is to promote tourism," he said.

Guess Who's Coming to 'Dinner'?

In a warmup for Orange County's second Jewish scholar-in-residence program later this month, the Bureau of Jewish Education is putting on its own scholarly event Jan. 12, but adding an edible twist.

"Dinner With a Scholar" is a one-night affair featuring five different experts that intend to share their scholarly pursuits in the salon-like setting of private homes. It is hoped they will be joined by 14 dinner companions willing to pay $125 for the privilege.

"It has the potential to turn into our main fundraiser," said Joan Kaye, executive director of the bureau, which creates youth programs and trains local religious-school teachers. She modeled the event after one in Boston. "This is who we are," Kaye said.

To mark its 25th year, the bureau held a fundraiser last October with a Catskill-styled dinner. A comedian who lived up to his name, "Noodles," entertained at the event.

Dinner guests have varied menu choices on several counts. Host sites include three homes and an art gallery in Newport Beach and one home in Long Beach. Topics range from social responsibility to the history of chutzpah to whether God had a consort. Presenters include scholars of archeology, management and Midrash, the biblical interpretations of rabbis.

Archaeologist Looks at Science Behind Exodus

To set the stage for Passover, Aliso Viejo's Kershaw Museum will host a slide show by an archaeologist who has written a best-selling book that links scientific findings to biblical history.

William G. Dever, 69, a retired professor who has excavated in Israel for 40 years, is now busy developing television shows for the BBC based on his first nonscholarly book, "What Did the Biblical Scholars Know and When Did They Know It?" which was published last year and is a runaway bestseller for its publisher, Eerdmans Publishing of Grand Rapids, Mich.

Dever's museum lecture retraces the biblical exodus from Egypt with illustrations of Pharoah's monument building, Moses' journey into Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments and the Ark's passage from the Tabernacle to Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem. His lecture notes are a soon-to-be-published second book, "Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?"

"The answer is not from Egypt," Dever said, explaining that the book and lecture attempts to steer a middle course between biblical literalists and those who call the exodus fiction.

The book is written for a nonscientific audience, but is based on excavations and surveys in the West Bank made in the last decade by Israeli scholars, whose findings have not been popularized, Dever said.

Dever's talk was scheduled as a preview of a planned exhibit in March about the early Israelites emergence from slavery to freedom, but the focus of the exhibit is now uncertain, said Gail Levy, a museum board member.

After the museum lecture, he is also scheduled for a talk titled, "Did God Have a Consort? Archaeology and 'Folk Religion' in Ancient Israel," as part of the Bureau of Jewish Education's "Dinner with a Scholar" program.

Dever said architectural evidence shows that all deities in the ancient world were paired, a concept monotheistic Judaism abandoned. "Did God Have a Wife?" is the working title of his third planned book.

2 p.m. Jan. 12 at Temple Beth El of South Orange County, 2A Liberty, Aliso Viejo. (949) 362-3999.

Biblical Scholar Will Give  30 Talks on Ancient Texts

Biblical scholar Shalom Paul will hold 30 talks as part of the second Orange County Jewish Community Scholar Program beginning Jan. 19.

For a nonacademic audience, Paul's talks are a rare opportunity to glimpse how scholars solve mysteries within ancient texts. Paul, 65, also chairs the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation and a Bible curriculum committee for Israel's Ministry of Education. His topics will include, "The Genesis of Genesis," the keynote address Jan. 20 at the Jewish Community Center, to innovations by classical prophets.

More than 2,000 people attended talks by the previous scholar-in-residence, Avigdor Shinan. As a result, more synagogues, schools and special interest groups clamored for a slot in his schedule and twice as many individual patrons wrote checks.

"We've raised sufficient money to fund the program through 2004," said Arie Katz, an Irvine lawyer who, late in 2001, started the program that has since mushroomed with a calendar of unusual speakers. "We almost have more people who want to come here than places to put them," he said.

An advisory board of rabbis compiled their own wish list of high-profile thinkers that Katz promised to tackle. This year, Katz also scheduled a separate session for the more advanced theologians, requested by one rabbi eager to engage in a higher level discussion.

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