Posted by Jay Firestone
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was sworn in late Tuesday to lead Israel’s 32nd government, after cobbling together a coalition amid rising tensions within his own Likud party and with other leading political figures.
Lawmakers voted 69 to 45 with five abstentions in favor of Netanyahu’s right-wing government after a six-hour debate, making Netanyahu prime minister for the second time in 10 years.” Click here to read the rest of the story at Haaretz.com.
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March 31, 2009 | 4:47 pm
Posted by Julie Gruenbaum Fax
On Passover eve this Wednesday, along with burning scraps of bread and grating horseradish, observant Jews will engage in an even more obscure ritual: blessing the sun as it slides into precisely its position the moment it was created, according to the Talmud. It’s a once-in-28 years occurrence, and the chance to do such a rare mitzvah has spawned some creative programs around L.A. click here
Apparently, it was exciting to Jews in New York in 1897, too, but things didn’t go that well. A New York Times article from April 8, 1897 describes a melee that ensued when “Hebrews gathered by the hundreds” in Tompkins Square with no permit, to the dismay of an Irish policeman.
From the New York Times (click here for the full article):
By 8 o’clock the square and the sidewalks around it were crowded. Rabbi Wechsler arrived about that time, and was astonished to see Rabbi Klein running away at full speed. This last phenomenon was explained a moment later by the appearance of Park Policeman Foley, puzzled and excited.
The celebration is rather a complicated matter to explain to anybody. Rabbi Klein’s knowledge of English is slight, while Foley’s faculties of comprehension of matters outside of police and park regulations and local events are not acute. The attempt of a foreign citizen to explain to an American Irishman an astronomical situation and a tradition of the Talmud was a dismal failure.
Both became excited, and the people who clustered around them increased the confusion. When Foley was told in broken English about a “new sun,” he was doubtful whether it was an attempt to guy him, or whether some new infection of lunacy had broken out on the east side. His demonstrations became so threatening that Rabbi Klein understood that he was in danger of being arrested and clubbed, and chose the easiest and fastest plan of escape.
Rabbi Wechsler’s English is better than Rabbi Klein’s, but he could not convey the significance and purpose of the assemblage to Foley. The one fact which that official’s perceptions grasped was that there was no permit.
After some parley, he seized the rabbi by the neck and took him to Essex Market Police court. After being kept among the prisoners in the police court for nearly an hour, the rabbi was arraigned before Magistrate Cornell, who dismissed him because he had evidently not intended to do wrong, admonishing him, however, not to make trouble for Foley.
The people who were left in the square conducted their simple service of prayer without a rabbi. Similar services were held in other parts of the city. One or two east side congregations gathered on the East River water front and were not disturbed.
Rabbi Wechsler was good natured in his comments on the affair when seen by a reporter for THE NEW YORK TIMES last night.
He said he felt no resentment against the policeman, who probably knew no better.
March 27, 2009 | 8:03 pm
Posted by Orit Arfa
I desperately tried to find a Jewish connection to the latest YouTube wunderkind, Izabelle, who is billed as the “3 year-old Britney fan.” As a Britney fanatic myself (I know, roll your eyes, but it’s true), I was amazed how this three (now four) year-old so perfectly executed covers to Britney’s songs. Notice her passion, her inflections, her facial expressions. That’s my kinda girl.
The best I could dig up was that she goes to a preschool owned and run by a Jewish couple (although it is not a Jewish preschool per se). But then I wonder, if it got out that a Jewish preschool is producing toddlers who passionately mimic Britney’s taunts, what kind of backlash would there be in the Jewish community?
Izabelle is in fact Armenian, said her mother, Eliza, over e-mail, from their home in Hollywood. After checking out the Jewish Journal site, Eliza later revealed with warmth that her grandfather was born in Jerusalem where there is a sizable Armenian population in the Armenian quarter of the Old City. Izabelle has a whole playlist on YouTube; here she performs the title song of Britney’s tour, “Circus.”
“Circus” is about putting on a show (it begins with, “there are two kinds of people in the world: the ones that entertain and the ones that observe”). It totally inspired me as I worked to create “The Chosen Dish”, the Jewish Journal’s on-line kosher cooking contest premiering April 1. And how’s this for a Jewish connection? The songwriters, Lucazs Gottwald (aka Dr. Luke) and Benjamin Levin are both Jewish. Curiously, one of the publishers of the song is listed as “Matza Ball Music.” It’s God’s hechsher (kosher certification).
I should’ve known better than to wonder if Izabelle was Jewish. No Jewish mother in their right mind would allow their toddler to strut to the world’s most famous shiksa on YouTube, but Eliza has something to say to anyone who would scold her parental judgment.
“In this society, I don’t think any parent has the ability to completely safeguard their children from such songs because if it’s not Britney Spears, its Ludacris; if it’s not Ludacris, it’s Lil Wayne. At this point she loves singing; she is free to sing from Britney Spears to the Phantom of the Opera. I will not discourage her. She is a very smart little girl.”
And clearly talented—a natural performer.
“Izabelle taught herself all the lyrics,” said Eliza. “YouTube is under her ‘favorites’ so she knows how to go to her favorites, click on YouTube, and open all the videos. Recognizing the pictures, she knows which picture links to which song. Then she will play the video, go back if she missed a part of the song and replay it…That is what she does every day after preschool. She loves music, and she is a very, very fast learner. It will only take her to listen to a song maybe about three to six times before she starts singing along like an original.”
Aside from playing Britney in the car, Eliza doesn’t direct her daughter.
“The performing part is all her—the facial expressions are one hundred percent her. No one told her what to do; it is what she feels when she’s singing. She feels every song she sings… she doesn’t just sing a song.”
March 26, 2009 | 5:29 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
Jewish groups are livid at cartoonist Pat Oliphant for his recent cartoon depicting a jackbooted Israeli mowing over a helpless Palestinian woman and child.
Is it anti-semitic? In my original post I wrote that I wasn’t sure. That seemed to get some readers more upset than the cartoon. My point is that while people can debate whether Oliphant is anti-semitic, the larger point is that he’s pro-stupid.
The Jewish community assumes that by labeling something anti-semitic you automatically marginalize it. But in the broader world that doesn’t always fly: especially when Oliphant and others can always run and hide by saying they’re just criticizing Israel, not Jews. I say fine: let them have that argument. Let’s suppose that you love Jews, and that’s why you depict the most well-known image of their faith as a baby-eating monster. Maybe that’s your idea of tough love. Even if that’s the case, it still doesn’t get you off the hook for allying yourself with the forces in the Middle East who are against compromise and a two-state solution.
Oliphant is doing Hamas’s work for them: de-legitimizing Israel, suggesting it should be eradicated as evil, suggesting that the actions of some Israeli soldiers are representative of the whole nation. That’s what’s wrong with this cartoon, and in the larger world it’s a much more damning indictment than screaming anti-semitism. Oliphant’s cartoon is pro-Hamas: therfore it is anti-peace, anti-democracy, anti-compromise, anti-tolerance. Even if you hate Jews, you can’t hate all those as well… unless you’re Hamas.
There are two sides in the Middle East coinflict: Jews and Arabs who want compromise, and Jews and Arabs who want to demonize and eradicate their neighbors. Oliphant has just become the propagandist for the other side. Hamas would like nothing more for the world to see Israelis and Jews as Nazis who need to be destroyed, rather than as neighbors who need to be engaged. This cartoon has just become their best new weapon.
Meanwhile, even Palestinians and other Arabs opposed how Hamas endangered their fellow citizens by its reckless attacks on Israel. Painting Israel as purely evil and Palestinians as purely victims isn’t anti-semitic. It’s dumb.
March 20, 2009 | 5:48 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
Friday morning at The Foundry on Melrose Los Angeles Magazine convened a klatch of writers, pols and activist Angelenos for a discussion on the city in the age of Obama. The timing was perfect, as the President Himself had just swept through town on a 48 hour dazzle that included a town hall appearance yesterday with Gov. Arnold Schwarzengger and 45 minutes on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
The speakers were John Emerson, a Clinton White House advisor who is now Senior Vice President of Capital Guardian Trust Company and Chairman of the Board and CEO of the Music Center, and Gregory Rodriguez, author, creator of the public lecture series Zocalo, a New American Fellow, and pretty much a one-man salon. (Greg’s offices are in the same Koreatown building as ours, and as wonderful it is to run into him and his first-rate staff in the elevator or at Trimana, I’m always dreading my brain just won’t be able to keep up with his. Of course, there’s no need to worry, because it can’t.)
Pre-speech breakfast was a pleasure, considering that there’s not a lot of free lunches left in this town. And organizer Donna Bojarsky pulled together a good group of people to eat with: Los Angeles mag publisher Amy Saralegui, Councilmembers Wendy Gruel and Tom La Bonge, author and columnist Gina Nahai, Kathleen Brown, Rabbi Jason Ablin, LAobserved.com’s Kevin Roderick, Aaron Paley and a few dozen more. Los Angeles magazine Editor-in-Chief Kit Rachlis, who usually moderates at these events, was home sick, so Steve Oney stepped in.
Oney’s first question was about what the two men have to say about Obama’s visit.
“We’re in the grips of Obama-philia,” said Rodriguez. The unmasked adulation is a refreshing change, but Rodriguez cautioned that as with the heaps of praise piled on Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa when he took office, there’s bound to be a let down after the first crush.
One specific let down Rodriguez pointed to was the way Obama withdrew its consideration of Tom Saenz as Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice based on pushback from anti-immigration rights groups. The move enraged progressive groups, but Emerson counseled perspective: a new administration is bound to make a few slip-ups.
But the conversation quickly moved off Obama to a more general group-gripe about what’s wrong with L.A. It was important conversation, but not completely unfamiliar to anyone who has been to any gathering of more than two civic-minded Angelenos anywhere in LA any time in the past 20 years.
It is a huge, horizontal city made up of discrete immigrant, ethnic, socioeconomic and interest groups that don’t operate with a sense of larger civic pride.
“There are so many worlds in LA it’s almost naive to thing we can come together in that first generation of immigrants,” Rodriguez said.
Emerson cited a dearth of great corporate or civic leaders. He recounted how the Music Center was founded when Dorothy Chandler brought the heads of major LA companies into a board room and went around the table extracting million-dollar-plus contributions.
“Those companies don’t even exist any more,” he said.
Big-pocketed donors do—he mentioned Eli Broad, Steven Spielberg, David Geffen, Gloria Kaufman—but Emerson said that doesn’t amount to civic leadership.
“None of them but Eli Broad has a sense of tremendous civic responsibility,” he said.
(Side note: the major donors to LA institutions that Emerson cited happen to all be Jewish. Anyone out there care to discuss whether this is just a wild coincidence?)
Rodriguez and Emerson said Villaraigosa may not have lived up to the media’s overhyped expectations, but he has been a decent enough mayor. What he needs to do, both men agree, is to get out more as he did early in his adminstration, and drum up civic pride.
“I miss Antonio,” said Rodriguez, who said he felt the mayor cut back on his public appearances following the news of his extra-marital affair. “I think he should come back.”
Emerson said he is a friend of the mayor’s, but criticized his extended campaigning during the presidential election.
“He got a little too enamored about that,” Emerson said. “One thing he can use is his bully pulpit.”
So in the end it wasn’t about Obama, but about us. How will LA come together to fix its festering problems? How will we build a city-wide sense of community, across all our cultural and economic barriers? Where will we find a new generation of civic leaders?
We are a city,” Rodriguez said. “The extent to which we’ve forgotten that is a great civic failure.”
Obama came, impressed us… and left us to figure this all out, again.
Little known fact: Before Greg Rodroguez was an L.A. Times columnist, author, civic organizer and all around public intellectual, he wrote occasional columns for:
a) The International Worker
b) Horse and Horsemanship
c) The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles
Click here for the shocking answer.
March 17, 2009 | 2:27 pm
Posted by Tom Tugend
Looking briefly at this, the “news” seems to be that Rubin admitted to what the government charged (and Krugel admitted), i.e, they planned to blow up the mosque and Issa’s office. I think few people, other than Irv’s wife, thought otherwise.
What’s more intriguing to me, if the FBI papers are genuine, is that Rubin might have had a change of heart toward Arabs/Palestinians
The Enterprise Report has the story:
“Never-before-seen FBI documents obtained by The Enterprise Report reveal Jewish Defense League Chairman Irv Rubin, while jailed on federal terrorism charges in 2002, claimed he admitted his role in a plot to bomb a mosque and the office of a Congressman just before Rubin slit his throat and jumped from a 20-foot-high railing.
Rubin later died from his injuries.
“I am a bad Jew,” Rubin allegedly told a fellow inmate, who also told FBI agents Rubin had befriended two Palestinian prisoners in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Downtown Los Angeles and had begun to reconsider his lifelong anger towards Arabs.
“Rubin told (name deleted) that what he did hurt the Jewish people and the Jewish cause,” one inmate said.” more from The Enterprise Report .
March 16, 2009 | 1:55 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
“New York Times columnist Roger Cohen visited my synagogue Thursday,” writes Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple on Huffington Post today. ” All day long the sparks flew and the cultures clashed.”
In a typically lucid and powerful article, Wolpe recounts his day with the New York Times columnist who enraged the LA Iranian Jewish community by writing two columns suggesting the 25,000 Jews left in Iran don’t have it all bad.
The reaction prompted Wolpe, whose synagogue in Westwood has a large Persian Jewish membership, to invite Cohen to meet with his congregants face to face. The difference between LA’s Persian Jews and the ones in Iran? The ones in LA can tell Cohen the truth without disappearing into a Teheran dungeon (Oh, that).
(You can see a video of the encounter at Sinai here, by the way.)
Wolpe starts his post recounting his breakfast with Cohen, and some initial private meetings he set up for the columnist.
I had breakfast with Cohen at his hotel and we spoke amicably about the day to come. He was looking forward to the event, and like many reporters, showed himself an acute listener. He was gracious and thoughtful.
I set up a lunch and a dinner with prominent members of the community. Cohen lunched with Sam Kermanian, an urbane, informed advocate. Sam tried to convince him that his outlook was indeed naïve, and that he was being used by some very clever Mullahs to validate their own regime. At dinner - with among others Jimmy Delshad, former Mayor of Beverly hills and novelist Gina Nahai, Cohen heard again and again that the Jews he spoke to in Iran were well aware that their words were monitored. Indeed, Cohen said his own translator told him in no uncertain terms that he (the translator) would file a report of all his movements after he left. Well, people pointed out quite reasonably, might that intimidate the interviewees just a wee bit?
As the day gives way to evening, Wolpe’s frsutration with Cohen becomes evident. His starts to wonder if Cohen’s reporting wasn’t driven by a hidden agenda: “.... increasingly I came to believe that Iran was not Cohen’s sole concern; he wanted it as a stick with which to beat Israel over Gaza, whose incursion he wrote left him ashamed,” writes Wolpe.
As Wolpe recounts the actual public event, with the give and take between himself, Cohen and the audience, the rabbi doesn’t mask his dismay. “Really, that was all?,” he writes, when Cohen offers a lame example for how terrorists can moderate their views.
Finally, in his blog, Wolpe tells us what he makes of his learned visitor:
In a fit of mild exasperation, I told Roger Cohen that if tomorrow Hamas said they wanted peace, I wouldn’t believe them. I might test it, but I wouldn’t believe them, not at first. So why, why should he believe they want peace when they don’t even say it?
It is, as Dr. Johnson said in another context, the triumph of hope over experience. Of course, as the Iranian Jews pointedly said over and over again that night, the relevant experience is not Mr. Cohen’s two week trip in the region. The deep experience is theirs, burned into their minds. And it is not, alas, one that suggests a solution any time soon.
You can read Rabbi Wolpe’s whole post here.
To see Cohen’s column on the event, click here.
To read my take on Cohen’s columns, click here.
And our video of the encounter at Sinai is here.
March 16, 2009 | 4:42 am
Posted by Jay Firestone
NEW YORK (CNN)—Actor and political activist Ron Silver, who played a recurring role in TV’s presidential drama “The West Wing,” and who also let his political views play out in real life, died Sunday after a two-year battle with esophageal cancer, according to a colleague.
Robin L. Bronk, executive director of The Creative Coalition, said Silver, a New York native, died in his sleep with his family around him.
“Nothing could hold Ron back, not even a debilitating illness. His contributions as an artist and activist will never be forgotten,” said Bronk, who runs an organization founded in 1989 by Silver, actor Christopher Reeves and other prominent figures in the arts as a political advocacy organization for the entertainment industry. more at cnn.com.
Colleague and friend, Roger L. Simon of Pajamas Media posted this in memory of Silver:
Ron had been fighting terminal stomach cancer for well over two years now as if it were some minor skirmish interrupting his otherwise important dedication to the future of this country. And what a dedication that was – twenty-four hours of every day, when they didn’t drag him into Sloan Kettering for treatment… the place Ron would call to his friends with characteristic gallows humor – Sloan Spa.
We all knew Ron had cancer and most of us, I suspect, had some idea how bad it was. The summer before last (I think it was then) I remember him telling me about his recent operation. He was out for about six hours, he told me, and when he woke up he looked at the doctor and asked her how it went. She told him she couldn’t take out the cancer. It had metastasized. The six hours were for nothing. She had to sew him back up. They gave him about three to four months to live at that point. more at pajamasmedia.com.