Posted by Tom Tugend
By Tom Tugend
LOS ANGELES – The chances that Michael Jackson’s two oldest children would celebrate their b’nai mitzvah during the next two years were always pretty slim, but they have been just about eliminated by an agreement between the late pop icon’s mother and his ex-wife.
Lawyers for both sides announced an agreement Thursday that Katherine Jackson, 79, Michael’s mother, will be named guardian of her grandchildren, while Debbie Row, 50, Michael’s ex-wife and the children’s mother, will have visitation rights.
There were earlier reports and speculation that Rowe would contest the custody of her children, Prince Michael,Jr., 12, and Paris Michael Katherine, 11. Under California law, which favors the biological mother, Rowe might well have succeeded.
Rowe, who is Jewish, had previously ceded and reclaimed her parental rights. In one court hearing, she expressed concern that the influence of the Nation of Islam on Jackson might harm her children, given the organization’s anti-Jewish bias.
No money is to change hands as a result of the agreement, which is expected to be approved in Los Angeles Superior Court next week.
The divorce settlement between the singer and Rowe, which was finalized in 2000, awarded Rowe $8.5 million, and Jackson sole custody of the children.
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July 30, 2009 | 12:45 pm
Posted by Tom Tugend
Jonathan “Yoni” Erlich found his footing again Wednesday at the Los Angeles Tennis Open, after the emotional high of clinching Israel’s huge upset of Russia in Davis Cup competition.
Partnering with Jeff Coetzee of South Africa, Erlich beat Czech player Martin Damm and Robert Lindstedt of Sweden to advance to the second round.
The game, under a blistering sun, was sparsely attended, but a small rooting section encouraged the Israeli with shouts of “Yoni, Yoni.”
Dudi Sela, Israel’s other participant, playing with Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, was earlier eliminated in doubles by Russians Marat Safin and Igor Kunitsyn, but remains in the singles draw, where he is seeded fourth.
Before coming to Los Angeles. both Israelis were eliminated early on in the Indianapolis tournament.
In a post-game interview, Erlich said that the Israeli side let down a bit after the Davis Cup triumph over Russia, but will be ready to face Spain on its homegrounds Sept. 18-20.
At this time, it is uncertain whether Spanish star Rafael Nadal will be fit to play, but even without him, Israel will have to pull off another miracle to beat the top-ranked Spaniards.
“Israel has made great strides, but we’re still struggling to find good players,” Erlich said.
Erlich, 32, was born in Buenos Aires, but his parents made aliyah when he was one year old. He got his first lessons in the game at the Israel Tennis Center, founded and underwritten by American supporters.
These days, he plays in 25-30 tournaments a year, which doesn’t give him much time at home with his wife and one-year old son.
He is encouraged by the growing popularity of tennis, which now ranks third among Israeli sports fans, following soccer and basketball.
July 28, 2009 | 1:40 am
Posted by Tom Tugend
A memorial concert honoring longtime L.A. Philharmonic violinist Robert Korda will be held Aug. 25, starting at 7 p.m. at the Madrid Theatre, 21622 Sherman Way in Canoga Park. The event is free and open to the public, with no advance reservations required.
July 24, 2009 | 2:52 pm
Posted by Susan Freudenheim
Is it OK for a Jewish film festival to screen “Rachel,” a bio-pic on Rachel Corrie, the Pro-Palestinian activist killed in 2003 while protesting in front of Israeli bulldozers? That was the initial question raised in San Francisco in advance of a screening of the film this weekend. And if the answer is yes, as some are saying, is it OK to bring the girl’s mother, Cindy Corrie, to speak? Not if no one is there to represent another point of view, apparently. The festival belatedly invited a pro-Israel activist to balance the July 25 screening.
The heart of the controversy is not the film, but why this particular speaker was invited. Certainly Cindy Corrie’s heartbreak at the loss of her daughter is a legitimate story, but does her tragedy fit the context?
A story in San Francisco’s Jewish paper, j, addresses the question.
July 23, 2009 | 5:25 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
Does it matter that so many of the men arrested today in New Jersey and New York on charges that include money laundering and organ trafficking are Jewish? And not just Jewish but rabbis and community leaders?
Of course it matters to Jews. This is big news from New York to LA, with all the attendant hand-wringing and oy-gvalting that goes along with the revelation of a prominent crook who, as my mother would say, happens to be Jewish (see Madoff, Bernard).
But you’ll notice a lot of those arrested have Italian surnames. Is the Italian press full of oy veys (in Italian, of course)? No. But Jews see a Goldstein in handcuffs, and feel viscerally the shame, the guilt, the fear of backlash…
Some resent it. Rabbi Brad Hirschfield of CLAL, who made his resentment at the press’s emphasis on the “Jewish” angle clear in this email:
When New Jersey Mayors, politicians and rabbis get arrested for money laundering, it’s news that should be reported. It’s especially important for Jews to hear this news and address the discomfort created by religious leaders behaving badly. Isn’t that what we ask of other groups when their leaders do the same?
But the coverage, which initially began in the New Jersey Star-Ledger, suggests that the motivation for the coverage may be less than appropriate. In fact, it may be nothing less than an excuse to vent deep resentment at a particular portion of the Jewish community.
When a headline reads, “NJ officials, NY rabbis caught in federal money laundering, corruption sweep”, one expects a story which describes that event. In this case however, no mention is made of any rabbis actually getting arrested. Despite plenty of details about various politicos being taken into custody, there is nothing about rabbis.
This may be a big deal, but the headline and the story don’t match - where is the info on the rabbis? This kind of coverage actually borders on Jew-baiting, and it potentially says something at least as ugly about the author/editors as it does about those who committed any crime. Consider the following quote found on the paper’s website and carried on CNN:
The arrests…“began with an investigation of money transfers by members of the Syrian enclaves in New York and New Jersey,” the newspaper said on its Web site, NJ.com. Those arrested Thursday “include key religious leaders in the tight-knit, wealthy communities,” the report said.
“Enclaves”? “Tight-knit, wealthy communities”? Could it be that the paper harbors deep resentment against Jews who they see as over-privileged, stand-offish people who operate as a law unto themselves? Is this the moment to celebrate how “those people” will now get their comeuppance? If not, why describe the community in classically anti-Semitic ways instead of calling out the specific leaders who broke the law, violated the religious rules of their own community and should be punished to the full extent of the law for any wrongdoing they committed?
This story needs to be told, but it needs to be told better than this. It needs to be about justice, not just desserts. By the way, when all this calms down, the Syrian-Jewish community should also take a good look at itself to see what they do which contributes to their being perceived of this way by their neighbors.
While victims of bias should never be blamed for the bias against them, in most cases for a stereotype to take hold it must be rooted in some partial truth. Ironically, coverage like that in the Star Ledger will make that ever less likely to happen, confirming the kind of hostility which is used by any community looking for a reason to turn inward.
But J.J. Goldberg, the editorial director of The Forward, had perhaps the most insightful take on the Jewish reaction in a post Madoff interview with New Voices magazine. He said our reaction is shock not because we’re afraid of anti-semitism but because we naively hold our religion inviolate:
It’s because we hold Judaism so dear, we don’t want to think it’s capable of creating problems. In 1993, there was a wave of Pell Grant fraud cases where people were setting up phony schools to apply for Pell Grants and then keeping the money. [The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations] had two days of hearings. [Anti-Defamation League National Director] Abe Foxman wrote a letter [to John McCain] complaining that all of the witnesses that had been called up represented yeshivas. He said, the way this has been set up it could create the unfortunate impression that this is some particularly Jewish pattern of crime. And McCain wrote back and said, it is. Yeshivas were this huge network of institutions where people study full time. They had been mainly supported by the billionaire Reichman family from Toronto. [The Reichman family] went bust, and all of a sudden there are all of these cases of fraud and money laundering. Anything to support this impossible system. But you can’t talk about Judaism leading to wrongdoing. It can’t be. Judaism is only good.
The less involved you are in daily Jewish life, the more inviolate it has to be. Think of Superman and [the city of Kandor] in the little bottle in his Fortress of Solitude. It has to be preserved because there’s nothing you can do with it. Flowers that you press into a Bible. The less you can do with it the more you need it to be perfect.
Goldberg traces the problem of corruption in the Jewish community to the rise in wealth (well, one could argue, it is kind of hard to be tempted to money-launder when you have no money). He says:
Before the modern age, Jews lived in ghettoes. They could tax themselves. Tzedakah was not voluntary. Shabbes wasn’t voluntary. The first synagogue in America, Shearith Israel in New York, adopted a rule saying that if you violated Shabbes you got fined. It didn’t work. People just resigned from the synagogue. [The community] had lost enforcement power. And once you’ve lost enforcement power, you’ve got to ask for it. And once you’ve got to ask for money, you become dependent on the wealthy. Rabbis now depend on the goodwill of a few rich people. And so the balance of power between the moralists and the hedonists shifts. There used to be a check. The moral authority of the Jewish community had enforcement power. Now it’s around for entertainment. Instead of scolding Jews, now they scold goyim. They have no authority to scold the Jews. None. Rabbis lose their jobs for being moral scolds. So there is no more moral authority.
I don’t know if the people arrested are guilty, but if they are, Goldberg’s harsh last statement—“There is no more moral authority”—will be just a bit harder to disprove.
July 16, 2009 | 6:56 pm
Posted by Tom Tugend
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is due to vote July 21 on a motion asking the county pension fund to divest itself of any assets or funds in companies doing business in Iran.
The motion by Supervisors Michael D. Antonovich and Zev Yaroslavsky is especially aimed at companies assisting Iran’s energy sectors.
“Iran has been identified by the State Department as the chief sponsor of international terrorism,” Antonovich noted in a statement. “Economic sanctions, risk warnings, credit restrictions and other measures announced by the United States, European nations, and the United Nations, make business in Iran’s oil and natural gas sector an increasing fiduciary risk.”
Thirty Years After, an organization of young Iranian Jewish professionals, has urged interested citizen to attend the Tuesday, July 21 meeting, scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m., in the Supervisors’ hearing room 381B, Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, 500 W. Temple St. – Tom Tugend
July 16, 2009 | 6:50 pm
Posted by Gina Lobaco
Photos by Lawrence Wurcik.
July 16, 2009 | 5:13 pm
Posted by Susan Freudenheim
Julius Shulman, the gregarious photographer whose iconic images of modern architecture defined the style, died last night at the age of 98. Born in Brooklyn in 1910 to immigrant Jewish parents, his family moved to Boyle Heights when he was a boy and his devotion to Los Angeles continued throughout his long life. His work was commissioned primarily for publications—including art, architecture and shelter magazines. But his clean, romantic views of Amercian architecture transcend the publications in which they appeared. He worked nearly until his final days, and often made himself available for interviews, including sitting down with the Jewish Journal in 2002 and again in 2007.
I had a chance to visit with Shulman in 2005 for an article I wrote for the New York Times soon after Shulman sold his vast photographic archives to the Getty, an accomplishment followed by a major museum show there. At the time of my interview at his Hollywood Hills studio, Shulman was juggling nonstop phone calls for new assignments, even as he reminisced with absolute clarity about pictures he’d taken half a century before. Ever the gentleman, he took me on a tour of his studio, his home and his gardens.
He was one of Los Angeles’ greatest artists, and he will be missed.