Posted by Ryan Torok
On Sunday, it rained in L.A., ruining everybody’s afternoon. My afternoon was ruined for other reasons. I had to work. On assignment from the Jewish Journal, I went to cover a rally in Westwood.
On one side of the street where the rally was held, a small group of people criticized Israel’s mistreatment of the Palestinians.
Opposite, a larger group of about double the size showed up to respond, provoked by what they felt was a mischaracterization of the Jewish homeland.
If there was winner, it was the pro-Israel side, for reasons other than just having bigger turnout. Their side’s principal organizers and members were young and invigorated. They were a more effective face for their cause than the mostly above-50 crowd from the anti-Israel side.
It’s strange. The anti-Israel argument is the more liberal of the two but on Sunday, they had way less young people. Where were all the young liberals? Watching the Golden Globes?
They didn’t start until later that night. So that could not have been it.
After I left the rallies, driving into Beverly Hills, I may have gotten my answer. Across the street from the Hilton Hotel, at the site of the Golden Globes, throngs of people had gathered—it must have been a few hundred bodies. At first, I thought the crowd had assembled to catch a hopeful glimpse of celebrities arriving at the red carpet, but slowing down at the red light, many were holding signs, I noticed.
This, too, was a demonstration, I realized.
A street blockade had been set up and a multitude of teens and twenty-something year olds were pushing up against it, calling for the overturning of Proposition 8. Here is where all the young liberals were, protesting California’s ban on same-sex marriages.
I did a little research. It was also a counter-protest against Baptist minister Fred Phelps, part of what has been termed the “Phelps-a-Thon.”
Phelps, for those who don’t know, is an American pastor who is anti-gay and anti-Semitic. His website is Godhatesfags.com. He’s really pleasant.
Since Hollywood is notoriously gay-friendly, Phelps and the people from his church traveled to L.A. to spread their message at the Golden Globe Awards.
Whenever Phelps makes a public appearance, proponents for overturning Prop 8 show up to counter-protest and use it as an opportunity to collect signatures to get the proposition back on the ballot.
This was a day belonging to protests…and James Cameron.
5.22.13 at 9:09 am | Eric Garcetti became the first elected Jewish. . .
5.22.13 at 8:16 am | UPDATE 8:00 am: Eric Garcetti wins the mayoral. . .
5.21.13 at 11:06 am | Using his preternatural smoothness, Justin. . .
5.20.13 at 11:40 am | Proving once again that there isn’t anything he. . .
5.14.13 at 9:59 am | This week on his podcast, Jewish comedian Marc. . .
4.30.13 at 10:58 am | Michael Diamond (Mike D.) and Adam Horovitz. . .
4.24.13 at 3:15 pm | So, 17-year-old Milken Community High School. . . (930)
4.25.13 at 4:47 pm | (491)
5.22.13 at 8:16 am | UPDATE 8:00 am: Eric Garcetti wins the mayoral. . . (406)
January 18, 2010 | 3:44 pm
Posted by Tom Tugend
For his role as the suave and sadistic Nazi colonel Hans Landa, who glories in the sobriquet of “Jew hunter,” Austrian actor Christoph Waltz won the trophy for best supporting actor at Sunday evening’s Golden Globe extravaganza.
Waltz’ anticipated triumph for his part in the revenge fantasy “Inglourious Basterds,” in which a bunch of American Jewish Gis wipe out the entire Nazi leadership, was one of the few upticks in an evening largely devoid of Jewish-angles moments.
However, another Golden Globe, this one for best screenplay, went to director Jason Reitman, who co-wrote “Up in the Air” with Sheldon Turner.
The German entry “The White Ribbon,” which depicts life in a seemingly placid pre-World War I village as the seedbed for the Nazi era to come, was picked as best foreign-language film. The Israeli entry, “Ajami,” had not qualified among the five finalists.
Coming back to Christoph Waltz, when “Basterds” was shown last August at New York’s Museum of Jewish History, the film’s director Quentin Tarantino mentioned to a reporter for the Israeli daily Ha’aretz that Waltz’ son was a rabbi, and in Israel yet.
According to various Google entries, the actor himself is not Jewish (even an assimilated Austrian Jewish family was unlikely to name its son Christoph). But if the rabbi story is true, the young man is either a convert or was influenced by the actor’s first wife, a native New Yorker.
Waltz’ versatility will be tested in the film “The Talking Cure,” when the Jew hunter will transform himself into a rather well-known Jew, Sigmund Freud. The movie is due to be directed by David Cronenberg from Christopher Hampton’s screenplay.
The Golden Globes, whose winners are selected by the relatively few members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, are generally considered indicators as likely choices for the more prestigious Oscar awards. If this holds true at the Feb. 2 Academy Award nominations and the March 7 award ceremonies, we’ll have to wait until 2011 for hopefully better results.
January 13, 2010 | 2:08 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
If Sarah Palin has learned anything in the past week, it has to be this: words matter.
First, she faced a storm of criticism for her use of hunting language and imagery after the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Then, in defending that use, she invoked the language of centuries of Jewish persecution, saying that the accusations against her amounted to a “blood libel.”
Yes. Palin equated the criticism she’s facing for her arguably questionable use of language to the completely fabricated accusations that resulted in the murder of thousands of innocent men, women an children over the ages. That provoked Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, to call an out-of-bounds.
“It is simply inappropriate to compare current American politics with term that was used by Christians to persecute Jews,” said Hier. “She has every right to criticize journalists without going over the top.”
From Europe in the Middle Ages to modern Syria today, Jews have been accused of killing Christian (and now Moslem) children for some nefarious purpose. The accusation often led to increased persecution of Jews. The origins of the blood libel likely have to do with the precarious existence of Jews as a minority.
Professor Israel Jacob Yuval of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem published an article in 1993 that argues that blood libel may have originated in the 12th century from Christian views of Jewish behavior during the First Crusade. Some Jews committed suicide and killed their own children rather than be subjected to forced conversions. Yuval investigated Christian reports of these events and found that they were greatly distorted with claims that if Jews could kill their own children they could also kill Christian children. Yuval rejects the blood libel story as a Christian fantasy that was impossible due to the precarious nature of the Jewish minority’s existence in Christian Europe.
In any case, it has been an enduring and particularly oppressive myth that Jews have suffered under for centuries.
Why react so strongly to what is clearly just another case of Palin’s recalcitrantly sloppy use of English? After all, Hier is no Democrat partisan. He was a strong, visible supporter of former Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and has been close to Republican and Democratic leaders. He is not one to pile on to an political leader under attack, especially one like Palin who has clearly demonstrated her support for Israel.
But as Palin may someday learn, and Hier and other Jewish leaders know wel, words really do matter. Equating even harsh criticism with “blood libel” is like going to the ER for a boo boo. It grossly demeans the historic reality of the blood libel and the victims who suffered brutally and needlessly because of it.
Even if it turns out that the man who tried to kill Laughner was not motivated by Palin’s “crosshair” imagery, or by her use of the language of treason and revolution in describing her political opponents, she has to be thinking that there must be better words to use to characterize those who disagree with her over policy. And Palin must also find better words to describe what happens when the wrong words come back to haunt her.
January 13, 2010 | 5:46 am
Posted by Rob Eshman
Click here to learn how you can help the cause
Within hours of news that a 7.3 struck the island nation of Haiti, the American Jewish World Service mobilized a relief effort using established contacts in the region. AJWS sent out an appeal for funds to help the victims of the quake. This press release came from Allison Lee, AJWS Los Angeles Regional Director:
AJWS is collecting donations in response to this afternoon’s massive earthquake in Haiti, which registered a 7.3 on the Richter scale. Donations to AJWS’s “Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund,” which can be made at www.ajws.org/haitiearthquake, will enable AJWS’s network of grantees in Haiti to meet the urgent needs of the population based on real-time, on-the-ground assessments.
With a per capita income of $3.60 per day, Haiti is the most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere. Thus, its population is especially vulnerable to natural disasters, such as today’s earthquake. Based on initial reports of widespread devastation and a high number of casualties, AJWS anticipates that the immediate and long-term needs will be profound and is coordinating with its in-country representatives to respond immediately.
“We are assessing where the gaps in service are and putting a process in place to help specific communities that might not be immediately served otherwise,” said AJWS’s vice president for programs, Aaron Dorfman. “Because of the economic and political situation in Haiti, disasters like this have devastating consequences throughout the country. Our long-standing partnerships with grassroots organizations in Haiti allow us to reach the poorest and most remote populations with the speed necessary to save lives.”
In an e-mail Lee said AJWS is also helping the relief efforts of other Jewish organizations, like the American Jewish Committee.
What the people of Haiti must be facing becomes clearer reading a piece that the journalist Amy Wilentz wrote in The Los Angeles Times in 2008 after hurricanes devastated the island:
Most houses in Haiti don’t have much in the way of foundations. At best, they may have a post or two driven into the ground. In La Saline, the slum where I spent most of my reporting time in Port-au-Prince, houses are for the most part nothing more than a patchwork, cobbled together from cast-off corrugated tin, oil drums hammered flat and other pieces of found metal and wood, with cardboard filling in the gaps. The floors are dirt. The door’s an old sheet during the day; at night a piece of metal is shut over the opening and fastened with twine.
These houses can fool the sun but they can’t fool the rain, as the expression goes in Haiti. They fall down in a strong storm and pile up against cement walls here and there, in their original pieces, like refuse. When the sun eventually dries everything out again, and drought replaces rain, people come to collect the bits that are left and, piling cardboard and tin on their heads, trudge off to rebuild their shantytown so it can be knocked down again in the next storm.
The topography doesn’t help. Haiti is essentially a big mountain range with a precipitous run down to a narrow coastline, so gravity does a lot of a storm’s destructive work. So does the island’s deforestation. Trees tend to keep soil in place with their root systems; without them, the slightest rains can loosen the topsoil. Big storms send tons of it down the mountainsides toward the coast like a big brown frappe. (This does double damage because it removes soil for future planting, as well as creating mudslides.)
The reason Haiti has no trees, or very few, is its utter poverty. Haitians don’t have much in the way of jobs (more than two-thirds of the population is unemployed), so they don’t have money to pay for gas or oil for electricity or cooking. Instead, they cut down trees and turn them into charcoal. In one deforested, charcoal-producing area, I saw medieval-style cookers buried in the ground, turning wood into fuel and sending up pungent smoke into the bleak landscape. In the towns, ladies sell huge black bags of charcoal, and everyone who works at the charcoal markets is covered in black dust from the destruction of Haiti’s forests.
I can’t imagine the situation has vastly improved in two years.
To contact the Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund, click here.
January 12, 2010 | 1:45 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
Israel’s economic miracle just got kosher-certified.
In today’s New York Times, David Brooks devoted his column to the country’s astonishing record of innovation and growth. It’s a story that’s been told widely and often—heck, I wrote my most recent column about it a month ago.
Brooks began his piece lauding Jewish achievement in general:
Jews are a famously accomplished group. They make up 0.2 percent of the world population, but 54 percent of the world chess champions, 27 percent of the Nobel physics laureates and 31 percent of the medicine laureates.
Jews make up 2 percent of the U.S. population, but 21 percent of the Ivy League student bodies, 26 percent of the Kennedy Center honorees, 37 percent of the Academy Award-winning directors, 38 percent of those on a recent Business Week list of leading philanthropists, 51 percent of the Pulitzer Prize winners for nonfiction.
Putting aside the obvious—that the rest of us Jews must clearly be underachievers—Brooks goes on to offer some reasons for such excellence:
In his book, “The Golden Age of Jewish Achievement,” Steven L. Pease lists some of the explanations people have given for this record of achievement. The Jewish faith encourages a belief in progress and personal accountability. It is learning-based, not rite-based.
Most Jews gave up or were forced to give up farming in the Middle Ages; their descendants have been living off of their wits ever since. They have often migrated, with a migrant’s ambition and drive. They have congregated around global crossroads and have benefited from the creative tension endemic in such places.
No single explanation can account for the record of Jewish achievement. The odd thing is that Israel has not traditionally been strongest where the Jews in the Diaspora were strongest. Instead of research and commerce, Israelis were forced to devote their energies to fighting and politics.
Then he focuses on Israel, ground zero for new Jewish innovation:
Tel Aviv has become one of the world’s foremost entrepreneurial hot spots. Israel has more high-tech start-ups per capita than any other nation on earth, by far. It leads the world in civilian research-and-development spending per capita. It ranks second behind the U.S. in the number of companies listed on the Nasdaq. Israel, with seven million people, attracts as much venture capital as France and Germany combined.
As Dan Senor and Saul Singer write in “Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle,” Israel now has a classic innovation cluster, a place where tech obsessives work in close proximity and feed off each other’s ideas.
Because of the strength of the economy, Israel has weathered the global recession reasonably well. The government did not have to bail out its banks or set off an explosion in short-term spending. Instead, it used the crisis to solidify the economy’s long-term future by investing in research and development and infrastructure, raising some consumption taxes, promising to cut other taxes in the medium to long term. Analysts at Barclays write that Israel is “the strongest recovery story” in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
The Senor book may be Israel’s strongest branding tool since the Six Day War and Noa Tishby. At the General Assembly of United Jewish Communities last year. Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu praised the book at length in his keynote address.
Brooks mentions two caveats about Israel’s growth—that it will increase the disparity between Israel and its neighbors—as if that’s a bad thing—and that entrepreneurs themselves are highly mobile and may fle Israel if Iran makes trouble. True, but what Brooks is saying is that violent conflict can damage a country’s economy. That is indeed true.
The deeper danger Israel faces, and that I addressed in my column, is the lack of investment in education. Every leading Israeli educator I’ve spoken with recently says the same thing: the system that helped educate the current generation of entrepreneurs is broken and underfunded. From my column:
“What we are harvesting now was planted 30 years ago,” Rivka Carmi, president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), told me during a visit to Los Angeles last month. “I’m pessimistic about what will happen 15 years from now, with huge cuts in higher education.”
Israel has decreased the funding to its universities — in BGU’s case by 6 percent — leaving administrators like Carmi scrambling.
In Israel, the state pays for salaries and operating expenses, but development and expansion must come from additional monies raised. And Israelis have not developed a culture of alumni giving.
“If I said we get $20,000 a year from alumni, I’d probably be exaggerating,” Carmi said.
Meanwhile, in this economy, pledges from supporters outside Israel are down 50 percent. Carmi worries that Israel, by not making education funding a bigger priority, will lose its best and brightest.
For her part, Carmi said despite the cuts she won’t touch the scholarships for top students, or funding for research into water, information and solar technologies — areas on which her university’s — and Israel’s — future rests.
“But,” she said, “I’m pessimistic.”
Carmi’s foremost concern may be her students, but Israeli leaders should know that something else is riding on Israel’s high-tech achievement: American Jewish support.
It’s not just about Israel throwing money into the system. Professor Uriel Reichma, founder of the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel’s first truly private university, told me last month that Israel has no choice but to rededicate itself to education.
“In the long run, that will determine our future,” he said. “Our minds are the only resources we have.”
“Government subsidy alone is not the answer,” Reichman said. “It kills initiative.” He said Israel should adopt a “mixed model” to finance higher education — private funding, student loans, research grants — while using government funds and other resources to improve public education at the elementary and high school levels.
The question is whether Israel’s highly dysfunctional political system can take on such a task. Of course I’d like to be optimistic, but keep in mind that Reichman, the man most qualified to be Minister of Education, was pushed aside in purely political horsetrading.
None of this should take away from Israel’s very real accomplishments. But the country and its supporters need to be mindful that “astonishing success” begins to a large extent, in the classroom.
To read Brook’s column, click here.
January 12, 2010 | 12:41 pm
Posted by JewishJournal.com
A swastika found carved into the hood of a Calabasas High School student’s car is being investigated as a possible hate crime, L.A. County sheriff’s officials said today.
A school security guard noticed the large swastika about 2:45 p.m. Monday, after it apparently had been etched into the hood of the 2009 BMW with a key, said Lt. Debra Glafkides of the Sheriff’s Department’s Lost Hills station. The car’s side mirrors also were broken off.
Read the full story at LATimes.com.
January 11, 2010 | 11:22 pm
Posted by Susan Freudenheim
The talk of the art world today is how Jeffrey Deitch, 57, a nice Jewish guy and a hot-ticket art dealer from New York who grew up working in his father’s heating and cooling business in Connecticut, landed the job as the director of L.A.‘s Museum of Contemporary Art.
To say the choice of an art dealer—even one with an MBA from Harvard and an art history degree from Wesleyan—to lead a major art museum—any museum for that matter—is an untraditional appointment is, well, an understatement. Outside the realm of possibility would probably have been the take on it—if it weren’t true.
But these are days for thinking outside the box, even if that means crossing the line between the world of for-profit and non-profit, between the academy and commerce.
The fact is, MOCA—ever an adventurous institution—seems to be more than ever in a place to be trying new things. A year ago, the highly esteemed institution seemed to be on the brink of falling off a cliff—having spent much of its substantial endowment to survive under the leadership of Jeremy Strick (another nice Jewish boy). Thankfully, the museum was rescued, in large part through the donations and fundraising efforts of L.A. philanthropist Eli Broad (also Jewish).
Now MOCA, whose current exhibition of its extraordinary permanent collection demonstrates the museum’s great depth, curatorial vision and thoughtful scholarship, is attempting to find new ways to shine—and raise more money to set itself on firm footing. (Never mind that Broad is a major collector with an interest in many of the same artists Deitch has shown).
Deitch’s greatest strength is his history of provocative and thoughtful shows at Deitch Projects, which he established in 1996. He has an impressive track record of working with an extraordinary range of artists like Jeff Koons, Vito Acconci, Chen Zhen, Sue de Beer and Laura Parnes. He has served as both curator and advocate, salesman and showman. Yet it remains to be seen how he will transition from running his own shop to overseeing an experienced curatorial staff—notably a museum with one of the best curators in the business, Paul Schimmel.
Even if Deitch can successfully put his considerable commercial instincts aside and throw himself into this new and different role, there will inevitably be a learning curve. How that all will work for an already precarious institution in these difficult economic times requires a giant leap of faith. We can only hope it’s for the best.
January 11, 2010 | 3:54 pm
Posted by Julie Gruenbaum Fax
Jewish gay rights activist Robin Tyler is watching closely as the Federal trial gets under way in U.S. District Court in San Francisco today to determine if the ban on same-sex marriage passed by California voters in November 2008 violates the United States Constitution (LA Time Story on trial).
Tyler and her wife Diane Olson were one of two couples to sue the State of California in 2004 to challenge the state’s ban on same sex marriage. The California Supreme Court decided in Tyler’s favor, allowing same sex couples to wed beginning in June 2008.
Tyler and Olson were among the first couples to marry at a June 16, 2008 ceremony at the Beverly Hills Courthouse, conducted by Rabbi Denise Eger of Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood. The couple had been showing up at the courthouse with a wedding cake and attorney Gloria Allred every Valentine’s day for 8 years in a failed attempt to get a marriage license.
But six months after they married, Prop 8 amended the state constitution and defined marriage as between a man and woman, putting an end to a flurry of same-sex weddings.
The new suit charges that Prop 8 violates the United State constitution. Legal experts expect it to eventually go to the United States Supreme court.
This morning, the United State Supreme Court overturned a judge’s decision to stream the case on YouTube.
Tyler, 68, chronicles her coming out to her Jewish mother in the late 1950s in her one-woman show, “Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Groom.”
She is active in Jews for Marriage Equality, a California group, and blogs on the Huffington Post.