Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
It’s the fourth year of LimmudLA, but our local multi-denominational conference of Jewish learning—which originated in the United Kingdom in 1980—still has a distinctly British accent.
Left to their own devices, the American Jews at LimmudLA this weekend might mistakenly use long vowels to pronounce the conference’s name. Luckily there are enough people who speak the Queen’s English here in Costa Mesa to keep us Yanks from calling it, “Lee-mood.” (As far as I can tell, it’s “Li” as in “lip”; to get the “mmud,” think of how you’d say the first half of the word “murder” without emphasizing either r.)
And the British influence is apparent—perhaps most notably after Friday night dinner, when a couple hundred people crammed into a conference room after dinner to hear from Clive Lawton, Limmud’s Senior Consultant.
In his hour-long talk, Lawton said that for most of the second half of the 20th century, America and Israel had dominated the discourse about the future of Judaism and ignored European Jewry. Israel put forward a “nationalization” model for Judaism—the religion would be taken care of by central authorities—while America pushed its highly individualistic model in which any practice, no matter how unusual, could be called Jewish, and no authority had the right to call someone’s Jewishness into question.
Both models, Lawton said, had been shown to be wanting in the 1990s. A study of Israeli youth showed how little they knew about Judaism and a demographic assessment of American Jews showed how few Jews identified strongly with the Jewish people. Two separate crises of confidence ensued.
At the very moment that these two loud voices were realizing that their models had been constructed on shaky ground, Lawton said, Americans and Israelis also began to notice that Jews were living—and in some cases thriving—in Europe. The place that Israelis and Americans had treated exclusively as a Jewish graveyard (March of the Living) or dismissed as a place that would never be hospitable to Jews had developed what Lawton called “green shoots.” It’s now home to 3.5 million Jews.
The Europeans had managed not by model but by muddle—in Lawton’s words, by “fudging.” Lawton invited the largely American audience to look at Europe, but not to test the model. There wasn’t really a model to test. He did, however, suggest that they consider the muddle when thinking about how the Jewish future.
The message didn’t necessarily get through, though. The first question from the audience: Anti-Semitism in Europe is really bad, right?
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February 17, 2011 | 10:41 am
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
In an article that hit the Forward website today, Rex Weiner asks Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky the question that’s on many peoples’ minds: Will Yaroslavsky run for mayor of Los Angeles in 2013?
“I’ve been asked by many people,” Yaroslavsky said, speaking to the Forward in the spacious conference room of his office. His bespectacled gaze — from between a dense thicket of dark hair above and the walrus moustache below that have been unmistakably familiar to residents of L.A. for three decades — turned thoughtful. “I’ve been asked by some people you don’t ignore.”
The article gives a quick run-down of Yaroslavsky’s past accomplishments, starting with his activism on behalf of Soviet Jews in the 1970s and going all the way to his efforts as supervisor to tackle Los Angeles’ homelessness problem, which was the subject of a recent article in the Jewish Journal.
Weiner mentions two other possible Mayoral candidates including developer Rick Caruso and Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti:
The other potential Democratic Jewish candidate is 40-year-old Eric Garcetti, the city council president. Son of a former L.A. district attorney, Garcetti is the product of an Italian-Mexican marriage on his paternal side, while his maternal grandparents, Louis and Sukey Roth, were Russian Jews, founders of Louis Roth Clothing, the first union shop in L.A.’s garment industry. He is fluent in Spanish and has been known to knock back tequila shots with Mayor Villaraigosa. He also attends services at IKAR, the congregation founded by [...] Rabbi Sharon Brous. Garcetti offers both Latino and Jewish ethnicity — a potent combination in a city where the surging Latino community helped elect Villaraigosa to his second term.
Adding further complexity in the event of a Garcetti vs. Yaroslavsky race is the fact that the legal ceremony uniting Garcetti and his wife, Amy, was performed by Yaroslavsky, whom the younger man regards as a friend and mentor. Garcetti told the crowd at a recent community board meeting that he was “seriously leaning” toward a mayoral run and will go public in the next six to eight months with his decision.
Asked by the Forward his view of Yaroslavsky’s candidacy, Garcetti offered carefully, “He’s certainly qualified.”
Read the article at Forward.com.
February 16, 2011 | 5:02 pm
Posted by Tom Tugend
Among critics, it has been a kind of parlor game to unmask the Jewish characters in Arthur Miller’s plays.
By speech inflection and outlook, Willy Lohman of “Death of a Salesman” is Jewish, as the playwright himself acknowledged late in life.
How about the Kellers in “All My Sons,” and even the Carbones, disguised as Italians, in “A View from the Bridge”?
However, there is one play in which Jews and the Jewish fate are the undisguised focus. That is “Broken Glass,” which Miller wrote when he was 74 and which refers to Nazi Germany’s 1938 Kristallnacht, the forerunner of the Holocaust.
Now rarely seen, the play is being revived by the West Coast Jewish Theatre and probes the mindset of American Jews of the 1930s as they wrestled with assimilation, anti-Semitism, self-hatred and concern for their brethren in Europe.
At the center of “Broken Glass” is the Gellburg family (Gellburg, if you please, NOT Goldberg) of Brooklyn.
Sylvia, the mother, has been following events in Nazi Germany and annexed Austria obsessively. When she sees a photo of old Jewish men forced to scrub a sidewalk with toothbrushes, she becomes mysteriously paralyzed.
Her husband Phillip is the only Jewish executive at a WASP banking firm, where he is valued for his work but never accepted as an equal. He loves his wife and worries about her, but theirs has been a sexless marriage for two decades.
Elina de Santos directs the play with a cast including Susan Angelo, Michael Bofshever, Stephen Burleigh, Peggy Dunne, Renae Geerlings and Lindsay Ginter.
“Broken Glass” opens at the Pico Playhouse, 10580 W. Pico Blvd. in West Los Angeles, on Feb. 25 and runs through April 17. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
For tickets, phone (323) 821-2449 or make online reservations at www.wcjt.org.
February 15, 2011 | 1:15 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
In his online “Letter to the Egyptian People ” last Sunday, Rabbi Donniel Hartman from Jerusalem’s Hartman Institute laid out his hopes for future understanding and cooperation with the Egyptian people.
What’s moving and astonishing is that so many Egyptians wrote back.
As you read their comments, below, you’ll see that among at least part of the Egyptian body politic there is a genuine desire to reach out to their long-cut off neighbor to the north.
Hartman, in his letter, wrote:
We, your neighbors, have been speaking a lot about you these last few weeks. As the status quo in your country to which we have become accustomed has changed, some of us expressed concern, others hope, and still others, admiration. Each view has its pundits, whose reading of the “facts” (your reality) seemed somehow to always fit into their pre-existing worldview.
The truth is that we don’t know. We don’t know, first and foremost, who you are. You see, for the last 30 years it seems, we never got a chance to talk. We spoke with your leaders, but as you so aptly proved, they don’t speak for you anymore, if they ever did.
We got used to and comfortable with the existing state of affairs and learned how to adapt and work with it in ways that would fit our own national interests and aspirations. We all must now come to terms with the fact that it is not only about us, but about you. We must begin a new conversation with you, a partner that has declared loud and clear that your voice - the voice of the people - must and will be heard.
I pray that this will be one of the outcomes of your democratic revolution. I hope that our two peoples living in vibrant democracies will find new ways to reach out to each other and respect each other. That does not mean that we always have to agree. It is possible and even likely that there are policies which each one of us is pursuing, either externally or internally, that may differ from the other’s national interest or even moral sensibilities.
We have a critical choice ahead of us. The change in the status quo can cause us to revert to the old and mutually destructive patterns. I hope we do not need to relive the experiences of our grandparents and parents in order to learn yet again that war is not a solution. I pray that we will use the change in the status quo as a catalyst to move us forward. Status quos are comfortable, but they can also lead to stagnation. Our neighborhood is one in which there is still much pain and hatred. We, the two of us, have a unique opportunity to change the rules of the game, to speak, engage, challenge, and even push each other to find a new and vibrant status quo.
I know you are going to be busy over the next number of months and we are not your primary concern. I am nevertheless writing to you to again say, hello, and that we look forward to speaking with you soon. Until then, we wish that your transition to freedom be a peaceful and beneficial one to all your citizens and that your freedom be a blessing to you, and to the whole world. Amen.
NIce, and you can read the whole letter here.
But what follows is even more exceptional. Dozens of Egyptians, many of whom participated in the uprising, wrote back. It seems they too understand that a key to peace will be renewing or in most cases creating familiarity between neighbors, neighbors who have been cut off from each other by the Mubarak’s regime policy of cold peace and anti-Israel incitement.
THANKS FOR UR FEELINGS
Thanks very much for ur feelings towards us! we don`t look forward anew outer conflict with any side! we r seeking for building our country as one of the most democratic country in the world! we r looking forward astrong economy! we r looking forward spreeding democracy to all countries and states in the middle east! for israel…...we don`t want to end the peace accords and treaty with them! but we need to activate the conversation with them as u hope! i hope that one day israelis will listen and trust in our demands according to arab conflict issue! again as president"sadat"said “no more war….no more bloodshed"from our side! but u must also say to palestinians “no more war…no more bloodshed”! and not also palesinians but also all peoples! again mercy for ur feeling towards us in egypt and don`t worry we are akind peoples and war isnot our first option! salam!
moody, Egypt, Feb 15 2011 7:57:00:000AM
Hi, my name is Tareq, half Egyptian, half French. I`m 25 years old and lived almost all my life in France. I`m backpacking in South America now and met two wonderful human beings, Yael and Daniel. The first day we met, we shared some food and talked about the amazing beauty of southern Chile and our journey through Argentina. As we were waiting for cars in the middle of nowhere in Patagonia, I learned to say “eyn machonit” kol beseder, todah” and other words in Hebrew and I showed them some Arabic music. One night, after dinning, we had a deep conversation. We apologized, sincerely. For the first time, in this trip, surrounded by beauty of nature and the peace of places that have never seen a war, I saw Israelis as human as me. There, in front of me, I had people like me. Made of flesh and feelings, like me. And above that, terrific people. Nice and warm people. Israelis. Peace starts in ur hearts. I hope we all get over hatred. World`s problems start in our minds. Shalom, neighbours.
m., Egyptian, Feb 15 2011 7:27:00:000AM
Letter to the Egytian People
Hi Donniel: It seems that this letter came from the heart? I do not know yet!! Unfortunately, history has taught us as Arabs not to trust the Israeli people due the their conducts in their sever and brutal revenge treatments to the innocent people; for example the civilians of Gaza and the civilians of Lebanon. I think time has come for Israelis to prove their good intentions on the ground, not just beautiful and flowery statements which made for public consumption and get washed out over night
Kal Slayyeh, USA, Feb 14 2011 8:12:00:000PM
A Voice for humanity
Today, your article made me cry; cry for all the wasted years; for the hatred and the destruction. Even now, can we all just talk to each other and begin to heal our world. Tikkun Olam - Shalom, Salaam, Peace
Dr P, Ireland, Feb 14 2011 6:05:00:000PM
Working together for peace
My dear neighbor, Donnel Hartman, Thank you so much for this amazing letter, for the warm feelings and brotherly sentiment. I was there in Tahrir square, I was one of the young men who fought for democracy and welfare for Egypt and I promise you to fight as much as I can against anyone who tries to turn this peaceful noble act into a private agenda leading to war. I have always acknowledged Israel as a wonderful state who would -one day in the future- be an essential element for development of the middle East. And I still recognize and admire my country`s first neighbor… I am sure that the future has more joy to both of our nations in more warm peace. Cold peace isn`t enough for me anymore… I will work for that. We will work together for the good of our people Shalom from Egypt
Ramy Hussein, Egypt, Feb 14 2011 6:02:00:000PM
i red your letter and like u i believe in piece and hope for our countries friendship , i also believe that democracy never starts a war , and as a newly established relationship it requires trust and patience and i pray that we have these two virtues to continue our peaceful progress, thanks for ur letter
GEORGE HANNA, Egypt, Feb 14 2011 5:50:00:000PM
Shalom to our cousins in Israel
Thank you very much for your very warm feelings and wishes for the Egyptian people. we loved Anwar Sadat, because he gave us a chance to know how jews around the world are really not that bad, and that we can live together in peace in the same place as brothers and sisters in Humanity. but the core issue for us is not the jews, but it`s Palestine. negotiate peace with the PA, and whatever you guys agree upon, will get our blessings to it. the real problem started in 1948, and Israel has to have the courage to solve the problem it created and give the palestinian part of their rights back, why not accept the Arab peace initiatives with swabs of land for example? we are willing to accept Israel right to live and the aspirations of the jewish people, if Israel will accept and respect the Aspirations of the palestinian people. we are willing to share with you, our oil wealth, we have a lot of common things, we both are funny people who like jokes, both we can advance one another, let`s leave war to the past and start a new page, in which the palestinian people get something back,by then Israel will be the most beloved country in the Arab world. it`s not a precondition from us, but it`s a dream, just like yours, we wish the day will come, when we can only keep busy remember and worship the God of Moses and the God of Israel, instead of fighting in his name. don`t you agree?
Mohamed The Egyptian, Egypt, Feb 14 2011 6:49:00:000AM
Where were you?
Let me just start by saying that I`m an Egyptian Australian! I have lived in Egypt for many years and chose to leave to seek greener postures elsewhere. I just want to ask you one question, where were you all over these years? where was this letter? or did you find it necessary now that the Egyptian people are free to voice your concerns over what might become of this revolution? I really pray that there will be no more wars or conflicts, however you as Israel have to give what you have taken by force or at least some of it so you can live in real peace not the peace that Mubarak and his gang provided!
Sarh Maqsoud, Australia, Feb 14 2011 6:38:00:000AM
Letter to Egypt
Great words that I hope as American/Egyptian can be put to work for the whole area. Ihope that a similar letter and feelings can be directed to the Palestanian people who are living in your midst and even closer to you than the Egyptians.
Moustafa Nour, U.S.A, Feb 14 2011 6:20:00:000AM
Hi Donniel, Thanks for this thoughtful letter. I agree with (almost) every thing you said. We have plenty of work to do internally here in Egypt. Its mind numbing coming to think of it all: Building the institutions from the ground up, eliminating corruption etc etc. I can go on forever. As for our relations with you and the general Israeli populace, I cannot agree more. We have much work to do. This is not the time to exchange charges or succumb to age old feelings of resentment but the time to reach out to one another like you did to us and begin a new relation ship. A relation ship rooted in respect and in a positive vision for the future. A future that affords our children a life free of fear, hatred, suspicion or anger. I too remember the feeling of loss and the anxiety associated with past Egyptian - Israeli wars. Donniel, I am optimistic about the future. You maybe surprised at how much we have in common. The internet now facilitates a dialogue between nations. Perhaps our new dialogue can help us both get over the ideological paralysis that has kept us from making real progress on peace in the region. Thanks Donniel for this letter. I appreciate your wishes for us. Lets keep in touch and work together to resolve our differences and build upon achievements of the past. An Egyptian
Hisham, Egyptian, Feb 14 2011 3:13:00:000AM
thank you so much for the message. I think all the arabs and jews need to reach out to each other and talk, and that`s possible only within democratic systems. Because Dictators and Islammists are blackning Israel and a Jews Image to stay or achieve a long stay in power. I hope Jews and arabs will live in peace forever, they deserve it. Thank You
abdell, Algeria, Feb 14 2011 12:02:00:000AM
Egypt and Peace
You still do not get it. There is no peace because it was imposed on Egyptians by two dictators. Egyptians were wise enough to know that if you remove Egypt from the scene, Israelis would take advantage of the situation and build settlements, not fearing any consequences. That is exactly what happened. You cannot have peace without freeing Palestinians. LET PALESTINIANS GO!
US Citizen, USA, Feb 13 2011 10:20:00:000PM
One ALWAYS has to be fair.
We got your message. But with all due respect to a religious figure, both peoples of Egypt and Israel must promote the values of co-existence in their respective societies, rather than promoting a distorted and incoherent understanding of Biblical/Quranic verses. I guess a more sound understanding would rule out both suicide attacks and deporting current inhabitant to bring in settlers. I guess a more sound understanding would require both sides to admit that no one is superior to the other and no one is “CHOSEN” and that we are all subject to accountability before God according to our deeds.
Ahmed Nassar, USA, Feb 13 2011 9:50:00:000PM
Now, all that said, not everyone is a happy camper. Take this one:
Don`t advice us
WE DON`T NEED YOUR ADVICE , YOU ARE NOT FREIND YOU ARE JUST UNWANTED NEIBOUR ABDSALAM ABDWAHAB
abdsalam, cairo, Feb 14 2011 1:00:00:000AM
But the exchange shows the importance of beginning the process of winning most hearts and minds, and of addressing the core concerns of Egyptians vis a vis the Palestinians in a forthright way.
Remember, this is just the beginning.
February 14, 2011 | 6:21 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Call it the Milken Community High School of Hard Knocks.
Thanks to an organizing effort started by two very committed mothers, support from the school’s administration and enthusiasm from students, Milken is set to become the first local Jewish day school to field a tackle football team—and only the fourth Jewish day school in the country to do so.
Over 50 students have expressed interest in playing on Milken’s 8-man tackle football team this fall, and Charlie Heller is definitely among the most enthusiastic. “I’m super pumped, super excited,” Heller, 16, said. “This is like a dream of my life.”
A junior, Heller started every game at quarterback for Milken’s flag football team in the fall season. The Wildcats went undefeated and won the Nov. 9 championship game against Crossroads High School, 19-0. Heller found the experience satisfying but frustrating. “We dominated every team,” he said. “It became not even fun, because we knew we were going to kick the other team’s butts.”
Starting next fall, Milken will field 39 different varsity and junior varsity teams; with an estimated startup cost of about $100,000, tackle football will easily be the most expensive. Still, Jason Ablin, the head of the school, is enthusiastic about bringing what many might call the quintessential part of the American high school experience to Milken. The students, Ablin said, “yearn for events at the school when we can really get together and celebrate. And football will be one of those.”
With the addition of tackle football, Ablin also expects that Milken will be able to attract students that they might have lost to other schools without it.
In recent years, media reports have made clear that tackle football presents significant risk of injury—particularly brain injury—to players even at the high school level. Ablin has read those articles, and said that protecting the health and safety of the Milken student athletes would be his primary concern. If Head Coach Jerry Martin and Associate Coach Greg Weiss run a safe program, Ablin said, “I would be okay with losing every game.”
Milken has a full-time specialist in sports medicine on staff. The strength and conditioning coach, who used to work part-time with all the school’s teams, has since been brought on full-time, and will help to prepare the Wildcats for next year’s football season.
Practice starts on Aug. 1 and the Wildcats will play their first game, at Faith Baptist, on Sep. 8. Faith Baptist went undefeated (3-0) in the 4-team Heritage 8-man football league, and Milken will join Santa Clarita Christian, Windward, and Hillcrest Christian in trying to unseat them.
The Wildcats are hoping to play at least one more game next season, against the San Diego Jewish Academy’s football team, the Lions, who were the subject of a JTA article in Oct. 2010.
No date has been set for the eagerly anticipated Wildcats-Lions match-up, but one thing is certain: It won’t be on a Friday night.
Watch Charlie Heller and the Wildcats dismantle the team from Crossroads High School in November’s championship game here (video by Sam Furie):
February 14, 2011 | 3:25 pm
Posted by Tom Tugend
Is the Holocaust passé for Hollywood and the world’s filmmakers?
This is the first year in at least half a century that not a single Oscar or Golden Globe entry has focused on the horrors of the Shoah.
Equally ignored, with one peripheral exception, are films on World War II and the Nazi regime.
Only a year ago, Jewish GIs were wiping out Hitler and his minions in “Inglourious Basterds,” and the year before we fed on German guilt and anti-Nazi resistance in “The Reader,” “Defiance” and “Valkyrie.”
While one year’s film output does not necessarily mark a trend, it may be even more significant that among the 65 foreign-language films vying for Oscar honors, which often reflect the present moods and concerns of their respective countries, none deal with that historic era.
By contrast, a year ago, films from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Norway, Slovenia and Holland centered on World War II and, in many instances, on the fate of the country’s Jews under German occupation.
While some current foreign entries touch on themes of war, oppression and resistance, the time frame has shifted from the 1930s and ‘40s to postwar communist and other dictatorships and to recent genocides.
Israel’s film industry, which came tantalizingly close to picking up its first Oscar by making the final five cut in each of the past three years, struck out this time with “The Human Resources Manager.”
In other Academy Award categories, Israel-themed entries have made a better showing.
The feature documentary “Precious Life,” by Tel Aviv newsman Shlomi Eldar, was shortlisted among the 15 semifinalists but did not make the final five. The film explored Israeli-Palestinian relationships through the efforts of Jewish doctors to save the life of a Gaza-born “bubble baby.”
Still in the running, though, is “Strangers No More,” an uplifting short documentary on the Bialik-Rogozin School in an impoverished section of south Tel Aviv. The school’s devoted teachers try to educate and integrate some 750 students, including many children of foreign workers, from 48 countries. Kirk Simon and Karen Goodman are the American directors.
Among the frontrunners to take home an Oscar for best picture is “The King’s Speech,” about the efforts of Britain’s King George VI to overcome a severe stutter.
The film shows the monarch studying Hitler’s oratory and rallying his people at the start of World War II, but does not touch on the upcoming Holocaust.
Indeed, critics have predicted year after year that the onset of “Holocaust fatigue” spelled the end of that particular film genre, only to be proven wrong the following award season.
The question now is whether the noticeable absence of current movies about Nazi crimes and World War II indicates that the predictions have finally come true, or whether we are looking at an aberration.
Five international film industry veterans expressed a range of opinions in interviews, most leaning toward the view that any obituary on Holocaust-themed movies was premature.
Producer Branko Lustig, an Oscar winner for “Schindler’s List”—perhaps the Holocaust picture with the greatest universal impact—was pessimistic.
Lustig, born in Croatia and a child Holocaust survivor, predicted that “when all the survivors are dead, people will forget about the Shoah. In 35 years they will not believe that it ever happened.”
The producer, who won a second Oscar for “Gladiator,” said he had been trying for years to make a movie about the Shanghai ghetto, where Jewish refugees found shelter during World War II.
“Nobody wants to put up money for this in the United States, Europe or Asia,” Lustig lamented.
Meyer Gottlieb, president of Samuel Goldwyn Films and also a child survivor, granted that a new generation of young filmmakers would naturally gravitate to more contemporary themes. He mostly blamed poor media coverage of Holocaust films for their waning popularity.
However, Gottlieb said, it was too early to announce the demise of the genre, noting that it often takes five to six years for a film to evolve from conception to finished product.
American director and writer Paul Mazursky, a five-time Oscar nominee for memorable movies ranging from “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” to “Down and Out in Beverly Hills,” avowed that “Holocaust fatigue will never set in …just look at the fantastic museums we have.”
Mazursky pointed out that the vagaries of the movie business could scuttle a promising project at any time. For instance, after he had made the well-received “Enemies: A Love Story,” he wanted to follow up with “Shosha,” another Isaac Bashevis Singer novel.
“We had a producer, but when he died suddenly, we couldn’t find anyone else to put up the money, though I tried for 10 years,” he said.
Mazursky added, “I think, however, that future Holocaust movies will be made on low budgets and by independents, not the major studios.”
Deborah Oppenheimer, an Academy Award winner for “Into the Arms of Strangers,” a documentary on the Kindertransport of Jewish children from central Europe to England in the late 1930s, took the long-range view.
“There have always been ‘fatigues’ with different movie genres, such as science fiction or Westerns, but they come back when the right story comes along,” she said.
“So I don’t believe in a permanent ‘Holocaust fatigue’,” said Oppenheimer, now an NBC international television executive, pointing to the current French film “Sarah’s Key.”
Based on Tatiana de Rosney’s 2008 novel, the film centers on the roundup and deportation of French Jews in 1942. A spokeswoman for the Weinstein Company, which acquired the American distribution rights, said that no date has been set for theatrical release.
Susanne Bier, a Danish Jewish director whose “In a Better World” won a Golden Globe as best foreign language film and is a frontrunner in the same Oscar category, also is confident that Hollywood and European filmmakers will revive movies with Holocaust themes.
“Examining the nature of evil presents a universal challenge to writers and directors,” she said. “In that sense, the Holocaust will always be relevant.”
February 11, 2011 | 6:38 pm
Posted by Ryan Torok
[UPDATE] Egyptians, Egyptian Americans and others came together at Arcadia County Park in Arcadia on Saturday, February 12, celebrating the resignation of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak with a party that drew approximately 150 people.
Los Angeles-based organization Society of Egyptian Americans (SEA) organized the event, held two days following Mubarak’s departure.
“Looking at the spirit of those young people in Tahrir, in Egypt, [it was] very inspiring,” said SEA president Suliman Suliman on Saturday, speaking about those in Egypt who, from January 25 until February 12, staged mass protests, demanding a democratic government in lieu of Mubarak’s 30-year dictatorial regime. Demonstrators in Egypt persevered despite violent resistance from police and supporters of Mubarak and state television reports that aimed to anti-Mubarak movement as destabilizing for the region.
Mirvat El Jazaz, a store manager at vintage clothing chain Out of the Closet, attended on Saturday, and led nationalistic Egypt chants over upbeat Arabic music playing from speakers near rows of picnic tables decorated with Egyptian flags. In an interview, she expressed sadness about the hundreds who died in Egypt during the demonstrations there.
“It broke my heart,” she said.
Many who attended the party on Saturday had participated in rallies the previous two weekends around Los Angeles, at the Federal Building and outside the Egyptian consulate, in solidarity with the protests in Egypt, including Amr Elshennawy, a 24-year old software engineer who was born in Los Angeles, grew up in Cairo and returned to California two years ago. On Saturday, Elshennawy walked around the park, his face beaming, with an Egyptian flag wrapped around him like a cape.
“I felt great,” said Elshennawy, describing the experience of watching the news about Mubarak’s resignation. “He finally had to listen to the people and step down…and that’s the first step…towards freedom” for the Egyptian people.
People of all ages turned out on Saturday, and as the hot weather cooled around 4 p.m., approximately fifty men went to a grassy area, formed two rows and prayed, while many women, most of them with their heads covered, sat at the picnic tables around plates as Arabic food and chatted, and the sound of the children playing a few feet away on moon bounces filled the air.
Rachel Tice, who works in film, was at the party, and, like many others, participated in the recent rallies in Los Angeles.
“When I woke up on Friday morning and read the news, I was extremely elated and very happy for the Egyptian people and just very excited for the human race as a whole,” said Tice, who heard about Saturday’s party and the rallies on a Facebook page that SEA had created. “It’s an inspiration for us all.” [UPDATE]
On Friday, February 11, Hassan Zeenni delivered a sermon about Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation, which had been announced in Egypt a few hours earlier, at the Islamic Center of Southern California, a religious, educational and recreational organization near Korea Town in Los Angeles.
“It is a day of celebration,” said Zeenni, a board member at ICSC.
Hundreds of thousands of people in Egypt have protested against Mubarak’s regime for the past seventeen days. Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman announced Mubarak’s resignation on Friday, ending Mubarak’s 30-year-long presidency.
Zeenni, whose speech was publicized on the ICSC website under a post entitled, “Congratulating the Egyptians for their Liberation,” said that people need to continue to be engaged with Middle East issues and to support the “voiceless.”
Egyptians and Egyptian Americans, including Hesham Morsy, a graphics designer in Los Angeles, were in attendance at ICSC on Friday.
Morsy, who wore an Egyptian athletic jersey, had chanted and expressed his support for anti-Mubarak Egyptians during recent rallies in Los Angeles, and has been in contact with his family in Egypt during the different stages of the revolt there. He called Mubarak’s decision to leave a “victory” for Egyptians and Egyptian Americans.
Nora Idris, a 24-year-old graduate student, whose mother was born in Cairo, was also ecstatic about Mubarak’s departure, saying she is “really happy and excited that he’s finally stepping down.”
Watch below for more interviews with Egyptians and Egyptian Americans at the Islamic Center of Southern California on February 11.
February 11, 2011 | 9:21 am
Posted by Rob Eshman
CNN just announced that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has resigned. A supreme council of the Egyptian army will run the country. It’s unclear what role Mubarak’s annointed succesor, Omar Suleiman, will play in the new leadership.
CNN and al-Jazeera report that the throngs of protesters angered by Mubarak’s stubborn refusal to resign on Thursday have turned jubilant. But they still want Suleiman out as well.
So, now what?
Last night at the Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture at UCLA, author and Middle East commentator Leon Wieseltier chastised the Obama administration for not getting out front of the protest and embracing the transition to democracy. But others in the audience, among them some long time Egypt experts, cautioned that the road to democracy will be challenging.
“You’ll get a few days of chaos and another strong man,” said one man who has spent time in Egypt, and has met with regime officials on numerous occasions.
The big obstacles to democracy in Egypt, he pointed out, are that there is no middle class, and the majority of people are still religious Muslims. That isn’t true in Tunisia or Turkey, he said. Mubarak has long crushed liberal opposition and civil society that might step in and form an effective counterweight to the well-organized Muslim Bortherhood.
“Politics is all about organization,” my source said. “Who can get people to the polls.” In that sense, my source said the fact that a recent poll done by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy reported that the Muslim Brotherhood would only gain a fraction of the popular vote in an election held today doesn’t mean much.
That said, the Egyptian military, which receives its funding from the United States, is open to U.S. influence, and a smart policy that maintains security while establishing a transition to a broader civil society could work. One key will be for the U.S. to be firm in its resolve to see democracy through, rather than settle for the next strongman. The Egyptian people have spoken. Mubarak finally heard them. Now we must.
I know this sounds like naivete to some people, but I call it enlightened pragmatism. I’m not naive that Israel now faces great dangers with the fall of Mubarak, and democracy is not fairy dust. But I’m not convinced that what’s happening in Egypt is AUTOMATICALLY bad. The fact that autocracy came crumbling down makes clear that even if autocratic secular regimes are"good” they are not sustainable. You could argue that keeping every Palestinian in hobbles and ball gags would be good for the Jews too, in the sense that they’d shut up and let Israel do what Israel wants, but it’s not sustainable. I’m not arguing what’s right, I’m arguing, in all my naivete, what’s pragmatic. The transition to democracy in Egypt is a long shot, but we tried bucking up a kleptocratic dictatorship and clearly that’s not gonna work in the long run. Never does. At UCLA last night, Wieseltier put it beautifully: Israel cannot rely for its security on autocratic Arab regimes and the suppression of Palestinian nationalism—neither one will last forever. So even though the current situation is dangerous, we have no choice but to climb on the wagon and help as best we can to steer it into the barn. (Yes, I know that sounded like Dan Rather. Sorry.)