Posted by JewishJournal.com
Professor Ruth Gavison was recently awarded the Israel Prize in Legal Research for 2011. Gavison, 66, is a law professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Senior Fellow Emeritus at the Israel Democracy Institute. In 1997, she was awarded the Zeltner Prize for Legal Research. Listen to her podcast here.
JewishJournal.com Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman profiled Gavison last May.
You’d have to describe Ruth Gavison as feisty, because the English language has no other way to describe a fearless, brilliant, energetic gray-haired, 65-year-old woman, other than to liken her to Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Like Ginsburg, Gavison is one of her country’s preeminent legal thinkers. A law professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who’s done stints at Yale and Oxford, she was a founding member of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI). In 2005, she was nominated to serve on Israel’s Supreme Court, but her appointment was blocked for political reasons. Gavison instead turned her energy to founding Metzilah — a center for Zionist, Jewish, humanist and liberal thought.
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March 29, 2011 | 11:17 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
On Monday, Mar. 28, the Ventura County Board of Education turned down an appeal from a parents and supporters of a Hebrew language charter school, the Ventura County Star reported.
The petition for an elementary school in Ventura was first brought by a group affiliated with the Albert Einstein Academy for Letters, Arts and Sciences (AEA) to the Ventura Unified School District in Nov. 2010. The district rejected the application. Going into the vote, AEA backers had been hopeful about their chances of convincing the county board to overturn the earlier decision.
The first AEA charter school, a middle and high school in Santa Clarita, opened in Aug. 2010. It was the subject of a Jewish Journal cover story that month.
From the article in the Ventura County Star:
Trustees Ramon Flores, Rachel Ulrich and board President Mark Lisagor voted to deny the charter. Flores and Ulrich both questioned the school’s projected enrollment figures, on which its budget was based.
“I shared some concerns about diversity. I shared concerns about enrollment. I shared concerns about growth. I’m sorry but those are still very valid concerns of mine,” Flores said Monday.
The rejection by Ventura comes just weeks after the Saugus Union School District turned down an application for an AEA-run elementary Hebrew-language charter school in Santa Clarita.
Read the rest of the Ventura County Star article here.
March 29, 2011 | 6:29 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
A report of new lawsuits and an IRS investigation is dragging the Kabbalah Learning Center back into the spotlight. According to reports on the Internet:
Courtenay Geddes, a wealthy heiress from Pasadena, California, has sued the Kabbalah Centre of Los Angeles and all of its entities alleging a major swindle. Geddes’s suit — for $20 million– was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in February 2011. The news of the lawsuit comes on top of headlines concerning Kabbalah’s Raising Malawi charity reneging on a promise to build a girls academy in Malawi with pop star Madonna. As I reported exclusively yesterday, the Kabbalah Centre and Madonna have now hired a top spin doctor, Mark Fabiani, to protect the image of the singer and the organization.
Geddes didn’t name Madonna as a defendant in her suit, but she named everyone else from the Berg family to John Larkin of Larkin Business Management. Larkin is the accountant for Kabbalah. (His firm was sued in 2009 by the Black Eyed Peas for failing to file a decade’s worth of tax returns.)
From it inception Kabbalah Learning Center has been a frequent target of lawsuits, rumors, publicity good and bad, and controversy. In 1997, in fact, I wrote the longest investigative piece ever on the KLC up until then (and for years after). It was, entitled, appropriately, “Center of Controversy” (posted below).
Many years later, after Prof. Jody Myers published a seminal work on the KLC, I revisited, and came up with a slighty different take. That you can read here. That piece was entitled, “Maybe It’s Not So Weird.”
Center of Controversy
L.A.‘s Kabbalah Learning Center seems to attract many searching Jews, but criticism of it is widespread
The Jewish Journal/February 14, 1997
By Robert Eshman
Mike Gold* had a successful small business, a nice home, a wife and two kids when he began to wonder about his soul. Questions about life’s meaning, about God and spirituality and his Jewish heritage would not go away. “I started studying Judaism by myself, and I realized,” he said, “I didn’t know anything.”
That’s when Gold cracked opened a book he had purchased months earlier. Some young men had approached him at his business and convinced him to buy it. They were from the Kabbalah Learning Center.
Read more here.
March 29, 2011 | 11:57 am
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Now that Facebook has removed the page calling for a “Third Palestinian Intifada,” Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon will have one fewer subject to grill Mark Zuckerberg on.
Ayalon arrived in Los Angeles on Sunday for an extended visit to the Western United States. He is set to meet the Facebook CEO later this week.
“I don’t think that Facebook should be involved in political conflicts,” Ayalon told the Jewish Journal yesterday, before the controversial page was taken down.
Ayalon called the page an instance of “incitement,” echoing a term used by the Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman and Israel’s Minister of Information and the Diaspora Yuli Edelstein. Foxman and Edelstein were only the most prominent voices in a chorus calling for the page to be removed.
The page was removed today, Haaretz reported, without comment from Facebook.
Since social media outlets are often the venue where political organizing begins, Ayalon took pains to distinguish between a page calling for a Palestinian Intifada against Israel and the calls for individuals to protest against corrupt or repressive regimes. In Egypt, the movement that eventually toppled the regime of Hosni Mubarak originated on Facebook.
“It’s not something which is genuine or spontaneous,” Ayalon said, speaking about the Third Palestinian Intifada Facebook page, “which it is when it comes to civil rights, or human rights, or denial of political rights, as you see in Syria, or Libya, or Egypt.
“It is something that is a national conflict—or even more than a national conflict—so this should be dealt with differently.”
March 27, 2011 | 10:26 pm
Posted by Tom Tugend
Marek Halter, the noted French Jewish writer, painter and political activist, will speak Monday evening, March 28, at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles,
He will deliver the annual Interfaith Lecture on “Monotheism: The Four Thousand Year Fight Against Idols” at 6:30 p.m. at the University Hall’s McIntosh Room, under the auspices of the LMU Jewish Studies Program.
A few days earlier, Halter was the guest of honor at an intimate luncheon at the home of French Consul General David Martinon, co-hosted by the consulate’s cultural attaché, Jean-Christophe Harel and press attaché Stephanie Rainin.
Guests included representatives of the Shoah Foundation, American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, Jewish Journal, and the French daily Le Monde.
Halter was born in 1936 in Warsaw and with his parents escaped after the Nazi invasion from the Warsaw ghetto and spent the war years in the Soviet Union.
An impressive figure, with a leonine head, Halter is the author of some 10 novels, many on biblical themes and figures, as well as a study on Christian rescuers during the Holocaust. His latest work is “The Jewish Odyssey: An Illustrated History.”
March 21, 2011 | 6:00 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
Who is Danny Danon?
He’s the Israeli Knesset Member who escorted Sarah Palin around Israel on her recent visit.
Danon, like Palin, is young, right-wing, very approachable and charismatic. Yes, they make a lovely couple. Ideologically, he represents a secular, hard line stance toward the Palestinians. No compromise on settlement building. No reason to push the peace process.
In many ways, Danon follows the well-charted waters of previous Likud stalwarts. Stake out a position to the right of every ruling party, including your own. Ride that ideological purity into power then, once face to face with the Americans, start compromising. Begin, Sharon, Olmert, Netanyahu—they’ve all been there.
But for now, fresh, 40 year-old Danon looks like the future. Maybe that’s why Palin chose him as her guide.
I had breakfast with Danon on his visit to Los Angeles last April. Here’s what I wrote:
If you want to know what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thinks about the peace process, don’t watch what he does, listen to what Danny Danon says.
Danon is a whippersnapper member of Knesset from the Likud party. In 2006, he opposed then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s disengagement from Gaza. For the past year, he’s been attacking Netanyahu for suspending new settlement construction per the United States’ demands. When the Obama administration chastised Netanyahu last March for announcing new building in East Jerusalem, it was Danon who snapped back, saying U.S. pressure on Israel hurts Israel and hurts peace. If you saw the movie “Youth in Revolt” with Michael Cera (and you should, it’s a very good movie with a very bad trailer), Danon is like Cera’s belligerent alter ego, egging him on, toughening him up. In other words, Danny Danon is Bibi Netanyahu, 20 years ago.
I met Danon in the lobby of the Beverly Hilton Hotel in late March, after he’d spent a few days speaking around Southern California. He is a native Israeli of North African heritage, dark-featured, and was decked out in a well-cut suit and power tie — not your father’s shirt-sleeve Israeli pol. At 39, he is chairman of the World Likud and Deputy Speaker of the Knesset. People said that if I wanted to meet the future of Israel, I had to meet Danny Danon.
Danon believes with every fiber of his being that the two-state solution is dead, the one-state solution is a “liberal scare tactic,” and Israel must never give up the territories it captured in the Six-Day War.
This was a founding principle of Likud and its Revisionist ideological forbears: that Israel has a right to the entire biblical land of Israel. It’s a point of view that runs counter to every international peace-making effort in the Middle East since 1967, all dedicated to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It’s also run up against the widely accepted belief that if Israel maintains control of the territories and the millions of Palestinians who live in them, demographic realities will force Israel to become either a nondemocratic, majority Arab nation, or lose its raison d’être as a Jewish state.
“We cannot ignore the long-term population trends that result from the Israeli occupation,” Secretary of State Hilary Clinton told thousands of AIPAC attendees in Washington, D.C., earlier this month. “As Defense Minister [Ehud] Barak and others have observed, the inexorable mathematics of demography are hastening the hour at which Israelis may have to choose between preserving their democracy and staying true to the dream of a Jewish homeland. Given this reality, a two-state solution is the only viable path for Israel to remain both a democracy and a Jewish state.”
So, the obvious question I had for Danon was this: “If you don’t want a two-state solution, what’s your solution?”
“There is no short-term solution,” Danon said. “It’s a long-term vision that I have, that there be a regional agreement with Jordan, and with Gaza and Egypt. ... Gaza would be connected to Egypt, and Palestinian territories connected into Jordan, confederated into Jordan. That is the long-term vision, which requires some compromise from Israel, Jordan, Egypt, and international support.”
Danon is aware that the idea isn’t new, and that the Palestinians and the Arab states have categorically rejected it.
But he is confident that Israel can maintain the status quo long enough for the equations to change. More Arab states might turn toward Israel, squeezing the Palestinians. More Palestinians might actually emigrate. Some conditions might worsen, Danon explained, but others may improve. Better to wait out an unpleasant conflict than rush into a flawed peace.
Other politically active Likudniks in Danon’s generation have offered me the same analysis: Israel is economically and militarily strong, the Palestinians are politically divided. The status quo, which is the bogeyman of centrists, is actually Israel’s friend.
I told Danon it seemed Netanyahu believes this as well — otherwise why risk such a confrontation with the United States?
“I agree,” Danon said. “Today I think Netanyahu realizes we have no one who actually represents the Palestinian who’s willing to cut a deal.
“People say, ‘The clock is ticking, you have to do something.’ No, I think the opposite. We should not do anything in a rush.”
If Danon is correct — that Netanyahu believes as he does — it means the prime minister and his government are merely paying lip service to their agreements with the United States over the peace process, and that the building in East Jerusalem that provoked the United States’ ire was a pure expression of Netanyahu’s true desires to expand settlements, though clumsily executed.
“It was really just a question of how, not whether,” said Danon. “It was just a question of why make it so public, and why make the announcement while the vice president was standing there.”
Netanyahu definitely “wants to continue” building settlements, Danon said. The settlement freeze Netanyahu promised the Obama administration ends on Sept. 30. Danon has been relentless in publicly pressuring Netanyahu to start building after that. Want to see whether Danon moves up a few rungs on the political ladder? Mark your calendars for Oct. 1.
Of course, previous Likud stalwarts like Sharon, Ehud Olmert and even Netanyahu, in his first time around, made or offered substantial concessions once they became prime minister. But not when they were young and on the rise — then their fires burned hot and their ideology was pure. If Netanyahu bends, Danny Danon is waiting in the wings to take over, and keep the status quo alive.
March 21, 2011 | 1:30 pm
Posted by Lauren Bottner, Hollywood Jew contributor
Be it Madonna or Esther, as she is known in her Kabbalah circles, Saturday night she answered only to Charlie Chaplin.
Madonna celebrated Purim in New York City on March 19th in drag as Charlie Chaplin (TMZ has the photo). Tipping her hat to the classic movie star, she donned a black mustache for the annual Jewish festival. Whether she heard the mandatory Megillah reading while waving her groggor is up for debate, but I’m guessing the commandment to be joyously drunk wasn’t a problem and Madonna never has an issue with costumes.
In previous years, she’s shown up in army gear, what looked like her daughter’s school uniform, and the controversial nun’s habit accompanied by Guy Ritchie as the Pope.
March 18, 2011 | 11:16 am
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
On Thursday, Mar. 17, about 300 people gathered at Bnai David-Judea on Pico for a service to remember the Fogels, the five members of a single family brutally killed in the West Bank settlement of Itamar just six days earlier.
A place to mourn, a chance to feel supported and comforted by one’s community and a place to pray: Those were the three needs that Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky of Bnai David-Judea said the ceremony was intended to fulfill.
By and large, that’s how it went. “This week, we are all part of one giant shiva,” StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein told the crowd of mourners. Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, clearly had the support of the crowd. His speech provoked three separate rounds of applause, the only clapping heard on an otherwise somber evening. And the ceremony itself was bookended by the day’s afternoon and evening prayer services.
There was a bit of first-hand remembrance, too. Like many of the speakers, Shlomo Mirvis, the Israeli emissary to Los Angeles of the Bnei Akiva religious Zionist youth movement, intoned the names of all five members of the Fogel family—Udi, Ruth, Yoav, Elad, Hadas. But Mirvis, who was the driving force behind the ceremony, paid special attention to Udi Fogel, the father of the family.
Mirvis knew Udi Fogel personally; they had attended the same pre-army preparatory program.
“People definitely appreciated him,” Mirvis said after the event. In his speech, he described Udi Fogel as quiet, and entirely dedicated to Israel and to his family. Fogel, Mirvis said, was also a committed educator. Just hours before he was killed with three of his six children, Udi Fogel’s house was filled with young Bnei Akiva members, celebrating Shabbat. “He loved working with young kids,” Mirvis said. “He was a very devoted to education.”
Many parents brought their children at the synagogue on Thursday evening, even if it was hard to explain the grim reason for their being there. “They cannot even comprehend the story,” Gal Ben-Naim said of his sons. He held Ari, 3, in his arms, and tried to keep Yonatan, 11, and David, 8, to stop horsing around in the entryway.
The older Ben-Naim boys steered well clear of the five easels, each of which displayed a large-format photo of a member of the Fogel family.
“David asked me, ‘How come these kids are smiling and we’re here? These kids are smiling and we’re mourning,’” Ben-Naim said. “He cannot comprehend that these kids are gone.”
“I told them, ‘Something horrible and horrifying happened to a family in Israel.’”