Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
The third student charged in connection with the anti-Semitic and racist graffiti found at Calabasas High School in April appeared in juvenile court in Sylmar on Thursday, June 30, according to Calabasas Patch.
Like the two students who appeared in the same courtroom last week, the third student denied the petition, which is the equivalent of an adult’s pleading not guilty to a charge. This is typical in juvenile cases.
Because they are minors, the students’ identities are being kept confidential. All three students are set to reappear in court on September 8, Patch reported.
Read more at Patch.
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June 29, 2011 | 1:24 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
A new issue of “Foreskin Man,” the anti-circumcision comic book whose treatment of a Jewish ritual circumciser was widely critiqued as anti-Semitic, hit the web on June 29. It introduces Vulva Girl, a female counterpart to the comic book’s blonde, buff, eponymous hero.
Like the first two issues, Foreskin Man No. 3 was written and edited by Matthew Hess, the president of MGMBill.org, a San Diego-based group. Hess wrote the San Francisco ballot proposition which seeks to ban circumcision of boys under 18 in any situation other than a medical emergency. He also drafted a similar proposition that was advanced and later rescinded in Santa Monica.
Foreskin Man No.2 featured an evil Jewish ritual circumciser as its villain—Monster Mohel—and provoked strong condemnations from Jewish organizations, who saw its imagery as anti-Semitic. The Anti-Defamation League called the comic’s depiction of Jewish ritual circumcision, a central rite of Jewish practice that can be traced back to the first book of the Hebrew Bible, “disrespectful and deeply offensive.”
In the latest installment, Foreskin Man heads off to Kenya to battle Githinji, a “ruthless circumciser” of boys, and his wife, Ghinjo, who “has mutilated thousands of girls.” Foreskin Man is saved by Vulva Girl, another flying superhero dedicated to stopping the cutting of genitalia. The two team up to defeat the African circumcising couple.
Equating the surgeries performed on boys and girls is the comic book’s goal, Hess said in a statement released today announcing the publication of Foreskin Man No. 3.
“I think everyone has met at least one person who believes that circumcising girls should be a crime, but circumcising boys is okay,” Hess said in the statement. “The idea behind Foreskin Man #3 is to expose that double standard and help persuade readers that male and female circumcision are really two sides of the same coin.”
Female genital cutting has been illegal in the United States since 1996.
Even among intactivists, as the opponents of circumcision are called, Foreskin Man No. 2 ruffled a number of feathers. Many intactivists—particularly Jewish ones—attempted to distance themselves from the comic’s perceived anti-Semitic imagery.
Hess isn’t backing down, though. “They hate us because we’re blond,” read the trailer for Foreskin Man No. 3, which was released on June 25.“But there’s one thing they can’t stop,” the trailer’s text concluded, before announcing the imminent return of Foreskin Man.
“His new comic does nothing to address the bigotry that’s rife in his previous efforts,” Nancy Appel, associate director of the Anti-Defamation League’s central Pacific region, said of Hess’s latest.
“In addition,” Appel continued, “it’s of course factually inaccurate to compare male circumcision to female genital mutilation, and Hess’s equation of the two is deeply offensive to all Jews, Muslims and other parents who choose to circumcise their male children.”
Hess’s initiative qualified for inclusion on the San Francisco ballot last month, but opponents of the ballot initiative—lawyers and legislators, not caped crusaders—are fighting to prevent it from being put to a vote this November.
On June 15, a group of plaintiffs filed a lawsuit claiming that the ballot proposition seeking to ban circumcision in San Francisco goes against California State Law. And on June 24, Rep. Brad Sherman filed a bill in the House of Representatives that would prevent any state or local government from enacting or enforcing any law prohibiting or regulating circumcision of a minor whose parent or guardian has consented to the procedure. Sherman’s bill was co-sponsored by Reps. Keith Ellison, Henry Waxman, Jerrold Nadler, Howard Berman, Eliot Engel, Sander Levin, Andre Carson, Steve Israel, and Gary Ackerman.
June 28, 2011 | 11:33 am
Posted by Ryan Torok
The United States District Court has rescheduled the trial date for 60-year-old Ron Hirsch aka Israel Fischer, who was arrested in April. He has been linked to a deliberate explosion outside a Chabad in Santa Monica.
The trial, originally set for June 28, has been pushed to August 30.
The United States District Court for the Central District of California granted a continuance of the trial, to “allow time for a mental competency examination of the defendant, already jointly requested by the parties ... allow time for defendant to review and evaluate discovery in this case, and ... allow time for defendant to consider and, if necessary, obtain and prepare expert witnesses for trial in this case,” according to a court document that was filed on June 6.
Hirsch has been charged with detonating a 250-pound pipe bomb that exploded outside the Chabad at 1428 17th Street in Santa Monica. The explosion resulted in minor damage to the synagogue and sent the pipe and concrete flying into the roof of an adjacent house. There were no deaths or injuries from the explosion, which occurred on April 7.
Hirsch was linked to the explosion by a mailing label on a box of demolition agent, found near the scene of the explosion, and federal investigators also found empty dry-ice bags, plumbing tape, pieces of rebar, bags of cement and a pipe wrench, according to an FBI affidavit dated April 12.
On May 23, Hirsch pleaded not guilty to the four felony charges, which include use of an explosive device to damage property, use of an explosive to commit a federal felony, use of a destructive device during a crime of violence and possession of an unregistered destructive device.
If convicted of the four charges, Hirsch could face up to 70 years in federal prison.
Hirsch was arrested in Cleveland on April 12. In the days following the blast, he fled Los Angeles by bus and sought shelter in a synagogue in Cleveland, where he was recognized because of a photo of him that had circulated in news reports. After being taken into custody in Cleveland, he was extradited back to Los Angeles. He has held in federal custody without bond since.
Hirsch is Jewish, according to rabbis at the Chabad in Santa Monica, and had been to the synagogue in the past—before the blast on April 7 – seeking handouts.
June 28, 2011 | 8:12 am
Posted by Susan Freudenheim
Any headline on Madoff turns up the heat—there’s no forgiving some sins.
However there can be some satisfaction in knowing that the man got the maximum sentence for his crimes.
The New York Times interviews Judge Denny Chin, who sentence the Ponzi king to 150 years, rather than the 12 his lawyers were requesting, in a fascinating story of how it all came down.
June 27, 2011 | 4:12 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
The fight over San Francisco’s ballot measure seeking to ban circumcision for male minors in that city is getting a little weird.
On one side, you’ve got a small group of religious Jews using Facebook to invite people to San Francisco’s Union Square on November 9. In the event that the ballot measure passes, the organizers plan to hold a public bris, or Jewish ritual circumcision, as a form of protest. The organizers haven’t yet identified a baby.
On the other side is an anonymous, dedicated publicist of all things opposed to circumcision. Despite repeated requests, this individual won’t reveal his or her name to anyone—not even to the very intactivists whose work he (or she) publicizes.
To be sure, individuals and organizations on both sides of this debate have been pushing their agendas in all kinds of ways ever since San Francisco announced last month that the measure—- which would ban circumcision of any male under the age of 18 for any reason other than a medical emergency—had qualified for the November 2011 ballot.
Opponents of the ban have talked about introducing legislation in the California State Assembly and the House of Representatives, and last week a group of plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in the hopes of keeping the measure off the November ballot entirely.
On the intactivist, side, the Bay Area Intactivists participated in yesterday’s Gay Pride Parade in San Francisco to promote their cause, according to a Facebook page. And who can forget “Foreskin Man,” the comic book by intactivist Matthew Hess, which was roundly critiqued as anti-Semitic?
Even so, Heshy Rosenwasser thinks his idea of what to do if the ballot measure passes—hold a public ritual circumcision of the first Jewish baby boy born in or around San Francisco on or after Nov. 2—breaks new ground.
“I’m not familiar with any case in which a bris was held as a protest,” Rosenwasser said. “I think this may be the first time that would be done.”
“Obviously, I’m hoping that it doesn’t come to that,” Rosenwasser said, noting that the announcement of the event (which can also be found on his blog) said that legal campaign tactics to defeat the ballot measure—letter-writing, lobbying, petitioning, rallying, and voting—were preferable to his proposal for ritual civil disobedience.
Rosenwasser, 45, is a musician and father of two girls. He lived in Los Angeles until last month, when he moved back to Brooklyn, N.Y. Together with another Brooklynite, who goes by Yitz Ritz, Rosenwasser sent out a Facebook invitation (see photo) to more than 1,000 people. The page quickly became the site of intense criticism of the practice by intactivists, which is of central religious importance to Muslims as well as Jews.
The Facebook invite has since been made private, and as of this afternoon, 103 people were listed as attending.
If Rosenwasser and Ritz propose taking an event that is usually private and making it public in the form of protest, Networker2011 takes the act of public relations—which is almost always done by an identifiable person with a name and a phone number—and attempts to do it anonymously.
Networker2011 first emailed members of the Jewish Journal editorial staff on May 31 with a story suggestion about American Jews opposing circumcision. This nameless PR agent later followed up with names, emails and phone numbers for eight “outspoken” Jews against circumcision.
Included on the list was Rebecca Wald, creator of the blog “Beyond the Bris.”
“This person—I believe it is a man—is sending out press releases on my behalf,” Wald said of Networker2011. Wald said she asked “on more than one occasion” about Networker2011’s identity, but to no avail.
“He is a devoted follower of Beyond the Bris,” Wald said, “and for whatever reason, he wants to remain anonymous—- even to me.”
June 27, 2011 | 2:26 pm
Posted Rachel Davidson
Jewlicious brought its inaugural Jewnfest to The Mint, June 14 & 15, featuring two days of Jewish folk and funk in West L.A. It was no full house on Wednesday, the second night of the fest, but every other seat was filled with exuberant, hand-clapping, head-bobbing fans. Despite the dim lighting and vibrant poster art, as well as the dank smell of beer, a campfire mood prevailed.
Jewnfest kicked off Tuesday night with folk-rock revival artists: Yael Mayer, Dov Rosenblatt (Blue Fringe) and his newest collaboration, The Wellspring, as well as Lauren Barth. On Wednesday, funk/jazz headliner Hyim shared the stage with Yiddish soul act Klezmer Juice and Josh Kramon.
Kramon, the opening artist, and his last-minute back-up band grabbed the audience’s attention. Chiming on his guitar, Josh Kramon, sang “Good Times,” a song that evokes a ‘90s road trip. And Josh looks the part of the ‘90s acoustic rocker — standing on stage, guitar in hand, wearing unfitted, washed-out denim jeans, a black T-shirt and wire-frame glasses. Two girls, who came for Klezmer Juice, sat at the bar gazing at Kramon, thrilled they got there early enough to hear him play.
“We are an eclectic mix,” said Rafael, a Lithuanian mathematician, describing the Jewnfest scene. Among the crowd are Jewish hipsters, draped in flannel, stomping their vintage cowboy boots to the music. A young observant Jewish man, dressed in white linen, watched Zen-fully from the back of the room wearing a white beanie with a pompom on top; his long brown payot swung to the music as he bobbed his head in harmony.
When Klezmer Juice opened with “Hava Nagila,” two men in suits, linked arms and danced the hora.
“I think I felt an earthquake,” Klezmer Juice’s Gustavo Bulgach said as he and the pianist retrieved a knocked-over keyboard.
The fans and the bands stuck around after each set to listen and dance to the next act. Two men talked among themselves as San Francisco-based Hyim and his band take the stage. “Looks like we’re in for some psychedelic trippy music,” one of them said.
Hyim held the audience’s attention with his boisterous sounds and dynamic presence. He sang into the mic as if he was talking to the crowd, pounding on his keyboard, pouring his heart out and rocking his hips to the beat. He was straight funky. After all, “We are an eclectic mix.”
June 24, 2011 | 2:00 pm
Posted by Adam Wills
Peter Falk, the Emmy-winning actor best known as television’s Lt. Columbo, has died at the age of 83.
“Falk died peacefully at his Beverly Hills home in the evening of June 23, 2011,” the family said in a statement to ABC News.
Falk appeared for more than 40 years as the rumpled, seemingly bumbling detective, who was known for the catchphrase: “just one more thing.” “Columbo” ran from 1971 to 1978, and then as made-for-TV movies from 1989 until 2003. Falk won four Emmys for the role, which he first played in the 1968 television film “Prescription: Murder.”
“He looks like a flood victim,” Falk once said of the character, who wore a trademark raincoat and chomped a cigar. “You feel sorry for him. He appears to be seeing nothing, but he’s seeing everything. Underneath his dishevelment, a good mind is at work.”
Falk was born to an Eastern European Jewish family in New York in 1927. He wore a glass eye most of his life after losing his right eye to a tumor at the age of 3.
At the close of World War II, Falk tried to sign up for the armed services but was rejected because of his eye. Following service with the U.S. Merchant Marines, he signed up to go to Israel to fight Egypt. “I just wanted more excitement …. However, the war, to everyone’s amazement, was over in the blink of an eye,” he wrote in his 2006 autobiography, “Just One More Thing.”
In 1956, Falk left his job as a management analyst to pursue a career in acting, first on stage and then in film, most notably in 1960’s “Murder, Inc,” where his turn as Abe Reles served as a breakout role for the actor. After appearing in such television shows as “New York Confidential,” “Naked City” and “Have Gun Will Travel,” Falk starred in his own television series, “The Trials of O’Brien” (1965-1966), as Shakespeare-quoting lawyer Daniel O’Brien.
A friend of John Cassavetes, Falk starred in the independent director’s films “Husbands” (1970) and “A Woman Under the Influence” (1974). He also made a cameo appearance in Cassavetes’ “Opening Night” (1977). Later in life, Falk acted in such films as “The Princess Bride” (1987), “Vibes” (1988), “Roommates” (1995) and “Shark Tale” (2004).
According to his daughter, Catherine Falk, the actor had been suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. During a 2009 conservatorship trial, it was revealed that Falk had slipped into dementia following a series of dental operations in 2007.
June 23, 2011 | 7:33 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Two of the three Calabasas High School students charged last month with defacing their school with anti-Semitic and racist graffiti in April appeared in juvenile court in Sylmar on Thursday, June 23, a spokesperson from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office told the Jewish Journal.
The attorneys for the two students denied the petition filed by the district attorney. This action, which is the equivalent of an adult’s pleading not guilty to a charge, is typical in juvenile cases.
Because they are minors, the students’ identities are being kept confidential. In the days immediately following the discovery of the graffiti, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said that all three were “4.0 students,” a fact that could prove relevant to the sentences each one could receive.
“Each kid may not get the same sentence, depending on their prior histories,” George I. Kita, a juvenile defense lawyer based in Cerritos not involved in the trial, said. Sentences could range from forced community service to confinement in a Division of Juvenile Justice facility.
In cases that involve racism or prejudice, Kita said, Judges often impose sentences that include visits to educational facilities like the Museum of Tolerance. The goal, Kita said, “is not just to hand down a punishment. It’s also to rehabilitate the child as well.”
The two students who appeared in court today are set to reappear there in September. The third student charged in connection with the graffiti is scheduled to appear for the first time in the same courtroom on June 30.