Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
New Congressional and State Assembly district maps released this week by California’s new Citizens Redistricting Commission show that the panel is considering lines that divide two neighborhoods that are home to many of Los Angeles’ Orthodox Jewish residents.
In a working draft map—called a visualization map—dated July 17 and released sometime in the last 24 hours, the commission’s line-drawers sketched out Assembly district boundaries that divide Pico-Robertson down the middle of Pico Boulevard.
On the other side of the hills, a visualization map of Los Angeles Congressional districts dated July 18 would split another neighborhood with many Orthodox Jewish residents, Valley Village, into two districts, by drawing a line down the middle of Colfax Avenue.
Unlike many Jewish leaders who have chosen not to lobby the commission, representatives of the Orthodox community have made attempts to urge the commission to recognize theirs as a “community of interest.” Specifically, Orthodox Jews have asked the commission to unite three neighborhoods—Pico-Robertson/Beverlywood, Hancock Park and the area around the intersection of Beverly and Fairfax—into single Congressional, State Assembly and Senate Districts.
The current boundaries, drawn in 2001 based on data gathered in the previous year’s census, have for the last 10 years kept these three neighborhoods in separate political tracts, at all levels of government. The new lines, which are being revised frequently and with little warning, leave that fragmentation of the Orthodox community in place.
“For decades, our community has been used as a buffer or point of exchange between two districts,” Dr. Irving Lebovics, chairman of the Orthodox Agudath Israel of California, wrote in an email to the commission on July 14. “This has affected our ability to get support for our social service programs and other needs that are unique to or community.
“We respectfully ask that you keep our communities together so we can make sure our voice is heard too,” Lebovics wrote.
Lebovics is one of a core group of four Orthodox community leaders who have been monitoring the work of the commission. Their task has been made more difficult by the commission’s decision earlier this month to scrap a vote on its second draft and release the maps as visualization maps instead. That decision brought with it a degree of uncertainty that led Orthodox community leaders to wait before weighing in.
“The reason why we didn’t do this up until now is because it’s been such a moving target,” Rabbi Meyer H. May, executive director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance said of the maps released by the commission. “As we see the results of their efforts, we’re even more unhappy with what’s being discussed.”
May noted that the proposed line down the center of Pico Boulevard would divide the Wiesenthal Center’s two properties into two separate assembly districts, but his main concern was how the commission appeared to be fragmenting the Orthodox community, thereby diminishing its political voice.
“It’s just an irresponsible way of dividing the Jewish community,” May said. “There’s so many different calculuses [the commission] could use but obviously the Jewish community is not a high priority and its concerns are not a high priority for them.”
May said he was composing a letter to the commission expressing his dismay at the current lines, and Lebovics said that May wouldn’t be the only one whose voice the commission would hear in the coming days. “What we’re going to be doing in the next day or so,” Lebovics said on July 20, “is try to get an email campaign from people in the Pico-Robertson area and Beverlywood to write in and say ‘You’ve split us in half and that’s really not a good thing.’”
Their efforts might come too late. According to Douglas Johnson, president of National Demographics Corp., July 20 was the last day for the commissioners to offer directions to the line-drawers that would significantly change the boundaries of the proposed lines.
The Orthodox leaders are focusing their attention on the proposed Assembly district lines, but other political divisions of Jewish communities look likely.
In Valley Village, another area with a large Orthodox Jewish population, neighborhood groups are protesting the political lines that could divide Valley Village between two Congressional Districts.
Speaking to Patch North Hollywood, Tony Braswell, president of Neighborhood Council Valley Village (NCVV), said his group was alarmed at the proposed division of Valley Village between two congressional districts.
“On behalf of our 25,000 stakeholders we have appealed to the Citizens Redistricting Commission to adhere to their stated criteria that ‘Districts must respect the boundaries of cities, counties, neighborhood and communities of interest and minimize their division…’” Braswell told Patch. “Redrawing the southern Valley Village boundary to follow [t]he 170 freeway adheres to this criteria and keeps Valley Village in one congressional district.”
If the visualization drawings hold, Valley Village would be split into two Congressional districts, one of which will, for the first time, have a Latino majority. The other proposed district, which includes large sections of the West San Fernando Valley, has a voter base that is mostly white.
As reported in The Journal, two Jewish Democratic Congressmen, Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman, have both said they intend to run for reelection in that West San Fernando Valley district.
Andrew Lachman, a member of the Democratic National Committee who is active in neighborhood and Jewish community organizations, has been following the redistricting process very closely. This is, in part, because he is a declared candidate for State Assembly and does not yet know the boundaries of the district he’ll try to run in. (Those boundaries could also determine who his opponents will be.)
But Lachman, who hasbeen working with Lebovics and May, said he worries that the provisional lines being considered by the commission could diminish the degree to which Jewish community members have their needs addressed.
“As someone who works a lot with the Jewish community, I want to make sure the Jewish community continues to have a voice, and that that voice doesn’t get diluted,” Lachman said.
Final lines are expected to be unveiled on July 28, and could be voted on that day. They must be approved by a supermajority of the commissioners by Aug. 15.
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July 18, 2011 | 11:36 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Using a model that will be instantly recognizable to anyone who’s seen Annie Leonard’s Story of Stuff videos about environmental depredation or one of those UPS Whiteboard ads, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon appears alongside sketchbook animation in a video that asserts that:
(1) Israel’s settlements are in no way illegal,
(2) Israel’s presence in the West Bank is not an occupation but merely settlement activity taking place in “disputed territory,” and
(3) the mere act of referring to “1967 Borders,” as President Barack Obama did in his speech at the State Department in May, is “politically incorrect.”
With Ayalon’s former chief of staff David Segal set to take over Israel’s consulate in Los Angeles in August, the Deputy Foreign Minister takes to the interwebs in this StandWithUs-produced video. Is Ayalon preaching to the already converted? Or could this video help change minds? See for yourself:
July 14, 2011 | 12:20 pm
Posted by JewishJournal.com
An edited version of Kletzky’s confession can be found here. (Warning: Disturbing content)
The man accused of abducting and murdering 8-year-old Leibby Kletzky is expected to be arraigned on murder charges today, NBC New York reports.
Levi Aron was arrested on Wednesday and charged with second-degree murder. He is accused of snatching Leibby Kletzky off the street and taking him to his home, where police say he suffocated and dismembered him.
“I understand this may be wrong and I’m sorry for the hurt that I have caused,” Aron wrote in a confession exclusively obtained by NBC New York.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said ahead of the arraignment today that Aron has shown “no remorse,” at times giggling when speaking with investigators.
Video courtesy of New York Post.
July 13, 2011 | 12:45 am
Posted by Ryan Torok
Celebrating its 80th anniversary, Canter’s Deli sold 80-cent corned beef sandwiches on Tuesday, July 12, along with side of potato salad, rugelah, and a pickle. The restaurant was filled with people who had been going to the deli for decades—some up to 50 years, and around 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, every table and booth in the deli was taken, with people lining up outside on the sidewalk of Fairfax Avenue, enjoying the festivities.
Terri Bloomgarden and Alan Canter currently co-own the deli. Bloomgarden’s grandparents– Ben and Jennie Canter – opened up Canter’s Deli in 1931 in Boyle Heights. In 1948, Bloomgarden’s parents opened up another Canter’s location on 439 Fairfax Avenue (in the seventies, the Boyle Heights location closed), and in 1953, the deli moved into a bigger property, the property where the Esquire Theatre used to be, at 419 Fairfax Avenue, and it has been there since—always family-owned and operated.
July 8, 2011 | 12:28 pm
Posted by JewishJournal.com
Hundreds of vehicles around you, the incessant sound of car horns filling the air, and that overwhelming feeling that maybe you shouldn’t have left the house this morning…
Confused? You’re probably in the thick of…
And if you are still in complete and utter shock, here are 10 signs that may help bring you back to reality:
10.Your mother begs you to stop calling.
9. It feels like Obama’s in town again.
8. You’ve realized how many parents of honors students there are in West L.A.
7. You start to think Harold Camping was just a few months off.
6. The same red-light camera catches you 5 consecutive times.
5. Dominos officially changes their 30-minute policy to 3,000 minutes or less.
4. You start to think that the wording of “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear” is, like, really smart.
3. Que has ganado el aprecio por la radio española.(Translation)
2. You’ve finally fulfilled your dream of standing up in your sunroof with your shirt off and yelling, “I AM QUEENS BLVD.”
1. You call 911 and the dispatcher asks, “How broken is your leg?”
• You left the house for work on Friday morning with Shabbat and Havdalah candles—just in case.
• Glenn Beck is starting to make a lot of sense.
• You hear on the news that Disney failed to trademark “Carmageddon.”
July 5, 2011 | 6:53 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Gordon Haber says he’s tired of the intactivists’ “bullsh*t.”
For those of you not following the ongoing debate over circumcision, intactivists are anti-circumcision activists. They often talk about being in favor of “genital integrity” or describe themselves as human rights activists, and some have been agitating for legislation outlawing male circumcision for decades.
In May, San Francisco announced that a measure aiming to ban the procedure in the city for all boys under 18 for any reason other than a medical emergency had qualified for the November 2011 ballot—which turned what had been an uncomfortable (but mostly private) conversation into a very public fight over foreskins.
This fight has taken root in the Jewish community, and more than a few writers from the tribe have weighed in with their takes. (Last week’s contributions: Jay Michaelson offered a modest, carefully considered and somewhat biblical proposal to the medical/ethical/religious circumcision question in the Forward and Eli Ungar-Sargon, whose documentary “Cut” took a hard, Jewish look at circumcision, interviewed a prominent intactivist on Jewschool.)
And then there’s Haber, a writer who has published work in a number of publications, including a few Jewish ones. He recently started his own skirmish with an article for the online magazine Killing the Buddha. Not content with the media’s coverage of the discussion around circumcision, Haber, who had recently had a Jewish ritual circumcision—a bris—for his own son, decided to try to “[parse] the claims of both sides and [evaluate] the science.”
“I suppose I should have known better,” the new father writes, “but, as I mentioned, I was sleep-deprived.”
And though Haber starts off by acknowledging his ambivalence—and later unaease—about the decision to circumcise his newborn son, by the article’s end it’s clear which side he’s on. Haber grants that intactivists, though they may resemble conspiracy theorists like truthers and birthers, “are actually performing a public service by making their opponents defend a procedure that, for decades, most Americans have accepted without question.”
But that’s about all the credit he’ll give them. Consider Haber’s last two paragraphs:
What, though, are we to make of the ones attempting, through various forms of quackery, to “restore” their foreskins? Some may snigger, but I find something pitiable in the “tugging devices” and “taping methods,” which can’t be comfortable and can take years. Instead of accepting themselves as they are, these men are obsessed with how they feel they should be—to they point where some undergo “foreskin restoration surgery,” once again putting the most sensitive part of their anatomy under the knife.
But this is the fringe of the fringe. For the rest of us—the concerned expectant parents, the sleep-deprived new fathers and mothers—here, then, is my advice. Jews and Muslims should do it if they like, and everybody should use anesthetic. However, since the procedure can never be entirely painless, I wouldn’t blame any parent for leaving it out—or on. That’s why if one day my boy is blessed with a son of his own, I hope I will remember to butt out. And until they can come up with some real arguments, intactivists should do the same.
In short, Haber tells intactivists to butt out.
No surprise, then, that Haber’s piece quickly provoked responses from across the spectrum. Last week KTB published a 545-word letter from The Barefoot Intactivist, a New-York Based vocal opponent of infant circumcision (of the religious or medicalized varieties) alongside an even longer response from Haber.
But the anti-circ writer couldn’t let Haber have the last word, especially not after “one of Haber’s supporters goaded [him]” into responding. (Apparently Haber’s comment, that Barefoot Intactivist either “has some issues with reading comprehension” or is “batshit crazy” wasn’t enough to elicit a retort.)
Whatever the impetus, Barefoot Intactivist hammered out a 5,000-word response—complete with video and photographic illustrations—and posted it on what appears to be a blog created for this express purpose.
At the tail end of his long entry, Barefoot Intactivist recommends to Haber a few books “any one of [which] would have saved your son,” and notes that all of the intactivist writers—David Gollaher (historian of medicine and science), Leonard Glick (cultural anthropologist), Paul Fleiss (pediatrician), Ronald Goldman (psychologist)—are all Jews.
What Barefoot Intactivist didn’t mention is that three of the four—Glick, Fleiss and Goldman—all signed a “Message to Jewish Americans on Circumcision” last month that lamented “statements and tactics by individuals opposed to circumcision that are insensitive and even offensive to many Jews.”
The statement rejected these tactics, but did not name them. But when asked if the attempt being made in San Francisco to ban circumcision of male minors without regard for religious belief would qualify as “insensitive and even offensive to many Jews,” Goldman, the statement’s primary author, said that he and his co-signers was “intended to refer to anything and everything that is insensitive or offensive to the Jewish community.”
Goldman also said that the aim of those who signed that statement was not to ban the practice, but to educate people about what they feel are the harms of circumcision.
(Goldman also took issue with the media—“Generally speaking,” he said, “media coverage of circumcision tends to ignore one of our main points that we’re trying to get across, which is that circumcision is very harmful”—which sounds remarkably similar to the feeling that inspired Haber to start writing about the science of circumcision in the first place.)
And if even the most prominent Jewish intactivists are not supporting the effort to enact an outright ban in San Francisco, favoring education and questioning, then it would seem that the Jews Barefoot Intactivist cites would actually not find much that is objectionable in Haber’s original conclusion—even if they would almost certainly take issue with his assessment of the science and with the personal choice he made for his son.
So what is this fight about again?
Oh, right: Science. And a ballot measure that aims to institute a blanket ban on circumcision—which, for those keeping track, the San Francisco City Attorney said last week might be found unconstitutional.
A tentative court date has been set for July 28, and if the measure survives judicial scrutiny, the election will take place in November. But the scientific debate—well, that’ll probably go on for some time.
July 1, 2011 | 5:00 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
In an ironic twist, the writer of a San Francisco ballot measure that would prohibit circumcision of any boy under 18 for any reason other than a medical emergency also created the evidence that could lead to the proposition being declared unconstitutional and being thrown off of the ballot.
Matthew Hess, the president of MGMBill.org, wrote the San Francisco measure, which qualified for the November 2011 ballot in May. He also created “Foreskin Man,” a comic whose second issue featured imagery that was widely criticized as anti-Semitic.
In a legal brief filed on June 30, the San Francisco City Attorney’s office argued that an existing California statute could prevent the city from prohibiting doctors from performing circumcisions. If a judge rules that the state law prevents the city from interfering with the work of medical practitioners, the ballot measure would then apply exclusively to Jewish ritual circumcisers known as mohelim, the city attorney argued. In a news release announcing the submission of the brief, the city attorney said a ballot measure specifically targeting a religious practice would be “patently unconstitutional.”
Furthermore, the city attorney argued, the ballot measure was motivated by anti-Jewish animus, as evidenced by the depiction of Monster Mohel, the villainous Jewish ritual circumciser featured in “Foreskin Man” No. 2.
“There’s some very targeted, I guess you could call it propaganda, and that portrays religious circumcision by Jews in a very demonizing way,” Chief Deputy City Attorney Therese Stewart said.
Courts have used evidence of discriminatory animus as evidence to strike down statutes as unconstitutional.
Lloyd Schofield, the official proponent of the San Francisco ballot measure and the
“real party in interest” named in the June 22 lawsuit, has repeatedly argued that his ballot measure should not be judged on the basis of Hess’s comic book, pointing out that his group’s website, sfmgmbill.org, does not mention “Foreskin Man.” Other anti-circumcision activists have distanced themselves from Hess as a result of his controversial comic as well.
The city attorney’s brief was issued in response to a June 22 lawsuit filed by Jewish and Muslim families, doctors, and Jewish community groups attempting to get the measure struck from the ballot. That lawsuit cited a California statute that prevents cities from interfering with the work of a state-licensed “healing arts professional.”
Although that lawsuit was founded on the assumption that the statute would completely preempt the ballot measure, the partial preemption foreseen by the city attorney’s office wasn’t entirely unexpected.
“We indeed anticipated this issue,” Michael Jacobs, a partner in the San Francisco office of Morrison and Foerster who represented the group of plaintiffs in the lawsuit, wrote in an email on Friday. “But we are very grateful for the City’s vigorous protection of our Free Exercise rights and its defense against anti-Semitism.”
How the proposed ballot measure is impacted by the state law will be determined in court. Originally set for July 15, the court date was reportedly being changed at press time, to allow those defending the ballot measure to prepare their arguments.