Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
In a release emailed to the Jewish Journal this morning, Rep. Howard Berman (D - Valley Village) has announced endorsements from five well-known California Democrats in his bid for reelection in the newly redrawn 30th congressional district in the West San Fernando Valley.
Gov. Jerry Brown, Sen. Diane Feinstein, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Rep. Henry Waxman have all joined Berman’s effort as “honorary co-chairs” of his campaign.
Another Jewish, Democratic incumbent, Rep. Brad Sherman (D - Sherman Oaks), is also running for reelection in that district, and the head-to-head competition is an unwelcome development for Democratic party leaders and Israel supporters alike. But neither candidate appears willing to step back from his claim on the 30th district.
Here’s the statement from Berman spokeswoman Gabby Adler:
Berman Announces Five Prominent Dems as Honorary Campaign Co-Chairs
Governor Jerry Brown, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Congressman Henry Waxman Endorse the Re-election of Congressman Howard Berman
Los Angeles, CA - Congressman Howard L. Berman (D-Valley Village) announced today that five prominent California Democrats will help lead his reelection effort. Governor Jerry Brown, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, and Congressman Henry Waxman will serve as honorary campaign co-chairs for Berman’s re-election campaign. Congressman Berman has made clear his plans to run for reelection in the newly created 30th Congressional district which includes the communities of Studio City, Sherman Oaks, Encino, Tarzana, Woodland Hills, Winnetka, West Hills, Reseda, Canoga Park, Chatsworth, Northridge, and Granada Hills.
“I am honored to have received the early support of the Democratic leaders of our state of California,” said Congressman Berman. “They are familiar with my work and accomplishments, and understand that in Congress I am not just another voice or another vote, but that I have a unique leadership role that enables me to serve the interests of the United States, California, and the San Fernando Valley.”
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August 24, 2011 | 2:53 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Just before Glenn Beck made his first appearance on screen at his “Restoring Courage” rally in Jerusalem on Wednesday, Aug. 24, the broadcast on the newsman-impresario’s internet-based network, GBTV, cut to video images from a few of the viewing parties being held by his supporters around the world.
“Where are we?” asked Jeannie Atkins, as she looked at grainy Skype footage from a party going on in Fort Lauderdale. One couldn’t really make out faces, but you could see two flags being waved—a blue and white Israeli flag and a yellow one, which looked as though it had a coiled snake on it.
The reasonable conclusion one might draw—that the room in Florida had more than a few self-described “Tea Party” supporters in it—was certainly true of the Santa Clarita Marriott Residence Inn’s conference room.
Atkins, who said she hadn’t yet been to Israel—“I have to get there in the next five years, that’s my plan”—was watching Beck with 25 other people, many of whom knew each other from local Republican party events. Local radio personality Joe Messina organized the viewing party, and the room was populated with friends of his and other folks committed enough to get up really early for the live broadcast at 7 am (Pacific time).
He kicked off the early-morning activities with a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. There were no flags, though, so Messina held up his laptop computer, which had a Stars and Stripes backdrop on it. (Could we have pledged allegiance to a garment with Old Glory on it? There was one guy sporting such an Old Navy T-shirt.)
“How many other events like this one are going on right now?” Jeannie’s husband BJ wondered.
Over 1,400 around the world, Beck said in his opening remarks. On Beck’s radio show, the stand-in host spent most of the first half hour, from 6 to 6:30 am, trying to recruit additional viewers, letting listeners know that for $4.99, they could watch the event on GBTV.
The live broadcast included a speech by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, musical performances by Israeli singer Dudu Fisher and others as well as pre-recorded videos—but this rally, Beck’s third of the week, belonged primarily to the man himself.
To anyone familiar with Beck and the PR spin of the Netanyahu government, the event presented little if anything new. Beck spoke for over 45 minutes, proclaiming his support for Israel, of course, but also ranging across a variety of his favored topics—including the evils of politicians, bureaucrats and the media.
Waiting for the rally to begin, the folks in Santa Clarita perused the signature pages for a few referendums being passed around. One was aimed at repealing a recently passed California State law requiring schools teach about the contributions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans in Social Studies classes. Another supported the inclusion on the ballot of the so-called Amazon referendum, which is being funded in part by the online-only retailer in an effort to get Californians to overturn a law that would allow the state to charge sales tax on online businesses with affiliated organizations in the state. (According to some estimates, the tax revenue that the state would lose this year if that law were overturned could be as much as $1.9 billion.)
In Jerusalem, Beck frequently cited scripture—“lo eerah,” a Hebrew phrase that means “I will not fear,” became a mantra—and he invoked the Almighty even more often.
“The only message that I have for Israel and the Israelis is this: My friends, do not lose hope,” Beck said.
“You must have courage,” he continued. “You must draw courage from the knowledge that you were led to this land by God, and in the affairs of mankind, God is not a stranger to the children of Abraham.”
Although the setting of the rally—overlooking the archaeological excavations near the Southern wall of the Old City—was clearly aimed at emphasizing the Jewish historical roots of Jerusalem, Beck, who is himself Mormon and has a great deal of support from American evangelical Christians, talked of Jerusalem’s holiness to all of Abraham’s children—including Muslims. With musical accompaniment—from a shofar, church-like bells, and an oud, a Middle-Eastern stringed instrument—Beck acknowledged that Jews, Christians and Muslims all have history in Jerusalem.
But near the end of his speech, when Beck said that the world “will see evil rear its head,” he left no doubt that he was referring to the specter of Islamist rulers taking hold of Arab nations that have experienced revolutions over this year.
“This week they were holding up signs in Cairo that said—quote—‘We are building the gas chambers,’” Beck said. “They dress their children in suicide belts. They are given the choice and they choose death; we are given the choice—let us choose life.”
“Let me speak directly to them,” Beck continued. “We read your signs. We listen to your speeches. We know you say what you mean and mean what you say. But we put you on notice today—so do we.”
Beck, who recently told the Jerusalem Post that he’s losing money on “Restoring Courage,” announced that he would soon be launching a “global movement” and a non-profit arm of his company. (Those might be one and the same.)
Before that, however, Beck said he was taking his show on the road. His first stop would be Cape Town, South Africa. His agenda: “To remind the world what apartheid really looked like.”
August 23, 2011 | 6:20 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
The 2012 congressional race between Rep. Brad Sherman and Rep. Howard Berman, the two long-standing Jewish Democratic incumbents both laying claim to the heavily Democratic (and mostly white) 30th Congressional district in the West San Fernando Valley, has officially begun.
On Monday, Sherman released the results of a poll showing that he would beat Berman in a head-to-head race and in a three-way race.
“Berman is largely unknown, even in his own district,” wrote Sherman campaign consultant Parke Skelton in an email about the poll results on Tuesday. “While Brad leads Berman 52 [percent] to 9 [percent] in his old district (CD27), Berman leads Brad by just 2% in his old district - CD28 (32 to 30).”
D.C.-based pollster Diane Feldman conducted the survey among 600 likely general election voters in the new district. According to Skelton, the poll showed Sherman leads Berman among Democrats, Republicans and voters who decline to state a party affiliation. Among Jews, Skelton wrote in his email, Sherman leads Berman 46 percent to 21 percent in the new district.
Berman responded to the poll’s results in a statement, emailed to the Jewish Journal by spokeswoman Gabby Adler:
Releasing a privately paid for poll to repeat his campaign talking point that Sherman, because he currently represents much more of the 30th [Congressional District], starts out ahead, is a typical politician’s tactic. Of course, Sherman starts out ahead.
But after a campaign—by both sides—that fully informs the electorate of each candidate’s accomplishments and each candidate’s supporters, I am confident that this poll will find its way into the old poll dustbin—Dean beats Kerry in Iowa [in 2004], Bush the Elder beats all Democrats in 1992, Dewey beats Truman in 1948.
Let the campaign begin.
Or perhaps it already has. After all, Sherman circulated a lengthy list of his supporters—which included Bill Clinton—on Aug. 5. Rick Orlov reported in the Daily News on Aug. 14 that that Galpin Ford owners Bert and Jane Boeckmann were backing Berman. (“Mr. And Mrs. L.A. Republican,” Orlov called them.) And on Aug. 19, LA Observed reported that Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen sent out invitations to Berman’s biennial fundraiser, an event that is held at the Beverly Hilton and typically nets over $1 million in one night.
So what’s the significance of this poll?
According to Sherman pollster Diane Feldman, it shows that, “Sherman is simply better known and more popular in this San Fernando Valley district and voters want his visible, local style of representation.” (Part of that local style is the eight-term incumbent’s August recess town hall meeting, scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 28.)
But even Berman’s statement appears to be a slight change of course for the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He contested the significance of the poll’s results—but Berman, for the first time, said that the race for the newly drawn 30th district is on.
August 22, 2011 | 6:38 pm
Posted by Ryan Torok
The secret’s out. “The Daily Show ” host Jon Stewart’s nickname is ... “Soupy.”
“Jon Stewart went to the same high school as my mom. This is his senior portrait. Sweet feathered haircut!” Roy tweeted.
The photo was found on the classmates.com page for the 1980 Lawrence High School class. Stewart’s real name, Jonathan Leibowitz, appears underneath the black-and-white photo.
What’s the meaning behind “Soupy?” Who knows. According to the Stewart page on superiorpics.com, which features profiles of celebrities, Stewart’s got several nicknames, including “Lefty,” “Poochy” and, perhaps the best one, “Susceptible Boy.”
August 19, 2011 | 12:44 am
Posted by Tom Tugend
Edith “Edie” Wasserman, widow of studio mogul Lew Wasserman and a major Hollywood force and philanthropist in her own right, died Thursday at her Beverly Hills home at 95.
Born Edith Beckerman, she married her husband, a fellow Cleveland native, at 21, a marriage terminated after nearly 66 years by Lew’s death in 2002.
As Lew, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, rose from talent agent to CEO of MCA and president of Universal Studios, he was dubbed the de facto “King of Hollywood.”
During his long reign from the 1950s to the 1990s, Edie served as his eyes and ears and earned such honorific titles as “The Queen,” “The General,” “Mrs. Hollywood” and “First Lady of Hollywood.”
Like her husband, she was renowned for her intellect, humor and wit.
In addition, she was recognized as the tastemaker and doyenne of Hollywood’s artistic and political society, and an invitation to one of her cocktail parties was akin to a royal command.
A lifelong Democrat, she, with Lew, were close friends of Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, although they also boosted the career of a young actor and aspiring politician named Ronald Reagan.
But Edie Wasserman was most widely known and honored as a discerning philanthropist, who was instrumental in establishing the foundation bearing the couple’s name in 1952.
She and her grandson Casey Wasserman were credited with key roles in preventing the shutdown of the acute care hospital and long-term care facilities at the Motion Picture and Television Fund Home for entertainment industry retirees.
Large grants by the Wasserman Foundation focused on the areas of health, arts and culture, education, and global initiatives.
Among the major beneficiaries were Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Jerusalem Film Center, Skirball Cultural Center, Eye Research Center at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute, Human Rights Watch, and the Clinton Foundation.
Neither Edie nor Lew could afford to go to college during the Depression years, but students at six universities, including Brandeis, UCLA, Caltech and Cal Arts, are benefitting through the Wasserman Scholars program.
Edie Wasserman is survived by her daughter Lynn Wasserman, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Services will be private.
August 9, 2011 | 4:08 pm
Posted by Ryan Torok
On Sunday, August 7, Israelis in Los Angeles congregated at Woodley Park in Van Nuys, CA, and showed their support for the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who have been protesting all across Israel for roughly the past three weeks against rising costs of living and goods in Israel.
The rally at Woodley Park on Sunday drew approximately 200 people, including Ashkenazi and Sephardic Israelis and Ethiopian-Israelis, from 2 to 6 p.m., according to Dekel Sofer, a 31-year-old Israeli in Los Angeles who organized the demonstration with his three friends, Eyal Shairel, Dror Dagan, Miki Granot.
For Israelis living in Los Angeles “it’s easy to say how bad it is over there, and how expensive everything is, but we have to do something as well, and that’s why decided to do that,” Sofer said of Sunday’s rally.
The demonstrators at Woodley Park sent up camping tents to recreate the scenes that have transpired on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv, and they sat in the tents, sang, chanted and waved signs.
L.A.-based party promoter Liami Lawrence, who lived in Israel during the eighties, attended the rally, and he praised the movement in Israel and the rally at Woody Park for their diversity.
“It’s across the board. Israelis from right and left [and] it has nothing to do with politics. No one is screaming down with Bibi or up the Labor and communism. It’s all Israelis, regardless of if you’re left or right, religious or non-religious.
“[And] that’s what was amazing about the rally [on Sunday], because we had all different types of people there,” said Lawrence.
Haaretz reported on Tuesday, August 9 that Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s appointed team of economic and social experts has decided to hold discussions over the Internet with protestors in Israel. Protestors in Tel Aviv suspended “music parties, performances or entertainment” on Tuesday in observance of Tisha B’Av, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Woodley Park is a familiar site to the Israeli community in Los Angeles. In past years, the Israel Independence Day Festival has taken place there.
Rallies in solidarity with the demonstrators in Israel have also taken place in New York and Washington D.C. The Los Angeles rally’s organizers publicized the event on Facebook.
August 5, 2011 | 1:00 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
The competition between two Jewish Democratic incumbents for the newly redrawn 30th Congressional district in the West San Fernando Valley is heating up.
On August 5, Rep. Brad Sherman (D - Sherman Oaks) released a list of more than 100 political and community leaders endorsing his bid for reelection in the 30th Congressional district in 2012. The list included former President Bill Clinton, members of Los Angeles City Council, California State Senate and Assembly, as well as other local elected and community officials.
The move comes just one week after California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission released its final draft of Congressional lines, on July 29, and appears to be an effort by Sherman to head off a direct race against another long-time Jewish Democratic incumbent, Rep. Howard Berman (D - Van Nuys), who has also laid claim to the 30th district.
The developing race between Berman and Sherman—both of whom live in the newly drawn district—was the subject of a recent cover story in the Jewish Journal.
In that article, numerous Jewish leaders were quoted saying that they hoped a Berman v. Sherman race could be avoided. A few—including Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, a long-time friend of Berman’s—said they felt Berman’s continued presence in Congress would be seen as essential by Israel supporters. Berman is the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Sherman’s list of early endorsements, which was sent out by the Sherman campaign office to thousands of supporters, appears designed to demonstrate the seriousness with which he is pursuing reelection in the 30th district.
The list is posted at the Congressman’s campaign website, www.bradsherman.com.
August 5, 2011 | 10:28 am
Posted by Ryan Torok
A billboard that calls for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit will go up on La Cienega Boulevard, just south of Olympic Boulevard, on Monday, August 8.
In 2006, Hamas, the ruling political party in the Gaza Strip, kidnapped Shalit, who turns 25 this month, and has held him in captivity since.
A large photograph of Shalit will appear on the billboard, along with the text: “I was kidnapped by Hamas on June 25, 2006. I have been held hostage … This summer I will turn 25 years old. Where did you spend your birthday this year? Free Gilad Shalit.”
Gal Sitty, 28, a resident of Studio City, coordinated the effort to put up the billboard, raising approximately $7,000 to purchase the billboard through the new web site, Epicstep.com.
Sitty said the aim of the billboard is to keep the public focused on working toward Shalit’s release.
“I started to think of ways of how I could keep this all in the media, to raise awareness, to press on leaders, show people how important it is to help him out,” Sitty said.
“I think it’s absolutely imperative that the people who can act, i.e. [Benjamin] Netanyahu and other people in the Israeli government, have to do anything and everything they can to bring him back, especially because he was a solider for the state of Israel and gave everything he can for the state,” Sitty added.
The billboard will remain up through approximately the first week of September.
Sitty said he chose the location on La Cienega Boulevard for its proximity to the Israeli consulate and other Jewish institutions, including the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the Simon Weisenthal Center.
He hopes the Los Angeles billboard will get approximately number 200,000 “exposures” - billboard industry lingo for “pair of eyes” – each week, a figure quoted to him by the company that owns the billboard space.
Last month, Sitty successfully led an effort to get a similar billboard up New York, and the New York billboard enjoyed approximately 300,000 exposures each week.
Sitty said he became more focused on ending Shalit’s imprisonment in 2010, after witnessing the march for Gilad Shalit in Israel. He was chaperoning a Birthright Israel trip at the time, and watched with the group and the other trip guides in Tel Aviv as thousands of Israelis rallied for Shalit’s release.
“In Israel everybody has many opinions, and are divided on everything politically, but on this, there was nothing controversial about it,” Sitty said. [They all said] they want Gilad Shalit back.”
The success of the New York billboard – which was located at the corner of 10th Avenue and 35th Street in Manhattan, New York - convinced Sitty to work toward getting a billboard up in Los Angeles, the second largest Jewish community in the United States.
Through Epicstep.com, billboards go up for one month at a time. Epicstep allows anybody to create billboards around any campaign idea or cause. Once a user has created a campaign on the website, the site gives he/she the price and the location of where the billboard is going to be, and then that person uses their website to collect donations—known as “crowdfunding.”
Epicstep.com was started by Lev Reys and Eugene and Gene Veksler, who are all Jewish. The site launched about four months ago.
“I’m just really happy that it happened and that it was able to successfully fund,” Reys said.
Sitty said there might be more free-Shalit billboards in the future.
“I’ve heard from other people who still want to put up billboards in other cities,” he said. “So I want to keep strategizing to do that.”
In a recent issue of the Journal, editor-in-chief Rob Eshman wrote a column about Sitty’s New York billboard.
[UPDATE: Tuesday, August 9]
The billboard went up today, on La Cienega Boulevard between Olympic Boulevard and Whitworth Drive. The text of the billboard includes, “I have been held hostage for 1,867 days and counting,” and the billboard space is owned by CBS. See it below.