Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
UPDATE: In a unanimous vote taken shortly after 12 noon on Wed., June 27, the Los Angeles City Council voted to adopt findings submitted that had been considered by the Planning and Land Use Management committee one day earlier, thereby clearing the way for Chabad of North Hollywood to continue building its new home on West Chandler Boulevard in Sherman Oaks.
The Los Angeles City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) committee sided with supporters of an expansion project for the Chabad of North Hollywood on June 26, moving the partially completed project one step closer to reapproval.
People spilled out into the aisles of the session room at Los Angeles City Hall on Tuesday afternoon, where the PLUM committee decided to uphold a decision taken by City Council three years earlier that allowed construction to commence on the 12,000 square-foot synagogue, which sits on West Chandler Boulevard near Valley College, in Sherman Oaks.
The new building, which could accommodate up to 200 worshippers, is about eight times the size of the synagogue’s former home, which occupied the same site. The size of the building rankled some neighbors, who have been opposing the construction since the project was first announced in 2008.
Earlier this year, the neighborhood group won a ruling from the California Court of Appeal that ordered the city council to set aside its initial approval, which is what led to Tuesday’s hearing.
The neighbors opposing the project argued that the expansion would change the character of their neighborhood. They were significantly outnumbered at City Hall by Chabad supporters on Tuesday, however.
Bearded men wearing yarmulkes and women sporting ankle-length skirts had all come out to urge the PLUM committee to allow Chabad to continue its expansion project. One woman, who said she lived across the street from the Chabad house, even brought three of her young children with her to the lectern.
The Chabad supporters collectively argued that their community had outgrown its previous building, that the new building would be an improvement to the neighborhood and that because they are Orthodox Jews who do not drive to synagogue, the expansion would not have a negative impact on the surrounding neighborhood.
The committee sided with Chabad, adopting a set of “findings” drawn up by Chabad’s attorney that attempted to explain why the initial 2008 decision to approve a 10,300 square-foot building, taken by a Department of City Planning employee, was an error, and why the City Council’s ruling in 2009 to allow the larger building currently being built to go up, was, in fact, correct.
The two members of the committee present for the hearing, Councilman Ed Reyes and Councilman Jose Huizar, decided on Tuesday to adopt those findings, and send the entire matter on to the City Council. The decisive opinion that pushed PLUM to side with Chabad appears to have been conveyed by a staff member from the office of Councilman Paul Koretz, whose current district includes the neighborhood where Chabad is located.
“Our office is in support of those revised findings before you today,” Shawn Bayliss, a deputy in Koretz’s office, told the committee, noting that his office had reviewed the materials “exhaustively” and had consulted with all parties.
Rabbi Aaron Abend, the leader of Chabad of North Hollywood, called the outcome “the right decision.”
Jeff Gantman, one of the neighbors who led the opposition, expressed frustration at what he felt was a preordained outcome. “We knew this was going to happen,” Gantman said. “This project was a fait accompli.”
Reyes, who chairs the PLUM committee, disagreed.
“They got a fair hearing,” Reyes said
Having adopted those findings, the matter now moves to the full City Council for approval on Wednesday, June 27, at 10am.
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June 24, 2012 | 1:48 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Pamela Geller, a blogger and noted anti-Muslim activist, was barred from speaking at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles building on Sunday morning, June 24.
Geller, who is Jewish, had been set to deliver an address to the Western Region of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) titled “Islamic Jew Hatred: The Root Cause of the Failure to Achieve Peace.” The event, which had been advertised starting in early June, was abruptly canceled just hours before it was to take place.
Among the approximately 30 would-be attendees gathered on the sidewalk outside Federation’s Wilshire Boulevard headquarters was Steven Goldberg, the national vice chairman of ZOA. Goldberg said he had spoken with Federation President Jay Sanderson early Sunday morning.
According to Goldberg, Sanderson canceled the event, citing fear that local Muslim groups might protest outside the building.
“They need spinal implants,” Goldberg said of Federation’s leaders, noting the absence of protesters.
Attempts to contact officials from Federation on Sunday were not successful.
The Sunday morning event was the second local appearance in two days for Geller. One day earlier, on June 23, Geller, together with Robert Spencer, who runs the Jihadwatch.org Web site, convened a panel of “Muslim Apostates,” in a hotel in Manhattan Beach. The event, which drew about 200 people, was designed to protest an event being held by the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) less than three miles away at the same time.
CAIR-LA, whose mission is “To enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding,” had called public attention to Geller’s planned appearance at the Federation building on Sunday in a press release circulated on the afternoon of June 23.
The press release included a statement from an interfaith coalition that included CAIR-LA and five other Muslim groups joined with one progressive Christian group and two leftist Jewish groups condemning Federation’s decision to give a platform to Geller, who they called “one of the nation’s leading Islamophobes.”
“Imagine how hurt Jewish community members would be, and rightly so, if they discovered American Muslims hosting an anti-Semitic speaker,” the interfaith coalition’s statement read.
Geller, who rose to prominence in 2010 when she led the fight to prevent the construction of an Islamic Center in Lower Manhattan, is a polarizing figure. Stop Islamization of America (SIOA), which she co-founded with Spencer, is considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Even Jewish community groups that have serious concerns about CAIR are also uncomfortable with the degree to which Geller vilifies Muslims and Islam.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), whose website includes a full description of CAIR’s refusal “to unequivocally condemn by name Hezbollah and Palestinian terror organizations,” considers Geller to be a purveyor of hate speech and xenophobia.
“The fact that Pamela Geller also notes the fact that CAIR has these issues, that doesn’t mean that the other things she says about Muslims as a whole are legitimate,” Oren Segal, the Director of ADL’s center on Extremism, said.
Geller called the Federation’s decision “a shandah,” and encouraged her supporters to “make it harder for them to cancel me than it is to cave to CAIR.”
“It’s showing how the Muslims are succeeding in shutting us down,” Orit Arfa, executive director of the ZOA’s Western Region said.
ZOA has been a tenant at Federation’s headquarters for less than one year, during which time it has held
two public events at the building, an appearance by David Siegel, the Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles, and a public screening of the 1966 film “Cast a Giant Shadow.”
While the would-be attendees held hastily made placards proclaiming the ZOA’s right to free speech, Arfa announced that arrangements had been made for Geller to deliver her speech in another location.
June 24, 2012 | 3:28 am
Posted by JewishJournal.com
According to witnesses, a small airplane trailed an anti-semitic banner over Venice Beach June 24.
A cell-phone camera captured a low-resolution image of private plane, trailing an aerial banner depicting a Nazi swastika inside a Star of David. According to witnesses, the name of an anti-semite website followed the swastika image. In the photo, only the .org suffix is legible.
In an e-mail to The Jewish Journal, the witness reported the plane made three appearances above the crowded beach between 3:20 and 3:40 pm.
Venice Beach is one of Los Angeles’s most popular tourist attractions, hosting 16 million visitors each year.
The airplane banner reads, “proswastika.org.” It was sponsored by the Raelian group, which seeks to reclaim the swastika as a religious symbol. From the web site:
The Swastika has been a symbol of peace for millions of Hindus, Buddhists and also Raelians since it is their symbol of infinity in time, their symbol of eternity.
Today, in order to redeem themselves for past horrible discriminations done under a flag showing this symbol, German authorities are discriminating again, telling Hindus, Buddhists, Raelians and all other groups who have been using this symbol for centuries for some of them, that the representation of their beliefs is not welcome in Europe!
Banning cannot solve anything, education is the only way!
Of course, what better way to bring world peace than to fly a swastika inside a Star of David over a crowded beach on the Westside of Los Angeles?
[UPDATED JUNE 25]:
The mystery of the flying swastika now ends as most things do in our society: with the threat of a lawsuit.
After further reports came in of a similar banner flown over Monmouth Beach in New Jersey, The Journal received an email from Ricky Lee Roehr, a self-described bishop of the Raelian movement.
“The banner we flew over cities in the USA contained several symbols, including a swastika, a love sign (heart) and a peace sign,” Roehr wrote. “In no way was the swastika symbol meant to promote in ANY way the horrible acts and legacy left by the Nazis. If you would have researched just a little (as our website was also on that banner behind the plane) you would have known that…We are NOT anti-semetic nor are we Nazi sympathizers and insist that you remove all allegations alluding that we are.”
Roehr added: “If you do not correct your article within 24 hours, expect to receive correspondence from our attorney, Jon Levy.”
Is a swastika in the sky on its face offensive and anti-semitic, even when followed by the name of a web site that is not? Can a movement garner free attention by choosing an outrageous symbol? Is it the equivalent of say, baring your naked breasts to get your religious views across? If the Raelian’s lawyer is as good as their marketing strategy, watch out….
[UPDATE June 26]
Huffington Post blogger David Moye did some more searching and came up with this:
The organizers of an international rally designed to improve the supposedly maligned reputation of the swastika expected to cause a furor when they hired a place to fly a banner featuring the Nazi symbol and they couldn’t be happier with the results.
But their satisfaction came at the expense of people in New Jersey and New York who were upset to see the huge sign on Saturday equating swastikas with peace and love.
“It got the attention, so it was a success,” said Thomas Kaenzig, organizer of “World Swastika Rehabiliation Day”.
The event, the third of its kind, was designed to return the swastika to its original meaning, which in Sanskrit literally means “to be good,” according to Kaenzig. The event was put on by a UFO religion known as the Raelians that claims to have 70,000 members. They believe the swastika is a symbol of the elohim, a race of extraterrestrials who they claim created humans.
Kaenzig hoped to get attention for the cause by flying a banner over New Jersey and New York City and a second one in Los Angeles.
But it aroused criticism from people like Don Pripstein, president of the Jewish Community Center of Long Beach Island, who told the Associated Press that whatever the group’s intentions are, the image is still horrific for many Jews whose relatives were killed in the Holocaust.
“They may have good intentions, but the image is more powerful than good intentions at this point,” he said to the AP. “The image is so horrendous that no matter what their ultimate purpose is, it’s extremely negative.”
The Raelians are known for being provocative: The group’s symbol combines the Jewish Star of David with the swastika. Kaenzig justifies what might be considered an offensive combination by saying it’s the end result that matters.
“One thing leads to another,” he told the Huffington Post. “Some people will go beyond the knee jerk reaction and go to the website and see what we’re really about.”
Before Germany’s Nazi Party embraced the swastika in the 1920s, for thousands of years it appeared on Hindu and Buddhist temples, in Native American artwork and even in Jewish synagogues in Israel.
Fellow Raelian Rick Roehr said the group’s objective is to take back the swastika from the Nazis.
“Our objective in this annual “Swastika Rehabilitation Day” is to… rehabilitate the image of this very ancient symbol which has, in recent decades, been equated only with Hitler’s horrors, when in fact, the swastika has always meant something very beautiful, peaceful and loving for billions of people all over the world and still is by billions of people,” he said in a statement the group’s website.
“The swastika has longstanding meaning as a symbol of peace, and nothing the Nazis did can change that,” Wecker told The Huffington Post by email. “The reality is, however, that it also carries Nazi baggage now, and anyone who thinks they’re going to ‘take it back’ or ‘own it’ by holding some kind of public forum without offending a lot of people is deeply mistaken.”
Still, Kaenzig said change can happen one person at a time.
“The person who owns the plane company went to Mexico on Saturday and got a call from a woman complaining about the banner,” Kaenzig said. “He told her, ‘Look, I’m spending $80 on roaming charges listening to you. Could you just go look at the website?
“She called him back five minutes later and apologized, saying that she was a teacher who taught her kids about the Holocaust and never knew the history of the swastika.”
If you have more information on this incident, please email The Jewish Journal.
June 5, 2012 | 2:30 pm
Posted by 6NoBacon, JTA
The Jewish reggae star is changing his appearance at a pace that could put Lady Gaga to shame. In a video released to promote his recent single “Sunshine,” Matisyahu revealed blond hair and a T-shirt, looking almost unrecognizable from his days as a Chasid. And in a photo Matisyahu posted Sunday on Instagram, he appears to be sans kippah.