Election night energy was vibrant on Feb. 5 when more than 100 young Iranian Jewish professionals gathered at the Brentwood residence of the Cohanzad family to mingle and watch the 2008 primary election results. Community leaders in attendance -- including California State Assembly member Michael Feuer (D-West L.A.); Department of Water and Power General Manager H. David Nahai; and Sam Kermanian, secretary general of the Iranian American Jewish Federation -- urged the financially successful young Jews to vote and serve in public office.
The newly formed nonprofit, Thirty Years After, which organized the event, said their objective was to engage Iranian Jewish professionals in the political process and social activism. "We couldn't be happier with the turnout, energy and overall enthusiasm that everyone showed at the event," said Sam Yebri, the group's 26-year-old director. "As a community, we showed for the first time that we can come together and become active on certain political issues."
-- Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer
Israelity Brings Jewish Talent to Avalon
No Isreality video from L.A., so enjoy this Bay Area video
Israeli hip hop star Subliminal and his cadre of rap artists, known as the T.A.C.T. Family, exploded onto the stage at Hollywood's Avalon nightclub on Saturday. The headliners of the Taglit-Birthright Israel's Israelity Tour had the crowd of 700 enthusiastically dancing and singing along for more than an hour. Subliminal (aka Kobi Shimoni) and the seven-member T.A.C.T. (Tel Aviv City Team) crew performed about 30 tracks and several new mega-mixes prepared especially for Israelity, said tour manager Lindsay Litowitz.
Up-and-coming folk singer Michelle Citrin opened the show, followed by funk-hip hop fusion band Coolooloosh.
Subliminal, who is widely credited for introducing Israelis to hip hop, is often criticized in the international media as radically right wing for his bold pro-Israel lyrics. The 20-something crowd reacted to his performance by pumping fists into the air, waving arms and bouncing along to the beats.
SHI 360, a member of the T.A.C.T. Family and a Birthright alumnus, received a similarly boisterous reaction to his song, "Home," which is the official song of Taglit-Birthright Israel.
The concert, pulsating with energy and incredible talent, proved a moving display of Jewish pride and support for Israel.
-- Dikla Kadosh, Contributing Writer
Rieff Swims in a Sea of Mourning
Past the long pathways and towering corridors of downtown's Central Library, a set of old-school intelligentsia flowed into the Mark Taper Auditorium on Feb. 5 to hear David Rieff pontificate about his mother, Susan Sontag. Fans of the New York intellectual, dressed casual-cool in denim and suede, many of them accessorized with a Sontag trademark -- a chunk of silvery-hair silhouetting the dark -- demonstrated their devotion to the late literary figure by flocking to hear about her passing, which her son tragically recounts in a new memoir, "Swimming in a Sea of Death."
Moderator and Los Angeles Times columnist Tim Rutten said Rieff would not read because it was too painful. Instead, he discussed how Sontag's refusal to accept death left him unable to say goodbye. Despite being diagnosed with an acute form of leukemia that claims the lives of most of its affected, Sontag possessed an almost diabolical unwillingness to confront her own mortality. However, Rieff insisted she was not in denial, "She really believed she would survive."
Listening to Rieff recount his experience as her "cheerleader" revealed a writer bereft.
Rieff, an erudite intellectual, suddenly became his mother's vulnerable, grieving son: "She died in inches, horribly, but she left as if she died in a plane crash ... with no instructions."
Without the resources of faith or religion, they both lacked tools for dealing with her death and, Rieff said, "She died unreconciled."
The question hanging over the evening was how a woman of uncommon intelligence, who staked her life on the pursuit of truth, refused to accept glaring certitudes about her fate. In an almost primitive defiance, Sontag chose life. Although she wasn't religious, her instincts were Jewish ones.
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