The new president of B'nai B'rith International will make Los Angeles his first official stop of his presidency when he speaks at Sinai Temple on the evening of Dec. 7. Moishe Smith, a B'nai B'rith veteran with more than 30 years experience at the organization, said he is coming to the Southland to show his respect for and introduce himself to the community. At Sinai, Smith will discuss Israel and the Middle East, reflecting his interest in international relations. During his three decades with B'nai B'rith, Smith has held a variety of positions, including chair of the International Council, senior international vice president, and, most recently, chair of the executive.
Smith, a Canadian and the first non-American to lead 163-year-old B'nai B'rith, replaces Joel Kaplan. He will serve a three-year term.
Smith told The Journal that "making sure Israel is supported from every corner of the world" is a top priority. With the Jewish state under siege from Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran and other enemies, Smith said B'nai B'rith and other Jewish organizations have an obligation to "speak out for Israel."
Under his leadership, Smith said the organization will continue pressuring the United Nations to reform itself and shed its anti-Israel bias. Toward that end, Smith said organization leaders will "dialogue" with the democratic U.N. members and others.
B'nai B'rith has 100,000 members and donors in the United States and 150,000 worldwide. The organization calls itself a national and global leader in the area of U.N. reform, international affairs and Jewish identity, among other issues.
The event begins at 7 p.m. and is open to the public. For more information, contact Lyndia Lowy of B'nai B'rith at (310) 871-0847, or visit www.sinaitemple.org.
-- Marc Ballon, Senior Writer
'Messenger' Unites L.A. Readers
"One People One Book" usually refers to the Jews and the Torah, but the in Board of Rabbis of Southern California's communitywide program it refers to a piece of literature participating synagogue members will read for the next six months.
On Dec. 13, "One People One Book: A Citywide Year of Learning," will launch its second annual program, this time studying Eli Wiesel's 1976 "The Messenger of God," where Wiesel reinterprets biblical figures. Some 21 synagogues will participate.
Last year's "One People One Book" program, which had 300 people attend the opening, which focused on "As a Driven Leaf" by Milton Steinberg, the novelization of the Talmud's only heretic, Elisha Ben Abuya.
Why one book for six months?
"The notion is that we pick a book that lends itself to a year of learning," says Rabbi Mark Diamond, executive director of the Board of Rabbis. He said that last year's book dealt with powerful themes such as secular vs. sacred, messianism, faith and practice.
For each book, the Board of Rabbis prepares a curriculum for readers to discuss, but there is no particular format to the "One People One Book," program. Some people will meet in groups like a book club, others will discuss it with their rabbi in synagogue and some will learn with a partner. There will be an opening event on Dec. 13 and closing event on May 9. At the opening session, professor Menhaz M. Afridi and Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky will discuss Moses in "The Passion of Prophet: Moses in the Torah and the Qu'ran."
The opening session will take place at the University of Judaism's Gindi Auditorium, Dec. 13, 7-9 p.m. 15600 Mulholland Drive. For more information, call (323) 761-8600.
-- Amy Klein, Religion Editor
Students Weigh in on Education Improvements
Students shared ideas for improving education with a panel of public officials at the Museum of Tolerance on Nov. 30. Jasmin Ramirez, 17, took the stage first to present a proposal on behalf of about 100 students involved in the California Association of Student Councils, a student-led organization dedicated to cultivating leaders.
"There's poor quality of food in our schools and a lack of variety," said Ramirez, who recommended conducting a widespread survey asking students about the quality of food at school and testing their knowledge of nutritional health.
Listening and taking notes were state Senate majority leader Gloria Romero; Democratic state Assemblymembers Mike Feuer, Paul Krekorian and Kevin de Leon; local district Superintendent James Morris; and Los Angeles Deputy Mayor for Education Ramon C. Cortines.
The officials advised students to think about the costs associated with the proposed survey and consider what would be done with the results. They also commended Ramirez and her peers for thinking creatively about how to solve a real problem.
"What you and the students have done today is absolutely brilliant," de Leon said. Next, Chris Delgado, 16, suggested that teacher quality could be improved if students were involved in the teacher evaluation process.
"Be careful that your approach is not taken as an attack on teachers," de Leon cautioned. Cortines added: "I don't think you realize how powerful you are. I think it's time that you mobilize yourself and visit with teachers unions."
After the two proposals were presented and discussed, legislators and students mingled. Feuer congratulated his son, Aaron, who orchestrated the event.
"It was a success," said Aaron Feuer, 15.
-- Sarah Price Brown, Contributing Writer