June 29, 2006
Local Leaders Fight for Social Justice
Norma Glickman of Temple Emanuel had felt terribly alone during her daily visits to her dying mother in a nursing home where the care, even with her vigilance, bordered on abusive.
She recounted her tale last Sunday to 1,500 representatives from religious community, union and school groups who attended the One LA-IAF Delegates Assembly at the Wilshire Christian Church. Drawn from neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles County, the group reflects the racial and ethnic diversity of the city.
This Los Angeles affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), founded by legendary organizer Saul Alinsky in Chicago, has been committed to developing leadership in local communities since the 1940s, but it is only in recent years that area synagogues have become actively involved as part of their social-justice agendas. The delegates came together Sunday both to celebrate their organizing efforts and to present state and city officials, including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and City Council President Eric Garcetti, with a series of demands for action on issues including public education, air quality, housing, immigration and the re-scheduling of the Los Angeles marathon to a holiday Monday, to avoid disruption of church services.
Like Glickman, who engaged in discussions with fellow congregants and research meetings with county and state officials on nursing homes, these delegates are working on issues that directly affect their lives.
After listening to the presentations, which were translated into Spanish and Korean, Villaraigosa expressed his commitment to the delegates' concerns, and agreed to be the keynote speaker at the group's educational summit in the fall.
Rabbi Laura Geller of Temple Emanuel, in her closing prayer, evoked last week's Torah portion.
"Each one of us," she said, "is a scout sent to imagine Los Angeles as a promised land. The relationships we are developing here will enable us to create One L.A." -- Naomi Glauberman, Contributing Writer
UCLA Establishes Israeli Studies Chair
UCLA has established an academic chair in Israel studies, endowed by a $1 million donation from the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation.
The endowment reflects a growing scholarly interest in Israel, as distinct from Jewish studies, according to political scientist Leonard Binder, director of the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies.
"We are seeing a shift in emphasis from Holocaust-related programs to all aspects of Israeli life," Binder said. "I sense a new intellectual interest in the history of Zionism and the meaning of Israel."
An international search is starting for a distinguished scholar to fill the chair and lead a wide-ranging program incorporating a dozen academic fields.
The ideal incumbent of the chair will have "a wide knowledge of Israel spanning several disciplines, while specializing in at least one discipline in which he has achieved scholarly prominence," said Arnold Band, professor of Hebrew and comparative literature.
British-born Sir Arthur Gilbert, a real estate developer and art collector, and his wife Rosalinde, both deceased, established the foundation to encourage studies of Israel, as well as medical research, said Martin Blank, who serves with Richard Ziman as chief operating officers of the foundation.
UCLA, located in the center of the second-largest Jewish community in the United States, has fostered Jewish and Near Eastern research and teaching for half a century.
Current resources include the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, Center for Near Eastern Studies, Jewish Studies Program, Center for Jewish Studies, and a Chair in Holocaust Studies, endowed by the "1939" Club.
The Israel Studies Program was established two years ago as part of the UCLA International Institute at the initiative of Sharon Baradaran, a member of the influential Iranian American Nazarian clan of Los Angeles and herself a political science teacher.
Binder estimates that at any time between 40 to 60 courses are given on the Westwood campus dealing with some aspects of Israeli geopolitics, culture and language.
Assistant professor Carol Bakhos of the UCLA Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures assigns a broad context to the Israel Studies Program, for which she serves as faculty adviser.
"Studies on Israel go beyond the purely Jewish aspects and include the life and scholarship of the Arab and other minorities in Israel," she said.
In the long run, she hopes that studies on Israel will become less "politicized" and can be integrated into a broadened Middle East program.
"It would be great if UCLA could model such a program, stressing the cohesion of a Middle East which includes Israel," she said. -- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Aaron Spelling Dies at 83
Hollywood producer Aaron Spelling died on June 23 at age 83 in his Los Angeles mansion after suffering a stroke on June 18.
Spelling was born in 1923 to struggling Jewish immigrants in Texas (his father's name, Spurling, was simplified to Spelling by an official on Ellis Island). The prejudice his family faced there partly caused young Aaron to turn to reading, helping spark his creative career.
He was a prolific producer of hit television shows, creating popular series for ABC such as "Charlie's Angels," "The Mod Squad," "The Love Boat" and "Beverly Hills, 90210." The Guinness Book of World Records cited Spelling as producing the most hours of television, with more than 3,000. Spelling, who is also the father of actors Tori and Randy, briefly tried acting before beginning his decades-long producing career.
He was buried during a private ceremony June 26 at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuaries. -- Jewish Telegraphic Agency