The Western states conference of the Association of Jewish Studies will be held April 6-7 at -- Loyola Marymount University (LMU), a Jesuit institution.
The particular venue says a good deal about the evolution of Jewish studies from an ethnic specialty to a broad academic discipline integral to any self-respecting university.
Actually, Loyola Marymount University vied with the American Jewish University (formerly University of Judaism) for hosting honors, and won out.
Professor Holli Levitsky, director of Jewish studies at LMU, pointed out that her university will initiate a minor study program in her field this fall, offering courses ranging from Introduction to the Hebrew Bible to Near Eastern archaeology.
The conference, which is open to interested persons without charge, will consist of 20 plenary and specialized sessions, workshops, and an evening of music and entertainment.
Sunday's program on April 6 opens with a discussion on Christian-Jewish relations, and includes sessions on topics as varied as Jewish holidays in comic strips, the impact of Jewish artists Sigmund Romberg and Stanley Kubrick, and an analysis of "The Debate over American Support of Israel" by U.S. State Department historian Adam Howard.
A tribute luncheon will honor the scholarly work of UCLA professor Arnold Band. The evening program includes a performance by the Shtetl Menschen and a concert of klezmer music.
The subsequent keynote event will present an interfaith conversation, "Collars and Kippot," with Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, national director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, and Monsignor Royale Vadakin, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
On Monday, April 7, scholars will discuss "Literature and Jewish Identity," while a session on "Home and Hearth" will focus on Iranian Jewish women and a talk titled "Bodies, Food & (tsk, tsk) Sex." The meeting will conclude with a panel discussion on "Israel at 60," moderated by The Journal's Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman.
An exhibit of paintings, "Panim el Panim" (Face to Face) by Evelyn Stettin, described as a "Visual Midrash," will be open throughout the meeting. (See article, Page 39.)
Co-sponsors of the conference are American Jewish University, UCLA, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, American Jewish Committee, Chapman University, Cal State Long Beach and CSUN.
LMU is located in the Marina del Rey-Westchester area and all events are in University Hall. For information, phone (310) 338-2806, or e-mail email@example.com.
-- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Jerusalem Fountain Piano Suite to Premiere at Cathedral
A tourist to Los Angeles looking for the Jewish Family Fountain will find it in a rather unlikely place -- in the plaza of the landmark Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
Alternately known as the Jerusalem Fountain, it will be celebrated in the world premiere of the piano suite "Water From a Stone," by Michael Isaacson, on Saturday evening, April 5, in the main cathedral sanctuary.
Noted pianist Andrea Anderson, who asked Isaacson to compose the suite, will also perform works by Mozart, Debussy and Copland. Rounding out the program is Prokofiev's Flute Sonata, with flautist Zachary Valenzuela.
The fountain, described by Cathedral sources as "probably the first-ever Jewish contribution to a Christian cathedral," was built through a $2.5 million grant from the Skirball Foundation and an anonymous Jewish family.
Their purpose was "to acknowledge the long-standing and cordial relationship between the Jewish and Roman Catholic communities in Southern California."
The biblical inscription on the rose and gold limestone from an ancient quarry outside Jerusalem reads, in Hebrew and English, "The world stands on three pillars - Torah, Worship and Good Deeds."
Isaacson said that he tried to express "the interdependent duality of the immovable [stone] and the ever-changing [water]" through a musical combination of biblical themes, Hebrew prayers and early Israeli folk songs.
The suite's three movements are titled "Moses Striking the Rock," "Dew of Morning" and "Fountain of Deliverance."
Isaacson is the founding music director of the Israel Pops Orchestra, has created more than 500 Jewish and secular compositions, and has been the arranger and conductor of music for numerous feature films and television series.
Anderson is the recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation grant and has performed at Carnegie Hall and other concert halls in the United States, China, Sweden, Finland and Lithuania.
The concert will start at 8 p.m. on April 5 at the Cathedral, 555 W. Temple St. Admission is free, but a $10 donation is suggested. Secure parking is $5. For information, call (213) 680-5200.
Saving America from the SAVE Act
Standing up for immigrant and employer rights, the American Jewish Committee (AJ Committee) and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, along with Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti, voiced opposition to the SAVE (Secure America with Verification and Enforcement) Act during a press conference and subsequent vote at L.A. City Hall on March 26.
The SAVE Act, sponsored by Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) and Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), is a new immigration enforcement bill intended to help secure America's borders. Title two of the SAVE Act requires all U.S. employers to go through a mandatory work authorization verification system using an "E-Verify" program that would check the legal status of all employees.
During the press conference on the bill, however, AJCommittee representatives outlined some of the act's flaws.
"Over 10 million workers would be identified incorrectly. This Act does not address the real issues of border security," said Seth Brysk, director of the AJCommittee's Los Angeles Chapter.
Following the press conference, the L.A. City Council voted against implementation of the bill. AJCommittee hopes that members of Congress will look to their constituents and take into account this opposing stance. Brooke Menschel, AJCommittee's assistant legislative director, said that if the bill goes through it would undermine local law enforcement and create unrest and distrust within local communities.
"The database is riddled with errors," Menschel said. AJCommittee "has strived to protect those who come to this country to escape persecution. We need to also secure homeland security and ensure that the gateway to America isn't just an open door. We need to work to find a delicate balance, and this bill does no such thing." AJCommittee is also against the currently proposed "discharge position," which would force the bill directly to the House floor, bypassing committee consideration and undermining the normal legislative process.
-- Celia Soudry, Contributing Writer
Jews at UC Irvine Say They Are Safe
Jewish student leaders at UC Irvine disputed that the campus is rife with anti-Jewish violence in a news release issued Wednesday.
Five Jewish student leaders acknowledged that while "verbal anti-Semitism" continues to exist, Jews are nevertheless "physically safe and secure" at UC Irvine. They also defended the administration from allegations that it has not done enough to counter anti-Semitism on campus.
The statement was signed by the leaders of the local Hillel chapter, the campus pro-Israel group and the heads of the local Jewish fraternity and sorority. Chancellor Michael Drake has been criticized by the Zionist Organization of America both for failing to condemn specific acts of anti-Israel rhetoric on his campus as well as his appearance at this week's Hillel summit in Washington. The student leaders defended Drake's appearance, saying it exemplified the university's commitment to civil discourse.
"We are honored, as the greater Jewish community should also be, by Drake's unrelenting commitment, as he repeatedly condemns hate speech in all forms and emphasizes that it has no place on any University campus," the statement said.
-- Jewish Telegraphic Agency
High School Student Raises Funds, Awareness for Jewish World Watch
"Thirty dollars. It's so tangible. It saves a life."
When Shelby Layne, 17, first heard about Jewish World Watch's solar cooker project two years ago, she was incredulous. She couldn't believe that $30 -- less than the cost of a new blouse -- could supply a Darfurian family with two cookers, alleviating life-threatening trips outside the refugee camp to collect firewood. She was also outraged that a family faced death or, at the least, rape in order to eat.
Feeling guilty about her own fortunate circumstances, the Pacific Palisades resident began devising ways to raise money to buy more solar cookers. She spent the summer of 2006 making jewelry, a skill she was learning, and that fall, supplementing her inventory with donations from friends, family and several retailers, she hosted a sidewalk jewelry sale, raising an unexpected $8,500. A second sale, in December 2006, netted an additional $5,500.
Shelby has continued to raise awareness and money to help Darfur's refugees, thus far collecting more than $27,000 total for the solar cooker project.
She has become an active member of Jewish World Watch, participating on the speakers' bureau and serving as the only student representative on the organization's board of directors. She also heads the Darfur Awareness and Activism Certification Training at Harvard-Westlake School, where she is currently an eleventh grader. Additionally, she was a keynote speaker at last summer's National Young Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C.
Shelby's latest fund-raising project is a screening of "The Devil Came on Horseback," a documentary by former U.S. Marine Captain and photojournalist Brian Steidle that exposes the Darfur genocide firsthand. After reading about Steidle last fall, Shelby personally contacted him and organized the screening.
Shelby credits her work with Jewish World Watch with giving her life meaning and purpose.
"It pains me when people don't get to choose [their circumstances]. No person ever deserves to live like that," she said.
The screening of "The Devil Came on Horseback" takes place on Saturday, April 12, at 5 p.m. at Universal Studios. Tickets cost $30 minimum per person or $15 for a student, and seating is limited to the first 100 people. To purchase tickets or make a donation, contact Jewish World Watch at (818) 501-1836.
-- Jane Ulman, Contributing Editor
Children and Adults Spice Up SummerActivities With Yachad
The Orthodox Union's Yachad National Jewish Council for the Disabled is offering summer programs for developmentally disabled children and adults to participate in travel, sports, arts and drama. Yachad's varying offerings include a two-week Yachad Getaway to New York for ages 18 and over. Campers will stay in a private estate and can choose from daily activities such as swimming, dancing, baking and creative arts projects.
Programs offered also feature job-oriented focuses, providing work programs for ages 22 to 30. Attendees can learn how to become coaches or counselors and are placed in positions suiting their specific abilities.
In a shadow program, B'Moshava, children ages 10 to 15 with learning disabilities such as Asperger's syndrome can bunk together in a supportive environment with a well-trained staff to engage in socialization and inclusion.
The Yad B'Yad Israel Experience offers 18- to 35-year-olds an opportunity to travel to Jerusalem, an Israeli army base, the Kinneret and the Dead Sea. Activities range from camel riding, hiking up Masada and special Shabbat services. Other programs, such as Yad B'Yad East-West Coast/Hawaii Adventure, involve travel to cities throughout the country, ending in Hawaii.
For more information on these programs, and to register, call Nechama Braun, administrator of Yachad Summer Programs, (212) 613-8369 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.