Rachel Jagoda Lithgow, Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust executive director, announced last week that she will step down from the post she's held for five years in advance of a move to Chicago. Mark Rothman, Holocaust services advocate at Bet Tzedek, will take over the position in April.
Jagoda brought the museum back from the brink of bankruptcy and focused on programming that didn't deal exclusively with Jews. She staged exhibitions on the Cambodian genocide, the persecution of homosexuals and Jehovah's Witnesses during the Holocaust and concluded her tenure with a screening of "Beyond the Gates," a new film about the 1994 Rwandan massacre.
Rothman, a USC film graduate, produced documentaries and conducted numerous interviews with Holocaust survivors for the Shoah Visual History Foundation. Rothman said he will continue Jagoda's efforts to establish a permanent home for the museum in Pan-Pacific Park.
"We're very close to receiving a building permit," he said, adding that his primary tasks in the foreseeable future will be to "raise money to build the museum, oversee the construction and maintain the current museum as a culturally and artistically significant institution."
-- Robert David Jaffee, Contributing Writer
Iranians fast for accident victims
More than a dozen Iranian rabbis in Los Angeles and New York released a joint statement earlier this month that declared March 19 a day of communitywide fasting among Iranian Jews living in both cities.
Individuals working at the Nessah Cultural Center in Beverly Hills said the rabbis established the day of fasting and prayer after two young L.A. Iranian Jews died in recent accidents and after three young New York Iranian Jews were killed in a house fire. Community volunteers said fasting among Iranian Jews is a long-held tradition dating back to the story of Purim.
"During difficult times, they ask for mercy and salvation from God through fasting and prayer," said George Haroonian, an Iranian Jewish activist. Those who participated in the communitywide fast were asked to recite Tehilim and refrain from speaking in places where the fast was observed.
-- Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer
Interfaith bill performs at "FaithJam"
An interfaith collaboration of music groups and comedians took to the stage for "FaithJam 2007" at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Little Tokyo on March 8. The event, part of the weeklong cultural festival, Let My People Sing, celebrated the diversity of faith through music and comedy. Muslim comedian Maz Jobrani and Jewish comedian Eric Schwartz co-hosted the event, which featured several musical groups celebrating a wide range of cultures.
Acts included On Ensemble, which infuses rock, jazz and folk music with taiko drumming; Israeli rock band MisFlag; Pakistani rock sensation Junoon, fronted by peace advocate Salman Ahmad; and the high-spirited, enthusiastic gospel of Christ Our Redeemer African Methodist Episcopal Church Chorale.
Proceeds from the event benefited Jewish World Watch, a coalition of 50 synagogues working to combat genocide.
Before the finale, event producer Craig Taubman united the acts on stage and broke bread with them.
"If you have no food, you have no Torah, and if you have no Torah you have no food.... This is Torah," he said.
-- Jay Firestone, Contributing Writer
Aliyah group reserves El Al flights
Nefesh B'Nefesh, the U.S. organization that helps North American and European Jews streamline the process of aliyah, has launched a new program aimed at reserving specific sections on El Al flights each month, rather than relying on less-frequent chartered flights.
The first group of olim (immigrants) to take advantage of the program arrived in Israel from the United States on March 14.
"Making Aliyah as part of a group is more emotionally supportive and uplifting.... We wanted to enable olim arriving throughout the year to have that same experience, in addition to the reduced bureaucracy," said Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, Nefesh B'Nefesh co-founder and executive director.
For more information, visit nbn.org.il.
-- Amy Klein, Religion Editor