"You call yourself a tzaddik, you're a liar!" Rabbi Steven Weil told his congregation in a fiery speech from the pulpit last Shabbat, regarding someone who acts very religious but may be involved in stealing, lying or cheating.
A member of Beth Jacob is alleged to have been involved in the scheme, and served as a subject of the three-part speech. Robert Kasirer, the state's confidential witness, has donated funds to the synagogue, including a kollel named for his father, Jacob Kasirer, and machzors (high holiday prayer books) embossed with the family name.
Weil declined to be interviewed for this article, saying his speech was a private sermon for community members and not for publication. But past-president Marc Rohatiner confirmed the content of the three-part speech. Firstly, Weil condemned the alleged actions in the Spinka case, noting that the United States government has treated the Jewish community wonderfully, and that there is no excuse for defrauding the government.
"He said that when non-Jews look at our behavior, they don't look at whether you keep Shabbos or wear tzitzit or keep kosher, they look at how you treat your employees, how you deal with the government, are you an honest and straightforward person?" Rohatiner recounted.
Actions like these play into negative stereotypes about Jews, Weil said.
Shul President Steve Tabak then announced that "at the request of Robert Kasirer and with the agreement of Beth Jacob," Kasirer will remove his family's name from Kollel (the adult learning center and its program), the Torahs and from the prayer books.
Weil, who has come under fire for evicting members from synagogue, then resumed his speech and said that they will not "engage in collective punishment" by barring the family from the shul. Kasirer was not one of the anonymous donors who contributed to the purchase of a new lot for Beth Jacob, Weil said.
Weil concluded by saying no one should point fingers at other religious Jews. He did not talk about the issue of moser (being a Jewish informant on other Jews).
-- Amy Klein, Religion Editor
Beth Am Losing Rembaum, Netter
Temple Beth Am, the flagship Conservative Synagogue, announced that its senior rabbi, Joel Rembaum, will retire in June 2010 after leading the synagogue for 25 years. Rabbi Perry Netter, who has been with the synagogue for 16 years, leading Beit Tefila, a minyan in the synagogue, will also be leaving the synagogue in the immediate future in search of another position. Cantor Jeremy Lipton also is leaving, according to a Jan. 11 letter to congregants.
Rembaum, who will be 66 when he retires, said he wants to be "young and vibrant" enough to continue to write, research, teach and volunteer, as well as spend time with his children and grandchildren. "I believe that institutions require a change of leadership after a designated period of time," Rembaum said. "I'm all in favor of a long tenure for a rabbi, but at the same time I think there's a time for an institution to get a new direction and new vision." The synagogue will form a search committee for a new senior rabbi, as well as defining the mission for the future.
"Change is a difficult thing," Rembaum said. "The more you can prepare the community, the easier it will be."
Golden Globes for Day-Lewis, Coen Brothers
'There Will Be Blood' theatrical trailer
The size of Jewish Golden Globe winners' contingent was slightly more impressive than the modesty of the hour-long newscast on Sunday evening, with two half-Jews -- Daniel Day-Lewis and David Duchovny -- helping to up the ethnic score.
Day-Lewis snagged the best dramatic actor award for his role as a tough oil prospector in "There Will Be Blood." He is the son of British Jewish actress Jill Balcon, and his wife Rebecca is the daughter of the late playwright Arthur Miller.
Neither Day-Lewis nor any other A-list stars in all their finery were in attendance to accept their awards, in view of the writers' strike against major film and television studios. Their absence reduced the customary three-hour blowout to a drab reading of names at a press conference.
Nevertheless, the Golden Globe Awards, conferred by the otherwise insignificant Hollywood Foreign Press Association, are considered a kind of audition for the prestigious Oscar awards on Feb. 24, and the winners' names were trumpeted in the local media.
Full, unhyphenated Jewish winners were:
- Julian Schnabel, the painter and musician, as director of "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly." The film about a stroke victim who can communicate only by blinking his left eyelid also won top foreign language film honors for France and the United States.
- Brothers Ethan and Joel Coen were awarded best screenplay kudos for the thriller "No Country for Old Men."
- Hollywood icon Steven Spielberg ("Schindler's List') was to be honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Award, but the presentation has been postponed to next year.
- Among television awards, Jeremy Piven topped the best supporting actor category as acerbic Hollywood agent Ari Gold in "Entourage."
Duchovny, whose father is Jewish, told reporters that he had been too nervous to listen to the results and went instead to a movie.
"I knew if my phone was ringing when I walked into my hotel room that I would have won," he said. "And it was. Nobody calls a loser."
-- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Prime Grill Still in Business
Prime Grill is not closing. The upscale Beverly Hills kosher restaurant is not becoming non-kosher, and it is not changing its menu.
Despite rumors around the Jewish community -- people call the restaurant every day to find out if it's still open -- Prime Grill has no intentions of closing.
"There is absolutely no truth to this rumor," general manager Mikael Choukroun said.
According to Steven Traub, the director of operations in New York, the rumors were started by a disgruntled employee and a produce supplier with whom there was a payment dispute. But the dispute has been resolved -- although the rumor still circulates. Prime Grill is located on Rodeo Drive, away from the main strip of kosher eateries on Pico Boulevard, and operated by the owners of Prime Grill in New York.
"There is a different mentality between New York and Los Angeles," Choukroun said. "People don't like to be rushed. They like to eat leisurely. People are not willing to pay the same amount," he said.
Los Angeles, he said, is a family-oriented place, where people are not willing to spend $100 per person for a meal on a regular basis. To adjust to the L.A. customer, he said they are going to be adding lower-priced items to the menu, and they will have specials.