The Holy Rabbi is gone. For a week, his face graced a billboard above Alvarado Street and Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park. The black hat, long beard and sidelocks belonged to Woody Allen, poached from a scene in "Annie Hall." Beside his face, the Yiddish words in Hebrew letters read "der heyliker rebe" (the holy rabbi).
The billboard put up by American Apparel -- another like it ran concurrently on the Lower East Side in Manhattan -- represented a break from the Los Angeles-based clothing line's overtly sexual attitude. The company's advertisements typically feature young women in brightly colored cotton underwear.
When the billboards went up earlier this month, it seemed the trendy clothing line had found religion.
"Woody Allen is our spiritual leader," company spokeswoman Alex Spunt said.
But that is all she'd say.
And now the billboards are gone. A spokesman for the actor said he was unaware of the billboard design before it was posted. The blog Jewlicious, was reporting that Allen's attorney demanded that the company take the image down.
The billboards here and in New York were lowered Monday morning, replaced in Echo Park with a more familiar American Apparel ad: a pubescent-looking woman in striped stockings, panties and a white tank top, lying on a white sheet and blowing bubblegum.
-- Brad A. Greenberg, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy LA Curbed
Court Arguments End in Case Over Disputed Jerusalem Site for Museum of Tolerance
Israel's High Court of Justice (Supreme Court) has finally heard the last of the impassioned pleadings, and a decision seems near on whether the Center for Human Dignity-Museum of Tolerance will rise in the heart of Jerusalem.
It's been three years to the month since high Israeli and California dignitaries picked up shovels and broke ground for the $200 million project and more than 16 months that the case has been before the court. During that time, the dispute surrounding the museum's future has touched on all the easily inflamed religious and political sensitivities of the Arab-Jewish conflict.
Construction on the complex, designed by architect Frank Gehry, had barely begun when two Palestinian advocacy groups petitioned for a halt because the museum would sit atop the historic Mamilla Cemetery.
Workmen excavating the site in early 2006 unearthed bones and partial skeletons from the old Muslim cemetery, also known as the Maman Allah Cemetery. There is agreement among all parties that Muslims have been buried at the site for many centuries and that bodies may possibly lie five layers deep.
The Wiesenthal Center and the Jerusalem municipality have offered to renovate a nearby neglected Muslim cemetery and rebury the affected remains there.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, who initiated the Jerusalem project as founding dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, has argued that the site has been used for decades as a parking lot and underground garage and that an Islamic court had ruled that the old cemetery had lost its scared character.
Hier, who in developing the Wiesenthal Center and its Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance into one of the most influential global Jewish organizations, has never shied away from a conflict. He is convinced that the Israeli court will rule in his favor.
"We have a compelling case, which is both legally and morally right," Hier said in an interview last week.
He said that Palestinian claims to land ownership would affect not only the three-acre site for the museum, but a much larger area that includes Jerusalem's Independence Park and the Palace Hotel.
"We are fully supported by 200 friends of the court briefs, by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Jerusalem Mayor Uriel Lupolianski," he said.
However, the other side also has strong supporters, including both Palestinian leaders and prominent Israeli politicians.
Hier does not even like to entertain the possibility that he might lose, but the rabbi promised that "he would accept any ruling by the High Court."
In the meanwhile, the delay in construction has cost the Wiesenthal Center about $1.5 million, and any restriction on land use allocated for the museum site would force a complete redesign of the original plans.
"The city hall in Amman, Jordan, and structures in other Arab countries have been built on abandoned Muslim cemeteries," Hier said.
"We cannot be held to a higher standard than the Muslims hold themselves."
-- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Shalhevet Students Organize Street Fair to Raise Funds for Israel Social Causes
Students at Shalhevet High School are throwing an Israeli Street Festival on Sunday, with all proceeds going to benefit social causes in Israel. Offering rides, a petting zoo, games, kosher food and shopping, organizers hope that whole families will turn out for a day of Israeli-themed fun. Pop stars Evan and Jaron will be performing, among other entertainers.
Maxine Renzer, a Shalhevet 10th-grader who is co-chairing the event, said sponsorship has already covered all the costs, so all revenue will go directly to Israeli charities. Once the committee members tally up the take, they will vote on whether to give it all to one charity or divide it up among a few. The event is co-sponsored by StandWithUs, NCSY and Bnei Akiva youth group. Renzer said it hasn't been any problem to get Shalhevet students volunteer to staff the event.
"Everyone is very pro-Israel here," Renzer said. "It's getting everyone very excited and raising the school spirit."
The fair will take place May 20, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at Shalhevet, 910 S. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles. For more information, call (323) 930-9333.
Jewish Free Loan Association Creates Program to Assist Nursing Students
The Jewish Free Loan Association (JFLA) has created a program to provide nursing students annual interest-free loans of up to $10,000.In collaboration with the Jewish Home for the Aging's new Annenberg School of Nursing, which will train licensed vocational nurses, JFLA is trying to combat California's nursing crunch. The state ranks 49th nationally in nurses per capita, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, with a shortage that is expected to grow 29 percent by 2020.
The Brandman Foundation Loan Fund for Nursing Students was funded by a $250,000 donation from the Saul Brandman Foundation, which has also supported the Brandman Research Institute at the Jewish Home for the Aging and the Saul & Joyce Brandman Breast Center at Cedars Sinai Medical Center.
For more information, visit www.JFLA.org or call (323) 761-8830.
MAZON Distributes $1.4 Million in Grants to Hunger-Relief Organizations Worldwide
MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger last week announced $304,000 in grants to 29 California hunger-relief organizations -- and $1.5 million worldwide.
Recipients ranged from programs that prepare and deliver meals to people with HIV/AIDS to those that provide meals to the elderly.
Since its founding in 1985 with the intention of raising money from the Jewish community and reallocating it to hunger-relief programs, MAZON has donated more than $40 million to fight hunger in the United States, Israel and elsewhere.
For more information, visit www.mazon.org.