Honoring Jewish Veterans
For some, Veterans Day might be just another excuse to miss work. For others, it is a day of remembrance in honor of all soldiers, dead and alive, who have fought to preserve the American way of life.
Count the Jewish War Veterans among the latter. On Nov. 10, Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel in Westwood and local members of Jewish War Veterans - a national affiliation of Jews who have served in the U.S. Armed Services and fought in every American conflict through the Gulf War - will salute the holiday as they have for the past decade - with a special commemorative dinner at Sephardic Temple's Maurice Amado Hall. In addition to the reverent gathering, photos and manuscripts will be on display in the lobby.
Rabbi Jacob Ott, rabbi emeritus of Sephardic Temple, where he served as spiritual leader for 34 years, helped start the annual banquet 13 years ago with co-chairs Steve Rosmarin and Hy Arnesty. Ott said that his interest in such an evening was partly personal.
"I'm a veteran myself," Ott told The Journal. "I was the Jewish chaplain of 83rd Infantry Division. I have five battle scars and the Bronze Star Medal with oakleaf cluster."
Arnesty, who is grateful for the continued support from Sephardic Temple's current spiritual leader, Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, said that the annual dinner is a very important event for members of the 105-year-old veterans organization.
"It's very gratifying and important to celebrate the Jewish War Veterans," said the colorful Arnesty, a former Fairfax High rope-climbing champion. "If it wasn't for these veterans, Hitler would be in the White House."
"I've been told so many times that Jews never participated in wars. This is not true," said Arnesty, who points out that Jews served in every major American war, including the American Revolution and the War of 1812. "We have a monument at Home of Peace Memorial Park in memory of all the Jewish men and women who served in the U.S. military in war and peace."
"It opens our eyes to the fact that the Jews, much beyond their numbers, have contributed a lot in the military," said Jack Israel, editor of Sephardic Temple's El Shofar newsletter, who credits Arnesty for his tireless efforts in putting the Jewish War Veterans' evening together.
"He demands and inspires a lot of attention, without any great amount of accolades," said Israel.Last year's Jewish War Veterans affair was graced by guest speaker Lt. Col. Gil Elan of the Israel Defense Forces Reserves. This year, the veterans will welcome keynote speaker Neil Goldman, past national commander of the Jewish War Veterans and president of the National Museum of American Jewish Military History in Washington, D.C. The organization expects about 400 veterans, members of L.A.'s two local Jewish War Veterans chapters, to attend next week. And seeing that their first event attracted about 25 people, organizers are over the moon about the dinner's growth through the years.
"It's a real commemoration. It's very serious, very sacred," said Ott, who added that the bond among these vets is equally sacrosanct. "Very often, you will find when buddies get together and share memories, it really is a matter of the heart."
For more information or to make reservations, call Suzanne Hodel at (310) 475-7311 at Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel in Westwood. The Jewish War Veterans' monument, which was dedicated May 28, 2000, is at Home of Peace Memorial Park at 4334 Whittier Blvd., Los Angeles. - By Michael Aushenker, Staff Writer
Art of Yiddish Scheduled
In a way, these are boom times for Yiddish culture. Enthusiasts young and old - many drawn in by klezmer music - are now flocking to rediscover the mameloshn and all that goes with it. At the same time, the generations who spoke Yiddish as a native language are dwindling. To keep the vitality of the culture alive, dedicated activists in places as far afield as Amherst, Massachusetts, Oxford, England and Vilna, Lithuania now offer educational opportunities for those fascinated by Yiddish. Here in Los Angeles, Miriam Koral's California Institute for Yiddish Language and Culture, in conjunction with UCLA Extension and Yiddishkayt Los Angeles, has announced a two-week immersion program called The Art of Yiddish. From Dec. 17 -29, participants can enjoy intensive Yiddish language courses along with music, theater and film events. One highlight: a bilingual dramatic reading of "Vini-der-Pu," the recently published Yiddish version of A. A. Milne's classic.
The Art of Yiddish is open to everyone, from fumbling beginners to fluent Yiddish speakers. Applicants can attend the entire program or bypass the language classes and focus solely on the cultural offerings. All activities take place at Santa Monica's DoubleTree Guest Suites, where some participants are booking rooms for the two-week period. As a forshpayz (appetizer), organizers have planned an open house from 4 to 6 p.m. on Sun., Nov. 5, in the Humanities Conference Room at UCLA's Royce Hall. The free event features the Ellis Island Klezmer Band as well as nosherai (refreshments).
Koral, who grew up in a Yiddish-speaking household, insists that "Yiddish is not about nostalgia. There's a tremendous sophistication in the body of work that has been produced, in literature and in every other aspect of the culture. It's an incredible legacy."
She adds, "Yiddish has magic. It can yet outwit history."