Interfaith Fasting for Yom Kippur
Jews aren't the only ones fasting this High Holiday season.
Two other religious organizations, one Christian, one Muslim, have joined with a Jewish one to call on Americans to take part in a nationwide fast of reflection, repentance, reconciliation and renewal from sunrise to sunset on Oct. 13.
For Jews, that is the Yom Kippur fast day, the Day of Judgment (which actually begins the eve of Oct. 12). For Muslims it is one of the days of Ramadan, the religions' monthlong sunup to sundown fast. For Christians, Oct. 4 is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi and Oct. 2 is Worldwide Communion Sunday for Protestants and Orthodox churches around the world.
The nationwide fast day, "God's October Surprise," comes out of The Tent of Abraham, Hagar & Sarah, a gathering of different religions last year that included Jewish participation as well as involvement from the National Council of Churches and the Islamic Society of North America.
The call to fast reads: "Engaged as we are in war, violence and repression with strong religious overtones, we, communities of the faithful, could instead take some action together during the Ramadan/ Tishrei month to change public policy in favor of protecting human rights, healing the earth, and achieving peace in the regions where Abraham, Hagar and Sarah sojourned."
"We see this as a most creative way of promoting religious harmony and understanding," said Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, secretary general of the Islamic Society of North America.
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of The Shalom Center, said thousands of interfaith events will be held around the country in October and urged private individuals to participate as well, such as eating together at iftar, Ramadan break-the-fast meals.
For more information go to www.tentofabraham.org -- Amy Klein, Religion Editor
O.C. Choir Director Charged
The choir director at Temple Bat Yahm in Newport Beach has been charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly making "illegal, improper physical contact" with one of his students, a 15-year-old girl.
Police arrested Thomas Macfarlane, 48, for alleged conduct that took place at the temple, in cars in Newport Beach and Aliso Viejo and at Macfarlane's apartment in Newport Beach. The physical contact did not include sexual intercourse, said Jim Amormino, spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department. The specific charge against Macfarlane is "child annoying," for which he could face up to a year in county jail.
Macfarlane, according to police, was a "family friend" of the alleged victim and began a physical relationship with her at the beginning of the year. An anonymous tip prompted the investigation. Macfarlane, who had worked as a contract employee at the Reform 600-member synagogue since 1997, resigned on May 15, 2005. The investigation that led to charges against Macfarlane took several months, leading to his arrest on Aug. 24.
Temple executives continue to cooperate with police, said Bill Shane, Bat Yahm's executive director, adding that members were surprised to learn of the allegations against Macfarlane.
Macfarlane has been released in lieu of $10,000 bail. His arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 22. -- Marc Ballon, Senior Writer
Businesses Go Green
Yes, it is possible to make green and be green at the same time, even for dry cleaners.
Couturier Cleaners, located in the Pico-Robertson area, has made a point to start using GreenEarth Cleaning, a silicone-based solvent reported to be nonhazardous. And that voluntary gesture has gotten recognition -- an environmental stamp of approval from the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life of Southern California (COEJL/SC).
This positive notice is part of a new initiative to recognize publicly area businesses that incorporate environmentally conscious practices into their day-to-day operations. The presentation to Couturier owner James Jung was made Aug. 29, with Assemblyman Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys) and the Interfaith Environmental Council also on hand.
"Moving Los Angeles in a greener direction will involve more than just planting more trees," Levine said. "With elected officials, green businesses and [environmental] organizations working together, we can dramatically improve our city's quality of life and make it a more attractive city at the same time."
Green Seals also were given to Rob Tossberg of R&D Print and Packaging and Marty Metro of UsedCarboardBoxes.com.
"It is important that we acknowledge businesses that are instilling green practices and distinguish them from other businesses that simply talk about it," said Lee Wallach, president of COEJL/SC.
For more information about the Green Seal program, visit www.coejlsc.com or call (310) 841-2970. -- Adam Wills, Associate Editor
Search Intensifies for Nazi
An effort by the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center has resulted in renewed efforts to catch a Nazi war criminal. Investigators in Germany have stepped up their search for Aribert Heim, an Austrian doctor who performed gruesome operations on inmates at the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. An active bank account in Berlin suggests that Heim is still alive, German police said.
The search for Heim, who would be 91 years old, was reactivated after the Wiesenthal Center launched Project Last Chance, a last-ditch effort to track down Nazi war criminals. Heim was arrested by American forces after the war and released from prison in 1949, reportedly because evidence of his service at Mauthausen had been removed from his files. He then went into hiding. -- Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Everyone's a Critic -- Even Terrorists
A Palestinian terrorist assailed Steven Spielberg for not consulting him for a film on the Munich Olympics massacre. Mohammad Daoud, who masterminded the abduction and killing of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Games, said Tuesday that the Hollywood director had not contacted him about the upcoming film.
"If someone really wanted to tell the truth about what happened he should talk to the people involved, people who know the truth," Daoud told Reuters in an interview from his Middle East hideout.
Spielberg has said his film, which chronicles the massacre and Israel's hunt for the terrorists responsible, will be fair to all parties. Veterans of Israel's Mossad spy agency also have said they were not consulted on the project, which appears to draw mainly on a controversial 1984 expose titled "Vengeance." -- JTA