'Munich' Still Topic of Debate
Even with Republican sponsors and a largely Republican audience, the panelists at a recent discussion on Steven Spielberg's "Munich" covered most of the spectrum from left to right.
At the event, held at Pepperdine University's School of Public Policy and sponsored by the Republican Jewish Coalition, Kathleen Wright, a writer, distributed an article titled, "'Munich' Stands for 'Appeasement.'" Her piece recycled New York Times' columnist David Brooks' argument that Spielberg, who has been nominated for a best directing Oscar, had posited a moral equivalence between the Black September terrorists and the Israeli commandos.
She was followed by Robert Kaufman, a professor at Pepperdine's School of Public Policy, who criticized Spielberg for failing to put the Munich attacks and response in the proper historical context.
The next speaker, professor Michael Berenbaum, disagreed with the charges of historical inaccuracy, saying it's not the job of a filmmaker to tell the complete history of Islamic-Jewish relations in one film. He also countered the moral equivalence argument by pointing out the scrupulous care with which the Israelis depicted in the film try to avoid inflicting collateral damage -- compared to the terrorists, who are shown gunning down the defenseless Israeli athletes.
Allan Mayer, a consultant who helped Spielberg navigate the "political minefield" of the film, addressed the frequent criticism that the film humanizes the terrorist masterminds by showing one to be a learned poet and another to be a family man with a charming daughter.
"That's the nature of evil," Mayer said, adding that it would be unrealistic and simplistic to portray the terrorists as being "painted blue with horns."
After questions were shouted from the audience of 150 -- despite the agreement that questions would only be submitted on cards -- each speaker was given an opportunity to sum up. The last word was left to Mayer, who said merely that he was glad that the film had gotten people talking about the issues. As he had noted earlier, "It's hitting people at a very deep level." -- Robert David Jaffee, Contributing Writer
Jewish Groups Get Federal Safety Funds
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has allocated $5.1 million in security funding for nonprofit, faith-based institutions in California, with $3.75 million earmarked for L.A. County. Synagogues, Jewish agencies and day schools across Los Angeles County make up the bulk of local nonprofit institutions receiving the local funding.
A state Office of Emergency Services listing of recipients shows that of the 46 local nonprofits getting funding, 28 are Jewish institutions representing almost $2 million combined out of the $3.75 million. The grants attracted 87 Los Angeles nonprofit applicants. Los Angeles City Councilman Jack Weiss, whose district includes the San Fernando Valley and the Westside, spearheaded the push for L.A. funding.
These grants will cover improvements on physical security, such as fences and security cameras. Jewish institutions receiving $100,000 grants include the Simon Wiesenthal Center/Museum of Tolerance, the University of Judaism, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, Emek Hebrew Academy in Sherman Oaks and Yeshiva of Los Angeles high school.
In a Feb. 10 press release announcing the grants, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said L.A. nonprofits finally are getting, "a larger portion of security funds available to local governments."
Along with Jewish institutions, federal security grants of $100,000 also have been awarded to the Los Angeles Music Center, plus hospitals in Los Angeles, Glendale, Burbank and Long Beach.
Synagogues receiving federal funding in the $90,000 range are the Orthodox shuls Chabad of the Valley in Tarzana and the Pico-Robertson's Torat Hayim, plus Conservative synagogues Adat Shalom in Westwood, Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles and Venice's Temple Mishkon Tephilo. A grant of $88,559 was awarded to the Orthodox Young Israel of Century City, while Conservative Shomrei Torah of West Hills is receiving $75,631.
Jewish agencies getting federal money include a $96,500 grant to Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles. The L.A. office of the National Council of Jewish Women and the L.A. Hillel Council each will be receiving funds in the upper $40,000 range. The Westside Jewish Community Center received almost $61,000, while Long Beach's Barbara & Ray Alpert Jewish Community Center got $91,500, according to the Emergency Services Office.
Jewish schools with grants include the Fairfax District's Yavneh Hebrew Academy ($90,339) and Bais Yaakov School for Girls ($69,746), plus New Community Jewish High School in West Hills ($31,900), the Pico-Robertson's Maimonides Academy ($41,978) and West Covina's Atid Hebrew Academy ($80,000). — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer