Posted by LiAmi Lawrence
Israel's big 65th Birthday bash was this past Sunday and Israeli blue and white flags fluttered in the breeze on a beautiful day in Rancho Park. The park was transformed into Israel as the smell of Israeli food wafted through the air as Israeli music blared and Hebrew was everywhere. Except, it felt like a small Israeli village instead of Tel Aviv because the park was nearly empty.
Before I criticize the fact that only 10,000 people attended (I am being generous) I need to congratulate the festival organizers the Israeli American Council (IAC) and festival producer Adee Drory because it was a first rate festival on production values alone. From very easy parking and fast shuttle buses ( not even waiting a minute) to the beautiful decorations,stages, entertainment and the first ever outdoor bar, it was first class production all the way and for that I say "Kol Hakavod" (all the power).
HOWEVER...... the festival lacked people and this is what I need to talk about. The attendance was way down from last year's 15,000+ in a city that boasts over 550,000 Jews and tens of thousands of Israelis (both legal and illegal ok I'll be pc and say undocumented) happy? Now first off, the festival had the misfortune of being of falling on the same week as the tragic terrorist attack in Boston. And despite being a hardy bunch many Israelis and Americans stayed home letting their fears get the best of them. Many families didn't want to take a chance with their kids and refused to go. Who can blame them? I am single and I am only responsible for myself. I don't have kids, so I can't criticize.
Now the biggest reason families didn't show up was the cost. The IAC took control over the festival two years ago and moved it to Rancho Park. The festival which was for many years in the Valley, used to be only a few shekels for admission and families came en masse with grills, picnic baskets and it was a "hafla" in the park.
No mas! The new festival does not allow anything to be brought into the park. Nada, Klum, Zilch, so families are forced to buy all their food and drink in the park. At $20 per person cover and $10 per child it can get very expensive. Yes they do have family of 4 discounts of $43 but I digress.
Now add $10 for parking, another $20 for rides for each kid, and another $15 per person for food and drink and it can get very expensive.
And this is where the IAC has lost touch with the average Shlomo. Many Israeli as well as many American families are struggling to make ends meet. Many families do not have $200 to spend the day in "little Tel Aviv". The festival organizers need to reduce the cover and I promise double or triple the crowd will show up. Celebrating Israel shouldn't be just for the rich. Remember most of us here are the "amcha" (the simple people). Moreover, the Israeli community is taken for granted. They should be invited not just placing colorful ads up with the festival info expecting people to show up but inviting them to feel apart of something special.
Next, more effort must be made to attract American Jews. The Westside, which is about 80% Jewish (okay, I exaggerate, but there's A LOT) should attract tens of thousands to a fun Jewish day in the park if they felt included and there was something in it for them. There are thousands of Russian Jews in LA who were not present . Why? They are huge supporters of Israel and many have relatives there. Russians have transformed Israel into a first class country. Why not have a Russian stage and Russian community things to do at the festival to attract the regular Vadim's and Marina's of the community. More effort must be made to attract this community.
Equally, the Persian Jewish community numbering at least 20,000 people should show up en masse as well. So too the Evangical Christians. They love Israel and the Jewish people. This is a win- win situation for all involved.
In the weeks before the Festival the organizers did exhaustive outreach to many parts of the community. They generated buzz and excitement. But at the end of the day, what matters is who actually walks through the gates.
There should be no reason why the festival can't attract 50,000 people or more. It's in the realm of possibility. Now having organized and produced Israel's 50th anniversary festival in the San Gabriel and Pomona Valley for the Jewish Federatiion there, I know how much hard work and effort was made to produce this festival. I can tell you that I collapsed on stage during that festival and was in bed for 5 days afterwards because of exhaustion.
The only "fedechas" ( f...up) of this near perfect production was an Israeli singer who shall remain nameless, who sang the National Anthem in such poor English the crowd was roaring with laughter. They should have a big American celebrity to sing this not an Israeli. Remember be more inclusive. Moreover, they should have a red carpet full of American celebrities to attend this community event like we did when created " Live for Sderot" when I worked at the Israeli Consulate. We had over 60 celebrities walk the red carpet. They can have a VIP tent and charge money to drink with the celebrities. And lastly, limit the speeches on stage to no more than 2 minutes. Less is better. I get it -- Jews like to talk -- but enough.
I hope the IAC listens and hears what I am telling them, so that next year the festival will draw tens of thousands of people and the community will have a beautiful festival for the people to enjoy it.
This blog has been edited from the original version to reflect factual changes. For more on the Journal's coverage of the Celebrate Israel Festival, click here.
4.24.13 at 4:02 pm | My constructive criticism how to improve the. . .
4.10.13 at 6:25 pm | G-d is pissed! A Shameful Way to Treat Our Dead!
3.15.13 at 10:57 am | Lapid and Bennett the new heroes that will save. . .
7.24.12 at 7:48 pm | The Sham of the International Olympic Committee
6.25.12 at 9:04 pm | Shame on the Jewish Federation !!! The ZOA Fiasco
4.27.12 at 9:20 am | My satirical view on Israel's 64th birthday
4.10.13 at 6:25 pm | G-d is pissed! A Shameful Way to Treat Our Dead! (13)
3.15.13 at 10:57 am | Lapid and Bennett the new heroes that will save. . . (4)
4.24.13 at 4:02 pm | My constructive criticism how to improve the. . . (4)
April 10, 2013 | 6:25 pm
Posted by LiAmi Lawrence
Jewish tradition gives us specific instructions to have respect for the dead to watch over and clean their bodies, to sit shiva, say Kaddish and to remember the departed. In Los Angeles however, our rabbis and community leaders obviously missed that lesson in the Talmud because they are out partying and vacationing on their huge salaries while hundreds of gravestones of Jews from our community are broken and in ruins.
At the Mt. Zion Cemetery in East Los Angeles, hundreds of graves are broken split in pieces either by vandals or time. After the LA Times' Hector Becerra, wrote an article about it last week, I met the only person in LA who deserves the title of Rabbi and the only Rabbi that gives a Shit! Rabbi Moshe Greenwald of Chabad of Downtown LA and I walked together in shock as we surveyed the damage to our brothers and sisters buried in this sacred ground. There are no words to describe headstones that are pushed over on their side and smashed in pieces. Hundreds of them! Other graves completely missing their headstones. Where is the outrage? Shame? Disgust? Outcry?
The cemetery which closed some years ago was apparently abandoned by the owner. Since then the Jewish Federation has had some responsibility over it giving a few shekels a year to clear the brush. I guess the Federation really doesn't care about the final resting place of the former members of the Jewish Community of Los Angeles some resting there for over 90 years, cause they be dead. Are you listening Jay Sanderson, so called Head of the Jewish Federation who makes over $600,000 a year plus benefits? And the other so called big shot Jews that work there? Can you spare a few shekels to fix this SHANDA? Where is Rabbi Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center? It's only a Shanda if he can make some money of it huh?
Last week a Jewish cemetery in Moldavia was vandalized and a few gravestones destroyed by anti-semites. I’m sure that Rabbi Hier is on the case, with cameras rolling. He never misses an opportunity to be in front of a camera. Expect an envelope to arrive in the mail requesting money from him shortly in the guise of Anti- Semitism.
My Yiddles and Yiddletes this is in our community. All ya'll pay big bucks to be buried. "I want to be buried where the sun hits me under the tree" and pay thousands of dollars for that privilege. But what happens in 80 years from now when none of your relatives are around to visit or care for your upkeep? It’s up to the community to take care of its dead when all the surviving relatives are long gone.
The good Rabbi and I and a group of other outraged Jews decided we will do something about this SHANDA because our conscience dictates that we must. We are doing what must be done and we will need help. Lots of help! Just to fix the tombstones will be tens of thousands of dollars. In addition, most of the approximately 7,000 other tombstones that are still standing need to be cemented to their base.
The heads of the Federation have known about this problem for sometime now and chose to do nothing. Out of sight out of mind in East LA. They can't spend their precious funds on dead people when their top execs need a raise. C'mon now those folks are dead.
This is Shameful! Therefore, it is up to us the good people of our community to do the right thing and show respect for the dead. Let's not piss of G-d any further!
PS- A core group of concerned individuals including Rabbi Greenwald and myself with the support of Mayoral Candidate Jan Perry and Speaker of the California Assembly John Perez will be getting together on Sunday April 28thto discuss what we will do to fix this deplorable situation.If you are interested in helping please contact myself or the Rabbi. Rabbi firstname.lastname@example.org or LiAmi – email@example.com
March 15, 2013 | 10:57 am
Posted by LiAmi Lawrence
A new Israeli Government has now been formed and this will be the first time that the religious Haredi parties will be sitting out on the sidelines and not in the Government. No more fat men in their black coats - there are no fat lady Knesset Members in their parties because they are not allowed -chas v chilila- will sit inside the government and write out blank checks for their rabbis and yeshivas. No more exempting yeshiva students from joining the army while they sit back and pretend to study in a yeshiva and make babies. No more blackmailing and shoving down religious laws and decrees down the throats of the Israeli public.
Maybe now 300,000 mostly Russian Israelis who do serve in the army, who pay taxes, hmmm -that's an interesting concept- and are proud to be Israeli won't have to fly to Cypress to get married because in Israel the Rabbis don't deem them Jewish enough and forbid them from getting married in any type of ceremony. Just maybe we can have Civil Weddings in Israel to save them the indignation and expense of flying abroad just to put a ring on it.
Maybe for once the honor of serving in the IDF will be evenly divided between all Israelis. Maybe now the the Haredim will actually have to get off their butts and get a job and not have the Israeli public pay for their 10th child. Maybe now women in Jerusalem won't be forced to the back of the bus in Haredi neighborhoods. Maybe now Israeli hotels and restaurants can be free to celebrate the New Year January 1, like the rest of the world and not be afraid of losing their kosher licenses. Maybe now we won't have so many jail cells filled with members of the Shas Party's inner circle. (at least a minyan)
Maybe if the Haredim are forced to sit on the sidelines women won't be arrested for praying at the Kotel. (G-d doesn't hear the prayers of women in Kippot- I'm just sayin!) Just maybe they will have time to look inside of themselves and reflect why the Israeli public has such disdain for them and how they represent themselves. And how their behavior of schnorring, lying and cheating has turned of thousands from the beauty of our religion. Nahhh, they really don't care. It's a good thing that I am not in the government and in charge of peace negotiations with the Palestinians because if I was, Bnei Brak, Bet Shemesh and Meah Shearim would become part of Palestine. Na na na na hey hey hey goodbye. End of Story.
For the first time two parties - Yesh Atid and Jewish Home- with opposite beliefs tied their fates together by negotiating as one and not leaving the other one behind. Finally some integrity comes to the Knesset in the likes of Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett. And that gives me hope for Israel's future.
July 24, 2012 | 7:48 pm
Posted by LiAmi Lawrence
Forty years after the Munich Olympic massacre in which 11 Israeli Olympians were killed the International Olympic Committee (IOC) still has not honored the Israeli victims of a so-called peaceful Olympics. In 1972, not only did the German Government ignore warnings three weeks before the Olympics of an impending terrorist plot against the Israelis, after the massacre the games went on -business as usual. Of course there were pictures of a few people crying- but recently released pictures of the Olympic village after the massacre show athletes lounging in the sun as the party went on cause they were only Jews-only 11 of them-after all Germany killed six million 30 years before -so what’s another 11?
But the show must go on - and on the Olympics went. Let’s cut the BS- If Russian athletes were murdered, would the show go on? Nyet- Cuban athletes? No way Jose! But Israelis, who cares? Jewish life is cheap. The US should have pulled out of the Olympics immediately but didn’t. And the world quickly forgot.
For forty years Israel has asked for a moment of silence for the athletes and forty years it was rejected.
“It’s a downer.” “The Jews should get over it” “Let’s party!” The head of the IOC, Jaques Rogge, (himself an athlete at the 1972 Olympics) is an anti-semitic piece of shit-yes I said it—doesn’t believe in a moment of silence at the opening ceremonies Friday night in London. Instead, to deflect criticism, he held his own moment of silence with a few of his friends earlier this week in a private ceremony. How lovely! He is saying to himself “Why won’t these g-d damn Jews stop whining already?”
What these damn Jews want is a moment of silence. The whole Olympic village is a sham. The IOC is a sham. Peace, love and brotherhood is a sham. How nice that the team from Iran has graciously consented not to run off the field this Olympics, if they face Israeli opponents unlike years past. After all, we Jews should be grateful that Israel is even invited to participate at all. How many countries don’t even recognize our right to exist?
The real hero is Ankie Spitzer, widow of murdered Israeli fencing coach Andrei Spitzer, who has been trying to get the IOC to honor these victims. Her pleas have fallen on deaf ears. If the Olympics won’t pay tribute to our fallen heroes then we need to do it ourselves. The 2012 Israeli Olympic team needs to march into the Stadium Friday night wearing black armbands and pictures of our murdered athletes. F it, and I don’t give a damn, we need to have some respect for ourselves and march in with our heads held up high to remind the world that our athletes were murdered during this so-called peaceful event and if the world community won’t do the right thing and honor them-we will!
June 25, 2012 | 9:04 pm
Posted by LiAmi Lawrence
As a left of center liberal who proudly stands up for most Jewish and Israeli causes, I was disgusted and ashamed when I heard from my friend Orit Arfa, Executive Director of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) Western Region, that the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles, canceled the planned event of the ZOA at Federation headquarters, 3 hours before it was supposed to start.
The ZOA a right wing organization if you will, scheduled an event on Sunday with controversial Jewish blogger Pamela Geller on the subject of “Islamic Jew Hatred as the Root Cause of Failure to Achieve Peace in the Middle East.” Sunday’s event, was planned a month in advance and was even posted on the Federation website. At 7:30am Steve Goldberg (National VP of ZOA) was notified by the leaders of the Federation including Federation head Jay Sanderson , that the event was cancelled. According to Goldberg, “the Federation cancelled the event because they were afraid of Muslim protesters”.
The event was quickly moved to a different location and over 40 people still attended. However many more people who planned to go weren’t notified of the last minute change missed Geller’s speech. Now, the Federation , which I stopped supporting long ago (think highly inflated salaries of the execs, not servicing the poor or the Israeli or Russian communities with anything but lip service, blah , blah, blah,) belongs to the whole Jewish community both left and right and center and every Jew in between.
Does the Federation have the right to censor different Jewish groups that are part of the mainstream? Will they cancel a speaker from Peace Now or Democrats for Israel? Who decides? Should I give Jay Sanderson a copy of my blogs beforehand so he can censor them too? Who appointed him the King? Oh ya, he gets over $500,000 a year to be king of the Jews, I digress.
Do I support the goals of ZOA? No
Do I support the views of Pamela Geller? No
Do the Muslims or Arabs cancel speeches because they may upset Jews? No
These people have a right to be heard, no matter how much we may or may not disagree with it. The people in our community need to hear all opinions and to draw their own conclusions.
The Federation said they were concerned for public safety. The Federation building is well protected with armed guards, cameras, metal detectors as well as the LAPD. When I worked at the Israeli Consulate a threat to my life was faxed in to the Consulate during the Gaza War. Was I scared? Did I shake in my boots? Did I stop working? No!!! Because if we give in to threats, then the terrorists will have won. Period!! That’s why life goes on in Israel -we don’t give into terror.
Will the Federation start evicting different groups from 6505, because certain people may not like their viewpoints on certain issues. Maybe we should send a list of these organizations to the Islamic Council on Public Affairs to see if they meet their approval.
When I had my radio show last year we had such anti-Israeli guests like Knesset Member Ahmed Tibi, co-founder of the Free Gaza Movement, Greta Berlin and others who the Jewish Community finds offensive. Did I or the station censor my show or my guests? No! Why because we are all intelligent enough to make up our own minds, and everyone deserves to be heard. I value everyone’s opinion, even if I may disagree with it. Although I disagree with her and the ZOA on some issues, Orit Arfa is a friend of mine just as Greta Berlin and Knesset Member Tibi are facebook friends of mine. We agree to disagree. Period!
Jay Sanderson and the Jewish Federation owe the entire Jewish community an apology for quivering and shaking in their boots to threats, for censoring an interesting speaker and for underestimating the intelligence of the Jewish community.
April 27, 2012 | 9:20 am
Posted by LiAmi Lawrence
She may be getting old but at 64 she is still young. She may have some wrinkles and some faults but she still is beautiful. Our little Israel is one year away from her social security check. Get the Geritol, Viagra and Depends and let’s get this party started! This small tiny miracle of a country has now over 7.881 million people (5.9 million Jews plus 300,000 people who lost their Jewish identity when immigrating to Israel you see because only their father was Jewish. Imagine immigrating from Russia where you were called “dirty Jew ” all your life and you move to Israel and you find out that your not really Jewish after all. Huh?- But I digress) Remember the days when we barely had a minyon? Although, the land of Israel always had a continuous Jewish presence the country was founded in 1948 with only 650,000 Jews. Well through all the yelling, screaming, wars and protests -we be having babies-alot-of them- we have one of the highest birthrates in the Western world. Israel is becoming one of the most densest population centers in the world. We are paving over the entire Holy Land with cement. Pretty soon the only green left in Israel will be the money changers standing on Rehov Rothschild. It’s Jew on top of Jew.
Despite sitting in a bad neighborhood, ok a really bad neighborhood, think Martin Luther King Blvd bad- lol Israel is flourishing. It has become a world leader in hi-tech, technology, science and culture. No longer does Israel need pity “oh that poor country, those poor people”. Nor does Israel need the little pishke box of spare change that people used to donate “to help those poor Israelis” . Damn, I’m sorry to the Israeli Government but I just let the cat out of the bag. I just can’t keep the secret anymore. It’s okay we can save our pennies now for some other cause like disabled sea lions who are starving and need clean water.
Israel has also become a world leader in corrupt and horny politicians but we won’‘t go there. Instead we will focus on the positive, like um… oh ya parties. Tel Aviv has become one of the biggest party cities in the world. In Los Angeles, last call for alcohol is 1:30AM, in Tel Aviv that is when you first go out. And ain’t no one parties like Israelis party, which is the reason for the population explosion in the first place.
Despite all the war, terrorism and all our differences between Arabs vs Jews, leftists vs rightists, religious vs seculars, rich vs poor we are thriving amidst the chaos.. Nobody thought in 1948 when we were declared a nation we would survive a year, let alone 64. Israel is ours. It’s not perfect, far from it, but it is up to us to fix it and make it that way. So to Israel, “Yom Huledet Samach”, may you thrive forever, but maybe its time for a some botox, maybe just a little to smoothe out the wrinkles.
January 17, 2012 | 3:09 pm
Posted by LiAmi Lawrence
“Kol ha olam kulo -gesher tzar meod”- “All the world is a narrow bridge”
Usually I write sarcastic and controversial blogs, today however I will write my first blog of the New Year on a beautiful thing that the Jewish/Israeli community did for the mostly Latino and African American kids of East Los Angeles and Watts. This story deserves to be told and unfortunately because of a serious car accident and resulting injury I couldn’t write about it until now. This is the story of the beautiful Jewish/Israeli Community in Los Angeles that I am proud to be a part of and a story rarely told.
I am the Public Relations Director of Circle of Help Foundation, a non-profit that works with at risk needy teenagers in high schools in some of the poorest neighborhoods of LA. Many of the teenagers we work with come from broken families and have had trouble with drugs, gangs, pregnancy, etc. and our amazing counselors try to turn the lives around by showing them that there is another way.
I know it is hard to believe but many of these teenagers come from such poverty that they go without eating, don’t have enough clothes, or even a dollar in their pocket. Yes, right here in Los Angeles, we have such dire poverty and most of us have no idea.
When I heard from the counselors that these kids will probably not receive anything for Christmas from their families I decided to step in and make Christmas happen.
I organized 3 parties for about 200 teenagers, the first one at the Dorothy Johnson High School in Watts. With the blessings of the Principal Kenyatta Stiger Jr, a caring, fearless man from the neighborhood we gave these kids a party they will never forget.
I started putting out the word via Facebook and calling Israeli friends who have clothing companies for donations. One by one, Israeli friends stepped up to the plate donating thousands of dollars in clothing and merchandise for my teenagers. The Consulate General of Israel-my former employer- donated 200 backpacks that say “You have a friend in Israel” to the cause with Deputy Consul Gil Artzyeli coming to Watts to speak to these teenagers about Israel. The backpacks which were stuffed with new clothes, jewelry, CD’s, notebooks etc were given to these kids who’s happy faces said everything.
This was one a the most beautiful things that I have ever been a part of. The generosity of our community that gave thousands of dollars in merchandise to make Christmas happen for teenagers another world away in East LA and Watts will never be forgotten. In today’s society when most people care only for themselves, “our community” needs to be commended for proving the world is just a narrow bridge.
LiAmi with kids
Principal Stiger with kids
Deputy Consul General Gil Artzyeli talking to the school
December 4, 2011 | 4:10 pm
Posted by LiAmi Lawrence
Earlier this week the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the Israeli Absorption Ministry pulled the plug on an arrogant, ill –conceived, disgusting and demeaning billboard campaign to bring the estimated 750,000 Israelis living in America home. The campaign was heavily criticized by American Jewish groups as well as American government officials in Washington. First off, I am in totally agreement that Israel needs to reach out to their expatriates to get them to return. However, insulting Americans and American Jews was not the way to do it.
The campaign using billboards in heavily Israeli neighborhoods in Los Angeles, Palo Alto, Miami and New York as well as magazine advertisements and YouTube videos in Hebrew, implored Israelis to return to Israel before “aba becomes daddy” and “Chanukah becomes Christmas”. The arrogance of the Absorption Ministry to put billboards up in a foreign country America, telling Israelis to basically “keep away from American Jews and Americans because your children will assimilate”. Imagine the State Department putting up billboards in China, Mexico or Nigeria and telling the Americans there not to associate with the people of those countries. The YouTube video of Israeli grandparents rolling their eyes at the thought of Christmas was downright insulting to every American.
The campaign was lambasted by the ADL and other Jewish leaders and caught the attention of some members of Congress and was featured on CNN. The $650,000 campaign was the epitome of Israeli arrogance and chutzpah. The government of Israel quickly disassociated itself from it and blamed the absorption ministry. It is hard to believe that the Foreign Ministry had no knowledge of this campaign. More of the blame game.
The $650,000 could have been better spent on Israeli education, affordable housing for young Israeli families and newly released soldiers than on this fiasco. Why is everything the Israeli Foreign Ministry touches a PR nightmare? How incompetent are they? Having been the Director of Media at the Consulate in Los Angeles I will give no comment, suffice to say that when they are ready to call me to come back to work my agent will tell them “that they can’t afford me”.
Neither myself, or any of my friends after seeing these ads are packing our bags because of these ads so if there is an El Al jet waiting for us, it needs to keep its engines running a bit longer because we won’t be coming home for Christmas.