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! (12)
7.19.11 at 12:04 pm | Fly "Judenfrei" Delta Airlines to Saudi Arabia (5)
7.24.12 at 7:48 pm | The Sham of the International Olympic Committee (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.