Posted by Ryan Torok
Eli Lipmen, communications strategist for the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in Los Angeles, was raised in Bermuda, the island and British colony in the Atlantic Ocean.
“I used to wear Bermuda shorts,” said Lipmen, 28, in an interview, wearing a business suit—proper attire for his job at AJC, an international Jewish advocacy organization.
Born on the East Coast, Lipmen’s father is an oceanographer and moved the family to St. George’s, a town in Bermuda, when Lipmen was six-years-old. Lipmen spent his childhood on a biological station, growing up in a place with plenty of surf. In fact, when he was 17- and 18-years-old, he worked as a scuba dive instructor in a dive shop.
Despite the lack of Jewish life in Bermuda, there were moments of real Jewish-ness, he explained, recalling when Chabadniks visited and went around on a motoped.
“Tzizit blowing in the wind,” he said nostalgically.
Living on an island that “99 percent Christian,” he was apart of a Catholic youth group, “because that was the only youth group I could join,” and he was president of a Christian drug-free organization.
After high school in Bermuda, he traveled in Israel – where he met his future wife – and afterwards, attended University of Pennsylvania, as well as University of Southern California and the London School of Economics and Political Science for graduate school before coming to Los Angeles.
His mother was a layperson for the Jewish Community of Bermuda – a community known as JCB - and eventually became a rabbi.
“She got the calling,” Lipmen said.
What’s the difference between an epiphany and a calling? I asked.
He laughed. “One’s for atheists and the other is for religious people.”
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October 15, 2011 | 6:21 pm
Posted by Ryan Torok
Yesterday, I was at Occupy L.A., asking people what that they were doing there, why’d they come – and I got the predictable responses: corporate greed, the income gap between the rich and the poor, rising unemployment, the endless, fruitless bickering between the right and left.
Late in the day, I met Jeff, a former New Yorker in his fifties with a penchant for quoting Talmud. What’s this all about? Why are people here?
Do you know the story of Aw-dawm and Ḥawwāh, he said, referring to Adam and Eve of the Book of Genesis.
Of course. Who doesn’t?
Okay, he said. If you know the story of Adam and Eve, what happened after they ate the apple?
They lose their innocence. I felt good about this response. If only my father, who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a Jewish education for me, could hear me.
Wrong, Jeff said.
Yes, wrong. That’s an analysis. But that’s not what happened. What happened afterwards?
They were suddenly aware of their nakedness.
I thought of ‘Dude, Where’s My Car,’ the scene when Ashton Kutcher and Stiffler are trying to order food in the drive-thru.. And then? And then? And then?
Refocusing my attention on Jeff, What did they do after they became aware of their nakedness? They covered up with clothes, I said.
Clothes? Jeff said. What clothes? They didn’t have clothes then.
Leaves. They covered up with leaves.
Okay, this was becoming annoying. I thought hard, tapped into the inner depths, trying to remember. Remember, remember, remember.
Oh, I know, I exclaimed. After Adam and Eve ate the apple from the Tree of Knowledge, God told Adam that he would now have to work for a living, and He told Eve that she would have to feel pain when she conceived.
You said you went to Jewish school? Jeff said.
I was about to punch him.
They hide, Jeff said. After they eat the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve hide. They hide from God.
That’s right. I’d completely forgotten.
And God says, ‘Ey-foh.’
A few people had walked over to us and were listening, including a skinny anarchist-looking guy with a mohawk and torn skinny jeans. I’d seen him earlier lightly playing drums with brush-sticks next to a group of about twenty people, a committee of indigenous rights, convening next to a large fountain in the center of Occupy L.A., where dozens and dozens of shanty camp tents had been set up.
The anarchist guy was holding a tape recorder, toward Jeff’s mouth, recording what Jeff was saying.
God says, ‘Ey-foh,’ which is Hebrew for ‘where.’ He says to Adam and Eve, ‘where are you?’
Why would God say ‘where are you?’ God knows everything, Jeff said. God sees everything. God has a GPS system for the entire universe. God knew where Adam and Eve were hiding, so why would he say ‘ey-foh.’
I was stumped.
God says ‘ey-foh’ because he wants to know where Adam and Eve think they are. He isn’t asking where they are physically. He wants Adam and Eve to reflect on where they are in relationship to the world that is changed forever, now that they have this knowledge, now that they have this consciousness of all things. He’s asking where do they think they are and how do they expect to return to paradise.
Everybody here at Occupy L.A. is aware of the good and evil in the world, Jeff said. They’ve eaten the fruit, and they’re here trying to figure out their place in the world. Trying to return to paradise.
Deep stuff, the anarchist said. I agreed. It was the best answer I’d gotten all day.
Watch my interview with Jeff below.
October 14, 2011 | 3:04 am
Posted by Ryan Torok
Brain cancer survivor Judi Kaufman has suffered through three brain tumors – yes, three. Her first diagnosis, back in 1997, was that she’d suffered a stroke, but the neuro-oncology department at UCLA identified it as a tumor, which might have saved her life.
That’s why Kaufman, who Journal contributor Jessica Pauline Ogilive highlighted in the Journal’s 2010 annual mensch issue, founded, in 2001, Art of the Brain.
The nonprofit, earlier this month, raised $500,000 for the UCLA Neuro-oncology program, as a result of the nonprofit’ 12th annual gala event on Oct. 1.
It’s not that much money, Kaufman, said to me in a recent interview.
Although, it’s good in this economy, she added.
Since Art of the Brain’s inaugural event, the organization has raised “more than $5 million,” Ogilive said.
I met Kaufman following her reading of a poem she’d written. Kaufman participates in the Los Angeles Poets and Writers Collective, “which sponsors readings, publications, classes, seminars, and workshops,” according to jackgrapes.com (Grapes is the instructor at the weekly writers workshop that Kaufman attends, located in a non-descript brick building next-door, incidentally, to the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, on mid-Wilshire Blvd.).
Called on to read her poem, Kaufman - stylish black top hat with her long frizzy blonde hair coming out of it, a black vest and a white blouse – went to the front of the room.
“I had a dream about you last night,” one attendee, the only male in the room, said.
“I dream about you every night,” said another workshop attendee.
The room, with comfy sofas, carpeting, coffee and snacks, the approximately 20 attendees sitting in a close circle and looking more awake than most do at 9 a.m., is haimish, a Yiddish word.
Kaufman smiled, seemed grateful, and she began reading.
“How ‘bout that Mitt Romney running around in circles? And what about that John Huntsman?” she read out loud, presenting her poem to a group of approximately 20 people…. Unsung heroes, those new tea party people. They sure know how to hate. They were hating Jews in Pasadena in the 1950’s, calling us pinkos and sinkos.”
Medical treatment, including chemotherapy, has affected her speech, and in a typed-up copy of her poem, which she gave to me afterwards, there are huge spaces between some of the words, alerting her to pause. She says that she does exercises, physical movements, with her yoga teacher that help with her speech, including rolling back-and-forth and from right to left on the ground. Before her surgeries, she was a good public speaker, she said.
People laughed with pleasure throughout Kaufman’s reading, enjoying Kaufman’s shouting out of the Republican candidates, who Kaufman had watched the night before during a Republican debate.
The assignment had been to write a sarcastic poem, one with a tone recalling the way people speak.
“‘A rodeo of relief pitchers of milk for the poor to let them all eat cake and hot crossed buns…all that mayonnaise and marshmallows.’ God, I don’t know where you pluck this stuff from, Judy, but it’s just, wow,” Grapes said, reading over an extra copy of Kaufman’s poem.
“She’s a poet - that’s where it stems from,” said a workshop attendee.
Looking over it some more, “Wow, this is great. This is great,” Grapes said.
Kaufman was raised in Pasadena and lives in Los Angeles. She attends these workshops because the left side of her brain, the analytical side, was taken out during surgery – she has trouble with time, with numbers, and so she’s turned to art, she explained.
As she said to Ogilive, “When I found out I could write well, it turned everything around. Art can give you something for nothing.”
In addition to raising funds for UCLA, Art of the Brain – which is run entirely by volunteers – refers brain cancer patients to places like L.A. Poets, so that they can use art as a healer.
For more information on Art of the Brain, visit artofthebrain.org.