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Jewish Journal

Briefs

by David Finnigan

October 14, 2004 | 8:00 pm

Christopher Reeve, 'Superman' Star and Hero in Israel, Dies

With his death Sunday night, actor Christopher Reeve of "Superman" fame ended his valiant fight against paralysis at the age of 52.

Reeve, who became a hero to Israelis during a visit last year, fell into a coma at his New York home after going into cardiac arrest Saturday night and never regained consciousness.

After starring in four "Superman" blockbuster movies in the 1970s and '80s, Reeve was paralyzed from the neck down in a horse riding accident in 1995. Refusing to give in, Reeve became a powerful advocate and fundraiser for medical research to aid the disabled.

His courage found a special echo in Israel, when he undertook a five-day visit to Israeli hospitals and research centers in late July and early August last year.

Coming at a time when most American celebrities avoided trips to Israel, Reeve's visit raised the spirit of the country, especially among thousands injured and paralyzed in terrorist attacks.

"Israel is one of the leading countries in the world that is most progressive and the most compassionate about people like us," he told injured and paralyzed patients at Tel Hashomer hospital, The Jewish Journal's Gaby Wenig reported from Israel at the time.

Reeve's trip to Israel was in response to an invitation by Yuval Rotem, then Israel's consul general in Los Angeles, and was sponsored by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and private Hollywood donors. – Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Lawyer Battling ADL on Christian Quote at Courthouse

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is being sued by a Christian lawyer seeking to stop its efforts to cover up a Christian quote on a wall in a Riverside County Superior Court.

Temecula attorney Richard D. Ackerman's Oct. 1 lawsuit against the ADL, Riverside County and Riverside County Presiding Judge Douglas Miller temporarily has stopped plans to cover over Theodore Roosevelt's quote – "The true Christian is the true citizen" – with a mahogany panel while court is in session. The quote is engraved on a courtroom wall at the century-old landmark courthouse in Riverside.

"If it [the Roosevelt quote] was in the negative, I would agree [to cover it up]," said Ackerman, who attends an Assembly of God church and runs the conservative, Christian-oriented Pro-Family Law Center. "But this happens to be a presidential quote affirming his particular world view among other presidential views."

In July, the ADL's Pacific Southwest office in Los Angeles received a complaint about the quote. An Oct. 5 letter sent by the ADL to its members stated, "Because the quote is presented outside of the context in which the quotation was delivered and continues to appear on the wall of a public courthouse in 2004, we were concerned that it could be seen as an express endorsement by the government of Christianity."

It is one of several presidential wall quotes, with Roosevelt's words excerpted from a 1900 speech he made at a YMCA convention when he was New York's governor. Ackerman said the quote has been on the courthouse wall for decades, "with little or no dispute," and that the ADL has not criticized as exclusionary the smaller county courthouse in Temecula and its photo collage, including a photo of Orthodox Jews – "it doesn't show Reform Jews" – or Thomas Jefferson's quote, "The God who gave us liberty gave us life," being in the same courtroom as the Roosevelt quote.

The ADL declined comment on the lawsuit. After a Sept. 1 meeting with ADL officials, Miller on Sept. 29 agreed to cover over the quote. Two days later, Ackerman's lawsuit prompted county officials to suspend those plans until a resolution of the case, which last week was moved to a San Bernardino County courtroom in Rancho Cucamonga, because Miller recused all Riverside County judges from hearing the case. No court date has been set.

Ackerman filed the lawsuit in state court, because he believed any ADL lawsuit would be filed in federal court, and that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has a liberal reputation often at odds with conservative litigators. – David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

Congress Passes Bill on Monitoring Anti-Semitism

Californians were instrumental in Congress' passing a bill to create a State Department office to monitor international anti-Semitism.

The bill, known as the Global Anti-Semitism Awareness Act (H.R. 4230), was introduced by Rep. Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo) in response to the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe and the Middle East.

The act, which awaits President Bush's approval, requires the State Department to create an office to monitor and combat anti-Semitism and to file a report on anti-Semitic incidents around the world. The State Department also would be required to include information about anti-Semitic acts in its annual reports on human rights practices and international religious freedom.

Of the 108 signatories on a letter in support of the bill, were three prominent Southern Californians: professor Michael Berenbaum of the University of Judaism; Pierre Sauvage, president of the Chambon Foundation; and Dr. John Eibner of Christian Solidarity International in Westlake Village.

The State Department opposed the legislation, suggesting it would show favoritism toward the Jewish community in human rights reporting. – Staff Report

Two Conferences to Focus on Anti-Semitism Issues

Dueling conversations on anti-Semitism will take place at the University of Judaism in Bel Air and at Pasadena's Fuller Theological Seminary.

Fuller will host an Oct. 18 evening dialogue on anti-Semitism between Rabbi Elliot Dorff, University of Judaism rector, and Richard Mouw, Fuller president.

The Fuller event is scheduled one year after the Protestant seminary hosted an all-day, Palestinian-driven "Peacemaking in the Middle East" conference for about 200 mainline Protestants. The conference had Palestinian flags, buttons and literature but no Israeli-branded items.

Some Fuller students were concerned enough about the event's heavy Palestinian emphasis to host a separate screening of a pro-Israel film that same day.

Mouw said Monday night's event was arranged partly because "many of us have been critical of some of the policies of the present Israeli government, and this is legitimate. But it is also important that we distinguish between legitimate political critique and a hatred of Jews."

At the University of Judaism, Holocaust scholar and museum consultant Michael Berenbaum will host "Anti-Semitism and the Contemporary Jewish Condition" running Sunday through Tuesday.

The gathering will feature about 20 speakers, including several staffers from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Auschwitz survivor and "Schindler's List" producer Branko Lustig and Commentary magazine senior editor Gabriel Schoenfeld. Topics will include Hollywood's Holocaust imagery and the question, "Is there a 'New' Anti-Semitism?"

For more information on the free events go to www.fuller.edu. For more information on the UJ conference,visit www.uj.edu. Organizers ask people to preregister for each event by calling (310) 440-1534 or e-mailing rsmall@uj.edu.

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