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Community Briefs

by Jewish Journal Staff

March 14, 2002 | 7:00 pm

Rally for Freedom

"Avadim hayenu, ata bnei horin." We were slaves, but now we are free. Pesach's refrain is not true for many. For years, Charles Jacobs, along with many others, fulminated in print and in person against slavery, and particularly against those states, most notably Sudan, where slavery, slave raids and outright genocide, are major tools of a generations-old civil war pitting southern Sudanese tribal peoples against an Islamicized-Arabized central government in Khartoum. With the attack on the United States, Jacob's call gains added poignancy: many of the organizations and states that profit from Sudan's slavery have ties, direct and otherwise, with Islamo-fascism's shadowy international movement. The American Anti-Slavery Group and iAbolish.com, in cooperation with the Museum of Tolerance and Standwithus.com, presented both Charles Jacobs and Francis Bok on March 14 speaking about slavery in Sudan and many international efforts to redeem Sudanese slaves from captivity. The story of Bok's travails -- abduction as a child, years of slavery and subsequent escape -- give this great tragedy a personal face. Other events include: Saturday, March 16, 10:30 am, Beth Am (1055 S. La Cienega Blvd.); Saturday, March 16, 4:30 pm, B'nai David-Judea Congregation at Pico and Livonia. Rally for Freedom on Sunday, March 17, 4:00 pm, at the First AME Church at Adams and La Salle. -- Dennis Gura, Contributing Writer

L.A. Armenians Protest

An Armenian rally was held in front of the Israeli Consulate on Wilshire Boulevard to protest what they allege is Israel's refusal to recognize the Ottoman massacres as a "genocide" and a cultural tragedy akin to the Jewish Holocaust. About 70 people protested peacefully for two hours on March 7. According to Yuval Rotem, Israel consul general in Los Angeles, the anger is based on a misinterpretation of some comments Rifka Cohen, the Israeli ambassador to Armenia, made earlier this year. The rally left officials at the Israeli Consulate baffled. They believe that the anger is misplaced. "Some elements want to use it as a vehicle against Israel," Rotem said, "which is unfortunate."

"I understand it's a very sensitive issue for them. It's a horrifying thing that happened," said Zvi Vapni, deputy consul general in Los Angeles. "But generally, Israelis have a close relationship with the Armenian people." Vapni noted that one of the oldest quarters in Jerusalem is an Armenian community. Rotem added that after a major earthquake hit Turkey several years ago, "we were the first to go and assist them." Vapni added, "We are not historians. We do not deny anything. They must understand that the Consulate are not the ones that make any decisions or comments on this matter." -- Staff Report

Holocaust Scholars Hold Roundtable

The Directors Roundtable is holding the Los Angeles leg of its worldwide conference at UCLA on March 20. The conference topic: "What Remembrance of the Holocaust Is Doing For Mankind."

The Roundtable will hold parallel events in London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Moscow, Buenos Aires, New York, Washington D.C., Florida, and Israel. Speakers at the conference will include a who's who of the Holocaust scholarship community, including Darlene Basch, Dr. Michael Berenbaum, professor Mark Jonathan Harris, Gregory Laemmle, Curt Lowens, Dr. Gary Schiller, professor Cornelius Schnauber, Dr. M. Mitchell Serels, the Rev. Alexei Smith (retired) and Nick Strimple. To register, call (323) 655-7001 or e-mail your reservation to mlakediroundtbl@aol.com . -- Staff Report

An 'Open Orthodox' Rabbinical School

Rabbi Avi Weiss visited Los Angeles last week to promote his new "open Orthodox" rabbinical school, "Yeshivat Chovivei Torah," now in its second year in Manhattan. Weiss spoke at Temple B'nai David-Judea, the shul of his former assistant rabbi, Yosef Kanefsky. The rabbinical school offers a four-year program for men who only plan to serve as pulpit rabbis, and each student must commit to three years of community service work. (One rabbinical student might intern in Los Angeles next year.)

"Openness in Orthodoxy means the preparedness to discuss openly some of the critical issues related to the role of women, a dignified and respectful dialogue with the Conservative and Reform," Weiss said. "We believe we can transform the Modern Orthodox community if there are rabbis open to dialogue with Jews of all backgrounds -- this could be phenomenally impactful. Weiss, a longtime activist on behalf of Soviet Jewry and Israel, called this project "the highlight of my life." -- Staff Report

Culver City Peace Debate

More than 100 people attended a lecture "Is an Israeli-Palestinian Peace Treaty Possible?" at Culver City's Temple Akiba on March 10. A spirited debate took place between David Pine, western regional director of Americans for Peace Now, and Jerry Blume, spokesperson for Americans for a Safe Israel.

The audience at the Reform temple, most over the age of 50, expressed anger over suicide bombings, and disappointment with both Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon. While both advocates strongly support Israel, they presented different solutions to the current crisis.

"Jews argue," concluded Rabbi Allen S. Maller, who moderated the debate. "That's what we do best." -- Eric H. Roth, Contributing Writer

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