Assembly Passes Holocaust-Related Bills
Two bills pertaining to the Holocaust era, one creating a state center for Holocaust study, the other extending the deadline for claims to recover artworks, were passed by the Legislature last week.
The Assembly passed and sent to the governor's desk a bill creating a comprehensive Holocaust-genocide education program for teachers.
Introduced by Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood), son of a Holocaust survivor, the bill provides for the establishment of a state Center of Excellence on the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, Human Rights and Tolerance.
"With the enactment of this bill, teachers will finally receive the necessary training and tools to effectively present this difficult subject matter to students," Koretz said. The center will work in conjunction with California State University, Chico, said Scott Svonkin, Koretz's chief of staff.
In the second action, Gov. Gray Davis signed into law a bill extending the current three-year statute of limitations on filing claims to prove ownership of stolen artworks to Dec. 31, 2010.
"The very nature of Holocaust-era artwork requires detailed investigation involving numerous historical documents in multiple languages, and sometimes requires international research," said Assemblyman George Nakano (D-Torrance), who introduced the bill. Under the new law, persons whose claims were denied for failing to meet the three-year statute of limitations are entitled to resubmit their claims. -- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
No Complaints on Messianic Signs
They're lined up once again across the southwestern San Fernando Valley, just in time for the High Holidays. No, not people seeking last-minute tickets, but banners advertising services that include a Jew rarely discussed during the holidays: Jesus.
Since 1998, Adat Y'shua Ha Adom, a Messianic congregation in Woodland Hills, has hung 24 banners on streetlights and power poles in areas around the West Valley heavily trafficked by Jews. But the banners aren't provoking the kind of reaction they have in years past.
Adat Y'shua's banners were deemed legal after an investigation by Los Angeles City Councilman Hal Bernson, following several complaints registered in 1999. The congregation continues to hang the banners every year during the High Holidays.
"We're just letting people know about our High Holiday services," said Michael Brown, Adat Y'shua's pastor.
One banner sits directly across from Kol Tikvah's High Holidays banner on Ventura Boulevard near Winnetka Avenue, while another two banners near the intersection of Ventura and Topanga Canyon boulevards sit directly in front of a shopping center that is home to Noah's Bagels, Western Bagel and Jerry's Deli.
"I know people get upset by it, but there's so many other things that are more important right now," said Rabbi Steven Jacobs of Kol Tikvah. "This is not hurting Jews. It's not a threat to us."
The signs continue to raise the hackles of a few Jews, but none have entered a formal complaint with Jewish or city agencies.
"We've gotten some people who have notified us about it, but we haven't gotten complaints from people saying please rip them down," said Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz, founder of the countermissionary group, Jews for Judaism, who credits the lack of complaints to stronger Jewish education and self-confidence.
"As far as I know, nobody has complained about it," said Sheree Adams, Woodland Hills and Tarzana field deputy for City Councilman Dennis Zine.
Brown acknowledged that his congregation regularly receives some negative feedback when the banners go up.
"There's a small set of people who, for whatever reason, don't agree," said Brown, 47, who grew up in a Reform home and became a involved in Messianic Judaism 10 years ago. "But the vast majority of calls we get are very positive."
And while Jews for Judaism wouldn't mind if Adat Y'shua packed up their signs for good, they aren't going to hold their breath.
"In a society with freedom of speech, it's very difficult to keep people from handing out pamphlets or putting up banners," Kravitz said. -- Adam Wills, Associate Editor
Kever avot, the custom of visiting graves of loved ones between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, has its roots in Eastern European Jewish traditions. "Visiting is a sign of respect, said Rabbi Moshe Rothblum of Adat Ari El in North Hollywood. "We are also thinking about how we've acted in the past, and taking time to remember," he said of the timing of the custom.
Mt. Sinai Cemetery will hold its 48th annual kever avot service at its Hollywood location. This year it will be held from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Sept. 15. It will also simultaneously host its first kever avot service at the new Mt. Sinai Memorial Park, 6150 Mt. Sinai Drive, Simi Valley.
At both ceremonies, Mt. Sinai staff will collect food donations for the SOVA food bank, the free food distribution program of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles. For information, call (800) 600-0076.
For those looking for a less traditional approach, Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer, creator and star of the one-man show, "Religion Outside the Box," has planned an innovative kever avot service that includes a video presentation, a meditation on death by Buddhist priest John Daishin Buksbazen and a Franciscan dirge, in addition to the usual "Kaddish" prayers. It will be held on Saturday, Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. For more information, call (323) 469-1181. -- Wendy J. Madnick, Contributing Writer
Hebrew University Victims Remembered
About 100 people came to Temple Beth Am's Lainer Library on Aug. 29 to pay tribute to the July 31 victims of the Hebrew University cafeteria bombing, nearly a month to the day of the tragedy. Organized by American Friends of Hebrew University, the 80-minute tribute was dedicated to the memory of Revital Barashi, Marla Bennett, Benjamin Blutstein, Dina Carter, Janis Ruth Coulter, David Gritz, David Diego Ladowski, Levina Shapira and Dafna Spruch, as well as the 80 people injured in the attack. Most of the nine murder victims were under 30.
Even the liveliness of Beth Am's brightly lit, modern sanctuary could not overcome the sadness and solemnity of the occasion, as Cantor Yonah Kliger sang "El Maleh Rachamin." After opening remarks by Jeff Rouss, executive director of the Western Region American Friends of the Hebrew University, Beth Am's spiritual leader, Rabbi Perry Netter, led the ceremony and a "'Misheberach,' for healing."
For Rabbi Daniel Bouskila of Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel, a 1986 Rothberg International School graduate, Hebrew University, the oldest college in Israel, is a very special place. "It's not just an academic but a sacred institution," Bouskila said, "because of the progress it represents."
Rabbinical student Deborah Bock, who also spoke with eloquence and emotion at a UCLA memorial a few weeks ago, returned to paint a loving picture of Bennett, her former Hebrew University roommate. Two other Rothberg International School friends of Bennett, Ari Moss and Emma Lefkowitz, also shared personal memories of their friend as they tried to suppress their emotions. "I'm going to miss the person she was going to be," Moss said. -- Michael Aushenker, Staff Writer