The wife American contractor Alan Gross called for increased pressure on Congress and President Obama to get her husband released from a Cuban jail.
“The American Jewish community has a problem keeping silent,” says scholar Michael Berenbaum, and he ascribes the “problem” to guilt over our collective failure to speak up during the Holocaust.
On a recent Saturday night, my wife and I waded into a sea of 6,000 protesters in Modiin as part of 12 other similarly staged rallies across Israel to demand social justice and greater accountability from our elected officials in Israel.
Who knew that 20 teenagers from Los Angeles could help make a difference in the world?
Abraham Cooper has made a point of being present in many of the world's hot spots, and, at the same time, managed to stay out of prison. And during roughly the same time span, he has played a key role in creating one of the most activist Jewish organizations in the world, working outside the boundaries of the traditional organized community structure.
The Brooklyn-born activist rose from his seat, walked slowly to the microphone, cleared his throat, and in front of a couple of hundred fellow activists assembled in an auditorium on a chilly Wednesday night, expressed his righteous indignation.
It's not uncommon for well-established, wealthy members of a community to donate money to various causes, but these days, there's a new breed of philanthropist in town -- the college student.
For years I've been affiliated with organizations, given charitably and attended synagogue regularly. But after years of knowing and benefiting from me, my Jewish community still has a hard time seeing me, remembering me and finding a place for me.
Most of the more than 20,000 Ethiopian Jews left in Ethiopia today are Falash Mura, people whose families were converted to Christianity about 100 years ago, but who still identify as Jews. The Israeli government for years has been wavering on whether they are real Jews and should be brought to Israel, even though most have family there. Today there are about 85,000 Ethiopian Jews in Israel, including about 20,000 who were born there.
As the conflict in Israel continues, Jewish groups are focusing their efforts -- financial, spiritual, intellectual, personal and practical -- on ways to help Israel. The following list -- by no means comprehensive -- includes 10 things you can do to help Israel.
If you meet Grace Quinn sunning herself on the patio of her home at Westwood Horizons Retirement Residence or pushing her bright red walker in Trader Joe's, you wouldn't guess that this nonagenarian is one of the founders of Levitt & Quinn Family Law Center.
I'll admit to a bit of initial wariness about a bus tour through Inglewood, Lennox and Hawthorne, sponsored a couple of Sundays ago by the Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA). The three communities just east of LAX have poverty and crime rates far exceeding the averages in L.A. County. But the 90 people who boarded the two buses at the Westside Jewish Community Center were not interested in casual sightseeing.
At 7 a.m., after a long, grueling red-eye journey from Los Angeles, our plane landed on a narrow runway carved out of the lush rainforest deep in a remote island area of the Panamanian outback. As my son, Adam, 13, and I trudged off the plane, 40 smiling Kuna natives eagerly welcomed us to the exotic island of Playon Chico. With vivid memories of Adam's bar mitzvah just a fortnight prior replaying in my mind, I couldn't help but think that this would be the adventure of a lifetime. Indeed, it was.
Parents and pundits, you may breathe a sigh of relief. The Class of 2006 -- or at least The Jewish Journal's not-so-random sampling of the class of 2006 -- will put to rest any notion that this plugged in but wireless, overscheduled but doted upon and supersavvy but still so naive iPod generation is resting on a sense of inflated entitlement.
It's Friday night, and as I wander toward the entrance of Temple Emanuel, a Reform synagogue in Beverly Hills, an usher approaches and asks brightly, "Are you with the choir?" I'm African American, but I'm not with the choir, at least not with the choir of Temple Bryant A.M.E. Church, which is visiting the synagogue tonight. I smile through a twinge of annoyance.
Today, Sachs is a justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, appointed to the bench in 1994 by President Nelson Mandela and playing a leading role in writing the nation's new constitution after the fall of apartheid.
The two young, sari-clad women, one in blue and one in orange, stand in the thatched-roof meeting hall, take hold of the microphone and join their voices.
"We don't need any fancy materials," they croon by heart. "What we need is just some food to live. We don't ask for a refrigerator, a TV or a car. We just need some small capital to start a business."
The audience of women in the village of Alamarai Kuppam applaud with enthusiasm. The few men, seated or hovering around the edges, are more circumspect, but they, too, nod approvingly.
Call it women's lib, post-tsunami-India style.
The outpouring of financial support that followed the 2004 tsunami has accelerated efforts to improve the lives of rural women -- an initiative that goes well beyond helping families recover from the tsunami.
Set in front of the hotel on the Avenue of the Stars, which was blocked off, this banquet-in-the-street supported some 4,000 striking workers at seven Los Angeles hotels.
The IRS has threatened to revoke the church's tax-exempt status for speaking out strongly on political issues. But Bacon showed no signs of backing down. And based on the reaction from the Southern California rabbinate, rhetorical reinforcements are already in place.
People always tell me that I am a downer, constantly talking about the world's problems here, genocide there; conflict here, poverty there. Nobody ever wants to talk to me at a party!
Rabbis from all denominations are calling upon Jews in Los Angeles to participate in a day of fasting, prayer and political activism to raise alarm about the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.
When Vicki Kaplan's Birthright Israel trip finished, the Los Angeles native wasn't sure what she wanted to do. Kaplan definitely wanted to stay longer in Israel, so she extended her ticket, but the politically active college student wasn't sure where she should take her activism.
Last week, I pulled out a big, unsorted folder from my desk filled with material I had used for my Jewish Journal columns.
The Body Shop, a British-based retailer of personal care products, is apologizing for a 2002 human rights award it gave to a Palestinian group.
Jewish leaders are displeased with another mainline Protestant church's call for divestment of church funds from companies doing business with Israel, with Southern California clergy trying to quell what could be an interfaith nightmare.
Bet Tzedek has won a significant victory for low-paid Latino and Asian garment workers, successors to the Jewish immigrants who labored in sweatshops a century ago. The settlement, reached by the free legal counseling service, is somewhat technical, but is likely to have a major impact on California's $22 billion apparel industry, employing 140,000 workers.
In the past, PETA has been responsible for in-your-face activism like slinging red paint at people wearing fur coats and breaking into laboratories to set animals free. Their antics have at times influenced public opinion -- such as turning the fashion tide against fur in the '90s. But will this Holocaust campaign have a similar effect?
We live in cynical times. For years, young people have felt disengaged from the political process.
Religious tolerance, traditionally a top priority for Jewish groups, seems to be not as much a priority when it comes to a growing, vocal and, according to some, increasingly radicalized Islamic community.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Wiesenthal Center, has known Nussbaum for seven years. He said the banker's efforts to coax Wells Fargo to pay the reparations reflect Nussbaum's deep commitment to Jewish values.
Lee Hirsch struggled for nine years to make "Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony," which won the audience and Freedom of Expression Awards at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival and opens today in Los Angeles.
Sadly, even though most Americans remain supportive of Israel, there is abundant evidence that in academia, opposition to Israel's policies has mutated into attacks that demonize the Jewish State, undermine its legitimacy and foment anti-Semitism. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reports that "campus anti-Semitic incidents were up dramatically in 2002."
7 Days in the Arts
On a beautiful Sunday morning last spring, thousands of Israel supporters lined Wilshire Boulevard to wave banners, sing, chant and let the world know that the Jewish State isn't alone.
It was Yuval Lotam's first time in many years at a rally. "I always mean to go, but somehow I never get moving in time," he said sheepishly.
Imagine tens of thousands of Angelenos filling the block of Wilshire Boulevard between San Vicente and La Jolla to show their support for the State of Israel.
Among Jews, the subject of black-Jewish relations inevitably brings to the surface two impassioned, if not unrelated sentiments: a liberal nostalgia for the integrated social activism of days gone by and an embittered cataloguing of the latest anti-Semitic soundbites to come out of the mouths of black leaders.