Jewish life in the South Bay has been flourishing.
According the Jewish Federation/South Bay Council, the area is one of the fastest growing Jewish communities in California. From Westchester to San Pedro, the Jewish population has increased dramatically to an estimated 40,000, and there are numerous indicators that this trend will continue.
Robin Franko, director of the South Bay Council and a lifelong South Bay resident, says that the numbers speak volumes about the thriving community.
Youngsters across the Southland and beyond banded together April 17 to participate in J-Serve 2005, the first-ever national day of service for Jewish teens. J-Serve, designed to correspond with Youth Service America's National Youth Service Day, offers Jewish teens a way to get involved in tikkun olam projects in their local communities.
The question: How Jewish vs. how democratic should the Jewish State of Israel actually be?
That was really the question before Israel's Supreme Court.
More than a legal question, it led to serious and heated debate. The answer would be a defining factor in the very nature of the state itself. It came to the fore as the court was asked to decide if three cities, Jerusalem included, could ban the selling of pork.
The ruling: That cities cannot outright forbid the sale of pork and should respect communities that are predominantly religious but may sell pork in other areas of the city.
For thousands of years, communities have wrestled with the question of how to treat accidental killers. The Book of Numbers (consistent with a shorter passage in Exodus) tells us that God instructed Moses to tell the Israelites to establish six cities of refuge to which accidental killers could flee. The accidental killer was to be protected from the wrath of the victim's family -- the "blood avenger" -- so long as he remained within the city of refuge. Only when the high priest of the city died could the killer return home.
I've lived in two of the country's most ridiculed locales. I was born in New Jersey, the punch line of stand-up comics everywhere. Adding insult to injury, my family moved to the San Fernando Valley in the early '70s. At that time, the Valley was perceived as the end of the earth -- a place you'd need a passport to visit, should you actually want to. Over time, the remaining farmland and orchards gave way to more strip malls and housing tracts, while the Valley retained its reputation as a place where nothing worthwhile happens.
Things change. I now live on the Westside. Hoboken is considered hip. And the San Fernando Valley, well, it's begun to resemble the Westside in ways both positive and negative.
Every other year, our congregation travels to a different part of the Jewish world to meet and, if necessary, help our fellow Jews. Having traveled to Israel, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union many times, as well as Turkey, Morocco, Spain, Argentina and Brazil, our experiences have mostly been with communities under political, demographic or economic siege. This trip was different.
As I write this, it's 64 degrees in Santa Monica and Sub-Zero is just a brand of refrigerator I covet. On the East Coast, there is a record cold spell and everyone is paying rapt attention to the wind-chill factor.
Getting funding for a project takes massive time, energy and, often, money. Many Jewish communities send representatives to Washington to make the pitch directly to their lawmakers, as well as members of congressional appropriations committees. Some hire Washington lobbyists to make the necessary introductions for them.
"The Jewish Kitchen: Recipes and Stories from Around the World" by Clarissa Hyman (Interlink Books, $29.95)
Clarissa Hyman's new cookbook, "The Jewish Kitchen," is alive with miracles -- stories of Jewish life and war-torn Jewish communities, bringing with them their glorious history, rich culture and a cuisine passed through the generations, itself a story of miraculous survival.
This award-winning author crisscrossed the globe, visiting eight families in nine months, recording their stories and recipes.
Part of the team readying O.C.'s Jewish Community Center for its planned relocation and expansion next year in Irvine is not staying to see the result.
As some 20 teens beat 18-year-old Rashid Alam with golf clubs and baseball bats in Yorba Linda on Feb. 22, they allegedly yelled "White Power!" The attack, which Alam's friends said was unprovoked, left the recent high school graduate hospitalized with a fractured jaw and broken bones in his face.
Unable to speak because his jaw is wired shut, friends and family despair that he might have suffered permanent brain damage from the 65 blows he endured.
Police call the attack a hate crime, but have said that it began as a face-off between two rival groups that had fought in the past. Others said it was fueled solely by ethnic hatred.
Ahmed Alam, publisher of the Arab World newspaper in Anaheim, said his son's beating underscored the vulnerability now felt by many Arab Americans.
Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller walks out of his office at the University Religious Conference, locking the door on its matted and stained rust-colored carpet, which for years has been covered with stacks of books and journals. On his way out, he doesn't bother to glance into the musty student lounge because he knows students don't hang out there. As he emerges onto Hilgard Avenue, he lets the glass-and-steel door swing shut on the building where UCLA Hillel has been housed since the 1950s.
On a cool November evening, the Avrech family -- Robert, Karen, and Ariel -- sit within the cozy confines of their Pico-Robertson home, where an Emmy Award that Robert won for his 1999 Holocaust-themed drama, "The Devil's Arithmetic," graces the mantle.
When Joseph Dabby arrived in America from Iraq in 1972, and found his way to Kahal Joseph Congregation in Los Angeles, he was shocked. "It was like being back in the Old Country," he said.
"It was full of people who didn't even speak the same language; they were very far removed [from their roots] but they maintained everything the same -- the same melodies and the same traditions," said Dabby, now 56 and president of the congregation.
Many know author Walter Mosley as the creator of the popular Central L.A.-set Easy Rawlins detective series of which the book "Devil in a Blue Dress," became a film starring Denzel Washington. But what is not as well-known is Mosley's Jewish background on his mother's side.
The attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center seemed to have had the perfect combination of factors needed to dismantle people's religious beliefs: an atrocity committed in the name of religion and God, coupled with so many dead and wounded that even for those of strong faith, the idea of a benevolent or caring God was seriously challenged.