Aliyah is the oat bran of the Jewish people. We know it's good for us. We know we should be having more of it. But truth is, we just find it hard to swallow. And we certainly don't like it shoved down our throats.
While in Israel last week, I heard several Israeli officials, from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on down, proclaim that increased Jewish immigration to Israel is crucial to the country's long-term well-being. And each time I heard an Israeli or American Jewish leader say that, I thought: "Uh-oh."
About six months ago, Gregory Rodriguez, a contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times opinion section, phoned his friend, Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, West Coast regional director of the American Jewish Committee (AJ Committee). Rodriguez had attended events purported to promote intellectual fellowship among diverse Angelenos, but had found them not-so-diverse. "There's a lot of lip service paid to crossing barriers in this city, but many gatherings are organized around political or ethnic lines," Rodriguez said.
To mix things up a bit, the two friends went on to launch a program, co-presented by the Los Angeles Public Library. The series, Zócalo, which means "public square" in Spanish, will gather Eastsiders and Westsiders for private discussions and public lectures on crucial civic issues. It kicks off at the downtown Central Library's Mark Taper Auditorium on April 9 at 7 p.m., when the Economist's Washington correspondent Adrian Wooldridge, co-author of "The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea," will describe his take on the corporation as "an engine that can work for the public good as well as ill," Greenebaum said.