On April 29, 1992, the acquittal of four white Los Angeles police officers involved in the beating of Rodney King, an African-American man, triggered riots in Los Angeles that resulted in more than 50 dead, thousands injured and some $1 billion in property damage.
Now that the election is over and campaign exaggerations can give way to reality, in schools, and everywhere else, people are making efforts to put things back into perspective. While a lot of healing may still be needed before that sort of unity can move beyond a Saturday night at the beach, one uniting factor all agree on is that this election brought a new level of political awareness and passion across party lines and across ages.
The Rev. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church will hold back-to-back public conversations this Saturday, Aug. 16, with the two presumptive presidential
candidates, Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain. The conversations, on the topic of "Compassion and Leadership," will be broadcast at 8 p.m. on CNN
Calendar Girls picks and clicks for April 5-11
Picks and clicks for March 15-21
Calendar Girls picks and kicks for March 8 -15
Thank you. That's the profound message of this column: Thank you. The instigators, organizers and volunteers who brought Limmud to Los Angeles last weekend deserve our gratitude for challenging one of the long-held orthodoxies of the L.A. Jewish community: There is no Jewish community.
Political provocateur Gore Vidal, basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, industrialist Lee Iacocca, fantasy maven Ray Bradbury, Los Angeles crime novelist Lee Ellroy and Israeli author A.B. Yehoshua. Add more than 700 additional authors, readings, performances and panels, and you get a sense of the scope of the 12th annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books -- the largest event of its kind on the West Coast -- which will take place April 28 and 29 at UCLA.
Although all the presenters were united by their passion for the study and practice of Kabbalah, the most observable differences lay in their approaches as to how Judaism's most sacred and intimate teachings should be disseminated.
Despite the popular view of what we were arguing about, I believe that the subject of gays was not what we were really divided over. It happened to be the specific subject that revealed the real fault lines in the committee, and in the Conservative movement in general.
On Monday, the three heads of the leading Jewish seminaries tackled this question, as well as the challenges of teaching a new generation of Jews in an hourlong plenary session that stepped outside the overriding focus on Israel at the United Jewish Communities General Assembly.
Men will do anything -- and I mean anything, from changing their phones, emails and even primary residences, to joining the army during wartime -- rather than confront a woman. By "confront," I mean, "talk directly to." They just don't like it.
I've spoken to many groups all over Los Angeles during extremely volatile times. I've never seen such rudeness, narrow mindedness and just plain boorishness.
For a great many of us, there is an instant and easy identification with the Jewish state. They are not they, they are we. The heat of battle forges them into us. Whether we've spent much time there, whether we have blood relatives there, we feel ourselves as one, we are they.
Bernie Brillstein, a veteran talent agent, manager and resident iconoclast, said, "Hollywood is a small company town and you figure everyone is entitled to his position. Anyway, everybody takes it for granted that Gibson is an anti-Semite, so people say, 'Well, he did it again.'"
Stephen Lachter didn't know what to expect when a friend dragged him to a men's club meeting at his Conservative synagogue five years ago.
"My father was in a men's club, and to me, it was guys sitting around playing pinochle and volunteer ushering," he admitted.
Lachter was surprised to see "interesting people having serious discussions," and he "fell into a session on kiruv," or outreach, to intermarried families. "I said to myself, this is something shuls need to be talking about."
Michael Sachs remembers that he had initially thought that a program on death wasn't really important for people in their 40s.
"But, in fact," he now says, "I learned things I assumed I wouldn't need to think about for many years. I thought the program dealt with potentially distressing material in a nonthreatening, matter-of-fact fashion," he said.
In anticipation of Easter, a slightly modified version of "The Passion of the Christ," the film by actor and director Mel Gibson, and screenwriter Benedict Fitzgerald, has been re-released. The second coming if you will. This re-cut version is widely available in a DVD gift format.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's first state-of-the-city speech is likely to put bone and muscle on his school takeover pitch which, up till now, nearly a year into his term, has been theoretical and short on specifics. If Villaraigosa delivers what people all over town have been waiting for, a slew of interest groups will know where they stand and will begin to respond accordingly.
While there are only four questions posed in the haggadah, most seders struggle with the unasked fifth question, "When are we going to eat?" It is asked, not only by hungry children, but also by adults who feel disconnected to the rituals of their ancestors.
In a measure of the acclaimed movie's respectability in some quarters of the local Jewish community, the University of Judaism recently sponsored a screening of and panel discussion on "Paradise Now" that featured the film's director, Hany Abu-Assad.
The "One People/One Book" plan is for synagogue members to meet and discuss "As a Driven Leaf" in small groups at least four times between last November's opening at the UJ and a closing event on May 24 at Milken Community High School.
The authors propose a new map with "multiple homelands" that displaces Israel from "the center of the Jewish universe." They point out that since the mid-19th century, most Jewish religious innovation has originated in the United States, rather than in Europe or Israel. As of 2003, more people emigrated from Israel to Russia than vice versa, and New York is the communal and philanthropic center of Jewish life. Ultimately, the authors find, contemporary Jews are at home wherever they live. "New Jews," they argue, "connect emotionally and culturally with multiple places and traverse routes across national boundaries but are nonetheless rooted in a specific place they call home."
Guilt & Pleasure -- "A magazine for Jews and the people who love them" -- hit newsstands across North America last month, offering readers content ranging from long-form essays and memoirs to fiction, comics, photography and archival material.
The United Airlines agent informed us our flight from Denver to Aspen was over sold -- not everyone with a valid ticket was going to get on board.
Dozens of passengers were trying to be the ones past the gate.
Among them, lots of Jews.
7 Days in the Arts
Wex analyzes the many ways that Yiddish -- a language that has perfected the art of the curse while experiencing deep discomfort with praise -- developed a strategy to deal with those rare times when a Yiddish Jew (henceforth, the "Yid") has nothing negative, nasty or bitter to say.
When parents gather for monthly meetings of Ozreinu, a spiritual support group for families with special-needs children, the first thing they do is check in.
"What interested me about the story was not the Holocaust," Nancy Keystone said. "It was in what we did by bringing these people into the country and later by kicking them out. We whitewashed Rudolph's record when we decided he was important for national security. But when the game is over, can you really change the rules and is that justice?"
Despite its title and the food, the play at The Met Theatre employs culinary arts not as an end, but a means to explore the complex and emotional Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Instead of demonizing Israel, as Epstein had done, Darwish directed her criticism at the Arab world, which in her estimation is conducting a campaign of death and destruction against Israel for the purpose of turning the world's attention away from heinous human rights violations taking place within the Arab world, itself.
7 Days in the Arts
Jews know well how to create an idea and implement it. In the world at large, we do it all the time in the arts, business, government or academia.
The Jewish Journal introduces a new weekly column: My Jewish Library. We've asked rabbis, scholars and thinkers to each pick the one book that was essential to their Jewish life. They will discuss the book and its impact, and explain why you need to add it to your Jewish library.
Like two surly dinner guests who won't let an argument go, President Bush and Sen. John Kerry won't get off topic when they take their case to U.S. Jews: It's all Israel all the time.
As a Los Angeles Unified School District teacher of world issues for seniors in Los Angeles, I began yesterday's class by playing a taped interview of Michael Moore talking about his movie, "Fahrenheit 9/11." I had suggested that the class go see the film, so we could discuss it.
Torah Portion. "Why do human fingers resemble pegs? So that if one hears something unseemly, one can plug one's fingers in one's ears." -- Babylonian Talmud Ketubot 5b
Aaron receives the commandment to light the menorah everyday. The Torah states: "Aaron did so; he lit the lamps, just as God commanded" (Numbers, 8:3).
Rabbi Elie Spitz wrote a wonderful book, titled "Does the Soul Survive?," dealing with life after death, but for me this title is the question that I continuously ask in regard to life after birth.
In this week's Torah portion, Moses elaborates the laws of impurity. Touching or holding something impure will render people, clothing, food, beverages, containers, wood, leather, earthenware and ovens impure. Shemini is concerned with the consequences of contact with living, ritually impure animals, as well as carcasses.
Most of us remember our parents telling us when we were children that when they were our age they had to walk two miles, every day, in the snow, uphill, both ways, to go to school. In ancient times we can imagine our ancestors telling their children that when they were their age they were slaves to Pharaoh.
"Biblical stories are in our present -- in the cheder [Easter European elementary school] we cried when we learned of the sale of Joseph -- and we rejoiced in his ascendancy to power. There was a freshness, a vigor, a nearness, which we felt in that drama." -- Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveichik
Part of my traditional upbringing as a yeshiva bocher was the belief that anything that took my attention away from a page of Talmud was bitul Torah -- a waste of time. And while that may have been a good lesson for an easily distracted teenager, I have since discovered as an adult that there is so much Divine beauty in the world that we forfeit if we keep our noses exclusively inside our books.
We are all familiar with Jacob, the refugee who returns to his homeland to the dreaded encounter with his vengeful brother Esau. I believe most of us read the story through Jacob's eyes, but is it the only way? What if it were possible to unearth these biblical heroes' diaries? What would they say? Here are the events of our parsha as described by the two brothers:
The Chasidic master, Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl (1730-1797), teaches in Parshat Vayera, which we read three weeks ago, that the Torah is a blueprint for each and every one of us. There is an Avraham within us -- the part of us that pleads in front of God, fighting the existence of evil. There is the Sarah within us -- the part of us that has to make painful decisions on behalf of a greater good in the future. Our self-doubt is Amalek, our self-sacrificing voice is Rachel.
Chauvinism, of one kind or another, probably has always been with us. This week's Torah reading, Parshat Vayera, for example, appears to lend itself to the charge of male chauvinism. The Torah tells us that the three angels who came to visit Abraham brought news that Sarah would give birth to Abraham's son. Sarah laughed when she heard this, whereupon God chastised her, saying to Abraham, "Why is it that Sarah laughed ... is anything too hard for the Eternal?" (Genesis 18:13-14).
"My work was driven by a sense of imminent loss," writes Frédéric Brenner in the introduction to his new book, "Diaspora: Homelands in Exile." "Two thousand years of history were about to vanish. I felt a desire and a responsibility to document these permutations of survival in exile before they disappeared.... As I began my journey, I realized how much loss had already taken place."
It is easy to feel small. As you fall asleep one night, try to watch yourself in your mind's eye, your body growing quiet on your bed as your mind begins to wander. You are one person falling asleep in one room. Beyond you are two, five, 20 others in your home or apartment building or on your block. Imagine yourself rising, now hovering a thousand feet in the air and peering out across the lights of Los Angeles. There are almost 10 million people in Los Angeles County, each person unique. There are 260 million people in the United States, each with a story different than the other. Each soul has walked a journey unlike any other. Rising higher, you see the vastness of the United States below.
From films on the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge regime of Cambodia and civil war in Sudan to mental illness and homelessness in America, the series will allow viewers to take a second look from a Jewish perspective.
We do lack Vision with a capital V -- that big, sweeping Idea that will upset the poached-salmon-and-after-dinner-speech orderliness of Jewish life and force us to confront the meaning of our mission as Jews, Americans and human beings.
To what extent do we (and would we) internalize the essence of the Torah?