How much easier would it be to build a world of love, compassion, justice and peace than the continued path of war and violence?
Has anyone else noticed that the only difference between your local Starbucks and your local homeless shelter is the shelter has a faster turnover?
The inaugural State of Humanity Forum, held Oct. 17 at Valley Beth Shalom.
The question is whispered and must be answered in a forthright manner: Darfur or Israel? Is your loyalty to your people or to humanity? Is your loyalty to Judaism or to mankind? Are you essentially a Jew or a human being?
Despite having a population of far more than 3 million and a cultural and economic diversity rivaled by very few places, Los Angeles is not quite viewed as a real city by much of the outside world.
A large, striped blue-and-white flag bearing the phrase, "Liberation!" greets visitors at the Museum of Tolerance exhibit, "Liberation! Revealing the Unspeakable," about the Allied soldiers and the starved, dying and dead Jews they discovered while liberating concentration camps.
In a hallway there is a row of photographs of soldiers who became the saviors of survivors. Then, down a set of stairs to the main exhibit area, one gallery wall features a 1945 poem written by an unnamed survivor upon learning of Hitler's death:
I have outlived the fiend
My lifelong wish fulfilled
What more need I achieve
My heart is full of joy
Last December, as the world tried to grapple with the devastating scope of the tsunami that hit South Asia -- at last count, the death toll stood at nearly 300,000 -- the tragedy became fodder for fatuous religious discussions, focusing on an ancient question: How can a just, good, all-powerful, all-loving God allow evil to happen and innocents to suffer?
One often sees the world through the lenses of his or her own leanings. Our powerful intellects can serve to justify and spin most anything. Ultimate truth, goodness and our essential purpose can become casualties of our own bias. But what are we to do, how can we possibly escape our very humanity?
Primarily, I learned, as a writer, that if you live with a crime long enough, it seeps into you. You cry at the trials. You hug the siblings of the victim, and they hug you. You keep your distance. You know that the best thing most of the time is just to keep your trap shut and let people talk when they feel it is safe for them to talk -- or when they feel they can do nothing but talk.
Jews have always used humor to get themselves through difficult times.
Religion did not begin with compassion. The gods of the ancient Near East were not exactly epitomes of goodness.
In the flood story of the Gilgamesh Epic, the gods destroyed humanity not because they were reacting to unbridled violence and sin, as in the biblical (and quranic) versions, but because humans were making too much noise and disturbing them.
The ancient gods were worshipped but not out of love. They were worshipped out of fear.
Following is an abridged version of the address given by Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky at the UCLA College of Letters and Sciences commencement ceremony on June 13.
The church is not a place that one typically associates with Chanukah.
On March 5, 1936, Julius Shulman was awestruck when he saw the Hollywood Hills home designed by legendary California Modernist architect Richard Neutra.
Now a year has passed. We have bombed. We have infiltrated. We have analyzed and rallied and written.
In these parshot, Moses wraps up all he has to say to the Israelites. When he is done speaking, he will take leave of them and die. He says: "Please remember all I have instructed you to do, so that you will lead happy and fulfilled lives."
This week's Torah portion opens with a fascinating topic: the psyche of a soldier at war, and the ethical boundaries that even a soldier must observe.
From the Torah's beginning until its end, God is portrayed as being personally involved in the welfare of humanity. Deism is not a Jewish notion. God is not an "unmoved mover," the proverbial clockmaker who after assembling and winding his ware, steps back watching it tick down, never to again involve Himself with it. On the contrary, God hears our innermost thoughts, feels our deepest concerns, judges us and guides us through our lives. A traditional Jewish concept of God is one that is interactive and intimately personal.
Watching the second tower of the World Trade Center crumble into dust on Tuesday, I was able to imagine the horror of the survivors of the Titanic as they witnessed their vessel sink into the Atlantic Ocean. A symbol of human progress and ingenuity, a monument to economic strength and power, the Titanic was regarded as indestructible. So too the World Trade Center represented, more than any other edifice in the United States, America's sense of its own power and invulnerability. Rising more than 100 stories high, these towers once so effectively dominated the New York skyline that in the air they could be seen from 150 miles away. When a 1993 car bomb failed to destroy them, the sense of invulnerability may have also given way to a sense of complacency.
On the news it's easy to find sickening evidence of the terrorist war being waged against Israel; harder to find, but no less real, are other insidious assaults that are growing in number and venom. This week, the United Nations World Conference Against Racism, which convened in South Africa, was transformed into a forum for vicious anti-Israel accusations. And in Israel itself, the Temple Mount is the focus of a relentless archaeological attack designed to rewrite history.
Though certainly one of the most bitter memories of history, the Holocaust was also a time of true heroism and great humanity. On Sun., May 6, Mt. Sinai Memorial Park in Simi Valley dedicated a grove of trees to the non-Jewish heroes who risked their lives to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust. Lidia Furmanski of Pasadena, a rescuer from Poland, and Bert Lerno of Simi Valley, a Jewish Dane who was rescued, were guests of honor at the dedication ceremony.
In the weeks immediately following the North Valley JCC shooting, one of the most incendiary articles to come out was headlined, "Where Were the Rabbis?"