Three-dozen rabbis and cantors are sitting in silent meditation in a sun-filled room at the Brandeis-Bardin Campus at American Jewish University in Simi Valley.
They open their eyes and Rabbi Sheila Weinberg guides them in a mindfulness exercise.
The fog/smog lies heavy over the San Bernardino mountain range, but with a little imagination, it's still possible to make out Los Angeles -- and Catalina -- in the distance. Likewise, at an elevation of more than 6,000 feet in Running Springs, it's possible to envision the great promise of Camp Gan Israel, Chabad's new sleep-away camp and retreat center, even though the site is still undergoing heavy remodeling.
"Why are you having a bar or bat mitzvah?" Larry Kligman, dean of students at Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School in Northridge, asks the school's 65 seventh-graders.
Synagogues and Jewish institutions will help sell tickets, which can be purchased via credit card through The Jewish Federation of Orange County.
One of the most distressing aspects of the recent Middle East conflagration has been the retreat of both sides -- Israelis and Palestinians, as well as their supporters -- behind towering rhetorical walls.
This retreat evokes the verbal wars of the 1970s, when Israel meant racist and Arab connoted terrorist. When trapped beyond such rhetorical walls, we can only imagine, not see, what the other side looks like. And the imagination often runs wild, depicting the enemy in absolute and demonic terms.