For years, members of Mogen David, a traditional synagogue on Pico Boulevard near Beverwil Drive, watched young Orthodox families trek down the hill past the brick building at the westernmost end of the Pico-Robertson neighborhood on their way to other synagogues. Lay leaders of Mogen David, which according to the shul's executive director, Rabbi Gabriel Elias, had a dwindling membership of about 600 families -- 80 percent of them older than 80 -- knew that if they were to survive they would have to get those families in the front door.
So after much soul-searching and with a painful dose of pragmatism, the board decided four years ago to carve out separate men's and women's sections in the sanctuary, get rid of the microphones and start a search for a Modern Orthodox rabbi.
"President Bush has the best interests of the United States and the world at heart ... if push comes to shove, I would fight with the American Army," said Jacob Proud, a 20-year old freshman in bioethics at the University of Judaism (UJ).
"I question the real motives for this war... I want my country and Israel to be as just and righteous as possible," observed Mark Goodman, 26, a second-year student in the UJ's Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. The opinions, expressed in separate interviews during the first week of the war in Iraq, illustrate an obvious and a more subtle point.
For one, not all students think alike, not even in a university whose students are, by self-selection, dedicated to Judaism. Secondly, even within the UJ, undergraduates and rabbinical students sit largely on opposite sides of the fence.
In the final days before the Nov. 5 election, secession supporters are facing a tough battle. The latest public opinion poll shows Valley voters backing Measure F, which would create a separate city, by a narrow margin.
A Los Angeles Times Poll earlier this month found only 42 percent of likely Valley voters in favor of secession. However, a more recent study by Survey USA for KABC-TV found Valley cityhood supported by 58 percent of likely voters in the Valley and 40 percent citywide.
I suppose there has always been a division between Jews who are affiliated and those who are not. Two separate worlds. The first wears the definition with pride: The Jewish Community. The second by default or distrust or indifference, or maybe choice, seems to be cast adrift, at least from fellow Jews who make up the "community." Now, with the crisis in the Middle East heating up, with American foreign policy suddenly thrust into the very center of the action, with Europe turning against Israel and European crowds singling out Jews, the question arises: Will the two groups come together, accept a common Jewish identity? On the basis of partial evidence, I would say, not in Los Angeles. Or, at least, not yet.