Years ago, I created a class, “Writer’s Marketplace,” dedicated to the business side of writing. It was inspired by all the I-wish-I’d-known-then-what-I-know-now moments in my own career, the realization that good writers often are clueless about how to sell their work, and that writing schools are often remiss in communicating the practical aspects of the profession to their students.
The best way to tell if a city has a sizable Jewish population, as my father used to say, is by the number of good Chinese restaurants.
After teaching for 50 years, Adina Bender is looking forward to retiring this June — sort of.
A Hamas spiritual leader on Monday called teaching Palestinian children about the Nazi murder of 6 million Jews a "war crime," rejecting a suggestion that the U.N. might include the Holocaust in Gaza's school curriculum.
It's estimated that 97 percent of Polish Jews died in the war. To this day, Geminder can't quite fathom how he ended up in the 3 percent that survived.
Two years ago, my father came to watch me in action in my first-grade classroom at Emek Hebrew Academy Teichman Family Torah Center. After two hours, he turned to me and said, "I don't know how you do what you do!"
The atrocities of the Holocaust are difficult enough to understand, let alone teach. But Melissa Mazzei was willing to tackle the challenge with her at-risk teens at West Adams Preparatory High School near downtown Los Angeles.
"Many of my students have unstable home lives, some of them living in cars or motels, are gang-affiliated and have parole officers," Mazzei said, adding that learning about the Holocaust might be the last thing on their minds.
In the space of an hour -- plus an extra 10 to 15 minutes thrown in for good measure -- David Solomon outlines the 4,000 years of Jewish history, from 2000 B.C.E. to the present. Each white paper wall represents 1,000 years, and as Solomon moves from Abraham to the 12 tribes, Moses, the prophets, the First and Second Temples, the Babylonian exile and the "PR stunt" of Chanukah, he works the room, swiveling the audience in its seats as he races from one side of the room to another.
Also known as "Read Hebrew America," the course has been picked up by nearly 700 synagogues in North America during last 10 years through the National Jewish Outreach Program (NJOP), a nonprofit organization based in New York. The objective is to promote Hebrew learning among American and Canadian Jews who have lost touch with their Jewish identities. While this is the first year Nessah has participated in the program, its leaders said the free Hebrew course has attracted more than 600 local Iranian Jews to its first three sessions.
Limmud was founded 25 years ago in England, where each December more than 2,000 people gather for a five-day conference. In the last six or seven years, the Limmud model has spread around the world, with conferences in Russia, France, Canada, Turkey, Israel, Germany, Australia and New York.The goal of LimmudLA, slated for Febrary during President's Day Weekend at the Costa Mesa Hilton, is to bring together the broad spectrum of Los Angeles Jewry to experience the richness of Judaism through intense days packed with the arts, shared meals and conversations, and a quirky and diverse offering of text studies, lectures and workshops. At Limmud, all the teachers are participants, and many of the participants are teachers, so everyone learns from each other.
The High Holy Days can be a confusing time for children. It's not easy for them to understand the sense behind the story of a father who almost sacrifices his son or how a chicken can help take away sins. Luckily, the answers to these mysteries and many more can be found in a book -- and thanks to the Harold Grinspoon Foundation's PJ Library (as in pajamas), parents around the country are getting those books for free.
While Yair, 8-year-old Ezra and 5-year-old Neima usually jump at the chance to help in the kitchen, just peeling carrots or washing parsley can get boring. They want real jobs, and especially during the cooking-intensive weeks of the High Holy Days, giving them more challenging tasks is a good way to hold their interest in all things culinary.
Educators these days are taking a new look at homework, attempting to measure its value and to re-examine the underlying assumptions about how kids learn, the pace of their development, family life and the role of work in our lives. Despite the complexity of the issue and a lack of consensus about the research, the battle lines in the debate have been redrawn.
The counter-intuitiveness of teaching children about the Holocaust is a harsh truth for parents of the new millennium, who believe in organic parenting, in going with the child's flow. But, of course, there isn't anything natural about the Holocaust, and so how we pass it on to the next generation can't be natural.
Even today, Bresnick "listens to everything," and his own compositions have a uniquely American eclecticism.
An observant Jew, Bleich provides a Jewish rationale for his commitment. While Judaism teaches that each individual is unique and special, it also emphasizes community, he says.
"If we don't have something to yearn for, some dents in our life to fix, some messiness, some crucial quality of our life is missing," Kula tells the audience. "Yearning can be a path to blessing."
Dobkin doesn't play bingo, and she doesn't own a television. She occasionally attends a lecture or musical event, but generally, when she isn't working, she is reading, usually The Forward in Yiddish or English or The Jewish Journal. She reads without glasses, except for very small print.
"I want to recognize and celebrate a person whose intelligence, whose leadership, whose commitment and compassion have made a profound difference in our community, a person who has positively impacted thousands of young people's lives," said Lowell Milken, chairman of the Milken Family Foundation, which gave the naming gift and maintains close ties to the high school.
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.
Whether they're secular or religious, Jewish astronomers are part of a venerable tradition of inquiry and teaching. And the light transmitted by this tradition shines just as brightly in the upcoming generation of space scientists.
Here's a variation on Wolpe's idea -- let your children stand in awe in front of the bimah, but then take them behind the bimah. Raise the curtain and demystify the sanctuary. By doing so you help them feel comfortable.
If the day ever comes when someone makes anti-Semitic attacks in the United States and the attacks enhance the person's reputation, we Jews will know we are in danger. In the 1980s, Jesse Jackson started attacking Jews and Zionism, which he called a "poisonous weed." When an African American journalist reported some of Jackson's anti-Jewish comments, Jackson felt constrained to issue an extended apology to the Jewish community and has avoided such comments since.
Around the Pico-Robertson neighborhood -- and the city -- the standard lectures were being given on topics ranging from the Book of Ruth to Israel, but something off the beaten path was taking place on Robertson Boulevard in a lecture at Anshei Emet Synagogue. The subject was "Kabbalah and the Red String."
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.
Overall, I felt the conference made every issue black and white. You're either for Israel or against it. You're either pro-Democracy or pro-evil regimes, as Israeli candidate for prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu put it, "The world is split between those who oppose terror and those who appease it."
Five brief pieces, on the following: Shalhevet School's recent winning streak, Camp Ramah's new solar panels, a five-day summer workshop that shows teachers how to use studying the holocaust to teach morality, an opportunity to serve abroad as part of the "Jewish Peace Corps," and a recent Prejudice Awareness Summit at the University of Judaism.
After more than 20 years at Valley Beth Shalom, Rabbi Ed Feinstein recently was named senior rabbi at the Encino synagogue, succeeding Rabbi Harold Schulweis. Recently, Rabbi Feinstein, 51, began teaching an adult education course called "Knowing God: The History of the Jewish Spiritual Journey."
Oliner's personal turnabout resulted in studies, which still continue, at his Altruistic Personality and Prosocial Behavior Institute at Humboldt. From there, Oliner and his wife, Pearl, have interviewed more than 500 rescuers who risked everything to save others, while seeking no personal reward.
Scholars-in-residence Rabbi Laura Geller, Rabbi Steven Leder and Dr. Bruce Powell will address teaching children values and ethics at Brandeis-Bardin Institute's family weekend Nov. 19-21. Sponsored by The Jewish Journal, the weekend will explore how ethics interface with spirituality, social justice, education and consumerism. Renowned child development specialist Dr. Ian Russ will address how kids learn ethics, and an expert from Merrill Lynch will discuss saving for your children and grandchildren.
During his nine-year tenure as Caltech president, 67-year old David Baltimore translated many of his family's principles into practice, on top of raising the university's already elite level of scientific research and education. He showed a keen interest in the quality of student life through improved housing and a multimillion dollar student activities fund, and raised the profile and number of women on the faculty and in the student body.
Following the public criticism, 14 commissioners voted last Friday against adopting the Oxford materials, and one commissioner abstained. Their rejection came as a surprise, because a special review committee had recommended its adoption to the commission.
The goal of shaping high-quality people is especially foremost during the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
The course is funded by the Middle East Teacher Resource Project, an arm of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). The Quaker organization has a long, honorable history of pacifism and aiding refugees (including this reporter's parents), but is considered by many in the Jewish community as leaning consistently toward a pro-Palestinian perspective.
The disengagement or expulsion has ended. But is this also the end of religious Zionism? Are there lessons we can and must learn that may enable us to emerge stronger from this most difficult period?
The first lesson we learned is that we are indeed one nation. There was no real violence, and there was even majestic fortitude and an exaltation of spirit displayed by many Gush Katif settlers and leaders.
On the other side of the barricades, only a small number of soldiers refused to carry out military evacuation orders, despite the charge to do so from major rabbinic voices; the soldiers and police behaved with incredible sensitivity and restraint.
It was heart wrenching but uplifting, a period in which I was both tear-filled and pride-filled to be an Israeli Jew.
After landing the lead in several school plays at Sinai Akiba Academy in Los Angeles, Leora Weinstock, 13, decided she wanted to be a professional actress.
Mothers Advocating Prevention (MAP) developed a safety education program based on information gathered primarily from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Over the past four years, trained educators have taken the interactive, age-appropriate presentations into classrooms in public schools across the Palos Verdes Peninsula, reaching thousands of children.
A quiet crisis is unfolding here. It's grabbing few headlines and it's rarely the stuff of public debate.
One of the notorious ways that overwrought Israeli parents get unruly kids into line is by threatening to send them to a pnimia -- a boarding school.
I understand tikkun olam, the repairing and healing of our world, as the central calling of our people. All of the prayer, teaching, outreach, pastoral work and congregational activities that I help facilitate lead me back to the notion that they are somehow helping to add the necessary energy into our global cosmos, which can facilitate the advent of a new and better time for all people. And I know that each of us is working, in our own way, to help better the world.
After a successful career with the country's top basketball team, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Aulcie Perry, 54, opened summer basketball clinics for children 7 to 14 years old in Tel Aviv. And he's about to open another one -- a camp set up to attract teens from all over the world, especially observant Jews.
Most Jewish people I know have never set foot in L.A. County jails or a California state prison. Were they to do so, they would discover dangerous overcrowding in most penal institutions.
They would see tens of thousands of inmates struggling to survive the daily routines of prison life. And they would discover their fellow Jews behind bars -- men and women who face enormous additional challenges. Too often, these inmates encounter virulent anti-Semitism at the hands of prisoners and guards. Strident missionaries from inside and outside the prison walls harass them. Jails and prisons test the resolve of those who choose to identify as Jews. They are too few in number to stand up to gangs and other hostile forces.
Skip Aldrich signals a student to turn down the lights and flips on the projector. An image of a gaunt concentration camp inmate hunched over a workbench evokes a collective gasp from the 10th-grade world history class at John C. Fremont High School in South Los Angeles.
Letter to the Editor
"What do you do?" I ask. He's in computer programming. Wonderful. Can't make too much conversation out of that answer. I try my best. It lasts all of two minutes. And then it happens: he asks the same of me.
It's a lot more than Kenn Phillips could have bargained for when he accepted this gig as principal. Lucky for him, he doesn't have to come back tomorrow.
That's because Phillips isn't the real principal, but merely principal for a day. Phillips is among more than 200 professionals who arranged to shadow principals as part of a Los Angeles Unified School District effort to create alliances between businesses and schools.
Almost 30 years ago, Parvaneh Doustan Sarraf began teaching Judaism and Torah studies in Iran, becoming one of that community's first women to join a profession long dominated by men. Since then, she's taught a multitude of young students about the joys of Judaism at Jewish schools both in Iran and, currently, in New York.
Years ago, Rabbi Ed Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom would run up and down the Hebrew school carpool line handing out cassette tapes of his and Rabbi Harold Schulweis' sermons.
"If you're not going to come inside, at least listen to this," he'd tell parents.
The Jewish Educator Awards luncheon, hosted by award sponsors the Milken Family Foundation (MFF) and the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE) of Greater Los Angeles, is a yearly fest of pride, love and admiration for the wide swath of Jews who belong to Los Angeles' day school world.
Eight-year-old Danielle dashes to the front of her third-grade classroom and shows off her drawing of an equilateral triangle.
It was in 1998 that my son, Sammy, broke out of his cocoon and started kindergarten at our neighborhood school. Up until then, he had spent his entire tiny life surrounded by Jews.
Having left his Jewish preschool behind only a few months prior, he had little knowledge of his own minority status in the world, not to mention in our South Bay community. But that didn't matter to him, at least as far as I knew.
The syllabus for my USC general education class includes both Shakespeare's "The Tempest" and Chapters 37-50 of Genesis -- the Joseph story or "novella." These two narratives share themes that commend themselves: forgiveness and reconciliation. Both Prospero and Joseph were set upon by their own brothers and narrowly escaped death. Both protagonists contributed to their victim role -- Prospero through neglecting governance and Joseph by insensitive boasting.
Latkes are a simple form of potato preparation, as potato dishes go. But simplicity in cooking, as the food writer Richard Olney wrote, is a complex thing. I have had rubbery latkes, starchy latkes, undercooked latkes and latkes so greasy that two of them could run a diesel engine for a week.
Jakob Finci, longtime leader of the Bosnian Jewish community, took a swallow of local draft beer and gestured at the mellow crowd enjoying dinner in an upscale new restaurant not far from the city's synagogue.