North Hollywood widow Rita Pauker plans to appeal a recent L.A. Superior Court decision that would bar her from reclaiming a set of Torah scrolls her late husband, Rabbi Norman Pauker, left in the care of his former colleague, Rabbi Samuel Ohana, when Pauker retired in the mid-1990s.
It was a sight Mar Vista doesn't see every day -- a guitar-studded procession of more than 100 Jewish revelers marching jubilantly down South Barrington Avenue with five Torah scrolls.
Rabbi Abner Weiss is looking through the closet that holds his shul. There are two Torah scrolls lying face up on shelves, the gold mechitza curtains are hung against the wall and the mini-weekday ark is facing the closet door.
"'Have ark will travel' -- that's our motto," Weiss said, and quoted the verse that is used in the Shabbat liturgy when the Torah scroll is removed from the ark in the synagogue: "Vayehi binsoah aron" (and behold the ark was traveling).
On May 7, at about 6:30 a.m., I was awakened by a call informing me that an incendiary bomb had been thrown through the stained-glass window of our sanctuary at Valley Beth Shalom. I rushed to the temple, only to find that our custodians, uninstructed by any temple official, had themselves rushed into the sanctuary, opened the ark, removed the scrolls of the Torah and deposited them safely in another room. A spark of holiness penetrated the darkness of our mood. Here were men and women who take care of the grounds of the synagogue, clean and prepare the classes, seminars and programs of our congregation, people mostly Hispanic and Catholic, not of our faith or our catechism, who would not stand idly by and observe without action the violation of a people's sanctuary. We must acknowledge Marcial Cano, Martha Arelleno, Irma Buenelo and Carlos Crespian, custodians lovingly supervised by Sigfredo Barker and his daughter, Noemi Lasky. Here are people who realized in their lives the potentiality of God's image invested in every child of Adam and Eve.
When Joseph Dabby arrived in America from Iraq in 1972, and found his way to Kahal Joseph Congregation in Los Angeles, he was shocked. "It was like being back in the Old Country," he said.
"It was full of people who didn't even speak the same language; they were very far removed [from their roots] but they maintained everything the same -- the same melodies and the same traditions," said Dabby, now 56 and president of the congregation.
Rabbi Alan Lachtman began Shabbat services at Temple Beth David in Temple City on Dec. 8 by having the children's choir sing "Light One Candle," a song by Peter, Paul and Mary. The song had symbolic meanings, both positive and destructive, for the congregation. Twenty years ago, on Dec. 6, 1980, the fifth day of Chanukah, two neo-Nazis broke into the synagogue, poured gasoline on the pulpit, and set the synagogue on fire. The sanctuary was gutted, the cabinet containing the Torah scrolls was singed and two Torah scrolls -- one of which had been rescued from the Holocaust from a temple that had burned years ago -- were damaged.