Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Schwartz Bakery, a kosher bakery and caterer with six retail locations across Los Angeles, has dropped the Rabbinical Council of California (RCC) as its kosher certifier. The bakery announced on its Facebook page on May 20 that all of its locations are now being supervised by a competing kosher agency, Kehilla Kosher.
According to its Web site, Schwartz is "the first kosher bakery in Los Angeles." It is the third kosher establishment to leave the RCC in recent weeks, and the second to join the businesses supervised by Kehilla.
On May 23, two Schwartz locations were still listed in the directory of RCC-certified businesses the kosher certifier's Web site.
The RCC has been under intense pressure since March, when video footage emerged that showed the owner of Doheny Glatt Kosher Meat, the largest meat distributor under RCC supervision, allegedly bringing unidentified animal products into his store at a time when the kosher overseer was absent.
Schwartz is likely the largest business to leave the RCC to date. Founded in 1954, the family-owned business also caters events, sells packaged baked goods to retailers across the Southland and runs the lunch program at Yeshivat Yavneh, an Orthodox day school near Hancock Park.
Marc Hecht, Schwartz Bakery’s owner, and RCC President Rabbi Meyer May could not be reached immediately on Thursday for comment.
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May 22, 2013 | 11:41 am
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
In March, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D – CA) introduced a bill that would allow Israelis to enter the United States without first applying for a visa. The measure would, its backers say, help improve the business ties between the U.S. and Israel and encourage more Israeli tourists to come to America. Who could have a problem with that?
A lot of pro-Palestinian, Islamic-American, leftist and peacenik civil rights groups, it turns out. Opponents of the bill say it grants Israel an exemption from the requirement to treat all Americans coming to visit Israel in the same way Israelis would be treated on their trips to the United States (should the bill pass).
The bill’s language requires Israel to make “every reasonable effort, without jeopardizing the security of the State of Israel, to ensure that reciprocal travel privileges are extended to all United States citizens.”
That’s not enough, say the bill’s opponents. Framing the policy this way “not only allows, but also codifies, Israel’s routine practice of racial profiling and discriminatory treatment of Americans of Palestinian or Arab descent, as well as Muslims and human rights activists critical of Israeli policies,” said a coalition led by the California chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-CA) in a letter to Boxer on May 21.
Boxer disagrees, saying the proposed law only gives Israel the same “right to deny entry to individuals based on national security concerns” enjoyed by all other countries.
“In fact,” Boxer wrote in a letter to the Los Angeles Times on May 5, “the U.S. explicitly warns countries that are granted entry into the visa waiver program that we retain the ability to deny entry to any foreign national who represents a ‘threat to the welfare, health, safety or security of the United States.’”
The Times of Israel reported about the dispute over whether to allow Israel to join the visa waiver program, which currently allows citizens of 37 countries to travel to the United States without first obtaining a tourist visa. Israel already grants automatic, three-month tourist visas to U.S. citizens who travel to the Jewish state; Boxer’s bill, which has been referred to committee, would give Israelis traveling to the U.S. that same privilege.
Rep. Brad Sherman (D - Sherman Oaks), who introduced a similar bill in the House of Representatives in January, told the Times of Israel that those who oppose granting Israel entry into the visa waiver program are “the same people who wake up every morning and accuse Israel of genocide.”
Sherman noted that both France and the United Kingdom currently have reciprocal visa waiver relationships with Israel.
“Over 300,000 Israelis have to go through a [laborious] bureaucratic process to get into the United States [each year], and 21,000 people are on America’s ‘do not fly’ list,” Sherman told the Times of Israel on May 20. “And here you’ve got one person saying 100 Arab Americans were inconvenienced, but we don’t know who they are.”
One Arab-American, George Bisharat, a professor at UC Hastings College of the Law and son of a “Palestinian father and my blue-blood American mother,” described his inconvenient experiences (he called it “blatant racial profiling”) in an opinion piece in the L.A. Times earlier this month. Here’s his description of the welcome he received at Israel’s Ben-Gurion airport:
The screeners, typically youngsters half my age, grow tenser and the questions begin: "Where was your father born? Where are you going in Israel? What is your purpose here? Where will you stay? How many times have you been here before? Who do you know in Israel?" I respond, patiently and truthfully. On it goes for hours, punctuated by long waits on hard benches as increasingly senior interrogators shuttle in. Occasionally I am strip-searched. When I clear customs, the non-Arab passengers from my flight have long since departed the airport. I endure this whether traveling alone or with my family. In 2000, my daughter spent a substantial part of her ninth birthday contending with such a Ben Gurion Airport welcome committee.
Both Boxer’s bill in the Senate and Sherman’s in the House have been referred to committee. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has lobbied for Israel’s inclusion into the program.
May 15, 2013 | 4:51 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
In the 21st century, when candidates for public office tailor their messages to address different segments of the electorate, it’s no surprise that L.A. City Councilman Dennis Zine, who is running for city controller, sent a carefully crafted blue-and-white mailer to Jewish voters in Los Angeles earlier this month.
But unlike the straightforward mailers sent by Zine’s campaign to black (pdf) and Latino (pdf) voters, which feature photographs and statements from leaders in those minority communities who have endorsed the candidate, Zine’s outreach to Jewish voters makes creative use of statements that are not endorsements to bolster the candidate’s credentials.
The mailer (pdf) includes a photograph of Zine shaking hands with Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who has not endorsed either candidate in the race. It also uses the names and logos of local synagogues and Jewish nonprofits, as well as statements attributed to religious and lay leaders involved in those organizations, in ways that might lead some voters to believe that Zine has the endorsements of those organizations and individuals.
Zine’s mailer does include a disclaimer informing voters that its mention of these organizations “in no way implies” that the organizations have endorsed Zine’s candidacy. But Zine’s opponent in the May 21st runoff election, attorney Ron Galperin, said the mailer was still “misleading.”
“It’s a disclaimer, in very, very small print, at the bottom, which basically says ignore everything on the rest of the page,” Galperin said. “It’s a blatant attempt to suggest that the Jewish organizations that he listed -- and stole the logos of -- are supporting him, which is just plain false.”
The mailer makes clear that Zine, who was a Republican until 2011, when he changed his registration to “decline to state,” has the support of Rep. Brad Sherman (D – Sherman Oaks) and Former California Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg. Photos and statements attributed to those two Jewish leaders are featured prominently.
But the largest photo in the mailer is of the candidate, a Christian of Lebanese ancestry, wearing a white yarmulke, seated next to an unidentified bearded man in a black hat, and the significance of other statements on the mailer is hard to determine.
Arnold Gerson, the Chief Executive Officer of American Friends of Magen David Adom (AFMDA), is quoted in the mailer thanking Zine for “supporting Israel’s pre-hospital medical services.”
According to Rob Rosenthal, AFMDA’s chief marketing officer, that statement, which appears in the Zine mailer alongside AFMDA’s logo, is from a letter sent in 2007 by AFMDA’s Gerson thanking Zine for a donation he made.
“We’re appreciative of Mr. Zine's support, but weren’t aware of his candidacy and have no involvement with his campaign,” Rosenthal wrote in an email to The Journal on May 14. “But we look forward to his continued support on behalf of the people of Israel.”
Rosenthal added that, as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, AFMDA is prohibited from endorsing candidates.
John Schwada, director of communications for the Zine campaign, said that Zine, a former officer with the Los Angles Police Department who has represented part of the San Fernando Valley in the council since 2001, has given from his personal funds to support a variety of causes over the years. Schwada noted that Zine served as a president of The Executives, a support group for the Los Angeles Jewish Home for the Aging, and said that quotes like the one from Gerson’s 2007 letter are frequently reproduced in campaign communications.
“This is standard operating procedure in a campaign, to tout your support and the good things you’ve done for other people,” Schwada said.
Galperin, a Democrat, has the endorsements of both the Democratic Party and of the Los Angeles Chapter of Democrats for Israel. The son of Holocaust survivors, Galperin mentioned that he has his own prominent Jewish endorsers, including Rep. Henry Waxman (D – Beverly Hills) and former Reps. Howard Berman and Mel Levine.
Galperin, who has long been active in the Jewish community, once taught Hebrew school and spent two decades as the cantor at Temple B’nai Emet in Montebello. His spouse, Rabbi Zachary R. Shapiro, is the spiritual leader at Temple Akiba in Culver City.
Galperin said Jewish voters were no different than any other group of voters, but said Zine’s mailer was less than forthright in its effort to win over Jewish Angelenos.
“The controller’s job is to be the watchdog for the city of L.A., and most importantly, to be honest,” Galperin said. “Everybody who runs for office wants to make the best case for themselves, but you have to do it honestly.”
The Zine mailer uses the logos of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills. A representative from AIPAC declined to comment for this story. Messages left on May 14, the eve of Shavuot, for Temple Aliyah’s Rabbi Stewart L. Vogel and David Brook, both of whom are quoted by name in the mailer, were not returned on Tuesday. A message left on Tuesday for another leader whose name appeared in Zine’s mailer, Rabbi Richard Camras of Shomrei Torah in West Hills, also received no response.
To see the mailer, click here (pdf).