Posted by Tom Tugend
9.12.13 at 11:35 am | The Muslims Are Coming to your town, led by two. . .
6.2.13 at 12:05 am | In covering the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf. . .
1.22.13 at 1:02 pm | Two films on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are. . .
1.13.13 at 10:12 pm | "Fill the Void," which depicts life and love in. . .
1.10.13 at 8:43 am | Director Steven Spielberg, screenwriter Tony. . .
12.21.12 at 9:44 am | Israel’s streak of Oscar nominations ended. . .
8.16.12 at 12:11 am | Ari Ephraim Rubin, vice chairman of the Jewish. . . (11)
8.1.12 at 3:13 am | After serving in the Pacific for four years and. . . (6)
9.4.12 at 8:09 am | If you thought your daughter’s odd behavior was. . . (4)
June 2, 2013 | 12:05 am
Posted by Tom Tugend
Movie mavens may have to come up with a new genre to classify “Hannah Arendt.”
It is an action film, as New York Times critic A.O. Scott suggests, but one in which the protagonists fight with ideas, theories and interpretations on a battle field where a questionable hypothesis can turn lifelong friends into bitter enemies.
Hannah Arendt was born in 1906 in Hanover, the precocious daughter of a German-Jewish family. She barely escaped the Holocaust, arriving in America, via a French detention camp, in 1941.
Here she built on her work as a political theorist and philosopher, producing among other influential works, “The Origin of Totalitarianism” and “The Human Condition.”
She might have continued her life as an intellectual and teacher, respected in her professional circles but unknown to the general public, save for the confluence of events in distant parts of the world.
In 1961, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion ordered Mossad agents to kidnap former SS Lt. Col. Adolf Eichmann from his hiding place in Argentina to face trial in an Israeli court for crimes against humanity and the Jewish people.
To cover the momentous trial, William Shawn, the legendary editor of The New Yorker magazine, decided to send Arendt, rather than a seasoned journalist, to Jerusalem.
It was a fateful decision, which changed the life of Arendt forever. More importantly, Shawn’s gamble largely shaped how future generations would view Eichmann and his compatriots who transformed Hitler’s fantasies of the master race into the industrialized extermination of six million Jews.
The movie, and the brilliant performance by German actress Barbara Sukowa in the title role, is likely not only to reawaken interest in the Holocaust -- as did “Schindler’s List” – but also renew debate on the roles of both perpetrators and victims.
Director Margarethe von Trotta, who has dealt previously with strong and complex Jewish women (“Rosa Luxemburg”) and the Nazi era (“Rosenstrasse”) faced a particularly daunting task in trying to portray the act of thinking – long and hard – in visual terms.
So the footage is interspersed with Sukowa/Arendt silently chain smoking (cigarette supplies by the car load must have made quite a dent in the film’s budget), pacing back and forth, sitting at a typewriter or lying on a sofa and staring at the ceiling.
The results of Arendt’s arduous thinking were explosive. Her series of articles in The New Yorker, expanded in her book “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil,” triggered a storm of controversy.
Hate mail and even death threats inundated Arendt and editor Shawn and many of her closest friends broke with the author. At one point, the Anti-Defamation League reportedly urged rabbis to denounce the book in their High Holy Days sermons.
“Banality of evil” became an enduring catch phrase to describe Eichmann and his kind as obedient bureaucrats, who abdicated independent thinking and moral judgment to carry out the orders of their superiors.
But what truly aroused the Jewish community, and many of her old friends, was her belief that the leaders of the Jewish communities in Germany and Poland during the Holocaust were complicit in facilitating the mass deportations to concentration camps.
Granted, Judenrat members may have hoped to soften the Nazi decrees, or just save their own skins, by cooperating with the German occupiers. Arendt, however, went one step further, maintaining that without such Jewish complicity, though there would have been much chaos and misery, the number of victims would have been drastically reduced.
The implication that, in effect, the victims were partially responsible for their ultimate fate was more than even her oldest friends could accept.
In a heart-wrenching scene, Arendt flies to Israel and the bedside of the dying Kurt Blumenfeld, perhaps her closest companion since the days when both were members of a Zionist youth group in Germany.
Arendt tries to mollify and comfort her old friend, but in his last living gesture, he turns his back on her.
This dramatic encounter is exceeded only by a scene near the movie’s end, when Arendt, facing a class at The New School in Manhattan, mounts a long, passionate defense of her writings.
In effect summarizing her philosophy, she exhorts her students that every individual has the duty to think independently if the human race is to avoid future catastrophes on the level of the Holocaust.
She also tries to persuade her critics that in trying to understand the mentality of Nazi war criminals, she in no way means to exculpate or forgive them.
Not all of “Hannah Arendt” is about intellectual sparring or pensive brooding. According to the film, Arendt could also be an ardent woman, who was a loyal and loving wife to her husband, despite his occasional discreet outside affairs.
In once scene, Arendt and American novelist Mary McCarthy, one of her staunchest defenders, discuss philosophical points while engaged in a competitive game of pool.
In a flashback, we see Arendt as a young university student involved in a love affair with her professor, the German philosopher Martin Heidegger, who became a Nazi party member in 1933.
Some critics of Arendt have detected in her a certain intellectual snobbishness and a typical European disdain for the mental capacity of the “lower classes,” which might have led her to put down Eichmann as a man incapable of thinking for himself.
Such a characterization of Arendt is confirmed, to some degree, by Sukowa, who steeped herself in Arendt’s life and writings, before portraying her in the film.
“Arendt did have a certain snobbishness, though in some of her writing she expressed more democratic attitudes,” Sukowa said in a phone conversation from her home in Brooklyn, where she lives with her husband, the American artist Robert Longo.
In other observations, Sukowa noted that, like many assimilated German Jews, “Arendt really never knew that she was Jewish,” until forced to confront her ethnicity by Hitler’s edicts in 1933.
In a sense, Arendt’s forceful intellect was both her strength and her weakness, shaping her view of the Eichmann trial “from the perspective of a distant and somewhat ironic observer,” Sukowa said. Perhaps as a result, Arendt could not imagine how hurtful her pronouncements on the banality of evil and the complicity of Jewish leadership were to Holocaust survivors and the families of victims.
After his conviction by an Israeli court, Eichmann was hanged on May 31, 1962, but the questions raised by his trial and Arendt’s reportage persist, and are perhaps timeless.
In Germany and other European countries where the film has opened, Arendt’s “Eichmann In Jerusalem” is now selling more copies than when the book initially came out in 1963, said Pam Katz, who co-wrote the screenplay with director von Trotta.
Katz is the Manhattan-born daughter of a secular German-Jewish family. now lives in Brooklyn, and like Arendt has had to examine her Jewish identity through the impetus of the Eichmann trial.
She admires Arendt as a person and as a penetrating political philosopher, and disagrees with charges that she failed to grasp the real Eichmann in her “banality of evil” assessment.
That view, held by a number of respected historians, proposes that the real Eichmann was a shrewd operator who consciously and aggressively supported the Final Solution, even when he had to go against the orders of superiors or impair the German war effort.
For instance Gabriel Bach, Israel’s senior prosecutor at the trial, recalled two years ago at a Loyola Law School conference that as Soviet armies neared Budapest in the final stages of World War II, SS Reichsfuehrer Heinrich Himmler ordered Eichmann, his subordinate, to halt the trains carrying Jews to death camps.
Eichmann ignored the orders and the trains kept running.
To Holocaust historian Christopher R. Browning, such defiance indicated that Eichmann was much more than an unthinking cog in the death machine.
“Arendt had the right concept [in the banality of evil], but in Eichmann she had the wrong person,” Browning told The Journal at the time. “Eichmann was a very ambitious ideologue, not a banal bureaucrat.”
Katz, however, has a different take. Eichmann had sworn an oath of loyalty to the Fuehrer, Katz said, and felt that Himmler’s orders had to be circumvented because he was betraying Hitler.
As the film’s Arendt says in addressing her students, Katz believes that her key message was “you must start thinking for yourself.”
The movie’s dialogue is alternately in German and English and the picture gains authenticity by frequently inserting clips from the actual trial. The production was financially supported, in part, by the Israel and Jerusalem film funds.
“Hannah Arendt” will open June 7 at Laemmle’s Royal Theatre in West Los Angeles, Playhouse 7 in Pasadena, and Town Center in Encino.
January 22, 2013 | 1:02 pm
Posted by Tom Tugend
Two films on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are in the final lap of five Oscar contenders for best documentary feature.
“The Gatekeepers” is told from the perspective of the six men who headed Israel’s Shin Bet internal security and counter-terrorism apparatus over the past three decades, tough men who oversaw such operations as the targeted assassinations of Hamas and other terrorist leaders.
“5 Broken Cameras” is a chronicle filmed by a Palestinian farmer of his village’s resistance against a rising Israeli settlement, including his footage of the soldiers who tried to squelch the villagers’ protests.
Two more opposing backgrounds and viewpoints are hard to imagine. Yet, surprisingly, the protagonists in each of these documentaries come to much the same conclusion — that the Israeli government has been, and is, on the wrong track, and that military force alone will neither solve the conflict nor assure the Jewish state’s survival.
The tone in “Cameras” is emotional, while “Gatekeepers” is more intellectualized, but both prove that Israelis will accept a level of criticism, from within and without, that likely would seem daunting for most Americans to stomach, or for mainstream Hollywood to depict.
If that wasn’t enough, Israel’s government actually helped pay for production of both films.
Asked for an explanation of this phenomenon, Dror Moreh, director of “Gatekeepers,” said in an interview at the Four Seasons Hotel, “We Jews are masters of self-criticism. It’s in our genes.”
The six Shin Bet men vary as much as the prime ministers who appointed them, from Menachem Begin and Shimon Peres to Yitzhak Rabin and Benjamin Netanyahu, but they all share a hard-headed intellect and a disdain for most of Israel’s politicians, past and present.
Avraham Shalom (Shin Bet head from 1980 to 1986), the oldest of the six, fought in the pre-state underground, helped track down and kidnap Adolf Eichmann, and pursued both the Arab perpetrators of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre and extremist Jewish West Bank settlers.
An avuncular-looking type, dressed in a plaid shirt and red suspenders, Shalom sets much of the tone for his successors. All generally agree that despite all rebuffs and failures, Israel must try to negotiate with any or all Palestinian factions to overcome deeply embedded stereotypes and take some tentative steps on the path to peace.
“Negotiate with anyone?” interviewer Moreh asks somewhat incredulously. “Yes, anyone,” Shalom answers, even Hamas and even Islamic Jihad.
Yaakov Peri (1988-1995) was the key figure in battling the Second Intifada, setting up a vast network of Palestinian informers and collaborators and allegedly authorizing “exceptional practices” during Shin Bet interrogations.
Yet, in the film, Peri speaks of his reflections on “the memories etched deep inside you. … When you retire, you become a bit of a leftist.”
Moreh filmed some 72 hours of interviews, with additional time spent culling graphic archival footage that is interspersed throughout the documentary. His most surprising moment, he said, came when interviewing Yuval Diskin, every inch an army officer and master spy, who served as Shin Bet’s head from 2005 to 2011.
Moreh asked Diskin for his reaction to a quote from Yeshayahu Leibowitz, a far-left academic, asserting that Israel’s control over the West Bank will lead to the Jewish state’s inexorable moral corruption.
Moreh said he was astonished when Diskin nodded in agreement, saying, “Every word is [written] in stone.”
Imagine an equivalent film made in America, where six former FBI and CIA directors face the cameras and denounce the policies of the presidents who appointed them.
Moreh’s own dismay is of a different nature. He asked a reporter why American Jews, who, like Israelis, belong “to the most opinionated race on earth,” don’t criticize Israeli policies more.
Moreh, 51 and a muscular 6-foot-2, served in the first Lebanon War in the early 1980s and describes himself as a “political centrist.”
His interviews for the film, he said, left him depressed about the future of Israel, what he sees as the country’s lack of political leadership, and the growing strength of Israel’s extreme right. “Most of the crazies,” he added, “come from the United States.”
“Gatekeepers” was made on a budget of $1.5 million, a hefty sum for an Israeli production, of which 10 percent came from the government-funded Israel Film Council.
Emad Burnat, the cameraman, narrator and co-director of “5 Broken Cameras,” lives in a world far removed from the well-educated, commanding Shin Bet chiefs of “Gatekeepers.”
He is a Palestinian farmer whose family has cultivated the land of Bi’lin, a village of 1,900 inhabitants just east of the Green Line separating Israel from the West Bank.
When his fourth son, Gibreel, is born in 2005, he gets a video camera to record the boy’s infancy and childhood and the surrounding village life.
At about the same time, the religious settlement of Modi’in Illit, overlooking Bi’lin, goes up, protected by a fence barring the villagers from much of their own farmland and olive groves.
The villagers respond with a campaign of nonviolent resistance, marked each Friday by demonstrations that are part protest march and part street theater.
Israeli soldiers are called in to prevent the villagers from marching on the settlement, which escalates the confrontation into opposing volleys, as the villagers throw stones and the soldiers respond with tear gas grenades.
The Israeli Supreme Court eventually rules that the fence must be moved away from Bi’lin and closer to the settlement, restoring much of the arable land to the farmers, but it takes years to enforce the court decision.
Burnat, an amateur photographer, and his camera are ever-present in the thick of all this, to the annoyance of the soldiers. Although some blood is spilled later, the initial casualties are his cameras, which get smashed, replaced and smashed again.
Five cameras go down, but the sixth is still doing duty today, Burnat said by phone from Bi’lin.
Everywhere he goes, Burnat brings along his growing son, the wide-eyed Gibreel, and the scenes between the two, and with Burnat’s wife, lend a homey charm to “Cameras.”
In one domestic scene, Burnat’s wife upbraids him for endangering the family’s safety with his constant filming of confrontations. Asked for his reaction during the interview, Burnat bravely answered, “I never listen to my wife. I was on a mission to film the village struggle.”
Among the sympathizers from Israel and other countries who joined the Bi’lin protesters was Guy Davidi, a Tel Aviv filmmaker, who befriended Burnat and his family.
Two years ago, Burnat showed his huge cache of video footage to Davidi, with the idea of fashioning it into a documentary. Davidi signed on as co-director and producer, raising $334,000, including $120,000 from Israeli government and private sources.
From inception to Oscar nomination, the history of “5 Broken Cameras” reads like an unalloyed success story, but it wouldn’t be the Middle East if some conflict didn’t roil the waters.
What happened is this: When it was announced that these two documentaries had qualified for the Oscar finals, some Israeli and U.S. Jewish media proudly headlined their reports as an unprecedented feat by “two Israeli films.”
That claim justifiably angered Burnat, opened him to criticism from his Palestinian compatriots and led to an instant boycott of the film in Arab countries.
Burnat, who has also taught himself English, Hebrew and Portuguese (his wife was born in Brazil), protested during the interview, “This is a Palestinian film. It’s about my village, and mine is the major contribution.”
Actually, the reality is a bit more complex. Under Academy Award rules, documentaries are not entered by countries (as is the case for foreign-language feature movies), but by individual filmmakers and their distributors. For instance, documentary features are usually submitted by a number of different American filmmakers.
So, “Cameras” is officially labeled as a Palestinian-Israeli-French co-production, and Davidi acknowledged that the “two Israeli films” headlines misleadingly “erased Burnat’s personality.”
Still, the controversy has left a bitter aftertaste, especially for Burnat.
“Cameras” also illustrates one other point. As in most other films by Palestinians, Israeli characters may be depicted as unwelcome interlopers, but they are not made into monsters or Nazis.
Thus, the Israeli soldiers in “Cameras” do not seem to enjoy facing civilians; they do not insult them, and in a semi-comic scene, soldiers trying to enter a Palestinian home are pushed out by the angry women inside.
Ironically, highly negative portrayals of Israelis appear more often in self-lacerating Israeli-made movies than in Palestinian ones.
Davidi offered one explanation for this oddity. “Many of the West Bank Palestinians have worked in Israel as construction workers, gardeners and so forth. They speak our language and know more about us than we know about them. Even if they hate us, they understand something about the complexity of our society.”
“Gatekeepers” and “Cameras” are up against some stiff competition by the other three contenders. However, both Burnat and Davidi said they would attend the award ceremonies in Hollywood on Feb. 24 — even if they have to wear tuxedos.
There will be a sneak preview of “The Gatekeepers” on Jan. 27 at 10 a.m. at Laemmle’s Music Hall in Beverly Hills. Former Shin Bet head Carmi Gillon will participate in a Q&A session, moderated by Jewish Journal President David Suissa. Tickets to the event, co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival and the Journal, are free, but reservations are required at http://lajfilmfest.org or (800) 838-3006.
January 13, 2013 | 10:12 pm
Posted by Tom Tugend
The Israeli movie “Fill the Void” has been named best foreign-language film, beating out entries from 41 other countries, at the Palm Springs International Film Festival in Southern California.
The International Federation of Film Critics' (FIPRESCI) prize for the Israeli entry was announced Sunday at the conclusion of the 11-day festival, which ran Jan. 3-14.
Though not as prestigious as the Academy Awards, or as well known as the Cannes or Venice film festivals, the Palm Springs event is considered the primary U.S. venue for the screening of foreign movies.
As a Los Angeles Times critic noted, “Nowhere else in America will you see such a diverse range of quality foreign movies across most genres, all in one place.”
This year, the festival screened 182 films, including 42 of the 71 foreign-language movies submitted in the Oscar competition.
“Fill the Void,” written and directed by Rama Burshtein, examines profound issues of faith and conduct within the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community in Tel Aviv, as viewed from an insider’s perspective.
The festival jury praised the movie for “portraying a culture usually depicted in stereotypical terms, with subtlety, sympathy and sensuality, and employing a style that is intimate, but not intrusive.”
“Fill the Void” has won seven Ophir awards, Israel’s equivalent of the Oscar, and received high praise at the Toronto, Venice, New York and Sao Paulo film fests.
Hadas Yaron, who portrays an 18-year old girl torn by the choice of a future husband she loves, and another preferred by her family, won the best actress award at the 2012 Venice Film Festival.
Palm Springs, 112 miles east of Los Angeles, has been a favorite playground of Hollywood celebrities since the 1920s, and an array of stars usually attends the festival.
The desert resort cemented its attraction to the Hollywood crowd when the old studios issued the “two-hour rule.” It stated that any actor under contract had to report to the studio within two hours for any last minute reshooting.
Also honored this year in Palm Springs was the Holocaust-themed Serbian film, “When Day Breaks.” In the movie by director Goran Paskaljevic, an elderly music professor, who has always considered himself Christian, discovers that he is the son of Jewish parents, who left him with a farmer’s family and later perished in the Holocaust.
As the stunned professor wanders through present-day Belgrade, he finds that few people remember the war years or that the city’s neglected fairgrounds served as a concentration camp for the local Jews. With his musician friends, he sets about to establish a memorial at the site.
Like the professor, “I cannot NOT remember,” Paskaljevic said in an interview. “If we forget the crimes committed during World War II, and later in Bosnia, that opens the door to new crimes.”
January 10, 2013 | 8:43 am
Posted by Tom Tugend
Spearheaded by two-and-a-half Jews, “Lincoln” led the field with 12 Oscar nominations, announced Thursday (1/10) morning.
Nominated in their respective categories were Steven Spielberg as director, as well as co-producer (with Kathleen Kennedy), playwright Tony Kushner for best adapted screenplay, and Daniel Day-Lewis for best actor.
Day-Lewis is the half-Jew on the “Lincoln” team, with the actress Jill Balcon as his mother. His maternal grandparents, including grandfather Sir Michael Balcon, head of Ealing Studios, immigrated to Britain from Latvia and Poland.
“Lincoln,” which depicts the rough-and-tumble politics leading up to the emancipation of Negro slaves, is also in the running for best picture and (non-Jewish) supporting actors Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones.
Rounding out the field of Jewish nominees is Mark Boal, up for his original screenplay “Zero Dark Thirty” on the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, while Benh (ok) Zeitlin, whose father is Jewish, is in competition as director of “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”
In addition, veteran actor Alan Arkin got a nod for his supporting role in “Argo,” and L.A. producer Amy Ziering joined the best documentary feature list for “The Invisible War,” which probes sexual assaults in the U.S. armed forces.
Israel, whose entries made the top five shortlists of best foreign-language films in four of the last five years, struck out this time with the impressive “Fill the Void,” an insider’s view of haredi (fervently Orthodox) life in Tel Aviv.
Among the films submitted by 71 countries, five dealt with the Jewish fate during the Nazi era and its aftermath. Though none made the final-five shortlist, their themes indicate that the Holocaust theme still fascinates international filmmakers.
Two of the five nominated feature documentaries deal with Israel’s conflicts at home and abroad.
“The Gatekeepers,” by Israeli Dror Moreh, consists of lengthy, and surprisingly frank, interviews with six former heads of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, discussing the past, present and likely future of the tumultuous regional conflicts.
“5 Broken Cameras” examines the confrontation between Palestinian villagers and Israeli soldiers, with Emud Burnat, a Palestinian, and Guy Davidi, an Israeli, as co-directors.
December 21, 2012 | 9:44 am
Posted by Tom Tugend
Israel’s Oscar-nomination run hit another bump Friday , when “Fill the Void,” the country’s entry, failed to make the list of nine semi-finalists among foreign-language films.
This year’s entries from 71 countries showed a renewed interest in Holocaust and World War II themes. Although also shut out, five movies dealt with the Jewish fate during the Nazi era and its aftermath, one film with Talmudic roots, and one on the wartime clashes between Soviet and German forces.
“Fill the Void” by director Rana Burshtein centered on the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community in Tel Aviv.
Among the nine entries still in the race, Austria’s “Amour” and France’s “The Intouchables” are considered the frontrunners to walk away with the Oscar.
Other countries making the shortlist are Canada, Chile, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Romania and Switzerland. The Palestinian film, “When I Saw You,” failed to make the cut.
Except for 2010, Israel’s entries had made the elite list of five finalists since 2007, but without yet garnering the top prize. Last year’s submission was Joseph Cedar’s “Footnote,” representing one of the strongest bids by the Israeli film industry, but the trophy went to Iran’s “A Separation.”
Israel’s remaining hope lies in the documentary feature category. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences earlier announced the titles of 15 chosen semi-finalists, including “The Gatekeepers” by Israeli director Dror Moreh, and “5 Broken Cameras” by directors Emud Burnat, a Palestinian, and Guy Davidi, an Israeli.
The final shortlist of five foreign-language film nominees will be announced Jan. 10, 2013, and the Oscar winner crowned on Feb. 24 in Hollywood.
December 19, 2012 | 11:52 am
Posted by Tom Tugend
After each shooting rampage, such as the one last week that took 26 lives at a Connecticut elementary school and the one at a Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills 13 years ago, the circle of victims reaches far beyond the wounded and the dead.
When the targets are children, parents must cope not only with their own grief and the trauma of their wounded child, but also with the frightening impact on brothers and sisters of the victims.
Such was the case when, on Aug. 10, 1999, Buford Furrow Jr., a white supremacist, walked into the North Valley Jewish Community Center and started spraying the school grounds with bullets. He wounded three boys, ages 5 and 6, a teenage girl and an adult staffer.
Bullets penetrated the hip and leg of Joshua Stepakoff, 6, son of Loren Lieb and Alan Stepakoff, as the boy was playing at the JCC.
When they arrived at the hospital, “At first we had no idea what to do,” Lieb recalled in a phone interview this week; a hospital counselor advised Lieb not to probe and prod Joshua with questions, but instead to take her cues from the boy.
Another piece of advice was to avoid, whenever possible, loud noises, such as from helicopters and sirens from emergency vehicles.
Long after the attack, Joshua showed signs of post-trauma distress. Every evening, he would check whether doors and windows were closed and locked in their home, and at night he insisted that all the lights stay on in his bedroom.
It took a few years until Joshua was ready to talk openly to his parents about his experience, finally telling them, “I have bad thoughts I can’t get out of my head.” He subsequently got help through professional counseling.
Joshua’s brother, Seth — older by two years and always the more extroverted of the two — had problems of a different kind. With presents and all attention focused on Joshua, Seth was becoming jealous and resentful of his younger brother.
Joshua, now 19 and a college student, is fully recovered physically, but, his mother said, with news of new mass shootings, such as recent ones at a mall in Portland, Ore., and another at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., some of the old traumas are refueled.
“My advice to other parents would be to be supportive of your children, show that you love them, and always be ready to listen to them,” Lieb said.
Mindy Finkelstein, daughter of Donna and David Finkelstein, was 16 and on her first job as a summer counselor at the JCC when she was shot in the leg by Furrow.
As a teenager and as a girl, she reacted quite differently than did 6-year-old Joshua.
“We talked constantly about what had happened, her emotions and her sense of safety,” Donna Finkelstein recalled. Mindy’s sister, Jodi — four years older — took part in the discussions, and the girls’ parents were careful to pay equal attention to both daughters.
To the Finkelstein family, it was obvious that the attack by a neo-Nazi was a hate crime directed specifically against Jews. One effect was that Jodi stopped wearing a Star of David that had always dangled from her neck.
Both Lieb and Donna Finkelstein are now active in the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Women Against Gun Violence.
“One reason [for my support] is that I want to show my kids that I’m trying to protect them and make changes, rather than just sit at home,” Donna Finkelstein said.
Even for parents whose children escaped injury at the JCC shooting, memories of the day still haunt them and, for some, have triggered life changes.
Richard Macales was at his job at UCLA when his mother called to tell him of a radio report about the shooting at the JCC. Macales’ 3 1/2-year-old son, David, was enrolled at the school.
While a colleague drove him on the 405 freeway from UCLA to Granada Hills, Macales, an Orthodox Jew, recited Tehillim, the Psalms of David, frequently offered in times of danger. Some 13 years later, when Macales heard of the Connecticut massacre, he offered up the same prayers.
After a frantic search, Macales found David, who had somehow struck out on his own and was sitting quietly on a curb.
At home, Macales and his then-wife, Beverly, had to cope not only with David’s problems, but also those of David’s younger brother, Aaron, and older siblings, Chava and Shmuel. What carried the family through, Macales said, was, first, their deep religious faith and, second, their long-discussed plan to make aliyah and settle in Israel.
After the JCC shooting, the Macales parents decided to turn the dream into reality, and a year later, in 2000, they moved the family to Jerusalem. During the intervening year, the parents kept the family discussions on concrete plans for the aliyah and on the new life awaiting them in Israel.
In Jerusalem, Richard Macales became a feature writer for The Jerusalem Post and currently serves as a member of the selection committee for the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in Netanya.
What riles him most are the preachings by some religious leaders of various faiths that illness, misfortune or disasters are somehow “divine retribution” for shortcomings or offenses committed by the affected individual or his community.
“I emphasize to my children that a tragedy should not be looked upon as something that is deserved,” he said, and doing so “is the height of cruelty.”
While Israel has not experienced mass shootings of the sort that have occurred in the United States, war or terrorist attacks are always a possibility in Israel.
Macales said he himself has come under attack by Palestinian militants during the intifada, while missiles fired from Gaza flew over his synagogue in recent months. David is now grown and preparing to join an elite army combat unit.
Nevertheless, Macales believes Americans can learn from Israelis how to handle such threats of violence.
“After each attack, we clean up the damage as fast as possible,” he said. “We also encourage people to quickly return to a normal routine. For instance, after leaving a bomb shelter, to go shopping or see a movie.”
November 26, 2012 | 10:33 am
Posted by Tom Tugend
Nan Tepper in the title role and Richard Horvitz as multiple characters star in "Mrs. Mannerly," a Jeffrey Hatcher comedy playing through Dec. 15 at Theatre 40 on the Beverly Hills High School campus. Performances start Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. For tickets, phone (310) 364-0535 or visit www.theatre40.org. Photo by Ed Krieger