Volume 2, Nu

mber 30
Volume 2, Number 218

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Today's Postings

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

{Click an underlined headline in this area to jump to the corresponding story. Or, you may scroll leisurely through our report}


Don't trivialize the Shoah by making light of it, or using it for partisan ends by Dvir Abramovich in Melbourne, Australia

The Jews Down Under, a roundup of Australian Jewish news by Garry Fabian in Melbourne:
World No Safer after 9/11—Juval Aviv
Tough opening game for peace team
Submission highlight campus bias
Community Security Group first public appeal
A remarkable musical milestone

Jewish Community welcomes new Premier
Outrage over Arab leader's remarks
A grave situation in Brest, Belarus
Something in lighter vein - The Jewish Car


Campaign 2008: Democrats' attacks on Palin lack merit by Matthew Brooks in Washington D.C.

Adventures in San Diego Jewish History

—January 13, 1950: Senior Pioneer (Negba) Club

—January 13, 1950:Yo-Ma-Co News

—January 13, 1950:Guardians

—January 13, 1950: J.C.R.A.


It’s a Hit! It’s the Housewives! by Cynthia Citron in Sherman Oaks, California


Will Spitz legend survive Phelps? Book review by Donald H. Harrison in San Diego

Messages from Our Advertisers

Musical Selichot at Congregation Beth Am
San Diego Jewish Academy Unveils New Gymnasium & Sports Complex

The Week in Review

This week's stories on San Diego Jewish World: Tuesday, Monday, Sunday, Friday, Thursday, Wednesday,

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By Matthew Brooks

WASHINGTON, D.C. —By choosing Gov. Sarah Palin as the vice-presidential candidate, John McCain once again demonstrated a commitment to challenging politics-as-usual. Palin is strongly pro-Israel and recognizes the strategic importance of the U.S. - Israel relationship.

As governor, she has established a solid relationship with the Jewish community of Alaska. Palin's record includes her support of the community's desire to create the Alaska Jewish Historical Museum and attending the reading of Alaska's historic resolution commemorating Israel's 60th anniversary. In her office in Juneau, she hung an Israeli flag to show her commitment to the Jewish community.

Like Sen. McCain, Gov. Palin opposes Barack Obama's pledge to meet with Iranian President Ahmadenijad without pre-conditions, in the first year of the next president's term. Palin understands the threat of a nuclear Iran and is committed to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. During Palin's convention speech accepting the vice-presidential nomination, she clearly stated:

"Terrorist states are seeking nuclear weapons without delay; he [Obama] wants to meet them without preconditions. Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America; [Obama]'s worried that someone won't read them their rights."

Gov. Palin has shown that she is not wedded to party politics nor does she play politics-as-usual. Palin is an unconventional Republican, not endorsing Bush in 2000, but instead endorsing Steve Forbes for President in 1996 and 2000. There are some Democrat leaders that are trying to falsely place Palin as a supporter of someone else or make Palin into something she is not. They manipulate an errant button or fundraiser or a guest speaker at Palin's church. Don't believe it-get the facts. 

Democrats should be cautious when playing this game. Their candidate, Barack Obama embraced an anti-American, anti-Semitic pastor, Jeremiah Wright, who was both a personal friend and mentor. Former PLO Spokesperson Rashid Khalidi was another personal friend and raised funds for Barack Obama's failed Congressional campaign in 2000. Democrats are doing a disservice to themselves and the Jewish community if they think with one or two distorted facts that they can fool the Jewish community.

Palin has said that the function of a politician is not to serve one's self-interest, but rather to serve with a "servant's heart." In her career, Palin has done so with distinction and she has served the Alaskan people well and the Alaskan Jewish community.

One of Gov. Palin's greatest asset to the McCain-Palin ticket is her firm grasp of the pivotal security issue of making America energy independent. As governor, she is experienced, knowledgeable, has challenged the influence of big oil companies and fought for the development of new energy resources in her state. As an outdoorswoman and naturalist, she understands first-hand the impact of climate change.

"To confront the threat that Iran might seek to cut off nearly a fifth of world energy supplies or that terrorists might strike again at the Abqaiq facility in Saudi Arabia or that Venezuela might shut off its oil deliveries, we Americans need to produce more of our own oil and gas. And take it from a gal who knows the North Slope of Alaska: we've got lots of both."

Smear: Democrats lie about Governor Palin supporting Pat Buchanan for President

Facts: Gov. Sarah Palin endorsed Steve Forbes in 1996 and 2000, not George W. Bush or Pat Buchanan. While Mayor of Wasilla, AK, Gov. Palin had a policy that if a candidate came to her city, she would wear that button on the day they were there. Pat Buchanan came to Wasilla so the day he came, she wore a button. On July 26, 1999, then-Mayor Palin wrote the Anchorage Daily News to clarify the record because a wire service story the paper had published nine days before "may have left your readers with the perception that I am endorsing" Buchanan because she had welcomed his visit to her town. "As mayor," she explained, "I will welcome all the candidates in Wasilla." (Anchorage Daily News, 7/26/99)

Smear: Democrats lie about Governor Palin endorsing the views of a Jews for Jesus speaker that spoke once in her church.
Facts: Gov. Palin did not know this speaker would be at her church and emphatically rejects his views.

This is based on concerns about a sermon presented last month at the church she usually attends. The Jewish news agency JTA investigated and reported that 1) Palin would have had no way of knowing that this person would be speaking at church that day, 2) Palin rejects the Christian speaker's offensive views, and 3) Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, has seen "no evidence" that she shares those views. (JTA, 9/3/08)

Also, this speaker spoke once at Palin's church. Democrats should be cautious when their candidate, Barack Obama, embraced an anti-American, anti-Semitic pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright who was both a personal friend and mentor for 20 years. Democrats are absolutely attempting to smear Gov. Palin with distorted facts. Democrats are doing a disservice to themselves if they think with one or two distorted facts that they can fool the Jewish community.

Smear: Democrats lie about Governor Palin censoring library books.
Facts: The Anchorage Daily News found that then-Mayor Palin never proposed to ban a single book. (Anchorage Daily News, 9/4/08) All other rumors and innuendo on this topic are outright smears. 

Smear: Democrats lie about Governor Palin seeking to have creationism taught in public schools.
Facts: Gov. Palin took no action to add creationism to the state's curriculum throughout her term in office.

The Associated Press investigated and found that Gov. Palin "kept her campaign pledge not to "push the State Board of Education to add creation-based alternatives to the state's required curriculum or look for creationism activists when she appointed members." The AP also quoted a political observer in the state who observed, "She has basically ignored social issues period." (Associated Press, 9/3/08)


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Don't trivialize the Shoah by making
light of it, or using it for partisan ends

By Dvir Abramovich

MELBOURNE, Australia—We shouldn't be surprised that the Victorian lobby group "Plug the Pipe" produced a poster featuring parallel images of Hitler and the Victorian premier John Brumby (with a crude moustache and fringe drawn on the Premier's face) and grotesquely asking: "Can you spot the differences between these two dictators?" The linking of the deliberate murder of millions to the issue of water was not just bad taste, but bad morality.

Earlier this year, Australian soccer player Andre Gumprecht attended a post-season party dressed as Hitler, while Sam Leach portrayed himself as Hitler and was rewarded with an Archibald nomination for his "art."

The Plug the Pipe episode demonstrates the abhorrent uses of Holocaust symbolism in political life. To borrow the words of one commentator, what facet of the Holocaust will next become the subject of propaganda ­ the tattooed arms? The tortures? The gassings themselves?

We live in an age where all bets are off when it comes to the depiction of the Holocaust. Manipulative symbolism and false equivalences have become the trend.

The Holocaust has become a cartoon collection (We have Ways of Making You Laugh: 120 Funny Swastika Cartoons). In one strip a swastika-adorned woman selling matches on a snowy street says to her friend: "I joined because you get to keep warm during the book burnings."

An anti-smoking T-shirt on sale in Germany depicts a smoker across a yellow star; a Brazilian samba group features a Holocaust display; a series of men's striped pyjamas and jackets with boot marks and numbers painted on them are modelled by an emaciated model with closely cropped hair and protruding ears as part of a fashion show.

There is also a Seinfeld episode, a Lego set, a comparable event to the abusive treatment of animals and a comedy set in a death camp. Hitler and his genocidal regime are now an all-purpose metaphor, a gimmick, an opportunity to generate publicity.

Feature films about Hitler have either humanised him or turned him into a caricature. In the film My Fuehrer, the Truly Truest Truth about Adolf Hitler, the mass-murderer emerges from Berlin's sewer system, where he survived the war. Lying in bed, he cries, "I'm so alone" while his Jewish acting teacher and wife sing him a lullaby.

In other scenes, Hitler is depicted as a pathetic, incontinent wimp who cannot make love to his mistress Eva Braun and plays with toy battleships in the bathtub.

On YouTube, a made-up clip by a student titled "Hitler Leasing!" has Hitler in a dispute with a car-leasing company.

And cabaret artist Thomas Pigor impersonates Hitler, making audiences roar as he sings, "Hitler, the new perfume for men: smells monumental ­ and of German shepherd."

Aren't you laughing?

If this were not enough, even the legacy of Anne Frank has been debased. A musical based on her life that has been playing in Madrid was described by its director as "a very entertaining musical, with intimate moments and a lot of comedy."

The Holocaust memory and sacredness have been diluted; its desecration is ubiquitous. Sacha Baron Cohen, who grew up in a traditionally Jewish home, should have known better than to perform a honky-tonk tune, Throw the Jew Down the Well, to sing-along audiences in Arizona.

The exhibition Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery/Recent Art, in the Jewish Museum in New York showed a picture of an artist holding a Coca-Cola can superimposed on a photo of emaciated concentration camp survivors saying: "Just as much of Europe succumbed to Nazi culture … so does our contemporary culture succumb to consumerism."

Coke and Auschwitz ­ same thing, right?

If you want to scold Brumby, don't use an image of Hitler to make the point and in the process trample on the feelings of survivors and the memory of the dead. You can drive home the message without denigrating and demeaning lives lost.

The Holocaust should not just be material for anyone to distort and reinvent as they please in order to suit their own agenda. Plug the Pipe crossed a moral line, wounding people who already experienced unimaginable injury, seeking to sensationalise their cause and counting on society's fascination with shock value.

No one is advocating censorship. Rather, what is pleaded for is the exercising of discretion, understanding and respect for the memory of the dead and the living. The murder of six million and the man who devastated Europe are not the subject of levity and should not serve as fodder for crass stunts.

When anyone chooses to engage with the Holocaust, the responsibility they carry is of the highest order, born out of the ashes of Auschwitz.

That I have to explain this speaks volumes.

The magnitude and scale of the crimes perpetrated by the Nazis should be depicted authentically through facts and without ambiguity. And the same applies to the suffering of the Armenians, Cambodians, Bosnians, Rwandans, Sudanese and any other group subjected to acts of monstrosity.

A world that now knows what we know cannot afford this trivialisation.

Dvir Abramovich is director of the Centre for Jewish History and Culture at Melbourne University.


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World No Safer after 9/11—Juval Aviv

By Garry Fabian

MELBOURNE - Controversial global security analyst Juval Aviv briefed the community on Israel's security amid growing international tensions over Iran this week.

Israeli-born, New York-based Aviv was the keynote speaker at WIZO Victoria's gala dinner at the Palladium On Crown in Melbourne on August 27 in honour of Israel's 60th birthday.

Aviv urged community members to make emergency plans in the event of a major terrorist attack, including arrangements for securing children and keeping back-up records of important documents.

In an earlier inteview, Aviv, who runs a private security company in the US, said the world is no safer than it was immediately after the 2001 terrorist bombings in the United States.

"The tragedy is that America thinks that by fighting the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are shielding the US or Australia,” he said.

“Some would say nothing's happened [in the United States] since 9/11 -- maybe we're doing something right."

Aviv said Israelis were more vigilant against terrorism.

"In Israel, it's something we take extremely seriously and we've put a lot of thought and resources behind it. We can't close our eyes for a moment."

Aviv stated that he was a Mossad agent assigned to Operation Wrath of God, which assassinated the terrorists behind Black September, after the kidnapping and murder of athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972, although the Mossad head at that time, denied knowing him.

Based on a book Aviv wrote, his activities were portrayed under the character Avner in Steven Spielberg's 2005 film Munich.

"I think he did an unbelievably great job in recreating the events. I was interviewed by Steven at length before he even considered doing it and I was a consultant while he was filming it,” he said.

“I was surprised at how accurate the scenes were and how good the casting was."

Aviv described the psychological difficulties of the operation in the interview he gave prior to his lecture.
"You are a Mossad agent, and you are sent to something that nobody prepared you for and everybody hopes you will be successful,” he said.

“It was a mission we thought would take two months and ended up taking several years -- away from your loved ones. You're in constant fear of being detected, not only by the terrorists, but by local police."

He attributed Israel's criticism of Munich to a number of factors.

"What Israel didn't like was [Israelis] wanted to keep the myth of Mossad agents as James Bonds, they don't want to show the human side."

Aviv has also written a book on what he considers the inside story of the Pan Am airliner bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988.

Tough opening game for peace team

CARLTON—A bruised and battered Peace Team will be better for the run after its opening games of the International Cup against Great Britain and Papua New Guinea last week.

Made up of Israeli and Palestinian players, the Peace Team displayed courage and spirit -- and was easily the best-supported side last Wednesday when it took on Britain in its opening game, with hundreds of people turning out at Ransford Oval, Carlton, to witness the spectacle.

And while the game was played in the right spirit, it was a tough induction for the Peace Team, who suffered a heavy loss, 20.15 (135) to 1.2 (8) against a stronger, better-drilled opponent.

The highlight of the game for the Peace Team came late in the last quarter, when on-baller Moshe Lagisa kicked truly for the side's only major of the match.

Lagisa marked deep in the pocket, 15 metres out on a slight angle, and the crowd erupted as his mongrel punt sailed over the goal umpires head.

For the Peace Team, Yonatan Belik was important around the stoppages while co-captain Kamal Abualthom led from the front.

Dror Haim, who stayed in Israel for his son's bris and landed in Australia just three hours before the game, also showed some dash, while Aussie expat Danny Brill applied good defensive pressure across half forward.

In the post-match address Hawthorn legend and Peace Team coach Robert Dipierdomenico said: "All we wanted to do was kick one goal and we did it. I'm bloody proud of you."

While the atmosphere around the ground was carnival-like, out on the ground it was anything but for the Peace Team, with half-back flanker Shai Braitner crunched in a marking contest and carried from the field in the opening minute of play.

With another player stretchered off in the final term, the side had no fit players on the interchange bench for most of the last quarter.

It was more of the same in the match against Papua New Guinea (PNG) on Friday, with the Peace Team managing just 1.1 (7) to 20.20 (140) against the 2002 and 2005 International Cup runners-up.

PNG opened the scoring with a goal early in the first term, but the Peace Team hit back almost immediately through Abed Abu Haduan, who booted the side's second major of the tournament.

But after a promising start, the Peace Team managed just one more scoring shot for the match as a rampant PNG put on a clinic.

The Peace Team's next game is against Nauru at 3pm today at Walter Oval, Warrnambool. And the Peace Team could be in for another tough match, with the tiny pacific island nation pulling off one of the upsets of the International Cup when it beat Great Britain on Friday.

Submissions highlight campus bias

CANBERRA- Dissatisfaction with portrayal of Israel on campus has gone all the way to the Australian Senate. In submissions to a Senate inquiry into academic freedom, both Jewish and Liberal Party student groups wrote that academics rarely portray the Middle East conflict in an impartial light. The inquiry was requested by Victorian Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield earlier this year and is expected to report in November.

The Melbourne University Liberal Club's submission said that a lecturer attempted to explain early Zionist settlement in Israel by telling students that it was like Monash University buying all of the University of Melbourne's land and then cramming the Melbourne University students into the physics department building.

The submission reads : "This exercise uses an analogy which is false and grossly simplistic, comparing early Jewish settlers in Israel to a horde of marauding Monash students."

In a joint Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) and Australasian Union of Jewish Students submission, concern was expressed that the university students often encounter anti-Semitism in the form of "academic bias and prejudice against Israel."

The submission recommends that teachers and textbook authors disclose their "personal bias" to students. It called for any courses that include the situation in Israel to present texts written by a variety of authors, including traditional Israeli and Arab historians, as well as "revisionists" and "post revisionist" historians.

It added that universities should be held accountable for their sources of funding, a recommendation directed largely at the Australian National University's Centre of Arab and Islamic Studies, which receives funding from the United Arab Emirates government.

"To us it seems self-evident that the direct, or indirect receipt of funding from a  government, especially a non-democratic government, by an Australian university ought to be publicly disclosed and capable of being vetoed by the Australian Government in the public interest," the submission said.

Senator Fifield said he moved the inquiry into academic freedom because students need to feel they were not being discriminated against or preached to at school or university.

"I have long been concerned at the anecdotal evidence I heard suggesting a culture of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish bias in our universities. Certainly the evidence presented to the submission thus far has been very disturbinf," he said.

This inquiry was launched on the back of a new web site, Make Education Fair, which has been set up by the Young Liberal movement. It asks students to report academic bias.

In the course of the inquiry, the Senate Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Committee will investigate intellectual diversity at schools and universities. It will examine the importance of offering pluralistic, accurate and balanced courses and will consider introducing a charter of academic freedoms.

Professor Richard Larkins, the chair of Universities Australia, called on the Government to resist interfering in the day-to-day running of tertiary institutions. "In a free and democratic society, there is no place for external interference in the intellectual endeavours of scholars." he wrote.

Community Security Group first public appeal

MELBOURNE - In a first for the Jewish Community Security Group (CSG), the organisation is launching a public appeal to enhance its fundraising.

CSG coordinator Gavin Queit said the group had set itself a target of $100,000 to be raised during the September appeal. The appeal will supplement funding the CSG has traditionally raised through the Jewish Community Council of Victoria's (JCCV) security levy on Jewish organisations and private donors.

"We have a funding shortfall because, even though our budget has increased dramatically over the past few years, we are still short of where we want to be."

The work done by the CSG which includes the provision of highly trained volunteers for shule protection  on Shabbat and yom tovs, protection of major communal functions, around-the-clock responses to emergencies, training of parents to protect children at Jewish schools, training of commercial security guards at schools and other facilities, provision of security advice for Jewish organisations, and liaison with state and federal authorities.

Victorian Police Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon has endorsed the appeal, stating that the CSG is a great example of an organisation working in partnership with Victoria Police to prevent crime and maintain public order.

The CSG's annual budget is in excess of one million dollars.

 A remarkable musical milestone

MELBOURNE -  Temple Beth Israel’s (TBI) long-serving organist Joe Stupel recently notched up an incredible 5000 services. Stupel began his organ-playing career at Bentleigh Temple (Bentleigh Progressive Synagogue) in 1960, after Rabbi John Levi spotted him playing at an organ demonstration at Allans Music. Stupel and his wife Eva were recently made honorary life members of TBI.
Photo: Peter Haskin

Jewish Community welcomes new Premier

SYDNEY - Just hours after New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma’s shock resignation on Friday, the Jewish community seems to have moved on – with leaders already lining up to welcome his successor, former Water Minister Nathan Rees.

The changeover was swift with Rees sworn in on Friday afternoon after Iemma resigned under the cloud of a caucus revolt that threatened to dump him.

Iemma’s fall comes after weeks of sinking approval ratings, the resignation of his loyal Deputy Premier John Watkins earlier in the week and the sacking of Treasurer Michael Costa, just hours before his own ousting.

It also follows his surprise $2.5 million pledge last month to the upcoming Jewish security appeal.
“We acknowledge Morris Iemma’s great support for the Jewish community,” NSW Jewish Board of Deputies acting president Yair Miller said, before quickly moving on to hail his successor.

“In his inaugural speech to State Parliament last year, Nathan Rees emphasised society’s need for fairness, justice, accountability and a fair go. These are all core values which the Jewish community endorses.

“He also has an understanding of Israel, recently visiting the country on a trade mission and declaring himself impressed with its water technology. We congratulate Rees on his elevation to the premiership and look forward to working with him and his team.”

Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce (AICC) CEO Anthony Hollis, who accompanied Rees on that AICC-sponsored mission to Israel last October, also ushered in the new Premier.

“[Rees] thoroughly enjoyed the trip, seeing Israel’s innovation in water and possible avenues of possible collaboration between the two countries,” he said. “We wish him every success in his new role."

AICC president Kim Jacobs added: “So far, we’ve had an excellent relationship with the [former] Labor government, and we look forward to continuing that relationship under the new Premier and his team.”

Outrage over Arab leader's remarks

MELBOURNE- The chairman of the Australian Arabic Council (AAC) has been accused of breaching the Racial Discrimination Act with comments he made about the Hezbollah-run television station al-Manar, which continues to be broadcast in Australia.

Roland Jabbour said last week that he stands by the comments he made to The Age (21/08), that in the context of Israel’s “crimes”, it was acceptable for al-Manar to call Jewish people “the offspring of apes and pigs” and to resurrect the ancient myth of blood libel.

“I said you need to see those comments in the context of the State of Israel and the ongoing conflict in the region. I thought it was reasonable,” Jabbour stated.

He said that while he would never speak about Jewish people like that, “we need to see [the comments] as directed to the State of Israel, not directed to Jews.”

He said that in broadcasting anti-Semitic and anti-Israel views into Australia, the network was exercising its right to free speech.

“By supporting a station to be aired in Australia, we are not supporting the things that it says, we are simply saying that if somebody says something that we are not happy with, then that is the whole issue with freedom of expression,” Jabbour argued.

The broadcaster, he said, was not supporting terrorism, but he concurred that Hezbollah, a proscribed terrorist group in Australia, operated the station.

Peta Jones Pellach, an expert in interfaith relations, said that Judaism does not believe free speech is an “overriding right”.

“Speech is described as a powerful force that must be exercised with restraint and sensitivity,” she said.
Pellach said that if Jabbour believed in free speech, he should use it for good, rather than evil.

“The freedom of speech he enjoys here could much better be used to inform citizens of the Arab world, who do not have access to such information, that this is a scandalous libel and spreading it does not further the cause of the Arab people or Islam.”

Meanwhile, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) acted in the strongest possible way last week, calling for an urgent meeting with Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy to discuss al-Manar’s broadcast in Australia.

The letter said that Jabbour’s statements indicated “the insidious influence of al-Manar’s programs and their ability to foment hatred of Jews in Australia."

The ECAJ also joined with the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) to urge Jabbour to retract his remarks, which they said contravened Part IIa of the Racial Discrimination Act.

“We invite and urge you to dissociate yourself and your council from the remarks and ... to publicly withdraw them and to apologise to the Jewish community for the deep offence and hurt that you have caused,” the letter reads.

Last week other Jewish groups echoed the ECAJ and ZFA in condemning Jabbour’s comments and calling for a ban of al-Manar.

John Searle, president of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission called Jabbour’s comments “dishonest," “un-Australian” and said they “undermine our multicultural society."

He said Jabbour should apologise or resign from the AAC to “pave the way for the appointment of a chairperson who is capable of working towards a harmonious, multicultural society."

Dr Colin Rubenstein, executive director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, said Jabbour’s comments “reek of fringe extremism." Dr Danny Lamm, president of the State Zionist Council of Victoria, also condemned Jabbour’s comments and called on the Federal Government to do whatever it could to prevent al-Manar broadcasting into Australia.

Victoria’s Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu even weighed into the debate, and called on Kevin Rudd to convince the Indonesian government to stop using its satellite to beam al-Manar to Australia.

“I would encourage the Prime Minister to use his special relationship with the Indonesian government to highlight the dangers of broadcasting networks that incite violence, vilification and terrorist activities,” Baillieu said.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority is currently investigating al-Manar.

A grave situation in Brest, Belarus

MELBOURNE- Genealogist Jenni Buch is leading fundraising efforts to establish a memorial for desecrated Jewish tombstones in the Belarusian town of Brest.

Postwar Europe was particularly adept at sweeping centuries of Jewish history and culture under the carpet. In Brest, it’s under their sports ­stadiums and footpaths too.

The Lakomotiv Stadium is the former site of the old Jewish cemetery in Brest, a major rail junction and trade centre in south-western Belarus.

It was destroyed by the Nazis during the war and later bulldozed by the Soviets in the 1950s. More recently, a street excavation uncovered Jewish grave markers resourcefully used as paving stones.

“When the residents of Brest went to build apartments, they came across bodies,” says Jenni Buch, a Melbourne genealogist and research coordinator for the Brest district on Jewishgen.org.

“For years, they’ve been finding tombstones in the foundation of buildings with Hebrew writing.”

More than 1,200 desecrated stones from the old Jewish cemetery have been placed in a casement under the supervision of Brest’s rabbi, Chaim Rabinowitz. The plan is to have them translated, catalogued and interred at a site that resembles a typical Jewish cemetery.

But there is a cost. The proposed memorial – an irregular hexagon symbolising the Star of David, complete with a menorah constructed from tombstones – will cost an estimated $US10,000 (about $11,570). And the remaining Jews of Brest, about 800 mainly Russian immigrants who moved there after World War II, do not have the funds to pay for it.

It’s against this backdrop that Buch has become an almost accidental fundraiser for the Brest memorial. Her father Shimon Shalitzki was one of a number of “Briskers” (Brisk is Yiddish for Brest), who arrived in Australia in the late 1930s.

“Fundraising is beyond my scope, but it has to be done,” explains Buch, who has conducted more than 60 interviews for Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation.

“We have to make a memorial. Belarus is very poor. In a way, I wish it was Poland – the Poles are much more advanced with Holocaust tourism and roots. But the Belarus side – just across the river – is still third world.”

Of the 30 Brest families who arrived in Australia, the majority reside in Melbourne, but there are also descendants in Sydney and Adelaide, as well as the US, Argentina and South Africa.

“The Australian government was not doing well with immigration from England, so it went to northern Europe, the Baltic States and Poland, asking for families to migrate while the rest of the world were closing their doors,” Buch explains.

“It cost 200 pound sterling, which was a lot of money. My aunt sold her dairy and her house and they migrated here in 1938.”

After arriving in Australia in the late 1930s, the Briskers promptly set up a landsmanschaft, an immigrant benevolent society formed by ex-residents of the same town. Some, including Buch’s father, who lost his first wife and five children at the hands of the Nazis, were even sent to Shepparton as part of an experimental program.

“The fact that the [Australian] Briskers came here before the war, that’s why you have this solid group,” Buch says. “They have a link, a brotherhood. It’s stronger than saying they come from the same place.”

One of the remaining Australian Briskers, 87-year-old Dr Samuel Chani recalls Brest’s vitality and “style”. The noted shtetl gave rise to the powerful Soloveitchik dynasty of rabbis. Former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, a schoolmate of Dr Chani, and Isser Yehuda Unterman, Israel’s second Ashkenazi chief rabbi, also hailed from Brest.

“It was a very vibrant city, really advanced in many ways,” recalls Dr Chani, a former RAAF veteran who worked as a general practitioner in Melbourne for 50 years. “Nearly all sections of Judaism were represented there, and passionately.”

In 1938, the then 17-year-old Dr Chani left Brest with his parents, sister and some members of his extended family. They secured the £200 needed for an immigration permit by selling the family home.
“A year before, there was a pogrom. It was well organised and aimed to destroy the commercial section of the town,” recalls Dr Chani. “Anti-Semitism was on the rise and things didn’t look too good.”

The family’s fears, and those of their fellow emigrés, were not unfounded. In 1942, 50,000 Jews, including 20,000 Briskers, were rounded up and gunned down in a trench in Bronnaya Gora, about halfway along the railroad line between Brest and Minsk.

It took the fall of the Iron Curtain in the late 1980s, for details of the massacre to be released in the west.
“I think it was bigger than Babi Yar, because it incorporated many other townships,” says Dr Chani, who lost his remaining family members in the Bronnaya Gora massacre.

“There was no information at all until the break-up of the war. Until then, we thought that they perished in the town.”

Dr Chani, who visited Brest in 1965, says that the monument will be an important memorial to the Briskers, who perished in the Holocaust.

“It’s quite important. It was a vibrant and advanced city and there’s just no trace left of it.”
For Buch, it’s as much about honouring her father’s history as it is about providing a place for fellow genealogists to research their ancestry.

“I was born in Melbourne in 1948, so it had nothing much to do with me. But when I found my father’s children in a Brest ghetto on a database, I really lost it,” she says.

“I fell into this, but I want to raise the money, I want to get the memorial up ... It’s important to have a place where people can go and say Kaddish.”

Something in lighter vein - The Jewish Car

MELBOURNE—By careful analyses it would seem that car manufacturers are ignoring the Yiddish market. If there was a specific Jewish car designed, whether it be a Jewguar or a Menschedes Benz, and it had features we really wanted and need it would be a big hit.

Forget cup holders - what is really wanted are cake holders. There are few greater pleasures that sitting at traffic lights and tucking into shtickel of bubbkah. As an accessory the driver's seat should have an inbuilt vaccum system for picking up the poppy seed that falls off the bagels you pick up at the bakery on Sunday morning and much on the way home.

Every door of our car would have mezuzah on it, hooked up to the car's computer, reminding you to get a full service on the car and have the mezuzah checked twice ever seven years, to ensure it is still kosher.

The car would also feature a sun roof for Succot, as well as a purpose build menorah rack for eight days on road safety. Each car would also come standard with a chametz incinerator whwre the ash tray would normally be located to make the car suitable for Pessach.

GPS has become an almost standard fitting on the cars of today, and our Jewbaru would be no different. The default location for the GPS would be next year in Jerusalem, but would also incorporate other features. A Polish bobba accent would ask What do you want to go there for?; Are you sure you want to go there? and lastly Are you dressed warmly enough?.

As for safety features, the car will be fitted with an interlock device that you must breathe into before the car will start. As opposed to the traditional device that detects alcohol on the driver's breath, this one has been modified to detect treif. The slightest hint of shellfish or pig and you aren't going anywhere.

Parking assistance would be another feature, so every car would be fitted with standard parking distance assist. Unlike to conventional systems which use radar to tell you when you are approaching an obstacle, this system uses mother-in-law technology with screams You're going to hit it, as you reverse until you hit the car behind. Then it will scream I told you so.

This revolutionary gar will run exclusively on gas. Not LGP but gas created as a byproduct of eating cholent.

Another feature will be the special speedometer, For every two miles you drive, it automatically winds one back.

So there you have it - the first custom deigned Jewish car. While there still remains the question of finding a suitable name - one thing is clear - it will not be called a Goyota.

Bureau chief Fabian may be contacted at fabiang@sandiegojewishworld.com



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It’s a Hit!  It’s the Housewives!

By Cynthia Citron

SHERMAN OAKS, California—There is nothing more delicious than a musical in which the music, the lyrics, the talent, the plot, and all the bits and pieces come together like a good home-made lemon meringue pie.  This year that musical is “It’s the Housewives!”, a sweet, tart, tasty confection from the collaborative kitchen of Hope and Laurence Juber and their friend Ellen Guylas.  (The Jubers, as you may remember, wrote the recent  A Very Brady Musical—a celebration of the long-running TV show created by Hope’s father, Sherwood Schwartz.)

It’s the Housewives! chronicles the unexpected and flukey success of three PTA moms who volunteer for a talent show at Benjamin Henry Harrison Elementary School.  They sing, stiffly and with fixed, tentative smiles, a song written by Rebecca (Terri Homberg-Olsen) called “Be My Babysitter”.  It’s not exactly a ticket to fame and fortune, but it is liked well enough by an entrepreneur named Hugo (Roger Cruz) for him to offer them a gig at the opening of his new establishment.  Which, unfortunately, turns out to be not a nightclub, but a laundromat.

But the laundromat actually is their route to stardom.  After Rebecca composes “Spotless Love” and “Ironing Bored” the trio become the spokeswomen for a laundry detergent and tour the country singing such housewifely homilies as “in Sink and at Your Disposal,” “The Reynolds Rap,” “Pledge or Behold” and that paean to vacuum cleaners: “It Sucks.”

Rebecca, now known as “Becca” (played by Jamey Hood), and her two friends, Lynn (Corinne Dekker) and Lexie (Jayme Lake) have marvelous voices, and they make these hilarious songs sound like grand opera.  Their routines get jazzier and more sexually suggestive, (as in the song “I’ve Been Defrosting All Day”) and so do their costumes (courtesy of designer Sharell Martin).   The costumes reach their apex in a scene wherein Becca, dressed as a shimmering turkey, sings her outrage at one of the players in the long-running addictive daytime soap All My Children.  The song is “Erica, You Bitch” and it is one of the many songs that brings down the house.

The story of the housewives is told in flashback by Rebecca to the plumber (Vince Cefalu) who has come to unplug her sink.  If every plumber were as wry and funny as he, lonely housewives all over the city would be happily shoveling chicken bones and potato peelings into their drainpipes in order to get him to come visit.

Others in the cast include Anthony Desantis as Becca’s obnoxious husband and Jed Alexander and Susan Mullen in a series of cameos that flesh out the story.  Kelly Ann Ford, who has been nominated for a number of directorial awards for her work in L.A., handled the cast with an able hand and a sense of humor, and Lesley Fairman and Joseph Slawinski, lighting and sound designers, respectively, added to the razzle-dazzle.

All in all, It’s the Housewives! is a tasty dessert that  leaves you feeling nourished and totally satisfied.

It’s the Housewives! will run for six weeks, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 and Sundays at 3 through October 12th at the Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., in Sherman Oaks.  Call 323-960-5563 for tickets.

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Will Spitz legend survive Phelps?

Mark Spitz: The Extraordinary Life Of An Olympic Champion, by Richard L. Foster, 2008, Santa Monica Press LLC, ISBN 978 1-59580-039-9, 288 pages, $24.95.

By Donald H. Harrison

HARRISONSPITZSAN DIEGO—Published before this year’s Olympic Games in Beijing, this book predicted that even if Michael Phelps broke Mark Spitz’s record of seven gold medals in swimming—which of course Phelps did, with eight—that Phelps never would enjoy the level of super-celebrity that Spitz did.  

“Oh yeah?” I remember thinking the other night while watching Jay Leno introduce him on The Tonight Show.  Then why were all those girls screaming the way their mothers and grandmothers used to scream for Elvis Presley and the Beatles?

Even though Spitz has been eclipsed in the record books, there is a special poignancy to his story, as told by Foster, with some assistance from the former editor of the San Diego Jewish Times, Mike Sirota, who specializes in helping writers tune up their books for publication.  (Another book, Courage to Heal, which I recently wrote about on San Diego Jewish World also benefitted from the Sirota touch.)

Spitz won his medals in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, four years after disappointing himself and his fans in the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.  At those 1968 games, Spitz, a brash high school student, was disliked by his American teammates for his arrogance and immaturity, and, sad to say, because he was a Jew.  Although he continued to offend other swimmers with his outward demeanor, according to biographer Foster, he was shattered on the inside. 

The four years between Mexico City and Munich were a time for Spitz not only to perfect his swimming but to rebuild his confidence.  That his journey should find realization in Munich, a city which only 27 years previously was under the control of Adolph Hitler and the Nazi killing machine, was filled with irony. 

The day after Spitz triumphed with his seventh and last medal, the world watched in horror as Palestinian terrorists with the Black September movement murdered 11 Israeli athletes.  Spitz, by that time the best-known Jewish athlete in the entire world, was immediately provided with a high level of security and protection until he could be taken safely out of the country to London.

Author Foster contends that the juxtaposition of Spitz’s triumph, followed by the way the world was riveted on the tragedy of the Israeli athletes, was what catapulted Spitz to a level of fame and recognition that has endured to this day.  Up to the time the book was published, Spitz had met five sitting U.S. Presidents, enjoying bantering friendships with both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.  Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom turned and waved to him in the stands one day, and King Juan Carlos of Spain may have been more star-struck meeting him than vice versa, according to the book.

The Mark Spitz biography is chock full of the kinds of statistics that only the most rabid fans devour in the box scores of sporting events.  There were times when the author seemed intent on churning through the narrative as quickly as Spitz took his laps through a pool.  I would have preferred it if Foster had slowed down and explored some subjects more thoroughly—especially Spitz’s feelings of Jewish identity and his reaction to the murder of the Israeli athletes.  This was covered in brief (he was in shock), but not with any great depth.

Recently in San Diego, we had the JCC Maccabi Games which were started after the murder of the Israeli athletes as an enduring tribute to their memory—a memory that, by happenstance, is inextricably linked to the accomplishments of the incredible American Jewish swimmer Mark Spitz.

Harrison may be contacted at editor@sandiegojewishworld.com


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Editor's Note: To create a permanent and accessible archive, we are reprinting news articles that appeared in back issues of various San Diego Jewish newspapers. You may access an index of the headlines of those articles by clicking here. You may also use the Google search program on our home page or on the headline index page to search for keywords or names.

Senior Pioneer (Negba) Club
From Southwestern Jewish Press, January 13, 1950, page 6

With songs and high hopes for the New Year, a segment of the members of the Senior Pioneer Women greeted the infant 1950 at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Maurice Schaffer.  An enjoyable time was had by all. The proceeds were given to the Pioneer Women

Five additional ladies have joined in the sponsoring of the card party and film, “Israel is Labor,” to be given on Sunday, January 15th, at the Temple Center at 8:00 p.m.  They are Sophie Himmel, Bess Blank , Ethel Feldman, Bertha Muskowtiz, and I. Bobrov. The proceeds will be donated to the Pioneer Women (Negba) Club.

Yo-Ma-Co News
From Southwestern Jewish Press, January 13, 1950, page 6

By Alice Solomon

After a spirited which took place at the last meeting of the Yo-Ma-Co Club, the following officers were chosen to handle the reins of government for the next six months.  President, Henry Goldy; Vice President, Lorraine stern; Recording Secretary, Edith Gelman; Corresponding Secretary Mitzi Spivak; Treasurer, Tudo Solomon; Membership Secretary, Al Solomon, Sergeant-at-Arms, Jack Spatz. Great things are expected with this set-up.

Elaborate plans are being formulated for the installation dinner dance to be held on Sunday, January 22nd, in the Don Room of the El Cortez Hotel at 6:30 p.m.  The installation program will be novel and, as usual, anything but solemn and decourous. A gay evening can be safely promised. Come join us.

From Southwestern Jewish Press, January 13, 1950, page 6

The Guardians New Year’s Eve Dinner-Dance held n the Don Room of the El Cortez Hotel was reported to have been a huge success, both from a standpoint of attendance and due to the wonderful time had by all. There were 118 paid admissions, and later in the evening forty teen-aged couples were admitted free of charge to enjoy the danceable music of Jay Eslick and his orchestra.

An announcement of the 50th Wedding Anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Louis Addelson was made during the evening. Mr. Harold Steckel and his bride Dorothy brought their wedding party of about twenty to the dinner following their marriage ceremony.

From Southwestern Jewish Press, January 13, 1950, page 6

Attention Please!  The community is invited to attend a luncheon and card party on Tuesday, January 17th at the Temple Center at 12:00 noon, for the benefit of the City of Hope which is a non-profit, non-sectarian institution. The City of Hope is a reputable hospital in which advance tuberculosis patients are given expert medical care and supervision.

With the help of new drugs, new surgical methods and proper aspects of psychology many a patient’s convalescence period will be shortened.  This humanitarian work cannot be carried out without the support of a generous public so we urge your attendance at the Jewish Consumptive Relief Association’s card parties and luncheons.

On Sunday, January 22 at 7:30 p.m. at the Temple Center, Mrs. Esther Schwartz will be installed as J.C.R.A. President for the second consecutive time.  Other officers will be Anna Shelley, Honorary President; Jennie Siner, Counsellor; Gladys Tappan, 1st Vice President; Jeanne Camiel, 2nd Vice President; Fannie Addleson, 3rd Vice President; Bessy Siegel, Treasurer; Sophie Himmel, Recording Secretary; Goldie Schusterman, Corresponding Secretary; Betty Schwarttz, Social Secretary; Anna B. Brooks, Publicity; Luncheon Chairmen, Goldie Kitaen and Esther Cole; Trustees, Rose Weisberg, Anna Epstein, Jennie Kochberg, Edith Belenzon and Becky Bard.

Mrs. Rose Bertram, of Los Angeles, West Coast Regional Director of the Sanatorium, will install. Refreshments will be served.

“Adventures in Jewish History” is sponsored by Inland Industries Group LP in memory of long-time San Diego Jewish community leader Marie (Mrs. Gabriel) Berg.  Our indexed "Adventures in San Diego Jewish History" series will be a daily feature until we run out of history.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008 (Vol. 2, No. 217)

How much of a criminal is PM Olmert?
by Ira Sharkansky in Jerusalem
Budgetary caution saves lives in Georgia
by Donald H. Harrison in San Diego
Campaign 2008: Palin opposes abortion, evolution, sex ed
by J. Zel Lurie in Delray Beach, Florida

Florida rabbi questions why some areas have many synagogues, only one mikvah
by Bruce Lowitt in Palm Harbor, Florida
Songs of Our People: Eylu D'Vorim—Torah study prelude by Cantor Sheldon Merel in San Diego
Adventures in San Diego Jewish History
January 13, 1950: 1950 {Editorial}
January 13, 1950: Former Major Israeli Army In San Diego
January 13, 1950: Who's New
January 13, 1950: Samuel L. Fox Lodge by John L. Kluchin
January 13, 1950: Hadassah
Memphis: Racism and rock n' roll by Carol Davis in La Jolla, California
Messages from Our Publisher
—Please actively support San Diego Jewish World

Monday, September 8, 2008 (Vol. 2, No. 216)

Israeli professor worries over course his native United States is taking in world
by Ira Sharkansky in Jerusalem
Non-practicing vegetarian chooses to make a kosher compromise
by Rabbi Dow Marmur in Toronto, Canada
Undeterred by vandals, Ner Tamid leaders predict bright future for the congregation
by Donald H. Harrison in Poway, California
A new daughter embraces the Covenant
by Sheila Orysiek in San Diego
Sharing a meal at Chabad of La Costa
by Gerry Greber in Carlsbad, California
Adventures in San Diego Jewish History
January 13, 1950: Fund Ends Year With Over $207,000
January 13, 1950: Institute to Feature Course in Mental Hygiene
January 13, 1950: Youth Aliyah To Present Film
January 13, 1950: There’s Room For You {Editorial}
Picking right shows for teenage grandkids
by Carol Davis in San Diego
Messages from Advertisers & Our Publisher
—Please actively support San Diego Jewish World
—Upcoming events of the Jewish American Chamber of Commerce

Sunday, September 7, 2008 (Vol. 2, No. 215)

Are olim more prone to child-murder?
by Ira Sharkansky in Jerusalem
Israelis trust IDF and the media more than they trust their politicians
by Dorothea Shefer-Vanson in Mevasseret Zion, Israel
Campaign 2008: Obama worries some Israel supporters
by Michael Goldblatt in Huntington Valley, Pennsylvania
Christian saints and Jewish tzaddikim: what is the meaning of graveside prayers?
by Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal in San Diego
Does medical treatment interfere with G-d's will? Akiva had the answer for that one
by Rabbi Baruch Lederman in San Diego
Zipping into learning at Beth Israel
by Donald H. Harrison in San Diego
San Diego County
Adventures in San Diego Jewish History
January 13, 1950: Late Flash
January 13, 1950: Hutler and Levenson to Attend Conference
January 13, 1950 Rabbinical Assembly To Meet Here
January 13, 1950: Israel Representative Talks on Investments
A bissel sports trivia with Bruce Lowitt
in Oldsmar, Florida
Messages from Advertisers and Our Publisher
Gotthelf Art Gallery opens exhibition of emerging Jewish artists
October activities offered at College Avenue Senior Center
—Please actively support San Diego Jewish World

Friday, September 5, 2008 (Vol. 2, No. 214)

Tales of squill, wagtails and sunsets
by Ulla Hadar in Kibbutz Ruhama, Israel
A lightning tour through South Italy's numerous Jewish historical sites
by Karen Primack in Trani, Italy
'Prayer isn't boring... You are'
by David Benkof in New York
San Diego County
In tribute to Marie Berg and other community leaders who came before us
by Donald H. Harrison in San Diego
Adventures in San Diego Jewish History:
December 30, 1949: Episcopalian Rector Invites Cantor To Participate in Midnight Mass
December 30, 1949: S.D. Lasker Lodge Bnai Brith Installation Set For January 8
December 30, 1949: Congregation Tifereth Israel

Thursday, September 4, 2008 (Vol. 2. No. 213)
Unlike Americans, Israeli families of politicians usually stay out of limelight
by Ira Sharkansky in Jerusalem
Rabbi overcomes odds in Italy’s south by Karen Primack
in Serrastretta, Italy
San Diego/Tijuana
American Reform group grows in Mexico
by Gerry Greber in Tijuana, Mexico
Please actively support San Diego Jewish World~
ways you can help
Adventures in San Diego Jewish History
—December 30, 1949: Tifereth Israel Junior League
—December 30, 1949: Council Nominates Officers for 1950:
—December 30, 1949 Memorial Altar Fund Drive Progressing
—December 30, 1949: Rabbi Cohn To Review ‘Why Jesus Died’
All is Vanities at Pasadena Playhouse
by Cynthia Citron in Pasadena, California
Thursdays With the Songs of Hal Wingard
—#18, American Dream
#23, Golden Shore
#113, The Two Dollar Diamond

Wednesday, September 3, 2008 (Vol. 2, No. 212)
Children try to persuade parents to make aliyah from war-torn Georgia
by Idan Peysahovich
Special Report: Internet AntiSemitism
by Debora Stone in Canberra, Australia
The Jews Down Under, a roundup of Australian Jewish news
by Garry Fabian in Melbourne:
—Year-long Israel odyssey inspires teacher
NSW Premier announces security funding boost
—ECAJ President named to Claims Conference
MP petitions Deputy Prime Minister to ban blog
—ADC calls for action against broadcasts
—Western Australian Jewish Community expands
—Central Synagogue feted with a grand concert
—Local lobby group apologizes
San Diego County
Neo-Nazi graffiti again plagues Ner Tamid
by Donald H. Harrison in Poway, California
San Diego Jewish History
Adventures in San Diego Jewish History:
December 30, 1949: J.C.R.A. by Anna Brooks
December 30, 1949:Congregation Beth Jacob
—December 30, 1949:Beth Jacob Ladies Auxiliary
December 30, 1949: Tifereth Israel Sisterhood
The Actors’ Gang brings the dead to life b
y Cynthia Citron in Culver City, California

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