Volume 2, Nu

mber 30
Volume 2, Number 236

"There's a Jewish story everywhere"

is a publication
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Nancy Harrison

Editor: Donald H. Harrison
Ass't Editor: Gail Umeham

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Recent contributors:

Sara Appel-Lennon

Judy Lash Balint

David Benkof

Shoshana Bryen

Cynthia Citron

Carol Davis

Garry Fabian

Gail Feinstein Forman

Gerry Greber

Ulla Hadar

Donald H. Harrison

Natasha Josefowitz

Rabbi Baruch Lederman

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J. Zel Lurie

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Joel Moskowitz, M.D.

Sheila Orysiek

Fred Reiss

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Dorothea Shefer-

David Strom

Lynne Thrope

Gail Umeham

Howard Wayne

Eileen Wingard

Hal Wingard

Complete list of writers

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Today's Postings

Thursday, October 2, 2008

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


Suing the terrorists for their assets
; by Larry Stirling in San Diego

Moviemaker tells impressions of Jews in Andhra Pradesh; by Jonas Pariente in Chebrole, India

A Bene Israel educator in Andhra Pradesh; by Sharon Galsulkar in Chebrole, India


Coping with a Conservative Supreme Court; by David Benkof in New York


Thursdays With the Songs of Hal Wingard
#182, I'll Stay As I Am
#44, The Prince and the Rose
#265, Change

Christian production, This Beautiful City, presented at the Kirk Douglas Theatre; by Cynthia Citron in Culver City, California


—February 24, 1950: Hadassah Presents Fourth Annual Premiere March 26
—February 24, 1950: Letter to the Editor; from Victor Schulman
—February 24, 1950: Jolly Sixteen


Lawrence Family JCC: Special event October 12: Israel Philharmonic Orchestra program, a prelude at the Lawrence Family JCC to the November 2 performance at the Civic Center

Soille San Diego Hebrew Day School: What’s happening in Soille Hebrew Day’s Middle School science classes?


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


Want to know about exciting upcoming events? As a service to readers, San Diego Jewish World flags most event advertisements by date. Oct. 2-Oct 5, Oct 2-Oct. 9


Each day's issue may be dedicated by readers—or by the publisher—in other people's honor or memory. Past dedications may be found at the bottom of the index for the "Adventures in San Diego Jewish History" page.


Dear Readers: We have re-established our Email headline service with a new provider, Constant Contact. Whether you are a previous subscriber to the Email headline service or would like to start it for the first time, please click the blue button just below and follow the steps. We now offer you the choice of daily Email headlines or weekly Email headlines. The weekly Email headlines will be sent out every Friday morning (or in some time zones Thursday evening.), and will list all the headlines from the editions of the past week, with links to each edition. —Donald H. Harrison, Editor

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MON., SEPT. 29-THURS., OCT. 9 Congregation Beth Israel High Holiday Services

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Suing the terrorists for their assets

By Larry Stirling

SAN DIEGO—An important event will occur on Tuesday, October 28, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the historic Temple Beth Israel in Old Town . That will be the appearance of a remarkable international attorney named Nitsana Darshan-Leitner.

Darshan-Leitner and her husband are founders of an Israeli public interest law firm called Shurat HaDin (The letter of the law). The purpose of Shurat HaDin is to fight terrorists by bankrupting them through the civil courts.

It is a sad fact that terrorism can survive because in many instances, they are sponsored and supported by otherwise legal businesses and even established nations.

For example, the Bank of Arabia, which used to have offices in New York City, was dispensing rewards to the families of suicide bombers.  Shurat HaDin was able to gain jurisdiction over them in the US Federal courts and impose a litigation lien on their assets just before they closed up shop and hustled out of town.

Also, in spite of the normal doctrine of "sovereign immunity" meaning you cannot sue governments because, of course, they are perfect, sovereign immunity does not apply under US law if the nation is listed as a terrorist sponsoring state by the United States State Department.

As a result, it was possible for Shurat HaDin, on behalf of persecuted Jews in Iran to get jurisdiction on the nation of Iran in US courts. Since Iran has assets in the US, a judgment against that country for terrorist sponsorship could be made to stick.

Interestingly, Shurat HaDin obtained service on The State of Iran by buying a ticket to a fund raiser put on by a Muslim propaganda group that operates in the US at which former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami was appearing. During the photo opportunity, Khatami was served in full view of the camera.

These judgments which should bring in big bucks eventually, but in the meantime, as you can imagine, the terrorist-supporting organizations such as the Bank of Arabia have plenty of money to hire the world’s best attorneys to stall and appeal such efforts.

It is for that reason that Darshan-Leitner is touring the US to raise funds to sustain Shurat HaDin while they fight these battles that indirectly protect us all.

Please bring a supportive friend and come hear one of the most remarkable women in the world speak about her personal war against world terrorism.

Stirling, a Christian supporter of Israel, is a former California state legislator as well as a former Superior Court judge

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TEMPLE SOLEL High Holiday Greetings



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Moviemaker tells impressions of Jews
in Andhra Pradesh

By Jonas Pariente

Editor's Note: Next Year in Mumbai (www.NextYearIn Mumbai.com) is Jonas Pariente’s documentary project about the contemporary story of the Bene Israel, a Jewish community settled in India for more than 2000 years.  Here are excerpts from his Blog, written during three months of shooting the film (see http://nextyearinmumbai.blogspot.com/), which is reprinted from Kulanu, a periodical devoted to isolated Jewish communities. Mumbai is a recently given name for Bombay.

CHEBROLE, India—Last week we followed one of our main characters, Sharon Galsulkar, on his journey to meet with the Bene Ephraim community, settled for generations in the central state of Andra Pradesh.

Last summer, the American organization Kulanu sent a rabbi and his wife (Bonita and Gerald Sussman) to visit the Bene Ephraim. They met Sharon on their way back as they were stopping in Bombay, and told him about this community, lost in the plains of the Deccan. For Kulanu, finding out about an Indian Jewish educator, fully qualified and living a few hours away from the Bene Ephraim, was a great opportunity. He agreed to go on their behalf, they paid his trip. His mission was to develop the contact with the community and try to understand better their socio-economic needs on one hand, spiritual and religious ones on another hand. On our side, we wanted to follow this Bene Israel educator going to help a community reconnecting with their Judaism, a process through which his own community underwent. The challenge for us was to not be swallowed by the interesting story of the Bene Ephraim but rather focusing on Sharon’s approach to the situation.

Sharon, 33, is married to Sharona, the mother of his two young daughters. He is in charge of the Jewish Education department at O.R.T. India, which agenda is to provide professional training to needy Jews. He had the same kind of job at A.J.D.C., the other American Jewish organization holding office in Bombay. He also gave Torah classes in several synagogues in the city. Sharon enjoys a special authority in the community as he is one of the very few Bene Israel who studied in a yeshiva (Talmudic class) in Jerusalem and came back to India afterwards. He and his wife follow Orthodox customs, making it often uneasy to lead an integrated life in Bombay. They want to do Aliyah to Israel, where their daughters will have the chance to receive a proper Jewish education. But Sharon is strongly attached to his city and country, developing a true passion for the fantastic Indian wildlife. On another note, his professional perspectives in Israel are still uncertain.

The Bene Ephraim community counts around 30 families, and most of its members work in the surrounding fields of chili and cotton, or in the buffalo farms, which milk is used in the preparation of curd (plain yogurt) or lassi (sweet yogurt to drink). Sadok Yacobi, the leader of the community, his wife and three children, are the only English-speakers. In Andra Pradesh the main language is Telugu. None of the Bene Ephraim can speak Hindi, the Indian official language; Sharon had to communicate with them through Sadok or his daughter Kezia.

This community lives 30 Kms away from Guntur, a growing city, about which nothing could be said beside that it is located 300 Kms from Hyderabad, itself 700 Kms East of Bombay. Their village, Chebrole, is basically a bunch of cheap businesses along the main road, from which smaller tracks go towards the fields and farmers’ houses. While commercial and residential constructions are common and a bit ugly, the landscape is gorgeous, offering to the spectator a great variety of greens, yellows and oranges. Animals, vegetation and women’s multicolor saris animate this relaxing décor.

As for Jewishness, the Bene Ephraim would be Jews settled in the Telugu region for generations. Like Bene Israel, they would have lost almost all the Jewish rituals, but not the belief in their belonging to a people whose origin is not in India. It seems that for a while they followed Christian customs, without forgetting their roots. For instance, they would have always circumcised their first-borns and would have always eaten beef, which is a great sacrilege in a Hindu country. For several generations they have been put apart of the majority and have lived side by side with the untouchables. Last but not least, they don’t work on Saturdays, although most of them are very poor farmers. Their Jewish rebirth seems to have started by Sadok’s grandfather onward.

We stayed at Sadok’s house, renovated in 1991 thanks to American funds, and which is also used as the community synagogue. Every evening Sharon met with the kids, aged 5 to 15, and taught them basic elements of Judaism through drawing, singing but also bird watching. At 8 pm adults came to listen to lectures about monotheism, the Jewish mitzvot (prescriptions) or the Jewish calendar.

It would have taken more than six days for Sharon to really understand the community’s needs, and even more to start figuring out solutions. However, during an interview on camera he declared that the ideal solution would be to send the whole community to Israel. It is definitely far from happening as their Jewishness is not recognized by the Hebrew State. But more importantly, one can doubt about the chances of social promotion for Telugu-speaking farmers.

On a personal note, this trip was unforgettable. We were welcomed with great hospitality and generosity. Sadok’s family treated us as if we were part of them, cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner for us – and the several chai (tea) it takes to spend a normal day in India. Still, these people are far from being wealthy. Listening to their Shema Israel resonating and reaching heaven was another illustration of their sincere and hopeful faith, leaving us moved and speechless.

Related story: An ORT worker from Mumbai visits the B'nai Ephraim

Jonas Pariente is a French documentary filmmaker based in New York City.
His most recent project, Next Year in Bombay, a feature film on the Bene Israel, the oldest Jewish community of India, will be released in 2009.

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SEACREST VILLAGEHigh Holiday Greetings

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Hebrew Day School

What’s happening in Soille Hebrew Day’s Middle School science classes?

SAN DIEGO (Press Release)— Sixth graders are becoming familiar with the science lab and are learning how to measure the mass, volume, and density of matter. They are using beakers, flasks, graduated cylinders, thermometers, and triple beam balances in their labs. They will be able to tell you the boiling point and melting point of water in both temperature scales, explain the properties of the non-Newtonian fluid of oobleck and tell you whether Snickers or 3 Musketeers has a greater density.


A Bene Israel educator in Andhra Pradesh

By Sharon Galsulkar

CHEBROLE, India— On 10th March I reached the village called Kotha-Reddy-Pallem which is around 2 Kms from the bus stop in Chebrole, which in turn is 16 Kms from Guntoor, which is almost 290 Kms from Hyderabad City, in the east of India in a state called Andra Pradesh.

I was warmly welcomed by the family of Sadok Yacobi along with some other members of the community.  I was accompanied by a young film maker named Jonas from France with his assistant from Mumbai.  Jonas was following me with his camera, as I am one of the characters in his documentary film on the Bene Israel in Maharastra.

Mr Sadok briefed me on the community in terms of the history and the economic status of the overall community members.  We made plans as to how the community can benefit from my presence in terms of the Jewish education. The same day we visited a few families in the community.

In the evening the community gathered in Sadok’s house, which also serves as a small synagogue, for the prayers (Shema and some other songs) and I was introduced to the community.  After a brief talk about the purpose of my visit, we decided upon times to meet on regular basis in order to interact and learn more about Judaism.  So every day kids had sessions with me at 6 p.m. while with elders it was at 8 p.m..

After the talk and the prayer service, we left to return to our hotel in Guntoor. Next day, after shopping for supplies (wax crayons, markers, white paper sheets, etc) and lunch, we came back to the village to Sadok’s house.  We requested Sadok to find us a house to rent in the village itself so that we do not waste time traveling and spend more time in the village itself.  He offered his own house and we took it – though it was a very simple arrangement, it had the warmth of hospitality and I arranged my meals in a pure vegetarian hotel near the bus stop, as I was not sure of the kashruth in Sadok’s kitchen.

In the evening we had sessions with the kids and then with elders, the same till the last day.  During the day we would try to visit the families or meet them in the fields, where they worked.  I and Sadok would spend time discussing aspects of the community and future efforts to assist the community – in short I would try to learn more.  For Shabbat we were joined by Sadok Yacobi’s elder brother, Shmuel Yacobi who is quite a learned person.  On Saturday night after 10:30 p.m. we started our journey back.

With Elders
—In terms of the activities with elders I would give a formal shiur / session in English and Sadok would translate it into Telugu.  Each session would last for an hour and was followed by the prayer session.  The topics covered were:

Mitsva – and their categories, with lots of examples and the whole Jewish philosophy behind it based on the teachings of the sages.

Foundations of Judaism -- This was about the monotheistic principles of Judaism, idea of Hashem, role of a Man and mankind in general, Nature as a means of identifying the Creator (based on the book by R’ Aryeh Kaplan).

Parasha Vayikra on Shabbath

Jewish Festivals and their themes – idea of the whole cycle of festivals in brief.

With Kids— We had coloring on paper (some Jewish art work) and songs and games. More songs were recorded so that they can be learnt and retained.  We had a nature tour, taking most of the kids in early evening and visited a good birding spot a few kilometers away to observe the variety in nature in terms of colors, shapes, music etc.  I had my pair of binoculars which enhanced observing colourful birds and butterflies, which are in abundance in their village.  The whole theme of the session was to help them see Hashem as the greatest Creator and using Nature to connect to Hashem and praise Him.  It was good and quite fun. We always brought snacks for kids during the sessions so they would say the berakhot.  

Impressions of the Community— I am very touched by the faith shown by the community. The majority of the families in this village look poor – the farmers need to earn daily for their livelihood and in spite of that they won’t work on Shabbath – this is indeed worth glorifying.  During the sessions, most of them were fully attentive and eager to learn more.  In fact, some of them almost took me to be some sage and asked for my blessings.  The level of Jewishness in terms of education is extremely low, but faith-wise it is rich.

In terms of assistance, the community needs a good Jewish educator – preferably from their own community, who will also speak their language. And a motivated social worker to have a case study of each family to find out their problems, strong points and any other relevant information and then work out some projects to help them.  During the months of April and May these farmers do not work on farms, so they must get loans with heavy interest and then have tough time repaying it.
The community members that I met were mainly elderly, adults above thirty years, and kids, but very few youth.  Working with kids was quite an experience. Some kids go to school, and some do not.  I found most of the kids to be smart and very good at grasping and retaining what was said and taught.

I rarely met any educated person outside the Yacobi family. There are few educated ones in another group of this community which is around three hours’ drive from this village, where Shmuel Yacobi lives.

Impressions about the Sadok family
—Sadok has a major role in facilitating the running of the synagogue and the events in the community for the community.  The fact that people come together for prayers in Sadok’s house shows their comfort level and how the synagogue causes them to be together.  Definitely I feel the synagogue is playing a major role there.  During the prayer services the whole family is involved, along with various members.

I got from Sadok some packets of candles made by the family and some Challa covers with some embroidery done by Sadok’s wife, for selling in Mumbai to the Bene Israel community. If it works then that can generate some income for the family.

Possible Future Steps
—Somebody from the community needs to be educated in Judaism, preferably at a yeshiva in Israel, and sent back to the community.    An expert is needed to work on community financial projects. I think it is important to interact with each of the families and find out what will work best for them based on their talent and skills and of course their inclinations.
Some good Jewish Hebrew/English books should be translated; everyone can read their language – Telugu.

I am not sure if anybody can be brought to ORT in Mumbai as I did not find anybody qualified to get a course in ORT.  I will look into this and see how somebody can be brought here to study.
One of the ideas I thought was of myself and my wife (who is also a Jewish educator plus a modern Hebrew teacher) to spend a month with them in their village – the month of May is when most of the people have no work in the fields and are free all day, though that is also the hottest period here.

Another idea was to bring the kids to Mumbai during their summer vacations and keep them here for some period and give them a Jewish experience of Mumbai

It was quite an experience for me. It felt so great to experience a Jewish community other than the three established communities here in India.

The preceding story was reprinted from Kulanu, a periodical focused on the lives of Jews in remote communities.

TEMPLE EMANU-EL High Holiday Greetings

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Campaign 2008

Coping with a Conservative Supreme court

By David Benkof

NEW YORK—I've spoken to a few centrist and liberal Democratic American Jews who like Sen. John McCain (Republican, Arizona ) and would consider voting for him "if not for the Supreme Court." This fear is mostly unfounded. Voters who trust McCain's foreign policy experience, who think he's better on Israel, or even who simply don't think Sen. Barack Obama (Democrat, Illinois) is ready to be president can rest assured that one or two McCain appointees to the United States Supreme Court will not be able to unilaterally impose some kind of scary conservatism on the country.

First of all, many presidential terms pass without a single Supreme Court appointment. Not a single justice died or retired during Jimmy Carter's sole term, Bill Clinton's second term, nor George W. Bush's first term. That's nearly 40 percent of the last several presidential terms. Further, nobody can be appointed to the Court without Senate confirmation, and everyone expects the next Senate to include anywhere from four to eight additional Democrats. That means a far-right appointee is unlikely to be nominated, much less confirmed.

Then, looking at the individual issues Democrats are concerned about, it becomes clear that the dangers are more imagined than real:

Abortion. I asked a Jewish pro-choice Democrat what would happen if Roe v. Wade were overturned, and she said "the end of abortion as we know it." Certainly not!

Roe v. Wade created a federal constitutional right to abortion. If it is overturned, each state will set its own abortion laws. That means for the majority of the population, the right to an abortion will remain solid. In some states, abortion will be limited in some ways - the ways that residents of that state find most offensive - like late-term abortions, for example. A few states, like South Dakota, may ban abortions altogether.

The well-funded pro-choice movement (Planned Parenthood alone has an annual budget of more than $1 billion) will then have lots of options. It can lobby for and try to elect legislators who support abortion rights in states considering abortion restrictions. It can offer to transport women who say they need an abortion to a state where such a procedure is available. It can even try to amend the Constitution of the United States to guarantee abortion rights to all women.

No matter what one thinks of abortion, it is not a good thing for the Supreme Court to declare that a right exists which is nowhere to be found in the text of the Constitution. I would be pleased on some level if the Supreme Court declared a federal constitutional right to medical marijuana and ferret ownership, because those issues are important to me. But I'd also be concerned that those subjects aren't mentioned anywhere in the Constitution, and if my personal issues can be federalized by a runaway court, what issues that I don't agree with are next?

Church and State. Many left-of-center Jewish voters are afraid of the erosion of the separation of church and state, most particularly when it comes to school prayer. As an Orthodox Jew, I would not be pleased to find Jewish schoolchildren invited to say a sectarian Christian prayer in public school. But Supreme Court rulings rarely implement completely new law out of thin air. Becuase of the principle of stare decisis (let the ruling stand), change is more incremental, with previous trends intensified or reined in. Recent precedents suggest that changes in church-state doctrine are likely to welcome not Christianity but rather a variety of religious traditions, or generic religious sentiments (think menorahs next to Christmas trees on public land, or the daily prayer that starts the day in Congress.) Besides, would generic school prayer really be so bad? Our public schools are breeding grounds for immorality - violence, cruelty, the drug culture. Perhaps the entire society would benefit if schoolchildren started their day with 3-5 minutes of reflection about morality and higher things.

David Benkof writes the "Fabulously Observant" column, which runs Thursdays in the Jerusalem Post. He plans to make aliyah in 2009. He can be reached at DavidBenkof@aol.comDavidBenkof@aol.com


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Thursdays with the Songs of Hal Wingard

Editor's Note: We continue our presentation of the songs of Hal Wingard, moving this week to human longings for change. Here is a link to an index of Wingard's songs published by San Diego Jewish World. To hear Hal performing the song, click on its title.

#182, I’ll Stay As I Am

Suppose that I could make a change
     And be what I am not,
What traits would then be diff'rent from
     The ones that I have got?
I'd surely take to telling lies.
     I'd gamble, drink, and smoke.
I'd talk a lot but not say much.
     I'd never tell a joke.

     If I could change,
     If I could change,
     And be what I am not.

I'd only work for half the time
     My bosses paid me for.
I'd irritate my closest friends
     And get my family sore.
I'd make a pass at all the girls,
     Sweet talk them off their feet.
I'd leave my wife alone in bed
     And chuckle as I cheat.

     If I could change,
     If I could change,
     And be what I am not.

Suppose that I could make a change
     And be what I am not,
What traits would then be diff'rent from
     The ones that I have got?
I'll never know, 'cause I can't change,
     And what I am I'll be.
I'll keep the traits I've got right now--
     I'll stay the perfect me.

     If I could change,
     If I could change,
     And be what I am not.

(c) 2008 Hal Wingard; March 15, 1985

#44, The Prince And The Rose

It happened once upon a time,
A time not long ago.
If you relax and listen now,
I’ll tell you what I know.

There lived a noble lonely prince,
Who spent his waking hours
Working in his royal yard
Among his royal flowers.

Morning glories, buttercups,
Orchids and gardenias,
Columbines and dandelions,
Dahlias and zinnias.

From early morn to late at night
You’d always find him there,
Tending all the royal blooms
With tender loving care.

His garden glowed in rainbow hues
With scents of rich perfume,
But none of this could help dispel
His constant lonely gloom.

Morning glories, buttercups,
Orchids and gardenias,
Columbines and dandelions,
Dahlias and zinnias.

And then one day—the story goes--
At early rise of sun
All the blooms fell from their plants--
All except for one.

And that one was a royal rose
With petals soft and white,
Reflecting all the bright red warmth
Of morning’s early light

Morning glories, buttercups,
Orchids and gardenias,
Columbines and dandelions,
Dahlias and zinnias.

The prince beheld the royal rose.
His eyes began to smart,
As tears of joy streamed down his cheek
And love swelled in his heart.

He felt his pulse begin to pound.
He heard a thund’rous crash.
A bolt of lightning struck the rose
In luminescent flash.

Morning glories, buttercups,
Orchids and gardenias,
Columbines and dandelions,
Dahlias and zinnias.

Where once the rose’s bloom had shone
There now was not a trace.
But on the spot a human form
Stood nobly in its place.

In silken gown of softest white
And robe of royal red
A princess stood reflecting warmth
Of sunshine overhead.

Morning glories, buttercups,
Orchids and gardenias,
Columbines and dandelions,
Dahlias and zinnias.

Now prince has lost his loneliness.
He’s found his loving rose.
They live their life in wedded bliss--
As ev’rybody knows.

Morning glories, buttercups,
Orchids and gardenias,
Columbines and dandelions,
Dahlias and zinnias.

(c) 2008 Hal Wingard; To Rose and Sam in celebration of their wedding March 20 , 1978

#265, Change

There's nothing that lives can stay as it is,
     For change is the rule of the game.
Whatever you were just a moment ago,
     You're now not exactly the same.

     There's no way of changing change.

Most changes occur beyond your control.
     They're part of life's natural force.
There's really no need for trying to change.
     Things change as a matter of course.

     There's no way of changing change.

So, if you're unhappy with who you are now,
     There's nothing that you need to do.
Just wait for a moment;  give nature a chance.
     You'll change into somebody new.

     There's no way of changing change.

(c) 2008 Hal Wingard; January 23, 1997. First stanza written, February 3, 1996, on flight from San Francisco to San Diego;  latter two stanzas, February 4, at the Hyde Street Bistro, San Francisco;  melody and chorus, January 23, 1997.


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Special event October 12: Israel Philharmonic Orchestra program, a prelude at the Lawrence Family JCC to the November 2 performance at the Civic Center

LA JOLLA, California (Press Release) – The 10th Annual San Diego Jewish Music Festival, sponsored by U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management and presented by the San Diego Center for Jewish Culture will present a special program in collaboration with the La Jolla Music Society: an Israel Philharmonic Orchestra Day at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, JACOBS FAMILY CAMPUS, on October 12, 2008, 5:30 p.m.  This event will include a lecture, panel discussion, the screening of a documentary on the orchestra, and a display of Israel Philharmonic Orchestra memorabilia.


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Christian production, This Beautiful City, presented at the Kirk Douglas Theatre 

By Cynthia Citron

CULVER CITY, California—This Beautiful City refers to Colorado Springs, Colorado, the headquarters of the outspoken Evangelical Christians of the Religious and Political Right and home to more than 80 national religious organizations.  So, before I continue, let me reveal where I’m coming from.  I’m Jewish, and I strongly object to the current movement to subvert the Constitution and conjoin church and state in America. 

Moreover, my cosmopolitan daughter, who was born in Africa during our family’s seven years on that continent, who spent her junior year in college at the Sorbonne, and enlisted as a six-month volunteer in the Israeli navy after she graduated, now teaches Race, Religion and Gender Issues at---you guessed it---the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.  Talk about not preaching to the choir

So it was with some trepidation that I visited the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City to view Steven Cosson and Jim Lewis’ new production, This Beautiful City, which has music and lyrics by Michael Friedman.  The play, commissioned and developed by a group called The Civilians, with the assistance of the Sundance Institute, Colorado College, and Los Angeles’ Center Theatre Group, had its world premiere at the 2008 Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, where it was co-produced by The Studio Theatre of Washington, D.C.  Here in L.A. it is co-produced with the Vineyard Theatre in New York.  So it has some pretty serious credentials.

The play also had “significant and ongoing support,” according to the program notes, from Colorado Springs’ New Life Church, The Mill, the Revolution House of Prayer, Vanguard Church, the Citizens Project, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Woodmen Valley Chapel, and Coloradoans for Fairness and Equality.

All that having been said, I have to note that the musical is a first-class production: bright music, relevant lyrics, talented players, and a particularly beautiful set design by Neil Patel which consists of a wall of blocks which continually varies its colors and patterns and is backed up by a huge background photo of Pike’s Peak.

The six players in the production morph into a wide variety of Coloradoans, giving voice and presence to people they had interviewed individually and personally.  The players include Emily Ackerman, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Brad Heberlee, Brandon Miller, Stephen Plunkett and Alison Weller.  Their characters include an atheist who makes her living selling those metal Darwin fishes that mock the Jesus fishes that adorn the back of many Christians’ cars.  Three players become a band called the Colorado Wranglers, another depicts a Celtic Wiccan whose family sends him to a camp to be cured of being gay.  There are players who disdain the powerful bullying tactics of the Reverend Dobson’s Focus on the Family, and one who portrays Pastor ‘Ted” Haggard, the founder of the New Life Church who grew his ministry into a megachurch with a congregation of 14,000.

At one point a preacher describes downtown Colorado Springs as “Satan’s personal den of iniquity,” filled with “hippies from Colorado College.”  Another minister urges the citizens to get to know God: to undergo the conversion experience and “let the selfish part of yourself die.”  “If you learn to listen, God will speak to you,” he says.  There is also a nod to the recent scandal at the Air Force Academy in which Mike Weinstein, the father of a Jewish cadet, charges the Academy administration with allowing Christian cadets to proselytize and evangelize their classmates.  The practice is rampant throughout the military academies, he alleges, and is tolerated all the way to the Pentagon, or, as he calls it, “the Pentacostagon.” 

There is a “hierarchy of demons,” according to the members of the Revolution House of Prayer, and a  “right to life” woman makes a case that “babies need the right to choose.”  There are powerfully delivered sermons, a musical number called “End Times” and another about “Demons and Angels.”  Some of the groups and individuals named in the show are apparently authentic; others I’m not sure about.  But in a city with 510 churches for a population of 372,000, any church is possible.  There’s even one in the Springs called the Israelite Church of God in Christ. 

This Beautiful City is an interesting production, but you can’t really call it a “play.”  It’s merely a series of statements and opinions, and even though it makes an attempt at fairness and irony and paradox, it is mostly a paean to that old time religion as practiced in Colorado Springs.

Kirk Douglas, for whom the theater was named, was sitting with his wife in the front row.  I could only wonder what he, a dedicated and committed Jew, thought of the show.

This Beautiful City will continue at the Kirk Douglas Theatre Tuesdays through Fridays at 8, Saturdays at 2 and 8, and Sundays at 1 and 6:30 through October 26th.  The theater is located at 9820 Washington Blvd. in Culver City and tickets can be reserved by calling (213) 628-2772.

Bureau chief Citron may be contacted at citronc@sandiegojewishworld.com


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Wednesday, October 1, 2008 (Vol. 2, No. 235)

•Analyzing Olmert's stunning turnaround by Ira Sharkansky in Jerusalem
•Israel's flag waves over Wilshire Blvd by Cynthia Citron in Los Angeles
•U.S. staffs missile alert system in Israel by Shoshana Bryen in Washington, D.C.
•The Jews Down Under by Garry Fabian in Melbourne, Australia:
—New York boy's Melbourne bar mitzvah
—Novelist praised, slammed after sex-abuse allegations
—Australian students flock to Israel
—Melbourne Culinary Institution relocates
—Retail hub planned for Jewish adults with disabilities
—Turnbull pledges to stay true to Jewish community
—Three Perth women honoured
—ECAJ participates in national dialogue
—Community mourns education warrior

•NJDC's Forman protests RJC tactics; RJC releases new anti-Obama advertisement letter from Ira Forman and article by Suzanne Kurtz, both in Washington D.C.
•San Diego Council candidate Emerald found the way to her mother's Judaism by Donald H. Harrison in San Diego

•But how do the fish like Tashlich? by Donald H. Harrison in San Diego

•60th college reunion reignites memories of dating, USO dances, career expectations by Natasha Josefowitz, Ph.D.

•Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, due in SD in November, provided Holocaust refuge by Eileen Wingard
• Holocaust testimonies surpressed by Soviets now in The Unknown Black Book by David Strom in San Diego

—February 24, 1950: Reform Congregations in Bid for United Religious Front
—February 24, 1950: Notice {Newspaper Merger}
—February 24, 1950: Mrs. Selma Getz Heads Women’s Division of UJF
—February 24, 1950: Allocations Committee Sets New Pattern

•Soille San Diego Hebrew Day School: Math Marathon at Soille Hebrew Day

Monday, September 29, 2008 (Vol. 2, No. 234)

U.S election more a spectacle for voters than an opportunity to deliberate
by Ira Sharkansky in Jerusalem
Tracking one's family through the Shoah by Peter Garas in Canberra, Australia

Une-Taneh-Tokef: Chant of awesome import during High Holy Day services by Cantor Sheldon Merel, with an audio clip of him chanting this prayer

The Magic Circle—A glimpse of Eden by Sheila Orysiek in San Diego
Your baby is off to college, but you can't stop wishing that s/he was still at home by Marsha Sutton in San Diego

Back, Back, Back is not where reviewer plans to go, at least not anytime soon by Carol Davis in San Diego
All that Chazz dazzles at the Ruskin by Cynthia Citron in Santa Monica, California
--February 24, 1950: Fund Workers Get Set For Annual Drive
--February 24, 1950: Christian Committee Presents Program
--February 24, 1950: Famous Singing Teacher in San Diego
--February 24, 1950: Baranov Elected Chairman of Del Mar Charities

Soille San Diego Hebrew Day School: Students use all of their senses to experience the traditions of Rosh Hashanah

Sunday, September 28, 2008 (Vol. 2, No. 233)

Obama, McCain debate Mid-East tactics by Donald H. Harrison in San Diego

Rosh Hashanah Fair at Soille Hebrew Day orients pupils to tastes of High Holidays by Donald H. Harrison in San Diego
Torah reading may be learned bit by bit by Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal in San Diego
A burial illustrating the power of prayer by Rabbi Baruch Lederman in San Diego

A bissel sports trivia with Bruce Lowitt in Oldsmar, Florida

Hard to admire these catty, self-indulgent women, but Old Globe play is worthwhile by Carol Davis in San Diego

—February 10, 1950: Inside A.Z.A; by Leonard Naiman
—February 10, 1950: To San Diego Youth by Norman Holtzman
—February 10, 1950: Temple Beth Israel

—February 10, 1950: Congregation Beth Jacob
—February 10, 1950: Tifereth Israel Synaggogue
—February 10, 1950: Beth Jacob Ladies to Hold Purim Dinner

Jewish Family Service: Mental disorders are common in the Jewish community
Lawrence Family JCC: San Diego Jewish Music Festival Previews Israel Philharmonic Visit
Soille San Diego Hebrew Day School:
Yehoshua: Soille Hebrew Day Fourth Graders’ Superhero

Friday, September 26, 2008 (Vol. 2, No. 232)

Former CIA Director James Woolsey urges major changes in U.S. energy use by Jim Lantry in San Diego

Sweet memories of the page of honey; by Isaac Yetiv in La Jolla
So why does the Jewish new year come in the seventh,not the first, month?;
by Sara Appel-Lennon in San Diego
'We were naked,'; a poem by Sheila Orysiek in San Diego

Mille Feuille: Oh, how sweet it is!; by Lynne Thrope in San Diego

—February 10, 1950: News of the Fox by John L. Kluchin
—February 10, 1950: Daughters of Israel
—February 10, 1950: JCRA by Anna B. Brooks
—February 10, 1950: San Diego Birdie Stodel B’nai B’rith No. 92
—February 10, 1950: Jr. Pioneer Women by Alma Yaruss

Soille San Diego Hebrew Day School: Rabbi Krohn’s Special Visit to Soille San Diego Hebrew Day School

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Republican Jewish Coalition highlights quotes from Democrats in pro-McCain ads by
Suzanne Kurtz in Washington, D.C.

Jews, Druse honor trailblazing soldier's memory near the border of Gaza by Ulla Hadar in Kibbutz Nir Am, Israel

Nice record: 48 of 48 SDJA seniors accepted to four -year-colleges by Donald H. Harrison in San Diego


Thursdays with the songs of Hal Wingard:
—#53, The San Diego Air Disaster
—#13, Yesterday
—#66, Time

How Jewish were the Beatles? by David Benkof in New York

—February 10, 1950: Evening Group Hadassah
—February 10, 1950: Pioneer Women (Negba Club)
—February 10, 1950: Temple Beth Israel Sisterhood
—February 10, 1950: San Diego Hebrew Home for the Aged
—February 10, 1950: Yo-Ma Co Club

San Diego Jewish Academy: L'Shanah Tovah from San Diego Jewish Academy
San Diego Jewish World: San Diego Jewish World tells its High Holy Day publishing schedule
Soille San Diego Hebrew Day School: Soille Hebrew Day Kindergarteners Take The Taste Test

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