Volume 3, Number 62
"There's a Jewish story everywhere"

Today's Postings:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

{Click on a link to jump to the corresponding story. Or, you may scroll leisurely through our report}

The political self-immolation of ex-President Moshe Katsav ... by Ira Sharkansky in Jerusalem
Sometime in the 1980s I spent about an hour with a cup of coffee and Moshe Katsav. I recall thinking that the young Knesset member was bright, engaging, committed, and likely to go far.

'Elusive moderates' cannot deliver peace nor leadership ... by Shoshana Bryen in Washington, D.C.
When Secretary of Defense Robert Gates received JINSA's Henry M. Jackson Distinguished Service Award, he remarked upon his long personal search for "the elusive Iranian moderate." READ MORE

Australian academic despairs of Palestinian dialogue ... by Dr. Philip Mendes in Melbourne, Australia
The recent Australian Senate Inquiry into allegations of academic bias highlighted the intense ideological divisions within universities and schools of learning. As confirmed by the Inquiry, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict provides one of the most volatile and polarised sources of such division.

Incorporating ancient laws of purity into our modern lives ... by Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal in San Diego
Not long after our hearing has returned to normal (having survived the din of Purim!) do our thoughts turn to the upcoming festival of Pesach.

Jewish resilience in aftermath of Merkaz Ha Rav massacre ... by Rabbi Baruch Lederman in San Diego
Our ancestors stumbled with the episode of the golden calf. Undeterred, we picked ourselves up again and went on to build a mishkan (tabernacle) and forge ourselves into a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.


Prize-winning author tells story behind the story ... by Laurel Corona in San Diego
Late afternoon, Spring 2003. Rabbi Arthur Zuckerman’s secretary was on the phone from Congregation Beth Am.  His son was coming into town the following week. Could I possibly cover his evening class so they could have dinner together?  I burst out laughing.  My hair was barely dry from the mikvah in Los Angeles that completed my conversion, and already I was teaching at the synagogue? READ MORE

A bissel sports trivia ... by Bruce Lowitt in Oldsmar, Florida
Who was tagged out at home in the bottom of the ninth inning in the final game of the 1950 baseball season?

Letters to the Editor
Lake Murray photo now provides background for desktop computer ... from Tami Beckman READ MORE

Demonstration of Israeli ingenuity ... from Larry Gorfine READ MORE


B’nai B’rith Girls Present Fashion Show READ MORE
National Council of Jewish Women READ MORE
United Jewish Fund Collection Record READ MORE
Lasker Lodge B.B. READ MORE
Fiesta Club Holds General Meeting READ MORE
Jewish War Veterans

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We continue our examination of Jewish entertainers

Francis Lederer as Officer Selieff in Wunderbare Lüge der Nine Petrowna (1929) VIEW VIDEO

Ida Kaminska in The Shop on Main Street VIEW VIDEO

Molly Picon sings "Abi Gezeundt" in Mamele VIEW VIDEO

Paul Muni as Tony in Scarface (1932)VIEW VIDEO


San Diego Jewish Academy: San Diego Jewish Academy students win honors READ MORE


America's Vacation Center
Balloon Utopia
Beth Jacob Congregation
Carol Ann Goldstein
Congregation Beth Israel
Jewish Family Service
Lawrence Family JCC
San Diego Community Colleges
San Diego Jewish Academy
San Diego Jewish Chamber
Soille San Diego Hebrew Day School
Tifereth Israel Synagogue
United Jewish Federation
XLNC-1 Radio

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.

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The political self-immolation of ex-President Moshe Katsav

By Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM—Sometime in the 1980s I spent about an hour with a cup of coffee and Moshe Katsav. I recall thinking that the young Knesset member was bright, engaging, committed, and likely to go far. I also noticed the scar on his face, and thought that growing up in a poor town had prepared him for the politics of a tough country.

After being elected mayor at the age of 24, he served in the Knesset from 1977 to 2000. He did not climb above the levels of Minister of Tourism, Labor and Welfare, and Transportation. On Israel's political pecking order, those positions are not in the upper quadrant of prestige. Yet he beat out Shimon Peres in a Knesset contest to select a president. Peres was 20 years older, had been prime minister and minister of just about everything else, had a Nobel Peace Prize and international renown to go with it. Peres was expecting a majority of the Knesset to vote for him, but too many were tired of his "New Middle East," and expected him to use the ceremonial office for a personal agenda. Katsav had a reputation among insiders as a crude pursuer of office sex. Government secretaries warned newcomers what they could expect. Senior police officers sat on the stories in the absence of formal complaints. One Knesset member told me that some of his colleagues felt that the distinguished office of president would cure Katsav. In any case, the mood was "anyone but Peres." The general public knew no more about the unsavory Katsav than Americans had known about John Kennedy's prostitutes and venereal infections until long after his death. 

Two and one-half years ago, Katsav began his own unraveling when he told the Attorney General that one of the women working in the presidential mansion was trying to blackmail him with a story she had fabricated.

Since then, prosecutors have dithered about the charges to be brought. They have questions about the reliability of the women who have lodged complaints, and their capacity to withstand cross examination. They have now decided to file for rape, sexual harassment, and obstruction of justice.

Together with appeals, the case may take several years to reach its conclusion.

Before those procedures even begin, it is appropriate to ask how a successful politician got himself into such a mess. All by himself, Katsav moved from a sullied reputation unknown to the general public to a condition where he has provoked the media and much of the population to declare him guilty.

Katsav's complaint about blackmail was the trigger that led the police to open an investigation. It took them less than a week to take those stories of sexual misconduct off the shelf of rumors and innuendo, and begin exposing the president's current and past behavior. Several women came forward with complaints. A number of them were beyond reach due to statutes of limitation. Procedural rules have kept the public from seeing any full face pictures of the accusers, but they have gone public with stories of inelegant foreplay and unwilling sex. Against them, the former president, members of his family and his attorneys have spoken about women who continued to work for Katsav, and even sent him cordial notes after the events were said to have occurred. Katsav has not admitted to having sex with anyone other than his wife.

The charge of blackmail remains in limbo. The Attorney General has not included that woman's complaints against the president in the indictment being prepared.

If Katsav's complaint about blackmail was the first action that he took to bring his career to an inglorious end, the second action was a press conference that he called to defend himself against a media witch-hunt. The live broadcast and countless replays have shown him with a distorted face, waving in anger, and yelling accusations at the anchor of the prime time news show with the largest audience.

Soon after that news conference, one of the country's most distinguished attorneys, a former minister of justice, resigned from Katsav's defense team.

Katsav suspended himself from the presidency, then resigned shortly before the end of his term. He agreed to a plea bargain that included charges of sexual harassment and indecent acts, a jail sentence that would be suspended, and compensation for two women.

Katsav's third action that worsened his situation came ten months later, when he renounced the plea bargain shortly before it was due to be considered by a district court.

It has taken the Attorney General and his staff almost a year from that time to decide that complaints are reliable enough to support indictments for rape as well as the lesser charges. Their announcement set the stage for what appears to have been Katsav's fourth action of self condemnation. He announced apress conference, accepted a draft from media advisors that would have him speaking for about 20 minutes, and said that he would answer questions. However, he replaced the draft prepared by professionals with his own material that he read for close to three hours. He repeated allegations of being persecuted by a conspiracy of government prosecutors, the media, political and social elites, and false complaints. Television channels stopped their live coverage after an hour or so. Journalists abandoned the

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hall. Katsav refused to answer questions. His two media advisors resigned the next morning.

Beyond the humiliation of a president accused of severe crimes is the puzzle of why he has made it worse for himself. He recalls the story of Richard Nixon, who succeeded in turning an embarrassing episode at Watergate into the end of his presidency.

The charges against Katsav are more damning. What is similar is each man's worsening his chances of survival. Nixon escaped the prospect of a trial for lying and other crimes by virtue of Gerald Ford's sweeping pardon.

A wise Katsav, aware of the tinder involved in the charges against him, would have offered his resignation, apologized for misunderstandings or unintended harm, and committed himself to emotional treatment. That would have ended his political career, but could have saved him and his family a great deal of anguish and the prospect of serious jail time. We do not know the source of considerable outlays for a prestigious team of attorneys, other advisors, and their aides.

Why didn't he choose the simple road, rather than repeated displays of angry denial and accusations of conspiracy? I have no convincing answer. He has added the appearance of instability to spreading beliefs that he is guilty of indecency or worse.

There remains the cross examination of testimony that some prosecutors consider to be problematic. But that assumes that Katsav will not continue to immolate himself in public, and that his distinguished lawyers will not follow other professionals who have abandoned him to himself.

Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University.  His email is msira@mscc.huji.ac.il

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'Elusive moderates' cannot deliver peace nor leadership

By Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C.-- When Secretary of Defense Robert Gates received JINSA's Henry M. Jackson Distinguished Service Award, he remarked upon his long personal search for "the elusive Iranian moderate." We were taken by the phrase, "elusive moderate." What makes them moderate, and why do they elude us? The U.S. government has also sought Palestinian moderates, with whom Israel could make a secure and lasting peace, and now "moderate Taliban" for peace talks in Afghanistan. They too, appear elusive.

Vice President Biden seems more certain that Taliban moderates actually exist than Secretary Gates was of Iranians. The Washington Times reports, "In response to a question... Mr. Biden ticked off some percentages. 'Five percent of the Taliban is incorrigible, not susceptible to anything other than being defeated. Another 25 percent or so are not quite sure, in my view, [of] the intensity of their commitment to the insurgency... and roughly 70 percent are involved because of the money, because of them being . . . paid,' he said."

One Qari Mohammad Yousuf, called a "purported (Taliban) spokesman" in a March 10th Reuters story, suggests otherwise. "This is illogical. The Taliban are united, have one leader, one aim, one policy... I do not know why they are talking about moderate Taliban and what it means. If it means those who are not fighting and are sitting in their homes, then talking to them is meaningless. This really is surprising the Taliban."

Yousuf has a point.

To be Taliban is not like being Chinese or German, or even Sunni or Pashtun (which most Taliban are) - you aren't born into it, you choose its aims, policies and leaders to be yours. The Afghan sitting at home is not Taliban. To be Taliban is by definition not to be moderate, and to say one is Taliban but doesn't believe in the view of Islam that defines the Taliban is to be something else.

[Interestingly, as an aside, it works the same way for the good guys. As a Soviet prisoner, Natan Sharansky chose to risk everything for freedom while millions of other Russians sat home quietly and waited. Sharansky was not a "moderate." Nor is Aung San Suu Kyi, nor was Nathan Hale.]

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One might make a deal with that person sitting at home, or on his behalf - or with the "moderate" Hamas, or "moderate" Taliban - but, as Yousuf said, "talking to them is meaningless" because they aren't the ones fighting and they can't stop the ones who are.

Millions of people would not take up arms against anyone, deplore religious and secular excesses and hope for enlightened governance. There are millions of moderates. But the people who make their rules, and have effective coercive power over them, are - by choice - not moderate. Moderates are physically elusive because they fear their own radicals. They are politically elusive because they can't make a deal they can deliver.

Yes, some Afghans may be in it for the money. But surely no one would suggest negotiating with them any more than negotiating with the child soldiers of Sierra Leone. Policy that relies on finding the "elusive moderate" is unlikely to succeed in the face of well-armed, determined radicals - in Afghanistan or elsewhere.

Bryen is special projects director for the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. (JINSA). Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member

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Australian academic despairs of Palestinian dialogue

By Dr. Philip Mendes

MELBOURNE, Australia—The recent Australian Senate Inquiry into allegations of academic bias highlighted the intense ideological divisions within universities and schools of learning. As confirmed by the Inquiry, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict provides one of the most volatile and polarised sources of such division.

My personal experience as a long-standing participant in this debate suggests that even the most moderate academic supporters of Israel cannot find common ground with pro-Palestinian academics for respectful debate and dialogue.

For 15 years from 1987 till early 2002, I was active in the left-wing Australian Jewish Democratic Society (AJDS). The AJDS position on the Middle East was very straightforward: a two-state solution based on the State of Israel existing roughly within the 1967 borders, and the corresponding creation of a state of Palestine within the territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A key AJDS strategy was to establish links and dialogue with members of the local Palestinian and Arab communities.

Central to this strategy was a concern to show the rest of the Jewish community that Jews willing to recognise Palestinian rights and aspirations would receive positive feedback from local Palestinians and Arabs. A further implicit motivation was that successful Jewish-Arab dialogue in Australia based on mutual recognition and compromise could perhaps be seen as a model for successful peace negotiations within Israel/Palestine.

This strategy included participation in the Australasian Middle East Studies Association (AMESA), an academic association consisting of both academics teaching in Middle East Studies – some of whom were Arabs and others who were Anglo-Saxon – and members of the local Palestinian and Arab communities.

Throughout the period of AMESA's existence (from about 1981 onwards), AJDS representatives had regularly been invited to speak at AMESA conferences, and welcomed within AMESA circles. My own involvement in AMESA had perhaps been less significant, but had included presentations to two AMESA conferences, contributions to the Deakin University (and AMESA-linked) Journal of Arabic, Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies, and contributions to the AMESA Newsletter.

In addition, I had submitted in November 1997 at the request of a leading AMESA figure a witness statement to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission supporting a case by the Australian Arabic Council against the Herald & Weekly Times and Australia/Israel Publications (AIP).

Briefly, the matter involved some allegedly racist anti-Arab statements made by a visiting AIP-sponsored speaker David Pryce-Jones which had been published by the Herald Sun. The matter was subsequently settled out of court, and the Australian Arabic Council thanked the author in writing for "your very honest and powerful witness statement, and all your support throughout the two year case".

Not only this, but two prominent AMESA and Arab community intellectuals, Ray Jureidini and Christine Asmar, had approached me to draft a joint opinion piece on Jewish-Palestinian community relations in Australia. The article was intended to pinpoint the negatives of existing relations, and the future potential for improving relations. Plans were even made for the publication of a joint monograph on Palestinian and Jewish experiences of otherness and racism in Australia.

In late 1998, I was invited by the President of AMESA, Christine Asmar, to contribute an article to the AMESA Newsletter exploring how AMESA might improve its relations with the Jewish community. The submitted piece made the following points: that there was at best token representation of Jews in AMESA, that there did appear to be an in-built structural bias against Jewish representation within AMESA, but that nevertheless there were different views within the Jewish community about AMESA including some interest in identifying common ground.

In order to facilitate constructive engagement, I suggested the following: that AMESA adopt for its 1999 Conference the theme of "Jewish/Arab dialogue and friendship historically and today"; that AMESA invite the Executive Council of Australian Jewry to nominate two representatives to participate in in the Conference Planning Committee; that AMESA invite the Israeli Ambassador and the Palestinian Ambassador to co-open proceedings, that AMESA consider inviting a mainstream Israeli writer or academic as a keynote speaker; and that AMESA invite the editor of the Australian Jewish News and a commensurate Arab community newspaper to speak at a joint session on Australian media presentations of Jews and Arabs, and possibilities for joint action against racist coverage.

To my surprise, AMESA chose to publish six responses to my article in the same issue without either my prior knowledge or permission. Three of the responses were broadly positive. However, the other three responses - from Ray Jureidini, John Docker, and Ned Curthoys - were vociferously critical.

Their common concern seemed to be that my proposals would transform AMESA from a pro-Palestinian

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organisation into potentially a pro-Israel organisation.

Docker, an anti-Zionist Jew, was the main concern. He argued without any evidence that my intention was to "intimidate, threaten and marginalise Jewish intellectuals" who did not conform to the Jewish community consensus. He claimed that my proposals would lead to the "surveillance and control of" AMESA by Zionists who had also suppressed "debate and discussion" in the media.

Similarly, Ned Curthoys argued that my proposal was "grotesque", and reflected a "totalitarian vision for society".

Both Docker and Curthoys knew that I had argued for over 15 years both within and outside the Jewish community for the legitimacy of Palestinian national aspirations, for the creation of an independent Palestinian State alongside Israel, and for a free and tolerant Jewish debate around these issues. I was the last person who could reasonably be accused of wanting to censor anyone.

But worse was to come. I wrote a relatively short, careful and arguably measured response to the six responses, pointing out the negative and positives, and trying to focus again on the desired objective of achieving better relations between AMESA and the Jewish community.

Initially, Christine Asmar indicated that she would have to cut my letter to one page to which I reluctantly agreed. She also indicated at the same time that our proposed joint paper on Palestinian-Jewish relations would not go ahead.

One month later I was informed by a new editor that she had cut and rewritten (without consultation) my letter to 150 words. I subsequently wrote a protest letter to the AMESA President, but to no avail.

The organisation had closed ranks, and I was purged. My experience of Jewish-Arab dialogue was over.

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Incorporating ancient laws of purity into our modern lives

By Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal

SAN DIEGO—Not long after our hearing has returned to normal (having survived the din of Purim!) do our thoughts turn to the upcoming festival of Pesach. This last Shabbat we read parshat Parah, the rite of the Red Heifer, as the maftir portion of the weekly reading Ki Tisa.

When the Temple was in existence, the Red Heifer, a cow with perfectly non-blemished red hair, was sacrificed and used in purification rites. If someone became ritually impure through contact with a dead body, the ashes of the Red Heifer mixed in water were sprinkled over them as part of the purification process. We read of the rite before the month of Nisan to remind us that only the ritually pure could eat the special Passover offering during the holiday.

After the destruction of the Temple the rite of the Red Heifer halted. Not only did all animal sacrifices cease but so did the practical applications of most laws of tumah and tahara, ritual impurity and purity. For example, since the Passover lamb was not longer slaughtered and consumed, there was no need for ritual purification before Pesach.

Some of the laws of tumah and tahara not connected to the sacrificial system are still observed (at least by some Jews!). One example is a Cohen being forbidden to come in contact with the dead and therefore is prohibited from visiting cemeteries (with some exceptions). Another example is a woman being in a state of ritual impurity during her monthly period and after giving birth. She becomes ritually pure again, and thus permitted to resume sexual relations with her husband, only after visiting a mikva (ritual bath).

The categories of tumah and tahara are very difficult for moderns to understand. They have nothing to do with "dirty" and "clean" but rather with states of physicality which are acceptable and not acceptable to God. In broad strokes,

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contact with those things which have to do with death (i.e., dead bodies, menstrual blood, venereal emissions, certain molds, rot and spoilage) make one ritually impure. One becomes ritually pure again by going through certain cleansing rites, primary of which is immersion in a mikva.

Even those Jews who do not follow the laws of tumah and tahara today do so at least one time a year: at their Passover sedarim. Jews are supposed to dine in a state of at least symbolic ritual purity. Thus, traditional Jews ritually wash their hands before eating bread and say the blessing: "Praised are You Adonai our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who shows us the way of holiness through mitzvot, and commands us to wash (literally: "raise up") our hands. You may have noticed or participated in this ritual before communal meals at the synagogue where we customarily set up "hand washing stations."

At the Passover seder we all (not just the leader!) wash our hands twice: without the above blessing before we eat the karpas (the green vegetable) and with the blessing before we eat the matza.
Admittedly, the laws of tumah and tahara are foreign to most Jews today. However, as with all mitzvot, what is not meaningful today may become central to one's life tomorrow. For example, in the synagogue I see more and more people lining up to ritually wash their hands before saying motzi at communal meals. I will even go so far as to predict that once San Diego's communal mikva is built, traditional and liberal Jews may find new relevancy in the traditions of taharat hamishpacha, family purity.

Today, reading about the Red Heifer reminds us that Passover is fast approaching (as if we didn't know!), but it also reminds us that not all Jewish rituals have rationales which we understand.

Nevertheless, that should not stop us from incorporating them into our lives and finding new ways for them to speak to us.


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Jewish resilience in aftermath of Merkaz Ha Rav massacre

By Rabbi Baruch Lederman

SAN DIEGO--Our ancestors stumbled with the episode of the golden calf. Undeterred, we picked ourselves up again and went on to build a mishkan (tabernacle) and forge ourselves into a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Despite the hardships and vicissitudes we suffer, the Jewish have an unsinkable spirit and an indomitable drive, as the following true account, related by Rabbi Hershel Billet, YI of Woodmere, New York, illustrates:

Tuesday night, Rosh Chodesh Adar 5769 marked the first anniversary of the evil terrorist attack in Jerusalem in which eight Yeshiva students - six of them high school boys - were murdered as they sat and studied Torah in their school's library. I (Rabbi Billet) joined Rabbi Elazar Muskin of the Young Israel of Century City in making a Shiva visit to each of the families and in a hospital visit to the most seriously wounded boys.

On the Yahrzeit, literally at the same time of the attack, YASHLATZ (the high school) and Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav celebrated the completion of eight Sifrai Torah dedicated in
memory of the eight murdered boys. A Sefer Torah was given to each family to take home with them and to use in a place of their choice. The donors are an American Jewish
family who insisted on anonymity because they wanted to be certain that their gift was totally "lishmah" without any possibility of personal aggrandizement as a subconscious
motive. Quite incredible!!!

A year ago, I saw eight families during a terrible and painful time in their lives. Their beloved children were taken from them in an unexpected and horribly violent manner. They
were suffering from shock and immeasurable grief as they confronted the reality of the loss of life, potential, and all of the love that they had invested in their precious sons.

In light of this, I felt a need to see each of those families again, a year later, in another environment with a different ambience. Each of the families is exemplary. Without a doubt there is much pain that they conceal as they move forward together with family and friends. They have made a heroic choice, in a sense, the only healthy choice available to them.

They chose to continue with life together with their families in a positive way. The sense of belonging to Am Yisrael has helped them. But they too, have uplifted the nation with their heroic spirit.

I had the opportunity to greet and talk with each family. They were deeply moved by the generosity of the donor, by the significance of a Sefer Torah (the Tree of Life), and the
efforts of Jeremy Joszef and his B'Lev Echad partners. They really felt that Jews all over the world shared in their loss.

There was a procession of lights and song as the Sifrai Torah were marched into the street and then carried back into the Yeshivah Bais Medrash.

There was spirited dancing and singing in the packed room. For me it was a macabre scene. My mind raced back a year to my visit to the very same place. The remnants of the
terror attack were palpably visible. The glass in the library was shattered with bullet holes and there were blood stains on the tiles of the floor. I recalled the difficult Shiva visits and hospital visits. The thought that the very time that all the dancing was taking place was the same time a year ago that the shooting took place, was overwhelming. I said to myself, ohr vechoshech mishtamshin be'irbuvia , light and darkness are mixing together.

The Sifrai Torah of the Bais Medrash joined the new Sifrai Torah as they were all marched back into the Aron Kodesh. The B'Lev Echad international webcast program
commenced. There were prayers and sober but moving words spoken. There was also a special song composed for the occasion. And there was that special Kaddish with the
powerful response from those assembled in the packed room. That followed a Siyum of Tanach (Bible) and Shas (Talmud).

I also met Naftali Sheetrit and his parents. His cheeks are fuller than they were before his surgery, The surgery also gave him the opportunity to do swim therapy to strengthen his legs. He is walking without a cane!! We can all feel

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wonderful about Naftali's progress. I am told that he is the last one out of the YASHLATZ Bais Medrash every night.

One last thought. Part of the uniqueness of the Jewish people is echoed in a series of sentences uttered after a siyum. "We get up and they get up".. Our enemies spend their days
thinking of how to destroy us. The attack on the Yeshiva was not random. It was premeditated and planned. They get up. The events at Merkaz on Tuesday night was also
premeditated and planned. But unlike our enemies, we choose to celebrate life, learning, commitment to tradition, and the Jewish people. And so we get up. May it be HASHEM's will that we have only celebration of happy things in the future. May we begin and complete many Sifrai Torah and many volumes of Tanach and Shas in honor of good things and not in memory of sad things. [The foregoing was submitted by Aviva Kessler, Woodmere, NY]

Dedicated by Yehudah & Jennifer Manosh in memory of her grandmother, Lucille bat Gertrude.

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Prize-winning author tells story behind the story

By Laurel Corona

SAN DIEGO—Late afternoon, Spring 2003. Rabbi Arthur Zuckerman’s secretary was on the phone from Congregation Beth Am.  His son was coming into town the following week. Could I possibly cover his evening class so they could have dinner together?  I burst out laughing.  My hair was barely dry from the mikvah in Los Angeles that completed my conversion, and already I was teaching at the synagogue?

 “Sure,” I said.  “For Zucky, anything.”  It isn’t quite as crazy as it sounds.  I had written three Young Adult books on Jewish subjects for Lucent Books, and consulted with him on all of them, so Zucky knew I was up to the task.  Still, I chuckled all week.

After the lecture, a tall, blue-eyed man and his tiny, fair-haired wife came up to say hello. “I have a story that would make a great book,” Michael Bart told me.  “We’ve been wondering how we were going to find a writer.  Can we take you to lunch and tell you about it?”

A month later, Michael and Bonnie Bart were sitting with me over a file case of materials, prepared with the meticulousness I would come to know as a hallmark of the Barts’ working style.  Family photographs, postcards, and archival documents hinted at the incredible story he had uncovered. Although I was intrigued, I had too many concerns to say yes on the spot.  I hardly knew Michael. What if the partnership didn’t work out? And since I had many opportunities for contract writing, was it wise to turn my attention to something that might never be published?

Hard questions, but the toughest one involved the subject.  Did I really want to spend the next year of my life immersed in the Holocaust? (I wonder what I would have said if I had realized at the time it would actually take nearly four years rather than one!)  Three realizations helped make up my mind.  The first is that sometimes being afraid to do something is the best reason to do it. The second was that if Jews could endure the Holocaust, I ought to at least have the fortitude to write about it in the comfort of my own home. The third is that I wanted to explore in words my fascination with the spiritual and practical dilemmas caused by the ever-changing realities of Jewish life during the occupation. Yes, I said to myself. I’ll write the book.

Michael wasted no time in getting me a huge box of books and papers, so I could continue my research and begin writing.

When I’m writing, my schedule is pretty grueling, and I don’t stop until I’m exhausted, physically ill, and almost scarily antisocial. But that means I work fast, and I had a polished complete manuscript by August 2004.

I wish I could say it was smooth sailing from there, but the most difficult part of the process was ahead. I had concerns about the direction of the book while I was writing it. I was

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creating vivid and effective scenes that were based on facts about the experiences of Jews in the ghetto and partisan camps, but I was writing them as stories specifically about Michael’s parents, when we had no evidence those particular things had happened to them. Since Michael approved each chapter as I wrote it, I suppressed these misgivings, because I felt I was doing what he wanted.

The feedback from editors, and others with whom Michael shared the manuscript, wasn’t pretty.  Though the writing was excellent and the story compelling, it was essential (note the recent problems with Herman Rosenblat’s Angel at the Fence) that the details about Michael’s parents be rigidly factual, and they weren’t. When Michael told me the book needed extensive rewriting, I was in the middle of a difficult fall semester at San Diego City College. I was exhausted from working all summer on the book, and it took me a while to recover from the shock that much of that work would have to be deleted.

Eventually, I decided that I had no choice but to dig deep into myself and rewrite, since an unfinished book might just as well not exist at all. The revision demanded every skill I had as a writer. Facts conveyed in the excised passages had to be reworked into the text elsewhere, and continuity of the narrative had to be restored.  It took four months, but in the end I produced the manuscript for Until Our Last Breath: A Holocaust Story of Love and Partisan Resistance that was published, with only minor additional changes, by St. Martin’s Press in May 2008.

Now, nearly six years after my lecture at Beth Am, Until Our Last Breath has won a 2009 Christopher Award.  These awards honor books, television productions, and films that “affirm the highest values of the human spirit.”  According to their website at www.christophers.org, these awards “specifically honor the storytellers who…tell us something about the human condition,” including writers who “craft words and images into a clear, cohesive vision,” and “exhibit exceptional artistic and technical proficiency.” 

I am pleased that my writing and Michael’s tenacious research are being honored, but what is most gratifying to me is that strong affirmations of the human spirit have been recognized in the book.

I learned something valuable over the four years I worked on Until Our Last Breath. People can have the same end result in mind but will always have their own personal goals. Successful partnerships are those where each person recognizes and respects what is important to the others. I think we both wanted to educate the public, but in addition, I wanted to demonstrate my writing ability and thus build my reputation as an author, and Michael wanted his parents’ inspiring story told.  As Rabbi Hillel might have put it, good partners care as much about the other’s dream coming true as they do about their own.  I’m glad to have helped Michael express his pride in his parents, and I congratulate him on his Christopher Award.

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Sports and Letters Together write to us at editor@sandiegojewishworld.com

A Bissel Sports Trivia

By Bruce Lowitt

OLDSMAR, FloridaQ: Who was tagged out at home in the bottom of the ninth inning in the final game of the 1950 baseball season?

(a) Izzy Goldstein
(b) Cal Abrams
(c) Sid Gordon
(d) Goody Rosen

Background: The Brooklyn Dodgers trailed Philadelphia by one game and the teams were tied 1-1 when third base coach Milt Stock waved him home from second on Duke Snider's single. But centerfielder Richie Ashburn, who had been moving in, expecting a pickoff play from pitcher Robin Roberts, fielded the ball and easily threw the runner out at home. The Phillies won the game and pennant on Dick Sisler's threee-run homer in the 10th inning.

Please click here for answer


Lake Murray photo now provides
background for desktop computer

Editor, San Diego Jewish World

My husband and I have just recently moved here from northern
California. We found "Lake" Murray on the map and visited it just yesterday. What a beautiful park! The wildlife reminded me of home (clearlake) with all the red-winged blackbirds, rabbits and yes mallard ducks. I enjoyed our walk so much, I decided to look for pictures of Lake Murray to put on my desktop background. I found a beautiful picture of yellow flowers in front of the lake - with Sheila Orysiek's engaging article on intelligence and ducks. Just wanted to thank you. We also will look forward to welcoming the Sabbath at Lake Murray.

Tami Beckman
San Diego

Demonstration of Israeli ingenuity

Editor, San Diego Jewish World:

Here is a link to a wmv video giving an example of Israeli ingenuity.

Larry Gorfine
San Diego

Editor's Note: For those of you who don't have the programs to access the video above, it shows an elevator device that can be lowered from the roof of a skyscraper to the window of a burning floor, and then continue down to the ground to let its passengers off in safety.

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journeys Please click the ad above

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Adventures in San Diego Jewish History

B’nai B’rith Girls Present Fashion Show
Southwestern Jewish Press, October 31, 1952, page 5

The B’nai B’rith Girls are presenting a fashion show and tea Tuesday, November 11, 1952, Armistice  Day, 2:30 p.m., at the Temple Center.  The fashions are a collection from San Diego’s finest shoops.  Children’s fashions will be presented by the Jac-Mart.

A door prize will be given away by a drawing after the fashion show.Adult tickets 75 cents—children 25 cents.

National Council of Jewish Women
Southwestern Jewish Press, October 31, 1952, page 5

An “Afternoon with the Arts” has been planned by the program chairman, Mrs. Milton Roberts, for the Nov. 6th luncheon meeting at 11:45 at Temple Beth Israel.   Mrs. Roberts will present Professor Kingsley Povenmire, associate professor in Speech Arts at San Diego State College.  Professor Povenmire will review the play, “The Magnificient Yankee,” by Emet Lavery.  Professor Povenmire is the author of a play called “Command the Morning,” which will be the March production of the San Diego State College theatre season.

Mrs. R.R. Smith, president, will preside at the meeting.  Reservations for this delightful afternoon can be made by calling Mrs. H. Sugarman, R-5146 andf Mrs. N. Rubin at T-0727.  Hostesses for this meeting are Mrs. Ben Cohen and Mrs. Bert Miller.

United Jewish Fund Collection Record
Southwestern Jewish Press, October 31, 1952, page 5

In response to a number of requests the Treasurer of the United Jewish Fund, Nathaniel Ratner, has prepared the following records of the UJF cash collection over the past three years:  1951—94.2 percent collected;  1950—96.6 percent collected; 1949—98.7 percent collected.

In commenting on these figures, Mr. Ratner said that “although almost all the money pledged to the United Jewish Fund is paid, the fact remains that the humanitarian work of our national and overseas agencies must be held up, in some instances for a number of years, until the San Diego community pledge promised them is paid in full.”

Pay your pledge in full before 1953.

Lasker Lodge B.B.
Southwestern Jewish Press, October 31, 1952, page 6

Monday, November 3 at 8:30 p.m. in the Temple Center, a Get Acquainted Smoker will be given by Lasker Lodge for prospective members.  This is our big Membership Drive under the chairmanship of Harry Wax who is membership coordinator for this area.

Mr. Arthur Wolfe of Los Angeles, well known B’nai B’rith member, will be the guest speaker.  There will be entertainment, refreshments, and games.  President Lou Mogy invited all men who are interested in B’nai B’rith to come to this gala affair.Victor Schulman will again serve as moderator.  The Annual Dinner Dance for lasker Lodge members will take place

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Sunday, November 30 at Casper’s El Rancho.  Joe Kaplan is general chairman.  This event is for paid up members only.

The response was so great to the Panel Discussion held recently that there have been many requests for a Panel Discussion on the N.C.R.A.C. question relating to the withdrawal of A.D.L. from the N.C.R.A.C.

At the regular meeting on Monday, Nov. 10 at 8:30 in the Temple Center.  Eli Levenson and the Hon. David Coleman of Los Angeles will discuss this issue.   There will be a question and answer period.  Refreshments will be served.

Beth Jacob ad~October 31, 1952, Southwestern Jewish Press

Fiesta Club Holds General Meeting
Southwestern Jewish Press, October 31, 1952, page 6

The Fiesta Club of San Diego announces the holding of a general open meeting on Sunday evening, Nov. 9th, in Room thirteen of the Conference Building at Balboa Park.  The meeting is open to all unmarried Jewish men over the age of 21 and young women over the age of 18.  The meeting will start promptly at 7:30 p.m.
This general open meeting is open to all members and their guests as well as any other persons interested in learning about the group.  Members will be admitted free and non-members will be charged 25c admission.

A short business discussion will take place first, and will be followed by dancing and refreshments.  For any further information, call Belle Samuels, T-4265.

Jewish War Veterans
Southwestern Jewish Press, October 31, 1952, page 6

Edwin Klein, National Service Officer, has accepted the invitation of J. David Brooks, Commander, to stay over on his way from the JWV Convention ghheld in Atlantic City and will address the Post and Auxiliary at the War Memorial Bldg., Nov. 3.

Klein is appearing before the San Diego Allocations Committee Nov. 2, in the interest of the Jewish War Veterans.  Past Commander Allan Lame will also appear before the committee, which will be held at the San Diego Hotel at 2 p.m.

A beautiful letter of appreciation was sent to the Past and Auxiliary from T. Paul McCarthy, former San Diego newspaperman, expressing the thanks of the patients in the TB Wart of the naval Hospital for the cheer and comfort brought to them by this Jewish organization.

“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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Jewish Internet Favorites ...
featuring notable Jewish community members

We continue our exploration of Jewish performers
To see index of previous videos, please click here

Francis Lederer as Officer Selieff in Wunderbare Lüge der Nine Petrowna (1929)

Ida Kaminska in The Shop on Main Street

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Molly Picon sings "Abi Gezeundt" in Mamele

Paul Muni as Tony in Scarface (1932)


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