Archive for January 16, 2010

‘Confusions’ is four–er, five–mini-plays rolled into one

January 16, 2010 Leave a comment

By Cynthia Citron
Los Angeles bureau chief, San Diego Jewish World

LOS ANGELES–One of the most exquisitely exciting experiences that you can have—in public, at least—is watching a brilliant troupe of actors performing a well-written, well-directed, thoroughly engrossing play.  Such an experience is available now at The Lost Studio in Los Angeles, where the American premiere of Alan Ayckbourn’s 1974 play, Confusions, has just opened.   Sir Alan Ayckbourn, Britain’s Neil Simon, has written more than 70 plays (including The Norman Conquests and Absurd Person Singular) and won the highest awards a play can receive (a Tony, an Olivier, et al). 

With Confusions he has produced five plays in one—all of them poignant, engaging, and hilarious.   The overall theme is the human desire to connect—to be responded to, to make contact with another human being, and the confusion and isolation that results when that desire is not met.  And also the hilarity that ensues when people who are not really listening to each other go off on their own separate tangents.   In “A Talk in the Park,” the amazing Brendan Hunt constructs a non-stop monologue with a girl who couldn’t be less interested and doesn’t respond.  They are sitting on a stone bench next to two other benches occupied by the other four principals in this production.  Who are they, you wonder, and what are they doing there?  

In the next mini-play, “Mother Figure,” Steve Wilcox, whom we recognize from the bench, plays the next-door neighbor of the very pregnant Lucy (Mina Badie) and the husband of Rosemary (Abigail Revasch).  Wilcox has come to fetch his wife from Lucy’s, but gets caught up instead in Lucy’s compulsive mothering.  She forces him to finish his milk (served in a sippy-cup) and chides him for taking more than one cookie.  Meanwhile, her own brood of innumerable kids is shouting and banging around offstage.  

In “Drinking Companions,” Hunt, who turns out to be a traveling salesman in “howt cotewer” and the husband of the overbearing Lucy, is trying to pick up an attractive woman (Phoebe James) in a hotel bar.  He couldn’t be more clumsy at it, and when her friend (Abigail Revasch) joins her, he comes on to both of them, plying them with drinks and insipid blather.   In the restaurant of the same hotel Adrian Neil and his wife, Bridget Ann White, are having dinner when Steve Wilcox and Phoebe James are seated at the next table.  The dialogue in this scene, “Between Mouthfuls” escalates to arguments and tears, while the very proper waiter (Hunt again) hovers between them, trying to remain oblivious and get the damn dinners served.  

The final act, “Gosforth’s Fete”, disintegrates into pure farce as the hapless Mr. Gosforth (Adrian Neil) attempts to set up a small-town festival despite the pouring rain.  And when none of the microphones and speakers work, he laments that the scheduled community sing will become a “community hum.” 

And thus, “Gosforth’s Fete” becomes Gosforth’s fate, as the rest of the cast joins him in disaster.   And finally, in something of an epilogue, the six bench-sitters are once again on their benches in the park, fulminating about their lives and concerns and not being listened to.  

It’s a wonderful play, and under John Pleshette’s impeccable direction it becomes a tour de force for each of the players.  Their timing is flawless, their acting is superb, and you simply couldn’t ask for a more delightful production.  

Confusions will continue at The Lost Studio, 130 South La Brea Avenue, between 1st and 2nd Streets, in Los Angeles, Fridays and Saturdays at 8p.m. and Sundays at 4 through March 7th.  Call (323) 960-5775 for reservations.  Right away!

Citron may be contacted at

Adventures in San Diego Jewish History, March 5, 1954, Part III

January 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Compiled by Gail Umeham

Jewish Center News
Southwestern Jewish Press March 5, 1954 Page 6

Junior News–In addition to the Puppet Show and Dance presentation on Wednesday, March 17th, 4 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center, juniors will be treated to a magic show by Larry Lessner, local teen-age magician.  The members of the Arts and Crafts and Ballet and Creative dance classes are having fun and are busy at work organizing their program.  Games and refreshments will complete the program.

Special activities for the spring vacation week beginning Monday, April 13th, will be organized at the Jewish Community Center.  The center will be open from morning to evening for all ages, and special trips are scheduled.  Details of the program will be announced in the next issue of the Jewish Press.

It is not too early to plan to attend the 8th season of Camp Jaycee, beginning Monday, June 28th and continuing for 8 weeks.  Efforts are being made to reduce fees for those members who pay in advance and so we suggest that you start saving for a summer of less expensive fun.  Emphasis will be place on more outdoor activities such as nature study and crafts, pioneer camping and hikes; with all activities geared to the needs and abilities of each age group.

Teen-Age–At a Teen-age Committee meeting held at the Jewish Community Center on Thursday, February 26th, the following proposals were presented:

  1.  A special party for all Jewish Youth on Saturday, March 27th in honor of National Jewish Youth Week…March 19th-27th.
  2. A one-act play contest to be held in May.
  3. A committee appointed to plan special summer activities for the older teen-agers.
  4. A suggestion box for program ideas—to be installed at the Center.

Teen-age members of the committee are:  Bob Beck, Chuck Fagelson, Donna Godes, Gail Kahn, Beverly Kitaen, Leon Leichtag, Lois Liff, Natalie Veitzer and Mike Witte.  Adults were represented by Mr. and Mrs. Ruben Aved, Mr. and Mrs. William Breitbard and Dr. and Mrs. Harry Kaufman.


Y.J.C. Club Dances
Southwestern Jewish Press March 5, 1954 Page 6

Dan Delaney of the City Recreation Department will again conduct a square dancing lesson at the Young Jewish Couples Club on Saturday, March 20, at the Tifereth Israel Synagogue, as requested by enthusiastic “students” at their last “class.”

The dancing will be part of an exciting evening that will also contain its serious counterpart when Dr. Edward Abrams will discuss The New Frontiers in Medicine.

Please note that the night will be Saturday instead of Sunday.

J.C.C. Women’s League To Honor Board
Southwestern Jewish Press March 5, 1954 Page 6

The Women’s League of the Jewish Community Center are planning a get-acquainted tea for the women board members and the wives of the Board of Directors of the Jewish Community Center.  Tea will be served from 1-3 o’clock, Thursday, March 25, at the Center, 3227 El Cajon Blvd.  A general Open House Tea is planned for May 6 where the general public will be invited.


Temple Men’s Club Elects New Officers
Southwestern Jewish Press March 5, 1954 Page 6

The newly-organized Men’s Club of Temple Beth Israel held its election of officers at its first meeting.  Elected were Richard Lustig, Pres.; Charles Silverman, V.P.; Herb Blakesman, Rec. Sec.; Harley Babbitz, Corr. Sec.; Ben Carnot, Treas.

Board members are Al Brooks, Morris Douglas, Hugh Wolff, Mack Esterson, Don Pogrell and Richard Silberman.  Rabbi Morton J. Cohn is Advisor to the group.  The next dinner meeting will be held March 16 at 6:30 p.m. in the Temple Center.

A New American Friend (Editorial)
Southwestern Jewish Press March 5, 1954 Page 7

We have remarked on many past occasions in these columns about the resurgence of Nazi sentiment to the young West German Republic.  We have more than once called to task our own government for failing to put the brakes on this development when responsible U.S. leadership seemed to us to be in a position to express its dissatisfaction to Bonn in the matter.

Some time ago, we came to the sad realization that if we were to editorialize on the general Neo-Nazi trend, confining ourselves to its major manifestations only, we would be incapable of commenting upon any other significant situation in the news-national, international or local.

This, perhaps, gives some indication of the rapidity with which former Third Reich personalities, many of them condemned to death and imprisonment, are now reassuming positions of importance on the West German and Austrian governments.  Having evaded justice, they are prepared to start where they left off at the end of World War II.

In fact, there is really little reason for us to take the occasion again to comment on the returning Nazi fashion—except that in this case we are dealing with one of Hitler’s aces, a man convicted as a war criminal by a British court for acts which included slaughter of many hundreds of Jews in the Ardeatine Cave massacres in Rome.

Field Marshal Albert Kesselring is known to all.  As we understand it, he sat in the cockpit of an American jet fighter last week and beamed while an American flying officer explained to him its controls, instrument panel and other technical equipment.  Kesselring has been invited to lunch by Col. Donald W. Armstrong, along with twenty other German veteran pilots.  Half were Goering’s former Luftwaffe generals.

We really don’t believe this situation requires more comment.  It needs only to be brought to light.  It seems to us that editorializing in this case had best be highly personal—and above all silent.


Hop, Skip and Protocol (Editorial)
Southwestern Jewish Press March 5, 1954 Page 7

The notorious forgery, Protocols of Zion, crops up all over the world, and it seems to us that the dim-witted persons who fall for its principles must be regarded with something more than a vague sense of humor.

The forgery was published in the Mexican press less than two months ago and created enough of a stir there to cause Henry Ford II several days later to deny his late father’s hand in the Protocols in a New York writer’s syndicated column.

Members of the Colorado State Legislature received copies of the forgery from Conde McGinley, publisher of the hate sheet, Common Sense, sometime early this week as part of McGinley’s campaign to circulate the Protocols among legislators throughout the country.

Perhaps the strangest fate of the Protocols was reported Monday from Nairobi, capital of the British colony of Kenya.  A local newspaper there is printing the forgery as “evidence” of Jewish support of the native revolutionary Mau Mau movement.

More and more, we feel that education above everything else is needed in this world of ours—and that the ability to read by no means proves that we have acquired the ability to understand.  Mau Mau, indeed.

Community Currents
Southwestern Jewish Press March 5, 1954 Page 7

By Albert Hutler, Exec. Director United Jewish Fund

Don’t Underestimate Our Teen-Agers

The Hutlers have a daughter who is going to be confirmed in June.  Last Sunday, we sat through a meeting of the confirmation class and parents of the Confirmants.  Part of the discussion included the question of what the young people had learned during their tenures of Sunday School.  I received the impression that they suddenly found that in the eighth, ninth grades, the things they studied in previous grades and which bored them immensely, came to life and they began to understand.  Evidently, one of the things for which they were most thankful was the course in contemporary religion where they were able to find out how other worship.

These teen-age youngsters show that they have good heads on their little shoulders.  In the discussion relating to the confirmation party, every one of them preferred a party in someone’s home to a party in a night club or a private club with an orchestra.  At times, they show better judgment than their parents.

At the meeting, it struck me that there is a danger point as far as Judaism is concerned and that is the period between confirmation and the time these youngsters reach their adulthood.  What happens to them as far as their religion is concerned during this period greatly depends on their home and their parents.

The Jewish Social Service Agency
Last Sunday, the Chest announced its allocations to our local agencies.  The Jewish Social Service Agency received an increase of 40 percent to a total of about $14,500.

When we consider that in 1947, the agency, after being one of the founders of the Chest and having been in existence over 25 years, was receiving $2,400, we realize the kind of gain that has been made by those of us who are interested in Jewish family welfare.  By 1951, because we professionalized the agency, we were able to secure an increase up to $5,500.  In 1951, Mrs. Rubenstein was added to the staff and because of the continued prestige and effort on her part, as well as the excellent work of the officers of the agency and its board, the Jewish Social Service Agency has taken its rightful place in the community.  It is recognized as having one of the outstanding staffs in field of family welfare, and its recognition is highlighted by the amount of money it now receives from the Community Chest.

Community Center—Synagogues
There are areas of cooperation between the synagogues and the Community Center.  This has been the theme of the Federation, the Fund and the Community Center for several years.  There are areas in which the synagogue is now working with young people in which Center staff and programming can be of great assistance.  On the other hand, there are areas in which the Center is now working in which the synagogue can be of great assistance.  If this type of thing can be worked out our community will be much better for it and our young people will be much happier.  Along this line, there have been discussions between the presidents and rabbis of our various synagogues and a committee of the Center.  They are studying the areas of cooperation and the areas of need under the very excellent chairmanship of Maury Novak and Henry Price.  These two men are seriously interested in this problem and the challenge that it offers and if good hard work can accomplish anything, they will see that it is achieved.

UJA – Loan
I ran into Leo Gallin the other evening in Los Angeles at a wedding reception.  We spent a few minutes talking about the $75,000,000 loan that the United Jewish Appeal is attempting to raise from American Jewish communities in order to help Israel take care of its short-term financing problems.  He tells me that about $63,000,000 has already been committed, of which a very high percentage has already been received.  The response from American Jewish communities has been excellent and it is anticipated that the loan will be completed within the next thirty days.  San Diego is going to be part of this loan in order to help Israel stabilize its economy.

1954 Campaign
Campaign plans are shaping up very well.  The response to the recent request for workers sent out by Sol Price, chairman, is the best in any campaign and it is anticipated that well over 200 workers will be dedicated to the 1954 Combined Jewish Appeal.

The Women’s Division again has strong leadership and it is expected that it will do the same fine job that it has always done in the past.  One thing about the Women’s Division is that those who have served as chairmen continue to retain their interest and act as an advisory committee in assisting the chairman for the present campaign.

The campaign is receiving complete cooperation from all facets of the Jewish community.  It is expected that even the children in our religious schools will contribute more this year than ever before.  The drive will also include an effort to secure more than 1800 contributors and to make for much greater coverage.

“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.

Israel brings hope and healing to Haiti

January 16, 2010 Leave a comment

By Rabbi Dow Marmur

JERUSALEM–Israel’s precarious relations with its neighbours have forced it to be always prepared for war. Having had to fight several of them, its army has gained great experience in dealing with and preparing for emergencies. That’s why Israel has been able to respond so swiftly, and apparently so efficiently, to the Haiti disaster.

Ahead of most other countries, since Saturday there has been a fully operational Israeli field hospital situated in a soccer field on the outskirts of devastated Port-au-Prince. Over 200 employees of the Israel Defense Forces, military and civilian, are now at work there. Journalists on the scene report impressive results. Many more rescuers sponsored by the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross (Magen David Adom) as well as by other Israeli aid agencies are on their way. They too will make use of the special skills acquired because of their country’s war experience and defense needs.

Israelis at home are justifiably proud. From its very inception Israel has wanted to be, in the words of Scripture, “a light unto the nations.” Even when its economy was much more precarious than it is today, and though prevented from reaching out to its Arab neighbours, Israel had helped many African countries to develop their agriculture and industry. Political expediency has stopped some of the early beneficiaries to continue overt contacts with the Jewish state, but in some cases clandestine operations are said to be in place to this very day.

Spokespersons for Israel will tell you that their real hope is to be able to extend similar help to surrounding Muslim countries and the Palestinian Authority, which many would like to see becoming an independent state, living side by side with Israel in peace and security (as the current jargon has it). Some such help is already being provided.

Cynics will always choose to see these offers as Israel’s attempt to make a good impression in the world and ingratiating itself with the recipients. Israel’s desire to turn its “swords into ploughshares” (to use another image coined by the Biblical Prophets), goes very much deeper than engaging in public relations. It’s part and parcel of the value system of the Jewish religion. And even those who strive for a secular state in which religion is confined to the private realm want it to be a state based on Jewish moral values such as peace and prosperity for all peoples, not least the hapless Haitians.

The emphasis on healing and saving lives is central to Judaism. The fact that medicine has been a “Jewish” profession for much of history isn’t a coincidence and cannot be explained only in terms of sociology. Though Israelis are no less shocked and upset by what has befallen Haiti than citizens of other countries, most are also relieved that their government and their army are able to be of tangible help to the victims. The fact that Israel can use its defense measures in the service of other countries is gratifying to all, irrespective of their opinions about internal politics.  

Unfortunately, nothing of this is likely to change the stance of Israel’s many enemies abroad. So-called human rights activists around the world will continue to clamor for the indictment of Israeli public figures branding them as war criminals. But perhaps people not burdened by ideological prejudices may wish to bear in mind that sometimes even the military can become the carrier of hope and healing. That’s definitely how Israelis view their country’s current mission in Haiti.

Rabbi Marmur is the spiritual leader emeritus of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto.  He now divides his time between Canada and Israel.

U.S., Morocco conduct exercise to thwart nuclear disaster

January 16, 2010 Leave a comment


WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release) – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) on Friday completed cooperative training exercises in Morocco at the National Center for Nuclear Energy, Science and Technologies (CNESTEN) in Rabat. 

The four day effort included training in plume modeling, emergency operations center development and infrastructure, training and demonstration on specific radiation detection equipment, and exercise development. This training is part of the preparation for an exercise to be conducted under the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.  More than 80 representatives from Moroccan agencies participated.

“NNSA’s work with Morocco as part of our broader effort under the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism to build and enhance the global capacity to prevent and respond to nuclear and radiological emergencies,” said NNSA Associate Administrator for Emergency Operations Joseph Krol.  “With more than sixty years of expertise in handling, securing and detecting nuclear material, NNSA is uniquely equipped to share expertise and collaborate with foreign counterparts on these global security issues.  It is an important example of our nation’s investment in nuclear security providing the tools tackle broader national and international challenges.”

In his Prague speech in April, President Obama noted that “the most immediate and extreme threat to global security” is a terrorist acquiring a nuclear weapon.  Enhanced international cooperation with Morocco is an important step in countering that threat.

This week’s training builds on cooperation outlined at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference in September 2009, where NNSA Associate Administrator Joseph Krol signed a statement of intent (SOI) with Morocco’s CNESTEN. The SOI outlined mutual commitments aimed at minimizing the actual or potential radiological consequences to health, environment and property of an event involving nuclear or radiological materials worldwide.

To date, NNSA has worked with emergency response organizations in more than 75 countries and nine international organizations to address potential radiological emergencies and nuclear incidents.  This international cooperation involves technical exchanges, mutual training events, jointly conducted exercises and emergency management assistance.

Preceding provided by National Nuclear Security Administration

San Diego Councilwoman warns of Haiti scams

January 16, 2010 Leave a comment

SAN DIEGO (Press Release) — Tragedies bring out the best and the worst in people. “Don’t be duped. Stick with the charities you know. If you don’t, not only will you get ripped off, but legitimate charities won’t get the money they need to help,” warns Councilmember Marti Emerald.

To avoid being scammed, look to organizations with familiar names. The San Diego Chapter of the American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, and Rescue Task Force are a few reliable aid organizations with recognizable names. There are many more.

Other things to remember: Unless you contacted the organization, never give out personal information either on the phone or on-line. If you’re in doubt about the legitimacy of an organization, check them out on the internet to make sure the information they give you matches information on the organization’s official Website. Or in the case of a telephone solicitation, ask for a phone number to call them back.

Charities have fundraising and administrative costs so be wary of any claims that 100 percent of your donation will assist relief victims.

A couple of great resources where you can find reputable and safe Websites for donations are Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau

Also remember – most relief organizations cannot accept food, clothing, toys, etc. The best and fastest way to get aid to those who need it is with a monetary donation. That way, the many charities on location in Haiti can purchase what is truly needed.

Preceding provided by San Diego City Council member Marti Emerald

Goodbye to all that! — An American Jew’s life in non-Christian Asia

January 16, 2010 1 comment

By Danny Bloom

[This commentary was originally written in 2002 and updated in early 2010.]

CHIAYI CITY, Taiwan — In a magazine article a few years back, a British expatriate in New York by the name of John Derbyshire wrote that a lingering form of antisemitism is alive and well in the United States — and always will be. Nothing new there, but his words were startling.

Derbyshire, who is not Jewish, wrote in an earlier piece in the rightwing National Review Online, when Joseph Lieberman was named as Al Gore’s running mate in the presidential election that year: “My own impression … is that Jews are widely, though very mildly, disliked in America. It may indeed be kosher to joke about the powerful; but it is all too human to resent them. In the circles I move in — working-
and middle-class Americans — antisemitic comments are quite common between intimates, though everybody understands they are de trop in any less restricted circles.”

Derbyshire comments about Jews being “widely, though mildly disliked in America” struck a personal note with me, because I have been living in Asia for the last 17 years and have found life here — in both Japan and Taiwan — to be completely free of the ugly elements of public and social antisemitism. In fact, it so enjoyable to live in
non-Western, non-Christian societies that are free of antisemitism that I plan to live in Asia for the rest of my life and never return to the US. Goodbye to all that.

I remember, when I first penned this essay in 2002, that a small epidemic of “Jew-dislike” seemed to have made the rounds of the US at that time, spawned by several controversies, both in print and on the Internet.

First, there was cartoonist Johnny Hart’s mildy offensive — to Jews and many Christians — Easter cartoon “B. C.,” that caused a major sensation when it was published, and in some cases not published, in April. Then there was Washington-based conservative Paul Weyrich’s Easter commentary online that repeated the old canard about the Jews being responsible for the death of Jesus. Then there was the New York Times Magazine story that related the anti-Jewish remarks of two NBA
basketball players.

Derbyshire had noted in another NRO essay: “A cold-eyed view of human
nature is always wisest, and my own cold eye tells me that antisemitism will be with us for as long as the Jews themselves.” He may be speaking the truth, at least as far as life in the Western  [read “Christianized”] world goes.

Of course, Jews have never had it so good in America, as the pundits like to say, and there is little overt antisemitism anywhere in North America. But to be honest, Jews are widely disliked — though “verymildly,” as Derbyshire put it — in America and always will be. It will never change.

A hundred years from now, Jews will remain “widely … though mildly” disliked in America. Why? For a host of complex reasons that define the very essence of Western Christendom, but which boil down to one thing: the Christian Gospels are in their very theological essence anti-Jewish and therefore anti-semitic. Sorry, but that’s the truth!

Living in non-Western, non-Christian cultures as I have for the last17 years here in Asia, I have found that social antisemitism simply does not exist in places like Japan, Thailand, Taiwan or South Korea.

Asian cartoonists do not draw Easter cartoons that show a menorah morphing into a cross. Asian writers do not publish online commentaries about so-called “Jewish cabals” in Hollywood or on Wall Street. Asian parents do not teach their children ancient myths about Jewish “Christ killers,” and they don’t speak at the dinner table in undertones of polite dislike for “those Jews.”

In Asia, Jews are an enigma, yes, an historical enigma, but they are not the object of theological scorn. It is so refreshing to live here. I have never been told by a Japanese or a Taiwanese person that I will go to “hell” because of who I am — or that my Jewish beliefs are wrong. Asians do not “think” this way.

It’s amazing — to me, a true 60-year-old innocent abroad — that when one moves to a land where the old Christian myths and hatreds and prejudices do not exist, and where neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament are taken at face value by the populace, how quickly quirky antisemitism and its ugly ramifications — for both Christiansand Jews — disappears, ghost-like, lost in the mists of ancient and
modern European and Middle Eastern history.

It is so refreshing to live here in Asia. As a Jew, as a human being, as an American. It’s the way life was meant to be.

Danny Bloom, a 1971 Tufts graduate and a native of Springfield, Mass., has lived in Japan and Taiwan for the last 18 years. The above oped commentary received over 5,000 page views on the Internet over the past 8 years.

San Diego Jewish Film Festival preview: ‘Against The Tide’

January 16, 2010 Leave a comment

By Carol Davis

SAN DIEGO–The San Diego Jewish Film Festival is celebrating its 20th year this season. The Festival is being sponsored by the Mizel Family Foundation and runs from Feb. 10-21. Titles cover the alphabet from A to Z starting with Adam’s Wall and ending with Zrubavel.

Against The Tide is a new release and the latest documentary made available through SWC for use in Synagogues and schools.  A product of Moriah Films Against The Tide, narrated by Dustin Hoffman, documents the plight and if you will, differing strategies and conflicts by leading American Jews whose most powerful Jewish leader in the United States was Rabbi Stephen Wise and his adversary Hillel Kook aka Peter Bergson, on how best to rescue the Jews in Europe who were being methodically and diabolically annihilated while the rest of the world (including our own government under the leadership of President Franklin Roosevelt), stood by did nothing. 

Bergson’s grand Uncle was the Chief Rabbi of Palestine. He was born in Lithuania and migrated to Palestine as young boy. In the 30’s he moved to Europe and became involved in activities to bring Jews to Palestine despite the British restrictions on immigration. The British were afraid of angering the Arabs during that period. When the war broke out, Bergson’s activities were at risk of being shut down and his personal safety was in jeopardy. It was then he changed his name and emigrated to the U.S. He created the Jewish Brigade to fight along side the British against the Nazis.

When the newspapers finally confirmed that the Nazis were eliminating Jews by the thousands, he abandoned his Jewish Brigade and began his campaign to rescue his fellow Jews in Europe. That’s when he ran up against a brick wall with Wise whose friendship with President Franklin D. Roosevelt was a determinating factor in the course of American involvement in the rescue, or more importantly non-rescue efforts of European Jews.

Against The Tide chronicles with chilling photos, interviews and personal stories the plight of the Jews from the beginning of the Holocaust to the involvement of the Ultra Orthodox community, the Vaad Hatzala, led by Rabbis Aaron Kotler and Eliezer Silver to Hollywood moguls and actors including Ben Hecht, Paul Muni and Edward G. Robinson to name a few who joined in Bergman’s effort to rock the foundation of Wise’s and the administration’s do nothing policy.

As history will attest, Wise and his fellow travelers, big wig friends both in and out of the administration, were successful in blocking and shunning all and every attempt made by Bergson and his allies to rescue his fellow Jews by doing nothing. He defended his do nothing and let’s wait until the Nazis are gone attitudes and actions by thwarting all attempts to look too Jewish, since he was so afraid of what the rest of the country would think of Jews interfering in the work of the government.  In essence,  they sacrificed over six million of their own to save face.

Hope and expectation in Europe are juxtaposed with the unenthusiastic and negative campaign by Wise and his anti Semitic friends in the administration along with his fear of being singled out.  The effect  is both frustrating and heartbreaking.

Against The Tide is an informative, well-documented film and well worth the time to take another look at what being a naysayer as opposed to being pro active can achieve. The saying “Never again” can only be applied if we, the people don’t let it happen again to any group of humanity.

“Against The Tide  includes a never before seen interview with Bergson filmed by legendary documentarian Claude Lanzmann (“Shoah”) in the late 1970’s. Historians Martin Gilbert (official biographer of Winston Churchill), David Wyman (‘The Abandonment of the Jews’),  Deborah Dwork (‘Flight From the Reich’) and Samuel Kassow (“Who Will Write Our History?”) offer commentary and analysis. Bergson’s daughter, Rebecca Kook, discusses her father’s work and legacy. Eyewitness accounts of those who survived those turbulent times are also featured. Finally, those inspired by Bergson’s example and went to the forefront of fighting genocides in Darfur and R’wanda are profiled. Made by Moriah Films, the Academy Award winning producers of  Genocide and ‘The Long Way Home, the film Against The Tide features rare archival footage and stills and is a cautionary tale about the dangers of ignoring or not reacting quickly enough to genocide.”

Against The Tide will play at the AMC La Jolla, Sunday, Feb. 4th @ 1:30 PM. A panel discussion will follow.

The San Diego Jewish Film Festival is presented by the San Diego Center for Jewish Culture at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, Jacobs Family Campus.

For tickets or information call 858-362-1348 or visit

See you at the theatre and happy movie going.

Davis is a theatre critic based in San Diego.  She may be contacted at

Book on child sexual abuse in Jewish community wins award

January 16, 2010 Leave a comment

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Press Release)–The Center for Child Welfare Policy of the North American Resource Center for Child Welfare (NARCCW) has announced the 2010 winners of the Pro Humanitate Literary Awards, North America’s premier literary awards for the field of child welfare.

One book award and three article awards are conferred annually to authors from the United States and Canada whose articles best “exemplify the intellectual integrity and moral courage required to transcend political and social barriers to champion best practice in the field of child welfare.” Awards are selected by a peer jury that reviews and rates all submissions. The 2010 awards will be presented on January 28, 2010 at the 24th Annual San Diego International Conference on Child and Family Maltreatment, by Dr. Ronald C. Hughes, NARCCW’s Director.

For the 2010 awards, there were four articles that met the criteria of the Herbert A. Raskin Child Welfare Article Award.  Dr. Neustein and Attorney Lesher’s article entitled, A single-case of Rabbinic sexual abuse in the Orthodox Jewish Community.  Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 17(3/4), 270-289, was one of this year’s winners.  Dr. Neustein and Mr. Lesher will receive a Pro Humanitate Medal and will share the $1,000 prize. 

Amy Neustein, Ph.D., is a sociologist, researcher, lecturer, and author of many scholarly articles on child sexual abuse, sociology of religion, and speech technology.  She is co-author of From Madness to Mutiny, and is Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Speech Technology. Dr. Neustein is a member of the editorial Board of the Journal  of Child Sexual Abuse.  Dr. Neustein also edited Tempest in the Temple: Jewish Communities and Child Sex Scandals, a collection of essays on child sexual abuse, published by Brandeis University Press in the Sarna Series on American Jewish History, Culture, and Life (May 2009).

Michael Lesher, Esq., MA, is an author, columnist, investigative reporter, lawyer and legal editor who has published in the peer reviewed literature (and in the popular press) on the many facets of child sex abuse and institutional cover ups. His assiduous and meticulous scrutiny of religious institutions and governmental entities that cower to them is complemented by his trenchant analyses of religious communities that co-enable abusers. Mr. Lesher serves as a child advocate. He has appeared on ABC Nightline and ABC Eyewitness News. He has been quoted prominently in the New York Times, Associated Press, New York Newsday, New York Jewish Week and Forward. As a legal advocate for equal protection of the rights of victims, Lesher has argued these issues before the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. He has recently submitted a certiorari petition to the United States Supreme Court seeking review by the high court of the question of whether victims of incestuous sexual assault deserve the same treatment from prosecutors as victims of rape by strangers.

The North American Resource Center for Child Welfare (NARCCW) is an independent, nonprofit, privately endowed organization. Its mission is to develop and disseminate public policy that promotes “best practice” in the field of child welfare. NARCCW was conceived and embodied as an umbrella organization for a tetrad of child welfare agencies: The Institute for Human Services (IHS); the Training Resource, Advocacy, and Information Network (TRAINet); the Center for Child Welfare Policy; and the Family Trust Clinic. These agencies provide a comprehensive array of child welfare services that promote protection and permanence for physically abused, neglected, and sexually abused children. NARCCW and its affiliates are located in Columbus, Ohio.

NARCCW relies on the expertise of both academicians and direct service practitioners to formulate sound and effective recommendations for policy and practice development. NARCCW’s activities include annual symposia to examine child welfare practice dilemmas and controversies, such as risk assessment, transracial adoptions and sexual abuse interventions. Policy recommendations are disseminated through white papers, internet websites, educational and training conferences, and a journal.

Dr. Ronald C. Hughes is the Director of NARCCW and the Center for Child Welfare Policy. For more information about NARCCW and the Pro Humanitate Awards, visit their website at

Preceding provided by the Center for Child Welfare Policy

Of Killing Fields and Looted Graves: A Catholic Priest Fulfills the Command, Zachor

January 16, 2010 2 comments

Father Patrick Desbois


By Jeanette Friedman
NY Bureau Chief, San Diego Jewish World

NEW YORK–Father Patrick Desbois is an unusual Catholic priest, who, at the behest of two French clerics (the Yiddish-speaking Holocaust survivor, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, and Cardinal Jean Pierre Ricard), officially took it upon himself to obey the commandment, Zachor, to remember. Born in the 1950’s, he is the grandson of a deportee sent to Rawa-Ruska, near Belzec, in the former Soviet Union–a deportee who witnessed mass shooting murder of the Jews by Nazis’ Einzatsgruppen, the mobile killing troops, and their collaborators.

Years later he returned to that site with his grandson, to teach him why he had to help heal the world. At that moment the wick was lit, and Father Desbois became “the memorial candle” for his family and his calling. With the blessings of the Cardinals and the Pope, in 2002, he embarked on a journey he did not then know could become dangerous.

On January 12, 2010, Father Desbois was the guest speaker at a luncheon for members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. More than 40 leaders of the Jewish community were in attendance, among them attorney Alan Solow, chairman of the Conference and chairman of the Jewish Community Center Association; John Ruskay, executive vice president of UJAFedNY; Mindy Stein, president of Emunah of America; Kalman Sultanik, honorary vice president of the World Jewish Congress, and former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman (who founded the Office of Special Investigations at the Justice Department to prosecute Nazi war criminals).

Father Desbois was there to present his case for community action and to ask the established Jewish community to help him preserve more than 900 mass graves that hold the remains of as many as 1.6 million Jews scattered all across Eastern Europe, before it was “too late,”—and to help him find as many more as he could before the sites were destroyed by grave robbers and urbanization.

Doing research and tracking history and maps, Father Desbois walks across the killing fields where the mobile killing forces that followed Hitler’s army through the towns and cities, shtetls and dorfs of Eastern Europe, carried out lethal ethnic cleansing, one bullet at a time. He seeks eye witnesses who watched what happened when the Nazis arrived to do their dirty work, and tries to find and protect the mass graves.

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference, says the Catholic priest appreciates, “The kedusha of the Kedoshim, the holiness of the holy ones.” As a son of Holocaust survivors, Hoenlein uses that term to describe Jews murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust.  (The official definition of a Holocaust survivor includes any Jew who was in Europe or fled, between 1933 and 1945.)

In 2004, Father Desbois and his team created the non-profit organization, Yahad in Unum, so he could fund this quest, which often takes him and his team to remote areas, where the natives are not always friendly and might even want to kill them. It’s one reason he learned to develop a poker face, one that would not reveal his feelings even while listening to the vilest forms of anti-Semitic libels.  Said the priest: “If you show on your face what you think, the interview is over. Some of these people are violent and will kill those who try to stop them.  And some of the people who speak of the ‘innocent ones’ are afraid of reprisals.”

In one place, he spent Christmas with a Greek Orthodox family whose entertainment for the evening included skit wherein his host’s son and daughter played a Jew who said he came to swindle everyone in town, and his wife, the Rebbitzen, opened her coat to reveal stolen cell phones for sale.

The witnesses who have given testimony have allowed Father Desbois to recreate precisely the way the Einzatsgruppen carried out their tasks. In meticulous, chilling detail, he described the methodology of death by close range shooting in the days before Auschwitz and the other death camps were built.

Everything went according to a system that began when a German location scout would show up to scope out the area for the best place to locate such a grave. When the troops arrived, the mayor and municipal police were recruited to bring the Jews out of their homes and march them to the sites, where they would dig their own graves and be murdered at close range–one bullet, one Jew.  Within three weeks, beginning with the sales of clothing left at the gravesites and ending with auctions of Jewish-owned furniture in the local synagogue buildings, the entire Jewish community would disappear.  But not without a trace. Artifacts remain at many of the sites, and grave robbers know it and seek them out.

When the Yachad in Unum team comes to a town, they ask the locals if they know anyone who witnessed the mass murder of the Jews. They race against the clock because the witnesses are dying of old age. Sometimes the people come forward, and sometimes they don’t. And sometimes the evidence confirms what the witness saw. In one case a witness described someone playing a harmonica while the shootings took place, and Father Desbois’s team found the remains of a harmonica near the mass grave.

The most horrific reason and need for speed to preserve the sites is because of what is happening to those mass graves today.  In remote areas, there are mass graves that have not yet been confirmed and protected,  and locals use them as gold mines (80% of the graves in Ukraine have been looted)—digging up the remains to search for gold teeth and jewelry.

Artifacts found by the Yachad in Unum team—shell casings, bullets, necklaces, bracelets—are sent off to various Holocaust museums to refute Holocaust deniers and to educate the public. They have developed a traveling artifact exhibit, “The Holocaust of Bullets,” that is sent to schools and study centers across the globe. The team has developed special relationships with the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and with the Sorbonne in Paris to make these materials available to all, and to use those resources in their research as well.

Yachad in Unum’s goal now is to get funding to expand the search for mass graves into Russia, Belarus and Poland; to maintain an archive in Paris for other museums, scholars, students, survivor families and researchers to access; and to continue to make the traveling exhibition available.

Most importantly, they want to recruit people who can help them convince area governments to seal the graves with concrete and mark them as sacred grounds so that they cannot be defiled any longer.

But this work doesn’t come cheap. Each investigative trip, which includes all the research done by the 11-member team costs approximately $55,000 and it is expected that the cost to complete the entire project and seal the graves would cost $5 million.

At the conclusion of his talk, Hoenlein presented Father Desbois with an award of thanks on behalf of all of the major Jewish organizations in the United States.

For all its holy history, Jerusalem a city like many others

January 16, 2010 Leave a comment
By Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–For those who doubt that Israel is a normal country, the arrest of a messiah with who knows how many wives and children should establish its credentials. The most complete report I have seen in English appears in the Times of London.

This puts us firmly in the league with the Mormon sects of southern Utah, Arizona and Texas, and the occasional European story.

The Tel Aviv location firms up the claim of normality. That city has no more claim of being “holy” than Dallas, or wherever it was that the most recent polygamous Mormon sect was discovered.

Jerusalem is another case. No such extensive messiah-centered family has been exposed here, but we have a recent case of an ultra-Orthodox woman whose treatment of her children brought on the police and social workers, and caused several rabbi-induced demonstrations by members of her congregation against their intervention. For those who might think such behavior is limited to Middle Eastern fanatics, the woman spoke–when she did speak–in English with a British accent. She may not have been here long enough to learn Hebrew. 

There is no end of cases where Jerusalem provokes individuals to have spiritual visions, and to behave in ways associated with them. Google “Jerusalem syndrome” and start looking through the 129,000 items that appear.

Politicians also deal with Jerusalem in a spiritual fashion. Barack Obama is only one of the latest world leaders to exhibit a political version of the syndrome. Demanding an end to Jewish construction or residence in certain neighborhoods qualifies as a kind of micro-management of someone else’s turf on the border of political madness. That he got what he deserved (Jewish ridicule for his demand, and then Arab ridicule when he reversed himself) has not kept him from making yet another try to reform what the world sees as sacred ground (Jerusalem especially, and the rest of the vaguely defined “Holy Land”).

Just as unusual, when viewed by conventional political norms, are Israeli politicians, including the current prime minister, who swear that Jerusalem must remain united under Israeli control. Likewise my internet friends who cannot tolerate my skepticism about such an idea.

I am by no means alone in the view that Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, especially those not surrounded by Jewish neighborhoods, can be traded away in a reasonable deal. Most of the city is like any other, that does not qualify as “holy” under any doctrine that I know, except the recent declarations of politicians that everything with the name “Jerusalem” is sacred. The madness is not restricted to Jews. Muslims express the same, talking about a vaguely defined al Quds (holy city) as properly theirs. The Roman Catholic Church joins the fray, claiming that Christian rights can only be assured by internationalizing Jerusalem, under an authority in which it will have an important role.

My pragmatic response to this spiritualism is that Jerusalem works as well as other cities of its size, with substantially lower levels of violence, illegitimacy, and related pathologies than many cities elsewhere. Honor killings among Arabs present problems, but limit much of what bedevils other places. Arabs complain that they are deprived in Jerusalem as currently structured, but they have themselves to thank. Stopping their boycott of municipal politics would give them considerable weight in the allocation of resources.

If the Palestinians ever come to the point where they are willing to accept a reasonable compromise, I expect that some neighborhoods of Jerusalem will be part of the deal. Until then, we can put these ideas on the shelf, hope that Americans and others will ratchet down their spiritualism, and deal with issues that lend themselves to rational bargaining.

Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University