Archive for February 5, 2010

The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australian Jewish News

February 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Compiled by Garry Fabian 

Cooking duo eyes $100,000 prize

MELBOURNE,  3 February – Forget the stereotype of  the Jewish grandmother slaving away over bubbling  chicken soup and kneidlach in the kitchen,

Australia’s newest Jewish super chefs are Clint Yudelman and Noah Rose.

The culinary duo are the Victorian contestants on  Australia’s newest reality TV cooking show, My Kitchen Rules.

It took some organising to catch  up with  Yudelman in his family’s home in Caulfield North
to talk about the show and the prospect of fame and fortune.

The quiet but confident Mount Scopus Memorial  College graduate said he had found his way onto the cooking show after a friend applied to be a contestant.

Following phone and face-to-face interviews, the  24-year-old cooked a dish of seared tuna with Asian greens and Japanese sauce in 15 minutes to wow the casting agents.

And wow them he did, with Yudelman and Rose, 23,  selected as the only Victorians on the Channel  Seven show which premiered on February 1. In the  show five pairs travel to each others’ dinner  parties under the watchful eyes of celebrity chefs, and My Kitchen Rules judges, Peter Evans and Manu Feildel.

“It was a great opportunity to travel the country,” Yudelman said.

The pair ate at homes in Sydney, Adelaide,  Brisbane and Perth — where they stayed a few
extra days to surf and discover the culinary  delights of the Margaret River region.

After the initial dinner parties, the show moved  into a commercial kitchen, where contestants  pitted their abilities against each other.

“It was daunting and hard to be natural,”  Yudelman said of his first television experience.
“You had to pretend [the camera was] not there.”

He explained that the pair teamed up in the  kitchen because they both used to be vegetarians.

“We couldn’t eat salads all the time, so we had to get creative,” he said.

Rose agreed: “You need to be creative or it just  becomes boring being vegetarian. But it did
expose me to many different vegetables and spices.”

Eventually, however, they both returned to eating  meat, and Yudelman — who graduated as a vet last  year and has just begun practising in Brisbane —  joked that he is familiar with animals “from paddock to plate”.

Somewhat surprisingly for a couple of Jewish  boys, they list their favourite ingredient as fresh seafood. Rose opts for scallops, which he likes to serve  seared with seasonal produce. Yudelman’s  signature dish, meanwhile, is pan-fried Wagyu beef eye fillet finished in the oven, on lightly  sauteed snow peas with caramelised shallots,  sweet potato puree, red wine sauce and mushroom duxelle.

On a more Jewish note, though, Yudelman’s “dream  dinner party guests” are mostly members of the  tribe — the three lead men from the hit TV  comedy Seinfeld, Albert Einstein and Woody Allen.  Rose would also invite Jerry Seinfeld, as well as  Napoleon Bonaparte, Oscar Wilde and Tiger Woods.

It is not celebrities, however, who the boys will  have to impress to be crowned kings of the
kitchen, but their fellow contestants. And with a  $100,000 prize up for grabs, the winning chefs will certainly get their just desserts.

New Jewish School opens up in Sydney’s west

SYDNEY< 3 February – A new Jewish school, ­ the  B’nai Yakov School, ­ has opened in Sydney’s western suburbs.

Located at the Parramatta and District Synagogue,  the B’nai Yakov School is registered with the NSW  Board of Studies and will cater to children in years K-6.

Inaugural principal, Rabbi Yoseph Wernick, said:  “Although the Parramatta Jewish community has  always been small with around 100 families, it  has always been a vibrant and youthful community.

“For many years, families wishing to provide  their children with a Jewish day school education  would have to travel to Sydney’s larger Jewish  communities. Now that has changed.”

Rabbi Wernick said the school is integrating  Jewish and general studies in order to provide a Jewish knowledge base, while at the same time meeting all the requirements of the NSW Board of Studies.

It caters to students of all academic levels and  offers sports and physical education,
extra-curricular and social activities, as well  as enrichment and extension programs for gifted students.

The school is named after the synagogue’s former  minister, Rabbi Gerald (Yacov) Blaivas, who  served the Jewish community as a sofer (scribe)  and as rabbi of Illawarra Synagogue before  heading to Parramatta. He was also an advocate for Jewish children in court.

Rabbi Wernick said: “His dedication to the youth  in general, and to Jewish education in particular, is legendary.”

Countdown begins for Maccabi Games

SYDNEY, 3 February –  Maccabi Australia has  appointed Ellana Aarons to head Australia’s team  management at the second Maccabi Australia  International Games (MAIGs), to be held in December 2010 and January 2011 in Sydney.

With the tournament set to attract a healthy contingent of international competition, Aarons  said her challenge is to “better that and get  quality Australian teams on the field”.

In a bid to build the profile of the MAIGs and encourage Australian Jewry to support the event,  Aarons plans to “keep costs to a bare minimum” to entice local participation.

Aarons’ vision is for the MAIGs to not only be a  fierce international competition, but to attract  such local numbers that interstate Australian  rivalry can be rekindled at senior level by  fielding separate sides from NSW, Victoria and  Western Australia in major sports, such as basketball, football and netball.

“We would hope if there are quality athletes that would allow us to have two teams in a sport, we will be doing that,” Aarons said.

“We need to keep in mind it’s an international  competition, but in many ways for us, because we  won’t be able to get together [for training camps], our state-based sides will be stronger
anyway. Then you’re coming with mates, you’re  going to have a good time, it’s not ripping teams  apart to create new teams . it’s an opportunity to re-ignite state rivalry.”

The long-time Maccabi player and administrator’s  first task is to assemble a management committee,  before player nominations open in mid-April.

Meanwhile, MAIG’s chairman Jeff Houseman said  that 13 countries have confirmed their
attendance, with further details to be formalised  when he attends a meeting in Israel in May.

The Games will be officially launched on February 14 with a gala function at the IMAX theatre’s  Star Room, in Darling Harbour, Sydney.

Heads of delegation from the US, Canada, and  possibly South Africa and Brazil, will join
Maccabi Australia in launching the MAIGs, and  Houseman has implored Sydney Maccabi clubs and players to support the event.

While it is still early days, Houseman has  declared that preparations are “going well”.

“The sports are going extremely well,” he assessed. “It’s just a matter of countries
putting their hand up and hopefully we’ll have a better idea after the meeting. Cycling [which was not on the original list] has come on big time, which is just incredible.

“The rugby club has asked for rugby to be put on, and we’re seeing if there is any interest. If
countries put up their hands, Australia has to as well.”

Rabbi Apple reflects on a lifetime of issues

SYDNEY, 4 February – Rabbi Raymond Apple says he  is “not a great believer in people writing  autobiographies unless they’ve had a very  exciting and dramatic life, which I really haven’t.”

So, in shaping his memoir, he resisted the idea of writing a standard autobiography.

“But to amuse myself, I started writing a series  of reflective chapters about the involvements and  commitments that have been part of my life. And  it ended being around 100 such chapters,” said  the emeritus rabbi of Sydney’s The Great Synagogue.

Sorted alphabetically, these essays, from  Aborigines to Zionism, give a thematic view of
the issues that have mattered to him ­ among  them, social justice, Jewish history, the arts,
his rabbinic colleagues and sport ­ rather than a chronology of events.

“If you want to know what I did in a particular  year, you won’t find it, but if you want to know  the sort of person I am, you’ll get the impression by looking at the book,” the
Australian rabbinic doyen, who now makes his home in Israel, he said.

The book, To Be Continued, will be launched by Professor Alan Crown and the Australian Jewish  Historical Society at The University of Sydney on February 8.

Both Prof Crown and Rabbi Apple are honorary  masters of the university’s Mandelbaum House, where the event will take place.

Describing his writing style as “light-hearted  and almost self-deprecating,” Rabbi Apple
declared: “I think it’s important almost to be able to laugh at yourself.”

Rabbi Apple was educated in Melbourne, attained  his s’micha in London, and took up his post with The Great in 1972.

An Australian interfaith pioneer, he was a  founding member and joint president of the
Australian Council of Christians and Jews, and  has spoken out on social justice issues.

As suggested by the memoir’s title, Rabbi Apple  saw his departure from The Great as a chance for continuity.

Living in Jerusalem with his wife Marian, and  writing there, has inspired the rabbi, who said
he spent a lifetime enhancing others’ religiosity “to work on my own soul.”

A taste of Kosher comes to town

MELBOURNE, 5 February – Kosher foodies will have  the opportunity to sample the latest products and innovations later this month.

Eskal KosherFest Australia 2010, Australian  kashrut’s trade fair, will take place on Sunday,
February 14 at St Kilda Town Hall, with  organisers expecting around 5000 people to pass through the doors.

The exhibitors will include Australian manufacturers, importers and retailers of kosher foods and beverages.

Josh Bartak, head of the exhibition’s organising  committee, said the event allows those in the  industry to use their stands to demonstrate and  explain the development of a particular product or company.

“KosherFest gives manufacturers, importers,  distributors and retailers of kosher products the  opportunity to showcase their goods in a fun, family-friendly environment.”

Organisers have added rides to entertain children, while parents and grandparents can
enjoy food samples and live cooking demonstrations, Bartak said.

Organisers are emphasising the broad appeal of  kosher products beyond the Jewish community, and  quote figures from the Israel Trade Commission  showing that the potential market for kosher  foods in Australia is more than one million people.

Kosher products have attracted interest from  Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist communities, as well  as vegetarians, vegans and those with special dietary needs.

“This year, there is also a cheese and wine bar  for consumers to rest and kibitz [chat],” Bartak said.

Among a diverse spread of 27 exhibitors this year  are Fisher & Paykel, Yumi’s, Coles, the City of  Port Phillip and health foods retailer Bodhi Kitchen.

New Australian ambassador to Israel

CANBERRA, 5 February – Australia will have a new ambassador to Israel with Andrea Faulkner set to  take over from James Larsen in March.

Faulkner, a diplomat who has previously spent  time in Tel Aviv, has extensive experience in the  Australian foreign service. She recently served  as assistant secretary of the Department of  Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Africa branch.

She represented Australia in Vietnam, as  second-in-command of the embassy in Hanoi. She
has also worked in Paris and had a previous stint in the Tel Aviv embassy.

In announcing Faulkner’s appointment, Foreign  Minister Stephen Smith spoke highly of Australia and Israel’s relationship.

“Australia and Israel’s longstanding and warm  friendship is based on Australia’s historical
support for Israel and our shared commitment to  freedom, security and democracy,” Smith said.

Larsen leaves Israel after more than three years in the job.

Arab Bully Boy tactic threatens  UN aspiration

CANBERRA,  5 February – The Jewish community is  calling on the Australian Government to stick to  its guns in its support for Israel, despite Arab  representatives attempting to blackmail the country into changing its views or lose the  chance of a United Nations (UN) seat.

As reported in The Australian this week, Arab  League representative Hashem Yousseff, who is  currently in the country, said Australia’s  staunch support for the Jewish State will be
“taken into consideration” when Arab nations vote  on whether Australia should take a temporary UN  Security Council seat in 2013-14.

The Israeli embassy in Canberra issued a statement rejecting Yousseff’s logic.

“Any nation considering their support for a vote  on a Security Council seat should first reflect on the merits of the nominee and the contribution  that they may make to international affairs,  before considering their own self-interest,” it declared.

“Australia has illustrated its dedication to  upholding its values in the international sphere.”

Israel has already offered its support for  Australia’s bid at a seat on the UN’s most influential body.

“We believe Australia is a nation of principle  and dedication to the betterment of worldwide citizens,” the statement read.

Meanwhile, Executive Council of Australian Jewry  (ECAJ) president Robert Goot accused the 22-nation Arab League of using bullying tactics.

“He [Yousseff] should know that Australians do  not succumb to standover behaviour,” Goot said.

“It would be a good thing for Australia to have a  seat on the UN Security Council, but not if the price for obtaining it is to abandon our principles and bow to bully-boy threats.”

Goot put his confidence in the Australian Government, saying he believes Australia’s  leadership “has the moral fibre” to continue  supporting Israel, a two-state solution and peace in the Middle East.

Dr Colin Rubenstein from the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council argued Yousseff’s comments were unsurprising considering his organisation’s track record.

“Unfortunately, the Arab League has rarely  displayed any inclination to be a constructive
force for Middle East peace and their  traditionally retrograde and unhelpful strategy
of focusing on boycotts and diplomatic posturing  to isolate, condemn and debunk Israel was again  on display in Mr Yousseff’s statements,” Dr Rubenstein said.

Australia, together with the United States,  Canada and a number of micro-states, consistently opposes anti-Israel motions in the UN General Assembly.

Since the Rudd Government won its term, Australia  has changed its decision on three unbinding votes pertaining to Israel, but it remained one of only a handful of nations last year to reject the  adoption of the controversial Goldstone report on the Gaza war.

Welcome mat pulled from Israeli academic

MELBOURNE, 5 February – An invitation to an  Israeli academic to speak in Melbourne has been  cancelled  because she heads an organisation that  aided a UN report critical of Israel’s conduct during last year’s war in Gaza.

Professor Naomi Chazan, who was a member of the  Israeli parliament from 1992 to 2003, was to  address a fund-raiser at Beth Weizmann Community  Centre next week. But her invitation by the Union of Progessive Judaism was withdrawn after it  emerged that the New Israel Fund, of which she is  president, has given millions of dollars in  grants to Israeli non-government organistions  that had spoken to a UN investigation team, led by Justice Richard Goldstone.

The president of the Zionist Council of Victoria,  Dr Danny Lamm said that the invitation to
Professor Chazan was extended by an affiliate  member of his organisation.. But he said that her  association with the  New Israel Fund was “intolerable.”

“When I became aware of the  New Israel Fund’s  activities with regard to the Goldstone report, I  withdrew our participation. Organisations that  they have funded have done damage to Israel and  as a consequence we don’t want to have anything
to do with the New Israel Fund,”  Lamm added.

Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World


Egyptian Journalists Union reprimands two for contacts with Israel

February 5, 2010 Leave a comment

CAIRO (WJC)–Two senior Egyptian journalists have been reprimanded by Egypt’s Journalists Union for violating the group’s ban on contacts with Israeli officials. Hussein Serag, a veteran reporter, was suspended from his job for three months for visiting Israel, and Hala Mustafa received a warning after she conducted an interview with Israel’s ambassador in Cairo, Shalom Cohen, in her office.

Mustafa  is the editor-in-chief of the state-run weekly ‘Democratiya’ while Serag – an expert on Jewish affairs – is deputy editor of the weekly magazine ‘October’.

Egypt  became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979 but relations have remained on a mostly governmental level, and cultural exchanges and travel to Israel are discouraged by the Egyptian government.

The Journalists Union issued its ban on contacts with Israel in 1985. Mustafa is a senior member of President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party. She is also an expert on Islamic militancy and a reform advocate. She had in the past called the ban “obsolete” and out of sync with political developments in the region. She told the news agency AP that the reprimand reflected what the heavy-handedness and the meddling in politics of security agencies, as well as the country’s “ambiguous” policy toward Israel. “My field of specialty is Israel and Hebrew. If I don’t visit Israel how can I understand these people?” Serag said. “This is hypocrisy, pure and simple.”

Israeli officials said that the actions against Serag and Mustafa were evidence that Egypt was “trying to erase the presence of Israel from the Egyptian consciousness.”

Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Berlusconi in Knesset speech empathizes with Shoah and war victims

February 5, 2010 Leave a comment

JERUSALEM (WJC)–Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has expressed his empathy for Israel and the Palestinians during the final day of a three-day visit to Israel. “Today, the safeguarding of Israel’s safety and its right to exist as a Jewish state is an ethical choice and a moral obligation, against the possibility of the return of anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and a loss of memory by the West,” Berlusconi said during an address to the Knesset in Jerusalem. The Italian leader said that his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial “was like being punched in the stomach.”

“Italy is like a big brother to Israel,” he told the Israeli parliamentarians. “We are fighting and will continue to fight together with you against every instance of anti-Semitism in Europe and around the world,” Berlusconi said. “We will also stand with you in Israel’s struggle for peace and security, and work to establish democracy in nations throughout the world and defend freedom as inalienable requirements for every human being.”

On the controversial Goldstone report he said that it had “tried to incriminate Israel for its justified response to Hamas rockets…We are proud that Italy knew how to act when Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem were bombed.”

Berlusconi was moved to tears when Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu praised the courage the Italian leader’s mother Rosa had shown during World War II, the moment she saw a German policeman trying to arrest a Jewish girl on a train in Milan. “The Italian woman, who was then eight months pregnant, stood between the policeman and the girl. And without a grain of fear, she confronted the German policeman and said to him: ‘You can kill me, but look at the faces of the people on the train, I promise you they won’t let you get out alive’,” Netanyahu said in the Knesset. “With this firm statement, the Italian woman saved the Jewish girl and lit, if only for a moment, a ray of humanistic light and bravery in the great darkness that pervaded all of Europe. That brave woman was called Rosa, and one of her sons is called Silvio Berlusconi, today the prime minister of Italy.”

Berlusconi called for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, noting that the two parties, as well as the European Union, the United States and the West’s most important allies were in agreement over the need for a negotiated settlement for two states. He also reiterated his wish that Israel should become a member of the European Union.

Later on Wednesday, at a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, Silvio Berlusconi said, “Just as it is right to cry for the victims of the Shoah, it is right to show pain for what happened in Gaza.”
Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Perennial Shabbat and recalculating automobile GPS systems

February 5, 2010 Leave a comment

SAN DIEGO–“Remember the Shabbos day and keep it holy.”
The Chofetz Chaim writes that Shabbos is a sign for the Jewish people. When a store has a sign out front, you know it’s in business. When we have Shabbos, we are ‘in business.’   Faithful observance of Shabbos is part of what makes our people eternal, as the following true story submitted by Evi Reznck, Atlanta, Georgia, illustrates:

Back in the mid nineties a Jewish advertising executive in New York came up with an idea. What if the New York Times – considered the world’s most prestigious newspaper –  listed the weekly Shabbat candle lighting time each week. Sure someone would have to pay for the space. But imagine the Jewish awareness and pride that might result from such a prominent mention of the Jewish Shabbat each week.

He got in touch with a Jewish philanthropist and sold him on the idea. It cost almost two thousand dollars a week. But he did it. And for the next five years, each Friday, Jews around
the world would see: ‘Jewish Women: Shabbat candle lighting time this Friday is ___’.  Eventually the philanthropist had to cut back on a number of his projects. And in June 1999, the little Shabbat notice and stopped appearing in the Friday Times. From that week on it never appeared again.

Except once. On January 1, 2000, the NY Times ran a Millennium edition. It was a special issue that featured three front pages.

One had the news from January 1, 1900. The second was the actual news of the day, January 1, 2000. And then they had a third front page.

Projecting future events of January 1, 2100. This fictional page included things like a welcome to the fifty-first state: Cuba . As well as a discussion as to whether robots should be
allowed to vote. And so on. And in addition to the fascinating articles, there was one more thing. Down on the bottom of the Year 2100 front page, was the candle lighting time in
New York for January 1, 2100. Nobody paid for it. It was just put in by the Times. The production manager of the New York Times – an Irish Catholic – was asked about it. His answer  was right on the mark. “We don’t know what will happen in the year 2100. It is impossible to predict the future. But of one thing you can be certain. That in the year 2100 Jewish  women will be lighting Shabbos candles.

This non-Jewish production manager sensed a profound truth. Thus is the power of Jewish ritual. Thus is the eternity of our people.
“Honor thy father and thy mother.”
This commandment demands of us to be the type of parents that our children can honor and cherish. This takes much wisdom and thought, as the following words written by Rabbi
Yakov Horowitz, submitted by Getzal Segal, illustrate:

The GPS system in our automobiles, nonchalantly responds when we make a mistake or don’t follow its instructions. The same calm voice that directed us in the first place comes
back on, simply says, “Recalculating,” and helps get us back on track.

Now; imagine how we would feel and respond if the GPS was programmed to progressively inject a harsher tone of voice and raise the volume each time we missed a turn in
unfamiliar territory.

Would it help or hinder us if instead of “Recalculating,” we heard things like, “Would you PLEASE listen next time?” or “Don’t you know anything at all about driving?”

The affection that we all feel regarding our children is most certainly a positive component of our relationship with them. However, precisely because we love them so much, we
are often too passionate to calmly help them grow and learn from the inevitable mistakes they make.

Our chazal (sages) teach us that there are profound lessons to be learned from all new developments in our world.  Perhaps we ought to take a page from the makers of GPS and
do our very best to gently, privately and constructively help our kids “Recalculate” the next time they take a wrong turn or two.

Dedicated by Dr. Scott A. Magnes in honor of his parents Dr. & Mrs. G. D. Magnes.

Rabbi Lederman is spiritual leader of Congregation Kehillas Torah in San Diego

San Diego Jewish Film Festival preview: ‘Off and Running’

February 5, 2010 1 comment

 Following is an interview with Nicole Opper about her film Off and Running, to be shown at The San Diego Jewish Film Festival’s Joyce Forum –A Day of Emerging Filmmakers

By Yvonne Greenberg 

LA JOLLA, California–Nicole Opper, selected as one of  the top 25 independent filmmakers to watch in the United States by Filmmaker Magazine, grew up in San Diego,  graduated with honors from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

She will have her critically acclaimed first documentary feature film, Off And Running, which she directed, co-wrote and co-produced, shown at the AMC La Jolla on Monday, February 15 at 8:00 PM as part of the 20th Annual San Diego Jewish Film Festival’s Joyce Forum –A Day of  Emerging Filmmakers.  Off and Running will be the Main Feature of the Joyce Forum and  Opper is scheduled to appear in person.

 The main character in the film, Avery, a black teenager, is adopted by two Jewish lesbians from Brooklyn along with an Asian younger brother and a mixed race older one and raised Jewish. She is a talented runner who is closing in on being awarded a college scholarship. Avery’s re-connecting with her birth mother prompted by the search for her identity causes her to rebel against her family by skipping school, staying away from home, and looking for new peers.  This rebelling in order to connect with her black roots also causes Avery to put at risk the loss of the college scholarship. But for the first time, she feels she is exploring her identity and deciding to make sense of her upbringing and realizes the genuine love her  adopted parents have given her.

In a recent phone interview from New York,  Opper  enthusiastically talked about Off and Running and other subjects.

1. Why are you in New York and why are you so excited?

 The film Off and Running is playing theatrically right now at the IFC Center.  I am deep in the midst of press interviews and promoting the film and making sure that audiences come see it here in New York.  And today we just found out it has been held over for at least one more week.  So it will have a nice long run here.   

2.  Did you write the script and do all the filmmaking?

It isn’t exactly a script because it is a documentary,  but we did write in the sense that we were shaping the film constantly in the edit room and creating outlines.  I actually  collaborated with my teenage subject of the film, Avery, on the writing.  And she has been awarded for her work by the Writers Guild of America, so there is a degree of writing that goes on in a documentary.

 3. What is Avery doing now?

She is doing very, very well running track on a full scholarship  at Delaware State University and most recently she has been here in New York  participating in question and answer sessions for audiences at the IFC Center.  So that’s been really fun because we are always very excited to hear from her.    

4.  Do you decide where the film will run?

We are working with a distributor, First Rate Features. They are also based here.  We collectively decide what makes the most sense, but the San Diego Jewish Film Festival committed to showing the film quite a long time ago, I think even before we had distribution, I’m not sure, but I am a long-time fan of the festival in San Diego. I love everybody who runs it. I grew up there, I’ve known the festival, and have been close to it for a long time. I grew up watching films at the San Diego Jewish Film Festival as a kid.

5. Where did you go to high school here?

I went to Point Loma High School. 

6.  Did any teacher have an impact on you in filmmaking and writing?

Absolutely.  I would say that Priscilla Allen, who passed away recently and taught the acting program at Point Loma High School,  had a very deep and meaningful impact on me as an artist. She was really the person who taught me to listen to my creative impulses and follow them and believe in my own vision,  And also Larry Zeiger, who recently retired, gave me wonderful support, and he’s busy writing people to come to The San Diego Jewish Film Festival right now.

7.  What about the story made you think it would work well as a feature film?

It all came down to Avery, the charisma that she exuded and her willingness to speak so openly about even the most vulnerable and private parts of her life.  I really felt very compelled by what she had to share so early in life and I sensed that other young people were going to benefit from hearing her story and, in fact, we hear from teenagers all the time who thank Avery for participating in this film because they see themselves reflected in her and it is helpful to see yourself reflected in the media when you’re growing up, especially particularly when you are growing up in a kind of non-traditional family.

8. What are Avery and you up to now?

Avery is majoring in criminal justice and really just likes to be somebody on Law and Order.  So she’s busy with that and still racing very regularly and doing quite well as a distance runner.

I’m traveling with the film and gearing up for my trip to Mexico where I’ll be headed in a month to begin my next documentary film about three teenage boys growing up in a home full of abandoned children in Mexico, a coming of age in a different kind of family.  It’s a really special home, it’s self-sustainable, and the boys all work right there on the premises in order to support themselves and they also attend school nearby and most of them graduate and go on to lead successful lives. So we are going to explore what it is that they are doing  right and why this place has created such a beautiful family. 

9.  Has  Off and Running led to more film opportunities for you?

Yes, actually I’m developing a fiction film, a narrative film about a young African-American  Jewish woman who goes to Mexico to study abroad  for a semester after losing her mother in a car accident and she develops a powerful relationship with her home stay mom.  And I think you will see a lot of Avery in this character.  

10.  Which award had the greatest impact on you?

The most important award that we have been honored with is the Writer’s Guild of America Award simply because they recognized the value of Avery’s contribution as a teenager.  I got to stand there as her former teacher, because our relationship began as student and teacher, and to see her come full circle, enjoy the fruits of her labor, and watch people appreciate what she has given.


Yvonne Greenberg is a freelance writer based in San Diego.

U.S. more generous to Palestinians than to some Americans

February 5, 2010 1 comment

By Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–In several of these columns I have described the United States as a laggard among wealthy democracies in its support of social services. Anti-tax individualism shows itself in one of the lowest indicators among this group of countries for government outlays as a percentage of national resources. President Obama’s disappointment in health reform is only the most recent demonstration of a culture unfriendly to government programs. It is most apparent among Republicans, but it is far from absent among Democrats.

Now I am pleased to identify a significant departure from public sector stinginess. The American representative to the Palestine National Authority–Daniel Rubinstein–traveled to Bethlehem and announced another U.S. contribution, this time of $40 million, to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). According to the Palestine News Agency, “The United States is UNRWA’s largest bilateral donor. In 2009, the United States provided over $267 million to UNRWA, including $116.2 million to its General Fund, $119.5 million to its West Bank/Gaza emergency programs, $30 million to emergency programs in Lebanon, and $2.2 million to assist other Palestinians in the region.” Other Palestinians in the region are mostly those in Syria and Jordan.

Yet another positive note in the story is the openness of the State Department to people with a name like Daniel Rubinstein. The 1940s was a long time ago.

Close to last in aid to its own citizens but first in aid to Palestinians is a mark of some distinction, but not clearly a positive mark. If any people demonstrate the folly of excessive public support it is Palestinians who have lived off their claim of being refugees through four generations and 60 years.

One can argue without end about the facts and the morality as the British Mandate for Palestine became Israel. Who did what, and who rejected what compromises are questions in the dustbin of history, along with who is responsible for African slavery, and which group may claim ownership over each part of North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and other places where migrations and bloody conquests began long before recorded history, and continued through much of the history that has been recorded. One can ponder the responsibility of Arab countries and the United Nations, along with Palestinians themselves and Israel for the maintenance of the refugee phenomenon. While individual Palestinians have left the camps and done well, UNRWA remains a vital part of Palestinian lives and international politics. Dependence is the name of the game, for the organization, the refugees, the politicians of Palestine and those of other countries who accuse only Israel of responsibility.

There is no better demonstration of the American mantra that aid breeds weakness, and cuts off individual initiative before it can develop.

The paralysis of initiative appears in politicians’ efforts to deal with the dispute, as well as the help me lethargy in the neighborhoods still called refugee camps. Palestinian leaders have learned only the language of demand and expectation. It is for Israel to make concessions, and for other countries to pressure Israel. The Palestinian narrative–supported by numerous others–is that Israel has a monopoly of blame and Palestine a monopoly of justice. Nothing offered to the Palestinians has ever been enough, and we are hard pressed to cite a concession Palestinian officials have offered to Israelis in their numerous meetings.

On the same day that I read about the latest American government donation to UNRWA I received an article from a professional journal reflecting the toughness of some Americans toward their own people. The subject is the cost of emergency service for
“Individuals who Necessitate Their Own Rescue.” That is, people who through carelessness or ignorance get themselves into situations where it is dangerous and expensive to extract them. The article ponders the legal, moral, and administrative issues involved. It notes that there are states and localities that may charge for rescue, but “Charge-for-rescue policies are a bad idea.”

Israelis are familiar with the problem. Most common are overseas tourists and ultra-Orthodox youths who wander unprepared into the desert, go off the marked trails, fall into ravines, or suffer from dehydration. On our hikes we have encountered well dressed women trying to clamber down rocky slopes in high heels, and young men dressed for the study hall, without water bottles and obviously uncomfortable in the sun. During each season of flash floods there are people who try to drive through torrents that cover desert roads and must be rescued. Sending a military helicopter to such cases, or picking a lost hiker from a ravine costs the IDF thousands of dollars per hour. Politicians have raised the question of demanding payment from the careless, but none has dealt with the administrative problems or the opposition.

I recall stories from the United States of fire brigades that depend on subscriptions, refusing to fight a fire destroying the home of an owner who has not paid the dues. Should a helicopter crew refuse to pluck a survivor who cannot pay on the spot, has no receipt from rescue insurance, or left the credit card at home? Perhaps Americans can be more creative and persistent than Israelis in solving the problem.

If the person in distress could claim Palestinian status, the payment might come out of the next United States allocation to UNRWA. And will non-Palestinian welfare families be far behind?

Sharkanksy is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University

Tifereth Israel preschoolers experience a sacred moment

February 5, 2010 Leave a comment

By Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal

SAN DIEGO — I meet with our Abraham Ratner Torah School students one Wednesday a month. We usually meet in our Goodman Chapel. This month I introduced them to a new addition to our chapel, the Mishebeirach tapestry that was fashioned from the creative contributions of many members of our Sisterhood and congregation.

This fabrication of this tapestry was the brainchild and labor of love of Sharyl Snyder. Sharyl had seen a similar tapestry on display on Temple Emanu-El and thought we should have one as well. Our Mishebeirach tapestry enlivens our chapel with its very personal artwork and stands as a reminder to all who are ill or in pain that they are not alone. At Tifereth Israel Synagogue they are a member of a community that cares and prays for them.

I asked the students to find the multiplicity of Jewish symbols on the tapestry. They correctly identified many of them and shared how they thought creators of each square expressed their care and concern for those who are ill.

I also used the introduction of the Mishebeirach tapestry to explain to our students the Mishebeirach prayer we say each morning at our daily minyan and on Shabbat (“May the One who blessed our ancestors…send healing to…”).

On the spur of the moment I also said the prayer with them and asked them to share the names of their relatives and friends who were ill and pray for their recovery. It was very quiet during our prayer and I found myself surprised by how it had turned our learning into a spiritual and sacred experience.

That same evening we talked about the Mishebeirach prayer at a meeting of our Ritual Committee. We all expressed the same thought: we all believed that our communal prayers for those who are ill are efficacious and powerful even though we are not sure how they work.

The next time you are in the synagogue, please stop by the chapel to see the new Mishebeirach tapestry. I also invite you to find as many Jewish symbols as you can and try to discover their relationship to Jewish healing and life. You may also want to use the opportunity to say your own prayer for those you love who are suffering or in pain.

Even though your prayer does not guarantee that those who are suffering will be healed, I am confident that their burden will be eased by your caring.

Rabbi Rosenthal is spiritual leader of Tifereth Israel Synagogue