Archive for April 18, 2010

Adventures in San Diego Jewish History, April 18, 1954, Part VI

April 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Compiled by Gail Umeham

Yo-Ma-Co News
Southwestern Jewish Press April 16, 1954 Page 19

The talk on “Psychology and You” given by Larry Solomon at the last meeting proved both interesting and stimulating.  A question an answer period followed.

The winners of the one night bowling tournament held at Cedar Lanes were as follows:  High score for women was won by Edie Gelman, first; and Fannette Steckel, second.  High score for the men was won by Norman Gelman and Joe Kitaen, second.

The rummage sale for the benefit of the Jewish Community Center is slated for May 6th, 7th, and 8th.  All members are urged to support this sale by saving and turning in usable articles of clothing, shoes, torn hose (these are used for making rugs) odds and ends of dishes, pots, furniture…anything.  Clean out your shelves, closets and garages!!!  Call Leon Solomon, chairman, at At-4-2798 or At-1-7744.  We need rummage!!

Birdie Stodel Holds 26th Installation
Southwestern Jewish Press April 16, 1954 Page 19

The San Diego Birdie Stodel Chapter of B’nai B’rith Women will hold its 26th Installation of Officers on Thursday, April 29.  Mrs. Irving L. Wieder of Sherman Oaks, Vice President of the Southern Conference and member of the District Executive Board, Will be installing officer. She will be assisted by Reva Garvin, member of the District Executive Board.

Officers to be installed are Kay Kraus, Pres.; Doris Borenstein, 1st. V.P.; Fran Steffel, 2nd V.P.; Ann Rivers, 3rd V.P.; Jackie Lassman, Treas.; Jeanne Camiel, Rec. Sec.; Bernice Aved, Fin. Sec.; Thelma Weiss, Counsellor; Ruth Brav and Lillian Berwin, Sentinel and Guard.  Trustees are Ann Addleson, Jennie Bloomfield, Edith Bennett, Bertha Friedman, Betty Freedman, Leah Shapov, and Goldie Schusterman.

The program will feature Mitzie Steiner of TV and Radio.  Mrs. M. Binnard, life member, and second president of the local chapter, will be presented with the President’s bouquet.

Chairman of the installation is Doris Borenstein, assisted by Msds. David Starr, Ted Brav, William Penn, and Morrie Wax.

Brandeis U. Women Install 1st Officers
Southwestern Jewish Press April 16, 1954 Page 19

The San Diego Chapter of the Women’s Committee of Brandeis University will hold its first Installation Tea on Monday, May 3, at 1:30 p.m.  in the club room of the Beth Jacob Synagogue.  Mrs. Samuel Moss, a national officer, will install the officers and tell the story of women and their work for Brandeis University, the only Jewish sponsored school of higher, non-sectarian learning in America.

Sara Goodrich, president pro tem, will present Mrs. Moss.  New officers to be installed are:  Julia Stinman, Pres.; Joyce Gerelick, 1st V.P.; Grace Rittoff, 2nd V.P.; Ruth Kwint, 3rd V.P.; Elizabeth Weiss, Fin. Sec.; Loris Cohn, Sec.; {and} Betty Wohl.

Members of the Board are Roanne Oglesby, Ruth Aronoff, Ida Nasatir, Ruth Newman, Marie Berg, Sara Goodrich, Kay Kraus, and Audrey Sack.

All San Diego women are invited to attend.

Passover Seder At Beth Israel
Southwestern Jewish Press April 16, 1954 Page 19

Congregation Beth Israel will usher in the Passover Festival with worship service in the Temple Saturday evening at 6:00 p.m.  Starting at 6:30 the congregation will attend the Seder service and dinner in the Temple Center.  Rabbi Morton J. Cohn will conduct the Seder and the Temple choir, under the direction of Julian Miller, will sing the traditional melodies.

Special guests of the Temple will be Rear Admiral Thornton C. Miller, District Chaplain, and 50 servicemen of the Jewish faith.  The Seder dinner was prepared under the direction of the Temple Sisterhood and Mrs. Mack Esterson, president.

Breitbard Given Award By JWV
Southwestern Jewish Press April 16, 1954 Page 19

Edward A. Breitbard was awarded the Americanism and Patriotism Medal by outgoings Commander  Stanley  S. Yukon for his years of community work, his association with the Breitbard Foundation, and services for the welfare of veterans and service men stationed in the San Diego area.  Past Commander Ralph J. Feldman received the award on behalf of Mr. Breitbard who was unable to attend the installation of officers April 5th.

National Commander Watts of the Disabled American Veterans was the guest speaker and representatives from the American Legion, VFW, Gold Star Mothers, Fleet Reserve, Purple Heart and many Jewish organizations were present.  Past Department Commander Harry Apelman installed Louis Samuels, Post Commander of 185, and Jr. Vice President of the Department Jean Spatz installed Theresa Furst as President of the Auxiliary.

Post 185 also announced that hereafter they will meet the first and third Wednesdays of the month at the War Memorial Bldg., Balboa Park.

AAUN Plans Series To Answer Questions
Southwestern Jewish Press April 16, 1954 Page 19

American Association for the United Nations, San Diego chapter, has arranged a series of monthly evening meetings open to the public, according to Henry Wood Shelton, president.  The first of these will be held Monday, April 19, at 8:00 p.m. in the Lounge Room of the House of Hospitality in Balboa Park.  The title of the series, “People Want To Know.”

“So many excellent questions came from the audience during Mrs. Roosevelt’s address in Russ Auditorium April 3,” Mr. Shelton states, “that we felt further discussion would be welcomed.  Even though we do not have Mrs. Roosevelt here to answer them, we are arranging panels of experts to do so with audience participation invited.  We will use those questions which she did not have time to answer.  They promise a series of stimulating and informative programs.”

Next Monday’s panel will include:  Miss Anna Mansfield Clark, answer questions on U.N. agencies, Mr. Harry Horton, attorney, answering criticisms of U.N.  there is no admission charge and no offering taken.


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 regular feature until we run out of history.


Ibsen’s ‘Ghost House’ a perfect fit for North Coast Rep

April 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Richard Baird and Rosina Reynolds in Ibsen's "Ghosts" at NCR (photo by Aaron Rumley)

By Carol Davis

Carol Davis

SOLANA BEACH, California—When Henrik Ibsen wrote Ghosts in 1881 it was labeled sensational. Not in a positive way however, but shockingly and indecently sensational according to all reports! What’s so shocking to today’s audiences, I’ll venture to say, is the way women were thought of back then way before any sign of equal rights for women was ever imagined.

What shocked and horrified theatergoers in Ibsen’s day was the fact that a woman could even think of leaving her husband (because he was a drunk and abused her).  But what really shocked the sox off them was that as a result of his drunken philandering their son had inherited the sexually transmitted disease of (and we whisper this) syphilis, something that was not said out loud or even implied in polite circles. Ghosts was so controversial that it wasn’t performed until 1882 after a Danish touring company took it across the ocean and mounted it in Chicago. 

What did seem natural to them however was the fact that her Pastor could convince her to go back to her home resume her life, perhaps reform her husband while sacrificing her own happiness and pretending as if nothing had happened which she did.

Only a few smug, side comments and snide chuckles from opening night patrons at The North Coast Repertory Theatre’s excellent production of Ibsen’s Ghosts that could be heard on occasion, left no doubt that today’s women would rather be of this world than the former. 

Artistic director David Ellenstein who directs Ghosts with meticulous care, announced that those of us in the audience for this opening night performance would be the first to be hearing a new translation of Ghosts by dramaturge/translator Anne-Charlotte Harvey with input from several of the cast members. While not veering from the very essence of the play as Ibsen intended, it proved to be smooth sailing as the excellent cast made its way through some provocative, engrossing and highly charged scenes. 

At the center of Ibsen’s 19th century morality play is San Diego’s premiere leading lady, Rosina Reynolds as Mrs. Helene Alvang the abused wife.  Missing is her husband who has since died. Before we meet her though, we see the good Pastor Manders (John Herzog) thumbing through some books of hers that were left on her dining room table. In a nod of disproval, he quickly shuts and rearranges them as she enters the room. She is cool and self-assured and completely in charge. 

Their conversation veers toward an event they have planned for the dedication of a hospital honoring her deceased husband. We learn that when this event is over, she will be freed of him, his memory and any monies he might have left to his estate. She doesn’t hesitate to share with the Pastor how much she loathed her husband.

With undertones of some mutual yet suppressed passions years ago, she also expresses regret to the fact that she listened to the good Pastor when he insisted she return to her rightful place with her husband. He on the other hand, in his pompous way disregards and dismisses her feelings or any implication of wrongdoing since public and private acts should be treated differently. Then he proceeds to chide her on her choice of books.

John Herzog’s Pastor Manders came off a bit shaky on opening night seemingly not too comfortable with the dialogue between himself and Helene. While proving later on in his performance to be despicable and hypocritical, his is the character that personifies male authority, the antithesis of religious responsibility while judging everyone else’s motives but his own.  In the end, he allows himself to be outsmarted and duped by someone much beneath his class, Carpenter Engstrand.

For the moment though plans get under way for the dedication, and chitchat about whether or not to insure the new orphanage building from fire damage, take up most of his visit. She is  inclined to  insure.  He, in his pretentiousness, argues that people would doubt the power of  God in protecting the buildings as opposed to taking out and paying for an insurance policy. Once again, she is manipulated into agreeing with his opinions and nods in resignation.  The dye has been cast however.

Her primary concern, she confesses, will now turn to her artist son Osvald (Richard Baird) who has finally come home to stay after years of living away. We learn that he has been gone at her urging so he would not be influenced by his father’s ugly behavior or his mother’s desperate, yet false attempts at normalcy according to the mores of the time. 

His return both elates and depresses her. It seems Osvald has done a bit of acting out on his own in the bars of Paris and has now come home for rehabilitation, rest and recreation with his eyes turned toward their maid, Regina. Unfortunately the sins of the father are revisited on his son and the ghosts of the past are claiming both mother and son as Helene Alving is beginning to realize. 

Regina Engstrand (Aimee Burdette) the Alving maid and her wastrel father Carpenter Engstrand (Jonathan McMurty) who has also been harboring a long held secret (that with a little figuring out is hardly on the scale of the Rubik’s Cube puzzle) add to the family drama, overall nail biting complexity and hypocrisy in Ibsen’s themes.

Soon all eyes turn to Baird as he makes his first entrance as the prodigal son, Osvald. Greetings and well wishes abound. Though he looks fit and trim, he struggles to put on a happy face while underneath something is literally eating him alive both physically and mentally.

A better match of contrasts couldn’t have been made in heaven than the one between Baird and Reynolds. She is stoic, self-assured, strong, attentive to almost smothering and confident in her behavior toward her son. Hers is a stellar performance in controlled anger, motherly compassion and forgiveness all of which will be tested as her son’s health degrades from robust to murmurings of help to babbling, to drooling to failure.

Baird, who is also one of San Diego’s leading, young and powerful forces to be reckoned with, comes off as smug but uncertain, gallant but searching. His downward slide to failing health due to the wickedness of his disease comes a little too fast but not without a sympathetic and heart rendering approach. When he asks his mother to give him the drugs that will end it all for him, it’s almost too much to comprehend. Both deserve kudos for their performances.

In the meantime Engstrand wants his daughter to leave the employ of the Alving’s and help him start up a sort of retreat for homeless sailors where she would be the bar maid. Her sights are set on young Osvald as are his for her. Panic sets in as the Pastor and Mr. Alving warn against any union between the two.

It seems that Regina is the illegitimate daughter of Helene’s wayward husband and their then maid, Engstrand’s wife.  It was she who arranged for Engstrand to adopt the baby and bring her up as his own daughter. Unfortunately and with much chagrin, Helene Alvang notices that young Alvang has the same wandering eye and pleasures of imbibing she found in her husband, his father years ago.

Now in the employ of the very same household as her deceased mother, young Regina is the object of Osvald’s attentions. Aimee Burdette is perfectly cast as the cool and calculating Regina, who helps young Osvald along in his attraction to her as she flirts and toys with him. She is beautiful, attractive and for someone in Osvald’s state of mind, more than desirable. 

Engstrand, who wants to make the most of a delicate situation when he sizes up the moment, uses bribery and coercion in explaining to the Pastor and Mrs. Alvang why he needs his daughter back with him. 

Jonathan McMurtry, another of San Diego’s stalwarts plays the part of Carpenter Engstrand with all the relish his malleable facial expressions can muster. Looking almost like a clown in Jennifer Brawn Gittings patched worked laden jacket, makeshift lift on the soul of one of his shoes and fiddling with a worn out hat, McMurtry is his usual elfish self, bringing some much needed comic relief and overplaying the in your face hypocrisy of the times.

Marty Burnett’s period set, as we have all grown accustomed to expect these days, is spot on perfect with a large bay window in the rear showing the passing of time, storm showers and fire raging which are effectively lit by Matt Novotny lighting design. Chris Lussmann’s sound design rings the passing of time and Jennifer Brawn Gittings gowns for Ms. Reynolds are stunning complimenting her slim figure while emphasizing the constricting times. In stark contrast to Pastor Manders’ prim topcoat and black trousers to Osvald’s youthful brown tweeds Gittings has also captured the era perfectly.

Ibsen’s Ghosts as performed by the outstanding cast of five, under David Ellenstein’s deft direction, is one production you won’t want to miss. As classics go and this is a good one albeit  is a bit dated, this new translation makes it accessible to all who are interested.

See you at the theatre.
Dates: April 10-May 2, 2010
Organization: North Coast repertory Theatre
Phone: 8589-481-1055
Production Type: Drama
Where: 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Suite D, Solana Beach, Ca
Ticket Prices: $30-47.00

Drama critic Davis is based in San Diego.

Hillary Clinton sends Israel best wishes for Yom Ha’atzma’ut

April 18, 2010 Leave a comment

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release)–Congratulations Israel on 62 years of independence! This is an opportunity to celebrate all that Israel has accomplished and to reaffirm the bonds that unite our two nations – our strategic partnership, our shared values, and our common aspirations.

You know, in 1948, it took President Truman only 11 minutes to recognize your new nation. And ever since, the United States has stood with you in solidarity.

Since my first visit to Israel nearly thirty years ago, I have returned many times and made many friends. And I have shared your pride in seeing the desert bloom, the economy thrive and your country flourish. I have a deep personal commitment to Israel. And so does President Obama. Our nation will not waver in protecting Israel’s security and promoting Israel’s future.

That is why pursuing peace and recognized borders for Israel is one of our top priorities. We believe it is possible – indeed necessary – to achieve a comprehensive peace in the Middle East that provides Israelis, Palestinians, and all the people of the region security, prosperity, and the opportunity to live up to their full God-given potential.

Israel today is confronting some of the greatest challenges in its history, but its promise and potential have never been greater. The United States will continue to stand with you, sharing your risks and helping shoulder your burdens, as we face the future together.  –Hillary Clinton

Preceding provided by U.S. State Department

Jewish refugees from Arab lands may be a factor in overall peace settlement

April 18, 2010 Leave a comment

By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–This is the time of Israel’s Memorial Day and Independence Day. Appropriate to the season, I’ve received two e-mails with items that some may see as a bit too assertive for their taste. Yet they tell important elements of the Israeli narrative. It is not the whole story of the Middle East, but it is one that is as worthy of consideration as any Palestinian narrative.          part one        part two       part three      part four          part five

The five chapters of youtube deal with Jewish refugees from Arab lands. It’s a story of unknown weight in the unresolved disputes between Israel and Palestine plus other Muslim countries. Jewish refugees get far less attention than Palestinian refugees. Some may wonder if their story is nothing more than a chorus of the disaffected, like African-Americans who demand compensation for slavery. 

Should the suffering of Jewish refugees be ignored only because they have become integral to Israeli society, with countless stories of success, as well as comprising some 50 percent of the population (a statistic that is increasingly difficult to calculate due to substantial intermarriage)? If Jewish refugees are largely ignored, why not also ignore the claims of Palestinians who call themselves refugees? Does the failure of Arab countries to absorb them justify political prominence and their continued weight on the budgets of international aid organizations?

The production of these chapters is dated by the snippet devoted to the Iranian-born President of Israel, Moshe Katsav. Here he is presented as what became of an impoverished refugee. The less attractive Katsav story was yet to be told. 

The second item deals with the disproportionate treatment given to allegations about Israeli violations of human rights. No less instructive than the speaker representing United Nations Watch is the response of the chairman of the UN Human Rights Council. He considers the young man’s accusations to be nothing more than an intolerable insult against the fine work of the UNHRC.  

Some Jews want the return of assets that had to be left behind elsewhere in the Middle East. Many want only a recognition of the injustice done to communities that existed for as long as 2,500 years in places that came to be dominated by Muslims. Some want to cancel the obligations owed to Jews as the equivalent of canceling the obligations said to be owed by Israel to the Palestinians.   

Memorial Day and Independence Day will provide the Israeli government more of a respite before answering the renewed demands of the White House and State Department for responses about negotiations with the Palestinians. The Americans want to hear about easing the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, West Bank settlements, and Jerusalem. 

As I wrote this note, I was hearing the rehearsal in the elementary school yard next door for the evening ceremony that begins Memorial Day. These are days that prompt some Israelis to harden their postures with respect to Arabs, and others to insist even more forcefully on the need for an accommodation. 

Justice will be elusive. The strengths of competing narratives may prevent any accommodation now, as they have for more than a century that has seen occasional spurts of intense debate, and longer periods of international indifference. Neither Barack Obama’s well measured reasoning, nor Hillary Clinton’s screeching may accomplish  what has eluded generations of their predecessors.  

Ed Koch and several other prominent Americans have weighed in against what they perceive to be the White House’s disproportionate pressure on Israel. A common message is that the administration has insulted a friend while coddling those who support terror.

A month ago, General David Petraeus was quoted as saying that Israeli intransigence was endangering American troops in Asia. Either he had an epiphany, or he got a message from here on earth. More recently he has said that “the men and women who walked or were carried out of the death camps, and their descendants . . . helped build a nation that stands as one of our great allies. The survivors have, in short, made our country and our world better, leaving lasting achievements.”

Perhaps we are ratcheting down from intensity, and heading for  indifference.
Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University

San Diego’s historic places: Old Mission Dam

April 18, 2010 1 comment

Old Mission Dam

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO–Old Mission Dam, a.k.a. Padre Dam, is celebrated as both a California Historic Landmark and as a National Historic Landmark for being one of the first irrigation projects on the West Coast of the United States, having been built between 1813 and 1816 by Franciscan padres and Kumeyaay laborers.

However, what some people think of as an “early” project can also be thought of as a “late” project–a monument to the procrastination of the Spaniards who laid claim to California 271 years of the dam began.

It was 1542–only 50 years after Columbus’ voyage of discovery to America–that the Portuguese-born Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo laid claim to San Diego Bay and environs for Spain. And then what great Spanish accomplishments in California did history record? None, nada.

For 60 years, California was not visited again by Europeans. The Kumeyaay may have remembered as nothing more than a bad dream the arrival of Cabrillo’s small fleet in San Diego, his planting of the Spanish standard on a strip of land today known as Ballast Point, the naming of the port as “San Miguel,” and Cabrillo sailing away soon afterwards

Then in 1602, another explorer, Sebastian Vizcaino, pulled into the port. As the latitude recorded on his instruments was slightly different than that which had been reported in Cabrillo’s log, Vizcaino decided he had found a different port than “San Miguel.” So he named the place “San Diego.” And then what were the accomplishments that Spaniards brought to this land? Nothing, nada.

For another 167 years, the rhythms of Kumeyaay life followed familiar courses, with generation after generation following the San Diego River to migrate from their summer homes in the mountains to their winter homes along the coastline, and then retracing their steps along the river’s banks.

It was not until 1769–only seven years before colonists on the other side of the North American continent issued their Declaration of Independence from the mother country of England–that the Spaniards, whose empire was far vaster than their resources, bestirred themselves to create a permanent settlement in California. 

In large measure they had been prompted by the threats posed by the British and Russians who were exploring the Northwest Pacific Coast. If Spain did nothing to reinforce its claim to California, it was possible that one of these other European powers might take it away from them.

Thus Father Junipero Serra and the soldier Gaspar de Portola were dispatched on an expedition of colonization from Mexico (then known as New Spain) up to California.

They went by foot, while other elements of the expedition came by ship, anchoring approximately in the area of San Diego Bay today called Spanish Landing. They all marched to a promontory today known as Presidio Hill, where Father celebrated mass and founded a town on July 16, 1769. The Presidio seemed an ideal place to begin:

it was high enough to command a defensive view of the surrounding area; it was close to the fresh waters of the San Diego River, and there were two coastal Indian villages nearby with plenty of souls to whom Christianity could be taught.

After five years, the Spaniards decided to separate the soldiers of the Presidio from the Padres and the Kumeyaay Indians. This was done by moving the mission upriver to its present location.

In 1797, the Spaniards built Fort Guijarros (cobblestones) in the Ballast Point area as a defensive measure against possible invasion from the sea.

Those three facilities–the presidio, the mission and Fort Guijarros– essentially were the sum of Spanish settlement in San Diego. The mission was responsible for producing the food for these tiny outposts. San Diego being semi-arid, with droughts common, the Spaniards needed a reliable source of irrigation to assure that their crops and livestock received all the water they needed.

A plaque at Mission Trails Regional Park identifying the Mission Dam and Flume as a California Historic Landmark advises that “after many attempts dating back to 1774 to provide a reliable source of water for crops and livestock for Mission San Diego de Alcala a dam and flume system was finished between 1813 and 1816 by Indian laborers and Franciscan missionaries to divert waters of the San Diego River for a distance of 6 milies. The aquedeuct system continued in existence until 1831 when constant flooding caused the dam and flume to fall into disrepair. They were not repaired due to the secularization of the missions.”

Another marker reports that Old Mission Dam was “part of the first permanent irrigation project by Padres and Indians in California.” That wasn’t the original wording of the marker placed by the Daughters of the American Revolution. That described the dam as having been built by “white men” and Indians–language that Larry Stirling–a 20th century San Diego city councilmember, Republican state legislator and Superior Court judge–protested as racist. As a result the stone marker was redone.

The dam across the San Diego River is 224 feet long, 14 feet high, and measuring at some points 12 feet thick. It is an agglomeration of stones, cement made with lime from nearby deposits, and adobe tiles. Today, water flows through the open area once controlled by a wooden floodgate.

River waters trapped behind the dam were diverted to the west to the wheel of a grist mill and a settling pond, where some of the sediment would be left behind.

Then it entered a tile flume which by gravity flow took it on a journey of some five miles to the fields of the mission. Waters not used for irrigation continued on to the mission itself where they could be utilized for drinking and washing.

By 1816, the dam was completed, but its status as a Spanish accomplishment would be short-lived. In 1821, revolution ended Spanish rule in Mexico, to which California belonged. News traveled slowly from Mexico City back then and it wasn’t until 1822 that San Diegans learned they were no longer subjects of Spain but citizens of Mexico. Soldiers who were required to live at the Presidio and at Fort Guijarros
were given their liberty to settle the land. What today is known as Old Town San Diego sprang up below the Presidio.

Angry over the vast lands controlled by the Catholic Church, the new government of Mexico stripped the church of many of its properties, including those of San Diego Mission. This secularization led to people moving away from the mission, to the diminution of its work force, and eventually to the physical deterioration of both the mission and the dam. A brief 15 years after the dam was completed, a flood put
it out of commission, leaving as a testament to the Spaniards’ 280-year history in California the lesson of “too little, too late.”

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World.  If there is a San Diego County historic place you would like him to write about, pelase contact him at  The preceding article appeared previously on