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Short sermon on an athletic field

April 25, 2010 Leave a comment
Sermon on an athletic field

 

 4S RANCH, California — Rabbi Baruch Lederman of Congregation Kehillas Torah in San Diego spotted this sign on the fence of an athletic field in this San Diego County community.

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Schuster wins award for management of Sha’ar Hanegev

April 25, 2010 1 comment

 

Alon Schuster receives award from Interior Minister Eli Yishay as Treasury Minister Yuval Steinitz looks on. Photo: Guy Assayag

 
By Ulla Hadar

Ulla Hadar

JERUSALEM–In a time when not a day passes without a story of corruption or a new investigation in the local authorities and in the parlamentary offices, it is my pleasure to report the award handed this week to Alon Schuster, the mayor of Shaar Hanegev -The Orderly Management Award of 2009.

The recognition is authorized by the Interior Ministry and presented to local municipalities. There are very difficult  criteria to receive this award, rules set and worked out by the Interior Ministry.

These criteria deal with orderly parliamentary procedures.

On the administrative level the Interior Ministry checks that the work procedures are carried out according to the law, how the management of the staff is run and the reliability of work permits and licenses.

On the monetary level the Interior Ministry checks the balancing of budgets and that the municipality activates a proper money process.

The award and recognition was handed to Alon Schuster at a small ceremony in the Building of Nations. This recognition has for several years been awarded to the municipality of Sha’ar Hanegev.

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Hadar is Sha’ar Hanegev bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

Gevalt! Germans at POW camp in South Carolina

April 25, 2010 Leave a comment


By Cynthia Citron

Cynthia Citron

HOLLYWOOD–There is hardly any ethnic or religious group that is not maligned in Holy Ghost, Jon Tuttle’s World War II-era drama now having its west coast premiere at Theatre of Note in Hollywood.  Even the Amish, for God’s sake!

But what can you expect at a prisoner of war camp in South Carolina where the German prisoners are called “niggahs” and the African-Americans who guard them are called “schwartzes”?

There is a black sergeant (Phil C. Curry) and a Nazi lieutenant (Brad C. Light) who bully everyone indiscriminately.  The Nazi lieutenant, in fact, keeps discipline in the camp by hanging dissenters—and occasional exposed Jews.  These are the “holy ghosts” of the camp, tolerated by the American camp commander (Doug Burch) because these sudden ominous disappearances ensure that the other prisoners won’t make trouble.

The Nazi lieutenant justifies his political views by continually pointing out American injustices.  “Every country has its own Jews,” he says.  “The blacks are America’s Jews.”

 Into this toxic environment comes a conscientious objector, an “ex-Jew” named Bergen (Dan Wingard),  who considers religion an “intellectual diversion.”  Bergen is charged with teaching the prisoners about American culture: art, literature, history, and civics.  Improbably, he decides that the best way to do this is to put on a play, “Abe Lincoln in Illinois,” with the prisoners doing the acting.  It doesn’t seem to occur to him that the message might be lost among some 200 prisoners who neither speak nor understand English.

To play the part of Lincoln, Lt. Bergen chooses Cetnik (Rick Steadman), a sweet-tempered prisoner identified as “a Slav, or a Serb, or something.”  This gives Bergen the opportunity to declaim, with lavish gestures, some of Lincoln’s political speeches, and Cetnik to imitate him with incomprehensible mouthings and elaborate mimicry.  This, I think, is supposed to be the funny part.

Eventually, Cetnik simply walks away from the camp and Henry (Rich PierreLouis), the African-American private who was responsible for guarding him, dashes off to recapture him.  They have various adventures in racist, hillbilly America, equally destructive to both of them.  Doug Burch, who plays the camp commander, also plays a self-righteous Christian, a minister who delivers a quietly menacing polemic, and at one point the fugitive and his captor wind up together in a small boat, rowing down the river and philosophizing like Huck Finn and Jim.

Meanwhile, back at the camp, Lt. Bergen is having his own crisis of faith and rethinking his own “ex-Jewishness.”

This over-long (nearly three hours) not very subtle dissertation on bigotry and racism is also a cautionary tale about communication, and the lack thereof.  There is even an old woman (Reena Dutt) who commiserates with Henry in Gullah,  which provides him with little comfort and the play with little forward motion.  It, like many other scenes, seems to have been added just to insure that no ethnic group is overlooked.  (The play even includes a Quaker who has been ex-communicated from the Society of Friends.)

The cast does the best it can with its wobbly material, however.  Especially good are Dan Wingard, Doug Burch, Rick Steadman, and Rich Pierre-Louis, who bring real zeal and some humanity to the proceedings.  And director Michael Rothhaar keeps things moving apace, although he would have done a better service by cutting some of it.

Dan Mailley’s set design, in contrast, is cut to the bone.  It consists of benches and chairs reconfigured to create a mess hall, a riverboat, and even a pickup truck bouncing along a nighttime road.

Holy Ghost does offer a lot to think about.  But unfortunately, not very profoundly, and not for very long.

Holy Ghost will continue at Theatre of Note, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., in Hollywood, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. through May 30th.  Call (323) 856-8611 for reservations.

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Citron is the Los Angeles bureau chief of San Diego Jewish World

Scuds to Hezbollah indicate true purposes of Iran and Syria

April 25, 2010 Leave a comment

By Alex Liff

Alex Liff

SAN DIEGO–Following is an open letter sent to U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Friday, April 23:

Dear Senator Feinstein,

 I am a long time resident of California, a citizen of the United States, a voting and an involved member of your constituency.   I am writing to you today to express concern and solicit your explanation regarding an aspect of a statement that you made yesterday in connection to some very troubling developments in the Middle East.   According to published reports, yesterday you stated the following: “”I believe there is a likelihood that there are Scuds that Hezbollah has in Lebanon. A high likelihood. The rockets and missiles in Lebanon are substantially increased and better technologically than they were and this is a real point of danger for Israel.” 

As a senior member of Senate and the head of the important Senate Intelligence committee your pronouncements carry a lot of weight and importance.  So the statement above was timely, right on the money and critical for calling the world’s attention to this   new, dangerous and very destabilizing development.  As you are well aware the transfer of this type of technology into Hezbollah’s hands has been significant in several respects:

It has once again shown that the Syrian regime, which initiated this transfer, has no interest in playing a constructive role in the region and contrary to Senator Kerry’s pronouncement a few weeks ago, is not committed to peace.  Therefore, I call on you to object to President Obama’s plan to send our ambassador to Damascus after a 5 year absence.

For the first time in history, a purely terrorist group, Hezbollah, has acquired weapons that can cause massive, indiscriminate civilian damage and do so very quickly.  As you very well know, all of Israel is now within the terrorists’ bull’s-eye. 

This transfer has crossed the so called Israeli Red line which was clearly stated on numerous occasions and is bound to elicit a justified reaction from Israel, whose government has a duty to protect its citizens from this new mortal danger.  This step has significantly increased the chances for a new and significant Middle East conflict. 
 

Given the above you are to be applauded for coming out with the statement denouncing this development and focusing attention on it.   I support you actions in this regard completely and unequivocally. 

 However you then proceeded to make the following statement which frankly was quite baffling  “There’s only one thing that’s going to solve it, and that’s a two-state solution”. 

The above statement was not accompanied by any kind of explanation and so one was left to fill in the blanks.  In the statement you essentially linked the aspirations of an Iranian financed, created, supported, radical terrorist Lebanese Shia organization with the goals of the Sunni Palestinians and their ongoing conflict with the state of Israel.   In other words if one is take your words literally, all that needs to happen to resolve this bit of an issue is the establishment of the Palestinian state. 

With all due respect Senator, I beg to differ with your premise and propose that the statement above is completely erroneous, short sighted and does nothing to help us deal with real issues at hand.  As an ordinary citizen of course I don’t have access to the kind of intelligence information that you have at your disposal but I am a student of history and have been following Middle East for a long time now.  Here are the facts as I see them.

Hizbollah is radical Islamist Shia organization which was created by Iran shortly after the 1979 revolution that brought to power one of the most extreme, radical, hate mongering regimes in the world today.

The burgeoning Shia majority in Lebanon had long been dispossessed and marginalized in Lebanon by the ruling Sunni and Christian elites who were typically wealthier, better educated and had more opportunities for advancement.  So when the Iranian mullahs beckoned they found a very willing audience of their Shia cousins who were all too happy to link forces with them. In turn, for Iran, the Shia of Lebanon represented a wonderful opportunity to expand their influence in the region while starting to build a deadly noose around their main adversary, the state of Israel.

Initially Hizbollah’s main focus seemed to be on resisting Israel’s presence in southern Lebanon but that factor ceased to exist after Israel’s hasty withdrawal in 2000.   Nevertheless, Hizbollah never stopped its subversive activities in Lebanon or its Iranian financed, Syrian facilitated arms build up. 

In fact most of the atrocities committed by Hizbollah never had anything to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but were ordered and executed on behalf of their masters in Tehran who had their own regional goals.  We all remember the Beirut marine barrack bombings, the Khobar tower attacks, the Jewish center attack in Argentina and the recent Hariri assassination in Beirut.  None of these events had anything to do with the desire to promote a separate state for the Palestinians. 
If Hizbollah is so concerned about the Palestinians they could start by helping the hundreds of thousands if not millions of them who are housed in squalid refugee camps.  In fact the opposite is true, the Lebanese have completely disenfranchised these folks, denying them basic rights and keeping them locked up in miserable conditions.  There has been no attempt whatsoever to integrate, resettle or even improve the basic daily conditions of that group.  The truth is that for Hizbollah and the rest of the Arab world, Palestinians are simply a convenient lever to use to continue to question Israel’s legitimacy. 

I can go on, but hopefully these are all facts familiar to you and your staff.  The point is that there is absolutely no connection between the Sunni Palestinians’ desire for a state and Hizbollah’s Iranian dictated objectives.  Their goal as stated on numerous occasions by head of Hizbollah, Sheikh Nasrallah as well as President of Iran, Ahmadinajed is the complete and final destruction of Israel.  In fact, Nasrallah was quoted on several occasions, stating that his utmost wish was for all Jews to gather in Israel so that Hizbollah can eliminate them all once and for all.  I hope you would agree with me, those are not the words of a man, whose goal is a peaceful resolution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.

Senator Feinstein, I hope you will agree with me, the historical facts do not support in any way your statement linking the resolution of the Hizbollah issue with the two state solution.  Stating so is misleading, confusing and flat out wrong.  These types of statement prevent us from dealing with and resolving real issues in the region but worst of all they detract us from focusing on the real problems at hand. 

As a senior and powerful senator, you are privy to much information which is not available to regular citizens like myself.  All I can do is look at the historic facts and interpret them intelligently.  As the old saying goes, “the truth may not always win, but it is always right”.   The truth, as underpinned by recent undeniable history, is that Hizbollah, is nothing but an extension of a dangerous, fanatical, radical Iranian region whose goal is the total and complete annihilation of one of our staunchest and most important allies, Israel.  The latest moves by the Hizbollah is just one of the numerous steps it has taken to bring that goal closer to the reality.  That reality has absolutely nothing to do with the Palestinian issue or the so called two state solution. 

Senator Feinstein, it is my humble request that you look at the facts carefully and not fall into the common traps of repeating old, overused mantras, which have nothing to do with reality.  As Iran is racing to acquire game changing nuclear technology and Hizbollah is arming to the teeth, it is imperative that the leaders of our great country take the time to understand the situation and make conclusions based on actual facts and history, not fiction or empty one liners. 

I thank you for your attention and look forward to hearing your views on this topic.

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Liff, born in the Soviet Union and a former resident of France, has an MBA from Stanford with a Global Management certificate.  A well-traveled student of the Middle East, he currently resides in San Diego.

San Diego’s historic places: upper Presidio Park

April 25, 2010 1 comment

Statue presented in 1970 by Mexico's President Gustavo Diaz-Ordaz

 
By Donald H. Harrison

 

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO—Although it was a gift in November 1970 from Mexico’s President Gustavo Diaz-Ordaz, it is not difficult to imagine the sculpture of a Mexican on horseback at the upper edge of Presidio Park as a scout for the Californios trying to determine whether the American troops at nearby Fort Stockton are vulnerable to counter-attack.

After the outbreak of war between Mexico and the United States in 1846, a detachment of U.S. Marines under the command of Samuel F. DuPont disembarked from the sloop U.S.S. Cyane at La Playa near the mouth of San Diego B ay and then marched for the Mexican settlement that today is known as Old Town.

Initially, the troops did not meet any resistance and were able to raise a flag in Old Town’s central plaza. However, skilled riders who remained loyal to Mexico established themselves in November on a bluff overlooking Old Town, and began firing down upon the soldiers and inhabitants friendly to the American cause. U.S. troops were sent up Presidio Hill to capture the promontory. The Californios, deciding to fight another day, melted away.

Initially called Fort DuPont, the vantage point overlooking Old Town later was deemed important enough to name for the overall commander of the U.S. forces on the Pacific Coast, Commodore Robert Stockton—the same man for whom the midsized California Delta city of Stockton was named in 1849.

Although the Californios did not make their stand on Presidio Hill, they would fight an important battle – and win – in December 1846 when they met forces led by Gen. Stephen Kearny at San Pasqual. The scout Kit Carson brought news of the battle to Stockton at his headquarters in Old Town, prompting the commodore to send a relief column to rescue Kearny. Eventually American forces subdued the Californios and a surrender was signed at Cahuenga in modern-day North Hollywood.

Today Fort Stockton recalls its history as the place of encampment for a portion of the Mormon Battalion, a detachment of 500 men accompanied by 80 wives and children that began a march from Council Bluffs, Iowa, in July 1846, and reached San Diego on July 29, 1847—the trek of approximately 2000 miles being the longest overland infantry march in history.

Around a high flagpole, a circle of artworks and plaques tell the remarkable story of the Mormon Battalion, whose members volunteered to fight for the United States as a way of showing their loyalty to the American nation, notwithstanding the persecution of their church members by those enraged by the practice of polygamy.

A mural executed by a Depression-era artist employed by the Works Project Administration depicts members of the Battalion on the march from Council Bluffs and a heroic sculpture focuses on one of the soldiers, rifle slung over his shoulder and the top of a Bible peeking out of a pocket in his knapsack.

Although the Mormons arrived in San Diego shortly after the Capitulation at Cahuenga—and therefore did not have to engage in hostile action—the plaque salutes the unit for having “helped to win California for the Union and open a new road to the Pacific over desert waste.” In wartime, soldiers who volunteer to fight, but who are prevented from doing so by circumstances far beyond their control, are considered as worthy of honor as those who actually encountered hostilities.

It was the long trek of the Mormons that was considered most remarkable, the plaque beneath the mural asserting: “History may be searched in vain for an equal march of infantry according to U.S. military records.”

The plaque by the statue of the soldier elaborates: “This expedition helped win the war, prepared the way for colonization of the southwest, opened new trade routes and strengthened distant national boundaries.”

A little-known portion of the Mormon Battalion’s history was how women were enlisted to serve as laundresses. A marker, etched with a camp scene with the women at work, tells some details:

“Mormon women were anxious to reach the glorious west, and any means offered seemed an answer to the prayer to help them on their way,” it reads. “When it was learned that four laundresses would be allowed each of the five companies the wives of the soldiers made application and 20 were chosen. Men who could meet the expenses were permitted to take their families. Hence nearly 80 women and children accompanied the battalion. They endured the hardships of the journey, knowing hunger and thirst. Four wives, Susan M. Davis, Lydia Hunter, Phebe D.P. Brown, and Melissa B. Coray , traveled the entire distance arriving in San Diego 29 January 1847. Mrs. Hunter gave birth to a son April 20, 1847, the first LDS child born in San Diego. She died two weeks later.”

According to another plaque, Fort Stockton was abandoned as a military outpost on September 28, 1848.

Between the figure of the Mexican horseman and the soldiers of Fort Stockton lies another favorite landmark in the upper reaches of Presidio Park: the colonnaded, partially-roofed pergola, which is a popular San Diego venue for outdoor weddings.

The spot not only is romantic but is historically fitting: in the years following the Mexican-American War, intermarriages between women and men of the two nations became quite common in San Diego.
 
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Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World.  This article appeared previously on examiner.com