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AJE’s Melton Adult Mini School graduates 10th class

May 13, 2010 Leave a comment

SAN DIEGO–After two years of studying together, the 10th graduating class of the Agency for Jewish Education’s Melton Adult Mini-School in San Diego gathered together with their families and friends at the Lawrence Family JCC to celebrate their achievement. 

The 40 local graduates and matriculating students are part of 3,000 adult Melton students in 60 sites around the world attending graduation ceremonies this month.  The Florence Melton Adult Mini-School, a project of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is the largest pluralistic adult Jewish education network in the world. The Agency for Jewish Education in San Diego is proud to be a part of this global network.

The evening was a culmination of two years of enriching study. The graduates agreed that this is not an end to their study, but a significant entry into lifelong Jewish study.  The AJE offers Melton graduate courses, lecture series, summer programs and Yom Limmud as additional study opportunities for all in the San Diego Jewish community.

For further information on how you can sign up for classes, please contact Noah Hadas at the AJE, 858-268-9200 x102 or noah@ajesd.org.

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Preceding provided by Agency for Jewish Education

Frankie and Johnny make love, but can they make a marriage?

May 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Jeffrey Jones and DeAnna Driscoll in "Frankie and Johnny" at ion Theatre

By Carol Davis

Carol Davis

SAN DIEGO—Frankie and Johnny, two losers on the food chain of love, find each other while working together in a small greasy spoon restaurant. She is a waitress and he is the short order cook. We come across them in her New York walk-up tenement in the West 50’s after a night of lovemaking that sounds like a volcano erupting.

Both satisfied that they had satiated each other and that ‘it was good for both of them.’ she opts for a meatloaf sandwich, offers him the same and then invites him to leave. She wants and needs her space back. He on the other hand stares in amazement and wonders out loud how he could be so lucky as to have finally met his soul mate, his Kismet.

WOA! Not so fast, cautions Frankie!

Like the push me pull you of Dr. Doolittle fame Frankie (DeAnna Driscoll) and Johnny (Jeffrey Jones) jab and poke at each other all night as they dance a familiar dance. The lovemaking was great but it’s over and she wants him to leave. She only wanted a one-night stand. He on the other hand is convinced that there is more to them than that.

Life isn’t always that easy though, she retorts. Both have been hurt by their past lovers. Both are lonely. Each is afraid of being hurt again. Both are in their beyond thirty years of life and in a funny rat tat tat rapid fire exchange they keep upping their age when the subject of it comes up. They ultimately settle on the truth of their ages much to their relief.

They inadvertently share their past track records as the night wears on, with the give and take of their reasons of why he should go as opposed to why he should stay that matches their respective moods even though they wander into some uncomfortable territory; she was abused, he was married and has a prison record.

Neither is a so-called beauty and they are after all, no spring chickens. “Pretend we’re the only people in the world,” Johnny insists. Frankie pushes and continues that Johnny leave her apartment. He stubbornly resists, encouraging her to just let go of the past and let love happen.

Terrence McNally’s Frankie & Johnny in the Clair de Lune, opened in 1987 at the Manhattan Theatre Club and has been making the rounds at smaller venues over the years. McNally has also written: Corpus Christi;  Love, Valour, Compassion;  Master Class;  and Lips Together Teeth Apart to name a few. Frankie and Johnny is the perfect play for the BLKBOX venue. In fact just about all of the above mentioned, would do well in this theatre.

Co artistic directors Glenn Paris and Claudio Raygoza are indeed taking advantage of their newly renovated space at what was once dubbed 6th @ Penn and are hosting three plays running in repertory, on weekends and off nights; All In The Timing is saved for the weekends (reviewed earlier), Gamers as a late night snack, and Frankie and Johnny for the early in the week, early in the evening viewers.

Opening night at Frankie and Johnny was filled to capacity– an indication that if there is good theatre out there, it will be supported.

Director Raygoza steers his actors beautifully into the no man’s land of emotional highs and lows. Jones is all over the place as he tries to seize the moment with his persistent optimism and uncanny up beat outlook while never missing a beat to sneak in a zinger, a kiss or a touch while she least expects it.

Driscoll is perfect as the once hopeful but now rejected actress turned waitress as she matches his pleas tit for tat with sarcasm, mockery and a yeoman’s attempt at not being able to be persuaded by his arguments. She’s afraid of getting too close and not wanting to get hurt again. And furthermore, she really knows nothing about him, she argues. He could be a creep.

Ion’s production is captivating, funny, romantic and most sincere. Both Driscoll and Jones build a chemistry that’s hard to resist and you end up rooting for a happy ending, eternal romantic that I am. Aiding the romance angle is the radio dedication, late into the evening by an all night disc jockey who would still like to ‘believe in love’, by playing for Frankie and Johnny ‘the most beautiful music ever written’, Debussy’s Clair de Lune. It is a magical moment.

Glenn Paris designed the claustrophobic walk up flat to perfection. The bedroom, small, yet working kitchen and one chair living room looking out on to the street and into their neighbors windows against brick walls is just what the doctor ordered. Raygoza’s lighting design brings the moon into its full glory giving the characters another dimension. Caitlin Sussman’s sound design brings it all together.

For all you romantics out there this is a lovely way to spend an evening. Leave the youngsters at home, though. There is some frontal nudity.

See you at the theatre.

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Dates: May 10-June 1st, Sun. – Tues. @ 7:30 PM. Sun @ 4PM

Organization: ion Theatre Company

Phone: 619-600-5020

Production Type: Romantic Comedy

Where: 3704 6th Avenue, Hillcrest

Ticket Prices: $10.00-$25.00

Web: iontheare.com

Venue: BLKBOX. Off The Radar Series

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Davis is a San Diego-based theatre critic

Most insurance companies agree not to invest in companies doing business with Iran

May 13, 2010 Leave a comment

SACRAMENTO (Press Release)–California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner on Thursday announced that 1,010 insurance companies – more than 75 percent of insurers licensed to do business in California — have agreed to forgo future investments in 50 companies identified as doing business with Iran’s nuclear, energy or defense sectors.

“This is a great victory for California consumers and sends a strong message to the regime in Iran,” said Commissioner Poizner. “More than 1,000 insurance companies have done the right thing and agreed that not another dime of their investments will go towards propping up that oppressive regime.”
 

As of March 31, 2010, the California Department of Insurance (CDI) disqualified an estimated $6 billion in holdings in the 50 Iran-related companies. This estimate is based on 2008 data, the most recent available information to be analyzed.

“With Tehran continuing its headlong rush to go nuclear, with Holocaust denier Ahmadinejad threatening genocide against Israel, with millions of Iranian people seeking to free themselves from the yoke of the Ayatollahs, it is outrageous that these companies have decided that it’s business as usual and will continue to invest in companies that actively support the Iranian government,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

“Commissioner Poizner should be commended for his leadership on this issue. All we have seen from the United Nations and the Obama administration and Congress is mostly talk. In California, we have real action and tangible results.”

Insurer investment in the 50 companies on the CDI investment lists totaled $1.8 billion during 2008 and averaged approximately $1 billion per year from 2005-07. Given this record, the decision by more than 1,000 licensees to agree to the investment moratorium means hundreds of millions of investment dollars will likely be diverted from these companies in the coming years.

California has the 4th largest insurance market in the world – and as a whole, insurers are the largest investor group in the global economy, with an estimated $3 to $4 trillion in investments.

Commissioner Poizner also released a list of companies who would not agree to the moratorium. These insurance companies include MetLife, Safeco and Hartford. 

Earlier this year, Commissioner Poizner announced that 100 percent of the 1,306 insurance companies licensed in California responded to his request to provide data on their investments with companies doing business with Iran’s, nuclear, defense, and energy sectors.

Commissioner Poizner first announced his Terror Financing Probe in June 2009 to review compliance with a recent California law that prohibits insurers from investing in designated state sponsors of terror. As part of a data call issued by the Commissioner, insurance companies were required to identify their direct investments in designated sectors of the Iranian economy and indirect investments in companies doing business in those sectors. In December 2009, the Department announced that insurers reported no direct investments in Iran and therefore are in full compliance with state law prohibiting those investments. But the Department uncovered billions of dollars of indirect investments in companies doing business with the Iranian oil and natural gas, nuclear and defense sectors.

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Preceding provided by California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner

Dance based on Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ to premiere

May 13, 2010 Leave a comment

SAN DIEGO (Press Release)–“Rhapsody in Blue” & other dances will be presented by the Jean Isaacs San Diego Dance Company at 8 p.m., Saturday, May 15, and 8 p.m., Sunday, May 16, at the Don Powell Theate on the San Diego State University
campus.

Highlighting the evening will be the world premiere of “Rhapsody in Blue.”

George Gershwin’s signature work from 1924.  The piece combines elements of classical music with jazz-influenced effects. The extended piano solo is played by company musician-in-residence Steve Baker. An equal partner in this adventure is renowned guitarist Fred Benedetti, who along with Baker will create a new, original version of this much loved classic.

Featured dancers include Blythe Barton, Annie Boyer, Matt Carney, Anthony Diaz, John Diaz, Liv Isaacs-Nollet, Summer Jones, Trystan Loucado, Minaqua McPherson and Lauren Slater.

On the same program, Jean Isaacs will give new life to some of her favorite dances that were only seen once or twice. Highly acclaimed “Easter Oratorio” (2002) and “Hurt and More Hurt” (2002) return to the stage, as does her latest work “When Strangers Meet” which premiered in January at  “Cabaret Dances,” but begs for an expansive theater.

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Saturday: May 15th 8pm, (Post Performance Reception on Stage with the Company)

Sunday: May 16th 6pm; Tickets:  $45- VIP-includes post-performance reception (Saturday Night only) $30 – General Admission,  $20, Seniors/Military;  $15 – Students,  $10 – SDSU Students;  Don Powell Theater, San Diego State University For tickets go to www.sandiegodancetheater.org or 619.225.1803

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Preceding provided by Jean Isaacs San Diego Dance Company

San Diego’s Historic Places: Kate Sessions around the town

May 13, 2010 Leave a comment
 

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO—Today, Katherine Olivia Sessions (1857-1940) might have gotten an argument from conservationists who believe introduction of new plant species adversely impact the surrounding eco-system. However, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when San Diego was attempting to attract businesses and new residents, Sessions was highly admired for brightening San Diego’s horticultural palate by adding the colors of many imported plants to the normal browns and greens of the city’s native coastal chaparral.

Although she was born and educated in the San Francisco area, Sessions found her way to San Diego County where people say almost anything will grow if you just add water. She began her landscaping business in Coronado, but in 1892 moved to the mainland where San Diego’s political leadership traded her 30 acres for a nursery in what is now called Balboa Park, but then was known as City Park.

In return, Kate Sessions agreed to plant 100 trees a year to beautify the 1,400 acre urban preserve. Kate Her enthusiastic efforts eventually won her the title of “Mother of Balboa Park,” the nickname that is celebrated with the sculptor Ruth Hayward’s statue of her inside the park entrance near the corner of Sixth and Laurel.

A plaque lists Sessions occupations as those of “Scientist, horticulturalist, nurserywoman, ‘mother of Balboa Park,’” and goes on to inform that “Kate Sessions created gardens and landscapes for all to enjoy. In 1892 she began transforming the surrounding area from scrub-covered land into what is now Balboa Park. She introduced hundreds of our favorite plants and trees. Her vision continues to enrich our lives with beauty.”

Among the species Sessions planted in Balboa Park and elsewhere around the City of San Diego were Aleppo Pine, Banyan, Bird of Paradise, blue cypress, bougainvillea, Brazilian pepper tree, Carolina Yellow Jasmine, Italian Cypress, Poinsettia, Queen Palm, Star Jasmine, Twisted Juniper and Yellow Oleander. In honoring her in 1939 with its Frank Meyer Medal, the American Genetic Association said in over a half century of active work as a horticulturalist and landscape gardener, Sessions is “considered to be largely instrumental in making this great 1`,300-acre park the beauty spot that it is.”

“She has lost no opportunity to bring to her city those various plants she considered would thrive and adorn its parks and gardens,” a write-up by the American Genetic Association continued. “She was mainly responsible for bringing in the original plants of Cocos plumosa (Queen Palm) and the fine specimens in the San Diego Plaza were planted by her. She was one of the first—if not the first—to plant Bougainvillea spectabilis var. lateritia which covers so many of the houses and walls of her city with a riot of color. She first brought to public attention Ceanothus cyaneus (San Diego Mountain Lilac) and was also responsible for planting of the Succulent Garden in Balboa Park…”

East-West street names in the vicinity of Balboa Park register her influence. One never can get lost in this part of San Diego, so long as one remembers that the higher in the alphabet a street name is the farther north it is. The sequence, skipping “V” and ending at “W” includes Ash, Beech, Cedar, Date, Elm, Fir, Grape, Hawthorn, Ivy, Juniper, Kalmia, Laurel, Maple, Nutmeg, Olive, Palm, Quince, Redwood, Spruce, Thorn, Upas, and Walnut Streets.

As San Diego began readying the park for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal—and expressing the hope that as the first U.S. port north of the canal San Diego would grow into an international trade depot—Sessions moved her nursery in 1910 to the nearby Mission Hills neighborhood, where a portion of it still stands and is celebrated as the oldest nursery in San Diego.

Sessions owned a home at the northernmost tip of Lark Street – a home that subsequently was demolished by the architect William Templeton Johnson, who designed the Serra Museum in Presidio Park, the San Diego Trust and Savings Bank at 6th and Broadway downtown, and what today is known as the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park.

The home Johnson built at the Sessions site was acquired by the nearby Francis W. Parker School, a private school to the north of the property that he had helped to found. Subsequently, what is known as the Kate Sessions site was sold to UCSD physicist Charles Hicks, who recreated the William Templeton Johnson home on that property. Hicks said he believes some of the lush foliage around his home and in an adjoining canyon may be directly attributed to Sessions.

From Mission Hills, Sessions pushed on to the Pacific Beach area of San Diego, a neighborhood that really took her to heart. The 79-acre Soledad Terrace Park with a commanding view of both Mission Bay and San Diego Bay, was renamed as the Kate O. Sessions Memorial Park in 1958 to mark the just-passed centennial of her birth. Also named in her honor in this area are a residential street and an elementary school. The latter is particularly appropriate because Sessions at one time in her career was hired as the landscape architect for the city schools and also taught botany to high school classes.

At the northwest corner of Garnet Avenue and Pico Street in Pacific Beach is a state historical marker commemorating “the life and influence of a woman who envisioned a beautiful San Diego. On this site she operated a nursery and gained world renown. As a horticulturist, she was the first woman to receive the International Meyer Medal in genetics.”

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Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World.  This article appeared previously on examiner.com

Kate Sessions statue, Balboa Park, San Diego

By Donald H. Harrison

 

Self-stigma seen as major impediment to mentally ill’s participation in society

May 13, 2010 1 comment

HAIFA (Press Release)–A new intervention, the result of a collaboration among researchers from the University of Haifa, City University of New York and Indiana University, was found to reduce the self-stigma and improve the quality of life and self-esteem among persons with serious mental illness.

“Just like wheelchairs and Braille have increased social integration for people with physical handicaps, there is also a need to identify and remove the barriers to community inclusion for people with serious mental illness,” says Prof. David Roe, Chair of the Department of Community Mental Health, Faculty of Social Welfare and Health Sciences at the University of Haifa who led the study together with his colleagues from the US – Professors Paul H. Lysaker from Indiana University School of Medicine, Dept of Psychiatry and Philip T. Yanos of the Department of Psychology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, and from Israel – Dr. Ilanit Hasson-Ohayon, Yaara Zisman-Ilani and Oren Deri.

Much attention has been given to providing accessibility to all facilities intended for the public, in striving to gain equality for people with physical disabilities. But while the obstacles facing the physically challenged can be relatively easily identified, pinpointing the obstacles that persons with a mental illness must overcome is much harder.

According to Prof. Roe, earlier studies have shown that one of the central obstacles is the negative stigma attached to mental illness by society at large, which is much more powerful than the labels attached to people with other disabilities. This stigma may lead to social exclusion. Another obstacle that may result from stigma is “self-stigma,” whereby people with a mental illness adopt and internalize the social stigma and experience loss of self-esteem and self efficacy.
“People with a mental illness with elevated self-stigma report low self-esteem and low self-image, and as a result they refrain from taking an active role in various areas of life, such as employment, housing and social life,” Prof. Roe explains.

In an attempt to address this problem, study team members with the help of a research grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, developed what they term “Narrative Enhancement Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (NECT)”, which is aimed at giving people with a mental illness the necessary tools to cope with the “invisible ” barrier to social inclusion – self-stigma.

The research team ran a twenty-meeting pilot course of the new intervention at three separate locations: New York, Indiana and Israel. Following the pilot run, Prof. Roe headed a study in Israel, in which 21 people with a mental illness (with at least 40% mental handicap) completed the intervention. This study examined the effects of the intervention compared to a control group of 22 mentally ill people of similar disabilities who did not participate in the intervention. It showed that those who participated in the intervention exhibited a reduced self-stigma and, in parallel, an increase in quality of life and self-esteem.

“The intervention method that we developed helps persons with mental illness cope with one of the central obstacles that they face – self-stigma. We hope to be able to train more professionals in this intervention and root the method in rehabilitation centers and community health centers, so as to assist in recuperation processes and in community inclusion over a larger and more significant population of people with a mental illness,” Prof. Roe concluded.

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Preceding provided by the University of Haifa

Neither side seems ready for real compromise in proximity talks

May 13, 2010 Leave a comment

By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–We all know that the devil is in the details, and that the language of politics is hyperbole.

Those two platitudes will come together in the “proximity talks” between Israel and Palestine that the Americans are reminding us that they worked so hard to create. They may well doom the talks, assuming there was any chance that they could succeed. They may also foul the air between Israel and the White House and add to the problems between Israel and Palestine.

A hint of air pollution is surrounding the announcement that Israeli authorities are about to destroy some houses in East Jerusalem built “illegally.” The word in quotation marks is part of the problem. Does it mean some of the many houses built without the proper permits, or only some of those, that were built on public land meant for other purposes? The details will be lost in the shouting about the failure of Israeli authorities to issue building permits for Arabs in East Jerusalem, and counter shouting that Arab families build where they wish, without concern for roads or land claimed by others.

From the highest levels of the American government, we are hearing that neither side should take provocative steps in Jerusalem, and that the side that causes the talks to fail will pay the consequences.

That sounds like what I heard from the principal at the Highland School more than 60 years ago, shortly before she demanded that I hold out my hand and whacked it with a ruler.

This is not a calm period, right after Jerusalem Day when the hyperbole of Israeli politicians was at its height, matched by equally assertive Palestinians insisting on their rights in Jerusalem, and organizing tours in Hebrew, English, and Arabic for those wanting to see the city through their eyes.

In competing for decisions of the American umpire, the Palestinians have an advantage. Not only are they the weaker party with claims of long suffering, but the actions of Israel are easy to see. Building new homes for Jews or destroying Arab structures are exposed to satellites, as well as to Israeli and other organizations doing their best to publicize them.

Palestinian provocations have a much smaller profile, and may defy the willingness of Americans and others to look. While the Palestinians have promised, for the nth time, to avoid incitement, there is no one to my knowledge prowling their school rooms looking for maps that do not show Israel, or listening to the lessons taught under headings of geography or history.

There was an American comment about naming that place in Ramallah  after a terrorist.

Was that comment of greater volume, length, or impact than that directed at the Israeli minister who spoke about destroying illegal Arab structures?

Here we are in the messy details of who said what. Charges and hurt feelings may provide the reasons for deciding that the talks have no future.

Israel has a case, but also dirty hands, when it complains about Palestinians honoring terrorists. Those we call terrorists are the people Palestinians call freedom fighters. Israel’s dirty hands appear in the cases of two prime ministers who respectable others used to call terrorists.

Are Palestinian terrorists dirtier than Israeli terrorists? There is no answer that will gain agreement outside of those already committed to one side or another.

Brave and honest people will admit that there is dirt in every national history, and get on with the job of deciding how to move forward without  going backward with accusations.
But that isn’t politics.

Show me a politician who operates without hyperbole and I’ll show you a distinguished and cultured loser.

On one side of the continuing performance involving Palestine, Israel, and now the United States we see Palestinian leaders refusing to educate their people on the need for compromise, and demanding that powerful others make Israel give them what they want.

That strategy plays well among Palestinians and assures them support from Muslims and a host of international organizations. Palestinians may actually hope that Israel will cave in, and they will get more than they could from an up front offer to compromise.

Israelis are considerably more flexible. They have offered to share the West Bank and Jerusalem, and to allow a symbolic number of refugees into Israel. It has never been enough for the Palestinians. Their rejections, as well as continued efforts at violence, have weakened Israelis who supported those offers, and have brought to government Israelis who are making a point about not dividing Jerusalem.

Some say that is the language of negotiations, and previous offers may return to the table if Palestinians show enough signs of flexibility.

Others are saying that an uncompromising position on Jerusalem and the settlements, has become the Israeli reality.

There are Israelis who dream that Palestinian nationalism will go the way of the Dodo bird, just as there are Palestinians who dream that someone else will give them what they want.

The occupants of the White House may also dreaming when they imagine that the talks they have worked so hard to produce will deliver anything other than mutually antagonistic hyperbole.
We won’t know for some time, but the noise is already at a level that should wake everybody up and set them to serious work. But that overlooks the nature of politics, as well as the knotty problems of Jerusalem, refugees, incitement, settlements, water, sewage, and a few others. And that only covers the relatively easy case of the West Bank.

My own guess is that problems of a century or more will not bow to the hard work of the American president.

He has come on the scene when Hamas rules Gaza, those in charge of the West Bank are widely viewed by Palestinians as aged and corrupt, and the Israeli left has virtually disappeared.
Maybe we should applaud his efforts. Or pity his naiveté, and hope that he quietly sneaks back to his several other problems, without raising the already high temperature in this region by condemning one or another side for not doing what he wants.

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Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University