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January 22, 2017 / 24 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles Jewish’

Pittsburgher Rebbe In L.A.

Friday, June 1st, 2012

The Pittsburgher Rebbe dancing at a Lag B’Omer bonfire at a Los Angeles cheder. (Photo credit: Rabbi Arye D. Gordon)

With bows and arrows, and around a bonfire, parents and children joined the Pittsburgher Rebbe on Lag B’Omer in joyously singing “Bar Yochai,” “V’amartem” and “Amar Rabbi Akiva.” Rabbis, teachers and members of the Los Angeles Jewish community – with their spouses – joined the celebration.

Like most chassidic rebbes, the Pittsburgher Rebbe conducted a tisch following the dancing to mark the day. Tisch attendees received shirayim and berachos, heard a d’var Torah and, as is the custom, observed the upsherin of three-year-old children. The rebbe cut the first lock of hair.

The Pittsburgher Rebbe plans to return to L.A. for next year’s Lag B’Omer celebration.

Rabbi Arye D. Gordon

Rofeh Cholim Cancer Society Reception

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Naomi and Chaim Manela, and Lorraine and Steve Spira recently hosted the annual Rofeh Cholim Cancer Society (RCCS) reception in Los Angeles. RCCS supporters throughout the Los Angeles Jewish community were in attendance.

Guest speaker Rabbi Dr. Joel Rosenshein of RCCS spoke about the issue of the emotional trauma of cancer and its effects. Executive Director Rabbi Yosef Golding articulated the significant role played by the RCCS in assisting those in need.

(L-R) Guest speaker Rabbi Dr. Joel Rosenshein; reception host Chaim Manela; and RCCS Executive Director Rabbi Yosef C. Golding. Photo credit: Arye D. Gordon

It is through the beneficence of the Jewish community and RCCS that cancer-stricken patients can maintain their health insurance, thereby enabling them to maintain their coverage and freeing them from the financial burdens and subsequent emotional stress that can ensue.

Those who have benefited from RCCS’s assistance shared the sentiments of one fortunate recipient of the society’s aid, who said, “Saying thank you to RCCS is not enough. It was a miracle that RCCS stepped in and took care of what had to be taken care of.”

Rabbi Arye D. Gordon

Zion Orphanage Jerusalem Still Growing

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Members of the Los Angeles Jewish community recently attended a reception for the Zion Orphanage Jerusalem. Founded over 100 years ago by Rabbi Abraham Yochanan Blumenthal, the orphanage started out as home to Israel’s homeless children. Blumenthal’s, as it was known, was not only a place of refuge for these children, but a home that provided food, shelter, care – and the security of a loving family.

The Zion Orphanage now serves some 100 children, ages 7-18, along with an additional 120 children attending its yeshiva high school. While some of the children are orphans, many others come from dysfunctional, abusive or poverty-stricken homes. At Zion they receive renewed opportunities of growth and education, and a potential future of productivity and accomplishment.

(L-R) Presentation of handmade menorah from Zion Orphanage’s Rav Baruch Rakovsky to hosts Rafi and Esther Katz.

Zion’s director of development, Rabbi Gershon Unger, introduced Rabbi Dr. Izhak Dayan, chief rabbi of Geneva, who made a special trip to L.A. to extol the virtues of Zion Orphanage.

Rabbi Baruch Rakovsky, Zion’s executive director and direct descendant of the founder of the Zion Orphanage, described the orphanage’s mission. He relayed what he told an inquiring fellow passenger on his flight from Israel to L.A. as to what he does for a living. He told the person that he polishes diamonds. Upon further questioning, Rabbi Rakovsky explained the type of diamonds he deals with – namely precious, vulnerable children.

To learn more about the Zion Orphanage, visit their website (www.zionorphanage.com) and when in Israel, make arrangements to visit the orphanage.

Rabbi Arye D. Gordon

Anshe Emes Honors The Wilsteins

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

(L-R) Danny Krombach, Anshe Emes president and reception co-chair; Howard Witkin, reception co-chair; Susan Wilstein, reception honoree; David Wilstein, reception honoree; and Rabbi Yitzchok Summers, rav of Anshe Emes.


More than 150 members of the Los Angeles Jewish community recently attended the 2011 Anshe Emes Dessert Reception at the Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel to honor David and Susan Wilstein for their lifetime of dedication and commitment to Los Angeles and the Torah way of life. As one attendee was overheard to say: “It’s so wonderful that you’re honoring Dave and Sue. They’re really extraordinary people.”

Jeanne Litvin

Honoring Rep. Ros-Lehtinen

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Members of the Los Angeles Jewish community attended a recent breakfast for Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), hosted by Esther and Rafi Katz. Ros-Lehtinen, her state’s first Republican female elected to the House of Representatives, currently chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee.


Following Stanley Treitel’s introduction of Ros-Lehtinen and Robert Rechnitz’s presentation to her, the congresswoman said, “As chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I continue to support Israel in its struggle to combat violent extremism in the Middle East and isolation in the international arena.” Responding to the State Department’s negative comments regarding Israeli settlements, Ros-Lehtinen demanded that the Obama administration halt its “condemnations” of “an indispensable ally and friend of the United States.”


(L-R) Rafi and Esther Katz with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Photo credit: Arye D. Gordon

Rabbi Arye D. Gordon

A Mitzvah In 30 Minutes

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Founded in 1977, Tomchei Shabbos of L.A. has been providing essential Shabbos food packages to thousands of needy Jewish families in the Los Angeles community. Tomchei Shabbos currently has two warehouses. The La Brea warehouse, which services the “city,” moved about a month ago from another location further south on La Brea because the building they occupied was going to be demolished. As rumors indicate that their present location is also set to be demolished, they are already on the lookout for a new location. Moving isn’t a simple feat, as every time they move they need to pack up the food packages and move their walk-in freezer and refrigerator.

Their second location services the “Valley,” situated in the basement and garage of a shul in Valley Village.

I recently volunteered on a Thursday night to help pack at the La Brea area warehouse. My friend and I arrived at 5:45 p.m. and found only Steve Berger, the warehouse manager, his wife Rivkie Berger, and a few volunteers who organize the foodstuffs. But 15 minutes later, the place was teeming with pre-teens, teens, singles, couples, mothers with kids, and fathers with kids. Everyone teamed up with at least one partner to do a specific route, with the food set up on tables surrounding a middle aisle of food products. Volunteers received a list of the items required for the boxes, labeled in code for specific families on their route. You consulted your list, went to the middle aisle to find the food, and selected the amounts you needed. You then rushed back to your table and filled your boxes, making sure that the amounts were correct because couples or families with one or two small children receive different amounts of foodstuffs than larger families.

The scene was reminiscent of a relay race. This specific Thursday night’s boxes had to cover the coming Shabbos, Shavuos, and the Shabbos after Shavuos. This was three times the normal amount of food going out to each family. We filled our boxes with challah, candles, wine, chicken, eggs, milk, fruits, vegetables, salad dressing, blintzes, pasta, pasta sauce, cream cheese, mozzarella cheese, and everything else a family needs to make two Shabbasos and Yom Tov in between. It was surprising that our “job” took only half an hour! The boxes were then placed on dollies, delivered to the loading dock, and put in the cars or vans of the volunteer deliverers from L.A.-area shuls. They deliver their boxes of food with the utmost discretion and care in order to preserve the privacy of the recipient.

Recently, Tomchei Shabbos incorporated several gemachs into their warehouse set up. While one must still call the individual in charge of the gemach for an appointment, now the kallah gowns, simcha floral d?cor and furniture gemachs are all in the Tomchei Shabbos warehouse. In addition, there is a room devoted to new clothing (with the tags still on) for men, women and children. For those in need, men’s wool suits and women’s suits can be purchased for as little as $20 and $ 10, respectively. Prices are even lower for children’s clothing.

There is also a disposable diaper program, with those in need being allowed two boxes per month at $5 per box for diapers that normally sell for $30 a box. Strict records are kept to ensure that the rules are followed.

Tomchei Shabbos has a yearly budget of $2 million. All those who work for Tomchei Shabbos, whether an organizer, administrator, buyer, packer or driver, are volunteers. The organization is entirely supported via the compassion and generosity (i.e. time and financial support) of the Los Angeles Jewish community.

Jeanne Litvin

Jewish Enough In LA?

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

The L.A. Story

Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion Museum

One West 4th Street, New York, NY 10012;

212 824 2205

Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-5p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Free Admission (Photo ID required)



         The L.A Story, a selection of works from 10 contemporary Los Angeles Jewish artists currently at the Hebrew Union College – Institute of Religion Museum, poses the question of what exactly constitutes Jewish Art and what is its condition today on the West Coast. As part of its answer, provided in essays by the curator Laura Kruger and art historian Matthew Baigell, it proposes that the Jewish art presented here has some unique qualities as result of where it was produced, i.e. Los Angeles.


         Kruger and Baigell maintain that a commitment to Jewish values and issues, including a Jewish historical sensitivity, along with a consciousness shaped by California’s physical environment, are especially evident in these diverse works of art. These issues are rightly at the vortex of an emerging consciousness in the Jewish community about the legitimacy, necessity and reality of Jewish Art.




Holocaust Survivors: The Indestructible Spirit, 2007, Digital photograph by Bill Aron



         The impetus behind this exhibition is the Jewish Artists Initiative of Southern California, an artist-run advocacy group of 24 artists fostering visual art by Jewish artists, founded by Ruth Weisberg in 2003. Of those artists, approximately ten have overt Jewish content based on the works found on the group’s website. To be fair, the JAI never said it promoted Jewish Art, only Jewish artists. Nonetheless, one can discern some themes of Jewish Art from those artists that use identifiably Jewish subjects.


         Some motifs include Jewish history such as Ruth Weisberg’s work on Israel-bound refugees on board the ill-fated Altalena and Joyce Dallal’s crumpled UN resolutions; Jewish communal life as seen in much of Bill Aron’s work, specifically here in a photographic foray into the successful lives of Holocaust survivors; the Holocaust as explored by Ruth Snyder and Terry Braunstein’s riveting book, “Shot on the Spot”; synagogue and ritual art produced by Laurie Gross; kabbalah/ women considered by Gilah Hirsch; Pat Berger’s Women and their Biblical Environment series; and Jewish identity parsed by Tony Berlant and especially Eugene Yelchin’s Section 5 meditation on Jewish identity in Soviet Russia.


         The majority of the other artists in JAI are concerned with such diverse subjects as nature, spirituality, technology, space, Greek myths, personal discovery and enlightenment – all noble pursuits but hardly unique to Jews.


         What is notably missing, with one or two exceptions, in this particular selection of artworks is the vast universe of Jewish texts, culture and history from antiquity to 1948. It is astonishing that among the hundreds of narratives found in the Hebrew Bible, Midrashim and Talmud, and the sweep of 2000 years of Jewish history across the globe, only the last 50 years and its cultural preoccupations of identity and gender are fair game to create art with. It is as if the Jewish people have no worthwhile history, culture or memorable texts. Of course, there is merit in focusing on the contemporary world and therefore there are works here of considerable interest, two of which I found particularly compelling.


         Many of the underlying themes of the exhibition are found in Tony Berlant’s The Jew in the Desert (1981-85). This monumental work (7′ X 11.75′) is laboriously fashioned of printed tin in a collage attached by hundreds of small brads that secure it to its wood panel support. The haunting image that is formed is of one lone figure standing, facing left, in a vast and barren landscape that is littered with abstract constructions; some floating, some anchored to the ground and others merging with the sky. As the artist’s catalogue essay by Kimberly Davis says of his work; “more mindscape than landscape.”



Jew in the Desert [detail] (1981-85), Printed metal collage; 84′ X 141″ by Tony Berlant

Collection of Peter Gould


         This Jew in the desert casts a long shadow behind him three quarters of the way across the panel. His oversize head is crowned with an archaic naval commander’s hat and he is dressed in a black formal jacket, slacks and boots. While he seems rooted to the place in which he has come to rest, he is likewise profoundly lost, a commander without a ship who finds himself paradoxically in the desert. The sky above him is dense with theoretical activity and structure as a few ovoids suggest luminaries. Along the horizon, just behind our lost man, is a painted wooden panel set into the collage surface depicting a picturesque desert landscape, punctuated by blue mountains in the distance under a sunset-tinged sky. It is very much the romantic image of the desert in stark contrast with the cacophonous reality the Jew finds himself in before us.


         Berlant’s floating abstract structures summon much contemporary LA architecture, effectively echoing the work of Frank Gehry. While the landscape emerges as a kind of hodgepodge and is ultimately unintelligible to the Jew of tradition, found here, it has still trapped and immobilized him. Is this the fate of the Jews of Los Angeles?


         Reading right to left, like Hebrew, the Jew’s past behind him is a singularly dense set of ten or more rectangles; white, yellow, orange, red and turquoise that are animated by vertical squiggles, virtual notations that march in a strange musical order. One could read the entire piece as a metaphor of the modern Jew’s exodus from the East into California, across the desert from the European shtetl and like the Exodus from Egypt, the idolatrous past that still beckons, structures that hint at the tabernacle that traveled with him, the confusion of his new found freedom and finally the realization that he can go no further, he is at the edge of the continent and there is no promised land to redeem him. Bleak though it is, Berlant’s work here utilizes biblical references, California landscape and the specter of a cultural desert to comment on a precarious contemporary Jewish identity.


         Pat Berger’s Deborah (1991) similarly works to explore our assumptions about Jewish identity. Her figure of the prophetess is depicted as a particularly contemporary woman, perhaps a portrait of one of the artist’s friends. Dressed in a fringed shawl and loose fitting overskirt, one can almost imagine jeans peeking out from under her costume. Even her sandals are suspiciously familiar. A small grove of trees frames her as she gestures towards the viewer, inviting a response to her pronouncements. In the foreground are five stereotypical biblical men, bearded and clad in turbans, robes and holding staffs. They gesture, argue and converse with each other, seemingly in wonder at this calm, assured woman who presumes to judge. Pictorially they are in a different world than she is-they are the Jewish past and she is the feminist present. There does not seem to be much hope for a dialogue, reflecting a view of contemporary Jewish identity that is cut off from its origins and forced to reinvent itself in the here and now.


Deborah Giving Judgment(1991), Acrylic on canvas, 60″ X 48″ by Pat Berger



         As insightful as this scenario may be, it fails to acknowledge that as a people, we have come a long way since the alienation of the modern Jew in contemporary America so typical of the mid-20th century. Currently all of the major movements are deeply involved in reengaging traditional texts and ritual. Openly Jewish communities are growing nationally, day school attendance is at an all-time high, and in the Orthodox world there are more people studying Jewish texts now than any time in history. Vast amounts of the traditional texts have been translated and are available to the uneducated Jewish public, and while studying them the public can happily munch on an unheard of array of kosher products from almost any American supermarket. That, at least, is the view from the East Coast.


         This trepidation with traditional Jewish subjects is surely both geographical and generational. Culturally New York and its environs have lived through the Jewish rejection of the Old World and rampant assimilation by modernity for the last 70 years. Slowly but surely, the younger Jewish world is setting about to reclaim its awesome heritage, demanding that it can coexist creatively with modernity (and post modernity). In the last decade, there is a sense of a new entitlement of traditional Jewish culture; Jewish music and literature in resurgence, painting exhibitions such as the recent “Scenes from the Bible” in New York (reviewed here two weeks ago) are only a few examples of a cultural swing not afraid to be too Jewish. Most importantly there is the growing promise that in this process both traditional subjects and modernity will be fundamentally transformed into a dynamic and new Jewish culture, benefiting all Jews in the East, West and beyond.

Richard McBee

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/jewish-enough-in-la/2007/11/14/

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