Observant Jews in Los Angeles are bracing for the possibility that they will not be allowed to carry anything or even push a baby stroller on Shabbat due to a freeway project that will knock down the ‘Eruv.” which transforms a public area in to a private space in terms of Jewish law.
The eruv can be formed by hills or fences, but in urban areas, it usually is created by a thin wire that runs along light poles.
A project to widen the 405 Freeway ′s Wilshire Boulevard interchange will require tearing down the poles – and the wires, breaking the eruv and prohibiting observant Jews from walking with anything in their hands or pockets on Shabbat.
“We hope to have a workaround for next week, but the next three weeks will be problematic as the contractor rushes to finish new, and demolish old bridges at Wilshire,” according to Hoard Witkin, who heads the Los Angeles Community Eruv.
Eric Garcetti has just been elected one of Los Angeles’ youngest mayors ever. Eric was a Rhodes scholar in Oxford from about 1993 to 1995. We were close friends and he was a regular at my Oxford University L’Chaim Society. One unforgettable incident defined his character for me in a moment of terrible tragedy for one of our students.
One day in the late afternoon in 1995, I received a phone call from a student who was one of my wife and my closest friends and the President of our student organization. She was crying bitterly. Her name was Jordana and she was almost incoherent with grief. Jordana, who has given me her permission to use her name, was studying in Oxford far away from her home in Canada. She had just received a phone call that her beloved father, with whom she was very close, had died in a terrible accident. She pleaded with me to come around to help her in this moment of agony and incomprehensible pain. I reached her family and we all decided the best thing would be for her to return home as soon as possible. I told them I would drive her to the airport in London.
There was one problem. That night I had already invited Eric over to our home for a private dinner with me and my wife. Given that this was before most students had cell phones, the only effective way of communicating with the students was through the University’s painfully slow “pigeon post” system. I could not tell Eric in time that the dinner was being canceled.
I drove to Jordana’s college where some of her friends were already helping her pack her things. I attempted to comfort her in the tragic news and then brought everything to the car for the trip to the airport. We drove straight to our home where my wife could speak to her and where she could eat something quickly prior to the long night ahead of her. As we walked into the house, there was Eric, smiling and looking happy to be at our home for dinner. He had no idea of the night’s events. I quickly introduced him to Jordana. Her eyes were red and was pale from grief. I said to Eric, “This is Jordana and I’m so sorry that we have to cancel dinner tonight. You see, she has just learned that her father passed away just hours ago.” Moments like this are what show the true character of an individual. Here was Eric, a young, popular Rhodes scholar at Oxford who had simply come to have dinner at his Rabbi’s home. Now, he was being confronted with a total stranger’s grief and tragedy. How would he react?
And here was an interaction that has lingered in my mind and which I will never forget. Eric looked right at Jordana and, in the softest gentlest words, said to her, “I am so sorry for your pain. I’m heartbroken to hear the news. Please tell me if there is anything I can do.” His face was contorted in agony. He spent the next few minutes speaking with her. It was not what he said but the way he said it. He spoke with extreme empathy and understanding. It is quite remarkable that nearly twenty years later I can remember the scene so vividly. What I saw was genuine human compassion for the plight of a complete stranger. I remember thinking to myself that here was a young man with a soft and special heart, that he had the ability to connect genuinely and compassionately with those who were suffering.
Jordana reciprocated the effort. Amid mind-altering loss, she kept her composure and apologized to Eric for having to cancel his dinner. She thanked him for his sympathy and did everything in her power to interact with him on a human level amid her shattered heart. She told him she looked forward to getting to know him better when she returned and under better circumstances. It was a herculean effort at composure.
Eric refused to leave the home until Jordana and I departed. He waited around, told me how he of course understands the need to postpone our dinner, and kept on emphasizing that he wanted to help in any way that he could. About 20 minutes later we departed to London.
Jake Davidson, a Jewish day school student from Los Angeles whose chutzpa is registered with local authorities as a lethal weapon, did get to take a supermodel to his senior prom. But was it a victory or a pity prom? You be the judge.
Back in March, Jake filmed himself asking Kate Upton out to his school prom, and upload the proposition to You Tube. The 21 year old super model tweeted: you can call me Katie if you want! How could I turn down that video! I’ll check my schedule : )
Apparently, he who lives by the You Tube upload dies by the You Tube upload: in April, Supermodel Kate Upton said she would not be going to the prom with Jake after all, presumably because of a busy schedule. : (
But then came prom night, May 23, and Jake Davidson was seen escorted by Danish Sports Illustrated Model Nina Agdal to Milken Community High School in Bel Air, Calif.
“Jake was waiting to hear from Kate and when Nina heard about it, she said ‘If Kate can’t go, I’d like to go’ because she never got to go to her prom,” explained Jake’s mother Cheryl.
If you’re interested, Nina wore a draped halter-top gown in soft green to the prom, which was held at the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, Calif, according to many local reports.
After their prom date, Agdal tweeted: “Had such a great prom night. Thank you jakedavidson23 for being an awesome date!”
The city of Los Angeles went to the polls on Tuesday, May 21 and were faced with a choice between City Councilman Eric Garcetti, whose mother is Jewish – but not his father – and Wendy Greuel, LA’s City Controller, who would have been its first female Mayor. Greuel’s husband is Jewish and her son attends Hebrew school. Also, Greuel’s mother’s first husband was Jewish. And the third highest vote-getter in LA’s March primary, Jan Perry, converted to Judaism.
Yes, it’s California, where almost everybody is a little bit of everything.
In a tight race that remained tough to call until early Wednesday morning, Garcetti came out on top with 54 percent of the votes and Greuel with 46 percent.
“Thank you Los Angeles–the hard work begins but I am honored to lead this city for the next four years. Let’s make this a great city again,” Garcetti tweeted.
Garcetti’s mother is Jewish, although his father is Latino and was raised Catholic. Before Jewish audiences, Garcetti has referred to himself as a “kosher burrito.” His family attended synagogue on High Holy days, but he also attended Jewish summer camp and told the Los Angeles Times that he attended minyan while a graduate student at Oxford University.
Garcetti and Greuel are also both Democrats – LA’s mayoral race is non-partisan.
The winner replaces Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who is barred from running again for mayor after his two terms in office. Villaraigosa did not endorse either candidate in this election.
Villaraigosa, a high-profile Latino politician, chaired the 2012 Democratic National Convention. One of the most-watched moments of the Convention was the incredibly awkward floor change to the official Democratic Party Platform.
As Convention Chair, Villaraigosa was tasked with polling the delegates to change the Democratic Party Platform to reinsert language strongly supportive of Israel, and affirming God, which had been removed. To his everlasting embarrassment, Villaraigosa tried three times to achieve a clear two thirds majority voice approval required for the change. When his efforts failed to produce an obvious win, Villaraigosa nonetheless declared the measure had passed.
Yogurtland, a leading frozen yogurt chain, is following the lead of Dunkin Donuts, Baskin Robbins and The Coffee Bean and has launched its first kosher store, the Beverly Connection location in Los Angeles.
The store is under the kosher supervision of the Rabbinical Council of California, according to the Kosher Today newsletter.
Yogurtland’s self-serve frozen yogurt shops allow customers to approach a wall of sweet and tart yogurt flavors and a topping bar. Paying by the ounce, consumers can choose among 16 yogurt flavors to create their own frozen treat and top it off their way.
“Certified kosher frozen yogurt from Yogurtland will be a welcomed treat for the kosher community,” said Rabbi Yaakov Vann, Director of Kashrut Services for the Rabbinical Council of California.
All of Yogurtland’s flavors are produced in a kosher-certified facility.
The FBI has arrested a Los Angeles man who allegedly operated a Ponzi scheme targeting the city’s Iranian Jewish community.
Shervin Davatgarzadeh, also known as Shervin Neman, was taken into custody on suspicion of defrauding $3 million from mostly Jewish Iranian-American investors, the FBI said.
According to the indictment, Davatgarzadeh posed as a hedge fund manager promising to invest in the Los Angeles real estate market.
He is suspected of illegally using the investments to pay for a lavish lifestyle for himself and his wife that included a $60,000 wedding ring, luxury cars and a new office.
Iranian Jewish community in Los Angeles has been rocked by a series of Ponzi schemes in recent years, according to the L.A. Jewish Journal.
A U.S. district court in March sentenced an Iranian-Jewish radio talk show host and businessman, John Farahi, to 10 years in prison for swindling $24 million from dozens of victims, mostly Iranian Jews.
In October 2011, Iranian-Jewish businessman Ezri Namvar was sentenced to a seven-year prison term for stealing $21 million from four clients.
The Doheny Glatt Kosher meat market controversy has reached the federal level, where the Dept. of Agriculture announced it is investigating accusations against Doheny owner Michael Engelmen that he sold meat that was not properly certified as kosher.
Rabbinical councils usually take measures in similar cases, and legal action against improper kosher meat certification is rare.
The controversy hit the headlines last week when a private investigator handed over to the Dept. of Agriculture videos and other material incriminating Engelman.
The investigator, Eric Agaki, said he launched his own probe several months ago after rabbis approached him with the claim that the prices for Doheny Glatt meat was “way too cheap.” Agaki then discovered that workers for Doheny allegedly put improperly certified meat in empty Glatt kosher boxes.