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contents June/July 2022 • www.lchaimmagazine.com

in this issue... COVER STORY Planting the Seeds of the Future in Israel’s Arava Desert...............................................................



1000 WORDS Four International Artists Connect Their Work to the Beauty and Complexity that is Jerusalem..........................................................................................................

FOOD Sesame Spinach with Tofu Salad........................................................................................................... FEATURES

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18 20 22 24

Summer Reading............................................................................................................................................... Witnesses.............................................................................................................................................................

Premier Martial Arts........................................................................................................................................


Ethan Gold............................................................................................................................................................ How a Semester Abroad Made One Student a Better Advocate in His Community .................................................................................................... JPAC.........................................................................................................................................................................



Prayers & Passages........................................


Mazel & Mishagoss..................................

PUBLISHERS Diane Benaroya & Laurie Miller

ART DEPARTMENT lauriem@lchaimmagazine.com LISTINGS & CALENDAR: calendar@lchaimmagazine.com

EDITORIAL editor@lchaimmagazine.com ADVERTISING dianeb@lchaimmagazine.com




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Ariela Alush, Barbara Birenbaum, Michael Gardiner, Donald H. Harrison, Stephanie Lewis, Salomon Maya, Jana Mazurkiewicz Meisarosh, Terra Paley, Mimi Pollack, Rachel Stern, Eva Trieger, Deborah Vietor, Chana Jenny Weisberg, Cheri Weiss

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Published in San Diego, CA • www.lchaimmagazine.com

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& passages The Traveler's Prayer


n Jewish tradition, there is a custom of reciting the prayer Tefilat Haderech (“Traveler’s Prayer”) before embarking on a long journey. This prayer beseeches God to protect the travelers from harm and allow them to reach their destination in peace. The origin of this prayer is found in the Babylonian Talmud in which the text is written to protect one individual. However, the Talmudic sage Rabbi Abaye advised that the prayer should be expanded to request that God protect the entire community, so the text we read today is written in the plural: “May it be Your will, Lord, our God and the God of our ancestors, that You lead us toward peace, guide our footsteps toward peace, that we are supported in peace, and make us reach our desired destination for life, gladness, and peace…” The concept of “journeys” figures prominently in my rabbinate-cantorate as well as in my life in general. Our lives are comprised of a series of journeys that begin in our youth and continue through adulthood and eventually (if we are fortunate enough to reach this stage) our twilight years. Each journey presents us with its own set of challenges and, hopefully, many moments of joy.



Our Jewish journey may follow a similar path. There are times when we feel close to God and times in which we feel God has abandoned us. There may be periods in which we choose to explore the riches the Torah has to offer us and times when we are ambivalent. There will be times that we choose to discover how living a Jewish life adds meaning to our lives, while there may be years when this falls by the wayside. Everyone’s Jewish journey is unique, and even the term “living a Jewish life” is specific to each person. I have lived in San Diego for nearly half of my life. This is where I raised my daughter, Emma; where I lived during my seven years of seminary, driving weekly to and from Los Angeles for most of that time. This is where I taught Judaica to middle schoolers and founded an independent synagogue. In every journey, I learned lessons from those who touched my life, and it is my sincere hope that I left some positive mark on those who I was blessed to know. Now my husband Dan, and our two rescue dogs Hope and Josie, and I are set to take the next step in our collective journey. I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve as rabbi-cantor of Temple Emanu-El in Honolulu, Hawaii. So, we will be packing

our bags and memories as we undertake this rather huge shift in our lives. I will continue to share my Torah with you in this column, but it will be from a small island in the Pacific Ocean rather than in your backyard. May the beautiful words of Debbie Friedman’s Traveler’s Prayer always be true in your lives as you continue on your own life’s journey, and may the spirit of our holy Torah continue to light your path. May we be blessed as we go on our way May we be guided in peace May we be blessed with health and joy May this be our blessing, amen. May we be sheltered by the wings of peace May we be kept in safety and in love May grace and compassion find their way to every soul May this be our blessing, amen. RABBI-CANTOR CHERI WEISS IS THE FOUNDER AND SPIRITUAL LEADER OF THE SAN DIEGO OUTREACH SYNAGOGUE, A POST-DENOMINATIONAL CONGREGATION THAT WELCOMES PEOPLE OF ALL AGES AND BACKGROUNDS INTERESTED IN EXPLORING A UNIQUE MIXTURE OF TRADITIONAL AND CONTEMPORARY JEWISH MUSIC, PRAYER AND LEARNING. SHE TEACHES JUDAIC STUDIES AT THE SAN DIEGO JEWISH ACADEMY.





& mishagoss Exploring Men from "Fiddler on the Roof" as Potential Husbands


t’s June and wedding season! So, let’s examine Motel the Tailor, Perchick, Fyedka, (and even Lazar Wolf the Butcher!) to see what kind of a match they’d make. I promise next month we’ll scrutinize Tevye’s three daughters for potential wife material. Ready? Let’s jump right in, starting with the nebbish, messy-haired, bespectacled mensch. Poor, timid, skinny Motel (yet such a nice Jewish boy!) hardly stands a chance being heard at a cocktail party. That meek little voice, he’ll always be a somewhat emasculated stitcher, but there’s hope he’ll find courage. When his future wife insists he take out the trash, he’ll assert himself, inquiring “Why?” After the explanation, of course he’ll still empty the garbage, but he’ll have learned something from it. As for taking risks? Bravery is in his future. From stepping over the boundary line at his wedding to dance with his own wife, to entering a public women’s restroom to help his future toddler daughter use the potty. Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, God has made Motel a (confident!) man todaaaaay! He also got him a Singer sewing machine. Now Perchick is Motel’s opposite, in that he’s already fierce, fiery, and free. Especially for a guy with “chick” in his name. Perchick manages to be this sexy revolutionary dude, dragging his mate far from the home she loves, just to turn the world upside-down. All the while oblivious that his love song



(during the second act) bored audiences so much, it ended up on the cutting room floor in the movie version. This doesn’t stop Perchick from boasting about his Torah knowledge, which will prompt his future wife to murmur, “A Rabbi who congratulates himself has a congregation of one.” You’ll also find him teaching youngsters to never trust an employer and ranting that money is the world’s worst curse. But heaven help his marriage proposal. It’s a political question? Pleeeease! So I see Perchick growing far more aware, much more modest, and extremely thoughtful. Meaning when his wife sings, “Helpless now, I stand with him, watching older dreams go dim,” he’ll at least think to flip on the kitchen lights. Fyedka, Fyedka, oh where to begin? First of all, nothing good can be said for a boy who coaxes a Jewish girl to run off and get married in a church. On the other hand, he generously shares his books. But like Perchick, this wild gentile is also a braggart. He’ll introduce himself as a pleasant fellow, charming, honest, ambitious, quite bright, and very modest. (You’re fooling nobody, Fyedka!) On the other hand … is he rugged looking? Check! Does he have a hot body? Check! A veracious reader? Check! A devilish twinkle in his eye? Check! On the other hand… is he best buddies with violent oppressors who’re bent on destroying our Jewish ways? Also check! But on the other hand… No! No! No! There is NO other hand! This is where your

Fyedka interest should end. I don’t care how rebellious you are — a bird could love a fish, but where would they build a home together? (Answer that in an email to me.) We’re going to skip over Tevye because he’s already taken. But as promised, we’ll now analyze Lazar Wolf The Butcher, for any redeeming spousal qualities. Yes, yes. Marry Lazar and you’ll surely never know hunger. However, be prepared that his dead wife (Fruma Sara) will come from the other side, (during a bad dream) and take you by the throat and oy, oy, oy … don’t even think about wearing her pearls. Pearls! Pearls! Seriously, you shouldn’t expect too much in the romance department with this old shlepper. He can’t even do the bottle dance for you. Or build one long staircase just going up, and one even longer coming down, plus one more leading nowhere, just for show. Also, rumor has it that he’ll beat you every night, but only when he’s sober, so you’re alright! Sorry, that’s simply not true and I don’t know what came over me imparting such lashon hara. Bottom line, the butcher is good friend material, which translates to: you can have a fine conversation with him, if you talk about kidneys and livers. Double oy! STEPHANIE D. LEWIS (THEQUOTEGAL@YAHOO.COM) WILL INJECT HUMOR INTO ANYTHING YOU HIRE HER TO WRITE.




Mexican choreographer Claudia Lavista at the launch of the Jerusalem International Fellows program. PHOTOS BY JUDY LASH BALINT.








ut together four renowned artists from different genres and different corners of the world, match them with four dynamic Jerusalem arts institutions, bring those visiting artists together with the city’s arts community, add public events in a series of Jerusalem’s most interesting venues and you’ll have the recipe for the highly successful recently concluded 2022 Jerusalem International Fellows program. This year’s fellows, Sophia Borges, a visual artist from Brazil; Vibha Galhotra, a conceptual artist from India; Claudia Lavista, a Mexican choreographer and dance company director; and Anna Lublina, an American interdisciplinary performance artist living in Germany spent the last 10 weeks in Jerusalem both absorbing and contributing to the local arts scene. Arriving at the tail end of an extraordinarily cold and rainy Jerusalem winter, the four women, who had never been in Israel before, took up residency in the Musrara neighborhood on the seam of the eastern and western parts of the city. Their stay in the city encompassed Ramadan, Passover and Easter, as well as the most recent flare-up of terror attacks that killed and wounded Israelis in Beersheva, Tel Aviv, Hadera and Elad. There was also frequent Arab violence at Damascus Gate a few hundred yards away from their temporary home, but the artists took it all in stride and continued their creative work, and efforts to

engage a cross-section of Israelis at encounters in a variety of venues in Jerusalem. In a farewell blog post, Lavista wrote: “I’m going back home full of new visions and ideas, and a better understanding of the Israel/Palestine culture. But mainly, I’m leaving with new friends, with a new community of wonderful people that I can call now colleagues. So, this is now a place for me to come back and have joy … that’s priceless.” Lavista lives in Mexico City and says “it feels similar to Jerusalem — a place with many different cultures and a lot of tension. I’m interested in exploring these tensions. Longtime relationships are very important to me. That’s what I want to bring back — those relationships are what I hope to bring back.” The fellows survived an exhaustive selection process to be accepted into the program, and the task of determining which local arts groups would be the best hosts took several years of meetings and multiple visits by the American organizers. “The hosts represent a wide range of sizes, locations, foci, disciplines and facilities — a microcosm of what East and West Jerusalem offer to the world,” said Elise Bernhardt, the founder and director of the Jerusalem International Fellows program. Borges partnered with the Idbaa School of the Arts in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah; Galhotra was hosted by Muslala, a community of artists and art space in Musrara; Lublina

“As dancers, we are creators. Dance is a living creature that changes all the time. Dance is a place of freedom and connection. I wanted to come and see who you are so I can bring that back to my students.” WWW.LCHAIMMAGAZINE.COM



The 2022 Jerusalem International Fellows and their hosts from Jerusalem-based arts organizations.

found herself working with the Bloomfield Science Museum; and Lavista was hosted by the c.a.t.a.m.o.n. dance company in western Jerusalem. The idea for the Jerusalem residency grew out of a desire to expand on a successful but limited program called the American Academy in Jerusalem that Bernhardt initiated in 2010 when she was CEO of the New York-based Foundation for Jewish Culture. That three-week residency program brought American artists to one western Jerusalem venue, Mishkenot Sha’ananim, and Bernhardt was determined to widen the horizons of the program. “I’ve never been in a place that’s so beautiful, so complex, so interesting,” Bernhardt told the crowd at the public launch of the program in March before she introduced the 2022 fellows. She emphasized that the goal of the program is to engage the visiting artists with as many facets of “Jerusalem’s cultural eco-system,” as possible. During the 10 weeks of the program, the fellows delved into many sections of Jerusalem and the surrounding area accompanied by a variety of Arab, Druze, Bedouin and Jewish 12


guides. In the final public Work in Progress session held at the Bloomfield Science Museum, Lavista recounted how the people she met during the residency were the most significant part of her experience. “The important thing is not the work but the relationships,” she emphasized and thanked all who hosted her for Shabbat dinners. Lavista, 52, is a renowned dancer and choreographer, and the artistic director of the Professional School of Dance of Mazatlan. During a master class for 30 students at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance that happened to take place on Holocaust Memorial Day Lavista said she felt that Mexico and Israel “are not so different as cultures. We’re both warm, emotional, and we have ancient roots.” Lavista shared her artistic philosophy with the attentive students. “As dancers, we are creators,” she said. “Dance is a living creature that changes all the time. Dance is a place of freedom and connection. I wanted to come and see who you are so I can bring that back to my students.” For Elad Shechter, founder of the

c.a.t.a.m.o.n Dance Group that hosted Lavista, the residency was “such a powerful experience to work with such a remarkable artist.” Shechter said that while his group has worked with many international dancers, the opportunity to expose his audience and dancers to Lavista was “a gift.” Of particular significance, Schechter added, was the fact that Lavista came with no preconceived notions and little knowledge of Jerusalem. “At the end, we found her external point of view so rich for us on both the cultural and artistic level.” Schechter said that thanks to the connection with Lavista, his group has been invited to appear at four festivals in Mexico in 2023. In turn, Lavita plans to take up an invitation from the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance to teach next spring. In September, the c.a.t.a.m.o.n. company will premiere the video she worked on during her residency. THE JERUSALEM INTERNATIONAL FELLOW PROGRAM IS SUPPORTED BY THE JERUSALEM FOUNDATION, THE LEICHTAG FOUNDATION, THE RUSSELL BERRIE FOUNDATION AND MANY PRIVATE DONORS.




SEEDS OF THE FUTURE Jewish National Fund USA is helping to turn Israel's Arava Desert into an oasis of agricultural development, technology and education





n the middle of Israel’s barren Arava, more than an hour’s drive from a major city, a diverse group of over 1,200 university students from Africa and Asia have gathered to learn the latest in agriculture technologies from local farmers. The courses are being offered at The Arava International Center for Agricultural Training (AICAT) in Sapir, a Jewish National Fund USA project. AICAT is one of many Jewish National Fund projects in the area under the aegis of the organization’s “Blueprint Negev” initiative, which aims to improve the quality of life for all residents of the region and encourage a population shift away from crowded, expensive central Israel. Recently, the Jewish National Fund led a media tour of the Arava to showcase some of these projects, and to provide access to the area’s pioneering farmers, who are currently producing some of the highest-quality produce in the world, both for domestic consumption and export. The AICAT students introduced to the group were from countries including Kenya, Cape Verde, Cambodia, Thailand and Gambia, and even nations that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel. The governments of those countries apparently realize the importance of these young future farmers being able to share what they have learned from the Jewish state. As one of the students from Kenya shared with the journalists, “We’re not only learning about agriculture, but the program helps change our mindset and teaches us to see projects through to completion. AICAT is not just providing us with education, but creating future leaders.” Following the school’s 10-month diploma program for undergraduates and an 18-month master’s program, students then complete their university degrees in their home nations. Just several miles away from AICAT are the Central Arava Research and Development Center and Vidor Visitor Center, adjacent to Moshav Hatzeva. The R&D facility is a leading scientific research and development center, established in 1986 with the aim of developing and advancing new materials, raising the quality of produce, finding new crops and opening new markets. In recent years, alongside extensive research in agriculture, a strong scientific research division has developed at the center, focusing on molecular biology, drug discovery, biotechnology, ecology, geology and more. Ma’ayan Kitron, the center’s flowers and herbs research coordinator, led journalists through the facility’s hothouses, in which produce is grown above ground utilizing Israel’s nowfamous drip irrigation technology. Kitron said that Arava farms produce some 55 percent of the country’s agricultural exports. However, she said, there is currently a lot of competition in the region, with countries like Morocco and Turkey making waves in the agriculture arena. This, she said, was causing local farmers to consider cultivating

alternative products, such as dates, traditionally found in Israel’s Jordan Valley further north. Kitron also talked about the challenge area farmers face with regard to water; the Arava region receives less than 50 millimeters (2 inches) of precipitation a year. Farmers are forced to drill wells 1.5 kilometers (nearly one mile) deep, she explained, after which a carefully calculated desalination process takes place, as the salinity level of the water affects the quality and taste of the produce. Kitron offered her guests samples of various common and exotic fruits and vegetables, clearly demonstrating why Arava produce is in high demand. Bordering the R&D Center is the Kasser Joint Institute for food, water and energy security, a collaboration of the Jewish National Fund, the University of Arizona and the Arava regional councils. The institute develops tools, methods and programs to aid communities in arid and hyper-arid environments, with a focus on Africa. Over the next three to five years, the institute plans to establish at least three multidisciplinary programs in Africa to provide technology transfer, applied research, knowledge, training, ongoing guidance and education. In fact, Tania Pons Allon, the institute’s director, said that she and her colleagues plan to travel to Kenya this July on a pilot trip to explore that country’s immediate needs. “The idea is to take the technology and the knowledge accumulated in the Arava and the University of Arizona and try to implement them in vulnerable communities in developing countries where they suffer from energy poverty and food and water insecurity,” she said. “It’s really about giving back and being a light unto the nations and tikkun olam [‘repairing the world’],” she added. One of the institute’s current projects involves shielding crops with solar panels during their growth, which Pons Allon said allows a farmer to “grow food using less water since there is less evaporation. The reduction of temperature under solar panels makes them [the crops] more efficient, while the panels reduce the radiation the crops are getting.” She said that at the same time, the energy generated by the panels can be used “to desalinate water or pump water … so it’s a win-win.” Yael Levontin, PR and Communications Manager in Israel for Jewish National Fund USA, who organized the Arava visit, summarized the importance of the Arava region for Israel. “Even though the Arava’s border with Jordan is a peaceful one, it is defended not because of tanks but because of groves filled with palm and pomelo trees. It’s because pioneering families live on the land and cultivate its soil. The greatest threat to the land today is Mother Nature. That’s why Jewish National FundUSA has made significant philanthropic investments in water infrastructure, environmental R&D, and agricultural training.”








esame peanut paste is something very common in Taiwanese cuisine. During summertime, it can be easily spotted at many street vendors. The creamy and nutty flavor and texture are what makes it so addictive. Tofu is an ingredient that’s full of protein and calcium. I added spinach to pair with it, a dark green leafy vegetable that is rich in fiber, vitamin E, and iron among so many more. The Spinach here is cut into shorter lengths so people who have a hard time digesting too much fiber don’t have to worry. The dish is very fast and easy to put together and can be prepared in advance, which is always a plus if you are having a dinner party or too busy to cook. All the components here can be prepared a day ahead and chilled in the fridge. Everything can be assembled within a minute or two the day of. A perfect summer side dish to serve at any party!

The creamy and nutty flavor and texture of sesame peanut paste shine in this dish. INSTRUCTIONS

1. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Once hot,

2. 3.


Spinach, 1 bunch or one cup, cut into desired length Silken tofu, 1 block, about 1 lb. White sesame seeds, 1 tsp, toasted For the dressing: 1/2 cup Tahini 1/2 cup Natural peanut butter 2 1/2 cups Cold water 1 tsp Soy sauce 1/2 tsp Rice vinegar 1 tsp Sesame oil 1/2 tsp Maple syrup 1/2 tsp Salt

4. 5. 6.

add in the spinach and turn off the heat after 5-10 seconds. Stir the spinach constantly and use the residual heat from the pan to cook them through. Remove from the pan and transfer to a serving platter. Move the spinach toward the sides and create a well in the center. Blanch the tofu for about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the pot and cut into oneinch cubes. Transfer to the serving plate and place the tofu in the center of the plate. Cover the plate and leave in the fridge to chill. Combine all dressing ingredients together, mix well and set aside. When ready to serve, drizzle on the sesame dressing. Sprinkle on some white sesame seeds. Serve with more dressing on the side.

Join Sharsheret in the Kitchen for “Finding Umami,” a free healthy cooking demo with Jamie Wei (@chopsticksmeetfork) on Thursday, June 16 at 11 a.m. PDT/2 p.m. EDT. Jamie’s inspired recipes highlight Asian flavors in unique dishes that look beautiful and taste incredible. Register at https://link. sharsheret.org/findingumami. This program is part of the “Sharsheret in the Kitchen” series, bringing nutritious and delicious kosher ideas to empower all of us at risk for breast and ovarian cancer to make healthier diet choices thanks to generous support from Cedars-Sinai. SHARSHERET, A NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION, IS THE JEWISH BREAST CANCER AND OVARIAN CANCER COMMUNITY. IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU LOVE HAS BEEN IMPACTED BY BREAST OR OVARIAN CANCER, OR HAS ELEVATED GENETIC RISK, CONTACT SHARSHERET FOR FREE SUPPORT AND RESOURCES. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT SHARSHERET.ORG OR CALL (866) 4742774. WWW.LCHAIMMAGAZINE.COM







Don Harrison tells us there is a Jewish story everywhere. He takes us on a historical, yet engaging, fun ride from Baja California, Mexico to Old Town San Diego, the first leg of a three-volume tour that will wind up at the Orange County line. Harrison is a true storyteller, weaving intricate and inviting stories of residents describing their experiences covering a wide variety of topics, relating impressive Jewish stories of influence. Photographer Ben Dishman photographs memorable scenes along the way, illustrating the narrative. Did you know H&R Block Tax Preparation was founded in 1955 by Jewish brothers Henry and Richard Bloch? Have you heard of the Simon Property group, established by Jewish brothers Melvin and Herbert Simon in 1960 who developed the Las Americas Premium Outlet Mall? Who has not visited the historical Victorian era beachfront property, the Hotel del Coronado? Guests have included dignitaries, movie and recording stars. It’s a national historic landmark. Elsewhere there is Loews Coronado Bay Resort opened in 1991 by the Tisch family, philanthropists, who have grown properties nationwide. Joan Gantz Cooney, a television writer and producer, was inspired by Lewis Freedman, her Jewish boss at WNET to develop television’s Sesame Street which is the basis of San Diego County’s newest amusement park, Sesame Place San Diego. How could we be prouder of Arizona Jewish Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, victim of an attempted assassination in 2011? She “inspired the nation with remarkable resiliency,” and the USS



Gabrielle Giffords, a littoral combat ship based at Naval Base San Diego, is named in her honor. Who has not heard of the famous IHOP restaurant chain, created by two Jewish brothers Al and Jerry Lapin? Started in the 1960s, the Lapin brothers were inspired by McDonalds. In 1979, San Diego’s gay community led by Nicole Murray-Ramirez created the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Award. He later founded the Harvey Milk Democratic Club of San Diego. We learn much more about Jewish inventiveness, creativity, and philanthropy. The book includes interviews with Rabbis Michael Leo Samuel and Scott Meltzer respectively of Temple Beth Shalom and Ohr Shalom Synagogue. Other subjects are Jewish sports figures, politicians, musicians, a social worker, and a sheriff. There is also an essay on Jewish aspects of the museums at Balboa Park. Don H. Harrison, editor emeritus of San Diego Jewish World is a past member of the San Diego Historical Resources Board, former editor of Western States Jewish History and a current member of the editorial advisory board of the Journal of San Diego History. Having written six previous books, Harrison is a well-known participant and contributor to the San Diego Jewish community. Married since 1968 to the former Nancy Zeiden, the couple has two children: Sandi and David, and four grandchildren. Harrison’s career has included his work in journalism as well as a public relations specialist with an emphasis on tourism. A frequent public speaker, Harrison may be contacted via sdheritage@cox.net. His books can be found on Amazon.





Smolin Roger Coles, the protagonist in Rocky Smolin’s new novel Breaking the Spell, takes us on a complex journey interwoven with danger, uncertainty, and hope. As a young man, Roger allows a woman professing to be a witch to cast a spell to rid him of a persistent problem. This is somewhat of a dichotomy for Roger, a person of science and technology. Magic and spells had not previously entered into his imagination. Subsequent to the casting of this spell, a shocking event occurs evoking the question: Was this event coincidental or a horrible consequence of the spell manifesting itself? Although not exactly what Roger asks for, this tragic event relieves him of his burden. Decades later, he becomes strongly drawn into the world of the occult and along the way, unexpectedly finds the love of his life. Then we follow Roger on a search for this true love, who has disappeared under dark circumstances halfway around the world. Was this all due to a witch’s spell, or had Roger manifested something dark, sinister and irreparable? This search brings Roger to his knees. He learns actions can bring unintended consequences, often those which may not be reconciled. Lonely and living a life which he describes as “an empty cup,” Roger encounters witches from New Orleans to Burma to Normandy, and eventually back in his home in Chicago. Is he able to detach from the spell and find true happiness, or is the spell debt he incurred decades earlier too great to break? Are we all victims of our own entrapments, casting spells on our hearts and souls, and then seeking ways to be free and unbound from our self-imposed constraints? Rocky Smolin casts a spell of sorts on us, skillfully taking us from the physical to the ethereal world, artfully describing viscerally what is true and likely to be spellbound. A captivating read about following dreams, consciousness, morality and seeking the truth, Breaking the Spell raises many questions and offers us some answers. Rocky Smolin is a software developer and musician, living in Carlsbad, CA. Breaking the Spell is available on Amazon.


Laura E. Akers Meet Davia Glenn, the first woman on a covert paramilitary team, until a mission unexpectedly takes a deadly turn for the worse. When her aunts leave her a fortune, the terms of the will dictate she move to a wealthy community. Wondering what is more unsettling, being followed by terrorists or fitting into an upper echelon group of the “ladies who lunch”? Currently off assignment due to a recent injury, Davia believes she has time to cultivate her new life, or does she? According to the terms of the will, Davia is required to date a wealthy and influential man, gain entry into the local social registry, providing philanthropy through a non-profit board. DIOR OR DIE –

A captivating read about following dreams, consciousness, morality and seeking the truth, Breaking the Spell raises many questions and offers us some answers. Davia remains concerned about the lives of her family, struggling farmers in South Dakota. Her aunt’s inheritance could certainly help a lot of people. We are taken on a wild ride through upscale suburbia, dodging assailants, dining with the rich and famous, volunteering and attending upscale philanthropic events. A personal designer, private clubs, auction committees, the Ladies League, priceless art, and foreign cars were not part of Davia’s world. Thankfully she could receive a tutorial from one of the local elites, an older woman she trusted to navigate this other-worldly experience. The dichotomy? Car chases, explosions, being drugged, chased, shot at all while protecting others figure prominently into this rather banal disguise. Coiffed in heels and a ballgown, Davia’s identity must remain anonymous. One suitor, a bon vivant man of the world offers intrigue, and another, her handsome, rugged, operative partner are both options for her future life. Only time would tell. Adventure, romance, humor, glamour, and intrigue makes Dior or Die a real page turner as we wonder when is the next Davia Glenn read available? Following law school, Laura Akers became a prosecuting attorney, handling the worst violent crimes. Threatened by a convicted criminal, she trained with a former CIA operative in self-defense. This led to the creation of her protagonist Davia Glenn. Laura and Davia live by the same philosophy, “refuse to quit, no matter the odds.” Visit LauraAkers.com and Amazon or Barnes and Noble for Dior or Die. WWW.LCHAIMMAGAZINE.COM




BEARING WITNESS TO WITNESSES WITNESSES, making its world premiere at California Center for the Arts, Escondido (CCAE), July 15-30, is a riveting, heartfelt and incredibly powerful theatrical event based on the diaries of five Jewish teenagers during the Holocaust. As the audience watches each of their unique stories unfold, they become witnesses themselves to the events that transpired, viewed through the innocent, yet compelling eyes of Jewish youth. The concept itself was unique, taking each of the diaries and pairing them with a different musical theatre songwriter or songwriting team. Each team was asked to write three original songs based on the diary they were assigned, giving each of the diarists their own voice. Tony award winner Robert L. Freedman (A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder) was tasked with writing the book of the show which weaves the 16 original songs together using additional text from the English translations of each diary. Jordan Beck, who serves as CCAE Theatricals’ Managing Producer, along with his writing partner Gerald Sternbach, is one of the contributors to the show’s score. He first came up with the idea for WITNESSES after reading excerpts from several of the diaries. Almost immediately, Beck had the thought to split the writing duties up between different teams. This of course was not an easy endeavor, and it was not until he and his producing partner, CCAE Theatricals’ Artistic Director J. Scott Lapp were brought on board at CCAE in 2020, that WITNESSES could finally take shape the way he had always imagined. 20


All but one of the diaries are out of print, making the acquisition of the other four manuscripts in their entirety a challenge in itself. Beck had already found used copies of three, but the other two required some deep diving into the world of online used bookstores. After reading all five diaries, CCAE commissioned five teams to musicalize the different stories. Adam Gwon (off-Broadway’s Ordinary Days) was given the diary of Moshe Flinker. Matt Gould (composer of Lempicka at La Jolla Playhouse) was given the diary of Yitskhok Rudashevski. Mindi Dickstein & Carmel Dean (both of whom have extensive Broadway credits) took the diary of Éva Heymann. NYC based songwriter Anna K. Jacobs was paired with the diary of Renia Spiegel and Jordan Beck & Gerald Sternbach wrote songs for Dawid Rubinowicz. A two-week workshop of the show was held at CCAE in November 2021, culminating in two private presentations for an invited audience. The writers went back to work fine tuning their material, and the production is gearing up for rehearsals throughout June. A team of seasoned designers have been brought on board for the fully staged production which features an exceptionally talented cast of young adult performers and a live seven-piece band. This is a truly remarkable production, transporting you to a heartfelt, personal and compelling journey of those bearing witness to the atrocities of a time in which we are strongly yet eloquently reminded, “Never Again.” WITNESSES delivers. A must see for not only our youth, but for all members of our community.


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WHAT ARE SPELLS IF NOT OUR INNER DEMONS (OR ANGELS) MADE MANIFEST? Once conjured are we forever bound to them or is freedom possible? This is one man’s journey to discover the truth of his personal boundaries and the spells that hold him. “This was a great read. Captivating, philosophical, with many surprises along the way. Part travelogue, part reflection on life's meaning, all set against the backdrop of forces seen and unseen. Thoroughly enjoyed it.”

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hile the pandemic has been a challenging time for us all, there are some among us who have taken advantage of the opportunity to flip the script and grow something new. Morris Lifschutz is one of those individuals. He was born in Vanouver after his grandparents immigrated to Canada following World War II. Lifschutz took special interest in his grandfather’s story surviving the Holocaust, As a teen, he interviewed his grandfather about his concentration camp experiences, admiring his courage as well as the entrepreneurial spirit whereby he taught himself the trade of watch making. In the brief conversation we had, I could tell how Lifschutz’s grandfather’s spirit lives in him. His parents moved their family to Southern California in 1987 where Lifschutz became bar mitzvah. Graduating from USC and earning a MBA from UCI, he and his wife started their family of five in Los Angeles. After moving to San Diego early in 2020 and working through the isolation of the pandemic, their priorities changed. They joined Temple Adat Shalom in Poway so their children will have the opportunity for a Jewish education and he found footing as an entrepreneur, investing in the franchise that is Primere Martial Arts, a property of Unleashed Brands which specializes in kids brands and products with Learn, Play and Grow as the pillars. Building character is a primary factor at the new Premier Martial Arts studios with Lifschutz at the helm. Opening in Rancho Bernardo in June, Encinitas in August, and coming soon to Escondido and Carmel Valley, folks of all ages can join to build self-image, confidence, respect, courage, responsibility, kindness, self-discipline, honesty, anger management, teamwork, positive attitude and potential along with strengthening muscles and self-defense skills. These values are discussed during mat chats and including homework assignments, engaging the whole family in the process is his goal. His own experience learning martial arts as a child is proof of 22


the powerful model he hopes to create with his students. Especially considering the stress of the modern age and the growing challenge of childhood obesity, it’s so important for families to find options that will build up kids’ confidence and motivation to get in shape and also positively shape their attitudes. His studios offer a blended style combining karate, taekwando, and krav maga. As described on their website, “Premier Martial Arts San Diego is a local, family-owned business. We specialize in character development and life skills for children and fitness including self-protection for adults. Our adult program takes a modern approach to real-life selfdefense. Whether you are a college student looking to stay safe on campus, or the head of a household wanting to protect your family, at Premier Martial Arts our program will provide fitness and selfprotection for the modern world.” Lifschutz’s vision includes tournaments among the franchise network fostering healthy competition which increases motivation and adds an element of fun. He hopes students will be more than just comfortable at the studio, it should be the ‘happiest time of their day”. With a child on the spectrum, he also plans to work toward gaining additional training and certification so that his studios will become a certified center for autism, building an inclusive environment in which non-neurotypical children will thrive. BIRTHDAY CAKE CUT WITH A SAMURAI SWORD? BLACK BELT FOR A DAY? BESIDES CLASSES, THE STUDIO OFFERS UNIQUE EXPERIENCES FOR BIRTHDAY PARTIES AND SOCIAL EVENTS. FOR MORE INFORMATION, SEE PREMIERMARTIALARTS.COM/ RANCHOBERNARDO/ OR REACH OUT BY PHONE (619) 764-6156 OR BY EMAIL AT MORRIS@PMARANCHOBERNARDO.COM.

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than Gold is truly a renaissance person, songwriter, performer, composer, poet, and a California native. Fascinating is too bland a word to describe him. His family history is etched in rock and roll legend and the San Francisco literary scene at a time when counterculture was developed on the spot. His future is unlimited and most definitely not left to fate. He was raised in San Francisco, a thoughtful child who took in everything the city offered. His father is Jewish-American novelist Herbert Gold, and his mother Melissa Dilworth was a WASP child of the East Coast, who was killed in a helicopter crash with famed rock concert impresario and holocaust orphan Bill Graham. Ethan and his twin filmmaker brother, Ari became motherless at a young age. In this chaotic environment, Gold developed his love of music and an appreciation for Mother Earth. He taught himself several



instruments and to write music. After graduating from Harvard, he moved to LA and began work as a film composer (most recently Don’t Let Go for Blumhouse/Universal), music producer, and sideman, while slowly building a body of work ranging from instrumental music to his highly personal albums. A more universal approach to songcraft is heard on his recent album Earth City 1: The Longing, which hit several well-deserved international best-album-of-2021 lists. Normally in interviews, we cover the restaurant or the home of the artist. It was not quite post-pandemic when we met at the Los Angeles River. Ethan said he loves the blend of nature and concrete. He pointed out a plant poking through what might be impossible circumstances and that birds will soon be attracted to it-the cycle of life. It takes a sensitive soul to see the beauty in this drought-stricken


Gold's Earth City trilogy is about our alienation and our connectedness, and our yearning, with roots in Jewish heritage. river. Early on Ethan was a proponent of kindness-long before it was common or noted by others. I met him several years ago and was touched by his gentle way of speaking, if anyone is an old soul, he is. Here is an excerpt from a long discussion on kindness: “I’m not always kind to myself. I learned a lot about how to act by doing the opposite to myself. And then correcting how I treated myself, and then trying to do the same for others. But a lot of my intention with music is to wake people up to a bigger sense of unity. You know this from my videos for “Our Love is Beautiful,” which I filmed in countries around the world, “Bright & Lonely City,” which takes place in multiple cities, and even “Pretty Girls,” which is crowdsourced from people, many of whom I never met, to show all the ways female-ness can express itself. This theme is a stream running under a lot of what I do. I get songs delivered to me in my sleep, so I feel it’s my job to bring messages forth.” I asked him about breaking into the music industry. His answer was not what I expected: “I’m not the best person to advise about that, since I’m an independent artist, and sometimes I feel like I’m in the middle of the Antarctic singing my songs. I haven’t really broken into it. It’s more like I’m making my island and sending out messages in bottles, which are the songs and videos.” I asked about having a novelist for a father and what effect that had on him. I loved his answer. It portends why each of his albums could stand alone for the poetic lyrics, his videos are hauntingly beautiful, especially when he speaks urgently about the environment. His answer: "Probably in two ways. One, the belief that making art could be a life. A lot of people abandon their creativity when they get out of childhood. I didn’t. And second, I think of my music in bigger terms than songs. I think in terms of themes that I can explore over the breadth of albums, or as I’m doing now, a trilogy. I try to make each song like a jewel that expresses itself perfectly and is lovely to experience on its own. And also, to build albums that will reward those who want to take the time to experience something deeper, with layers of meaning.” His new album Earth City 1: The Longing is truly beautiful and very complex. A lot of the songs feel like they should be worldwide classics. To be honest I don’t understand why they’re not. I consider him to be an Indigo Child-those beings who come to us knowing so much of the world. I think that describes him as both a child and an

adult. Prescient is another word that I think of when describing him. Unique, individualistic and driven to produce, he has a wide body of work that is more popular in Europe than in the US. He is currently working on the recordings for Earth City 2. He hopes this will be an even more universal record and one that will be, as old advertisements used to say, “alive with pleasure.” It’s an album about the life of cities. Something all of us ‘rootless cosmopolitans’ can understand. I asked him if he was alluding to the Jewish heritage? “Good catch. Yeah, just this week it occurred to me that my Earth City trilogy, which is about our alienation and our connectedness, and our yearning, has some roots in that. My father always said that Jews focus on improving the world, since there isn’t that Christian focus on the afterlife. I feel we have a long way to go. I hope Earth City helps in whatever small way art can. “Our Love is Beautiful” is a song I even started to understand in a different way, from that perspective. It’s about romantic love, and self-love, and also small-group pride. Believing in ourselves, and the transformative power of action. This seems to be an essential ingredient in the survival of a people amidst oppression.” He, his father, and brother Ari just published some poetry, as a joint project, in Tablet Magazine. It was very well received. “That was a credit to my brother Ari, who had the idea of corresponding with our Dad, who at 98 is nearly deaf, via exchanging poems. Poems became a way for the two of them to express things to each other, especially regrets and loss. Ari invited me to contribute, though my poems were a bit more like spice, and maybe not exactly on the family topic. It was a nice thing to have that published together, though my subject was a bit different from theirs. That said, I’m not immune to the power of history, and a poem I had published before those, as part of a global art project called Telephone, was set in the old country, or my imaginary version of it. My father’s parents were born in what’s now Ukraine and Belarus. The shtetl. My poem there was about a girl rolling on a carriage to her wedding, overwhelmed by the energy of the village and the possible futures before her.” He is truly a wordsmith, not just pithy or clever but supremely talented. He has soulful compassion for the earth and mankind. You may join his mailing list on his website, ethangold.com. And on social media — Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, he is @ethangold. He is currently preparing for a several months tour throughout Northern Europe.







or Zach Patterson, Judaism and supporting his community go hand in hand. “A lot of my values come from my Jewish community,” says the San Diego native. “The ideas of Tikkun Olam, giving back, and the concept of Judaism grounding you and giving you a purpose is exactly what it does for me.” Now a senior at University High School in San Diego, Patterson has turned that ethos into a path of Jewish immersion and community service, exemplified through a semester at Jewish National FundUSA’s (JNF-USA) Alexander Muss High School in Israel (Muss) and his position on the San Diego Board of Education as their first-ever Student Board Member. “I saw a strong disconnect between those serving students and the students in the education system,” he said. “So, I said that we should create an advisory board for our school district and add a student to the school board, and it took me about three years to successfully do that.” Around the same time that he successfully set up the advisory board, Patterson was also accepted to Muss, JNF-USA’s flagship semester abroad experience in Israel for high school students. Patterson attended Muss in Spring of 2020, but the semester was unfortunately cut short after seven weeks due to the onset of the pandemic. However, he notes that his seven weeks were jam-packed with fun experiences. From exploring a Crusader castle to celebrating Purim in Tel Aviv; and from hiking Masada to spending a night in the Bedouin community, Muss made sure Patterson and his classmates got the most out of their short time in Israel. Muss’ emphasis on experiential learning meant that Patterson



learned about Israeli history using the land of Israel as a living and breathing classroom. “It was really a life-changing experience,” he said. “Muss brought what I was learning in the classroom to life. I would learn something and then visit the place where it happened and have that real interactive learning.” Patterson also has a deep appreciation for the many friends he made in his short time at Muss. “I came with a group of strangers; I didn’t know anyone there. However, I left with very close friends,” he said. “I left with people that I’m still in touch with today and people I plan on remaining friends with.” Once he returned to San Diego, he continued as a Student Board Member during one of the most chaotic times. “COVID-19 brought in one of the largest crises that we have ever seen in public education, and my job got a lot more complicated,” he said. “I had to deal with questions like: do we mandate masks, do we shut down schools, and how do we balance health and safety with mental health concerns?” Patterson credits both Muss and his Jewish upbringing for providing him with the necessary vision. “Muss understands the value of being connected to your education, and I want to pass that on to the San Diego student body,” he said. Patterson continued his Jewish advocacy during his time on the board. He pushed for Holocaust education and sponsored a resolution in the San Diego Unified School District condemning antisemitism, which passed unanimously. “We want to stand up to bias, we want to stand up to hate, and that includes antisemitism,” he said. “I’m proud to say I think I’ve made an impact in being able to support the Jewish community and saying


“[Alexander] Muss [High School] brought what I was learning in the classroom to life. I would learn something and then visit the place where it happened and have that real interactive learning.”

Leadership Program and plans to be active at the University’s Hillel. He also hopes to return to Israel at some point. As for Muss, he highly recommends it to any high school student. “If you can make it work, you have to go!” exclaimed Patterson, noting the presence of several scholarship opportunities for Muss, including a national fellowship. “It is such an incredible experience. Going to Muss helps you grow, and overall it’s just a ton of fun. I had the experience of my life at Muss, and I would do it again if I could.” He also hopes to see more high school students following in his footsteps and making a difference in their communities. “The biggest thing I would say to all students is that you matter, and your voice is really, really important. Many people want to say that your time is tomorrow or that you’re going to be an incredible leader one day. Well, why wait until one day?” “You can make meaningful change in your community right now, and we should fight to create communities that ensure all of us have the right to be safe, be heard, and be seen.” TO LEARN MORE ABOUT SEMESTER-ABROAD AND SUMMER PROGRAMS AT JEWISH NATIONAL FUND-USA’S ALEXANDER MUSS HIGH SCHOOL IN ISRAEL, CONTACT ISRAEL PROGRAMS ADMISSIONS DIRECTOR JENNIFER SOSNOW AT JSOSNOW@JNF.ORG.

that we’re not going to tolerate hate in this district.” He also made significant steps in combatting the ongoing mental health crisis among high school students. For Patterson, who lost a friend to suicide in his sophomore year, mental health is also a deeply personal cause. “This was a really challenging and painful event that we all went through,” he added. “Students were angry; this was a painful thing to see in our community. So, we started work, and we asked, ‘how can we do better?’” For Patterson and the Board, ‘doing better’ meant changing the school health code to allow excused absences for mental health days and requiring mental health education for students in grades 6-12. In addition, as the President of the California Student Board Association, Patterson co-sponsored a bill to change the state absence code, ensuring that all students have excused absences for mental health reasons, which was signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newsome in 2021. Patterson was recently accepted into Duke University on a full scholarship, where he will attend their prestigious Robertson Scholars WWW.LCHAIMMAGAZINE.COM






ahe Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California, (JPAC) convened 200 Jewish professional and lay leaders from across California in Sacramento for JPAC Advocacy Day, the organizations’ premier annual policy conference and advocacy experience. JPAC is the voice of California’s Jewish community to the State Capitol, and the largest single-state coalition of Jewish organizations in the nation, advocating in Sacramento on behalf of the Jewish community. The largest gathering in JPAC history, the conference, held inperson at the Citizen hotel in Sacramento and at the Capitol Annex Swing Space was comprised of Jewish organization executives, board members, professional fellows, other staff, lay leaders, fifty students and young professionals. The conference was themed around JPAC’s top legislative priorities: Combating antisemitism and hate, and expanding services for immigrants and older adults. Highlighting JPAC Advocacy Day was a special dinner with the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, including 19 Jewish and Jewishadjacent elected officials. Jewish Caucus chair Assembly Member Jesse Gabriel and Vice Chair Senator Scott Weiner demonstrated an amazing overview of their work, with a dozen legislators in the Caucus sharing remarks with the group. L’CHAIM joined this impressive conference with members from Hadassah, 30 Jewish organizations; including Jewish federations, Jewish family service agencies, and the Anti-Defamation League to combat antisemitism across the state of California. In honor of JPAC’s 50th anniversary, The Jewish Caucus presented Allison Gingold, JPAC’s Board Chair and David Bocarsly, JPAC’s Executive Director with a beautiful Assembly Resolution. The Jewish Caucus partners closely with JPAC, championing many priority budget and legislative items, leading to major victories for the Jewish community in recent years. 28 28 L’CHAIM L’CHAIMSAN SANDIEGO DIEGOMAGAZINE MAGAZINE• •JUNE/JULY JUNE/JULY2022 2022

We heard from some of the most prominent names in California politics, including Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, Attorney General Rob Bonta and Senior Counselor to Governor Newsom, Jason Elliott. Exceptional panels were presented with distinguished legislators, activists, and government staffers about combating hate, supporting immigrants, and working as a young professional in the State Capitol. Over 30 legislators participated in the conference. The program culminated with participants converging on the state capitol for meetings with 88 legislative offices, representing three quarters of the state’s 118 legislators. “At JPAC, we’re committed to upholding two core pillars: We fight for issues that directly support the Jewish community, and we fight for issues that directly further Jewish values,” said David Bocarsly, JPAC’s Executive Director. “In this moment, those pillars are manifesting into an acute need to fight antisemitism and hatred, and to support immigrants and older adults. At JPAC Advocacy, California’s diverse Jewish community came together as one voice to forcefully assert the importance of these issues to state lawmakers. We pushed large-scale, life-changing bills, and asked for over $300 million from the state budget to accomplish our key initiatives.” Bocarsly became the Director of the California Legislature of the Jewish Caucus in 2018, supporting those lobbying in their districts. He continues to work closely with Senator Scott Weiner, Jewish Caucus Vice Chair and Senator Ben Allen, also a member of the Legislative Jewish Caucus including many others making a difference with regards to antisemitism and other vital issues. Bocarsly became Executive Director of JPAC in January, meeting with 88 districts, educating all legislative members about Judaism and antisemitism, including conspiracy theories which are perpetuated behind hate crimes with a goal to overcome hatred together. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT JPAC-CAL.ORG.