for the next generation THE MILLENNIAL RABBI IS ON A MISSION PLUS LIVING LEGENDS: JEWISH WAR VETERANS
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COVER STORY Judaism for the next Generation: Daniel Bortz is the Millennial Rabbi....................................
1000 WORDS Harold “Smoky” Simon is one of the last living heroes of Israel’s fight for independence............................................................................................................
FOOD Israeli government makes wine a smart brand to export culture and identity abroad..........................................................................................................
FEATURES A Tribute to Living Legends: Jewish War Veterans...................................................................
20 24 26 28 30
Saul Blinkoff......................................................................................................................................................... Emergency Services reaching Holocaust Survivors in San Diego................................... Jerusalem Biennale for Contemporary Jewish Art kicks off with theme of dispute.............................................................................................................. BOOKS: Don Harrison's "Jewish Stories" and other works by local authors...............
My Comic Relief................................................
Torah: Of the Book..........................................
Mazel and Mishagoss............................
PUBLISHERS Diane Benaroya & Laurie Miller
FIGHT FOR INDEPENDENCE
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CONTRIBUTORS Daniel Bortz, Donald H. Harrison, Steve Horn, Stephanie Lewis, Salomon Maya, Terra Paley, Mimi Pollack, Rachel Stern, Eva Trieger, Deborah Vietor, Chana Jenny Weisberg
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MY COMIC RELIEF l BY SALOMON MAYA
The Trip of a Lifetime
he other day, someone asked me what I did after graduating high school, after I had informed them that I didn’t immediately go to college. Times were a tad different in the summer of 1998. After high school, I suffered from crippling shyness. I couldn’t speak to someone if you paid me to. Back then, I lived in the shadow of my own reflection. In August 1998, I was on a plane with three close friends from San Diego to meet our group for our Schnat Achshara trip — where we would live in Israel for the next 12 months. My San Diego group was to join the Jewish community from Mexico in Tel Aviv. Strangers in a strange land. What felt like an endless flight approached Ben Gurion Airport and I remember growing more and more anxious about meeting these new people. I went to the tiny El Al airplane bathroom and locked myself inside. I splashed water on my face and stared at two very terrified blue eyes. “What is wrong with you?” I remember asking myself. The lone voice inside my head answered, “I don’t know.” Dejected, I returned to my seat as the plane made its final approach. We landed in Tel Aviv midday and met with our group, which consisted of five other girls and one other boy. The four of us from San Diego brought the total to ten. Ten
L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER 2019
18-year-olds ready to begin a trip of a lifetime. And I couldn’t break out of my shell. Every girl was cuter than the next. And I, well, I was not. Pudgy. Pale. Pimply. I wanted to just run back home. Go back to my mom. Something secure. Something I knew well. But I couldn’t. I beleaguered got on our bus, destination: Kibbutz Shamir, approximately two hours to the north. On the bus, each one of my San Diego friends chose a girl to sit with. I chose to sit alone. I put on my yellow Sony discman (if under the age of 30 go ask your mom what a discman was) and listened to a song by one of my favorite local bands. The lyric to this particular song has an interesting chorus...”and I gotta believe there’s nothing wrong with me...” this lyric repeated...and repeated. It was as if the lead singer got into that bathroom on the plane and answered that question I had asked. “What’s wrong with you?” “I gotta believe there’s nothing wrong with me.” I remember tearing up hearing this song on our bus drive north. I found my answer. My trip had already been a success even if it was only a couple hours in. I lived in Israel for twelve months. I had the time of my life. I made incredible friendships, and even more incredible memories. I got my
I made mistakes and learned from them. I grew up. I became a man. first girlfriend. And lost my first girlfriend. I had coffee thrown in my face by an angry Israeli and I almost froze to death on cold Jerusalem streets all because I went to a foam party on Christmas Eve. I made mistakes and learned from them. I grew up. I became a man. All because of a question answered. A boy became something more. Something proud. Someone that today knows for a fact absolutely nothing is wrong with him. SALOMON MAYA IS A LOCAL ACTOR AND PLAYWRIGHT. FOLLOW HIM ON TWITTER @SALOMAYA OR EMAIL HIM AT SALOMONM@LCHAIMMAGAZINE.COM.
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TORAH l BY RABBI DANIEL BORTZ
the book Abraham
spent the first 18 years of my life as a normal Southern California guy, interested in all things cool and fun. I followed that with six years in fully spiritual Jewish settings around the world, two of them in Jerusalem. My yeshiva in Jerusalem was a short walk from Mea Shearim, where religious Jews sequestered themselves in their own area, happy to live apart from secular society. Down the road in the other direction was Ben Yehuda street, a far different setting for modern culture. Living between the two areas, and with the background I had, I always perceived my role as a bridge between the two cultures. Judasim was a gift to be enjoyed by any Jew on their level. But spending so much time around ultra orthodox Jews who seemed content in their world, made me wonder: Was this the ideal way for a Jew to live? Cut off from “secular” society, busy with serving G-d and hanging out only with like-minded people? To each their own, but was this the right path for me personally? “Torah” means instruction. As we begin the Torah anew after the holidays, maybe if we look at the first Jews we encounter in Genesis, Abraham and Sarah, we can learn instruction on the proper path for a Jew to follow. While Abraham was the father of Isaac and his future Jewish descendants,
L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER 2019
he was also the father of many nations. Today he is honored by at least three major religions (there are allusions to him in others like Brahman of Buddhism — merely a restructuring of the letters to Abraham’s name — but that’s for another article). Sarah, on the other hand, was only the mother of Isaac and the Jewish nation. When Abraham’s other son Ishmael begins having a negative influence on her son Isaac, Sarah comes forward and asks Abraham to banish him and his mother Hagar from their home. Abraham is conflicted, until G-d Speaks to him and says: “Listen to your wife Sarah” (husbands take note). We see here an important difference of spirit between Abraham and Sarah, one that complimented each other’s strength. Abraham was pure love and benevolence, emphasizing the involvement with and fixing of the world. He is known in Torah as “Av Hamon Goyim” — the father of many nations. Sarah, however, emphasized the importance and necessity of distancing ourselves from negative societal influences that can affect our Judaism - our moral and spiritual compass. The key for us is to marry the two perspectives — like the marriage of Abraham and Sarah. We need to dedicate some time to learning and prayer; if not for a year in
Israel, then once a day or once a week. We should observe Jewish holidays and Shabbat, living and even eating a bit differently than the way the rest of American culture dictates. By doing so we emulate our mother Sarah. But we also must be involved in the world. Abraham taught us the importance of engaging the world and uplifting it. To be a “light onto the nations.” Not to be brought down and negatively influenced by the coarseness of it, it but to elevate it. The harmony of these two paths — of separation and inclusion — is what has kept the Jewish people so strong in our identity throughout history, while making a beautiful, indelible mark on the consciousness of culture in the world around us. Nearly 4,000 years later, as I walk with a kippah on at a music festival, sharing a piece of challah and a Torah thought with guests, I know we are harmonizing the two paths, continuing the legacy of our ancestors Abraham and Sarah. DANIEL BORTZ, THE MILLENNIAL RABBI, IS THE FOUNDER OF JTEEN AND SOUL X. CONNECT AT RABBIBORTZ.COM. READ MORE ABOUT HIM ON PAGE 14 OF THIS MONTH'S MAGAZINE!
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SALUTING ONE OF THE LAST LIVING HEROES OF ISRAEL'S FIGHT FOR INDEPENDENCE
Harold “Smoky” Simon not only helped found the Israeli Air Force in May 1948, but also World Machal, whose thousands of volunteer soldiers have served alongside the nation’s military. Nothing really prepares you for the Smoky smile and the twinkle in an eye undimmed by nearly a century on earth. And when Harold “Smoky” Simon grins at you, it’s hard to remember that, at 99, the man is one of a dwindling club: the heroes of Israel’s War of Independence. “Unhappily, that’s true,” he says in an accent reflecting his South African roots. “We were an endangered species, but now even that is sadly coming to an end.” Simon went on to help found not only the infant country’s air force in May of 1948, as Chief of Air Operations in Israel’s War of Independence, but also World Machal, whose thousands of volunteer soldiers from around the world have served alongside the Israel Defense Forces, beginning in 1948. Years later with a partner, he established the Simon & Wiesel life-insurance agency, one of Israel’s top firms. For all these accomplishments and the remarkable impact he’s had on the Jewish state since its birth, Simon received Nefesh B’Nefesh’s Sylvan Adams Bonei Zion Lifetime Achievement Award on Sept. 24, shortly before the start of the High Holidays. It was his years flying as a navigatorbombardier for the South African Air Force (SAAF) during World War II that Simon says
prepared him for this extraordinary life and his role in Israel’s history. In 1948, as newlyweds, Simon and his wife, Myra, who had been a meteorologist in the SAAF, joined a South African Zionist Federation group to volunteer to fight with their brethren in Palestine/Israel in what was threatening to be a serious war against the Arabs. “Fighting the Nazis gave us the skills and the experience we needed to fight for Israel,” he says more than seven decades later. “Without that expertise, none of us would have known how to win that war.” Still, he adds, “we had to muster all of our nerve to do the job against these powerful enemies. We were up against six Arab armies — the Egyptians were supplied by the Brits, the Syrians by the French, and we didn’t have a single combat plane of our own.” What Israel did have: old German planes sold to them by the Czechs, smuggled in and reassembled in Israel. And Simon reminds us of a statement made by Arab League’s Secretary-General, Abdul Rachman Azzam Pasha on May 1, 1948: “If the Zionists dare to establish a state, the massacres we would unleash would dwarf anything which Genghis Khan and Hitler perpetrated.” “These were difficult times,” acknowledges Simon. “None of us knew how it would turn out, but as proud as I’d been to be one of millions fighting to defeat the Nazis, it was even more emotional when you are part of a small bunch fighting for your own people, your own country.”
“Israel survived against all the odds, and the part we played? We were in the fortunate position to be in this place at that time,” Simon says. Those who lived through these harrowing times, he says, “can truly see how, with all the odds against us then, there is far more than human effort behind that victory. Returning to our ancient land, we are living a miracle of biblical proportions here.” In fact, Simon’s first flight, on May 14, had the distinction of taking off from Palestine, later landing in the same spot when it was officially Israel, after Ben-Gurion declared the state while they were in the air. After the war, the Simons returned to South Africa, where their four children were born and he entered the insurance business. WWW.LCHAIMMAGAZINE.COM
Harold “Smoky” Simon displays his Nefesh B’Nefesh’s Sylvan Adams Bonei Zion Lifetime Achievement Award, Sept. 24, 2019. PHOTO SOURCE: NEFESH B’NEFESH VIA FACEBOOK
In 1962, the family made aliyah, and with Moshe Wiesel, he established Simon & Wiesel. “In those years, the country had gone from a state of austerity to a growing economy,” he says. “It was a wonderful time to be here.” And his fledgling insurance firm found fertile ground in that burgeoning economy. In 1968, Simon was elected as chairman of World Machal, representing nearly 5,000 volunteers from 59 countries who fought in the War of Independence. He has served in that capacity for a half-century, as more “Machalniks” have joined over the years to help strengthen Israel’s military. These foreign soldiers are just part of the backing Israel has enjoyed over the years from Jews around the world. Simon says “without their support, in good times and hard times, 12
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too, Israel could not have survived.” Nefesh B’Nefesh honored those contributions by English-speaking olim as well. “In every area of expertise within the country, one can find an English-speaking oleh [‘immigrant’] who has introduced seismic, innovative change in Israel,” said Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, the organization’s co-founder and executive director. “Smoky Simon is an extraordinary individual who has succeeded in creating meaningful change in so many fields across this country. ... His impact on the State of Israel will be felt for many generations to come.” “He knew that as a Jew fighting for human freedom and dignity, it was something worth sacrificing your life for,” says Richard Landes, a retired Boston University history professor now living in Israel. “Honoring pioneers
like Smoky is like a long-distance swimmer picking up his head, and seeing where we’ve come from and where we’re heading. It’s a tonic the Jewish people and the world needs now in the face of so much criticism of Israel.” And, in his 100th year, Simon’s devotion to Israel remains strong. “There are 58 Muslim states and 86 Christian states in the world, and there is going to be one Jewish state — the State of Israel — until the end of time,” he says. “Israel survived against all the odds, and the part we played? We were in the fortunate position to be in this place at that time,” he adds with his trademark grin. “We were fortunate enough to be able to be the arm of the Almighty.”
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COVER STORY l BY EVA TRIEGER
THE MILLENIAL RABBI RABBI DANIEL BORTZ MAKES JUDAISM ACCESSIBLE FOR THE NEXT GENERATION
L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER 2019
abban Gamliel, the Nasi of the Sanhedrin, exhorted us to “choose for yourself a rabbi.” He spoke these words during a tumultuous period which followed the destruction of the Second Temple. His advice was intended to help the individual find his path in religious practice and become a productive citizen in the community. Had he been a contemporary of Rabbi Daniel Bortz, he may have modified his words to “choose for yourself this rabbi.” Rabbi Bortz is something of a local legend. But unlike some legends which may be fixed or static, Rabbi Bortz seems to be ever-evolving. This is sort of a theme with him. Born in South Africa and raised in San Diego, Rabbi Bortz hasn’t always been on the derech. Though he was raised in a home that progressively became more religious, he spent his teen years feeling disconnected. He did not always observe the Jewish laws, and like many teens, he experienced tension at home as he wasn’t toeing the line in other areas. At the age of 16, Rabbi Bortz began to develop a keener sense of his spiritual connection. He became motivated to explore and craved more knowledge and first-hand experience. This search led him to deepen his Jewish observance, and after just a year at UC Santa Barbara, he was compelled to leave for Jerusalem, where he threw himself into a six-year journey steeped in Jewish study, seeking the meaning of life. He earned his Rabbinical ordination in 2010 at the Mayanot Institute of Jewish Studies. He didn’t stop there. Rabbi Bortz wanted to share the joy and meaning he had found with others, to reach those young people who may have felt disconnected or lost as he had. One of the first ways to influence and encourage youngsters was through bar mitzvah training. In 2015, Rabbi Bortz joined Alejandro Waiss and his family as they traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate Alejandro’s bar mitzvah. The Rabbi reported that he especially enjoyed working with students at this pivotal point in their lives since this process “can be an anxietyridden time. I wanted to make it fun and found it to be a special time to connect with the entire family.” To this end, the Rabbi created Bar and Bat Mitzvah clubs to help achieve this milestone harmoniously. In 2011, Rabbi Bortz created JTEEN to help teens kindle an awareness of the special qualities within their Jewish experience. This organization is “dedicated to educating and empowering teenagers.” It began with a heavy emphasis on community service programs that could make a palpable difference in San Diego’s disparate populations, focused primarily on direct help for the homeless and at group homes
For every gathering, the goal is the same: How can we elevate our time on this planet — our simple daily interactions — to make this world a better, more Divine place? for children at risk. Many of the teens expressed the joy they felt in finding purpose in a world beyond their familiar, comfortable bubble. The Rabbi shared that for 37% of the high school students involved in their programs, JTEEN was their only source of Jewish affiliation. At high school clubs around the city and weekly evening classes, the group delivers tools for moral decision-making, nurturing students to improve their character traits. For every gathering, the goal is the same: How can we elevate our time on this planet — our simple daily interactions — to make this world a better, more Divine place? WWW.LCHAIMMAGAZINE.COM
Soul X with Rabbi Bortz.
As the teens turned into young adults post-college, Rabbi Bortz created Soul X, a unique organization in the Jewish world that offers experiential Judaism for 20- and 30-year-olds, profound inner and outer experiences of soul connection. Because of the barrage of outer noise (work, life responsibilities, phone, social media) and inner noise (stress, anxiety, self-doubt), an environment is created where attendees feel welcome to gather for magical experiences of open discussion and sharing, soul food, sound meditation, and more. He finds the sound helps one to quiet the racing mind and drop in more easily. This generation may have 10,000 friends on social media, but struggle to make meaningful connections in real life. Soul X events make meaningful human connection easier, and with 35-50 attendees at each event, with plans to expand, there will be more opportunities 16
L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER 2019
to make new, lasting friendships. Satellite branches in Los Angeles and New York have recently opened as well, with more cities and events on the way. In an effort to break down stereotypes, Rabbi Bortz also explores things not generally associated with Judaism or the Rabbinate. With his customary zeal and all-in attitude, the Rabbi competed in national Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournaments. Leonard Rosen, a master of the sport, introduced Rabbi Bortz to this martial arts form. One particular passion of the Rabbi’s is music. Citing Jewish mystical sources, he explained that the angels are said to communicate through song. Music is “the universal language of the soul.” Rabbi Bortz regularly attends the Coachella Music Festival where he offers a Shabbat tent to keep people connected to each other and to their
spiritual side. Who were his role models? Rabbi Bortz credits his parents for harmonizing Jewish observance with fun, embracing travel, enjoying the world, and hosting interesting guests in their home. He also gained inspiration from King David, who struggled a great deal. He stated that King David was a warrior who used song to pour out his burdens, thereby forging an intimate relationship with Hashem. He also borrows a page from the Baal Shem Tov’s teachings, someone who would venture into the forest to pray, always looking for the good in life’s tests and trials, to find the light of G-d amidst the darkness. Rabbi Bortz has recently published a book: Beneath the Surface: How to Live a Life of Purpose in Tune with Your Soul. The book takes in-depth ideas and breaks them down into bite-sized, relatable pieces to provide meaning through stories and analogies. It may be purchased on Amazon. Elka Waiss Kucinski is a major fan of Daniel Bortz. Having two teenagers who’ve worked with the Rabbi, she related that he “morphs into whatever is needed” by his students. He meets them where they
Rabbi Bortz has recently published a book: Beneath the Surface: How to Live a Life of Purpose in Tune with Your Soul. The book takes indepth ideas and breaks them down into bitesized, relatable pieces to provide meaning through stories and analogies. are in a way that is authentic, genuine and welcome. Teens see him as current, relevant and inspirational, as evidenced by both of her son’s and daughter’s comments. Personal goals for the new year? Rabbi Bortz told me that he wants to go big! He strives to create events and programs that push the boundaries and “will fuse ancient Jewish wisdom with 21stcentury life and pop culture” on a grand scale. The Rabbi is all about personal growth and curing the inner and outer disconnection we all experience. Heed the words of Rabban Gamliel, and experience Rabbi Bortz for yourself by attending a Shabbat X!
L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER 2019
EXPORTING ISRAELI WINE EXPANDS CULTURE Through wine, tourists can get to know Israel through history, archaeology, architecture, culinary arts, food and technology BY ELIANA RUDEE | JNS.org
s Israel’s government ministries endeavor to represent and communicate the singularity and attractiveness of Israeli culture and industry to audiences abroad, wine has topped the list as one way to effectively represent Israeli culture and history. This summer, Israel’s Ministry of Tourism opened a “brand department” as part of its new strategy of marketing the country through specific brands; “deserts,” “Tel Aviv” and “Jerusalem” are strong ones, said Dana Gazit, lifestyle brand manager for Israel’s Ministry of Tourism. Wine, she said, was also decided as one of the main brands that will be used to market Israel overseas. Other governmental organizations, such Israel’s Ministry of Economy and the Israel Export Institute, are similarly using the appeal of good vintages to gain interest and market Israel’s identity abroad. Gila Ya’acovi Gurvitch, director of tourism and culture for the Galil Development Authority, maintains that through wine, tourists can get to know Israel through history, archaeology, agriculture, culinary arts, food and technology, she says. The ministries, said Gazit, are investing in bringing wine bloggers and experts to explore Israel, helping more people become “exposed to Israeli wine and encouraged to visit.” The attractiveness of the product, she added, is that each winery has a story visitors can connect to that “includes all the senses,” which allows for a more comprehensive and memorable experience in Israel. “Wine is something you can see anywhere in Israel, and it encourages people to leave the big cities and explore Israel more in-depth,” says Gazit, noting that the country is reflected through the variety of its winemakers and geographical terrains.
Through wine, “Israel has so much to show,” she says. Much like Israel itself, its wine industry can be defined by its rebirth, from the ancient Jewish presence in the land and its subsequent exile, to today’s modern Jewish state. Archaeological evidence points to a thriving wine industry during Biblical times, only to be destroyed during Muslim rule of the land, as wine consumption is forbidden in Islam. Today’s wine industry, therefore, is a regeneration of the ancient Jewish wine culture. The logo of Israel’s Ministry of Tourism, Gazit points out, shows the biblical spies sent by Moses coming back from the land of Israel carrying grapes. “Israeli wine spans throughout history — from biblical times until now,” she says. “Even today, you can follow the Bible and live it through wine tourism.” A look inside wineries communicates this rebirth as part of the formation of a new Israeli wine identity. Places like Recanati use ancient, indigenous varietals in its modern products to help “restore” the original Israeliwine industry. Jezreel Valley winery in Kibbutz Hannaton makes a varietal with indigenous Israeli grapes not found anywhere else in the world. Its ancient variety, “Argaman,” was created in Israel in the 1970s as a hybrid of Sousão and Carignan grapes, both grown in Israel but originating from Portugal and Spain. Its name, referring to the color of the wines it produces, comes from the biblical word describing the deep red/purple color of the high priests’ ritual garments worn in the Temple. Jezreel has also recently invested in eggshaped tanks made of porous concrete that facilitate oxygenation of the wine and can be controlled via smartphone from anywhere in
the world at any time. Lotem Winery in the Western Galilee fuses technology and “spiritual science,” where the entire wine-making process is accompanied by calming music to enhance the final product. According to Lotem, the music influences water molecules to “become more symmetrical with certain music, changing the tannins and aroma of the wine.” Tulip Winery in the Kfar Tikva residential community in the Lower Galilee represents a social business whose positive values help define Israel’s identity revolution. Producing premium wines while contributing to the local community, Tulip employs 45 people with special needs who live in Kfar Tikva. The village is the first of its kind in Israel, integrating the adults with special needs into the broader community and providing meaningful employment for them. “We have created a society, not taken them out of one,” notes Tulip customer-relations manager Lital Roth. “They are an equal part of the community, deeply involved in the process of creating Tulip’s world-class and award-winning wines.” Tulip winemaker Roy Itzhaki sees himself as taking part in the creation of an “identity revolution” in Israeli wine—not just through the values that his winery advances, but also in the wine he produces. Tulip’s boutique winery, MAIA, was established in 2014 and features Mediterranean varietals grown in Israel. Best served with the cuisine of local Israeli kitchens, Itzhaki notes that the wine was designed to pair with Mediterranean food, atmosphere and scents. “We want to show people the good things about Israel,” said Itzhaki. “Israel is not just politics. We have many good projects, and Tulip is one of them.”
FEATURE STORY A TRIBUTE TO LIVING
By Deborah Vietor
ewish War Veterans of the U.S.A., (JWV) have given tremendous support over the years to the United States military. Founded in 1896, the group was created by a group of 63 Jewish veterans from the Civil War following a series of anti-Semitic comments about the lack of Jewish service. Since then, the oldest Veterans organization in America, JWV has been working hard to be the voice of American Jewry in the veteran community. In 1958, the Jewish War Veterans were instrumental in establishing the National Museum of American Jewish Military History (NMAJMH), located in Washington D.C. Founded under the auspices of the JWV of the USA, NMAJMH documents and preserves the contributions of Jewish Americans to the peace and freedom of the U.S., educates the public concerning the courage, heroism and sacrifices made by Jewish Americans who served in the armed forces, and work to combat anti-Semitism. Records show that 250,000 Jews served in World War I and 550,000 Jews served in World War II. Jewish American Veterans have served in numbers greater than their proportion in the general population up to the Vietnam War. Now there are 250 VFW posts throughout the United States with approximately 7,500 active members. On October 15th, the “Feed Our Heroes Program” was sponsored by the JWV, honoring active duty military arriving at the San Diego
SHELDON KLEIMAN IN VIETNAM, 1968. 20
L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER 2019
ALLEN MILIEFSKY AT RETIREMENT FROM US AIR FORCE
Airport, at the USO on their way to their next assignment. Food was served to more than 385 military members, including U.S. Marines and other branches of the military. Allen Miliefsky, a Jewish career veteran, proudly served in the United States Air Force for 22 years. He was honored with the San Diego County Veteran of the Year award in 2009 for his work with veterans and the civilian community. Born in Worcester, Mass., Miliefsky became a Civil Air Patrol Cadet at 15, enlisted in the Massachusetts Air National Guard at 17, transferred to the Air Force Reserve and entered active duty in the U.S. Air Force as an Airman 3rd Class in 1958. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1978. Miliefsky knew from the time he was eight-years-old, building model airplanes, that he wanted to be in the Air Force flying military aircraft. He exceeded his childhood dream, and flew 286 combat missions in Vietnam. During the Tet Offensive in 1968. As a Captain, he served as the Battlefield Commander on AC-47 Gunships. While flying these missions, not one American outpost or Fire Support Base under his responsibility, though under attack, was overrun by the enemy, including a Special Forces Camp near Da Nang Air Force Air Base. He received The Distinguished Flying Cross for this mission, describing it as one of the most rewarding experiences while serving in the Air Force, saving 149 ground soldiers. Miliefsky received 11 Air Medals, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with “V” for Valor, the Presidential Unit Citation and the Vietnam Service Medal with 9 bronze battle/campaign stars. In 1977, Miliefsky received an assignment as the Air Advisor to the Shah of Iran. He retired in 1978, becoming Director of Veteran Services for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He then moved to San Diego, assuming the position of Transition Service Officer for the Disabled American Veterans, briefing thousands of servicemen on their rights as veterans. He is a member of many military organizations and serves as a valuable volunteer. “While [I was] in service, there were two Jewish officers who gave me a personal recommendation to go to Officers and Pilot Training. We met for all the Jewish holidays and I met many other Jewish officers over the years,” Miliefsky recalled. Today, he assists the USMC by attending Friday evening shabbat religious services with the Jewish Marine Recruits at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, as he has done since October 2001. “If you don’t know what to do with your life at the end of high school, you will know after joining the military for four years,” Miliefsky said. “Know you will have a college degree paid for
through the military. I have most enjoyed the camaraderie built with many years of friendships in the Air Force. There is nothing like the military.” Sheldon Kleiman M.D., served as a Battalion surgeon with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment advancing to Regimental Surgeon, 1st Marine Division. He completed the Vietnam assignment at the 1st Medical Battalion Hospital in Da Nang City. Prior to and after serving in Vietnam, he completed his military service at Great Lakes Naval Hospital north of Chicago. Born and raised in Chicago, Dr. Kleiman attended undergraduate and the College of Medicine at the University of Illinois. Following medical school, he received internship training at USC-Los Angeles County General Hospital. During the Vietnam War (1965-1975), physicians were drafted to meet the needs of the U.S. military. Originally assigned to the U.S. Navy Medical Corps. which provides medical care to the marines, Dr. Kleiman was transferred to the U.S. Marine Corps. After basic training he was ordered to Vietnam and assigned to the First Marine Division. Dr. Kleiman was honored with the Bronze Star Medal, combat “V” for Valor, for his medical service with the 1st Marine Division and a Certificate of Commendation for medical care administered during the second Tet Offensive, 1969. “As a physician and a Jew, it was my honor to serve our country WWW.LCHAIMMAGAZINE.COM
and the United States Marine Corps,” Kleiman said. “As a physician, I did my best as did my fellow doctors to save as many lives as we could under combat conditions.” “For me as a Jew, I believe war brought me closer to G-d. When in a synagogue, I reflect on my war time experiences and say Kaddish for all who lost their lives in Vietnam, both Jews and non-Jews. I was allowed to fly by helicopter to Da Nang City to celebrate Passover with fellow Jews from all branches of the military. This reminds us that even during times of war and chaos, we are all one as Jews and can can celebrate together,” Kleiman added. While serving under combat conditions, Kleiman recalled that his unit was united by a Jewish Chaplain, a Rabbi who was attached 22
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to the 101st Airborne Division. As a visiting Chaplain, he brought a siddur, and “as he read, he guided us as we all prayed together, emphasizing the sacred value of human life.” IF YOU ARE A JEWISH WAR VETERAN AND WISH TO JOIN THE SAN DIEGO POST PLEASE CALL ALLEN MILIEFSKY AT (619) 7376910 OR SHELDON KLEIMAN AT (858) 452-5691. FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN DONATING TO THE JEWISH WAR VETERANS OF THE USA, PLEASE SEND DONATIONS TO P.O. BOX 81171, SAN DIEGO, CA 92168-1171.
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FEATURE STORY l BY RACHEL STERN
feature story AN EVENING WITH SAUL
had the privilege of hearing Saul Blinkoff speak over Rosh Hashana at Aish San Diego. A great speaker, he knows how to captivate an audience. Originally from New York, Blinkoff is an orthodox Jew living in Los Angeles with his wife Marion and four adorable children. He is a film director and spoke about how he became observant and moved to Hollywood. Blinkoff made it very clear that one of his rabbis taught him: “We are not human beings, but rather human becomings.” In other words, we constantly evolve; being stagnant is not a good thing. He knew that if he wanted to succeed in life, he had to work hard for it. As a kid, Blinkoff was interested in making movies. He admired Steven Spielberg and figured “if one of Hollywood’s greatest directors is Jewish then I can do it too!” He used to have his brother, sister, and neighborhood kids help him out by acting out their parts, while he “directed” films. He would practice for hours upon hours, perfecting his drawings. His ultimate goal was to work for Disney. His mother took him on a trip to Orlando, Fla., and after much research, found the steps to his dream. He was enrolled in the Columbus College of Art and Design, where Disney recruits. One day, a renowned representative from Disney came to speak to the 750 students enrolled in the program. He told them that out of all of them only four would make it, and
SAUL BLINKOFF IS AN ILLUSTRATOR, FILMMAKER AND ORTHODOX JEW LIVING IN LOS ANGELES. 24
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Blinkoff thought: “Gee, I wonder who the other three will be.” He befriended another student named Andy and together they worked very hard to perfect their sketches. While other students lounged around, these two gentlemen worked day and night so they could send their work to Disney and get accepted to its prestigious internship program. Blinkoff was rejected but kept working at it and kept sending his drawings to Disney. He was happy even when he was rejected because he at least saw his name on Disney stationary, and that was something. Finally, Andy, already working at Disney, called Blinkoff and told him that Disney built a new wing for interns and Blinkoff’s name made the list. Blinkoff’s first project was drawing the leaves for a scene in Pocahontas, and eventually, he helped create other famous movies such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mulan and Tarzan. After taking a bit of a break, Blinkoff traveled to Israel. He was still not 100 percent sure how he fit into Judaism. The trip was inspiring and it made him want to discover more about what Judaism has to offer. He was offered a job in New York and went back there to fulfill the role. He became involved with the frum crowd and eventually became fully shomer mitzvot. He and his wife Marion became orthodox and then had an orthodox wedding in New York. The couple decided to move to L.A. where he, by chance, met Rabbi Shalom Denbo. Rabbi Denbo would have Blinkoff come to his house and together they would study Mesilat Yesharim till the wee hours of the morning. Today, Blinkoff teaches Mesilat Yesharim to others and is president of his shul in the Pico-Robertson area of L.A. People constantly ask him how he balances Judaism with working in Hollywood and Blinkoff said he never experienced anti-Semitism. Many times, those who are curious ask him about his kippa or Hebrew letters and he educates them. People are more interested in it than hateful. His children are following his footsteps, and some do voiceover work for movies and shows. However, they still live normal, frum lives. Blinkoff is very proud of his work and his life and happily says: “The coolest part of my job is that I wear my kippah at work and strive to be a Kiddush Hashem.” WWW.LCHAIMMAGAZINE.COM
feature story EMERGENCY SERVICES REACHING HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS IN
SAN DIEGO R
ecent studies indicate that up to 80,000 Holocaust Survivors are living today in the United States — and more than 30,000 are living at or near the federal poverty level. Many of these survivors are choosing between heat or food, medicine or rent. Others have dire living conditions because they do not have the funds needed to repair their homes. In March 2019, Seed the Dream Foundation launched a national initiative to support thousands of Holocaust Survivors across the United States. Recognizing the importance of reaching any Survivor regardless of where they live, Seed the Dream Foundation partnered with KAVOD to establish the KAVOD Survivors of the Holocaust Emergency Fund (SHEF). Seed the Dream Foundation has committed more than one million dollars to launch this effort — and more than 12 philanthropists and Foundations have quickly joined a coalition of national partners to get SHEF rolling for the second quarter of 2019. All KAVOD SHEF funds will be directed toward Emergency Services, specifically to address the following urgent and critical needs: dental, vision, medical, emergency home services (emergency utilities, home repairs, rent support), and food. KAVOD SHEF funds will be utilized quickly, with few restrictions, to address unmet emergency needs of Survivors in partner cities, including San Diego, where this special initiative will launch in August 2019. “Caring for the needs of Survivors and ensuring those needs are being met with compassion and dignity cannot and should not be the responsibility of any one organization or institution,” Michael Jeser, President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of San Diego County stated when asked about the Initiative. “With
26 L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER 2019 26 L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER 2019
the support of KAVOD and Seed the Dream Foundation, our San Diego Jewish community is going to be able to make significant strides in elevating our response to emergency needs of Survivors. Collectively, we will make an even greater difference in the lives of those who have given so much.” In partnership with the Jewish Federation, Jewish Family Service of San Diego’s acting CEO and Chief Operating Officer, Dana Toppel added, “It is our responsibility to ensure that every Survivor lives with the dignity they deserve. These funds will enable us to meet the critical needs that emerge as Survivors age and need greater assistance and care.” KAVOD SHEF exponentially multiplies the dollars (and critical services) directly aiding Survivors. Leveraging the funds raised through a special philanthropic national matching initiative, KAVOD will work with close to fifteen designated communities across the United States to bring millions of additional dollars into this space over two years. 100% of all KAVOD SHEF matching funds raised over the next two years will go directly toward Survivor services, serving as a secondary resource to what is already in place. “The survivors’ unmet needs far outweigh the resources available to cover these emergency services, it is for this reason that we launched this initiative and are prepared to continue matching every dollar raised on the national level — even if we exceed our original goals,” Marcy Gringlas, President & Co-Founder of Seed the Dream Foundation, explained. “It is our hope that KAVOD SHEF will be far reaching, and allow Survivors across the country to have access to these critical services.” Seed the Dream Foundation is committed to working with its partners across the country to create a collective communal response and bring most-needed attention to address this silent crisis.
“The survivors’ unmet needs far outweigh the resources available to cover these emergency services, it is for this reason that we launched this initiative and are prepared to continue matching every dollar raised on the national level." “Every day, we lose more than 40 Holocaust Survivors, and yet every day we continue to see hundreds of new requests for care. There is no time to waste,” added Gringlas. KAVOD SHEF funds will be utilized quickly, with few restrictions, to address unmet emergency needs of Survivors in partner cities. As one of the local communities in the KAVOD SHEF coalition, San Diego will launch this special initiative in August 2019. To ensure greater access to Survivors, marketing of the KAVOD SHEF initiative will include the national phone hotline. The KAVOD SHEF Hotline allows Survivors who are not in contact with their local agencies to have a place to call to begin the process of gaining support. The KAVOD SHEF hotline is 720-295-8484. KAVOD Ensuring Dignity for Holocaust Survivors, is an organization that is making a massive impact for Holocaust Survivors living near or in poverty in the US. KAVOD was created in the fall of 2015 when the founders, John and Amy Israel Pregulman, learned that 1/3 of the up to 80,000 Survivors living in the US struggle with day to day basic needs when there is an emergency situation. Sometimes, it is their life that is in constant chaos that is the emergency. It seemed unbelievable. “We still get looks of dismay every time we share these numbers.
We get asked time and time again how is this possible and why is this happening?” says John Pregulman Co-Founder of KAVOD. In the 3 years that KAVOD has operated, close to 1,400 Holocaust Survivors in 39 communities in the U.S. have been supported. It is KAVOD’s mission to meet these courageous people exactly where they are and offer them genuine compassion and love, so they can feel relief in the most dignified way. KAVOD offers more than aid for groceries and household necessities. KAVOD offers community, connection, and the very real sensation of feeling valued. “The issue is not going away and is not dwindling! Our Survivors are getting older and are having bigger financial stresses. We only have a few years left with these courageous individuals and we feel it is our responsibility to take care of them and offer them peace in their final years. They have been through enough and as a human community, we are responsible,” said Amy Israel Pregulman, Executive Director of KAVOD. This really is our last chance to help our Survivors — those who are still with us — to live out their lives in dignity. LEARN MORE ABOUT KAVOD SHEF AT WWW.KAVODENSURINGDIGNITY.COM.
FE AT URE STO RY One of the artists works on a piece for the “Ziara” exhibition ahead of its launch at the YMCA in Jerusalem. PHOTO BY ELIANA RUDEE.
WITH A THEME OF DISPUTE JERUSALEM BIENNALE FOR CONTEMPORARY JEWISH ARTS KICKS OFF IN A BIG WAY BY ELIANA RUDEE | JNS.ORG 28
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F E ATUR E S TO RY
he fourth Jerusalem Biennale for Contemporary Jewish Art, which explores the intersection between contemporary art and the Jewish world of content, featured the theme “For Heaven’s Sake,” exploring motivation for action and artistic creation, as well as the Jewish tradition of dispute. This year’s Biennale showcases the work of 200 professional Israeli and international artists in 30 exhibitions and 14 venues around the city. (It began on Oct. 10 and lasts through Nov. 28.) Both Jewish and non-Jewish artists from the United States, United Kingdom, Europe, Morocco, India, Argentina and Israel have created works that address themes in Jewish discourse, both in the Diaspora and Israel. The name of the theme refers to the wellknown verse from the Mishnah, Pirkei Avot (“Ethics of the Fathers”): “Any dispute which is for the sake of Heaven will ultimately endure, and one which is not for the sake of Heaven will not ultimately endure.” According to Biennale materials, “The dynamic, sometimes challenging, process of seeking truth, even in mundane matters, is connected at its core to this tradition of dispute. It is a path [that] empowers mankind’s quest to repair the world, and along the way, perhaps even find transcendence.” Further, the phrase speaks to ongoing deliberations that do not need to find a decisive agreement, but which advance an overall deeper group understanding. Curated by Sagi Refael and assembled by the Jewish Artists Initiative (JAI) of Southern California, the “Table of Contents/ Table of Contacts” exhibition in Hechal Shlomo explores American-Israeli relations, their alliance and dialogue amid “divisive and politically challenging times, for both
the United States and Israel.” The exhibition’s video installation and original artist books show 27 Jewish artists and art professionals living in Los Angeles from multiple generations of Jewish experiences and points of view, answering questions about their connection to Israel. The notion of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people — albeit one that may not receive automatic moral and financial support for all its policies — is mentioned frequently. “Disagreements and misunderstandings do not occur solely with strangers and enemies; they can also occur within the family,” notes the exhibition. According to Refael, while the AmericanIsraeli alliance is perceived to be everlasting and unbreakable, "Table of Contents/Table of Contacts" seeks to challenge Jerusalem visitors to the exhibition by presenting “the entire spectrum of opinions about what support of Israel means today.” “We wanted to open a discussion among Israelis and American Jews about their perceptions,” he says . Another exhibition at the Hechal Shlomo venue, curated by Andi Arnovitz, is titled: “Living Under Water: An Artistic Conversation About Climate Change.” “For the sake of Heaven and humanity, we must acknowledge and try to repair the destructive course of our planet,” Arnovitz says at a preview of the exhibit. “In 2018, Beit Venezia: A Home for Jewish Culture in Venice, decided to initiate an inquiry and exploration of climate change from a uniquely Jewish lens and invited five artists to create immediate responses to the global climate crisis,” she explained. “Venezia is a city whose very existence is threatened by rising sea levels, tourists and time.” The artists explored Venezia — once home
to a rich Jewish culture, but today faced with a dwindling Jewish population — interviewing rabbis, scholars and activists there, and then creating a suite of 10 etchings in which each artist left their mark, which was then altered by the next artist “as a metaphor for civilization in which each person adds their impact.” Jews, noted Arnovitz, have a compelling antidote to climate change. “If everybody observed Shabbat by just being and not doing — it doesn’t matter on which day — we could reverse climate change,” she says . “There is no issue more important ‘for the sake of heaven’ than this,” she claimed. “We have a small window to adapt and change the way we live and our carbon footprint. We need to rethink what we use and how we live.” Other Biennale venues include Hebrew Union College, Kol HaOt in Hutzot Hayotzer, the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, Mishkanot Sha’ananim, the First Station and the YMCA. The diverse sites, director of content Dr. Ido Noy says , can be construed as representing a type of dispute as identity “touches on a nerve in Jerusalem.” With secular and religious venues, for example, Noy maintains that the theme of dispute is set in a “real Jerusalem context.” This year’s Biennale, unlike prior ones, features artists of the three major religions in Jerusalem. According to Biennale founder and director Rami Ozeri, a goal is to bring interfaith discussion to the Jewish world of content to “create connections and bring people together.” “That’s what art does,” he says . “Art has a healing power in Jerusalem, and we want to use it in conflict [resolution], to accumulate and increase the amount of peace in the world.” WWW.LCHAIMMAGAZINE.COM
FE AT URE STO RY
A JEWISH STORY EVERYWHERE NEW WORK LOOKS AT LOCAL JEWISH STORIES BY MIMI POLLACK
L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER 2019
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hether you are new to San Diego are or an old-timer, I think it is always interesting to learn about local places and people. Schlepping and Schmoozing through San Diego County, Volume One is a new book by Donald H. Harrison. It is filled with stories about people and places in San Diego County with a Jewish twist. This is a bonus for San Diego, a place more known for its military presence, not its “Jewishness” unlike New York City. Harrison is actually from New York, but moved to California as a teen with his family. He is now practically a native Californian. He brings to this book a keen journalistic eye as he has worked in the field of journalism for various publications, as well as his own, since 1962. He also has a deep sense of Jewish history and culture. In addition, he worked in public relations in San Diego for several years. The nice thing about this book is that you can either read it cover to cover or go through the extensive Table of Contents and choose the chapters that catch your eye. The book is in chronological order starting in 1987 and ending in 2019. I did the latter and there were 18 stories that I was particularly drawn to read, such as his stories on immigrants, Immigrant Stories Told at the New Americans Museum — and his stories on Jewish Family Service and how they have served the community for over 100 years — JFS, Looking Back a Century, Recalls Rose Neumann. Moreover, I liked his stories on people who converted and intermarried couples — “Christina de Jesus is a Jewish Song Leader” and “Intermarried Couple Honors Each Other’s Beliefs”. His curious nature has served him well in life. There are also many stories related to
the history of San Diego, such as “Plaque Recalling First Roseville Hotel Unveiled”. Since San Diego has a strong military presence, there are two chapters I liked touching on that-“Liberation Moment at
“There is a Jewish Story Everywhere” and Harrison sure knows how to find them.
Miramar National Cemetery Honors ExPOW’s” and “Jews of the US Military Honored at Veteran’s Museum”. One of his best received articles is the one
on the passing of San Diego’s First Lady of Holocaust Survivors, Gussie Zaks— “Community Says Goodbye to Gussie Zaks”. It is his tribute to her and the community that loved her, and it struck a chord with many readers. Finally, there are also several chapters about his adventures sightseeing in San Diego from the coast to East County as well as points north and south which he describes with gusto. I liked his chapters on Seal Tours, Living with Animals, The Model Railroad Museum in Balboa Park, and Birch Aquarium. In addition, every year he goes to Comic-Con with engaging observations. Check out “Survivor Ruth G. Saks Impresses Comic Con Audience”. The motto of his publication, San Diego Jewish World, a daily online newspaper, is “There is a Jewish Story Everywhere” and Harrison sure knows how to find them. WWW.LCHAIMMAGAZINE.COM
F E AT URE STO RY
NEW WORKS BY LOCAL AUTHORS A NUMBER OF NEW WORKS BY LOCAL AUTHORS ARE OUT NOW, JUST IN TIME FOR YOUR FALL READING LIST! HERE ARE SOME OF OUR FAVORITES.
When The Numbers Don’t Add Up, by Patty Bialak Pasha Stern, a successful accountant with an uncanny talent for forensics uncovers a multi-million-dollar international crime during a routine corporate audit. Pasha uses her creative computer programming skills to identify errors in the minutia of spreadsheet data glossed over by Teken, Inc.’s previous auditors. Shocking discoveries bring her face to face with a disparate cast of suspects and prompts a working relationship with the FBI. Newlyminted temporary Special Agent Pasha Stern steps into the world of terrorists, extremists, and traitors. After a lifetime of rejecting her Jewish lineage, she must now decide how much she will risk helping Israel. Although Pasha is smart, she’s also naïve. At a mere 5’3”, Pasha is mentally and physically tough as nails. But her naivete makes us laugh and her ability to love deeply breaks our hearts all at the same time. This story takes the reader on a roller coaster ride up and down the west coast of California, across the globe to Israel and back again where she discovers her taste for the thrill of the chase.
and Zayde but it’s only an old dreidel. It is a big disappointment until it transports them out of modern Los Angeles to join the Maccabees! Once they convince a suspicious Judah Maccabee and their friends that they have arrived to help, they use what they know about the Hanukkah story from Hebrew school to aid the Maccabees in their battles against Antiochus and they rededicate the Temple with their new friends. They know that the miracle of Hanukkah relies on finding the special consecrated oil, but where could it be?
A Dreidel In Time, by Marcia Berneger, Illustrated by Beatriz Castro Devorah and Benjamin are excited to open their Hanukkah present from Bubbe
Teachers, Have You Ever? by Cheryl Kolker and Jan Landau Teachers, Have You Ever? Is compilation of true, unbelievably believable teacher tales
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that allows those who teach and anyone who has ever been taught, to be entertained, to laugh, to commiserate, and to connect and identify with the unique perspective of teachers. That being said, in the words of the authors, “there is no doubt that being educators was certainly one of the most important and fulfilling roles in our lives. As teachers, we had the daily responsibility and privilege of helping to build a foundation for the love of learning and strength of character in our students. But in order to come through the stresses of the day without resorting to more than one glass of wine a night, we selfmedicated with an ever expanding sense of humor.”
SAVE THE DATE Join Geppetto, Pinocchio, the Blue Fairy, and the rest of Disney’s My Son Pinocchio Jr. cast in the musical adventure of a lifetime. Family members of all ages will enjoy this performance with its lively cast and musical favorites such as “When You Wish Upon A Star” and “I’ve Got No Strings.” Its meaningful theme will warm hearts as it focuses on the importance of honesty, bravery, understanding and selflessness. THROUGH November 17, 2019. Showtimes are 8 p.m. on Saturdays and noon and 2:30 p.m. on Sundays, Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, David & Dorothea Garfield Theatre, 4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla, CA, 92037 $19; students and JCC members $17. Group rates available. www.sdcjc.org/garfield/boxoffice.aspx Come see Disney’s My Son Pinocchio Jr. and you will see that wishes do really come true. A special thanks to our Show Sponsor Geppetto’s Toys!
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TAPESTRY This month, the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center will host the 4th Annual TAPESTRY: A Community Celebration of Jewish Learning, in partnership with Shabbat San Diego. The program on November 17 will begin at 9 a.m. with a light bagel breakfast and continue with a morning of 18 invigorating sessions. A session on Jerusalem by Keynote Speakers Chaya Gilboa, Director of Jewish Engagement at the Leichtag Foundation and Marik Shtern, Researcher and Lecturer at UCSD Urban studies and planning, will wrap up the morning’s sessions, with Charlene Seidle, Executive Vice President Leichtag Foundation and Chair, International Office of Jerusalem Partnerships as moderator. The price for the event is $18. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m., with the first session beginning at 9:15 a.m. and following session at 10:15 a.m. The Keynote Speakers session will take place at 11:15 a.m. To see the entire lineup of speakers, sessions and to register go to: sdcjc.org/tapestry, or call JCC Guest Services at (858) 457-3030.
SD OPERA OPENING NIGHT Guests to the Opening Night Celebration of San Diego Opera’s 55th season celebrated on the Civic Concourse before the performance of Aida. Distinguished guests included Mayor Kevin Falconer, Assembly member Todd Gloria, Cultural Attaché of the Consulate of Mexico in San Diego Gaspar Orozco Rios, as well as board members and opera supporters. At intermission guests were welcomed back into the grand patron tent for hors d’oeuvres, drinks, and coffee and ended the evening with an exclusive cast party with the stars of Aida. Dr. Eric and Nicole Sievers, Kevin and Sherry Ahern, Amin & Patricia Guindi PHOTO BY BLACK MOON IMAGES
CAMP MOUNTAIN CHAI WOMEN'S WEEKEND Women’s Weekend at Camp Mountain Chai, Oct 25-27, was inspiring in so many ways, including spiritually, physically, creatively, musically and more. Also, plenty to eat and drink! New friendships forged and old ones cemented. Put it on your calendar for next year!
Hagit and Noya at SWU SD Gala. PHOTO CREDIT STANDWITHUS
STAND WITH US On October 27, StandWithUs held their 8th annual “Leaders of Tomorrow” Dinner Gala at the Marriott Marquis. Israeli singer Hagit Yaso entertained with her beautiful rendition of Israeli songs, sharing the stage with children from Chabad Poway. Dr. Howard Kaye, husband of Lori Kaye, z”l, and Keynote Speaker Larry Elder were compelling. The audience learned about the new antisemitism on campus, including academic slander against Jews and Israel. A video disclosed the harshness of increasing hatred of Israel. This was an amazing Gala for an amazing organization that fights against antisemitism and against the hate-filled lies hurled at Israel. 34
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BY CHANA JENNY WEISBERG l FAMILY
mom.com What I Learned from My Silent Meditation Retreat
ecently, I attended a silent Jewish meditation retreat with my 19-yearold daughter. There were about 20 women total who, during the retreat weren’t allowed to talk, write, or read (though Torah learning was permitted during breaks), even to interact with one another even through gestures. All we could do for 16 hours was meditate, guided by our teacher, Rachel Dasa (who was, thankfully, allowed to talk), eat, sleep, and pray. Here are some of the surprising things I learned from those 16 hours of silence. In my regular life, I realized, I am constantly distracted from myself. Busy doing, reading, listening. And at the retreat, with all my usual distractions removed, I was surprised to discover how much I enjoy my own company. I could have gone on that way for a few more days. At the same time, I realized that with all distractions removed, uncomfortable and unresolved memories and feelings seemed to pop up out of nowhere. Rachel Dasa explained that this is very good, it means we are getting rid of whatever mental junk is weighing us down. And the truth is, after the high of the retreat, I expected to go home to my kids and get ready for Shabbat and feel grouchy and overwhelmed. But instead, even once home, I felt unusually calm and
happy. Unusually junk-free. As we meditated, Rachel spoke a lot about how we are connected, through our bodies to both Heaven and Earth – our heads reaching to Heaven, and our feet down to the earth. And that made me realize how, in my regular life, I fight being pulled down to the earth by the physical, the material. If I wash dishes, for example, I pass the time by listening to a Torah class that pulls me up heavenward from my earthly chores. But being connected to earth, I realized during this meditation, is also important. In fact, one is not necessarily superior to the other. Focusing fully on earthly tasks feels really good. Holy, even. During the retreat, the moon was nearly full, and most of the night of the retreat it was hidden behind clouds. I saw it rising, so bright at one side of the sky at 9 p.m. I saw it mid-sky at 2 a.m.. And I saw the moon orange and setting at around 5 a.m. These times made me think about how the Midrash compares the moon to a woman, and that night I was reminded me that even when it is hidden behind clouds, the moon shines bright. Like a modest Jewish woman, shining her own light, in her home, behind the scenes. The most moving part of the retreat for me was a part that might well sound the
strangest to you. But, I guess all of this might sound quite strange, come to think of it. During meditation, Rachel often asked us to focus our full attention on the space between our noses and upper lip. Rachel reminded us that this was where the angel kicked us before we were born, so we forgot all of the Torah an angel taught us in utero. And that made me think of all the Torah, the holiness, the connection with Hashem that was taken from me so abruptly before I was even born. And how much, for years, before I became religious, I yearned for that connection, even though I couldn’t put a name to it. And how much today (even though now I can put a name to it, thank G-d) I yearn for it still. CHANA JENNY WEISBERG, THE CREATOR OF JEWISHMOM.COM, IS A STAY-HOME MOTHER OF 8 CHILDREN LIVING IN JERUSALEM WITH HER HUSBAND, RABBI JOSHUA WEISBERG. ORIGINALLY FROM BALTIMORE, CHANA JENNY HAS DEVOTED HER NON-MOM TIME OVER THE PAST DECADE TO PROVIDING INSPIRATION AND ENCOURAGEMENT FOR OTHER JEWISH MOMS THROUGH HER POPULAR BOOKS EXPECTING MIRACLES AND ONE BABY STEP AT A TIME.
MAXIMIZE YOUR CHARITABLE IMPACT WITH A JNF FUND DONOR ADVISED FUND
he stock market has been great the last several years, reaching near historical levels. If you’re an investor in common stocks, it may be a good time to think about your options as the end of the calendar year approaches. If you are looking to lock in your stock market gains, avoid taxes, and make a difference, a Jewish National Fund Donor Advised Fund (DAF) might be right for you. A Jewish National Fund Donor Advised Fund is a smart way to manage your philanthropy. It is a personal giving fund through which you can make a charitable contribution, receive an immediate tax deduction, and conveniently direct grants to Jewish National Fund and other charities over time. A DAF allows you to pass on your philanthropic values in a tax efficient manner. You also choose how to invest your fund, which will grow tax-free, among six investment pools that are selected and professionally managed. For a minimum of $10,000—cash, appreciated assets, or both!—a DAF allows your money to appreciate and you can recommend grants as frequently as you like to your favorite charities. You and your family can add assets to your DAF over time, and you can choose a successor grantor, such as children or other loved ones. JNF does everything for a very small administrative fee. A portion of each fund must be earmarked for JNF’s works—ensuring your legacy in the land of Israel. 36
L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER 2019
A DAF is a great way to share and pass on your philanthropic values with family and loved ones. Consider, for example, Marvin and Beth Rosenberg who created a Jewish National Fund DAF during their life and designated their two adult daughters as their successor grantors. The family would come together a few times a year to discuss the different charities they wished to support. The land and people of Israel were important to Marvin and Beth, and each year they would discuss this with their daughters. After Marvin and Beth passed away, all the money earmarked for charity was left to the DAF through their trust. This ensured the Rosenberg’s, privacy, as the individual charities as grantees of the DAF, rather than beneficiaries of the trust, were not entitled to a copy of the trust. Additionally, because Marvin and Beth shared their values over the years with their children, they had peace of mind that their legacy to Israel would continue. A Jewish National Fund DAF is a versatile way to make an impact, pass on values and with 24/7 online access you can make grants any time day or night or check your account. It is like having your own private charitable foundation without the cost and time-consuming administrative details. It’s never been easier to open and manage your Donor Advised Fund. Visit jnf.donorfirstx.com or contact Cynthia Hizami, Esq., JNF’s Director of Planned Giving, West Coast, at 888-563-2008 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
HUMOR | BY STEPHANIE LEWIS
& mishagoss Making Turkey Day a Little More Jewish?
emember when Chanukah and Thanksgiving coincided together in November of 2013? The holiday was dubbed Thanksgivukkah, (even though I suggested “Chanksgiving,” but nobody could pronounce that!) and I celebrated by serving Manischewitz-brined turkey with challah stuffing, latkes with cranberry applesauce, and a turkey shaped menorah with eight feather candles. But why wait until this calendar phenomenon occurs again? I didn’t! The past few years I integrated every single one of our culture’s festivals and holidays … not just Chanukah. Let’s just say my family found this extremely creative. Okay we can say that, but in reality they found it extremely confusing. One year, I intertwined elements of Passover into our November feast. There was a ceremonial “Seder plate” on my table, (which I deemed a “Gratitude Platter”) containing appropriate symbolic foods. No shankbone, but turkey giblets signified Jews having big hearts (and also we’re not chopped liver!) and in place of charoset (the mortar which adhered Israelite’s bricks together) there was a spoonful of yummy cornbread stuffing depicting how overeating bonds us together during hard times. Cranberry sauce stood for Jewish blood running through our veins, which many of us cite as the reason we’re Jewish
even though we never step foot in synagogue. Green bean casserole was “karpas” dunked in salt water. Traditional Pesach hardboiled eggs were still on my Thanksgiving display, but now they symbolized being grateful that doctors reversed their decision about too much cholesterol in our delicious omelets. Okay work with me here, I made this last one seem very legit — trust me! No wine glass out for Elijah, but a plate of food for Squanto – the Native American who taught pilgrims everything. Instead of singing Dayenu, we made “Gobble” sounds and declared, “We’ve eaten enough!” When it was time to deal with the “Afikoman,” I broke a slice of (unleavened!) pumpkin pie into two and hid it inside a bookcase. (The ants found it first!) But the best part of our meal was whomever pulled the wishbone (and got the larger side) had their wish granted to be “Passed Over” as we went around the table in our mandatory game of “What are you thankful for?” (I’ll skip telling you what happened as guests mixed up mashed potatoes with white horseradish!) Next Thanksgiving I merged with Purim and so instead of saying “The Mayflower” I said “The Magillah” and dressed up as Queen “Chosen For Her Beauty and Foils the Plan” which I decided would’ve been Esther’s Indian name. People just scratched their heads. Another year I fused Rosh
Hashanah elements and substituted shofars as centerpieces instead of cornucopias. Hey, same shape! After that bit of decorating genius, I was stymied so I served apples and honey instead of apple-pie and called it a night. Guests were underwhelmed. Incorporating Sukkot into Thanksgiving was less contrived since it’s a Jewish agricultural festival considered a thanksgiving for the fruit harvest and has obvious similarities. Easy peasy lemon squeazy (yes, we had an estrog!) so our huge meal was partaken in a sukkah and people stayed overnight, though they never intended to — it was the result of too much turkey which contains tryptophan and makes you sleepy. We let them think they fulfilled a Thanksgiving mitzvah. However Judaism and Thanksgiving don’t always mix! I won’t say “pogroms” when talking about pilgrims. And though many unite football with Thanksgiving – as a Jewish mother, all I associate are concussions. Oy! Going to practice instead of Hebrew school? I think not. And black grease marks under his eyes messing up his handsome punim? Enough said. PS. One important Jewish holy day I’ll NEVER weave into Thanksgiving… Yom Kippur. Fasting is completely off limits in November! FIND STEPHANIE D. LEWIS IN THE HUFFINGTON POST AND AT ONCEUPONYOURPRIME.COM. WWW.LCHAIMMAGAZINE.COM
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L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER 2019