A Taste of Judaism

Are you curious about Judaism?  Ever want to know about Judaism?  Gone to a lot of  Bar Mitzvahs and been intrigued with the rituals?  Shared a Passover seder at a friend’s house and thought this was for you?  If your not Jewish yourself but thought you’d like to know more-then I will be teaching the perfect three week class for you:  A TASTE OF JUDAISM.

This is a 3 week class, Wednesday, Oct 26, November 2, and November 9 at 7 pm at Congregation Kol Ami.  However to register you must call 310 800-1161!  No walk-ins allowed.  The course is free.  It is sponsored by the Union for Reform Judaism and will answer basic questions about Judaism and Jewish life.  You can’t learn 4000 years in 3 sessions–all you can do is have a taste! But I know it will whet your appetite for more.

Come join us.  Click here for more info.




Lower your voice

I am fed up with the noise.  The noise outside my window at night.  It is unbelievable to me the number of times people have no idea of their surroundings or the way their own voice carries.  On more than one occasion I have had to call the sheriff’s station to help move people along late at night and ask them to stop yelling in the streets.  West Hollywood is known as party central. And when the clubs let out sadly folks are not always sure of themselves because they have had too much to drink (or alternatively, too much to smoke or something else).  Not only are their inhibitions gone but they have no idea that they are screaming at the top of their lungs at 2 am.

It is time for a little self-awareness.  I am not a Scrooge and saying “Don’t have a good time.” And I am not advocating to shut down the clubs and music of West Hollywood. I am saying strike a balance. Be aware of the sound of your voice and how it carries.  Maybe someone is trying to sleep and go to work the next morning.  PLEASE!

Remembering the Holocaust

Today is Yom Hashoa-Holocaust Memorial Day.

It is hard to confront the reality of the Shoa.  Six million Jews murdered.  Seven million others murdered by the Nazi killing machine.

Gays, Jehovah Witnesses,Roma, the disabled and mentally ill, political prisoners, labor unionists and everyone else who did not fit the so-called Aryan model of perfection.

There are so many people who still think the Holocaust was fabricated.  How wrong they are.  But the eye witnesses to the events are old and dying rapidly.  So the testimonies collected by the University of Southern California Shoa Project are critical to preserving the memories of that gruesome reality. This was a visual history project started by famed producer and director Steven Spielberg.  But in 2005 the Spielberg Visual History Project was turned over to USC for preservation of the thousands of hours of video testimony by survivors and liberators.

You can watch and listen to many of the stories if you click on the link above. Or for click on the link here of the online exhibitions at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

That seems fitting for a day like today.  A day to remember. A day to mourn.  A day for thinking about the human capacity for evil. A day for looking around and wondering whether or not we have learned anything at all from those horror years.

Bosnia, Rwanda.  Sudan. Congo. Cambodia. Kurdistan. Iraq. Liberia.  And just look at what is happening in Libya today.

Our technology enables efficient killing.  But our human nature unchecked will let our fears and hatred and jealousies to rule us.

So today is a day of remembrance and reflection with the sincerest prayer that our reflection will cause us to keep that part of our human nature in check.

May the memories of those who perished in Auschwitz, Treblinka, Dachau, Sobibor, Maidenek, Sajmiste, Ravensbruk,Buchenwald, Chelmo, Warsaw, La Vernet, Mittlebau, Mathausen, Jasenovec, Janowska, Drancy, Flossenberg, Falstad, Kaiserwald, Belzac, Terezin,  Sachsenhausen, Bergen-Belsen and Gross-Rosen be kept alive to remind us of our duties to our fellow human beings.  For the hundreds of thousands of Jews who perished in their towns and villages without ever being sent to a concentration camp we say we remember you.

May your memory inspire us to speak out.

At 4pm today join me and Congregation Kol Ami and the City of West Hollywood for a program of remembrance of the Holocaust  at Plummer Park in West Hollywood.  1200 N. Vista is Fiesta Hall.

I hope to see you there. May the memory of the righteous live for a blessing.

WeHo needs a collective breath

It was a very nasty campaign.  People in West Hollywood are a vocal bunch. They always have been. And people are not afraid to share their feelings or ideas.  But this year’s campaign for city council with lots of candidates for the three open seats was the nastiest I have seen in a long time.  I have to admit I was shocked at how ugly this got on every side. I am not a naïve. Politics is dirty business.  But there were new lows this round.

The time has come to take a deep breath.  The election is over.  The people voted.  And now there needs to be a time when people reach out to do the business of the city.  Be bigger than a smear campaign.  Be bigger than the personal attacks.  And our small city council of five needs to figure out how it is going to get business done in a professional manner.

The city of West Hollywood is a great place to work and live. But to move our city forward there needs to be a collective deep breath and perhaps a better way of communicating concerns.  All too often temper tantrums and gotcha’ politics rule the day.   No one has  to be best friends but mutual respect and honor are important.

Our city demographics are changing.  We have to have a communal conversation about our city-about the soul of West Hollywood, its values and its vision.  There is room for everyone, the gay boys and men, the strollers, the seniors, the Russian community and yes, the young hip straight folks who are increasingly moving to West Hollywood. Our city is not just one thing. It is many things.

I hope this is the path people will take.  Electeds, city employees, city residents and those of us who work daily in West Hollywood.  We are all stake holders in this town.  And we need to heal from the heat.   Time to take a collective breath.

FourSquare for Real

Have you figured out Foursquare?  I haven’t really.  The site is there to help you locate yourself. Well at least let others know where you are.  I am not so sure I always want everyone to know exactly where I am although the truth of the matter is I am almost always at the Temple!

You can find Kol Ami on Foursquare and there are some specials if you check in there!  The oneg cookies online are especially yummy. And these really don’t have ANY CALORIES! Finally! That may be Nirvana. (Although I know I am mixing my religious metaphors.)  A Virtual Oneg Shabbat is just that –virtual.  But it might be fun.

The people at Foursquare need however to kind of get with the interfaith religious program. When you search out Kol Ami in West Hollywood-it identifies a house of worship with a CROSS.   NOT! We are still Jewish last I checked.   So if any one associated with Foursquare is reading this let’s get a little more sophisticated when it comes to Houses of Worship with the correct iconography.  A Jewish star would be welcome to help identify our Synagogue.

So check in online at Kol Ami.  Better yet…check in at 1200 N. La Brea for real and come upstairs to my study and say “Hi”