Thursday, March 9, 2006
Who's The Lucky Woman?
Amalek: why her? why you?
Do Grocery Stores Employ Taste-testers?
If not, why not? Half of the nectarines I buy from Ralphs suck (everything else is fine). I can never tell if they are going to be good or not. It's like dating.
Cathy writes: "It's not nectarine season! You should go to a Farmers Market to buy fruit, not Ralphs."
I'm a creature of habit, don't like to go anywhere but Ralph's.
Now I just want to keep quiet and feel grateful that any orthodox shul will let me inside its doors (because my behavior in public (I'm referring to my blogging rather than my other actions) has been so far beyond the limits that Judaism sets). I am a walking, talking, blogging example of why Jews don't seek converts to Judaism.
According to one passage in the Talmud, converts are as painful to Israel as a scab. I know that I have been worse to many good people who live within a mile or two of me. I can look back and see people who from the beginning of my interest in Judaism (1989) were deeply skeptical that I'd turn into more of a prophet than a loss for Jews.
The new rabbi is likely already picked, and it will likely be someone right-wing and close.
I think this is all for the good as the shul has always been too progressive for my taste.
Won't somebody please think of the children?
As I like to sing, "There ain't no mechitza [partition between the sexes] high enough..."
Posing With Bathing Beauties
I'm nervous because I've never bathed any before.
Dear reader, the prospect of being spread over some esteemed LA publication fills me with dread. The attendant fuss might distract me from my important scholarly endeavors and expose me to the precise type of moral temptations to which I am highly vulnerable.
Lord, grant me chastity, but not yet.
Even though I only..., I fear that I am going to.... Stay close to your computers for the news.
I don't like being in front of a camera surrounded by nubile babes. It's narcissistic, shallow and lacks ultimate meaning.
Holly writes: "So? Most things in life are. Lighten up."
I have two interdisciplinary Levinas scholars from Brandeis posing with me Thursday morning at the hovel and then in front of the Museum of Tolerance (how could anyone criticize or discriminate against us there?). I'll be in a suit and they'll be in bikinis.
Maybe I'll introduce the girls to the Editor and then he'll put us on the cover.
Before the shoot, I'm going to pop a levitra so I make a good impression in my suit.
Dear reader, would you ever be able to love me if I posed wearing my kipa and studying the Talmud while these chicks pretended to choke and torment me? I believe that such a photo would concretize Judaism's teachings about the twin desires (for good and evil) that struggle inside every person. Thus, by posing for such a shot, I would be a light unto the nations as envisioned by the prophet Isaiah.
Jane Austen writes: "That is truly a collision of the sacred and profane. It would be like an Ozick novel."
How will I ever explain this to my teachers (or the rabbis I've called predators or predator-enablers)? Any suggestions?
There's a statement in Job that challenges me: "I have made a covenant with my eyes. Why then should I look upon a maiden?"
Why won't I make a similar covenant? O wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this burden of sin?
I've prepared several layers of defense in the event of my being called on the carpet and asked to reconcile Bava Metzia 17A with my conduct:
* In Amnon's fall, we sinned all. Through one man, sin came to the world and through the sacrifice of one (my doing this shoot and then getting hung on a blog) we can gain salvation.
* You have to first grab people's attention (hot chicks) before you can share your ideas and transform their lives into ones vibrant with meaning, purpose and good deeds. I know a lot of people first read me for the smut but then they stay for the Torah.
* Rabbi, you always said, "Love God and do what you like."
* I'm working on my thousand-yard stare that I developed in 'Nam.
* Machlachot Rishonim (the answer to all questions about Jewish law, it means it is a debate between 11-13th Century rabbis).
* I feel happy. I think I'll go for a walk.
* I invited a black babe to participate, and she's really black, no light-skinned chick. If she comes, I'll dedicate the shoot to Martin Luther King's memory and to promoting Black History Month and greater understanding between the races.
* Somebody put GHB in my orange juice, and I stumbled spiritually into doing this.
* I fell off an apartment and here I am. I don't even know these girls. I don't know what's going on. Help me, help me, I'm being oppressed.
* I'm sorry. I haven't had much sleep. I'm not feeling very stable right now. I needed a little pick-me-up.
* I'm trying to m'karev (indoctrinate) them, rabbi. See, I've brought along Ethics of the Fathers, which contains timeless wisdom.
* I was just showing these girls the way to the swimming pool.
* They've lost their morals, and I'm helping them find 'em.
* I'm trying to persuade these girls about the existence of God but they're being stubborn.
* Take this cup from me, father, but not my will but thy will be done. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
After the photographer leaves, the girls and I will collaborate on a paper for Shofar (scholarly Jewish monogram) about Levinas's view of the face-to-face encounter and whether there is any room for the erotic or is that just objectifying (the worst thing a man can do in my view)?
The bathing suits vs suit was not my idea. The photographer and the girls' publicist came up with it. I wanted something more scholarly.
But if I have to go through with this to promote my ideas, and while I have the girls at the hovel, why not take some photos for my private collection? Then study a little Pirkei Arvot (Ethics of the Fathers) with them, smoke the good bud, sip Manishevitz, put on some Sam Glaser, and let my animal magnetism do its work. One of the girls is Jewish (not yet Orthodox) and the Jewish people need Jewish babies.
I just hope I don't get swept away on a floodtide of hormones and forget my highest values.
I've got both the Steinsaltz and Artscroll Talmuds. I believe these girls are traditionalist and will find Steinsaltz too much of a heretic. Perhaps I should hide that reference guide.
Anyway, the experience should provide an opportunity for me to experiment with different literary forms and ponder the complexities of being and unbeing.
Sarah writes: "I love that you are so drawn to women's minds, as opposed to their bikini-clad bodies. Simply tell you rabbi that by stripping away the material (i.e. clothing), you are better able to focus on their faces, in a Levinasian sense."
I haven't had a decent night's sleep in three days
I'm frazzled. I'm not myself. I fear I might go out and hurt myself by plagiarizing Allan MacDonell.
People don't understand the strain of thinking about yourself all the time.
Mark Krikorian writes:
My Funniest Line Ever
Larry Yudelson writes:
Take That Creative Writing Class
Instead of marrying gay men, many women would be better served by taking a class in creative expression.
I finished James Agee's book. I hated it.
I'm not sure all the books I'm hating these days deserve my hate.
The shameful thing is I am not in a foul mood.
I randomly experience freefloating rage (it's hard for me to write anything entertaining unless I am in the grip of that demon), but I truly hate Death, The World To Come and their ilk (even though much of the writing is superb).
I react from my emotions to books I read for pleasure. Most of my reading is for pleasure.
If I read something for pleasure, I almost always need lots of uplifting stuff about people overcoming their baser natures to find meaning and love. Ergo, I loved Prisoner of X.
Exploding the conference business
First I was afraid. I was petrified. Kept thinking I could never live without you by my side. But I spent so many nights thinking how you did me wrong. I grew strong. I learned how to carry on and so you're back from outer space. I just walked in to find you here with that sad look upon your face. I should have changed my stupid lock. I should have made you leave your key. If I had known for just one second you'd be back to bother me...
Go on now go walk out the door just turn around now 'cause you're not welcome anymore. Weren't you the one who tried to hurt me with goodbye. You think I'd crumble. You think I'd lay down and die. Oh no, not I. I will survive as long as I know how to love I know I will stay alive. I've got all my life to live. I've got all my love to give and I'll survive. I will survive.
It took all the strength I had not to fall apart kept trying hard to mend the pieces of my broken heart and I spent oh so many nights just feeling sorry for myself I used to cry. Now I hold my head up high and you see me somebody new. I'm not that chained up little person still in love with you and so you felt like dropping in and just expect me to be free now I'm saving all my loving for someone who's loving me.
Now The Story Can Be Told
Tendler Resigns Under Cloud
A female student of Aron's at YULA who went on to have an intimate relationship with him writes me:
After Aron was moved from YULA's girls' school in 1987, the Orthodox rabbinate which supposedly has zero-tolerance for sexual predators, allowed Aron to keep running for years National Council of Synagogue Youth (NCSY) programs (aimed at highschoolers, many of whom have a tenuous relationship with Judaism).
Just as when what appeared to have been a May 26, 2003 attempt in Pico-Robertson at a double murder that only narrowly failed, the Journal used the occasion to explore how good institutions deal with gossip, this time the Journal presents the resignation of a two-decade-plus sexual predator from a position of religious authority to let us know that Orthodox Jewish leaders have always had Aron under control, have always had sexual predators under control, and that Jewish schools have always had zero-tolerance for sexual impropriety between their employees and students.
If you have money, you can get away with murder in this town (and get institutions named after you (Stephen S. Wise's Milken Community High School, no surprise that the Milken Family Foundation honored Aron Tendler) or dedicated to you and your's (Stanley Diller and Yeshiva Gadola).
I want to know what the Jewish Journal knew and when did they know it. It is inconceivable to me that they did not know of Aron's removal from YULA's girl school when it occured (in 1987). One of its star reporters, Julie Fax, was a student at YULA when this happened (not that she was then writing for the Journal, but she has been for approximately a decade, and surely word of what happened to Aron in 1987 reached the Journal).
The last time the Jewish Journal ran a cover story criticizing the Jewish community (it was only the community in general, no persons), it was for not helping the black inner-city. The publication reminds me of Pravda (and its Editor of Mikhail Gorbachev, Mrs. Editor does look like Raisa).
Amy writes: "Tendler is regarded as a charismatic leader and an inspiring teacher and speaker — someone who could turn around troubled youths, leading them to more religious, more successful lives."
Yeah, by who? Who regards Tendler that way? Let's name the people. I don't know many people who'd say he is an inspiring teacher. I do know many people who'd want to kill him if he came anywhere near their youth.
I want to know what Rabbi Avrohom Union (and insert the name of any leader in Los Angeles Orthodoxy) knew about Aron Tendler and when did he know it. I believe, and I have evidence to believe, that Rabbi Union, Rabbi Nahum Sauer, Rabbi Shalom Tendler (Aron's uncle), Rabbi Bess and other leaders in Jewish Los Angeles (including at Aron's shul Shaarey Zedek) have know that Aron was a sexual predator for many years (in some cases, these rabbis have known for 19 or more years) yet they couldn't be bothered to do anything about it until now. Instead many such leading Orthodox rabbis and their institutions have fallen all over themselves to honor Aron and to ostracize Aron's victims.
Rabbi Avrohom Union's RCC still has Aron Tendler listed as its chairman of the Kashrut Committee. It is impossible to believe that Rabbi Union and his fellow rabbis who run the RCC have not known for years about Aron's bad behavior yet they've honored him with this position. To Rabbi Union and his mates in the Los Angeles Orthodox rabbinate, such honoring of sexual predators (when such predators have powerful friends and family) is “uphold[ing] appropriate conduct not only in sexual abuse but other types of conduct.”
Which is more perverse -- Hustler Magazine or the RCC? Hustler Magazine (one of publisher Larry Flynt's daughters, Tonya, accuses him of sexually molesting her when she was a child) ran for years the cartoon "Chester the Molestor" (which depicted the protagonist enjoying the sexual afterglow of plundering a ten-year-old girl) drawn by Dwaine Tinsdale, who was convicted in 1990 of sexually molesting his underage daughter (a legal technicality later caused the conviction to be overturned). The RCC has had Rub Aron running loose for decades.
Full disclosure: I was rejected from the RCC's conversion program in June 2001 (as soon as they learned about lukeford.com, which I sold in August 2001). Rabbi Union ran the program. A friend reported back to me at the time that in response to his inquiry about me, Rabbi Union looked appalled and told him I was the most evil person he'd ever met.
(The RCC has the most prestigious Orthodox conversion program west of New York. By contrast, converts through less rigorous Orthodox law courts such as Beth Jacob's (not that I've ever been in its program), have had trouble having their conversions recognized overseas.)
As many rabbis regard me as the most evil person they have ever met (Rabbi Brad Artson at U.J.'s Ziegler School of Rabbinics describes my writing on rabbis as "toxic"), I don't believe that any of this has affected my coverage of Rabbi Aron Tendler or Rabbi Union or the RCC (though I understand many people would disagree).
I've had no dealings with the other rabbis I've mentioned in this article (aside from attending their lectures a few times).
I was ejected from three Pico-Robertson Orthodox synagogues in 2001 (Young Israel of Century City, Beth Jacob and Chabad's Bais Bazalel, in that order) (related article on my Young Israel expulsion) and one in 1998. Many in the Orthodox community (and elsewhere) say that my writing on rabbi-predators is motivated by my hatred for rabbis.
Chaim Amalek writes me: "You've got some of the best blogging out there. Keep pounding the Juden until they agree to give you a syndicated show on radio or cable. And then pound them some more. You'll know that you've really made it when the Pharisees try to buy you off."
I was called last night to pose for a picture for a certain publication. How should I pose?
Amalek, may his name be erased, writes me:
JMT writes me: "Don't show any pink."
"I went to see Wieseltier speak," says a source. "He's kind of a dick. He just read his treatise on Jewish messianic thought – nothing that I didn't already know and hard to absorb what was unique about it. Then he took questions on whatever. Some of the old folks were complaining that he read in a monotone. That was the extent of his performance. The average age of the audience was 65."
I've never heard a good word about Wieseltier's public speaking. He's the most over-rated intellectual in American letters.
I'm sure Alana Newhouse is more exciting. She's certainly a better writer.
Army probes whether Tillman death was homicide
Mook writes: "Dude, Of course he was fragged. Even a casual football fan knew about this guy before the red-neck, Wal-Mart crowd made him a martyr. At his funeral, his own little brother said that all the hype was bull. He was a psycho. Sorry."
On May 26, 2003, the University of Judaism admissions director Amnon Finkelstein and 24 yo U.J. student L. fell two stories to the concrete from the Pico-Robertson apartment window of U.J. student Devin Geser. Both Amnon and L. were naked and both sustained severe injuries, including brain damage.
I call Amnon March 3, 2006.
Luke: "What happened in the fall?"
Amnon: "Devin Geser took a course with me. She came to one of my office hours and showed me a comment by one of the professors [Dr. Miriyam Glazer] on campus to her paper. I thought the comments were harsh. They suggested that Devin wrote on less than a highschool level. I read the paper that Devin wrote for my seminar. I asked her to write a better paper. Even after several drafts (so I could help with style and structure), she still wrote a horrendous paper. I wondered if she was using drugs. I gave her a C-.
"Then she started to show up in my office almost daily asking me about opportunities to study in Israel. I did not feel that she was ready for that but I encouraged her to apply.
"One day out of the blue, she invited me to come to her place for a birthday party and end of year party. It was unclear. I was a complete bonehead. I did not ask anybody else that she claimed she had invited. I simply went on my own. I fell into some kind of trap or game or joke at my expense. I don't know what happened.
"When I arrived, she was with a young lady I had not seen before (but heard about because Devin had shared with me her sexual interest in L.) -- L. I do not even remember how L. looked.
"They were hardly dressed when I arrived. I realized it was some kind of a game.
"Earlier that day, I had a long bicycle ride. I came very thirsty. I asked to drink something. She gave me orange juice.
"At this point, my memory starts to fade.
"I remember clearly that I could not hold myself standing. I fell down on the carpet. It was the equivalent of seeing a dark shade falling over your eyes.
"The next thing I remember, I woke up in the hospital. The first thing that came to my mind was that I had too much to drink last night, I pulled a DUI.
"The neurosurgeon came to my room and explained that I fell [about 18-feet] off an apartment onto the cement. I went through an air conditioning wall unit on the first floor. That's what fractured my front skull.
"I understood that L. fell on me. I understood that I fell or was pushed first. L. fell on my stomach, I understand, but there was no bruise on my stomach.
"Since I fell very close to the wall of the building, it was clear I did not jump or fall on my own. From the way I fell, the police suspected I was pushed.
"I understand that a neighbor saw me falling and he called 9-1-1.
"The police asked him if there was an argument. He said no. It was quiet. Suddenly I appeared. The windows are French windows, meaning they go from the ceiling to the ground. I don't believe that either Devin or L. were able to lift me to a window. I am 6'2" and at the time I weighed about 195 pounds.
"I tore the rotator cuff on my left shoulder. I could hardly move my neck for a long time.
"I have seven fractures in my skull, four on the front, and above the right ear. There is a deep fracture on the upper corner of my forehead which will probably never heal. Part of the bone disappeared.
"I sustained serious memory and cognitive problems that started to heal around January 2004."
Luke: "When you saw that Devin and L. were barely dressed when you walked into their apartment, why did you not leave? Why did you proceed to drink alcohol with them? Were you intending to have sex with either or both of them?"
Amnon: "I did not leave for two reasons. First, I had an orange juice first and only after that a shot of alcohol. I wanted to stay for a while longer in order to understand the circumstances. At that point, I was dizzy and disoriented and before long I was out. The second reason is that Devin said that she expected others to arrive. I thought to myself that if nobody came in fifteen minutes, I would be out of the door, but it was too late.
"On that note, at some point, I suspected that Devin had some help dragging me out of the window down to the pavement. However, I cannot prove it."
Luke: "Do you think you might've been drugged?"
Amnon: "I can not prove it. I suspect that I was drugged. I had alcohol in my blood when I woke up. I remember having one or two shots of tequila at Devin's apartment but I don't remember having the amount of alcohol that they claimed I had."
Luke: "Did you ever have sex with Devin or L.?"
Amnon: "Absolutely not. They did examine that in the hospital. There was no penetration of L. or Devin. I believe that L. had sex with Devin on a regular basis and I believe they had sex on that evening. I woke up for a few seconds, or it could be a dream, but I do remember them having sex on the carpet next to me.
"Two weeks after I got home from the hospital, I got a phonecall from L.'s father. (L. got my number from Devin.) He asked me what happened. L. was on the phone too. I could not really give him information. I purposefully did not expose his daughter and her relationship with Devin. From his questions, I could deduct that she was lying to him about her use of alcohol. She was on anti-depressants and was told not to drink anymore. When I came to Devin's apartment May 26, L. was there with a bottle of vodka in her hands.
"They wanted to know if I was suing anybody. I said no.
"I did talk to the homicide investigators after I was released from the hospital. They told me that Devin was completely high and inaccessible on the night of the accident. She retained a lawyer immediately afterwards."
Luke: "What if on that night you'd been left sitting there in the apartment and the two girls were lying injured on the pavement?"
Amnon: "This is a question that has been on my mind and probably will never disappear. If I had been there smoking a cigar waiting for the police to arrive with the bodies of two young ladies on the cement, can you imagine what would've happened?
"I asked my neurosurgeon why I was not tested for the date rape drug. He explained that it was a normal procedure only when women arrive injured at the hospital."
Luke: "You were naked."
Amnon: "The time was too short for me to have removed my clothing. Someone must've removed it."
Luke: "In retrospect, do you think this was an error in judgment on your part to have almost daily meetings with Devin and to visit her apartment? Were there other students you met with daily? In your other positions of authority at universities, did you ever meet with young female students daily in private or help them write papers?"
Amnon: "In retrospect, it was a mistake to extend a helping hand to Devin. At other universities, I always spent a lot of time helping students with their papers. In fact, in one case I had a student who simply could not write a coherent argument. She was a serious student, but she also suffered from Lupus. Her constant severe headaches prevented her from concentrating for a long time. Each time she needed to write a paper, I helped her by breaking down her assignments to small segments and papers into paragraphs. I taught her techniques and methods that helped her to overcome her difficulties. As a result she was on the Dean’s List until her graduation. I did care for my students, whether males or females. In another case, I had a male student who was graduating in a field he did not like. He wanted to study graphic design not being an engineer. I worked with him on his application to the best school in the country. We design together his resume and I helped him with his application essay. I even gave him the phone number of my brother in law for advice (my brother in law is an incredible graphic designer). This student was accepted to the school. I can continue to give you many more examples. One case with a disturbed student should not cast a shadow on my belief that assisting students is our moral and professional obligation, especially given the exuberant amount of money they pay as tuition. My co-worker at the UJ used to see students every day. Students at the UJ have nobody to talk to. They felt alienated and disenfranchised. Administrators, who were willing to listen for a bit, were visited daily. In the student retention plan that I designed for the UJ, I put special emphasis on meeting students more frequently and listening to them.
"In my seminar, each student could submit me a draft and work with me over it before they submitted the final paper for grade. I did work with other students on their paper, with some several times per week. I felt that most UJ students were unprepared for academic writing. Since mine was a senior seminar, I believed it was my obligation to see that they at least acquired knowledge in this respect.
"In retrospect, it was naïve of me to help Devin with her paper, allow her to visit me almost daily and visit her apartment. Indeed, in her case, it was a poor judgment."
Luke: "Did you date or have sex with any University of Judaism students while you were an administrator there?"
Amnon: "No. The fraternization policy was unclear but at the time I was dating another woman. I did not date any other person on campus or anywhere else. Most of my employees were females. Of course I never dated them. I was good friends with my major [female] assistants, much to the chagrin of some in the administration."
Luke: "Had you previously gone to students homes or apartments for parties?"
Luke: "Did you ever visit L.'s or Devin's apartment aside from May 26 2003?"
Amnon: "As far as I know, L. lived with her parents. I had never met L. before May 26, 2003. I did visit Devin’s place once before the night of the injury. I came over to help her with a paper she was writing for a different professor. We ate dinner at a sushi place near her apartment."
Luke: "How did the University of Judaism react to what happened?"
Amnon: "In a typical University of Judaism way, a mix of covering up and rude, almost vicious, behavior by Mark Bookman [provost and Chief Operating Officer].
"I was in the hospital about 20 days after my injury. I went home. Mark Bookman showed up with Zofia Yalovsky. He saw a bicycle in the living room, which I had left there before I went to see Devin. He claimed I was completely healthy and that I did not even injure myself. He behaved strangely. He suggested that the university could not employ me because I was seeing a student in a personal way and having sex with her. I explained to him that this was not the case. I even offered to go through a lie detector.
"At the end of June, I was let go. It was cruel. They never discussed with me the history of the case. They never invited me to give my version of events.
"That's not the only case of cover-up. There were other cases of cover-ups that I had to deal with as an employee of the UJ."
"While most of the UJ’s actions towards me and the case were despicable (even before the details became clear), one person was consistently concerned about my health. When I woke up in the hospital after several days in a coma, Andrea Harris was there by my bed. She visited me almost daily and her wonderful husband Josh was there to support me physically when I returned home. Their hospitality and friendship were those life events that we all live for. Two other female employees visited me once each; one was another employee and the second a student who worked in the admissions office.
"Now, let’s assume for the sake of the argument that what happened on May 26, 2003 was sinful, outrageous and immoral as some of your readers pontificate. What really happened to the principle of “Bikkur kholim” (visiting the sick), a Mitzvah, that so many pious believers at the UJ keep talking about? Our wonderful religion distinguishes between sins “against the place” (damage to property) and “sins against another person” (hurting another human being). While one may criticize me for attending a party at a student’s home, or for demonstrating poor judgment, I committed neither sin. I accept full responsibility for not thinking the whole matter through before I attended the student’s home. Yet, I was the victim in this case. The crowd of the believers at the UJ suddenly forgot what their own religion teaches them. In the name of PR and other hidden agenda, all that was solid melted into air.
"I believe that a disciplinary hearing was in order. I should have been given an opportunity to explain the circumstances behind my injury and the UJ had the right to reject my testimony. Instead, the UJ stopped my health insurance during the time when I needed it most and never, not even once, approached me for an explanation. Moreover, Devin Geser was allowed to continue her course of studies at the UJ. In your web site, you wrote poignantly, that with my accident, we have all sinned. In reality, it was the UJ that committed the worst sin of all, a sin against another person. I know that a member of the Jewish community in Los Angeles wrote Bob Wexler a letter expressing her outrage precisely because of this behavior."
Luke: "How long were you at the UJ and how would you describe your experience there?"
Amnon: "I was there about two years. The place is managed like a mafia -- behind closed doors. Even though I was on a committee called the President's Council, you do not council anybody. The president [Dr. Robert Wexler] does his business with Mark Bookman and Gady Levy, who does a good job. He escaped the army in Israel. He left at 17. He let others do the job for him.
"Zofia Yalovsky arranged for her daughter to attend the UJ and study education. She enrolled her other daughter in the University and had a habit of taking care of people she thought were loyal to her. I was among the people who interviewed her daughter to the school of education. When it took a bit “too much time” to accept her, Zofia called me and blamed me for dragging my feet. It was another faculty who did not want her daughter there.
"Zofia's husband had an office at the university where he did his own private business. He was not even employed by the university.
"There was strong anti-Israel sentiment at UJ. There was an Israeli student named Shanny Mahalu. I helped her enter the program. She worked hard. Her English was not good. Her boyfriend later joined her in the city to live with her. She later got a job with El Al security.
"She came to me crying one day about three months into the program. She said one of the professors [Sue Kapitanoff] did not return any of her papers. It was a freshman seminar. Shanny ran after her. She confronted her about it face-to-face. Sue claimed she left all the papers in her student box. Shanny said no. I advised her to force Sue into her office to look for the papers. She did that. All the papers were there unread, unchecked, ungraded. She was the only student who did not get her papers examined. She was also the only Israeli in the class.
"Sue has a long history of antipathy towards Israelis. You can ask Shoham Nicolet, who's now the director of housing on campus. He was then a student. He was well aware of anti-Israeli sentiment on campus. As well as Zofia Yalovsky, who is also Israeli and probably one of the most hated persons on campus for good and bad reasons.
"I wrote a memo to Lois Oppenheim. She refused to investigate. Lois has a long history of anti-Israeli sentiment. Lois was born to rich parents who were members of the Bund [socialist Jewish group with strong anti-Zionist leanings]. They took her all over the world, almost every summer, and they never included Israel on their trips. Her sister is a radical leftist activist on the East Coast. Lois did her PhD on Chile and she was there during the Pinochet revolution. I heard from Shoham that she blamed Israel for 9/11 in a bitter lecture in front of her class.
"I had a debate with her over lunch in front of Andrea Harris. We'd come back from the funeral for the husband of Beryl Geber, the dean of the business school.
"The debate got nasty. She went on an anti-Israeli rant.
"Shoham started a campaign to do something on Yom Ha'Zikkaron, the Day of Remembrance [of the soldiers who died in Israel's defence], one day before Israel Independence Day. He asked me to emcee an afternoon event in the main auditorium in remembrance of the Israeli soldiers who died during the War of Independence (1948). I was proud to do that.
"When we played the Israeli national anthem, there were two faculty members who refused to stand -- Mimi Feigelson and Aryeh Cohen. Aryeh was a member of a Kahane group who, after the Lebanon war, decided he was moving to the other side.
"I wrote an email to Dr. Wexler calling his attention to that. He did not think it was a big deal.
"The UJ either covers something up immediately or get rid of those who bring shame upon it. But they cannot get rid of Aryeh Cohen because Aryeh Cohen is a tenured professor.
"Lois Oppenheim approached me in a personal way when we were driving to the University of Redlands. She offered to date me and to have sex with me. I immediately said no. Upon returning to the university, I shared it with Andrea and I wrote an official letter to Zofia Yalovsky, who was in charge of human resources.
"Two weeks later, Zofia called me to the garden behind the campus and told me in no uncertain terms, if you insist on pursuing this matter about Lois, you might find yourself out of a job.
"Mark Bookman and Lois have a very interesting relationship. They go way back to the New Left of the sixties. They used to demonstrate a lot, according to Lois. While they compete against each other and stab each other in the back, they also cover for each other. I'm sure my memo got to him and he probably told Zofia to see me to drop it."
Luke: "Why would you write a memo to HR about Lois Oppenheim asking you out?"
Amnon: "Because I felt uncomfortable with Lois using her position to impose herself on me (I was reporting to her). Her explicit suggestion came after a long chase of advances, invitation to visit her place with and without others present. It was very clear to me and others in our division (academic affairs), that Lois liked me very much when I arrived. I thought she was very nice and intelligent, but did not see us going out or developing an intimate relationship. I consulted with Andrea, a co-worker, before my trip with Lois to the University of Redlands. We agreed that only if she would make an explicit suggestion for sex, would I react in a more formal manner, which I did.
"The relationship between the university and the students is horrendous. Andrea Harris was the most popular person on campus because she was the only one [of the administrators] who listened to them. Mark Bookman could be a fantastic guard in some stalag in Russia. There was a stream of students coming into her office and according to the students, drugs and alcohol were common at UJ.
"The year before my arrival, the director of housing on campus was known to have had sex with one of the students. Even after that was discovered, he was not fired. He was allowed to finish out the year. Then he was forced out."
Luke: "You've been a professor and elsewhere. Have you ever had sex or dated a student?"
Amnon: "Never. I was a visiting professor at Northwestern. I had one class with about 180 students. I had about six teaching assistants, all females. None of them complained about me because there was no reason to complain. I was married.
"At Northwestern, students come to your office hours with the sole purpose of getting better grades. Sometimes it was like a fashion show. I had one student who was particularly anxious to develop something with me. She sent me a few cards to my home address, cards that were very embarrassing and created a lot of problems for me. She invited me to her home to stay with her when her mother was away. I kept some of her emails. I kept some of the documents that Devin would send me. I wanted to be able to cover myself. Nobody could accuse me of initiating anything.
"I rejected this student. I did not think it was appropriate. She was a mediocre student. Her interest in me was only to improve her grades.
"I read the email she sent you that I kissed her in the classroom. How could I do that in a big lecture hall that was occupied?
"She told you that I gave her anti-Israeli publications. This is a good illustration of her less than prudent interpretation. I never taught a course about the Middle East, but since she was interested in both sides, I referred her to two books that represented the essence of both sides. It was my role as an academic who believes in freedom of speech and thoughts. The last thing I can imagine is that I need to defend my Israeli origins and love for the country."
Luke: "Did you ever ask to borrow money from any of your students?"
Amnon: "Absolutely not. I was never short of money. I was never rich. I never asked anybody for money.
"I read your source from Decker College. There was almost an implication that I was involved in Decker's demise. I came to Decker four months before it was closed and one week after the Department of Education began its investigation. Decker was in complete disarray. I had to let some people go. I brought some people in. I know that some of my employees warned me about certain people who were spreading rumors about me.
"I had three women in my family who were very influential over me. My grandmother was one of the founders of Israel. My mother was a member of the Haganah underground. My sister is remarkable. She is one of Israeli's first feminists, a constructive feminist and not a hateful one."
Luke: "Somebody who knew you socially said you were a loner with few connections to family. That's unusual for an Israeli."
Amnon: "I have a small family unfortunately. I have one sister in New York and one uncle in Tel Aviv and two nephews. My father died when I was 22. My mother died in August of 2004. I do not have pictures at home of people because family did not have pictures of family at home either. I know that the locals here find it important to have a million pictures of everybody.
"I am engaged to be married. I am a private person. I do not share things about my private life when I go to work. I have a small group of friends because I move so much. I do not operate on quantity but on quality.
"I was not close to the Israeli community in Los Angeles. I did not feel comfortable with them. I worked long hours."
Luke: "Were you in the Mossad?"
Amnon: "Absolutely not and I have never claimed to be.
"While in graduate school, there were students who from time to time ask me about the Mossad. They thought that if a person from Israel spoke more than English and Hebrew, he had to be an “agent.” There is an almost romantic notion that people have when it comes to the Mossad. For others, it was an expression of latent anti-Semitism (after all, we are all part of a world wide conspiracy to conquer it all)."
Luke: "Were you involved in the raid on Entebbe?"
Amnon: "No. I was in the IDF during that time."
Luke: "Did you kill people when you were in the IDF? Did you tell people you've dated that you had?"
Amnon: "Are you asking whether I killed people with my own hands? No, I did not and I never shared something like that with anybody. Killing people is not something one could share so easily, not to mention do. I do think, at the same time, that there is such a myth around Israel and its army that I find myself explaining its nature every time I lecture or discuss Middle Eastern problems. Americans, in particular, who are so uninformed about the world, tend to portray the IDF in mythical colors, which I find very difficult to diffuse."
Luke: "Several people have described you to me as litigious. Did you threaten lawsuits over the UJ incident or has this been something you do? Threaten lawsuits?"
Amnon: "I have never filed a law suit in my life. Does it count as litigious? Am I principled and stand for my opinions and beliefs? You bet! Do I believe in your right to do, feel, think, write, say and act as you wish? Absolutely. In the US, people avoid face to face confrontations or real dialogues. Americans seem more comfortable going behind each other’s back to spread rumors or to file law suits. I’d rather let you know where I stand and move on."
Luke: "In retrospect, do you think life would've gone easier for you if you had just gone ahead and made love to Lois? And, if necessary, Mark Bookman?"
Amnon: "I hope you are not serious."
Addendum: While most of this interview was done by phone March 3, some of it was done later via email. I then put things together. I emailed all persons mentioned in the article for whom I could find contact info (that means everyone at UJ mentioned) for their response to Amnon's comments. So far, nobody has responded. I also emailed ex-employees of UJ for fact-checking.
A former UJ person writes:
Hancock Park Dispute
These Hancock Park Jews are Hungarian Jews who are opinionated and think they are right about everything. They're wealthy and showy. Hancock Park houses look like Judaic museums. Michael Rosenberg, the major figure in the story, is Stanley Diller's son-in-law.
Stanley was a builder close to former mayor Tom Bradley. Stanley made a fortune. He's widely regarded as dishonest.
Stanley funds much of Yeshiva Gedola (the most right-wing highschool yeshiva in LA). Stanley had a son named Michael who killed himself.
Stanley is eccentric. He appealed his divorce to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Jews in Hancock Park are about the most intolerant in LA. I would've lasted a few minutes there before I was run out.
Hancock Park's WASP community is similarly intolerant. They hate the darker-tinged peoples around them.
The Etz Chaim shul. It was a house that a guy turned into a shul with hundreds of members. For this community, unless they are written about only in the most glowing terms, they will get upset.
I went to a lecture the other day by a female professor. Throughout her brief talk, a male professor repeatedly interrupted with his boorish comments. He didn't bother to raise his hand. He just blurted things out.
Noboy else acted this way.
Why can't men just shut up and take short breaks from trying to prove publicly how smart they are?
Who says so aside from the Forward?
Are any of the people Jennifer Siegel quotes (all of whom support ordaining homosexuals) respected scholars of Jewish text at the level of a Joel Roth (who opposes ordination)? Not even close.
A Spiritual Path to Weight Loss
These are beautiful sounding sentiments, but do they work?
In Mimi's case, they have not.
This article exemplifies what I don't like about the Jewish Journal -- it is not real. It runs these high falutin articles gushing over their politically correct subject but reality is ignored. Can you imagine the Journal following up a year or two later saying this diet we promoted didn't work?
Professor Feigelson can be an engaging teacher, but why on earth would she go public with such matters? I have to assume she was prepared to face the uncomfortable fruits of failure.
Yes, I go public with embarrassing stuff all the time, but I am a laughingstock.
Chaim Amalek writes:
The New York Post has pulled this story off its website because of a correction -- due to an editing error, a quote was mis-attributed.
Pearl Buck's The Good Earth
To the best of my memory, this was the only book my parents took away from me after I started reading it (they judged it inappropriate for my age -- I was in seventh grade). I've never returned to it.
Contrary to what I expected, this was not a sexy book.
'Don't Look So Sad'
When you live alone, work from home, and spend on average, 23 out of 24 hours alone, you are not as aware of your moods as you are when you must constantly bounce off someone who cares for you.
I clomped to shul Saturday wearing an old musty-smelling t-shirt and my rust-colored sweater beneath my undertake suit, and for the next three hours recited holy prayers and read holy books before heading downstairs to the holy kiddish (lunch). I filled my plate with several helpings of desert, then made for a corner table.
My popular outgoing acquaintance "Joe" joined me. He asked me what was new.
"I need help with my shiksa addiction. I need an intervention."
Joe: "Why don't you intervene with yourself?"
I'm trying to get worked up into a pity party but he won't let me.
"This shiksa spent about eight hours preparing a meal for me Wednesday night," I boasted. "She couldn't get that I was a vegetarian who did not like vegetables. In the end, she emailed my mom for a recipe and then ended up preparing a lentil casserole."
Joe: "Lentils are a vegetable."
Luke: "No, they're not."
Joe: "They're legumes. Legumes are vegetables."
Luke: "No, they're not."
Joe: "They are vegetation, yes or no?"
I'm about to clobber the guy but eventually yield that they are vegetation.
He gets seconds.
When he comes back, I stare icily and moodily straight ahead.
He breaks the silence and points to Dara Horn's new book: "How did you like The World To Come?"
"I hated it."
I poured out my wrath upon writers who've abandoned traditional narrative for fancy surreal academic exercises.
Joe said he largely agreed.
Then he got up to socialize.
"Don't look so sad," were his parting words.
Chaim and co write:
The Days Of Awe
Chaim Amalek writes: "These, truly, are the days of awe for your greater kehilla. The days preceding the awarding of the Academy Awards are to Hollywood Jewry what the ten days of repentence are to Torah Jewry. Every secular Jew and Homosexual will be watching."
Shaarey Zedek's Split In Two
The right-wing versus the Moderns. Both sides are threatening to form committees.
Religious Jews at war are a fearsome sight. The funniest line in the Talmud and the siddur (prayer book) is "Torah scholars increase peace in the world."
The right-wing at Shaarey Zedek say the Moderns should go join a Conservative shul.
"It's a shame Los Angeles doesn't have a Jewish newspaper," says a friend over the phone Saturday night. "What's going on at Shaarey Zedek is fascinating. That Hancock Park dispute is last year's news. And the article is unreadable."
Jewish Whistleblower writes:
In shul today, I heard some pious young men declaim that the Jewish Journal should be renamed "Los Angeles Smut." They were outraged at the Hancock Park article.
I thought the article was sanitized and fair.
Pious Jew emails me:
Philip Roth Is Big In India
I emailed English literature professor Gurumurthy Neelakantan (at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kandur) some questions (following his participation last weekend in the 20th Century Literature Conference in Louisville):
'If You Get Up In Public, Your Words Are Public'
Dennis Prager defends taping teachers. "This notion that it is wrong to tape record a teacher, I don't get it."
Yet seven years ago, Dennis Prager was adamant about not being taped at his Reform temple when he spoke publicly, sometimes in front of more than 200 people. Maybe he's changed his mind.
I Am A Bad Man
Just a month after finishing it, I'm reading Lolita. And I'm doing it within a few blocks of a school.
My conscience says: "You are disgusting, in a very literary kind of way."
My only justification is to increase my empathy for Aron Tendler.
I Love Jew Vs. Jew Conflict As Much As The Next Guy
But I could not finish the following: "Years of intolerance come to a head between the Orthodox and non-Orthodox residents of Hancock Park."
The Journal has a special gift for taking fascinating stories and making them dull.
Samuel Freedman wrote the book Jew Vs. Jew and he spent time with the Journal staff trying to teach them narrative journalism. His time was wasted. He should've abided by Jesus's admonition to not cast one's pearls before swine (I intend no disrespect to the nice people at the Journal).
Perpetuating Judaism - It All Starts With A Cat
Amalek writes me:
My Friend Danny Claims He's Orthodox
Yet he's always cavorting with shiksas. I'm trying to organize an intervention. Are there successful models for this? How do you get such a bachelor to swear off shiksas? Exactly how much shiksa love can a Jew accept and still maintain that he's Orthodox?
Amy Klein Update
Rob Eshman replies to inquiry: "After four years as Managing Editor, Amy wanted to go back to full-time writing, her first love. Her new email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Howard Blume is Managing Editor. He’s at email@example.com."
Shaarey Zedek's Search For A New Rabbi
Twenty years ago, there were nobody at Shaarey Zedek wearing a black hat. Now half the shul is black hat (a symbol for right-wing). The committee seeking a new rabbi is entirely right-wing. There's a revolt by modern Orthodox members.
Shaarey Zedek has a diversity of members. There are parents who send their kids to non-Orthodox schools and public schools.
The Moderns in the shul want more participation by women in public religious rituals. They've circulated a letter of demands. They've drawn a new role for the rabbi. Please email it to me.
Why Are 99% Of Women In Print Journalism Frumpy?
I love journalism and I love women but it's almost impossible to get excited over a woman in print journalism (except for my sweethearts Cathy, Emmanuelle, Amy, and co and that's only in an agape way).
Female journalists I'd like to get stuck with on a desert island (with the permission of their men):
* Those who know who they are but would rather not be named on this blog.
* Any French woman under 40 named Emmanuelle.
* Any French woman under 40.
Amalek writes: "Screw.... Seriously, if you can screw her, you ought to. Otherwise, the really hot ones are on television. That Jew who was tortured to death in France, was he not the exception that proves the rule that Islam is the world's foremost religion of peace? If so, then his death will not have been in vain."
Yori Yanover writes: