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Monday, January 22, 2007

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Memorial Service For Rebbetizen Dolgin At YICC Jan. 9

A source reports that over 100 people showed up. "Hillel did not do a phone tree which was disappointing since it was she and her husband who founded the school. Rabbi Steven Weil of Beth Jacob spoke second. He talked about his close relationship with Rebbetzin Dolgin. He was so close to her that he left immediately after his speech with Rabbi Pilochowski while there were 4-5 more speakers, including the last two being Jesse Dolgin's daughter and [the rebbetizen's son] Jesse Dolgin himself. Rabbi Baruch Sufrin did not attend because he had his son's engagement party."

Knesset member Limor Livnat spoke in the neighborhood this weekend. How was she? I don't know. I tuned her out after a few sentences and fell asleep.

Which Jewish Day School Is Most Likely To Put Your Kids On Ritalin?

* Ohr Eliyahu
* Hillel Harkham
* Maimonidies
* Shalhevet

If I was stuck in school for eight hours a day, I'd go crazy too.

Two Parents Protest Hillel Harkham's Tuition Increase

A source critical of Hillel's current regime emails me:

The two Persians (Wiseman Dawoody and Morris Shamouni), who were told by Dean Rabbi Baruch Sufrin 18 months ago not to run for the board, sent out this letter [Jan. 15, 2007] to fellow board members concerning Morey's lack of regard for the bylaws and his way of working unilaterally by increasing tuition. Last year Morey and Sufrin made comments to a few board members about raising tuition. However, the deficit is due to the voluntary reduction of enrollment by Morey and Sufrin from a total of 700 students to about 580 since Morey Levovitz took over. This deficit is despite the millions of dollars that were endowed to Hillel (due to the hard work and friendship of Rabbi Gottesman to the Skolnick and Finkelstein families). These monies were intended by these generous families for scholarship and to offset tuition increases for the Hillel families and not intended for hiring of more administrators (who do not respond to the parents needs), pay for all the harassment law suits filed against the school (due to belligerent behavior to long-time staff and families) and to have the school pay for Beth Jacob's Kollel. When the parents find out about this raise they are going to be furious and file suit to order an audit.

Morey and Joe Englanoff changed the check signing signatures to be theirs so they can spend at will without having their spending being checked by other individuals. This goes against all accounting principles and laws since the people spending the money should not be signing the checks. As a result there is no system of checks and balances like in years past when Rabbi Gottesman was dean.

The only pending suit is Carmelith's that Morey is trying to negotiate without board knowledge and approval (like in the Alfasi beth din decision that the board was never informed of payment by the school due to their handling of a highly respected teacher that had been with the school many years).

Brian Doherty's Latest - Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement

I interview Brian by phone Friday, Jan. 19, 2007. Audio Audio Audio Audio

Brian: "I've been a libertarian since I was 16. What turned me libertarian was reading the science fiction novel THE ILLUMINATUS! by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. At the University of Florida, I discovered there was a political party and intellectual movement pushing these ideas. As I wanted to learn more, I looked for a book like the one I've written and there just wasn't one.

"My first conscious reading and note-taking for this book began in the Spring of 1994.

"The intent of the book is not to turn people into libertarians. It's a book of history and journalism.

"As a libertarian activist, I believe that this book is important in helping people take libertarian ideas seriously.

"There are dozens of books on communism in the United States... To the extent that libertarianism has been dealt with in intellectual histories of the United States, it has been considered this little pimple on conservatism's left shoulder. That's why I wanted 'Radicals' in the title of the book. I wanted people to understand that libertarianism is not a right-wing philosophy.

"The only book that tries to do what this book does is Bringing the Market Back In: The Political Revitalization of Market Liberalism: The Political Revitalization of Market Liberalism by political science professor John E. Kelley. It tries to tell in one hundred pages what this book tells in 700 pages."

Luke: "Is Stephen Levitt, author of Freakonomics, a libertarian?"

Brian: "I don't know, but there's so much economics at the heart of libertarianism. Four of the five main characters in my book were professionally economists (Milton Friedman, Ludvig von Mises, F.A. Hayek, and Murray Rothbard). Economics is the central science in helping you understand that so much of what the state does is unhelpful. It's the intellectual discipline in which libertarianism is most respectable. Anyone who understands economics is going to have a strong libertarian streak. Government can't do anything without taking things. It's not a wealth-creating institution.

"Milton Friedman's son David is an anarchist. He explains how things like courts, police and national defense could be met in a free market."

Luke: "I didn't realize that libertarianism was like a religion for some people. That there's so much heretic-hunting, just as much as in Orthodox Judaism."

Brian: "Any intellectual movement that works in the shadows... Until the 1980s, most libertarians were thought of as freaks. This schisming provides much of the drama and comedy in the book. If you were going to be a libertarian up until the 1980s, you had to be a cussed and individualistic character... Freud talks about the narcissism of small differences. The heretic drives you crazy because they are so much like you, but they are missing that one thing. Ayn Rand was the queen of this. She ended up kicking out of her life pretty much everybody."

Luke: "It was nuts for libertarianism, as small as it was, to be so eager to kick people out."

"One of the first things people think about libertarianism is sexual freedom. Libertarians believe that prostitution should be legal. Yet you do not discuss this in your book."

Brian: "Because I tried to make it a character-centered story... There hasn't been a big name libertarian who has made that sexual freedom stuff their main focus. We've won most of the battles on the sex thing."

"You're not offending the average person's mores by arguing for getting out of the U.N. or cutting taxes or decreasing business regulation... Sexual stuff is psychologically fraught with danger. Sexual morality affects people on a deeper level than questions of regulatory policy. A lot of libertarian thinkers might think that there's no point in shoving people's face in this aspect..."

Luke: "How is pornography John Stagliano regarded in Cato circles? I know they take his money, but..."

Brian: "I don't know anyone who has a problem with how he makes his living. I know John. He's a generous funder of libertarian causes. At Reason magazine, he's a valued contributor. It's an honor to have his support and to have him around."

"Many libertarians are libertine but many are not. I do approve of the existence of pornography."

"For various sociological reasons, if you are going to be an active libertarian, you have to share the standard [commitment to decriminalizing prostitution and the like]... I don't meet many people who have old fashioned problems with other people's sexual behavior."

Luke: Who are the most famous libertarian apostates?

Brian: I don't know of any. "Libertarianism propagates well to the next generation."

"There's no market for a book by a libertarian turncoat. If you change your mind about libertarianism, nobody cares."

Luke: "Who were you the most excited to meet in the course of your research?"

Brian: "Barbara Branden. She was Ayn Rand's right-hand woman. She was a lot more warm and welcoming a figure than her ex-husband Nathaniel. Rand is such a goddess on the hill to libertarians. To get close to people who were close to her was exciting..."

"Most of my friends are libertarian... I long ago stopped enjoying arguing about politics."

"The kind of stuff that somebody is going to come up with verbally in a social situation is going to be stupid, and that includes me. I am not at my best verbally. When we hang up, I'm going to think of a million ways I could've better expressed things."

Luke: Have there been flourishing libertarian communities?

Brian: "There have been various attempts... Most libertarians want to be fully engaged in the larger market, so segregating yourself based on ideology is going to impoverish you. On a libertarian standard, L.A. is nightmarish with its taxes and regulations, but it's Los Angeles. It's worth it."

Luke: A lot of critics would say that libertarianism does not work because it has never been shown to work for a community. I remember Marxists arguing that marxism had never been tried.

Brian: "It is true that libertarianism has never been tried."

Luke: "A problem with libertarianism is the difficulty of assessing the externalities to a transaction. The costs to a wife and kids of a husband using prostitutes. The damage to the family structure from legalized prostitution."

Brian: "On the whole, the world will be a better place if people are free. The externalities created by government are far worse than the occasional externality produced by the free market."

Luke: "Is there a compelling psychological portrait of the libertarian?"

Brian: "A pre-existing work of literature or art that in my mind provides a full and true account of the libertarian mindset? In some ways, I hope my book provides one, without me trying to judge---I hope the stories of the lives, actions, and ideas I tell about the major libertarian figures of the 20th century--and I hope I show more than tell--provides such a portrait. In literature, I cannot recommend ILLUMINATUS! by Robert anton Wilson and Robert Shea highly enough---it presents compelling libertarian characters, libertarian ideas, and is inherently libertarian in its wild style and refusal to lock the reader into one interpretation of events or ideas imposed by the author."

Luke: "Does your book break new ground?"

Brian: "Most of the material in the book is from original research."

Luke: "What things in your book will surprise an educated libertarian?"

Brian: "My favorite story in the book that almost no libertarians know about is the connection between early libertarian financiers and early psychadelic drug culture."

Orthodox Response To Dennis Prager's O.U. Talk

Beth Jacob hosts a panel discussion Feb. 20 at 7:30 p.m. between Rabbi Shalom Tendler, Rabbi Asher Brander and Rabbi Daniel Korobkin responding to Prager's recent critiques of Orthodox Judaism.

Early Political Notes

Chaim Amalek emails:

Doesn't Hillary Clinton look strong? I'm impressed that just hours into her campaign, her people have already essentially poisoned Obama's chances by reminding the public that he is the son of a muslim and may in fact be a muslim himself (even if he's not). And there is nobody on the republican side with the positions to motivate patriotic conservatives to get out and support them. McCain is a tool of Mexico, as is Giuliani. 2008 is looking more and more like a Democratic year.

I urge you to marry this year. If it does not work out for you, you can always get a divorce without fear of what California's community property statute might do to you.

I Want A Book Party For Brian Doherty's Latest - Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement

This is an important book and it deserves a soiree with lots of hot women. I'm thinking the L.A. Press Club. Or Stephen S. Wise.

Jesse Kellerman Talks About His Life And New Novel At Robertson Branch Library

Audio Part One Part Two

Jesse said this used to be his library as he grew up in the neighborhood (but has lived in New York the past four years).

His grandmother has lived in the area since 1959.

Librarian Eva Mitnick gives the introduction. She notes Kellerman's rave reviews, "even from Booklist which is hard to please."

I thought Booklist only gave positive reviews?

Jesse's wife is a fourth year medical student.

He says that many of his teachers at YULA (Yeshiva University Los Angeles high school) were "narrow minded and anti-intellectual."

Jesse says he is "emotionally and intellectually Jewish."

Whenever I hear people saying they are Jewish in their heart, I figure it means that they don't practice their religion.

If I am pressed to go to an event I don't want to attend, I'll say, "I'll be there in spirit."

When I am breaking up with a girlfriend, I usually say "I love you."

The Prager Perspective (Scott Webley) Vs. Dennis Prager

I shelled out $4:75 to search "Dennis Prager" on the L.A. Superior Court website and found nine cases.

Here's Dennis Prager (Aug. 6, 2006) vs. The Prager Perspective. Here's the TPP cross-complaint for breach of oral contract and misrepresentation (filed Oct. 5, 2006).

The dispute has since been settled.

In a case filed May 15, 2000, Bank of America sued Dennis Prager for not paying back a loan of over $30,000. The plaintiff filed to dismiss the suit in September, 2000.

Can anyone recommend any good L.A. Superior Court cases that would shed light on Los Angeles Judaism?

Joe writes:

The major benefactor of Yeshiva gedolah is stanley diller - you should do a search on him. In the federal arena, i believe he took his divorce all the way to the US supreme court.

Alex Spitzer was a major player who had children and in laws getting funds for a second deed of trust investment scheme that caused tons of members of certain shuls to lose more money than you will ever get your hands on.

What you will not find is any board member of YICC doing anything wrong. That place is so santiized even the printouts on their memorial lectures do not leave an inkstain mark.

I put in "Judaism" and got 25 results, 22 of which were for the University of Judaism. None of the cases with documents available looked interesting.

Around 1999, Dennis met Scott Webley, a former actor on General Hospital (1977-1978) who owned a production company (ShowBiz Studios) and several internet businesses (Showbiz.com, etc).

According to Los Angeles Superior Court case BC 357131 (in an Oct. 5, 2006 filing by Scott Webley's attorneys), Prager and Webley agreed orally in late 2000 or early 2001 to operate The Prager Perspective Limited Liability Company to sell Prager's writings, radio show, and talks via dennisprager.com, etc, and split the revenues.

17. Beginning, in or about January 2001 through in or about late 2003 or early 2004, Prager and his assistant Alan Briese delivered the master tapes of the Radio Show to Prager LLC's office. During this time, Prager and his assistant Alan Briese represented to Cross-Complainants that these master tapes were lawfully taken from the Radio Station [KRLA] and Cross-Complainants [Scott Webley and TPP] were to transfer these recordings onto cassette tapes and/or CD for sale and distribution.

18. Salem, with Prager's knowledge, consent, and/or direction, knowingly and intentionally, and to further the business of Prager LLC, Salem uploaded electronic feeds of each daily broadcast from the Radio Show directly onto the Website in or about late 2003 or early 2004. ...to on or about January 13, 2006. Prager LLC made the Radio Show available to its customers by way of electronic downloads...

21. ...Prager LLC offered a membership subscription for a variety of services.

22. Cross-Complainants...believe...that Salem discovered in or about the summer of 2005 that Prager LLC was a successful and profitable business venture....

23. At this same time...Cross-Complainants learned Prager had entered into an agreementwith Salem regarding the Radio Show... Salem contended Prager had transferred all production and syndication rights to the Radio Show... Salem wrongfully demanded that Prager LLC, including its members Webley and Prager, turn over the Website and anything related to the Radio Show to Salem...

24. On or about January 13, 2006, Salem discontinued the uploads of electronic recordings of the Radio Show onto the Website.

25. Shortly thereafter, customers contacted Prager LLC and complained that they could not access the downloads of the Radio Show. Because the downloads of the Radio Show ere no longer available, Prager LLC was forced to refund membership subscriptions...

27. On or about June 14, 2006, Salem Radio filed an action in the Ventura County Superior Court entitled Salem Radio Network Incorporated v. The Prager Perspective, LLC and Scott Webley...transferred to Central District of the Los Angeles Superior Court...BC 358558. The Salem Lawsuit alleges in part:

a. Salem Radio and Prager entered into an agreement on or about November 6, 2000 that only Salem Radio would produce and syndicate the Radio Show.

c. Webley and Prager LLC, not Prager, wrongfully copied the Radio Show from 2001 to January 2006 onto the Website. Webley and Prager LLC then marketed, sold, and distributed electronic and tangible expressions of the Radio Show on the Website and collected $300,000 in revenue without compensating Salem Radio.

Area Rabbi's Dinner Out Sparks Rumors Of CEO Bid

LOS ANGELES, CA—Rumors are swirling among Orthodox insiders that the Weil family supper last night at Pats, site of the first Orthodox Union primary, was, in fact, an attempt by the family of nine to test the waters for a 2008 presidential run.

The candidate—interacting with locals, visiting key landmarks, and, according to political observers, using the outing to showcase his message of strong family values...

Pundits said the family's slow walk down leafy Pico Boulevard signaled a deep concern for environmental issues, while their decision to attend Sunday services at Bnai David Judea acted as a nod to the community's important bloc of not-so-religious voters. The Weils also strolled the shopping districts of wealthy Beverly Hills, showing their ability to relate to a cross-section of Americans.

"They looked very presidential," Rob Eshman said.

There's More To Pico-Robertson Than Our Acclaimed Escorts

Sure, our escorts have won every major award and their reputation is unrivaled in the Los Angeles Orthodox community, but there's only so much time you can spend with a prostitute before your hunger comes knocking. When it does, sample some of Pico's culinary offerings. Whether it's a burger and Blizzard at the new Milk n Honey, or a steak sizzled to perfection at Pats, dining out kosher-style doesn't have to break the bank. Just remember to bring your appetite, although that won't be hard to do after getting your ashes hauled six ways to Sunday. And bring along your escort if you want. No one will make a peep.

O.U. Leader Being Pushed Out

The country’s largest Orthodox organization has begun searching for a new chief executive, despite the fact that the man currently filling the role has no desire to step down.

“Obviously, a decision was made either not to renew my contract, or to reconsider my role at the organization,” said the current executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb. “All I can really say is that I have a contract that expires in 2008, and I intend to serve to the best of my ability up until that point.”

...One likely candidate with an MBA is Rabbi Steven Weil, the young chief rabbi at the largest Orthodox synagogue in Los Angeles. The Jewish Press recently ran a brief item claiming that Weil already had been chosen for the O.U. position. Savitsky said that the report had “absolutely no merit.”

Rabbi Batzri Has No Wives

In February of 2006, Rabbi Hagai Batzri remarried without giving his first wife a get (Jewish divorce).

The dispute was resolved within a few months, but now Rabbi Batzri's second marriage has ended.

The rabbi has started a new synagogue in the San Fernando Valley with a Hebrew school.

Los Angeles Jewish Events

Fred emails: "Are you on this LAJE list? It is put out weekly by Reuven (formerly Rob) Kershberg, a member of Anshe Emes. I love the personal story below and the reminders of his dead grandmother's frumkeit, as if the story would lose its meaning if he didn't take steps to call attention to the fact that she was shomer shabbos. I think the moral of the story is: If not for her baal teshuva grandson, if all grandma had to show for her years on earth was a family of secular Jews, then why bother surviving the Holocaust?"

Kershberg writes:

She and my grandfather were the sole survivors of their respective families. Both Shomer Shabbos frum Yidden.

....In many ways, I feel like my grandparents survived the Holocaust JUST for me. In their lifetimes they were able to witness a grandson .. once assimilated into the American culture .. like the rest of the family .. come back to Torah Judaism. Enjoying Shabbos as she and her husband did in Poland before the war. She was able to see her grandson marry a Bas Kohain from a religious family.. Have a child with her. Raise another Yid as Hashem would have wanted. Because of her guts and instinct, and ONLY because of her, I was able to live, and come back to our rich tradition.

Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy's Financial Problems

Over the past eight years, enrollment at Hillel has fallen from 700 to 600 according to my sources (850 to 750 students according to the 11/11/02 Jewish Journal). "A lot of parents who signed petitions got bullied and they decided to go somewhere more peaceful," says a parent critical of the current regime.

While enrollment has fallen, Hillel's budget has increased steadily.

In the school year 2002-2003, Hillel's expenses were $5.488 million for 712 students (it was Rabbi Gottesman's last year). In 2003-2004, expenses ran $5.821 million for 680 students. For 2004-2005, $5.546 million for 695 students.

As Morey Levovitz became president of the Hillel board in 2004, he made many changes at the school.

The 2005-2006 budget was never approved by Hillel's board. The 2006-2007 budget is at $7.575 million for 680-700 students.

On Sept. 26, 2005, Meg Chan Feiltelberg (who reports to the Hillel board on the school's financial situation) emails Rabbi Boruch Sufrin (Hillel's dean of religious education):

Shalom Rabbi,

I got a long email from Aviva [Ebner, the Hillel comptroller at the time who was paid about $150,000 per annum] so this is my response to explain to her my concerns. I was very bluent with her because I need her to understand that the budget is very tight and I am very worried. She also has to understand that I can take the heat when we run over. Her email to me only gave me an hourly rate of $85 per hour which is not cheap and I still do not know how much time the consultant is going to take in total. I assume she is working on that but still the question lies, why is she unable to do what the consultant is doing?

Feltelberg emails Aviva Ebner:

...I think I am a bit confused as to your job description. I understood from speaking to Morey [Levovitz, Hillel board president] last year that we were hiring someone to run the operations of the schoola nd this person would also manage the business office day to day. I do understand that the smooth running of the business office is quite critical. To this end, I did ask to interview you prior to your being hired but Morey forgot about my request. I work full-time and as a volunteer could not have spent the amount of time it would take to correctly set up the business office. I could only meet with Carmelit and Leah about 1-2 hours per week and it was not enough. I was not being paid to do that job. I understood that you were coming with the expertise to make the necessary changes to the business office that were much needed. I was quite relieved. Now, it has become apparent to me that you need to go outside to get help on this matter. The school is running on a very tight budget. We raised tuition by 10% last year and after many years, eliminated the lunch program. Many parents are already quite upset but we felt we were doing this for the good of the school. These monies have been diverted to pay administrators like yourself and others. Now, even with the tuition increase, we have to raise about $600k extra... It will be difficult for me as finance secretary to justify your salaries and to tell the Board that you also had to hire an outside consultant in order to accomplish the job that you were hired for. I really need to ask you to curtail any unbudgeted expenses. I had expected Morey to hire someone who could take over most of the volunteer work that I had to do last year, including managing and fixing the running of the business office, issuing finacials each month, creating the school budget, etc. I did not expect to do much of this except review and approve year. I really need to understand what areas of the school you were hired to work on. I guess I am a bit confused. My job is oversight and I have to ask these tough questions. I am the one who has to answer to budget overruns to the Board. ...I plan to be even tougher on the administration. I will expect monthly financials and explanations for any budget overruns.I have a fiduciary responsibility to the parents and I have had one year to learn that I cannot just accept decisions made by the administration and Morey. I have to be firma nd I will. It will not be easy for this school to raise $600k - we could not do it last year either and we survived the summer because parents prepaid their tuition. ...[T]he school's reputation is at stake and has already been ruined by not planning how to pay down payables.

Your consultant at 8 hours a day at $85 per hour can easily run up a large bill... Money that we do not have at this time to spend. Please explain to me why you cannot spend the time or do not have the expertise to fix the business office so that I can understand this.

A source writes:

Morey hired Aviva as controller. He handed out to-do lists on. He likes to micromanage. everyone by handing out to-do lists. When Nancy Fields (head of secular education at Hillel) was given her list she told him where to stick the list and that she answers to the parents and to the board and not to Morey. Because of that, Morey did not want to renew her and made her miserable by sicking Rabbi Sufrin who sent Florette to make her life miserable. He sent Joe Englanoff and Joel Kessler on 12/7/2005 at 5PM and on 12/19/2005 at 10AM (witnesses saw the two going to her office). Their ultimatum to her was sign a resignation letter saying she could not get along with R. Sufrin or they would not write her a letter of reccomendation. She told them no and they fell back to plan two of Sufrin lying to the board saying he could not get along with Nancy Fields and it was either Nancy or him who would leave. Mind you Nancy was not at the board meeting to be questioned. Normally administrators were required to be at board meetings so members could ask questions but Morey told them they are no longer needed at the meetings. It happened during the meeting when they said Tom Avert never embezzled the 5k from the kids trip fund. Sufrin had Aviva, Tom's friend, lead the investigation and conclude it was one of Tom's staff who recently left to Dallas who took the money but Tom felt bad and was going to reimburse the funds. Legally police are supposed to be called in to investigate but they would not allow. When the Beverly Hills PD heard Hillel hired Aviva, they said don't you guys do background checks on your new employees? She was fired in mid year from El Rodeo Elementary School. Also Aviva was Tom's regular lunch date on a regular basis hardly the unbiased person you want leading an investigation into embezzlement. Aviva's only qualification for her job was she was classmates with englanoffs wife. But she did fulfill Morey's wishes by following his to-do lists and wasting school money (tens of thousands of dollars).

Memorial Service For Rebbetizen Dolgin At YICC Jan. 9 At 7:30 p.m.

From the latest edition of the Encyclopedia Judaica by Sheldon Teitelbaum (updating first edition work of Max Vorspan):

The most significant of centrist Orthodox synagogues, the Beth Jacob Congregation, was led by Rabbi Simon Dolgin who arrived in 1938 and relocated Beth Jacob from West Adams to Beverly Hills in the 1950s. He also established the Hillel School and had a distinguished career before moving to Israel in the early 1970s. He was one of the very few rabbis who moved to Israel, neither at the beginning nor at the end but at the prime of his American career, where he became director general of the Ministry of Religion and a rabbi in Ramat Eshkol.

From last week's YICC bulletin: "A community-wide Shloshim memorial service in memory of Rebbetizen Shirley Dolgin, mother of our member Jess Dolgin... Please join us in paying tribute to the memory of a woman who helped shape the Orthodox community of Los Angeles... This service is the only community-wide tribute being held in Mrs. Dolgin's memory."

A source writes:

This is controversial since it should be held in Beth Jacob. Two years ago when Rabbi Dolgin died, Rabbi Weil without the Dolgin family's permisssion decided to have a memorial while rabbi dolgin's son Jessie was still sitting shiva in israel. Rebbetzin dolgin asked him to wait till Jessie returned so he could hear all the good things people would say about his father. Weil's response was no. She asked him then if he was going to have to please allow Rabbi Muskin [of YICC] to say something since her husband became friends with Muskin. His second response was no. Hence the shloshim is at yicc. The Jewish Journal would not print this but the truth should be told.

Now The Truth Can Be Told - Cecile Du Bois Has Her First Kiss

Two years ago, I had to pull this entry.

My 15-year old friend Cecile had her first kiss at a NFTY (North American Federation of Temple Youth -- Reform) conference at the LAX Hilton last weekend. Her new boyfriend is named Dean*. I talked to him for 15-minutes Sunday night to make sure his intentions were honorable.

Cecile is not a confident kisser, so I gave her and her mother Cathy Seipp some tips, for which they were eternally grateful:

* Don't drool on your partner.

* Don't dive straight for the larynx.

* Tonsil hockey is not the best metaphor for romantic kissing.

* Make sure your breath is fresh. Carry around gum just in case.

I've been told that my first kisses are overly strong on technique and lacking in heart.

While Cecile chatted with Dean*, I did my best fish-lips imitation, cracking her up.

Chicks dig it when I contort my face like that and then write about it like a 15-year old girl.

I didn't have my first kiss until my Junior year in highschool. I was not prepared when Alice drove her tongue down my throat.

A few months later, I read a book on how to be a confident kisser and over the coming years I implemented its suggestions. Now I think I will update the book for the new generation.

Cecile also had her first date today -- it was with a different guy.

"It was just an outing with a guy friend," Cecile claims.

Cathy needed to know if I thought she was condescending.

I paused and thought for a longer time than Cathy liked before I said, "Onanism Today does have you down."

"I'm not condescending all the time," she said.

I agreed and she felt much better, bouncing back to her normal superior mode when she was able to point out some other journalist who was more condescending than her.

I got Cecile's permission on this entry. She said she needed the hits.

Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy's Annual Banquet Jan. 3

A source writes: "Big dinner (tickets are built into tuition which ensures parents come), customarily a little unruly by virtue of the size of the event. Seems like the school is doing well in terms of fundraising and morale. Emcee was Hillel alumnus Chayim Frenkel, cantor of a reconstructionist temple in Pacific Palisades."

Blonde Ambition Star To Run Family-Friendly New Studio Capable Of Seizing Universal

If everything I'm told is true, I have the greatest rags to riches story in the history of Hollywood.

But let me start at the beginning.

I met Suzy Mandel, the former Benny Hill and Page Three girl, at a party in September. She was working as a production assistant..

I asked her for an interview. She said she would give me one but down the line.

On Dec. 14, Mandel aka Jacquelineann Elaine Jefcoate leaves me a message that includes this nugget: "I am going to give you a very private scoop. There's a new international studio going up -- Zent International Films. It is backed by international money.

"I am still helping Jennifer. We have a deal probably with HBO.

"I have been offered the position of president and CEO of this new studio. It will be on par with Paramount. Tom Cruise is now taking over Paramount. This studio has the capability of taking over Universal. It's doing deals with some of the London studios and Arizona studios.

"This is not a bizarre phone call. I'll have the corporation send you the paperwork."

"I probably won't say anything else about it until the papers are signed. We don't want to get caught with our knickers down."

"My cell phone is not working very good because I threw it across the room."

Dec 22. Suzy leaves another message: "Our first movie will be a pretty big one. A 35mm. Then I will go down to a comedy. Most of the programming will be children's type programming, documentary-style."

Dec. 31. Suzy emails me financial documents with the header: "THIS IS THE PROOF."

Suzy calls at noon. "The studio is owned by Zent & Associates, a very large conglomerate."

There are three Google results for this conglomerate.

Luke: "Where are they based?"

Suzy: "All over the world."

I Google "Zent International Pictures" and find no results.

I Google "Alfred Zent" and find eight results including these two:

According to Offshorebusiness.com:

Grenada passed its Offshore Banking Act in 1996 and licensed its first offshore bank, Grenada International Bank & Trust Corp., on April 15, 1997. GIB&TC, which was controlled by habitual U. S. conman Alfred Zent and a 'nun' known as 'Sister' Susan Walsh, actually collapsed in scandal before it even officially opened for business.

According to the Oct. 6, 1997 Forbes (by Brigid McMenamin):

Sister Susan's banking career began in an association with Alfred Zent, 73, a former silverware salesman who now claims to be an international financier, operating in Mexico, the Caribbean and Arizona. Zent lives and works in a cheap tract house in Mesa, Ariz., using a post office drop as his business address.

Last year Zent wanted to start an offshore bank and picked the Caribbean island nation of Grenada, where he had pull with the prime minister. Still, even in Grenada you need credentials to open a bank, and what better credential than association with a charitable religious person?

...Zent once testified in criminal court that he'd served as a general in the Bay of Pigs. In fact, Zent did serve from 1942to 1965; but never rose above captain.

Luke: "What type of films are you going to make?"

Suzy: "We are aiming for the family market. Nothing fast-paced. No fast-cutting."

"I'm aware of those articles [on Alfred Zent]. I have never had a problem with him."

"I was married to Stanley Margolis (of Plastic Cinemas in England, the third largest chain of theaters in the world). We divorced sixteen years ago."

Suzy says she caught pneumonia in October and almost died.

She's waiting for knee surgery.

"You'll really be amazed at who's coming in on this."

"I come from a different background than people realize. I was bought up on a private island (Isle of Sheppy). My uncle Dashwood built up much of the Isle of Wight. My brother (Peter Charles Carrol Jefcoate) pops around the world with the princes and won the Duke of Edinborough award for bravery when he was 14. My father's (Derek Roland Jefcoate who was a restorer for the queen) quite a famous man. My grandfather Alfred Victor Jefcoate sold his clubs to Warner Brothers. My great grandfather was famous. My great great grandfather owned most of the breweries in London. My grandmother's maiden name was Hughes. The Jefcoates were big plantation owners down south."

"I speak French and Russian and some Hebrew, Italian, German, Greek and Latin. I have degrees in history, German, Geography, Design, Interior Design, and Nursing. My uncle went down on the Poseidon. My other uncle was a cover for the matahari."

Suzy says President Clinton prevented her American boyfriend from marrying her.

12:54 p.m. I answer the phone.

"This is Dr. Alfred E. Zent."

"Background for me, my brother in law (Eddie Peterson) was Sammy Davis Jr.'s business manager for 19 years."

"I lost a fortune with the guy who started the Black Entertainment Group."

"I have been in three movies including The Misfits and Arizona."

There's no result for "Alfred Zent" on imdb.com.

Luke: "So you're a medical doctor?"

Alfred: "I'm a psychologist. I have three PhDs -- in psychology, political geography, and asset management. I went to Arizona State College, Arizona State University and the University of Arizona and the University of Mexico."

"I was in the military for 23 years. I'm a World War II vet. I was wounded, got a Purple Heart, and a POW. Korean vet. Wounded. Vietnam Vet, unwounded. I fought in the Congo in a quasi-CIA operation. And in Panama. I speak Spanish as well as English. I'm building 3,000 houses in Cancun, Mexico, courtesy of the government down there."

"I taught school for 22 years and I've been in private investment for twenty odd years."

"I'm a promoter. I work with people who are not too good sometimes. I work with people who bring me strange stories and find out they are not true."

"I lost a leg two years ago. I lost my wife of 39 years two years ago. I lost my dog of 16 years two years ago. I lost my brother at 75. I've been lying back doing nothing for the past two years."

"I have eight children and eleven grandchildren."

"I knew Benny Hill and the president of Virgin Islands. He helped us raise money in Saudi Arabia."

"I remember that bitch in Forbes magazine."

Alfred says he spoke to Steve Forbes about that article.

Alfred says he knew Lee Iacocca.

Alfred: "How can they call me a con man? I've never been arrested for anything. I've never gone to jail. I retired from the military as a two star general."

Luke: "What's your approximate networth?"

Alfred: "My credit union (Union de Credito de Fomento Integral de Naucalpan) in Mexico is worth $2.5 billion."

The credit union's credo is "Profesionalisimo par la Excelencia."

Alfred: "I just became the president this year. We're on the dormant list right now because I just withdrew the capital."

A Profound Thank You

Bill emails:

Dear Luke, I am an Englishman, who some years ago; despite having never smoked, was struck down with facial cancer.The outcome of this was that every female in my life ran away from me, after major facial surgery (required to save my life ) left me with facial disfigurement.Thanks to some 25 + facial reconstruction plastic surgery operations;my looks have been transformed;however my confidence;especially when in the presence of a beautiful lady;has been destroyed.So I have no sex life, and were it not for the stunningly beautiful ladies of your adult industry , who allow me the privilege of seeing them naked and in such wonderful sexual acts;I would have killed myself long ago.As we are only a few hours away from another year, and I have no way of expressing the importance to my well-being that these beautiful ladies bring me;may I ask you to do so on my behalf. Their beauty brings joy to my heart ;and allow me the opportunity of being part of their sex lives ,albeit as a voyeur .To explain what they do to and for me is beyond comprehension and thus my thanks comes from both my heart and soul.

Sam the Man is a Terrific Film

It's about a blocked novelist who struggles with infidelity.

Sam the Man is the first time I've disagreed with the rankings on imdb.com, which I've usually found to be the best gauge of a movie. IMDB.com gave it a 3.6 on a 1-10 scale, probably because it was shot on digital video.

Brian J. Dillard in the All Movie Guide writes:

Before he broke out with the J.D. Salinger-esque Tadpole in 2002, producer-turned-director Gary Winick filmed this little-seen relationship drama. Fisher Stevens stars as the title character, a writer with one novel under his belt who can't seem to deliver the follow-up. Instead, he spends his time compulsively cheating on his photographer girlfriend, Cass (Annabella Sciorra); giving the runaround to his agent, Richard (Ron Rifkin); and trying to keep his landlord, Murray (Luis Guzman), at bay. Things take a turn for the worse when the husband of one of Sam's conquests (Maria Bello) confronts him, leaving Sam covered in hard-to-explain injuries. Soon, with the help of his barkeep brother, Lorenzo (Saverio Guerra), Sam is holding down a day job for the first time in years and reexamining every aspect of his life. After the success of Tadpole, the Independent Film Channel picked up Sam the Man for broadcast on cable television. The film's cast, filled with notable and lesser-known New York actors, includes George Plimpton, Griffin Dunne, and Rob Morrow.

Here's a contrary view:

There's an interesting idea for a movie contained in the final scenes of Sam The Man, about a writer who deliberately sabotages his personal relationships so that he'll have something to write about. By the time we've gotten there, though, it's too little too late—we've already been forced to sit through the self-involved, depressing little tale of a self-involved, depressing little man.

My Favorite Book Of 2007 - Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement

You won't buy it for the prose (not a memorable sentence) but you'll love the even-handed presentation of ideas that matter. This is an indispensable book for anyone interested in libertarian thought.

It is an important book and I couldn't put it down.

Questions I have for its author Brian Doherty of Reason magazine:

* What things make you doubt libertarianism?

* Can you perceive a circumstance where you would come to the belief that illegal immigration was bad?

* What are common relationship interpersonal issues for libertarians?

* How has your personal life affected your libertarian philosophy and vice versa? Have you had urges you could not control, urges that left you wishing the government would ban what you sought/limit your choices?

* Is the libertarian able to overcome the instinct of ownership of one's spouse? How would a rational libertarian think and feel about his spouse having an illicit affair? Is libertarianism any solace?

* Are libertarians more or less religious than the general population?

* How does a libertarian stay happy with a decidedly non-libertarian country and world? How do you avoid depression?

* Economists tend to have more wisdom than any other branch of the Nobel prizes (Dennis Prager). Why?

Caterina in the Big City

The most beautiful film I've seen about a girl coming of age. I love it like Cinema Paradiso (the director's cut is my favorite film of all time -- thanks for the recommendation Dennis Prager).

I'm falling in love with Italy and Italian cinema. I loved Il Postino. Yes, I loved that big ol' lug of a communist.

I know I'm going to love a book or movie when it starts with a cliche scene and then surprises me.

Dennis Prager's Custom Judaism

Hi Luke, Rob Barnett here in Minneapolis. I just finished reading your recently posted summary of Dennis Prager addressing the Orthodox Union and his differences with Orthodox Judaism.

You are to be commended Luke, and not just for posting this item. While you were attracted initially to Judaism by Dennis Prager, you have gone to commit yourself to the fullness of Orthodoxy. Kudos for integrity.

The same, I'm afraid, cannot be said of DP. It's quite clear that DP wants a customized Judaism that fits his taste. lifestyle, and predilections. It's rather paradoxical that while DP likes to lecture on how imperative it is for people to be accountable to God, DP seems to have decided that he's not to be accountable to Orthodox rabbinic authority, apparently becomes it cramps his lifestyle, conflicts with certain values and understandings he's come to cherish, and because it hampers his efforts at attracting people to Judaism. The general way to view him is not as one committed to pursuing the good and true , but a self-appointed marketing manager for the Judaism Corporation. Certain trappings of Orthodoxy apparently are bad for business.

When we commit ourselves to God and a religion, we commit ourselves not just to God but to the human authorities He has entrusted in those positions. In the civil realm, we are required to give assent and accept the authority of proper civil leaders, even if they're not our favorite and make highly questionable prudential decisions. So too in religion: as a devout Catholic Christian, I must accept the authority of the human leaders of God's Church, however flawed they may be or questionable they may be in some decision making. That is part and parcel of being accountable to God as well: I don't get to have God on my own terms.

If one is going to be in Judaism, then one has an obligation not just to Torah but to rabbinic authority, both its normative, authoritative explication of Torah-grounded halacha as well as in the formulation of man-made rabbinic injunctions. All of what DP complains about has been brought about properly and legitimately through the history of Judaic thinking and has been embraced by halachic decisiors for centuries. Does DP think he knows better than all of them - actually, better you don't answer that. If DP thinks Orthodox Judaic liturgy is too long, there is a halachic process, I'm sure, for him to raise the issue for Orthodox review. The length of davening is not a normative infallible. The fact that DP may not get his way isn't a license for him to take his marbles and leave.

On kashrut, his myopic insistance on viewing the matter as one of animal welfare blinds him to the commitment through chukim that one should make to God as a Torah Jew. This subject deserves more treatment than space allows here, but DP's insistence on translating everything into rational categories does a disservice to Judaism.

Judaism should be embraced (or abandoned) on its own merits and basis. It should not be twisted by a self-appointed marketing manager for the benefit of the Judaism Corporation.

Breaking Silence

From Ma'ariv - translated by The Awareness Center (video):

As a Charedi (ultra-orthodox) child he had been through a series of molestations and attempted rapes. Even after he left the religious life, he suffered from nightmares and sleepless nights. Now Menachem Lang decided to gather his courage, confront his attackers, and force the Charedi world to deal with its demons.

Dressed as a Charedi, he infiltrated Bnei-Brak and followed them--until he managed to squeeze a detailed admission and request for forgiveness; all in front of the cameras.

Menachem Lang was born as a Charedi in Bnei-Brak. Already at a young age he was discovered as someone who possessed a unique voice for Chazanut (leading the community in religious song)and became the wonder child of the Charedi world. However, alongside the success, Lang was hiding a relentless dark secret.

"The first time was when I was 7 years old," tells Lang. "The attacker took me to the bathroom and spent five hours with me there. He rubbed against me and touched me, breathed like a drunkard. I just lowered my eyes and waited for it to be over."

This week, almost 20 years later, Lang went back to the streets of Bnei-Brak--and this time as a non-religious Jew dressed as a Charedi--in order to confront the people who sexually assaulted him. Menachem, 25 years old, is an actor in the Ensemble of Herzelia Theater, went on the shuddering trip into his past accompanied by Channel 10 reporter Guy Lerer.

"I always wanted to do this," he says, "it hurt me that these people are walking free. It haunted me nights, but I didn't have the courage to do this because I didn't have anyone to do it with. I made the decision when Lerer came to me to prepare a report on the show I participate in. I told him about my dream and he immediately told me 'we're doing this!'. During the shooting we walked into the Satmar borough dressed as Charedis, the same Chassidic group that sent its people to meet with Ahmad Nigahd. It is a hard, violent place."

The Ringer

"A young guy's only option to erase a really bad debt is to rig the Special Olympics by posing as a contestant."

It turned out not to be as funny as it sounded.

At least I got to appreciate the acting talent of Katherine Marie Heigl whose imdb.com biography includes this poignant note:

Tragically, her older brother Jason died in 1986 of brain injuries suffered in a car accident, after being thrown from the back of a pickup truck. When doctors determined he was brain-dead, the family made the difficult decision to donate his organs. Not only did this painful chapter give Katherine a greater perspective and appreciation for life, but it motivated her to use her celebrity to promote the importance of organ donation.

Former Yavneh Hebrew Academy President David Rubin Investigated By U.S. Government

Over municipal bond sales.

It's probably not as exciting as it sounds.

I hear that Yakov Yelin, the chairman of the board of Shaarey Zedek, is interviewing in the next two weeks for the job of O.U. executive director.

Curing Gay Jews - JonahWeb.org

JONAH is a non-profit international organization dedicated to educating the world-wide Jewish community about the prevention, intervention, and healing of the underlying issues causing same-sex attractions. If you are confused by same-sex attractions or know someone who is and desire help, please contact us for resources and professional confidential assistance.

Protecting Mordecai Gafni

Jewish Whistleblower emails: "It appears that Jacob Ner-David and Naomi Mark continue to obscure and re-write their role in protecting child molester Gafni and publicly attacking his survivors and their supporters. That they dare publish articles in a journal titled "Jewish Responsibility" is obscene as they have NEVER taken responsibility. Have they no shame? Apparently not."

Jacob Ner-David writes:

Ten years ago I reconnected with Mordechai Gafni in Jerusalem. I had first met him as a thirteen-year-old in Camp Lavi, and then a few years later we were both arrested at a Soviet Jewry protest. Over the years I heard vague stories about him, but never paid much attention to the rumors or hearsay. As an activist often in the public eye, I knew how little merit those rumors usually held.

Mordechai shared with me his dreams and visions for the future of the Jewish people, Jewish thought, and the world, which closely matched my thinking — just expressed a lot more eloquently and with more passion. I found in Mordechai, and then Avraham Leader, partners to transform Jewish life in Israel; together we created Bayit Chadash. Althoug sometimes Leader and I wonder whether we should have suspected Mordechai was hiding untold stories from us, we didn't. We had “checked him out” with, among others, Avraham Infeld, then president of Melitz. Bayit Chadash grew — much of it due to Mordechai's charismatic leadership.

Playground: A Childhood Lost Inside the Playboy Mansion

I talk to author Jennifer Saginor (website, interview, MySpace) Dec. 28, 2006.

Luke: "When you were a kid, what did you want to become when you grew up?"

Jennifer: "A lawyer. My father [Dr. Mark Saginor] was always argumentative and I was always debating him. I thought that if I went to law school, I'd learn how to argue well and stand up for myself."

Luke: "How do you see yourself? As a writer?"

Jennifer: "A writer, definitely. Before this book, I wrote screenplays. I've been working in the business since college."

Luke: "What triggered you writing this book?"

Jennifer: "I was at odds with my parents. I was really upset. I was very angry at them and I wasn't sure why. I realized that I didn't know how to get along in society. I wasn't taught basic skills. My values were off. I was searching for the truth. I had two self-absorbed parents who neglected their children. I didn't know how parents could bring children into this world and then emotionally abandon them.

"When I was in highschool, I thought everyone was on drugs. I thought everyone was bisexual. I thought everyone had neglectful parents."

"I quit drugs after college. They were an escape from reality. I went to some 12-step meetings."

"I do believe in God. I don't know if I believe in organized religion even though I'm Jewish. I definitely believe I've had someone watching out for me.

"If I didn't believe in something greater than myself, I probably would've committed suicide. If I didn't believe in a higher meaning to life through my writing and trying to reach people and have themes in my writing that raise awareness even subconsciously...

"I'm almost done with my next book -- CHIP Girl. The character falls into running high-stakes celebrity poker games."

Luke: "How did your family react to your book?"

Jennifer: "Poorly. It's annoying because I watered down all their characters. I made them all look human instead of how they really are. My mother almost ran me over in a 2007 Bentley two weeks ago in Beverly Hills. You know it's bad when your own mother almost runs you over in the middle of Beverly Hills.

"She didn't even blink. She didn't even say hi to me.

"I ran into my sister at a hair salon a month ago. I said, 'It's so good to see you. Maybe we can make amends.' She's having children. I thought we did make amends. I called the hair salon [Neil George in Beverly Hills] a couple of weeks later to book a color and they said, 'I'm sorry. We can't accommodate you here. Your mother and sister are better clients than you. They've been here longer. We're sorry but you're going to have to find another hair salon.'

"They're allowed to do it because it's a referral-only place."

"My mother feels like she was a good parent. You'd think that she'd forgive me and understand that I needed to do this for therapeutic reasons... She remarried some multimillionaire and spoils my sister to death and wouldn't even know if I was run over and dead in the street. They give a lot of money to the Jewish Federation and Beit Teshuva (she's on the board). They're big on giving money to strangers.

"My father is upset with me because he says he didn't give out drugs. Out of the whole book, that's it. I didn't want to remind him of the Fox 11 expose two years ago that all my friends saw."

"I feel bad that I don't have any family ties. I don't speak to any of them. My grandfather passed away last year at 97."

Luke: "What does your dad do?"

Jennifer: "He plays poker every day."

"I believe in everything Hef believes in -- free speech, free expression... These girls have a choice about exposing themselves. Overall, Playboy is good. I am not a feminist. My experiences with my parents had nothing to do with Playboy."

Luke: "I find it amazing that you are still invited to parties at the Playboy mansion."

Jennifer: "I portrayed him in a positive light. I've looked up to him my whole life. I've only spoken highly of him. I've always looked at him as a role model. He was always god growing up. That's how everyone looked at him except for the mothers."

Luke: "How do you decide what is right and wrong?"

Jennifer: "I just go with how I feel. I don't really care how other people view me."

Luke: "How do you keep yourself from getting caught up in the Hollywood high life?"

Jennifer: "I'm home writing."

Saginor spent about 20 years in therapy. "I finally realized it just wasn't helping."

Luke: "What is your greatest source of happiness?"

Jennifer: "Being with my dog Bella. She passed away this past year at seven. She was like my child and my best friend. Having that unconditional love from the dog... I've never experienced that. My parents were so self-absorbed."

David Geffen And The L.A. Times

Kim Masters writes:

I've heard from multiple sources in L.A., including an editor at the Times, that Geffen told a Timesman that were he to succeed in buying the paper, his first order of business would be firing a reporter in the business section who had crossed him. If Geffen has that on his to-do list—much less at the top—he is the wrong man at the wrong Times. Yes, he has a canny eye for quality, from Joni Mitchell to Jackson Pollock. But he could make Wendy McCaw, the multimillionaire owner who has decimated the Santa Barbara News-Press, look Pulitzer-obsessed.

Those who have dealt with Geffen while covering this business should find that obvious. Geffen is famously vindictive. One reporter now at the Times once called me in tears after an encounter with him on the phone (one truly has to be on the receiving end of his verbal savagery to appreciate it). And does anyone think he'll tolerate articles that annoy him or his friends? And he has lots of friends—from Hollywood to Washington, from Steven Spielberg to Hillary Clinton.

The Tone Of Every Relationship Is Set By The Woman

When I look back on my life, the dynamics of every relationship I've had has been set by the woman. She's determined if things were going to be fun or combative, cuddly or prickly, passionate or cold.

I don't argue any more in my relationships. I just tell my woman -- it's up to you if we fight or fornicate. The relationship is your responsibility. If you run it well, I'll do what you say.

Harry Jakobs - In Loving Memory

Terrence emails:

Luke, just read your what happened to on Harry Jakobs. Trust me, your belief that you're a bastard as compared to him? Not even close. What he did to people in Hollywood and Montreal (and probably other countries) pales to whatever you said that offended him. And I'm not even 100% sure if he's actually dead or faked it, as there's another Harry Jakobs out there in Arizona who's ripping off people and destroying lives just as effectively as the one I know.

I used to work on an tv show of his that his produced in Montreal, a show called Time of Your Life. It was this pretty horrendous teen tv show a la 90210, just without the budget and production values/ Well, just on that show alone (and there is TONS of proof in the Quebec Superior Court records), he alledgedly -

- did not pay taxes on salaries of any of the cast, production, and misc staff (this ran into the millions);
- did not pay any of the WORKMAN'S comp requirements, so had anyone gotten hurt, crippled or killed on the show, they were on their own;
- had convinced a number of merchants to loan merchandise to the show, which he then sold off at the end of the season;
- would eat at any number of local restaurants, running tabs of thousands of dollars with no intention to pay;
- (this point is unconfirmed, but relayed to me by a Mr. Mashkin, who would be explained later) took the production tapes of the show, and would then go off and sell the broadcast rights over around the world (known countries, Canada twice in english and french, France, Germany, Italy and Indonesia) with no royalties to any others who may have been entitled;
- had rented all of the production equipment, and then SOLD them all off illegally at the end of season.

That's just with that show. In the years after that, a writer based in Hollywood, Mr. Mashkin, was swindled out of a multimillion dollar home and was drained of almost all of his savings trying to fight Jakobs. Jakobs somehow managed to convince Mashkin to invest in a number of business dealings and rent out part of Mashkin's house. When they proved false or fraudulant, he somehow managed to steal part title of Mashkin's home. Mashkin was bankrupted as a result, with his life savings wiped out. He then proceeded to try something similar with Empire Strikes Back director Lawrence Kasden, but I don't know the end results of that. But it's just incredible. There are 40+ legal suits against Jakobs for fraud, theft and so on in just Quebec alone, before he skipped off to Hollywood. With the Mashkin fights as well, I can only begin to imagine what might be in California.

The Dark Side of the Beach

James writes:

Last time I wrote you about the hot chicks at the AA meeting. This time my walk and ride along the beach was more troubling.

First, I am walking to the beach to check the waves and commune with the ocean and a group of guys is in a circle next to a park with lots of young kids. It was a sex addicts meeting - I imagine Vicki Polin and her crew would have a field day with that proximity. In my mind, I doubt anyone would try to prey on a kid under the watchful eye of a westside mom. Heck, one time I think i picked up a kid's shovel so my kid could play with it and the other kid's mom almost had me indicted.

Now, here is some psycho babble I do not get. Here are a group of dudes who look like they could all use a little bit of a workout who are labeled as addicts and 50 yards away are tons of grown men in wetsuits surfing, like they are adolescents - there was not a single surfer with over 50% of his hair on his head. The break was mushy (it made the C street break in ventura look tubular) and these guys were falling down all over the place like they were surfing pipeline. In my mind, both are addicts. The surfers are addicted to surfing, the sex addicts are addicted to surfing the net for sex. One is applauded by society, the other one just makes for great TV on MSNBC (gotta love the indian dude who looked like john madden's ass thinking some 14 year old blonde chick was gonna do the bonedance with him). How sitting around a group of fellow addicts helps does not really make sense.

You want my advice - you are an addict (to anything) - the next time you want a drink or prey on someone sexually and it is during the day, get your wetsuit on and go surf - you won't have to sit in a circle on the beach and you may get laid, which is what sex addicts and alcoholics probably need. If it is at night, I guess you can go play chess at a cafe or something else that is addictive but has no _______'s anonymous associated with it. Then, later, a black guy was belt whipping his child in plain view. Someone called the cops and the black guy, using all the brains god gave him and then some, kept his belt off and in his hand. Santa Monica's finest showed up in about 10 seconds to arrest this errant father. Then I saw an orthodox lady trying to navigate a double stroller down the beach and her son was crying. The son had gotten a splinter and I helped take it out. Would someone inform the city of santa monica that instead of spending money on cops so that three squad cars come an arrest an abusive father, they should pave walkways all the way to the sand?

I then jogged the famous santa monica fourth street steps and saw more hot woman than you might see at Friday Night Live during all of eternity. I will run those stairs again, it is a much better locus for hot chicks than AA meetings.

Dennis Prager Speaks To Orthodox Union

Dennis Prager (.wav) Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein responds Dennis Prager responds Dennis Prager takes questions Dennis Prager

Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Lisa Aiken speak on the yeshiva curriculum.

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin: "A View From Israel: Diaspora Jewry's Influence on the State in the 21st Century."

Rabbi Michael Broyde: "Interacting With Noachides, Gentiles & Pagans Who Love Us." Rabbi Broyde takes questions.

9 a.m. Room is full (about 80 persons) for Rabbi Riskin's talk. He says Iran won't nuke Jerusalem because it won't damage the Al Aksa mosque on the temple mount.

10 a.m. Lisa Aiken says Judaism is primarily about having a relationship with God.

Does anyone aside from a few eccentric intellectuals believe that? I've met few religious Jews who claimed to have a relationship with God. It's just one of those things that speakers say but few people do.

It's like saying, "Jews don't think they're better than anybody else."

I get that obligatory disclaimer every time choseness is introduced. Yes, Jews are God's chosen people but Jews don't believe they are any better than anybody else.

That's nonsense. Of course Jews believe they are better than everybody else, just as every religious and national group thinks it is number one. The only difference is that many non-Jews believe Jews are special, and sometimes hate them for it.

This old man (I think it was the Rabbi Emmanuel pictured here with Richard Joel last month) dressed like a Hasid makes a loud, passionate and incomprehensible speech complaining that he's been forbidden from passing out his flyers, which he does anyway over the next few hours to anyone he thinks is important (Michael Broyde, Dennis Prager, etc).

Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb does a good job keeping the yeshiva curriculum discussion moving.

11:30 a.m. Rabbi Yitzchok Lowenbraun lectures on why our youth are leaving Orthodoxy. He says it is not for intellectual reasons.

Rabbi Michael Broyde says it is for intellectual reasons. That the kids see irreconcilable differences between Torah and science. That "being happy and feeling good" is an insufficient reason to stay Jewish.

I wonder how many people leave Orthodox Judaism because so many of its practicioners are fat, slovenly, and unattractive?

A YULA boys school teacher says the reasons were intellectual a century ago but now kids are just giving into their lustful desires.

Fundamentalist religion attracts a disproportionate number of kooks and many of them are dying to speak up and bore us to tears.

Much of the room has nodded off. The sages command us to follow the majority, so I also nod off.

I walk out and past Rabbi Daniel Korobkin posing for photographs.

"Now, let's vary the background," says the photographer.

I make eye contact with a leading Los Angeles rabbi in the hallway. He stares at me, says hello, and then backs into the ladies room.

"Wrong room!" I warn.

Because I've studied Torah, I choose to believe that the rabbi went into the ladies room for the best of reasons.

Still, my soul is troubled. Why do so many of our rabbis go off the derech and into the ladies room? Is it for intellectual reasons or are they just following their lustful desires?

I listen to Rabbi Broyde's instructions on interacting with gentiles. I know more about dating shiksas than this rabbi. I should be giving this talk.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, the leading Orthodox decider of Jewish law in the last half of the 20th Century, characterized American government as grounded in righteousness (he said that in Hebrew, much more impressive sounding). He said we should offer profound fidelity to secular American law.

Rabbi Broyde says we have to careful in selecting those who will do inter-faith dialogue. "I think much harder before speaking to The New York Times than I do to the Jewish press."

Do we want to encourage abortion laws along the lines of what Christians want that could possibly cause a mother to lose her life in a case where Jewish law would prescribe an abortion.

Jewish law is more concerned with the life of the mother than that of the fetus.

Standing up for religious values that are not ours, such as animal sacrifice by cults in Florida, protects our right to practice our religion.

A fat hippie teacher from Shalhevet wonders how Rabbi Broyde can give so much honor to American law when it allowed such terrible miscarriages of justice in the cases of Jonathan Pollard and the Rosenbergs.

"I don't see Jonathan Pollard case as a terrible miscarriage of justice. Nor the Rosenberg case."

The teacher yells at Broyde who replies, "You asked for my opinion. I gave it to you."

That quiets the yelping masses.

Rabbi Alan Kalinsky (West Coast director of the O.U.) holds the full house (about 250 persons) hostage for about 15 minutes to do housekeeping items and bestow some pointless award (a yad aka Torah pointer) on an O.U. functionary (president Steve Savitsky).

Finally, we're allowed the main event -- Dennis Prager vs. Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein.

The crowd is thrilled to hear Prager. His billboard "Just Right" is all over L.A. for his radio show.

Rabbi Daniel Korobkin gives the introduction: "My 21-year old son was looking over the program and his eyes perked up when he saw Dennis Prager's name. 'I'm going to that one.'

"You've all been put in cherem [excommunication] for being here today," says Rabbi Korobkin.

Prager is not Orthodox and a lot of people are upset about him being invited to an O.U. event.

Rabbi Korobkin says the O.U. got a telephone message from a local leader of left-wing Orthodoxy complaining about Prager's inclusion. That Prager was intolerant of other religions because he wants Muslim congressman Keith Ellison to take his swearing in oath on a Bible (in addition to the Koran).

Rabbi Korobkin: "The feeling at the O.U. is that we are sufficiently confident that Torah is emet [truth] and that what we have is emet and whatever deficiencies we have...we have to be prepared to look at someone pointing out our flaws..."

Dennis wears a light blue shirt, an orange and blue striped tie, and a brown jacket. "I was the one who opened the media to Muslims."

That would come as news to the hundreds of journalists who wrote stories about Muslims and put them on the air (radio and television) before Prager ever got a radio show.

"If we Jews think we are secure in America because of the constitution and not because of the Bible, we are fools."

"Of all the ethnic groups in America, we are the most foolish."

"The great majority of serious Jews are Orthodox."

"On the great moral issues of life, you and I are in agreement 99% of the time... Because we both believe the Torah comes from God."

"The average Orthodox rabbi and Reform rabbi share almost nothing [in values]."

"You turned out to be right... I could not argue against it -- the ordination of women. The adding of vast numbers of females to the Jewish and Christian clergy has not helped those religions. Women bring gifts that are different than what clerical leadership need. Women prefer compassion to standards and clergy have to prefer standards to compassion."

"Faith matters a great deal. When I grew up [in Orthodoxy], everything was halakah. About once a year, one of the rabbonim might have a hashkafa shiur where God might be mentioned. In my Orthodox world, the question was never what does God want. It was, what's the halakah?"

"It's hard to argue that God does not women to be able to marry if their husbands refuse a get [divorce]. Why even ask what does God want if my only question is, what is the halakah?"

"My oldest son [David], in a deep rebellion, has decided to become an Orthodox rabbi."

"My brother [Kenny], who is Orthodox, says to me, 'I should've been Reform. Then my kids would be Orthodox.'"

"The eruv is baloney. It is a legal fiction. We're going to fool ourselves that it is ok to wheel our kids to shul."

"I can't believe that God wants a woman [on Shabbos] to be under house arrest because there's not a string around the city."

"I believe that God doesn't want us to look silly in the eyes of the nations. The L.A. Times article [on the Venice eruv] makes Orthodox Judaism look silly. You can't blame the L.A. Times."

"I believe that God wants Pesach [Passover] to be seven days [rather than the eight days now observed by traditional Jews in the diaspora]. That's what he wrote. The Torah's from God."

I can't believe how several Jews have the chutzpah to answer their cell phones during the lecture.

"The siddur [prayer book] is too long. The maxzor [High Holiday prayer book] is too long. Nobody understands the piyutim [which make a Rosh Hashanah morning prayer service last over six hours]."

"Then I have Orthodox friends tell me, 'Dennis, at our hashkama minyan, we do everything in 90 minutes.' Then you have to say the prayers so fast they become gibberish. Evelyn Wood [speed reader] grew up Orthodox."

"I believe that the Torah wants Pesach to be seven days because it recreates creation. Judaism stands on two pillars -- creation and the Exodus from Egypt. When you make it eight days, you lose the whole point of what HaShem wanted."

"Are we a kiddish HaShem in the way we kill animals? We had the most humane way to kill animals...but do we today? I don't think so."

"Kosher veal? It's killed in a painless way but it is raised in a painful way."

"I wish I could say that halakah [Jewish law] makes people good."

Dennis relays a story from Rabbi Shlomo Riskin who interviewed various rabbis to become the head of his yeshiva. All of them said that if they ordered a shaver in the mail and the company accidentally sent an extra one, they would keep it, as there was nothing wrong in keeping such from a Gentile. They could even quote some Jewish text to support it.

"Here's a case of halakah making people worse."

"My dad has been Orthodox his whole life. Even though he enlisted in World War II, he noticed all these yeshivot popping up in New York during World War II so Jews could avoid service in the armed forces by studying to become rabbis. All these goyim are fighting Hitler and all these frum Jews are enrolling in yeshiva to not fight Hitler."

"The finest Jews I have known have tended to be Orthodox."

Dennis complained about Orthodox Jews who don't greet gentiles on the Sabbath.

"The Reform conference recently passed a resolution that Washington D.C. should become a state. There's a pressing Jewish issue."

Rabbi Korobkin: "I've never been so glad to see Rabbi Adlerstein. Better you than me."

Rav Adlerstein makes a response (and blogs about it later). "If I score a couple of points for the Ribbono Shel Olam, Baruch HaShem."

"I applaud the O.U. for allowing this despite everyone's lock-jaw. We do have a tradition of being open to criticism."

He recommends an article by Judy Bleich in the Orthodox Forum on Reform doing away with selichot. He says that shorter prayer services don't attract more people to shul.

Rav Adlerstein says the lack of greeting gentiles was not because such persons were Orthodox but because they were from New York.

Rabbi Korobkin says that if there's anything that's bothering you, seek out your rabbi and ask. "There are answers to all these questions."

Dennis: "When I first met Rabbi Adlerstein, he was not the same. He had to get halakic permission to go on Religion on the Line (KABC) and dialogue with non-Jewish clergy. Today he's a leader in Jewish life in talking to Christians and meeting with them and hugging them."

Rabbi Adlerstein: "Just the men."

Dennis: "The tradition with Conservative Judaism is not the non-fidelity to halakah. They are overwhelmingly faithful to halaka... The problem with Conservatism is that they don't believe the Torah is divine."

When Prager speaks, my face angles up and to the side like a puppy towards his master.

Dennis says it is wrong that we have to stand during Neilah (and much of the High Holiday prayer services). "If you had to stand during my talk, all you'd think about is when you could sit down."

"We're stuck with standing up more than any other religion."

"You can't say anything in Orthodox life that something rabbinic is a bad idea."

If you want to become effective at outreach, learn from Chabad in two ways:

One. Chabad doesn't ration its love for Jews on the level of the Jews' observance. Chabad seeks to make Jews Jewish while the mitnagdim (non-Hasidic Orthodox) seek to make them Orthodox.

Two. Chabad emissaries are happy. "A shaliach [emissary] who is not happy is sent back to Brooklyn. A rebettzin who is not good looking is sent back to Brooklyn."

"The best advertisement for religion is when its practicioners are happy."

Dennis says that only two or three people in his yeshiva class did not cheat.

"Joseph Telushkin was a Republican ten years before I was."

A young man gets up and says how disgusted he is that Prager was invited to speak and to criticize the Orthodox. About 15 people applaud him.

Dennis: "Reform does not invite me (because of my politics). Conservative does. I spoke at the Rabbinical Assembly convention."

"My parents went to my Stephen S. Wise minyan Saturday morning for my youngest son's bar mitzvah. They loved it."

Rabbi Korobkin says Dennis Prager thinks more like an Orthodox Jew than most Orthodox Jews.

At the end of the program, a man loudly pleads with Dennis to daven mincha with them. Prager agrees.

As for me, I can't wait to get home to watch some football.

Gadi Pickholz emails (israelfrac@gmail.com) from the Israel Fathers Rights Advocacy Council:

Did anyone point out in the discussion of why youth depart orthodoxy that it is neither attraction of secularism nor intellectualism, but the recognition that orthodoxy today as practiced today as devolved into nothing more than empty ritual masking rampant materialism and socioeconomic climbing? This is clearly the primary justification heard in Israel for American aliya from parents -- fleeing the Affluenza of American Orthodoxy before one loses the children entirely the other critical issue, which you hinted at in an earlier post but also did not pursue, is that with the loss of all Rabbinic leadership in America to the black hat chareidim (Steven Riskin could no longer exist in America, as an example, much less be Rosh Yeshiva of my daughter's program training female advocates for the Jerusalem Bet Din) there is simply no longer any connection between the true values and hashkafa of the modern orthodox families and their Rabbinic leadership, particularly educational leadership. This seems to be the problem not only at Valley Torah, but also at YULA girls in particular.

There really is no school in LA that would support my daughter electing to do army service over being a nice jewish girl volunteer (American girls dont do that either when they come to Israel, but remain cloistered in the safety of a charedi seminar) before studying far more than simply talmud in a female hesder program designed to create not only female advocates for Bet Din but eventually female Dayanim as well. Rabbi Rakefet's daughter, who is a prominent Jerusalem attorney and to'en rabbani in bet din, could not be tolerated in any educational environment for girls in LA today. Rabbi Rakefet openly states all the time that none of us could practice Judaism and raise our children in the American community of today, and that this is a much stronger pull for all of us than simply Zionism once we realize that American orhtodoxy has gone, to use his football field-goal analogy, "no good, way w-i-i-i-de to the right" This is a far greater turn-off, but no one can express it publicly as no one but the charedim want the career in chinuch in America today. This divergence in values grows annually until reaching a breaking point.

I agree that you should be addressing these issues, because everyone else is simply too scared given the Talibanization of American orthodox leadership to even loyal dissent.

Perhaps it is because, like the catholic church and mafia, much of orthodoxy (and particularly charedi orthodoxy, someone has to be willing to state that openly) have completely divorced ritual observance from basic morality. Our children are not foolish, and comprehend that scandal far better than we --they have not yet invested so much time, effort and money in the system. The cataracts will be removed from our eyes eventually; we can simply elect how painful a process it will be.

Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy Saddled With Debt

It's been increased of late by thousands of dollars of legal fees spent to head off lawsuits by angry parents and ex-staff. Those supporting the Morey Levovitz regime are angry that his dissenters are threatening to sue the school.

A source writes:

The debt did not start to accrue until after menachem gottesman left. When he left, the yeshiva did not have 1 cent of debt! He had not missed a payroll in over 20 years; pay day was the 5th and the 20th never late! The debt started when Hillel added more administrators than they needed. They now have a bigger staff than they need and the ratio of administrators to teachers is larger than it should be. Menachem Gottesman is no saint. He might not even be a talmid chachum but he was a good CEO for Hillel Hebrew academy. He would bend down and pick up garbage from the floor; He put his life in to the school. There is no way he would have left it with debt.