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April 10, 2009

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. II ' ! lli HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, APRIL 10, 2009 By Rob Eshman Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles LOSANGELES Onare: cent Saturday night, I was at the Honda Center inAnaheim watching Billy Joel in con- cert. He was banging about the piano, singing his heart out, doing all those great songs about being young and horny and streetwise back in the old Italian neighborhood. And then. seeing his face up close on the super-sized screen, it suddenly hit me: My God. Billy Joel is such an old Jew. I'm witnessing this phe- nomenon everywhere I look and they don't reach the high notes the way they used to--not for long anyway. But there's something else that changes in them: Their true selves, their Jewish selves, inexorably emerge. There is no amount of plastic surgery, hair trans- plants, misleading lyrics or name changes that can keep them fromlooking like that old relative you see every Passover, the one who always falls asleep sitting up on the couch while the grandkids are racing around looking for the afikomen. "Did you know Billy Joel is Jewish? "I said to my friend Ed. who was with me at the in pop culture. At some point, concert. they just can't hide it any He shook his head. "Ital- more, can they? Billy Joel. Bob Dylan. Paul Simon. Gene Simmons. Paul Stanley. Carole King. Donald Fagen. Nell Sedaka. The men and women who made their fame and fortune as young American idols have all slid into AARP-land. I'm not the first to point out they just don't leap onto the piano anymore without first taking a step up on the piano bench. ian." "Look at him, "I said. He stared for a second, and I could see it hit him too. Ed wrote the screenplay for "Men in Black," and it occurred to me these Jews are just like the alien hiding among illegal immigrants in that movie's opening sequence. For a second the alien appears normal, but then American Idols Tommy Lee Jones makes his true Martian self appear. I saw it at the Bob Dylan concert in Santa Barbara last summer. He was speeding through his oldies, looking like an unkempt version of your favorite uncle, and his high whine and moan sounded like one continuous "Oyyyyy." "Did you notice you say 'Oy vey?' a lot more?" someone asked radio icon Howard Stern on his Sirius satellite show two weeks ago. At first Stern denied it. For years his shtick was to tell callers that he wasn't re- ally Jewish--"I'm only half Jewish. " he insisted over and over, though both of his parents sound like they were made from a Manischewitz mix. Finally Howard admitted: the older he gets, the more the Yiddish in him comes out. It happens to them all: the hype and ambition and klieg lights die away. The ancient shtetl genes beat back the miracles of science and the power of diet. Having banked their millions, these icons edge more toward what they really are--what their parents and their parents' parents really were--and away from what they pre- tended to be. They find their Jewish voices. The phenomenon has so many quirky manifestations:  Nell Sedaka recorded an all-Yiddish album a couple of years ago. I run into Paul Stanley in shul--the man from KISS, who I last saw 30 years ago in white makeup and S&M garb. I do a double take, and we exchange a"Good Shabbos.'" I see Carole King at a Jew- ish fundraiser and sit beside her piano as she plays and sings. At his concert earlier this year, Billy Joel complains about schlepping through L. A. traffic "schlep" is not an Italianverb then does atwo minute lead-in to "Piano Man" that is the kind of concerto his brother, the great clas- sical pianist Alexander Joel, would have played, the kind his father, a refugee from Nazi Germany, would have grown up hearing. One by one they find their Jewish voice. One by one. we all do. Judaism understands this process. It's right there in the Passover seder, in the charac- ters of the Four Sons. The Wi'se Son asks what every law of Passover means. The Simple Son asks, "What does any of this mean?" The Wicked Son asks. "What's this all mean to you?" And there's also the Son Who Doesn't Even Know to Ask. Those Four Sons are, of course, containedwithin each one of us. depending on the story we're hearing, depend- ing on the stage of our life. Those who strive for fame and acceptance may start by deny- ing who they are. But once they have it all, the search for something deeper kicks in, and with. it the questions: What does it mean? Why are you doing this? What do I even ask? It's not linear--Billy Joel will not end life as a Bobover Chasid--but I wish the self- appointed gatekeepers of Ju- daism, those who constantly drone on about how assimila- tion is poised to destroy Juda- ism as we know it--just as it has been poised to do for about 4,000 years or so--would stop PAGE 5A and appreciate how powerful this faith, this culture is. Ju- daism is not something that just comes from outside, from pedantry and persuasion; it cries out fromwithin, it wants to come out. In his new book "How to Read the Bible," scholar James L. Kugel points to how even the Bible itself, in the Exodus story, understands this. The Children of Israel escape from Pharaoh's army, and make it safely to the other side of the Red Sea. There they stop. with Moses, their leader, and all together they sing a new song, "Shirat HaYam," "The Song of the Sea." But. Kugel points out, how do they know the words? Even if you assume Moses gets the lyrics and melodystraight from God, how did all the Israelites get them too? The Bible has no answer. But I think I have a clue: It's a song we are born with. a voice within. Happy Passover. Rob Eshman is editor-in- chief of the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. from which this column is reprint- ed with permission. Oh, and was he wearing a tallis or a kaffiyeh? A foolproof tool for measuring criticism of Israel By Andrew Silow-Carroll Some say anti-Semitism Wars NPR JeffreyGoldbergandThom- Two states, one for Arabs is in the eye of the beholder The United States in Viet- A1 Jazeerah as Friedman in Palestine. one for Jews in When does criticism of Is- and cannot be objectively nam E. To which of the follow- Stephen Walt and John Eastern Europe--or Brook- rael cross the line to become measured. Others say con- The French in Algeria ing does the commentator Mearsheimer lyn, maybe anti-Semitism? Few other junctivitis is also in the eye The Gestapo in Hell compare the pro-Israel lobby? NoamChomskyandJimmy J. What does the com- questions aresohotlydebated, of the beholder but can be C. How soon does the word The National Rifle Asso- Carter mentator see as the biggest Was formerCIAagentMichael accurately diagnosed. To close Holocaust appear inthe corn- ciation H. Where did the writer obstacle to peace in the Middle Scheuer threatening Jews or the gap betweenthese camps, ment or essay? Skull and Bones staywhile doing hisreSearch? East? just being dramatic vhen he I offer the following test. Use Not at all the preferred The Trilateral Commission At the King David Hotel Palestinian intransigence recently fumed that "Israel- it whenever you are not sure term is "Shoa" The Elders of Zion At the Intercontinental Israeli intransigence Firsters are unquestionably whetherwhat you are reading In the first sentence, right F. How does the writer refer Hotel Jerusalem The "cycle of violence" enemiesofAmerica's republi- isanti-Zionist, anti-Semitic or before "Once the Jews were to Hamas? At an undisclosed location A Star of David-shaped can experiment and will have an editorial in Ha'aretz. oppressed, now they have "An Islamofascist terror in southern Lebanon shark unicycle to be destroyed?" And what A. What term does the become..." gang" At the Harvard Square Scoring: Take your blood about Pat Oliphant's cartoon writer use to refer to the Jew- In the first paragraph, "Gaza's democratically Hotel pressure before and after about Gaza that featured ish state? contained in quotation marks elected government" I. What is the writer's pre- reading an op-ed or lis- a headless, goose-stepping Israel In the paragraph about "An unfairly maligned so- ferred solution to the Israeli- tening to a speech on the soldier threatening a Gazan Palestine Palestinian. casualties, but cial service agency" Palestinian conflict? Middle East. If it ises mother and child with what Isratine with a lower-case "h .... My good friends Khaled One state, Jewish, with au- precipitously, call your Jeffrey Goldberg astutely The Upper West Side D. On which network is the andIsmail" tonomyforPalestinianArabs doctor and the Anti-. describedasa"StarofDavid- B. To whom does the com- commentator most likely to G. Who is cited in the Twostates, IsraeliandArab, Defamation League. shaped shark unicycle?" Was mentator compare Israel's appear? footnotes? living side by side in peace Andrew Silow-Carroll is Oliphant unfairly maligned or military?. Fox News Alan Dershowitz and Ed One state, with joint Israeli the editor in chief of the New just inadequately medicated? The Rebel Alliance in Star CNN Koch and Palestinian citizenship Jersey Jewish News. By Edgar M. Bronfman NEWYORK(JTA) Profes- sor Jonathan Sarna recently wrote an article titled "Les- sons from the Past" encour- aging the Jewish community to hold onto its core values in spite of the current economic downturn. He recommended maintaining our emphasis on innovation and creativity, re-engaging smaller donors and increasing transparency within our organizations. Gary Wexler commented that ifMichaelSteinhardt, the megaphilanthropist, had put forth the recommendations. "by now the BlackBerrys, e-mails, instant messages, phones and blogs would have been buzzing, the committee meetings set, the profes- sionals sent scurrying and the communal electricity popping." While I am not Michael Steinhardt, I believe that Sarna's message is an impor- tant one. Based on my own experi- A time to innovate ence serving the Jewish community, one of Judaism's greatest strengths is its ability to evolve to fit the needs of its diverse community. The Jew- ish community must not lose sight of this core value simply because the stock market has fallen. Judaism has always been a tradition of multiple per- spectives. Historically it has been said that the Torah has 70 faces. Today, wRh count- less ways to define oneself as Jewish, the number of Jewish perspectives has multiplied exponentially. Our diversity, although sometimes chap lenging, gives the Jewish community great strength and depth. It has been our ability to incorporate many perspectives and adapt to the ever-changing needs of our community that has enabled Judaism to remain relevant for thousands of years. With the evolving face of America at large, "it is no surprise that the Jew- ish community also has ever corresponding, shifting needs. Talented, innovative individuals have stepped up by creating organizations and projects, and pushing a culture of change that serves these evolving needs. For example, when Hillel was no longer relevant for students on college campus. Richard Joel revitalized and rebranded Hillel, re-conceptualizing the role it could play for students on campus; Joel's vision for Hillel was the reason I signed onto the leadership of Hillel. When traditional syna- gogue communities were not meeting the changing needs of young professionals seek- ing a place of worship and community, leaders such as Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum and many others around the country created open and inclusive independent minyanim serv- ing as community centers of prayer, education, social action and culture for con- temporary Jews. As I write in my recent book, "Hope, Not Fear," many Jew- ish leaders have bemoaned the phenomena of younger Jews not joining traditional Jewish institutions as a sign of decline in North American Jewish life. The fact that young Jews are not affiliating-in the "tradi- tional" way indicates there is something wrong with our institutions, not that there is something wrong with our youth. We have to let go of the old ways of defining what it means to be an "involved Jew" and begin to look to the kind of involvement that today's Jews are seeking. Innovation has the power to bring about hope and re- naissance within the Jewish community. New ideas infuse life into the Jewish commu- nity and empower Jews of all ages to become personally invested in Judaism. It does not take an established orga- nization or a reputable name to come up with a unique and relevant Jewish initia- Bronfman on page ,19A Dry Bones AN AUOENCE WOW! WHO KNOWS WHAT ONE 500LL ACT OF KINONESS LIKE THAT CAN LEAO r THE PALC-S'I'INIAN00I00 AUTHORrrES 00OSEO| THEIR REHEARSAL A 00ruolo, 5EIZEO THE00| www.drybonesblog.eom