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PAGE 14A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JULY 3, 2009 Iranian Jews join Los Angeles protests By Karmei Melamed Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles LOS ANGELES--As the violent protests against the outcome of Iran's June 12 elec- tion escalated in their former homeland lastweek, countless local Iranian Jews have been among the thousands of Southern California Iranian Americans attending rallies at the Federal Building in Westwood. But even as scores of Jews have joined Iranians of various faiths in solidarity at the demonstrations, the Iranian Jewish community's leadership has refrained from commenting publicly on the chaos unfolding in the streets of Iran's cities. Longtime leaders of the Iranian Jews here fear a possible retaliation from the current Iranian regime against the nearly 20,000 Jews still living in Iran. "Since the 1979 revolution, Jews have been used as leverage by the regime for a variety of reasons," Elliot Benjamin, a local Iranian Jewish activist and attorney, said in an inter- view. "Therefore, as has been the case in the past, Iranian Jews in the United States are concerned that comments on the current crisis may be wrongly attributed to the community in Iran, taken out of context, used against them and create a backlash against the Jews--possibly with the intent to divert attention from the events of the past few days, with severe consequences." Frank Nikbakht, an Iranian Jewish activist and director of the L.A.-based Committee for Minority Rights in Iran, said Jews in Iran have sent messages about such fears to their family members living in Southern California. "The Jews inside Iran are now extremely scared and cautious, because historically minorities were at risk and be - came scapegoats when there was chaos and upheaval in the society," Nikbakhtsaid. "Iran's Jews are understandably very fearful, as most ordinary folks in Iran are, considering the dangers facing their children and young ones in particular." Sara G., an Iranian Jewish homemaker in West Los Ange - les who asked that her name be withheld for fear of potential backlash against her family in Iran, said she was relieved when she finally received a phone call from her parents. "My parents still live in Iran, and speaking with them a few days ago, they said the Jewish community is terri- fied, and Jews in the country have mostly remained at home to avoid getting caught up in the violence on the streets," she said. "I've been worried sick myself and un- able to sleep this past week over what will happen to my family there." Although leaders in the lo- cal Iranian Jewish community declined to speak publicly with The Journal, they verified that as of June 21 they had not received any reports of anti- Semitic incidents in Iran, nor had there been official state- ments against the country's religious minorities, other than some indirect warnings in some Iranian publications. Asher Aramnia, events director at the Iranian Jew- ish Eretz Cultural Center in Tarzana, said the decision by local Iranian Jewish leaders to remain silent about the current political unrest in Iran is not new. Commu- nity members have used this method in order to survive for nearly 2,700 years in Iran, he said, recalling a popular say- ing Jews have told to children since as long ago as the turn of the 20th century in Iran. "During the 1906 political crisis surrounding the Iranian Constitutional Revolution, the Jews were well-known for trying to remain neutral by saying 'as has been dictated to us by the country's Mus- lims, we also do not want a constitutional government,'" Aramnia said. On June 20 and 21, a re- ported 4,000 local Iranian Americans of various faiths, including Jews, gathered in front of the Federal Build- ing in Westwood in protest against the Iranian gov- ernment's recent violent crackdown on demonstrators seeking democracy in Iran. The Los Angeles protesters included those opposed to any form of the current regime in Iran, along with supporters of the reformist presidential can- didate Mir Hossein Mousavi. With bullhorns in hand, Mousavi supporters wore green bandanas and chanted "Death to the Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei]" and "We are united together with our brethren in Iran for freedom!" Since June 13, the dem- onstrations at the Federal Karmel Melamed Since the disputed June 12 election, Los Angeles Jews have been holding protests at the Federal Building in Westwood. Building have been on-going in the evenings and on the weekends, attracting atten- tion from local, national and international news media outlets. And as the crisis over the elections has heated up in Iran, that country's pursuit of nuclear weapons has taken a back seat in the public eye. Yet on June 18, the local Ira- niaffJewish group 30 Years After hosted an event at the Museum of Tolerance to dis- cuss the continuing danger of Iran's nuclear program. The gathering featured speakers from the New York-based group United Against Nuclear Iran, including former CIA Director R. James Woolsey, who criticized the Obama administration for not speak- ing out in full support of the demonstrators in Iran. "I think it was correct for President Obama not to take sides before the election oc- curred, even though [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahma- dinejad has been extremely Iran on page 23A Tending to the lost tribe By Jonathan Mark New York Jewish Week Despite all the crimes and misdemeanors listed in the Bible, the Lubavitcher rebbe once pointed out, the Torah didn't suggest prison as a place for Jewish punishment. Prison was seen as something out of Egypt, the embodiment of unrelenting exile, a place where Joseph did hard time on a bum rap. On the other hand, the ancient prophets surely never envisioned prison as a place of Gatsby-like privilege, where a Jewish chaplain could arrange a catered six-hour bar mitzvah for the son of a Jewish crook, complete with 60 outside guests and an orchestra, all with the permission of the chaplain's superiors in the Department of Corrections. That extravaganza led to a criminal investigation still rippling through the DOC, with the chaplain, Rabbi Leib Glanz, resigning his post at the Manhattan prison known as "the Tombs." And yet, the shock at one chaplain's excess has also led to an illumination of vast goodness, a network of honest rabbinic chaplains, meagerly compensated, and Jewish volunteers working in obscu- rity on behalf of Jewish souls locked away in what is, more Development Corporation for Israel State of Israel Bonds 12600 South Belcher Road, Suite 101A Largo, Florida 33773 727-539-6445 800-622-8017 reva.pea rlstein@israelbonds.corn www.israelbonds.corn Sheryl Weitman Executive Director Reva Pearlstein Assistant Director Monica DiGiovanni Registered Representative often than not, a dangerous and subterranean culture. "It's a challenging posi- tion," said Rabbi Joseph Po- tasnik of his chaplain days at the downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center. Aside from arranging kosher food and providing religious books and materials, "You're dealing with people who are going through difficult times. You try to bring some spiritual wholeness to shattered lives, not just the inmates' but their families'. They have a sense of shame, estrangement, alienation. Their kids might be ridiculed in school because their parents are in prison." There are usually seven rabbis working in New York City prisons, but one moved to the state prison system, and Glanz's resignation has low- ered the number to five. The replacements, said Potasnik, executive director of the New York Board of Rabbis, often come from the board, which offers accredited training and ongoing professional support. The board will nominate several candidates--not nec- There's a difference in our service You'll see it in your yard iii !iii! iiiiiiiiiiil Maurice Lawn Care Maintenance. Landscaping. Irrigation o 407.462.3027 mauricelawncare@yahoo, corn essarily members of the NYBR--for each position. The DOC usually accepts the board's recommendations (as does the state prison system), but the appointments can be political. The tapping of Rabbi Glanz, a Satmar dealmaker, came directly from then- Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Nevertheless, said Potas- nik, "The Leib Glanz I know looked to accommodate the religious needs of inmates. He obviously went too far, but there was no malice. Look, it embarrasses everyone. There are prisoners who hear about this, they want to know why they have such difficulty. There has to be one standard." More Jews end up hand- cuffed in the back of police cars than one might suppose. Though there is no exact fig- ure, Rabbi Baruch Leibowitz estimates there are 1,000 Jews among the approximately 14,000 inmates on Rikers Island, New York's primary detention center. Inmates come and go, awaiting bail and plea bargains. Nevertheless, the chaplain said, he only gets "between seven and 13" Jews for the one weekly service he officiates, aTuesday afternoon Mincha. Leibowitz, ordained by Rav Moshe Feinstein at Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem, dismissed the conventional wisdom that Jews are imprisoned only for white-collar crimes: "What- ever you read about people going to jail for, that's what Jews go to jail for. That Jews only do white-collar crimes is not a valid notion." It's not a new phenomenon, either. In 1950, 11 of the 19 inmates on Sing Sing's"death row" were "members of the tribe"--a lost tribe, at that. Rabbi Velvel Butman, the Chabad emissary to West- chester, beganvolunteering in prisons in Ossining, Bedford Hills and Valhalla in 1993, to help with the modest celebra- tions for Jewish holidays. Chaplains, who have mod- est budgets, "are very happy to accommodate us," said Butman. "We bring whatever we need, staff and goods, spirit and songs, we bring the tefil- lin, the meat slices, salads, all the refreshments and we do it for free. It actually costs us money. Who pays for that? The shaliach has to raise this money himself." Butman says, "Some pris- ons we go to regularly, some we're on-call. If an inmate or relative gets farblunjit [lost and confused], they'll ask us for help. Valhalla, a prison shared by the federal, state and county governments, "has no chap- lain coming through on a regular basis. On Sukkot we put up a portable sukkah in the yard, we danced with the inmates, with lulav and etrog. For that, of course, we need clearance. But any inmate has the right to individual visita- tion, so we can do that more easily. Even for individual visits, I always contact the chaplain anyway, to maintain friendship." The Lubavitcher rebbe, Me- nachem Mendel Schneerson, "always taught us to remem- ber and love every Jew, regard- less of their circumstances," said Butman, "even if they're in prison." In the 1970s, said But- man, "the rebbe launched a campaign for us to care about Jewish inmates. After hearing the rebbe would speak about it a number of times at fabrengens [chasidic gather- ings], one student, Yossi, went to my father," Rabbi Shmuel Butman, director of Lubavitch Youth Organization, "to get money to rent a car. He'd drive to prisons eight hours, 10 hours away," said the West- chester shaliach. "The rebbe was following this very closely and gave a lot of directives. One year, Yossi got a call from the rebbe's senior secretary on the night of Bedikas Chomets [before Passover], saying, 'the rebbe wants to know ifyou brought matzahs to prisoners upstate.' Yossi says yes, Then, 'The rebbe wants to know if you provided a kosher l'pesach oven so inmates can heat their food.' It didn't dawn on him that he had to go that far. So Yossi goes right away to an electronics store in Crown Heights, gets a small portable oven, drives upstate for seven or eight hours-- remember, this is the night before Pesach--delivers it, and comes back the next day just in time for the seder. "After that, Yossi realized how serious was the rebbe's commitment to each Jewish prisoner, if the rebbe cared on a busy night before the seder to make sure that not only was there food but hot food. Yossi--and the rest of us--realized we had to do more." Under the direction of the rebbe, the Aleph Institute, a nonprofit national charitable organization was started in 1981, to institutionalize as- sistance to Jews in prisons. One Jewish businessman, who asked for anonymity, said he specializes in helping Israeli prisoners. He said they have to deal with cultural and language difficulties in addition to anti-Semitism and other problems. "Their families are often in Israel; they can't visit, or visit regu- larly, so they don't have that support, either." This volunteer said he's been working about 20 hours a month for the past 13 years, with the help ofapro bono law- yer, to help Israeli prisoners finish serving their sentence in Israel, under an existing international treaty that says that foreign nationals can complete their sentence in their home country. Despite the scandal of the Tribe on page 23A