Home December 2010 Dinner with a Scholar – and Brunch Too

Dinner with a Scholar – and Brunch Too

Dinner with a Scholar, coming up on Saturday, January 22, 2011, is the signature fundraising event of the Bureau of Jewish Education.  In 2011, there will also be Brunch with a Scholar on Sunday, January 23.  The events include a gourmet meal at homes throughout the community , an interactive session with an interesting speaker, and a chance to meet interesting people.  Proceeds go the Bureau’s TALIT Nation program for teens.

According to Aviva Forster, who is chairing the event, “We have speakers to pique everyone’s interest.  There is a broad spectrum of experts on science, travel, music, and Judaism.”

David Lewis, CEO of the Bureau of Jewish Education, added, “I love this program, not just because it raises money for an educational cause and is education-based, but because it forms community.  It’s in people’s homes, and it’s haimische.”

He added, “All homes donate the space and the food.  Every cent raised goes to the kids.”

The cost is $150 per person, and reservations are available at www.bjeoc.org. The lineup of speakers and topics follows.

A Night at the Movies

Holocaust scholar Dr. Michael Berenbaum was the chief historical consultant for Last Days, historical consultant for the History Channel’s The Holocaust: The Untold Story, executive producer of a film entitled Desperate Hours about the role Turkey played in rescuing Jews from Nazi Germany and About Face: The Story of The Jewish Refugee Soldiers of WWII, executive producer of Swimming in Auschwitz, and consultant for Defiance and Uprising.  He is a rabbi, author of 12 books, professor, and executive editor of The New Encyclopedia Judaica.

Dr. Berenbaum was the first director of the U.S. Holocaust Museum and president and CEO of Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Project.  Currently, he is director of the Sigi Ziering Institute: Exploring the Ethical and Religious Implications of the Holocaust at the American Jewish University.

A Visual Feast

Abstract expressionism was the first specifically American movement to achieve worldwide influence. It was of particular interest to some of the great Jewish artists of the post World War II period.

Israeli artist Adam Berg, associate professor at Otis College of Art and Design and California Institute of the Arts, offers “a highly original merger of art and philosophy that engages the mind as much as the senses and is not limited by cultural perspectives.”  He studied architecture and holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Haifa.  Dr. Berg, whose work is displayed in many private collections and museums, is designing a sculpture for a new international art center in Israel.

Politics & Pundits

Is California impossible to govern and where are we headed?  Gary Delsohn will shed light on the prospects of the new governor to fare better than the previous one, touch on burning domestic and foreign policy issues, and discuss the consequences of the changes in traditional media reporting on politics.

Delsohn was a journalist for more than 30 years.  As a senior political writer for The Sacramento Bee, he has seen it all, interviewed them all, and reported on all of it.  He was wooed away by newly elected Governor Schwarzenegger to be his chief speechwriter, a job he held for three years.   He is a recipient of the Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellowship, and a past Knight Fellow at Stanford University.  The Prosecutors, a gripping non-fiction look at our justice system, was his first book.

Echoes From Our Past; Voices of Our Future

100 Voices: A Journey Home, a musical documentary about Jewish culture in Poland, highlights the current resurgence of Jewish culture through the personal reflections and musical selections of a group of 100 cantors who went to the birthplace of cantorial music.  The largest group of cantors to ever return to Poland since World War II came together from around the globe on a mission of healing.

Hazzan [Cantor] Susan Deutsch, the spiritual leader of Heritage Pointe, will provide a musical perspective, perform songs from the trip, give the background story of Polish composers and others, and show excerpts from this moving film.   Deutsch comes from a long line of cantors.  After her youngest child entered first grade, she started training under the mentorship of Hazzan Nathan Lam.  She has served Congregation B’nai Israel as a cantorial soloist and Congregation Eilat as assistant cantor.

The Real CSI – Investigating the Unseen

The World Trade Center terrorist attacks and the anthrax envelope scares were watershed moments for public perceptions of the threat of unconventional forms of terrorism.  Biological weapons offer terrorist groups new means for causing massive casualties, panic, demoralization, and economic disruptions. Israel has a long history of concern over such threats.  CSIs are actively involved in investigations.

Dr. Stephen Morse is the associate director for science, Division of Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response and director of the Environmental Microbiology Program for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Dr. Morse, who holds a Ph.D. in microbiology, taught at Harvard Medical School and Harvard’s School of Public Health and Oregon Health Sciences University.  He has had discussions with Israelis on bioterrorism and is on the security subcommittee of the Atlanta American-Israeli Chamber of Commerce.   An adjunct professor at Emory University School of Medicine, Dr. Morse serves as an advisor for the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

Imagine the Jewish Future: Global Judaism in the 21st Century

Discover lesser known Jews around the world such as the Ibo of Nigeria, the Abayudaya of Uganda, the Lemba of South Africa, and the Anusim or descendents of forced converts who are scattered all over the world. The traditional view of Jews is Eastern European, but Jews have lived all over the world for thousands of years.  Diane Tobin and Rabbi Daniel Mehlman will provide a glimpse of these new emerging Jewish communities.

Tobin is the president of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research (IJCR), an independent, non-partisan think tank, and the founder and director of Be’chol Lashon (In Every Tongue) that advocates for a global understanding of the Jewish people.  Raised in Argentina, Rabbi Mehlman teaches Introduction to Judaism classes in Spanish at the American Jewish University and has been closely involved with conversion-seeking Latino families in Mexico and the U.S. Mehlman is the rabbi for Congregation Beth Meier in Studio City, the only Southern California shul that offers religious services in English and Spanish.

Bending Toward the Sun

A miraculous lesson in courage and recovery, Bending Toward the Sun tells the story of a family bond forged in the wake of the Holocaust. Weaving together the voices of three generations of women, Leslie Gilbert-Lurie and her mother, Rita Lurie, provide powerful evidence of the resilience of the human spirit.  Rita was five when forced to flee her home in Poland to hide from the Nazis. From the summer of 1942 to mid-1944, she and fourteen members of her family shared a nearly silent existence. Following the war, the family wandered throughout Europe, stateless, for five years.  Decades later, Rita passed to her children feelings of fear, apprehension, and guilt. Her daughter, Leslie, began probing the traumatic events of her mother’s childhood to discover how Rita’s pain affected Leslie’s life and outlook and Leslie’s daughter’s, Mikaela’s.

Leslie Gilbert-Lurie spent nearly a decade as an executive at NBC, where she oversaw NBC Productions, Comedy, and wrote television episodes.  She is a member and past president of the Los Angeles County Board of Education, and has just completed a term on the mayor’s task force to develop a new cultural plan for Los Angeles.

The Face of Change

Today’s dynamic generation of leaders will forever change the landscape of American Jewry.  Shawn Landres, one of these important and influential leaders, is co-founder and CEO of Jumpstart, a Jewish think tank whose mission is to strengthen organizations that build community at the nexus of spirituality, learning, social activism, and culture, in order to transform the broader Jewish community and the world.

Landres was co-director of the 2007 National Spiritual Communities Study that looked at a new phenomenon in Jewish life: the existence of opportunities for worship, learning, social justice work, community building, and spiritual expression outside of the traditional structure of the synagogue or the Jewish Federation umbrella. He has extensive experience in academic and nonprofit leadership, peer network development, and grant management.

Start-Up Nation

How has tiny Israel managed to become a giant high-tech powerhouse?  Israel has beaten the odds to become a major player in the global business world, especially in the technology sector. It has become one of the most dynamic entrepreneurial economies in the world.

Marshall Kaplan, executive director of the three Merage Foundations, has worked with more than 250 young Israeli CEOs and senior executives, providing intense leadership training while strengthening business ties and stimulating the development of U.S.-Israeli trade.  He was the former dean of the University of Colorado’s Graduate School of Public Affairs, a senior official at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and a principal in a policy advisory firm. Kaplan holds BA and MA degrees from Boston University and the MCP degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

A Jewish View of Heaven and Hell

People often ask if Jews believe in a Heaven or Hell.  This presentation will explore one of the most basic and least understood tenets of Judaism.

Rabbi Jeffrey Marx has been the spiritual leader of The Santa Monica Synagogue, a Reform congregation, for the past 25 years.  He is also a lecturer at Santa Monica Emeritus College and the Rhea Hirsch School of Education in Los Angeles.  Rabbi Marx has published articles on the history of the Grand St. Boys’ Club of New York; the Jewish agricultural settlement movement in Kansas; and a history of cream cheese in the U.S.  He is the author of What’s Right? What’s Wrong? A Guide to Talking About Values for Parents and Kids.

Jewish Music: The Soul of Our People

This original concert-lecture is dedicated to the overview of the history and soul of Jewish music.  A narrative will accompany a live performance of many favorite piano masterpieces.

Inesaa Rozenovich started her music education at the age of five in the former Soviet Union.  At 14 she was accepted into the prestigious Special Music High School for Gifted Children, and upon graduation into the Belarus State Conservatory of Music from which she graduated with honors with her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Music History, Theory, and Piano Performance.  She interned at the Tchaikovsky House-Museum, taught piano performance at the Mozyr Music College, and performed piano recitals throughout the Soviet Union.   In 1981 her family left the Soviet Union with $90 and two suitcases.  She now is artistic director of Classical Music Encounters of Orange County, chair of Music Students Service League, and a chamber musician and accompanist.

The Jews of Tunisia

Take a virtual tour of Tunisia with Jerry Sorkin, listed by Condé Nast in 2009 and 2010 as one of the top “Travel Specialists.”  Although Jewish communities in the Arab world have been basically decimated, Tunisia is the exception. Sorkin has come to know the various 2,000-year old Jewish communities of Tunisia intimately over the past 30 years and tried to understand why the Jews of Tunisia have chosen to remain and see their numbers grow.

Sorkin, who earned undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Pennsylvania, is a frequent lecturer on topics relating to Jewish/Arab relations, and has been a keynote speaker at the Smithsonian Institute, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) Cultural Series, a UNESCO conference, the “Lauder Institute,” the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, the Middle East Institute, and several World Affairs Councils.   He served as a consultant and had a brief role in the recent History Channel production, “The Sahara.”

Paradise Lost

Almost 3,000 years ago, following the fall of the First Temple, a group of Jews fled Jerusalem to the Kurdish mountains of what is today Iraq.  This isolated Jewish community had virtually no contact with the outside world.  Their ancient language, Aramaic, their clothing, and their customs were remarkably distinct.  They lived in harmony with their Muslim and Christian neighbors until, with the creation of the state of Israel, they were expelled en masse.  Arriving in Israel with limited education, they were stigmatized as primitives.  The story of the Kurdish Jews, and one particular man, is told in the best-selling memoir, My Father’s Paradise, which won the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award.

Dr. Yona Sabar IS the father in this book written by his son.  It tells of Yona’s growing up in Kurdish Iraq, his family’s expulsion to Israel, and then his unlikely admission to Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where his talent for linguistics was quickly discovered. He earned a scholarship to the graduate program in Near Eastern Languages at Yale and today, he is a professor in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at UCLA.   He composed a definitive Jewish-Aramaic dictionary, has published more than 90 research articles about Jewish Neo-Aramaic and the folklore of the Kurdish Jews, and consulted for the film industry.

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