LOS ANGELES -- David Bergstein, a financier and philanthropist residing in Hidden Hills, California, has commissioned the scribing of a new Torah Scroll in honor of his late father, Dr. Leonard Bergstein, to be housed in Chabad of the Conejo’s Center of Jewish Life in Agoura Hills. The Center is the site of the Leonard Bergstein Conejo Jewish Academy, an adult education center likewise dedicated by David Bergstein in his father’s memory.  

The writing of a Torah, a meticulous process involving the precise hand-scribing of one letter at a time, typically takes one-to-two years to complete (the Torah consists of 304,805 letters). Leaders of Chabad of the Conejo report that the final letters of the Leonard Bergstein Torah were recently inscribed by a “Sofer” (a qualified and ordained Hebrew scribe) at David Bergstein’s home in Hidden Hills, as David looked on and even held the Sofer’s writing hand to ceremoniously complete the final letters together, in unison.

A community dedication celebration inducting the new Torah into the Center for Jewish Life has been slated for March 11th to coincide with the tenth yahrtzeit, or anniversary, of the late Dr. Bergstein’s passing.

“Leonard Bergstein was a kind and brilliant man who dedicated his life to innovation, invention and the dissemination of deeper knowledge,” said Rabbi Moshe Bryski, Director of Chabad of the Conejo and Dean of the Bergstein Conejo Jewish Academy.  “Even as his son, David, who majored in pre-med and minored in math at the Polytechnic Institute of New York (now NYU) before attending law school at Cardozo University, has made business and finance his primary career, he is nonetheless deeply committed to education and the perpetuation of Jewish values from generation to generation.”

Polish-born Leonard Bergstein who, after surviving the Holocaust, pursued his academic studies in Germany, Canada and the United States, was counted among the post-World War II “founding fathers” of integration in numerous fields of science and technology. His PhD dissertation at Columbia University gave birth to the original Zoom Lens, which revolutionized photography and film recordings. His expertise in optics, electronics and lasers made him sought after by American and Israeli tech companies throughout many sectors including those specializing in space exploration, lens development and barcode laser scanning.

In addition to his professorships at City College of New York, the Polytechnic Institute, Technion and the Israel Institute of Technology, Leonard Bergstein was reputed for his almost encyclopedic knowledge of Jewish texts, including the Talmud and other great works of Jewish law, history and philosophy.

“My dad was a proud Jew, a prolific Torah scholar and a gem of a human being who contributed a great deal to this world,” said son, David Bergstein. “I know that I have big shoes to fill, and that is a goal I aim to continue pursuing for the rest of my life. For now, I am gratified by this opportunity to eternalize his memory by having this beautiful Torah scribed in his memory, and having it housed in the learning Center that bears his name. Knowing that people from all walks of life will be coming to study sacred texts in his merit inspires and humbles me. It is exactly the sort of legacy he would want to leave; a legacy I am proud to perpetuate by making this gift to the Jewish community.”    

The Bergstein Conejo Jewish Academy is an educational institute attended by thousands from around the Conejo Valley on an annual basis. Its diverse curriculum includes classes, lectures, films, workshops and seminars covering a broad range of Jewish subjects -- catering to all levels from beginner to scholar.

The Torah dedication celebration on Sunday, March 11, will be a festive event featuring a traditional street processional, highlighted by music and dancing, as the new Torah is welcomed into its new home at 30345 Canwood Street in Agoura Hills. It will be open to the community at large.


LOS ANGELES – On last week, Dr. Anita Goodblatt (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev) discussed to Play the Fool: The Book of Esther in Early Modern German, English, and Yiddish Drama in Royce Hall at UCLA.

Scholars of Yiddish literature cosponsored the event which proposed that the first extant Purim Shpiel (Purim Play) continued the tradition of early modern German and English dramatizations of the Book of Esther.

Jews would have gone to see these plays performed in the ports, inns, and streets of early modern Germany, and adapted them to their own, very riotous, holiday festivities.  In this talk, Dr. Goodblatt discussed three plays, within a multi-cultural and multi-temporal context: Meistersinger Hans Sachs’s Comedie, Die Gantze Hystori der Hester (Comedy. The Entire History of Hester, 1536), the English play, preserved in German, Comedie von der Königen Esther und Hoffärtigen Haman (Comedy of Queen Esther and Haughty Haman, 1620), and the Yiddish play, Ein Schön Purim [Achaschwerosch] Shpiel (A Beautiful Purim Play,1697), preserved in manuscript form and transcribed in 1979. All have recently been translated into English in order to facilitate this comparative study. In particular, this talk focuses on the performative dimensions of the Fool, inserted into these biblical plays and variously dramatized as: Sachs’s narr or court jester; the Anglo-German clown named Hans Knapkäse; and the transformation of the biblical Mordecai into a comic figure.

The event was sponsored by the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. UCLA Department of English cosponsored by UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies.

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          4-11 Adar, 5778                                                     Feb. 19-25, 2018 -- THE JEWISH OBSERVER, LOS ANGELES  --  603rd Web Ed.


LOS ANGELES -- While media around the country provided frequent and vivid accounts of rising Nazi brutality in Europe, Americans tended to focus inward on domestic issues during the 1930s and 1940s. The audience stepped back in time with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (“USHMM”) and local experts and explored headlines, artifacts and other materials from that time period in Southern California, which will include dozens of articles recently unearthed in local newspapers.

USHMM Education Initiatives Manager JoAnna Wasserman recently joined University of Southern California History Professor and Author Dr. Steven J. Ross, and moderator Los Angeles Times Deputy Editorial Page Editor Jon Healey, to explore media coverage in Southern California during the Nazi era.

The USHMM recently presented “Americans and the Nazi Threat: What did Southern Californians Know?” at American Jewish University, in Los Angeles. This ninth annual Linda and Tony Rubin Lecture series program was co-presented with University of Judaism, Sigi Ziering Institute and the Casden Institute at University of Southern California.

Panelists include:

·       Steven J. Ross, Professor of History, University of Southern California, and Author, Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America.

·       JoAnna Wasserman, Education Initiatives Manager, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

 ·       Moderator: Jon Healey, Deputy Editorial Page Editor, Los Angeles Times.

They will discuss surprising actions taken by nearby communities in response to the growing Nazi threat in Europe.

“Americans knew more about the rising Nazi threat in the 1930s and 40s than many people realize,” said Steven Klappholz, the Museum’s Western Regional Director. “In fact, part of our research for the forthcoming exhibition, Americans and the Holocaust, identified how Nazism was covered in local newspapers.  Students and volunteer citizen historians from all over the country participated in our ‘History Unfolded’ crowd sourcing project, which is an extensive review of newspapers from this period.

“Already more than 75 articles from the Los Angeles Times and other local publications that talk about the rise of Nazism from that period have been identified.”

In the 25 years since it opened, the Museum has educated and inspired more than 42 million visitors, including more than 10 million children and nearly 100 heads of state. A permanent reminder on the National Mall in Washington of what can occur when the world fails to take action, the Museum inspires citizens and leaders alike to confront hate and indifference, end genocide and promote human dignity.

The Museum’s work is having a significant impact -- here in California and around the world.  Hundreds of area schoolteachers -- and thousands more from all 50 states -- are trained each year in how to make the Holocaust relevant and meaningful to young people. The Museum’s leadership programs are inspiring California judges, police and military officers to heed the lessons of the Holocaust and understand their roles as safeguards of democracy. The Museum brings together policymakers, diplomats and heads of state to focus on ending the continuing scourge of genocide.

The Museum marked its 25th anniversary in 2018 by inspiring people to reflect on Holocaust history and ‘Never Stop Asking Why.’ As Museum Founding Chairman Elie Wiesel said, “The Museum is not an answer. It is a question mark.” In the short time since its founding, the Museum has grown from a major national institution into a respected global enterprise leading the cause of Holocaust remembrance and education. During Days of Remembrance on April 8-9, the Museum will honor all Holocaust survivors with its highest recognition, the Elie Wiesel Award, and in May launch its new exhibition and initiative on Americans and the Holocaust— the latest example of its 25-year legacy of exploring the complex questions Holocaust history raises to stimulate people to think about themselves and the society they live in.

The “Americans and the Nazi Threat: What did Southern Californians Know?” program, which will help to celebrate the Museum’s 25th anniversary, is free and open to the public.

American Jewish University is located at 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90077.

Media interested in attending the “Americans and the Nazi Threat: What did Southern Californians Know?”

 Through its national campaign Never Again: What You Do Matters, the Museum seeks to make critical investments to keep Holocaust memory alive as a relevant, transforma-tive force in the 21st-century. The $540 million comprehensive goal includes building a stronger endowment, increased annual fund, and new collections, conservation, and research center.  

A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum inspires citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. Its far-reaching educational programs and global impact are made possible by generous donors.

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