Archive for October, 2010

Getting Clean and Going Green

October 28, 2010

This article was first published as “From to Clean and Green: ‘Unintentional Pornographer’ Gary Kremen Talks About Philanthropy, Judaism and U.S.-Israel Relations” in the Forward.

Gary Kremen with his infant son, Isaac.

Clean-tech entrepreneur and Jewish philanthropist Gary Kremen walked through his home in Los Altos Hills, Calif., on a recent afternoon. He held his 5-month-old son, Isaac, in one arm and gestured with the other arm to the environmentally friendly baby paraphernalia.

Today, Kremen’s home is filled with diapers, bottles and teething rings. Not long ago, however, the accoutrements of his life were decidedly more adult. Until 2006, Kremen, 47, was the owner and operator of the adult website, active in the pornography industry, and dealing with a major drug habit.

Click here to learn more about Kremen’s story and read an interview with him.


Jews of the Fillmore

October 22, 2010

This post first appeared as “Slideshow: Jews of the Fillmore” on The Arty Semite blog of the Forward.

With the opening of San Francisco’s Jewish Community High School of the Bay’s (JCHS) new building on Ellis Street in 2002, the city’s organized Jewish community finally returned to the Fillmore. Only local Jewish history buffs appreciated the significance; the neighborhood in which the school is situated — now called The Western Addition — was once San Francisco’s Lower East Side, albeit on a smaller scale than the section of Manhattan to which it is compared.

It is almost impossible to imagine that in this city, where today there is no kosher butcher shop or kosher bakery, and Hebrew schools struggle to get students to attend at all, there were once two synagogues, three kosher restaurants, four Jewish bakeries, five kosher meat markets, three Jewish delicatessens, one Jewish liquor merchant, and a central Jewish afternoon Talmud Torah which students attended six days a week. All within a two-square block area, no less.

“It’s not by coincidence that we brought the ‘Jews of the Fillmore’ exhibition here,” explained Allison Green, Program Coordinator at the San Francisco Bureau of Jewish Education’s Jewish Community Library (JCL). The library is located at JCHS, just blocks from what was once the hub of this legendary neighborhood, during its heyday from 1906 to 1945. Jews first started moving into the area after their homes south of Market Street had been destroyed in the Great Earthquake and Fire, and began moving away even before the national post-World War II exodus from the inner cities to the suburbs.

Click here to read more and view a slideshow of archival photos of  Jewish life in the Fillmore.

© 2010 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.


Take A Chill Pill

October 22, 2010

This article was first published as “Teen missteps pave way for success, ‘Blessing’ author says” in JWeekly.

Dr. Wendy Mogel

In the prevailing pressure-cooker society, in which parents and educators are creating enormous stress in adolescents by pushing them to succeed socially and academically, Dr. Wendy Mogel proudly belongs to the counterculture. She endorses the idea of kids letting off a little steam, goofing off and getting into some trouble.

“I really want teenagers to screw up,” Mogel declared. “They have to do dopey stuff in order to grow up. It’s far better that they have the chance to mess up while they are under parental supervision than when they are away from home and on their own.”

She advocates for all kinds of teenage misbehavior —including rudeness to parents, procrastination and laziness, self-centeredness and rule breaking, and even limited experimentation with alcohol and physical intimacy.

“It’s not easy to convert your teens’ struggles into blessings. It requires both insight and cour-age,” Mogel writes in the first chapter of her new book, “The Blessing of a

B Minus: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Resilient Teenagers.” She goes on to liken the adolescent journey to that of the Israelites’ 40-year sojourn through the Sinai desert, enduring a prolonged period of “grumbling” and mistakes.

Mogel is concerned that so many college freshmen are ill-equipped to be independent. She spoke of the many still joined to their parents by “the electronic tether,” citing a study that freshmen text, e-mail or phone home 14.5 times a day on average. Others check out assigned roommates on Facebook before arriving on campus and request a switch. Some even come home for Thanksgiving visits and are unable or unwilling to return to school.

Click here to read more.

© 2010 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.