OHALAH: Association of Rabbis for Jewish Renewal

OHALAH: Association of Rabbis for Jewish Renewal

Dear Chevra,

Two weeks ago, OHALAH: Assn of Rabbis for Jewish Renewal, had its second annual meeting in Boulder, CO.

OHALAH's first public action was the decision to raise with officials of the State of California some tikkun olam concerns focused on some alleged and reported activities of the Irving Moskowitz Foundation, including a bingo parlor in Hawaiian Gardens, CA.

OHALAH urged the Attorney-General of California to carry out a special investigation of these reports and activities, intended either to clear the Foundation's name from unpleasant allegations, or bring any improper activities to a halt.

OHALAH's other activities were study and plans for further study in several areas:

(1) Ethical kashrut. A strong body of rabbis decided to work closely with other parts of ALEPH to begin creating a Va'ad HaKashrut that would be concerned with protection of the earth, ethical treatment of workers, etc. Rabbi Yitzhak Husbands-Hankin of Oregon is coordinating this work.

(2) The nature of Shabbat practice, beginning with examination of the issue of blowing/ not blowing Shofar on a day of Rosh Hashanah that falls on Shabbat, and continuing wth an examination of the meaning of restful, reflective Shabbat-time in our day. Rabbi Daniel Siegel is coordinating this work.

(3) Sexual ethics, with a special concern for what it would mean to create ritual and ethical guidelines to hallow non-marriage sexual relationships for three important groups: adolescents; young and mid-life unmarried adults; and elders. Rabbi Arthur Waskow of Philadelphia is coordinating this work.

(4) Israeli-Palestinian relations, with a special concern that while the official peace process goes forward, on the ground in the West Bank and East Jerusalem especially, Palestinians may be in process of being pushed out of crucial land, so that a viable and self-confident, peace-committed Palestinian state may become impossible. Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb is coordinating this work.

About the Irving Moskowitz Foundation:

Dr. Irving Moskowitz has given massive amounts of money to move Palestinians out of Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and to move Jews in, and to initiate such actions as the Tunnel opening a few years ago that brought on a massaive and bloody collision between Israelis and Palestinians.

It seems that a large amount of this money has come from a Bingo operation in the town of Hawaiian Gardens, CAlifornia. The bingo operation is aimed at poverty-ridden Mexican-Americans, and there have been numerous allegations in the Jewish and general presss (and from some eyewitness members of OHOLAH) of activities that might, if the reports are accurate, break the law, hurt workers, undermine the local rule of law, etc.

If the reports are not accurate, OHALAH said, the Moscowitz Foundation should be cleared.

Here is the full resolution adopted by OHALAH . The letter went out, signed by Reb Dennis & Reb Daniel, on November 23. It encourages others to write as individuals along the same lines.


Be it resolved, That the president of Ohalah write the Attorney-General of California the following letter on behalf of Ohalah, with a copy to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee of the California State Legislature, and arrange to circulate this letter in Jewish and general media, to Boards of Rabbis, and other Jewish organizations,

And be it further resolved, we encourage individual members of Ohalah also to write the Attorney General along similar lines.

The letter follows:

OHALAH: Association of Rabbis for Jewish Renewal

A Project of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal

November 23, 1999

Attorney-General Bill Lockyer

State of California Department of Justice

P. O Box 168024

Sacramento, CA 95816

Dear Attorney-General:

Reports in the Jewish and general press and the direct observations of some of our members have stirred in us great concern over what has been reported to be the activities of the Irving Moskowitz Foundation, its Card Casino, and its Bingo Club in Hawaiian Gardens, California.

At our Annual Meeting on November 17, 1999, the membership unanimously resolved to express to you our concern about allegations of exploitation of workers at the Bingo Club, allegations that the income from the Bingo Club is being used in non-charitable ways, and allegations that charitable income from the Bingo Club is used to improperly influence the governing authorities of Hawaian Gardens.

In our opinion, if these allegations were shown to be correct, we would find such behavior repugnant to us as rabbis, and we would view it as a profound breach of the public trust and our ethical tradition. If these allegations were found to be incorrect, we believe it would be important to clear the air of these suspicions.

As a religious organization, we therefore strongly urge an inquiry that will either clear the name of the Irving Moskowitz Foundation or bring any improper activities to a halt.

We therefore ask that you now postpone giving permanent certification to the Card Casino in Hawaiian Gardens and instruct the Charitable Trust Division to do a broad and deep investigation into the bingo activities of the Moskowitz Foundation, culminating in a report to the public with findings and a decision.

We welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss this matter.


Rabbi Dennis Beck-Berman,

President, Ohalah: Associatio

Rabbi Daniel Siegel,

ALEPH Rabbinic Director