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Amram Scholar Series

This dynamic program of free public lectures brings world-renowned authors, scholars, political leaders, policy experts, and theologians to WHC to share their perspectives on timely issues or their research into Jewish culture and history.

We are pleased to present prominent writers of the nation's newest works on topics of Jewish interest, often in cooperation with the Jewish Book Council.

Thomas Friedman


Internationally renowned New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman will launch this season’s Amram Scholar Series on Sunday, October 29, at 10:30 am at Temple, examining the stresses and challenges of succeeding in our current world of dizzying accelerations. A bestselling author and winner of three Pulitzer Prizes for commentary and reporting overseas, Mr. Friedman examines with wit and clarity the qualities required of us as individuals and nations to adapt, even in the face of change that seems overwhelming in pace and scope.

His latest and most ambitious book to date, Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations, maintains that the 21st century is being shaped by three great shifting forces: technology, globalization, and Mother Nature as reflected by climate change and losses in biodiversity. The result, he says, is transformative in five key realms of life: the workplace, politics, geopolitics, ethics, and community. And in the face of such simultaneous rapid change, there are vast new opportunities to save the world or to destroy it.

A former New York Times bureau chief in Beirut and then Jerusalem, Mr. Friedman won Pulitzers for his reporting from both places. He subsequently served as chief White House correspondent and chief economic correspondent before becoming the paper’s foreign affairs columnist in 1995. In 2004, he won the Overseas Press Club Award for lifetime achievement and was honored by Queen Elizabeth II with the Order of the British Empire (OBE). His numerous nonfiction bestsellers include The World is Flat, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, and From Beirut to Jerusalem.

Mr. Friedman’s lecture is made possible with the support of the Abraham & Freida Hochberg Creative Cultural Fund.

Michal Schwartz - Interfaith Kristallnacht Remembrance


The hauntingly beautiful songs and poetry and the heroic life story of Czech writer Ilse Weber will be featured in this year’s interfaith Kristallnacht commemorative service on Wednesday, November 8 at 7:00 pm at St. Alban's Episcopal Church.

Professor Michal Schwartz, who has collected and translated Weber’s writings for a newly published volume, Dancing on a Powder Keg, will share Weber’s vivid and intimate testimony of her family’s struggle for survival under Nazi domination. Her talk is sponsored by WHC’s Amram Scholar Series.

Weber, who sent her older son to safety with a friend in London in 1939, was deported from Prague to the Theresienstadt ghetto in 1942 along with her husband and younger son. At first in letters bearing witness, and later in more than 60 poems written in Theresienstadt, Weber transmitted an extraordinary personal account. Working in the ghetto’s children’s infirmary, Weber sought to make her young patients’ suffering more bearable by entertaining them with songs. When the entire infirmary was deported in 1944, she insisted on accompanying the children to Auschwitz, where she and her younger son were both murdered. Her husband – who had managed to hide her poems and songs in a garden shed – survived and fortuitously retrieved them in 1945. Decades later, many of her letters were discovered in the attic of the house in London where her friend had lived.

As part of the Kristallnacht program, Cantors Manevich and Bortnick will perform some of Ilse Weber’s most beloved songs, including Wiegala, a lullaby that was included in the Tony-award winning musical Indecent. Sarahbeth Grossman, the show’s producer, has described the performance of Wiegala “as perhaps the most haunting and beautiful part of the play.”

This year’s Kristallnacht service at St. Alban's Episcopal Church will again be joined by clergy and members of Annunciation Catholic Church.

Support WHC's youth social justice projects by purchasing this book through the WHC Mitzvah Mall.

Steven J. Ross


The chilling, little-known story of how Jews in Los Angeles thwarted Nazi plots against America from 1933 to the end of World War II is the focus of an Amram Scholar Series lecture by eminent film historian Steven J. Ross on Sunday, November 19 at 10:30 am at Temple. This lecture is based on his latest book, Hitler in Los Angeles.

“No American city was more important to the Nazis than Los Angeles, home to Hollywood, the greatest propaganda machine in the world,” Professor Ross says. The Nazis plotted to kill the city’s Jews and sabotage the nation’s military installations along the Pacific Coast. Plans existed to hang 20 famed Hollywood figures, including Charlie Chaplin, Al Jolson, James Cagney, and Jack Warner, and to machine-gun as many Jews as possible in the then-largely Jewish neighborhood of Boyle Heights.

To foil these plots, Leon Lewis – a daring Jewish lawyer who had helped found the Anti-Defamation League – mounted a counter-espionage operation comprised of military veterans and their wives who infiltrated every Nazi and fascist group in the city. Often rising to leadership positions within them, this courageous ring of spies uncovered the Nazi plans at a time when many law enforcement authorities in Los Angeles actually sympathized with Nazi and fascist movements. As a result of his successes, the Nazis would come to call Lewis “the most dangerous Jew in Los Angeles.”

The son of two Holocaust survivors, Professor Ross teaches at the University of Southern California and directs its Casden Institute for the Study of American Jewish Life. He is the recipient of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Film Scholars Award.

Recalling white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va. this past summer, who marched and chanted “Jews will not replace us,” Professor Ross recently wrote in the Los Angeles Times that Lewis and his mostly-Christian spies understood the importance of vigilance. “They refused to allow their city and country to be threatened by hate. With their actions they show us that when a democratic government fails to stop extremists bent on violence, citizens must protect one another, no matter their race or religion.”

Support WHC's youth social justice projects by purchasing this book through the WHC Mitzvah Mall.

2017-2018 Amram Scholar Series Schedule

Unless specified, all lectures are held at Temple on Sundays at 10:30 am.

Sunday, October 29
Thomas L. Friedman, author of Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations

Wednesday, November 8 at 7:00 pm at St. Alban's Episcopal Church
Michal Schwartz, Dancing on a Powder Keg: The Ilse Weber Story in Words and Music
Interfaith Kristallnacht Remembrance

Sunday, November 19
Steven J. Ross, author of Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America

Sunday, December 3
Eddy Portnoy, author of Bad Rabbi: And Other Strange but True Stories from the Yiddish Press

Sunday, January 28
William Taubman, author of Gorbachev: His Life and Times

Sunday, March 11
Alan Zweibel, author of For This We Left Egypt? A Passover Haggadah for Jews and Those Who Love Them

Sunday, April 15
Francine Klagsbrun, author of Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel

Sunday, May 6 at 5:00 pm
Jeremy Dauber and Michael Krasny, "Jewish Humor"

Past Lectures

Journalist and best-selling author Howard Blum joined us for a lecture on his new book The Last Goodnight: A World War II Story of Espionage, Adventure, and Betrayal. The Amram Scholar Series partnered with WHC Sisterhood for this special program about the life of Betty Pack, a dazzling American debutante who became an Allied spy during World War II.

Upcoming Events

October 29, 2017 / Sunday
Amram Scholar Series Presents: Thomas Friedman
10:30 AM—12:00 PM

Internationally renowned New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman will launch this season’s Amram Scholar Series on Sunday, October 29, at 10:30…

November 8, 2017 / Wednesday
Amram Scholar Series Presents: A Kristallnacht Remembrance with Michal Schwartz
7:00 PM—8:00 PM
November 19, 2017 / Sunday
Amram Scholar Series Presents: Steven J. Ross
10:30 AM—12:00 PM
December 3, 2017 / Sunday
Amram Scholar Series Presents: Eddy Portnoy
10:30 AM—12:00 PM

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