Greening Jewish L.A.

Taking a cue from Tu B’Shevat, rabbis, students, and representatives from Jewish and environmental organizations gathered for the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life of Southern California’s (COEJL/SC) Third Annual Leadership Retreat to cultivate enthusiasm for environmental awareness within the Jewish community. The Feb. 2-4 retreat at the Malibu-based Shalom Institute Camp and Conference Center focused on issues relating to energy usage, recycling, food donation and environmental education, with a focus on moving in the direction of mainstream, common-sense solutions.

"By setting an example in our Jewish institutions, we change the way people think about the environment," said Adi Liberman, a COEJL/SC board member and chief deputy for Councilwoman Ruth Galanter.

The issue of California’s current energy crisis figured prominently, and popular suggestions included solar-powered eternal lights in synagogues and encouraging Jewish institutions to join the L.A. Department of Water and Power’s (DWP) "Green Power for a Green L.A." program.

But one major factor that has given Jewish institutions pause in the past when considering environmental solutions to wasteful practices is money.

Steve Breuer, executive director of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, wanted to install motion detectors for lights to save on electricity. While the cost was negligible at the temple’s Westside campus, installation at the older Wilshire complex, which would require retro-fitting, costs out at $700 per room.

"There’s no real return on it," said Breuer.

Adat Shalom’s Rabbi Michael Resnick had a tough sell when it came to convincing his temple’s board, already wrestling with debt, to join the DWP green energy program. His solution: cover the extra cost by having it deducted from his paycheck.

The retreat proved inspirational for Stephanie White, a marine ecology student at UC Santa Barbara. "Hillel is building a new house, and they haven’t finished yet, so I think there’s still an opportunity to help green the building from the get-go."

During the next year, COEJL/SC is hoping to publish an environmental sourcebook for the Jewish community and strengthen its partnership with the DWP to help synagogues and other Jewish institutions implement cost-effective energy-saving solutions.

"We can’t wait too much longer," said Lee Wallach, a COEJL/SC board member. "Our community is growing, and they aren’t taking these issues into account."

For more information, call COEJL/SC at (818) 889-5500, ext. 103.– Adam Wills, Associate Editor

Angel Flight Victim Was Holocaust Survivor

An 83-year-old Holocaust survivor, always on the lookout for new experiences, was killed Feb. 1 while riding a century-old cable car in downtown Los Angeles.

Leon Praport died after suffering severe head and chest injuries when the Angels Flight funicular he was riding apparently slipped its cable and plummeted downhill, smashing into a second car.

A New Jersey resident who formerly lived in Israel, Leon was born in Poland into a large, extended family, relatives told the Los Angeles Times.

During World War II, family members were deported to concentration camps, including Auschwitz, with Leon emerging as the sole survivor.

Relatives, as well as neighbors at Society Hill, a planned community in New Jersey’s Old Bridge Township, described Leon and his 80-year-old wife, Lola, as a couple with a rare zest for life.

They drove their own car, traveled frequently to such places as Prague, the Colorado Rockies, Israel and Hawaii, were active volunteers in their community, and were particularly close to their children and grandchildren.

The Praports were celebrating their 54th wedding anniversary with a trip to Los Angeles. Lola, an avid painter, suffered a skull fracture and chest injuries and was last reported in guarded and stable condition at L.A. County-USC Medical Center.

One grandson, Dan Praport of New York, said his grandparents worshipped at Conservative Congregation Beth Ohr in Old Bridge and that Leon would lead services in the rabbi’s absence.

Before moving to the United States in the early 1980s, the Praports and their two sons lived in Israel, where he owned a business in the fish processing industry.

Angels Flight, a rare functioning historical icon in a city that reinvents itself every few decades, was inaugurated on Dec. 31, 1901, lifting passengers 400 times each day up and down a block-long steep incline between Hill Street and the top of Bunker Hill in downtown Los Angeles.

It was shut down in 1969 for lack of patrons but was reopened in 1996. The only other recorded accident occurred in 1913, when a cable control failed and a woman was injured jumping off the funicular.– Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor