Community Briefs

6 Million Remembered Nun’s the Word on Mother’sDay

It’s not every day or even every year that a Jewish organization honors a Catholic nun — but naming her Community Mother of the Year seems odd for a Jewish organization. This year, the Jewish Home for the Aging (JHA) is honoring Sister Jennie Lechtenberg, founder and executive director of the PUENTE Learning Center in Los Angeles, at the JHA annual “World’s Largest Mother’s Day” event. “We really wanted someone who has done something incredible [in the] community — and Sister [Jennie] has helped so many children, she really could be a mother,” said Dan Rosenson, committee chair for the event.

At the event, winners will be announced for JHA’s “Why My Mom Is the Best” essay contest, sponsored by Wells Fargo Bank. This year’s contest drew responses from 214 pupils at 37 local elementary schools. Some of the themes addressed in this year’s winning essays were heartbreaking. Two children wrote about mothers fighting breast cancer, one first-grade girl, Gabriela Fernandez, wrote about how her mother, a cleaning lady, “works so hard to get her job back” and Fiana Eber, a fifth-grader at Stephen S. Wise, wrote about how her mother adopted her from the Ukraine last year.

Molly Forrest, chief executive officer of the JHA, said the Mother’s Day event is one of great importance to the residents. JHA currently cares for 800 people on its two campuses, about 90 percent of whom are women and about one-third of them in their 90s. Many of the women have survived their immediate family “and thus have no one to come for Mother’s Day,” Forrest said.

“We buy gifts for Mother’s Day, but the best gifts for these people is to see your faces, the faces of their family and of the community,” she said.

The ninth annual Jewish Home for the Aging Mother’s Day celebration, which includes brunch, will take place Sunday, May 11 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the home’s Eisenberg Village campus, 18855 Victory Blvd., Reseda. $15 (adults), $5 (children). For reservations, call (818) 774-3324. — Wendy J. Madnick, Contributing Writer

Silence of the Left

A prominent Israeli journalist expressed his dismay last week that in his travels along the West Coast, “I have heard no pro-peace voices in the American Jewish community.

“Even when I spoke at UC Berkeley, I could find no such voices,” said David Landau, who sits on the editorial board of the prestigious Ha’aretz daily newspaper and is editor of its English edition.

The British-born Landau, a former diplomatic correspondent and managing editor for The Jerusalem Post, addressed a faculty group at UCLA Hillel, and later a student audience on campus.

The central decision facing Israel, and by extension American Jewry, is how to deal with the “road map” for ending the intifada and setting Israelis and Palestinians on the long road to peace.

Though “very poorly put together,” the road map is crucial because it represents a concrete proposal on the table and can provide “the building bricks of real change,” he said. Landau warned that if the road map fails, the present situation continues and Israel doesn’t evacuate the territories, then Israel will face a demographic time bomb with Arabs outnumbering Jews in the Jewish State by 2008.

Israel’s course will depend almost entirely on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who is in a near unassailable position after his overwhelming election victory and the disarray of the opposition, said Landau, whose kippa and beard gives him a certain rabbinical look.

Far from being just a rough-and-ready “bulldozer,” Sharon is “a very complex and very sophisticated person, who appreciates good music and good art,” Landau observed. But the prime minister is also a very hard man to read. “Even those close to Sharon don’t know what he will do,” said Landau. “He remains an enigma to us.”

David Landau will be speaking on “The Road map to Peace” at Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel on May 10. For more information, call (310) 475-7311. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

HUC-JIR Sets Up New Institute for AdultEd

Most rabbis, cantors, educators and communal professionals have had no professional training for meeting the needs of adults seeking Jewish education — until now. This spring, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in Los Angeles established the Institute for Teaching Jewish Adults (ITJA). The continuing education program, which is the first of its kind in the United States, will train Jewish professionals and advanced lay leaders to reach out to the growing number of adults seeking Jewish literacy.

“Concerns over Jewish literacy and the need to develop an informed leadership are becoming commonplace in our community, affecting every family and synagogue,” said Dr. Diane Tickton Schuster, the director of the ITJA, who is also a visiting faculty member at HUC-JIR, an educator at the Institute for Informal Jewish Education at Brandeis University and in the counseling department at Cal State Fullerton.

“It is increasingly important that Jewish professionals who work with adults understand the learning needs of this highly diverse constituency and the best strategies for teaching them,” she said.

Currently, the new program has a pioneer class of six students, all rabbis. — Sharon Schatz Rosenthal, Education Writer

El Al Introduces Platinum Class

El Al recently replaced its Business Class with a new Platinum Business Class, offering increased personal service and comfort to passengers traveling on the airline’s 777 and 747-400 aircraft.

Each aircraft has been reconfigured, resulting in a 25 percent reduction in the number of seats and increased leg room for Platinum Business Class passengers. Each seat offers a laptop power outlet and personal lighting, as well as a personal TV monitor. Additional improvements include an increased number of flight attendants per passenger, more meal choices and courses and an extensive wine menu. At specific El Al Platinum Business Class counters check-in is expedited and travelers are allowed three pieces of luggage, compared to two in Coach. Platinum Business Class travelers are also allowed entry into luxurious airport-specific departure lounges, such as the LAX King David Lounge in the Tom Bradley International Terminal.

For those traveling to Israel on a full-fare PlatinumBusiness ticket, El Al offers a $250 roundtrip Platinum Business ticket tocompanions of Platinum Business ticket holders. For more information, visit . — Rachel Brand, Staff Writer

Indyk Predicts Ripple Effect of Saddam’sFall

The fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime will have a dramatic impact on the entire Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, veteran policymaker and diplomat Martin Indyk predicted in a speech in Los Angeles. As the first payoff of the coalition’s victory in Iraq, the governments of Iran and Syria “will be much more cautious and defensive, as will the terrorist groups they support, said Indyk, who shaped American policy toward Iraq during the Clinton administration and served twice as U.S. ambassador to Israel.

More basic changes will take a longer time.

“The fall of the most repressive regime in the region will have a ripple, not a domino, effect,” Indyk declared.

Delivering a long-scheduled lecture recently at UCLA’s Burkle Center for International Relations, Indyk also warned that unless two conditions were met, the promising prospects would be squandered. The first condition is the establishment of a representative Iraqi interim authority to guide the country’s reconstruction.

“We cannot impose an unpopular military regime,” Indyk said.

Secondly, President Bush’s administration must continue to be fully engaged in the Middle East and actively participate in a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As Clinton’s Middle East adviser on the National Security Council, Indyk was instrumental in changing U.S. policy toward Iraq from “containment” to “regime change” and helped negotiate the Israel-Jordan peace treaty. He is now director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

Although Bush did not get involved in Israeli-Palestinian problems during the first two years of his term, Indyk thinks that the president will take a more active role now. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor