October 20, 2018

Community Briefs

What do you give the country that has everything?The thousands of children in Jewish day and Hebrew schools throughout Los Angeles are planning to give Israel a very special present for its 50th birthday — an ambulance.

Over the course of the school year, children fromall day schools, Reform to Orthodox, will contribute their tzedakah money and hold special fund-raisers in order to purchase a $50,000 ambulance for the country’s Magen David Adom, Israel’s equivalent to the Red Cross. “Given all the negative intra-Jewish news,” said Dr.George Liebowitz, chairman of the Day School Principals Council, “we thought it would be very good to have people come together for the mitzvah of pikuach nefesh,” or saving souls.

Each school will organize its own fund-raising program. The organizers are hoping to raise $4 from each of the 9,000 Jewish day-school students and $2 from each of 12,000 Hebrew-school pupils.

There also will be an educational component to the efforts. A fully decked-out ambulance will make the rounds of the campuses so that children can see where their money is going. The ambulance the students actually purchase also will be displayed to the children before it is shipped to Israel. Accompanying the vehicle will be a sign reading, “From the Children of Los Angeles to the People of Israel.” Happy Birthday. — Robert Eshman, Associate Editor

Books for South Africa

Marilyn Woods, assistant principal at Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School, shares curriculum information with the staff from Hewat/Capetown Institute of Education and Training.

Like the abolition of slavery in this country, the end of apartheid in South Africa hasn’t brought instant equality to people long divided by class and color. This is particularly evident in the schools in the black and colored townships, according to Marilyn Woods, assistant principal at Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School in Northridge. Woods recently returned from a trip to South Africa, where she was a guest lecturer at the Hewat/Capetown Institute of Education and Training, a teaching college.

Having made extensive visits to township schools,the Heschel administrator was appalled at the conditions she found –cramped classrooms of 70 or more students, crumbling walls, broken windows, no heat or electricity, and blackboards on which nothing could be written. Woods was particularly struck by the lack of materials. “I visited some classes where there were three or four books. The teacher writes everything on a blackboard that you can hardly write on or see.”

Upon returning to Heschel, Woods rallied support for a book drive among elementary- and middle-school students, with the books to be sent to the townships. In a stroke of serendipity,she had met on the plane home a man who offered free space in grain containers that are being shipped from Decatur, Ill., to Cape Town,where the books will be warehoused before distribution. The project has caught fire not only at Heschel but at Moorpark High School, Adat Ari El Day School and Rand McNally, which will ship some surplus maps.

At press time, Woods was preparing to make a presentation to the Bureau of Jewish Education’s Principals Council,with the aim of expanding the project to other Jewish schools. Shehopes that the initial book drive, which ends on Dec. 16, will spawn an ongoing mission to provide desperately needed materials not only to South African schools but to other needy students around the world.

“This is just a pilot project,” she said. “We don’t want it to get too large immediately.” — Ruth Stroud, Staff Writer