6505: Home for the Next Generation

For Federation executives and board members, 6505 Wilshire is more than just another building. It is a monument to years of memories; an edifice awash in nostalgic value. But does the Miracle Mile area headquarters hold any meaning for the new generation of Federation leaders? And what will it mean to these up-and-comers who will no doubt steer the future of Jewish outreach in Los Angeles?

As chair of the Leadership Development Council, Andrew Cushnir oversees all lay divisions involving the 22-45 age group. Cushnir has an extensive personal history with the building, which goes back to his late ’80s stint with the Anti-Defamation League. And while he has high hopes for the revamped 6505 and its state-of-the-art facilities, Cushnir does not discount the Westside’s growing significance as an epicenter for local Jewry. He believes that, ultimately, a headquarters combined with a Jewish Community Center would be great.

“It would make it more of a true community center as opposed to a corporate headquarters,” says the Leadership Development Council chair.

Continues Cushnir, “There are a lot of people — myself included — who wish that people would build a West L.A. campus, based on the model of the Milken campus. And it’s a dream we keep. But for now [6505] will be great.”

Jackie Shelton, who served as the chair of the Federation-based Access from 1996-98, feels that 6505 consolidates a literal and symbolic community presence for the Federation.

“I look forward to having that as the central location,” says Shelton. “It seems to me that the Jewish population is moving in different directions. Working to develop a place that will meet the Jewish community’s needs will be a great thing. Now is the opportunity to do it.”

Shelton’s husband, Vice Chair of Access Craig Miller, also believes that 6505 — in tandem with a Westside location — will best serve its constituents and enhance the Federation’s visibility.

“The Jewish community clearly has moved west and north,” says Miller, “but I think the Federation has done a good job accommodating those people. With the building comes a lot of history, which is important… Staying in the neighborhood where the Jews are is important.” Miller and Shelton may be reflective of that notion — the couple, who currently reside near the 6505 location, met through Access and are looking forward to vice chairing the next Super Sunday in February 2000.

Beth Comsky Raanan, who helped oversee last year’s Super Sunday drive and will co-chair again next year, likes what she sees so far. A working architect, Raanan is pleased with the conceptual designs she’s come across in Federation literature.

“It looked very nice, at least from the rendering,” says Raanan. “Certainly an improvement. It had a nice, clean, modern look.”

She does, however, have her qualms about 6505’s inherent interior shortcomings.

“The building has a very small floorplate,” says the architect. “I like the idea of the temporary space they’re in now because it allows for more interaction [between departments and agencies]. I hope they are able to maintain that communication between departments… Whenever you’re in a high rise building with an elevator, you have to work harder to maintain [those ties].”

Regardless, Raanan believes that, from a lay perspective, the Federation’s decision is a smart one.

“Fiscally, it’s the responsible thing to do,” says Raanan. “I appreciate the fact that as much of the money as possible gets spent to where they want to. And I think from a historical perspective, people have a connection with that building. So it will be kind of nice to go back to 6505.”

Stephanie Steinhouse — who staffs the Leadership Development Council as assistant director of Human Resources for the Jewish Federation — also welcomes the change of address as an emblem of continuity.

“As long as I’ve been a Jewish Angeleno…I remember that building,” says Steinhouse. She adds that both of her parents and her grandmother were employed at that very building.

“To me, it’s a larger issue than how to get there,” says Steinhouse. “It’s a nice tie to my community.”

Other Stories on the Federation’s return to 6505:   A new Jewish Federation headquarters is rising at 6505 Wilshire.
   The $20 million campaign.
   The Federation building: past, present and future.