Celebrating Israel’s 50th
The “America Salutes Israel at 50” show at the Shrine Auditoriumis hardly the only celebration in and around Los Angeles planned tocommemorate Israel’s jubilee year. Here is a list of some other localevents.
April 26 — South Bay Israeli Festival at the TorranceCivic Center, sponsored by the Federation South Bay Council and SouthBay synagogues.
April 26-May 10 — Community Yom Ha’atzmaut mission toIsrael, led by Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance President Arthur andMady Jablon.
April 30 — Yom Ha’atzmaut Celebration, sponsored by theConsulate General of Israel.
May 3 — Los Angeles Israeli Festival at Pan Pacific Park,sponsored by the Jewish Federation and the Council of IsraeliOrganizations.
Oct. 22 — United Jewish Fund benefit concert at the1,800-seat Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, sponsored by the ValleyAlliance and produced by Canto Chayim Frankel.
RabbiLaurence Scheindlin, pictured with (seated, from left), Gail Nussen,Sheila Leibovic and Debi Ben Aharon, dinner co-chairs. Standing fromleft, Rose Derhy, Jacki Ahdout, Jory Goldman and Lise Applebaum,auction co-chairs.
Not long ago, at a playground near the Venice canals, a group ofyoung parents were debating the merits of local private schools. “Wepulled our son out of that school,” said a father. “I didn’tlike the principal.”
“Oh, come on,” countered a mother. “How important is a principal?”
People at Sinai Akiba Academy could answer that question with adate: Jan. 24. That’s when the school is celebrating its 30thanniversary at a dinner honoring Rabbi Laurence Scheindlin, theschool’s headmaster.
In 1977, Scheindlin left a pulpit job and moved out West to headup what was then the 181-pupil Akiba Academy, the first ConservativeJewish day school in Los Angeles. Twenty-one years later, Sinai AkibaAcademy (the school merged with Sinai Temple in 1987) has 512students in grades kindergarten through 8, and has been consistentlyrecognized as one of the finest schools on the West Coast.Scheindlin’s guiding principle: “We really want kids to besuccessful, and we really want them to have strong Jewish values. Wewant compassionate, caring winners.”
He has joined that philosophy to a seemingly tireless enthusiasm.Donning a hard hat, he marches a visitor through Sinai Akiba’s $25million expansion, as proud of the cavernous parking garage as he isof the new, wider hallways and playing field.
“He has an open mind and a generous spirit,” said Janet Rosenblum,a school parent. According to Julie Platt, chair of the Sinai AkibaAcademy Committee, Scheindlin has helped the school “set newstandards” in Jewish education.
Those standards include a first-rate general education wedded tointensive Jewish studies. As parents have increasingly chosen Jewishday schools as an alternative to unsatisfactory public schooling andas a way to ensure their children’s Jewish identity, schools such asSinai Akiba have flourished. Four Westside schools — WilshireBoulevard Temple, Beth Am, the Milken Community High School and SinaiAkiba — have invested more than $100 million over the past fiveyears to expand their day-school programs.
Of course, success has brought a new set of challenges.Scheindlin, 53 and a father of three Sinai Akiba graduates, has seentuition rise from about $1,700 in 1977 to $7,000 today, a sum out ofreach to many families.
And, in the push for higher and higher academic achievement,Scheindlin said he hopes that schools pay attention to the spirituallife of their children. “Traditionally, elementary schools have notdone a great job at that,” he said.
But Scheindlin expects to continue at Sinai Akiba to see thesechallenges through. “It’s a bull market for Jewish day schools,” hesaid. “I’m optimistic.”
For more information on Sinai Akiba’s 30th Anniversary Dinner,call (310) 475-6401 — Staff Report
Anew potential buyer for the bankrupt Hollywood Memorial Park,which includes Beth Olam Cemetery, has come forward, after theprevious bidder, Callanan Mortuary, dropped out.
He is Tyler Cassity, a St. Louis cemetery operator who has put upa $75,000 non-refundable deposit. Tyler has until March 16 tofinalize the sale, and a new court hearing has been set for March 20.
The cemetery will remain open for visits and burials, but willhave to cut back on ground maintenance, said David Isenberg, attorneyfor the bankruptcy trustee. — Staff Report
UJ’s Shechter Is Arts Programming Dean
Dr. Jack Shechter
Dr. Jack Shechter, who has served as dean of the University ofJudaism’s department of continuing education for 21 years, was nameddean of the school’s arts programming division by universityPresident Dr. Robert Wexler.
Shechter will oversee the school’s performing arts series,Elderhostel cultural arts programming, the Platt Gallery and theSmalley Sculpture Garden. He also will be responsible for expandingan already extensive array of instructional arts classes at the UJ.
An ordained rabbi, Shechter is a graduate of Yeshiva Universityand the Jewish Theological Seminary. He earned his doctorate inbiblical studies at the University of Pittsburgh. Before coming tothe University of Judaism in 1976, he was rabbi at Congregation B’naiIsrael in Pittsburgh for 10 years.
Federation Raises $42.4 Million
Despite worries that the religious pluralism debate and stalledpeace process in Israel would hurt the Jewish Federation’s 1997fund-raising efforts, the organization raised $42.4 million for itsUnited Jewish Fund, surpassing its goal for the year.
Bill Bernstein, Federation associate executive vice president anddirector of the fund, said the total was “within range of where wehoped we would be.” He called it a “great achievement” for the LosAngeles community in a difficult year. “I think we helped donors torealize that it would be a wrong decision to penalize thebeneficiaries of the United Jewish Fund by withdrawing theircontributions, since it would hurt those people who need the dollarsmost,” Bernstein said. He credited UJF 1997 general chair Todd Morganand Carol Katzman, chair of the Women’s Division, for their”phenomenal” leadership.
Sources close to the campaign said that possibly an additional $1million to $1.5 million would have been pledged if not for donordissatisfaction over the pluralism issue.
In 1998, the Federation has set a lofty goal of raising $50million, a number that coincides — not by accident — with Israel’s50th anniversary. Reaching that figure will be “a stretch,” Bernsteinadmitted, but isn’t impossible. Contributions hit the $50 millionmark in 1989.
To sweeten the appeal for donations this Super Sunday (Feb. 22),phone volunteers will for the first time be offering bonus miles onAmerican Airlines. Other federations and the Jewish Home for theAging have used the mileage incentives with good results, said SusanBender, special assistant to Executive Vice President John Fishel.The mileage is given, however, only when the pledge is actually paid.— Ruth Stroud
A Day for Learning
More than 1,000 Jewish learners descended on Taft High School inWoodland Hills recently to attend Yom Limud, a community-wide all-dayevent that was the Bureau of Jewish Education’s way of celebratingits 60th year in Southern California.
About half the participants were teachers from religious schoolsand day schools across the Southland. But lay people, too, turned outin droves to hear the intellectual stars of our community –professors, rabbis and lecturers from all the Jewish movements –explore Judaism from many angles.
Attendees could choose an Orthodox rabbi’s take on women’sopportunities in traditional Judaism; a college professor’s analysisof the golden age of Spanish Jewry; a Talmud-based discussion on theJewish educator’s right to strike; an introduction to Jewishcyberspace; or a Yiddish sing-along. Virtually every session wasstanding-room-only.
A particularly engaging discussion was provoked by Rabbi LauraGeller, who examined the legacy of two 20th-century giants: the Rev.Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel. Gellerdisclosed how her own youthful passion for civil rights in the wakeof King’s assassination ultimately put her on a path to therabbinate.
Quoting extensively from both leaders, she noted how much theSouthern Baptist minister and the Warsaw-born rabbi had in common,despite their vastly different backgrounds. For both, a Bible-basedtheology, heavily flavored by the book of Exodus, led inexorably to acall for social justice.
As Geller’s listeners began asking questions, the session movedinto a probing consideration of how institutionalized Judaism hasfailed to heed Heschel’s message that “prayer is meaningless unlessit is subversive, unless it seeks to overthrow and ruin the pyramidsof callousness, hatred, opportunism, falsehoods.” Why do most Jewsturn a deaf ear to Heschel’s bold imperatives? In Geller’s words,”People come to synagogue — when they come — because they’relooking for comfort.” They may be persuaded to turn inward and findspiritual renewal, but they’re not ready to be forced into action onbehalf of the world’s oppressed peoples. — Beverly Gray
‘Family Stories’ at the Skirball
JoyceDallal’s “It is a Tree of Life to Those that Hold Fast to it,” at theSanta Barbara Museum of Natural History.
Drop into the Skirball Cultural Center this week, and you’ll findwork by artists Jewish and Japanese and Native American.
You’ll find the same six artists exhibited side by side at theJapanese American National Museum and the Santa Barbara Museum ofNatural History. It’s all part of “Finding Family Stories,” athree-year project that aims to create multicultural dialogue in LosAngeles. “All the artists deal with issues of family, so we’re hopingthe people of Southern California will see a bit of themselves in thework,” says the Japanese American National Museum’s Cynthia Endo.
This is the first time the Skirball is participating in theproject, and the first time the show has included Jewish artists.Joyce Dallal’s installation piece, “Finding Home,” for example,describes the struggle of her Iraqi-Jewish father to emigrate to theStates.
There are works by Eddy Kurushima, a Japanese-American artist whoendured the internment camps of World War II. Painter Judith Lowrydepicts a lost friend, a powwow dancer comatose since a car accident,dancing with an angelic figure in “Rolling Thunder, Dancing AcrossAmerica.”
Mixed-media artist Aaron Glass, meanwhile, recalls a childhoodmemory in “Aronit Ha’Zikharon (Little Cabinet of Memory),” abirch ark adorned with images of an unusual family heirloom. Thepiece recalls how, at the age of 8, Glass first saw a large fabricthat had been discovered in a suitcase under his grand-mother’s bed.The fabric turned out to be an 18th-century German Torah curtain, theproperty of forebears descended from Glass’s blue-blooded Jewishancestor, Jacob Bassevi von Treuenberg, the first ennobled Jew inGermany, the artist says.
A panel discussion with the artists will take place on March13, at 7 p.m., at Self-Help Graphics in Los Angeles. Choreographerssuch as Naomi Goldberg and Hiroki Hojo will explore “Dance asDialogue” in a Skirball workshop on March 15, at 2 p.m. Forreservations, call (213) 660-8587. — Naomi Pfefferman,Senior Writer.
Children of Chernobyl
The children come from cities such as Gomel, Mozyr, Berdichev andBobrusk, in the shadow of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. Since1990, Chabad has airlifted 1,527 of them to Israel, to escape thedeadly radiation poisoning that accumulates with each breath of airor sip of contaminated milk.
Now, Chabad’s Children of Chernobyl program has been honored witha new Israeli postal stamp — a rare Postal Authority tribute to aprivate organization — that was recently unveiled in the Knesset.The colorful NIS 2.10 stamp depicts smiling children disembarkingfrom an airplane in Israel. Twenty-one other countries unveiled theirown stamps honoring the program at a United Nations ceremony inApril.
When the Chernobyl meltdown unleashed 90 times the radiation ofthe Hiroshima bomb in April 1986, several hundred thousand Jews livedin the surrounding area — the eastern edge of what once was theJewish Pale of Settlement. Thousands of Jewish children begansuffering neurological, respiratory and digestive ailments, whilethyroid cancer increased 200-fold. Milk and food were contaminated,and medical care was poor or nonexistent.
Chabad has responded by evacuating at-risk children on 32 flightsso far; in Israel, the children are whisked to doctors and housed inthe Kfar Chabad complex until their parents arrive in the Jewishstate. Immune systems are strengthened, and enlarged thyroid glandsare closely monitored for signs of malignancy.
Yula, 12, is one of the lucky ones. Her mother wrote to her fromback in Gomel: “Many children are sick. Like you, they have somethinggrowing in their throats. They’re getting sicker, while you’regetting better.” — Naomi Pfefferman