Cutting Costs and Hope

Los Angeles Jewish AIDS Services dismisses its programdirector due to a drop in funding

By Ruth Stroud, Staff Writer

Israel’s Chief Rabbi Visits YULA

By Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor


Reward Offered

A $20,000 reward has been offered by the Cityof Los Angeles to spur the investigation into arson-set fires at twoOrthodox synagogues during the week of Chanukah.

By Tom Tugend, Contributing Writer


The Search for Gold and Justice

Nazi-looted assets of Holocaust victims is the topic of arecent conference at Whittier Law School in Costa Mesa

By Avi Lidgi, Contributing Writer


Mad About the Center

Members and board officials voice theiropposition to the proposed sale of the Westside JCC toShalhevet

By Ruth Stroud, Staff Writer

More than 150 supporters of the Westside Jewish Community Center gathered Sunday afternoon at the Olympic Boulevard facility to voice their anger,concern and bewilderment at the growing possibility that the WJCC maybe sold to Shalhevet High School.

Shalhevet, a coed Modern Orthodox high school of140 students, currently leases space in the building and hopes topurchase it for $4 million to $4.5 million in order to expand.

No representative of Jewish Community Centers ofLos Angeles, whose leaders have handled sale negotiations, showed upto answer questions, thus causing grumbling among many of the WJCCsupporters.

“It’s nice to protest to each other, but if youcan’t talk to the board of directors, what good is a protest? It’slike a Purim joke,” said Dory Frank, a 43-year-old father of threewhose entire family makes use of the WJCC recreational facilities onan almost-daily basis.

In a later interview, JCC/LA Board of DirectorsPresident David Aaronson said that the organization had not sent arepresentative to the meeting, because “we felt it was premature tobring any case to the public before we brought it before the boardthat makes the decision.” The aim was not to “skirt any issue or hideor anything like that.”

Several people disputed this, since the future ofthe center may come up for a vote before the 50-member JCC/LA boardas soon as this Tuesday. How could an institution that has been intheir community for more than 40 years be sold without their input,some people wondered. “They’re pulling a fast one,” said one mother,cradling a child on her hip as she spoke into a mike. “We’ve reallygot to move.”

Discussions between JCC/LA and Shalhevet have beengoing on since the summer, WJCC Board President Dr. Beverly Siegalsaid. She didn’t go public earlier, because she wanted to be carefulabout seeming too negative about the JCC/LA, the WJCC’s parent body,and because she thought there might not be a firm offer fromShalhevet.

But she’s ready to speak out now. “I’mdisappointed in the [JCC/LA] leadership,” she said. “When you’remaking such a monumental decision to take away a Jewish communitycenter that is right in the heart of the community, when you makeplans to disrupt services without having a very clear idea of whatyou’re going to do — to get rid of a totally full-service buildingwhen you know you can’t replace it, because you don’t have the money– doesn’t make sense.”

The WJCC is almost unanimous in opposing the sale.But according to the parent board there are several good reasons forseeing the sale through. Chief among them are financial concerns. Itcould require as much as $4 million for a complete renovation of theaging facility.

As it stands, the JCC/LA receives the largestallocation from the United Jewish Fund — close to $3 million — ofall the Federation’s beneficiaries. The WJCC, which has the largestmembership (2,400 families and individuals) and is the onlyfull-service facility in the JCC/LA’s six-center system, receivesclose to $700,000 per year. That breaks down to about $290 per memberunit, the least of any of the six centers, according to WJCC boardmember and past president Helene Seifer.

If the WJCC is sold to Shalhevet, JCC/LA wouldgain at least $4 million, which it could invest in aninterest-bearing account with the Jewish Community Foundation, anduse the interest to support “new and innovative” programming in thesame community, Aaronson said.

To rent back certain recreational, preschool andother facilities from Shalhevet and relocate other activitieselsewhere, as has been proposed, would require only $200,000 to$350,000, he estimates, with extra money being funneled to expandteen, elderly or other programs. “I think this move will actuallyincrease services, though possibly not at a single site,” Aaronsonsaid.

But for those who appreciate the WJCC’smultigenerational and multidenominational mix of seniors, childrenand adults, Orthodox, Reform and unaffiliated, selling the44-year-old center makes no sense, no matter what the savings.

“I feel it represents something in the communitythat is just irreplaceable,” said WJCC board member Maggie Scott.”It’s an integrated facility, offering everything from Baby and Me[classes] to senior day care. It has a pool, gym, dance studio andhandball court. The idea that we might give up a place like this andrelocate some things to various places — it’s staggering.”

Demographic shifts are among the reasons cited forselling the WJCC facility and moving to a location farther west.According to Aaronson, since JCCs tend to appeal to unaffiliatedJews, and there are a greater number on the Westside, it would makesense to move where they live.

However, according to Dr. Pini Herman, researchcoordinator with the Jewish Federation’s Planning & AllocationsDepartment and author of the recent demographic study of the LosAngeles area, the unaffiliated rate is likely to be higher in theWJCC’s current Beverly-Fairfax service area, as its less affluentpopulation is not to able to afford synagogue membership.

“If you’re using nonaffiliation with synagogues asan indicator of where to put a JCC, the Fairfax area is very, veryprominent in that respect,” Herman said.

As for another reason given for the westward move– the declining population in the current surrounding area — it istrue that the numbers have dropped in the Federation’s Metro region.But it is still home to the largest concentration of Jews in greaterLos Angeles, said Herman. In the Beverly-Fairfax “sub-area,” theJewish population did decline from 75,000 in 1979 to 55,000 in 1997,but it remains ahead of the next-most populous area, Tarzana-Encino,with 50,000 Jews, Herman said. The decline in population in theFairfax area is primarily due to mortality, the researcher said, notto a mass exodus, as some have suggested. In fact, more Jews aremoving in than leaving, including Russian immigrants and youngfamilies with children.

Aaronson said that the Westside JCC “is notabandoning the current community it is in. We have no intention ofleaving the Metro area.” Even if it is sold to Shalhevet, he said,the preschool, pool, gym and other facilities will be leased back forvarying periods of time.

The expectation that the Jewish Federation willmove from its temporary
location in Museum Square toward the 405freeway has fueled speculation that space might be found for a”campus,” which would include a JCC. But, so far, this is just a pipedream, said Federation President Herb Gelfand. “There is no fundingfor such a site and no recommendation about a site or a capital-fundsdrive,” he said.

Officially, the Federation has taken no stand onthe sale of the WJCC, which is a separate entity governed by its ownboard. But, with the campus option on the back burner, Gelfand said,”I think it will be very much more difficult now to make the decisionto sell.”

A big consideration is the cost of land, he added,noting that the Federation had looked at a 200,000-square-foot pieceof property near Olympic Boulevard and Centinela Avenue which waslater purchased by another buyer for about $17 million. It would havetaken additional capital of about $60 million to create a campus witha Federation headquarters, day schools, service agencies, a JCC andso on. That’s about 50 percent more than the Federation campaignraised last year.

Meanwhile, a vote on the proposed sale is imminentfollowing last week’s 6-5 decision (with one abstention) by theJCC/LA executive committee to sell the facility to Shalhevet. Theoffer will be presented at the next meeting of the JCC/LA board, onTuesday (March 10). The board is expected to vote on the proposaleither then or at the March 24 meeting. If it passes by a majority,the sale will go forward. Tuesday’s meeting will take place at theWestside Jewish Community Center at 5870 W. Olympic Blvd. in LosAngeles, beginning at 6:15 p.m.

Opponents of the sale have pledged to continuetheir fight until the final vote. They will gather to demonstrate infront of the WJCC this Sunday, beginning at 1 p.m.

Cutting Costs and Hope

Los Angeles Jewish AIDS Services dismisses itsprogram director due to a drop in funding

By Ruth Stroud, Staff Writer

In a move that reflects the changing face of theAIDS crisis, Rabbi Rafael Goldstein left the Los Angeles Jewish AIDSServices last month after his position as program director waseliminated.

Goldstein’s departure was precipitated by a lackof funds, which have dropped by about 50 percent in the past year,according to program officials. Rami Aizic, a counselor, is now theonly full-time staff member of the 10-year-old organization. Aboutthree months ago, a client-service position was eliminated.

A 20-person board and a group of dedicatedvolunteers culled from a list of about 250 will attempt to carry onthe work of LAJAS, said President Barry Steinhardt. “It was importantto us to eliminate the position of director instead of cuttingservices more drastically to the clients,” he said.

LAJAS, a program of Jewish Family Service of LosAngeles, isn’t the only AIDS nonprofit organization to experience ashortfall in donations and charitable gifts, said Lisa Brooks,director of development and marketing for JFS/LA. According toBrooks, the problem is, as the illness has slipped out of theheadlines and new medicines have allowed people to live longer andcope better with the disease, “a lot of people falsely think the AIDScrisis is over.”

That couldn’t be further from the truth, explainedGoldstein during a phone conversation. “I think the needs are greaterthan before, which makes it all the more sad [that funds aredwindling],” he said. Many of those who are helped by the drugs arecaught in what Goldstein described as a “limbo-land,” in which theyaren’t dying but are unable to