Community Briefs

“Israel at 50” will be the theme of a countywide observance sponsored by the Ventura County UJA/Federation during April, May and June.

Israeli and American experts will speak to many of the 19 UJA-affiliated groups on such topical issues as Arab-Israeli relations and religious diversity in Israel.

Among other guest speakers will be some of the heroes who sailed on the Exodus or fought in the War of Independence. Programs for young people will include gold and silver medalists from the Olympic-like Maccabiah games.

The anniversary observance will officially begin with a meeting of the Pleasant Valley group of Hadassah on Monday, April 6, at 12:30 p.m., at the Marquie Banquet facility at 340 Mobil Ave., Camarillo. Two of the 1,400 American volunteers who served in the fledgling Israeli Defense Forces during the 1948-49 War of Independence, will speak. Esther Shawmut Friedman, daughter of one of the founders of Hadassah, served as a nurse with Hagana, Israel’s defense army, during the early days of Israel’s formation. The second speaker will be Julian Swing, a U.S. Air Force pilot during World War II, who later became a volunteer pilot in the IDF during the War of Independence.

On Monday, April 20, at 12:30 p.m., the National Council of Jewish Women will meet at the Marquie Banquet facility, with Muriel Helfenbein, a vice president of the Camarillo section, offering an update on “NCJW in Israel: How Do We Serve Its People?”

Ori Nir, an Israeli specialist in Islamic history and Arab affairs, will speak at Congregation Am HaYam’s Shabbat service, scheduled for Friday, May 1, at 8 p.m., at the Oxnard Monday Club, off Ventura Road in Oxnard.

For information about any of these events, contact Marvin Rosenthal, executive director of Ventura County UJA/Federation, at (805) 647-7800. — Staff Report

Meaning and Healing

In a meeting organized last month by Metivta’s Jewish Healing Center, rabbis, physicians, educators, hospice and hospital administrators, communal and social workers reached an informal agreement to pool information and resources that provide spiritual support to the ill and their caregivers.

The Healing Center, which trains volunteers and professionals to do bikkur holim (visiting the sick), conducts healing worship services and has been expanding its programs in response to community requests.

Said Healing Center Director Ellen Winer, a registered nurse: “Meaning and healing emerge as Jewish tradition is viewed through the prism of suffering. Healing means making whole, not necessarily physically curing. Faith, prayer, meditation and compassionate presence have been shown in medical research to enhance quality of life, improve recovery and prolong life. Religion and spirituality have been separated from the world of health care for too long. We are building a bridge between the two.”

The Healing Center received funding via a Jewish Community Foundation seed grant, with help from Metivta. The only such facility serving the vast Los Angeles Jewish community, the Health Center is seeking to expand its base, possibly through a consortium of institutions.

For more information on the Jewish Healing Center or to become involved in its expansion, contact Ellen Winer, Metivta, 2001 S. Barrington Ave., Suite 106, Los Angeles, CA 90025. Or call (310) 477-5370. — Staff Report

KOACH in Cuba

KOACH on Campus, a college organization sponsored by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, is looking for six students who are fluent in Spanish, feel a love for Jewish life, and have an ability to teach Jewish topics. They also must be extremely adaptable, since they will be bringing their Judaic knowledge to remote communities in Cuba.

Cuba’s Jewish enclaves have had little contact with organized religion for the past 39 years. Now that there’s a new tolerance for religious expression in Cuba, Jews there are hungry for knowledge about the Hebrew language, the Torah, holidays, and life-cycle rituals.

After years of negotiations, KOACH has managed to cut through the red tape needed for travel within Cuba; this August, with the express permission of the U.S. Treasury Department, the organization will be sending its second group of student-teachers for a 10-day stay. Last year’s travelers, including Tamara Beliak of Los Angeles, had remarkable adventures. Some of them, arriving in a village where a 4-year-old Jewish child had just drowned, found themselves acting in a rabbinic capacity, teaching shiva rituals and helping the community adjust to its loss. All came home having built strong emotional ties with their host families.

Beliak, currently a sophomore at Brandeis University, says: “I was delighted to see how a community, fairly cut off from the rest of the Jewish world, was fighting for knowledge. One boy took an eight-hour car ride specifically so that he could learn the Ashrei and what it meant. Honestly, I think we [the Americans] may have learned more about Jewish commitment than anyone we encountered there.

“Going to Cuba strengthened my ties to Jews across the world because I saw how much we could learn from each other’s experiences.”

To inquire about this year’s trip, call Rabbi Elyse Winick, KOACH program director, at (781) 784-8434, or e-mail her at Beverly Gray, Education Editor

Funding Shortfall for JAFI

Along with its counterparts in other cities, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles has recently reduced its contributions to its overseas agencies in order to fund its local agencies. This year, it has increased its education allocation by about $1 million, with about half of that amount coming out of its allotment to the United Jewish Appeal, which sends money to both the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

Shrinking contributions from federations and other organizations, as well as the unanticipated masses of Jews flooding into Israel from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia in the past decade, have taxed JAFI’s resources to the breaking point, according to JAFI officials. Last month, representatives of the organization met with federation leaders in Los Angeles and in other cities to plead for an emergency advance of $60 million to continue its main task of rescuing and resettling Jewish immigrants in the Holy Land.

Los Angeles Federation Executive Vice President John Fishel said that the option of giving additional money to JAFI would probably be presented to the Federation board within the next month. JAFI’s plight demonstrates that the Los Angeles Jewish community, the country’s second-largest, “continues to have a dual responsibility not only domestically but to the broader worldwide community,” Fishel said. Among other things, the board will have to decide whether the money is available and where it would come from — not an easy task in a community where many worthy programs are underfunded as it is. The Federation allocated about $10.5 million to the United Jewish Appeal in 1998. — Ruth Stroud, Staff Writer

Campus Pesach

Because Passover begins on a weekend this year, many of us parents will be blessed with the sight of our college-aged children around our seder tables. Last year my daughter sampled several campus seders, and found them lacking. At a so-called seder attended by much of the Stanford Marching Band, the ten plagues were missing, and the whole story of the Exodus was glossed over on the grounds that everyone knew it already. Though a second-night Hillel seder at her dorm was expertly led, the school dining service had helpfully provided&’173; along with the gefilte fish and matzoh-ball soup&’173; a basket of dinner rolls and a Caesar salad with croutons.

But a survey of Southern California campuses shows that those students unable to go home for the holiday will find a variety of kosher-for-Passover activities awaiting them. UCLA Hillel is sponsoring its annual seder on the second night of Passover, which is Sat. April 11. Hillel Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller will conduct this participatory seder, and students, faculty, and members of the community are invited. Students looking for home hospitality on the first night can contact Hillel to be matched with families in the vicinity. During the week of Passover, UCLA students can reserve kosher-for-Passover sack lunches. And they can eat dinner at Hillel headquarters, again by reservation only. Prior to Passover, Seidler-Feller will host several related campus study sessions, including an April 7 trek down to Pico-Robertson so students can stock up on matzoh and macaroons. For more information, call UCLA Hillel at (310) 208-3081.

USC Hillel, which boasts its own popular kosher caterer, will inaugurate a student-led first-night seder on Fri., April 10. This event will combine traditional ritual with contemporary musical selections and some offbeat humor. Subsidized Passover meals will be served at Hillel House throughout the holidays. On April 15, USC Hillel will host a city-wide Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transsexual Freedom Seder to which everyone is welcome. And USC students will celebrate the end of Passover with havdalah, followed by a “Feed Me Chometz Night” pizza party. USC Hillel can be reached at (213) 747-9135.

Because Cal State Northridge students will be on semester break for the beginning of Passover, there will be no campus seder. But kosher-for-Passover meals, both lunch and dinner, will be served at CSUN’s Hillel House for the remainder of the holiday. Call (818) 886-5101 for information.

Occidental College Hillel, which also serves the students of Caltech,lastyear ran out of space for its annual first-night seder. Instead, Jewish facultymembers at the two schools were asked to host students at their own seder tables. Students reportedly were thrilled by the family atmosphere, and were able to experience a wide range of seder observances. The home hospitality experiment will be repeated this year, and it’s hoped that the community at large will participate. There’s also a small second-night seder on the Caltech campus. Forthe week of Passover, neither campus can promise strictly kosher-for-Passover food, but the dining services of both schools have been alerted to offer appropriate meal alternatives. Call Occidental College Hillel at 213-259-2959. &’173; Beverly Gray, Education Editor

Esther Shawmut Friedman, daughter of one of the founders of Hadassah, served as a nurse with Hagana,