Access Hollywood


Access Hollywood

Two entertainment lawyers use A-listconnections to advance Jewish causes

Harvey Silbert: No “No’s”

By Naomi Pfefferman, Entertainment Editor

Left to right, Harvey Silbert, with Barbara andFrank Sinatra. Silbert says the late Sinatra, who helped fund abuilding at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, “was one of the nicest,kindest men I’ve ever met.”

Harvey Silbert will never forget the time he tookFrank Sinatra to Israel.

It was in the late 1960s. “We chartered an El Alplane, and off we went with Ed McMahon, Dinah Shore and my friendGregory Peck,” says Silbert, who is just shy of 86. “Frank arrangedto have several rows of seats taken out of the plane, and he put aband there. He loaded the plane with Italian and Jewish deli and wehad a party.”

The late Sinatra, who helped fund a building atHebrew University in Jerusalem, “was one of the nicest, kindest menI’ve ever met,” Silbert says. “The word ‘no’ was simply not in hisvocabulary.”

Or perhaps Silbert has perfected the art of nottaking “no” for an answer. After six decades in Los Angeles Jewishphilanthropy, he is the High Priest of the art of high-poweredsolicitation; thesine quanon of high-octane fund raising.

Silbert’s involvements have included Cedars-SinaiMedical Center, the Milken Family Foundation, Shaare Zedek MedicalCenter, and the Anti-Defamation League. For his efforts on behalf ofHebrew University, he has received one honorary doctorate. Hereceived another honorary doctorate from the University of Judaismlast Sunday.

During an interview in his Century City office atLoeb & Loeb, Silbert, dapper in an immaculate gray suit, wassurrounded by photographs of himself with Sinatra, John Wayne andother celebrities. He reminisced about growing up in Boyle Heights,where he became a barmitzvah at the Breed Street Shul. He alsorecalled frequenting the grand movie theaters on Main Street, hisintroduction to the glamour of Hollywood.

Silbert graduated from Southwestern University lawschool during the Depression, when his businessman father went brokeand the major law firms wouldn’t hire a Jew. The attorney managed tosnag a job, however, for a starting salary of $50 a month and astreetcar pass to the courthouse. Silbert’s first celebrity client,the famous silent-screen actress Constance Bennett, gave him hisstart in the entertainment field. When a Columbia executive asked himto join the board of what would become Cedars-Sinai in the 1940s,Silbert began his career as a Jewish philanthropist.

Even as he dined with Sinatra at Chasen’s,however, he discovered that pitching Jewish charities in Hollywoodwas a tough-sell. “The studio heads thought it was important toescape their Jewishness, and many of them wanted to socialize morewith Gentiles than with Jews,” Silbert says.

When Louis B. Mayer and the other moguls returnedfrom touring the concentration camps, they said nothing tocommemorate the Holocaust. “That disturbed me terribly,” saysSilbert. (Gregory Peck starred in the 1947 film “Gentleman’sAgreement,” one of only a few movies made about anti-Semitismimmediately after World War II.)

During Silbert’s first trip to Israel, in 1948, hewas touched by the Holocaust victims, who were struggling to survive.”I learned that Israel had virtually no natural resources, and itbecame clear to me that the only way the country could endure was bydeveloping its best and only resource: the human mind,” says Silbert,for whom Hebrew University became a special passion.

He persuaded Barbra Streisand to fund a buildingon the campus, and he has funded two buildings there himself (thesecond, the Silbert wing of the school for overseas studies, will bededicated next month). Along the way, he befriended every Israeliprime minister, including the current head of state.

Some years ago, Silbert did a special favor forthen-Knesset Member Binyamin Netanyahu, who wanted to meet theattorney’s friend, George Burns. Netanyahu apparently wanted toreceive a cigar from the elderly comedian, who obliged while sippinghis ubiquitous martini. The Israeli prime minister reportedly stillhas the cigar, Silbert says.

When a non-Jewish charity recently asked theattorney for fund-raising advice, he replied that there is only oneway to raise big money: by involving powerful, well-connected layleaders. “There are certain people I could ask for a contribution,who could not possibly say no to me,” Silbert says. “And if certainpeople called me, there would be no way Icould possibly say no. That is the bestway to raise money: by tapping into that obligation of reciprocityyou feel.”

Silbert, for one, is pleased to note morewillingness among Hollywood Jews to affiliate with Jewish causes.”But I’d like to see more people involved,” he says. “There are somevery important people in this industry, the heads of major studios,whom you still can’t budge. They’ll talk to me once or twice, andthen they won’t take my calls.

Harvey Silbert, George Burns and then-Knesset MemberBinyamin Netanyahu, 1992.


Bruce Ramer: Setting Agendas

By Ruth Stroud,Staff Writer

The man whorepresents Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood and George Clooney inlegal matters will now represent the American Jewish Committee as its24th national president. Bruce Ramer, a prominent Los Angelesentertainment attorney, succeeds New York attorney Robert Rifkind,who has held the post since December 1994. Ramer assumed the post onMay 15 at the organization’s 92nd annual meeting inWashington.

Ramer, said AJC Executive Director David Harris,is a worthy successor to the human-rights organization’s almostcentury-long tradition of top lay leadership. Among those who haveserved as president are some of the 20th century’s legal giants,including Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, Louis Marshall andMorris Abram.

A partnership of professional and lay leadership,the organization “works to meld together better than anyone Americanideals and Jewish values,” Ramer said. “It never responds in aknee-jerk way, but only after careful research, careful discussionand highly civilized debate.”

“[The president] is a very key figure in terms ofsetting the tone for the agency and involving himself in major policydirection and in representing the agency,” Harris said. Ramer will behelped in his task by a professional staff of 225 people in theUnited States and overseas.

During the three-day annual meeting in thenation’s capital, the enormity of the challenges facing the AJC as itheads into the next century was made clear. Among the issues thatcame up for discussion: Israeli security and the U.S. role inArab-Israeli peacemaking; Israel-Diaspora relations; intra-Jewish andinterdenominational Jewish unity; race relations; restitution andcompensation to Holocaust survivors and their families; hate on theInternet; and Catholic-Jewish relations.

“It takes a president who has very broad visionand breadth of knowledge and experience to cope with such anambitious agenda,” Harris said. The importance that world leadersattach to the organization was clear from some of those who showed upfor a dinner last Thursday night: Israeli Prime Minister BinyaminNetanyahu, the presidents of Uruguay and Costa Rica, three dozenforeign ambassadors, senators and congress members. Also on hand wasCardinal Edward Cassidy, who chairs the Vatican committee that helpedprepare a recent document addressing the Vatican’s role in theHolocaust.

The AJC received an enormous amount of press whenit opened a new office in the heart of Berlin in February. The firstbranch of a major Jewish defense organization in Germany, its majorbenefactors are Lawrence and Lee Ramer, Bruce’s older brother andsister-in-law.

Ramer, 64, a partner with the prestigious LosAngeles law firm of Gang, Tyre, Ramer & Brown Inc., has beeninvolved in the AJC for more than a quarter-century, serving in manykey national and chapter leadership positions, most recently as chairof the National Board of Governors. He has received AJC’s CommunityService Award.

A native of Hackensack, N.J., Ramer attendedPrinceton as an undergraduate and received his law degree fromHarvard. Selected as one of the 100 most influential lawyers inAmerica in 1994 and 1997 by The National Law Journal, he is executivedirector of the USC Law School’s Entertainment Law Institute; GeffenPlayhouse’s board of directors chairman; and a board member of theLos Angeles Urban League, the Jewish Television Network and theJewish Federation. He has three sons, Gregg, Marc and Neal.


The Rap Flap

The Wiesenthal Center assails a new CD, “DaHalocaust,” by a group called Concentration Camp

By Naomi Pfefferman, Entertainment Editor

Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon WiesenthalCenter has kept a close eye on anti-Semitism in rock ‘n’ roll. WhenMichael Jackson’s lyrics included the words “Jew me” and “Kike me,”Cooper persuaded the artist to pull and remaster the album.

When Public Enemy’s Professor Griff spoutedFarrakhanisms some years ago, the rabbi confronted the rap group inthe press. He was so tenacious that band leader Chuck D latercomplained in a song, “Told a rab, get off the rag.”

Last week, the rabbi again saw red, when PriorityRecords, owned by EMI, released its new rap CD, “Da Halocaust,” by agroup called Concentration Camp.

The group’s lyrics mention nothing about Judaismor the Holocaust, but Cooper immediately dashed off a fax toPriority’s president and CEO, Bryan Turner. The album, he wrote,”represents the cynical expropriation of the language and imageryassociated with humanity’s most notorious genocide. The popularity ofrap music in American culture makes this outrageous decision all themore dangerous. You debase the memory of those who perished duringthe Shoah by utilizing ‘Concentration Camp’ and ‘Holocaust’ as meremarketing tools.”

Victims of the Shoah are debased further, Coopersays, by the album’s rampant profanity and by songs with titles suchas “Dog-Ass Hoes.”

Turner declined to speak to The Journal. But in afaxed statement, he emphasized that none of “Da Halocaust’s” lyricsrelate to the Nazi genocide. “If I did not believe this as fact, Isimply would not have released the record,” said Turner, who toldDaily Variety’s Army Archerd that he is Jewish, the son of Russianémigrés, and that his real last name is Tuchovsky. But,no, Turner added, he was not offended by “Da Halocaust.”

Members of the band from South Baton Rouge, La.,grew up together, and their music speaks of hustling on the city’smean streets, a Priority press release said.

“As rap artists with their own view of the world,Concentration Camp is using the Holocaust figuratively as a metaphorfor their personal experience growing up in an environment filledwith hardship and suffering,” Turner said in his statement.

Cooper, who would like Priority to pull “DaHalocaust” and reissue the album under a different name, stronglydisagrees. “Not every human rights outrage is Auschwitz,” he said.”Watts and Harlem are not concentration camps, and America is not inthe midst of a Holocaust.”

The controversy over “Da Halocaust” is not aboutfree speech or the First Amendment, suggests Ann Bradley of theAmerican Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “Rabbi Cooperisn’t trying to censor [Concentration Camp],” she says. “He’sexpressing his opinion, which he has every right to do.”

Nevertheless, the controversy again raises thequestion over just who owns the metaphor of the Holocaust. For theRev. Jeanne Beharry of the First AME Church, the metaphor is apowerful way for African Americans to understand their history and toconvey its impact to an indifferent world.

Myriad millions died during the forced journey ofslaves to the Americas, she told The Journal. “Families weredisrupted and separated,” she said. “And today, the ghetto stillexists. Drugs flood into our community; our children are dying. It’slike being gassed. It isa Holocaust experience.”

Beharry’s First AME colleague, Associate Ministerthe Rev. Leonard Jackson, has another point of view. “Many Americanteen-agers are uneducated about the Holocaust,” he says, “and Iseriously doubt that these young people [in Concentration Camp] haveeven thought the issue through. They need to go through aneducational process and consider the ramifications of their name…and the point they are trying to get across. If it is offensive, theyneed to seriously consider changing their name.”

 


L.A. 5758

Regev’s War

Israel’s defender of Reform Judaism brings thefight to Los Angeles shuls

By Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Religion Editor

Rabbi Uri Regevdoesn’t look like an embattled man. He sits comfortably on a plushpink divan in the lobby of the Beverly Hills Hotel, satisfied after abreakfast in the Polo Lounge with liberal activist Stanley Sheinbaumand Temple Emanuel’s Rabbi Laura Geller.

But soon after the distinguished-looking leader ofIsrael’s Reform movement begins to speak, it is clear that his fightfor religious pluralism in Israel has plunked him down in the middleof a war — one that he is determined to win.

Israel is the only country in the free world thathinders Jews’ religious freedom, says Regev, executive director andchief counsel of the Israel Religious Action Center, thesocial-action arm of the Israel Reform Movement. That fact isdestined to lead to all-out conflict unless all sides pursuecompromise. “Better that we pre-empt the civil war by constructivesupport for pluralism and religious freedom than stand theconsequences,” he says

Regev is not using the term civil war lightly. Amajority of Israelis said they believe that the next eruption ofviolence will be between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews rather thanJews and Arabs, said Regev, citing a March poll.

Reform leaders, such as Wilshire BoulevardTemple’s Rabbi Harvey Fields, who introduced Regev at a fund-raisingmeeting in a private home, have compared Regev’s quest for religiousfreedom to Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights campaign.

“The issues he is raising are very significantissues that ultimately are about changing the culture of a countryand making it more inclusive,” says Geller, who invited Regev to leadTorah study at Emanuel’s Saturday-morning minyan, before he spoke ata luncheon.

Regev’s trip further galvanized an American Jewrywhose support helped give the cause of pluralism in Israel amuch-needed boost.

At the heart of Israel’s pluralism debate is thequestion of whether non-Orthodox rabbis’ conversions can berecognized by the state. Reform and Conservative rabbis’ ability toperform weddings, funerals and divorces is also at issue.

Regev, born in Tel Aviv in 1951, is weary of thefalse trumpeting of success by the Neeman Commission, the groupheaded by Finance Minister Yaakov Neeman that Prime Minister BinyaminNetanyahu charged with resolving the conversion crisis.

The commission decided to set upinterdenominational institutes, where converts would be trained; thechief rabbinate’s Orthodox courts would then officiate at theconversion process itself.

But, as Regev is eager to point out, the proposalwas never signed by members of the commission, because the chiefrabbinate refused to agree to the proposal — a condition that theliberal movements insisted on from the beginning, and one that Neemanpromised he could deliver, Regev says.

But with the rabbinate’s refusal, accompanied byyet another diatribe against Reform and Conservative Judaism, Regevsays the liberal representatives — who considered the Neemanproposal itself a serious compromise — decided they could take nomore.

“We would love there to be some kind ofrespectful, mutual accommodation, but we will not turn the othercheek,” Regev says, quietly.

He says that if he sees no further signs ofcompromise, he will pursue the more than 30 religious status quocases that IRAC has pending in the Supreme Court. Regev has alreadywon several such cases.

Despite the chief rabbinate’s intransigence, Regevis encouraged by what he sees happening at the grass-roots level ofIsraeli society.

From a folder thick with documentation andnewspaper articles, Regev pulls out a copy of the results of a GallupPoll commissioned by the Orthodox Union, which indicate that about 45percent of Israelis find non-Orthodox weddings, funerals orcircumcisions acceptable or even preferable — a finding Regev called”mind-boggling.”

“The time when people used to say the synagogue Idon’t go to is Orthodox is over,” Regev says, pointing out that theReform congregation in Tel Aviv had to add a Shabbat afternoonservice to accommodate more than 150 families a year who want aliberal bar or bat mitzvah service.

Regev attributes the developments to an overallchange in Israeli society.

“I remember growing up in Tel Aviv, all thebuildings looked like each other; they were all boxes,” he says. “Nowyou look around and there are so many architectural designs.” Thesame holds true for restaurants, clothing styles. “People want to beable to pursue their individuality, to be relieved of the collectivethinking that has dominated Israel for so many years. People want toexercise their freedom, their preferences. And that,” says Regev, “isin the religious arena as well.”

The Three Cantors

Fifty Years in Five Days” participants include (left toright) Cantor Joseph Gole of Congregation Mogen David, Cantor ChayimFrenkel of Kehillat Israel and Cantor Nathan Lam of Stephen S. WiseTemple.

It turns out that you can also get to CarnegieHall just by praying. At least that’s what worked for 22 cantors fromaround the world who will participate in a concert at the famed NewYork hall.

The first cantorial concert in Carnegie Hall’shistory is part of “Fifty Years in Five Days,” an event organized bythree Los Angeles cantors: Chayim Frenkel of Kehillat Israel inPacific Palisades, Joseph Gole of Congregation Mogen David on PicoBoulevard and Nathan Lam of Stephen S. Wise Temple in Bel Air. TheJune 7-11 event will also feature concerts at Ellis Island andCentral Park, where 500 cantors from the Cantors Assembly and an1,800-member children’s choir will join Israeli artists YaffaYarkoni, Yehoram Gaon and Mike Burstyn, as well as special guest PeteSeeger.

“First, there were the Three Tenors, now the ThreeCantors,” says Frenkel, who will perform a selection ofchazanut,cantorial music, with Lam and Gole at Carnegie Hall. “The cantor isthe musical and artistic soul of the Jewish people. To be asked tosing with 500 of the world’s greatest cantors is truly a wonderfulhonor for me and my two colleagues. There won’t be another suchgathering of cantors for 50 years.”

For more information on the June 7-11 event,contact Cantor Chayim Frenkel at 16019 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA90272; (310) 459-9165; or hiphazn@aol.com.— J.G.F.


 Camp & Education

New Senior Adult Camp To OpenAt JCA SholomBy Ruth Stroud,Staff Writer

The slogan on its blue-and-white T-shirtsadvertises Camp JCA Sholom as “the camp for all seasons.” But foryears, the pastoral 135-acre Malibu recreational facility has beenknown primarily as a fun place to send your kids for day or overnightcamp during the long hot summer months. With the opening of a newsenior adult camp on the grounds, and ambitious plans for othercamps, retreats, festivals and more, the camp director as well as theleaders of Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles (JCC/LA)–the organization that runs the camp — hope to make JCA live up toits T-shirt motto.

Since thepercentage of adults over 65 in the Jewish community is already morethan 19 percent and expected to grow even larger as baby boomers passfrom middle to old age, building a camp for the able elderly makessense, according to a JCC/LA report that preceded the groundbreaking.”The majority of our senior adults are ‘relatively vigorousyoung-old’ and have the health and capacity to pursue full lives,”the report states. “Yet the opportunities available to this growingpercentage of our population are limited.”

The Emma Stern Senior Adult Camp, built at thecost of more than $2 million, is being modeled after similar campsthat have existed for years on the East Coast, said Jeffrey Rouss,JCC/LA executive vice president. Instead of operating in the summeras the eastern camps do, the Emma Stern camp will be open spring andfall when children aren’t present and when the weather is usuallypleasant. Presumably, unlike during this El Niño year, thearea around the camp will be clear of rock- and mud-slides duringthose months.

The senior campis designed to house 48 adults in 24 motel-like units with ramps andrailings for those who need them. There are also two courtyards and apaved path leading to dining and other community facilities, as wellas nature trails, recreational and conference areas, and an arts andcrafts center that the seniors will share with Camp JCA Sholom.Although pricing is still being set, the JCCs are dedicated toaffordable programming, Rouss said, and scholarships will beavailable to the needy.

The late Emma Stern was an active volunteer with akeen interest in the problems of aging, according to her daughter,Jacqueline Marks. One of the last acts of her life was to provide theseed money to help make her vision of a senior adult camp come tofruition. Her children, grandchildren and great-granchildren will bepresent at the camp’s dedication on June 7.

JCA Director Bill Kaplan dreams of using the newfacilities to draw more than seniors: He wants their middle-agedchildren, their teen- and college-age grandchildren, people withspecial needs and groups celebrating special occasions. “It’s been mydream to create a year-round camping institute,” he said.

It looks like the dream may come true. Kaplan’splans include creating a nature education center similar to the TevaLearning Center run at JCA’s sister camp in Surprise Lake, New York.He also hopes to offer community festivals, camps for bereaved orspecial needs children, themed singles retreats, Passover camps,budget-minded vacations and more.

Already the camp is increasing its scope. Thismonth, the Southern California chapter of Coalition on theEnvironment and Jewish Life held its first leadership retreat onJudaism and the environment at the Malibu camp. Late last month, theJCC/LA leadership held its first overnight retreat, complete withstudy sessions with a rabbi and a “bonding experience” on a zip-line (see sidebar).

“The possibilities are endless,” Kaplan said. Butmeanwhile, JCA is planned for late May, an experimental senior campin late May, inviting seniors from area JCC’s to “test” thefacilities at Emma Stern Camp. Kaplan hopes other groups will try outthe camp next fall before the first Elder Hostel opens in the springof 1999. Before then, the JCA summer regulars — about 1,200youngsters ages 6 to 17 — are coming to camp. And they’re leavingparents and grandparents behind.

For more information on Emma Stern Senior AdultCamp at JCA Sholom and how to schedule a free 24-hour group retreatthis fall, write to Jeffrey Rouss, executive vice president, JCC/ LA,5700 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036.

Left to right:Bill Kaplan, director of Camp JCA Sholom, Westside JCC DirectorHillary Selvin, and Dr. Beverly Siegal, Westside JCC board president. Photo by Ruth Stroud

The Zip-Line

One thing thatseniors may not want to attempt is the “bonding experience” thatparticipants at a recent JCC/LA lay and professional retreat at JCASholom experienced aboard the camp’s famous “zip-line.” This is ametal cable strung between massive oak trees across a tricklingstream in the camp’s outdoor ropes and climbing course. For the smallfry who scamper up the trees like simians and fly across the riverlike Tarzan, it’s a piece of cake — and all they want is more. Butfor a middle-aged reporter in slippery-bottomed sandals and a purplepantsuit, it was heart-stopping, even strapped into a rope and metalharness that looked like it could support a water buffalo. Still, theonly way down was to jump. Eyes tightly closed, there was little timeto utter more than the“Shema” (or was it “mama”?) before landing safely to rousing applause. After my legs stoppedshaking, the experience didn’t seem that bad in retrospect. At leastI may be around to go to senior camp some day. — R.S.


Community Briefs

Panels for Peace

Everyone has an opinion on the Mideast peaceprocess. A few people even have the facts, and some of those peoplewere at the University of Judaism last week for a symposium sponsoredby the UJ’s Center for Policy Options.

The panels provided a rare opportunity to hear allsides of an often contentious debate, said Dr. Steven Spiegal, professor of political science at UCLA and chief research consultantto the Center for Policy Options. At the third session, moderated byformer Congressman Mel Levine and featuring Dr. David Pollack, PolicyPlanning Staff of the Department of State and Dr. Daniel Pipes,lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania, a packed auditorium coulddecide whether stalling the peace process was a viable option.

“The conference made a wonderful contribution tothe community discussions on the role of the U.S. government inMiddle East foreign policy,” said Hanan Alexander, UJ vice presidentof academic affairs. — StaffReport

From Both Sides

It was billedas a debate about the Middle East peace process. But the recentencounter at Sinai Temple between Ze’ev Chafets, columnist for TheJerusalem Report, and Salam S. Al-Marayati, director of the MuslimPublic Affairs Council, aired as many differences with their ownsides as with each other.

The moment that stood out for many of the 120people filling every seat came when Al-Marayati, whose group isdevoted to enhancing understanding of Arab-American issues, statedhis disgust with Yasser Arafat’s abuse of police powers in the WestBank and Gaza. “The Palestinian Authority, which was hoped by many tobe the first Arab democracy, is becoming just another Arab state witha dictator that suppresses his people for the cause of making deals,”Al-Marayati said.

“That is the perception now of the streets ofPalestine, of the West Bank and Gaza. And that perception leads toextremism, and that perception leads to the violence we see in theMiddle East, especially with the suicide bombers in Tel Aviv andJerusalem.”

“It was really surprising at how candid Salam wasabout Arafat,” said U.S. Congressman Mel Levine, who moderated thediscussion.

Chafet’s outlook ran against the gloominess hereand in Israel about the peace process. Having come out long ago infavor of a Palestinian state, he declared himself “cautiouslyoptimistic” that there will be progress. “For many years [the idea ofa Palestinian state] was taboo,” he stated. “But it’s not anymore.”— Allan M. Jalon

Big Needs

San FernandoValley girls and boys need area women and men to be big sisters andbrothers.

Between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, four localBig Brother/Big Sister agencies, including Jewish Big Brothers, areholding their third annual campaign to recruit new mentors.

According to Kim Feldman, recruitment coordinatorfor Jewish Big Brothers of Los Angeles, the greatest need for bigbrothers is in the San Fernando Valley. Thirty of the 47 children onthe organization’s waiting list are Valley residents, including threedisabled children.

“Most of the people interested in becoming bigbrothers are from the Westside, while most of the children [who needa big brother] live in the Valley, so it is a struggle to get the twoworlds to meet,” she said.

Volunteers — who needn’t be single — need tocommit a minimum of six hours a month to the program, which matchesmen and women to Jewish children from single-parent families.

For more information on becoming a big brother orbig sister, call (800) 453-KIDS. — Wendy Madnick,ValleyEditor

Honoring the Valley JCRC

Jews, Christians and Moslems may not agree on thebig issues of the day, but they know a good deed when they see one.The Valley Interfaith Council — a coalition of Valley clergy — hasgranted their highest honor, the Human Relations Award, to the ValleyAlliance’s branch of the Jewish Community Relations Committee. ValleyJCRC representatives, including Chair Scott Svonkin, accepted theaward at a banquet held May 7 at the Warner Center Marriott inWoodland Hills.

VIC Executive Director Barry Smedberg said hisorganization honored the JCRC “because they epitomize the ValleyJewish community’s efforts to make our region a better place to live.JCRC has been instrumental in getting the SOVA food pantry together,establishing Genocide Commemorative Services, working with ourAdopt-A-Child Caseworker program, and numerous other human relationsactivities.”

One of the Valley JCRC’s most recognized programsis Mitzvah Day, which pursues the Jewish mandate oftikkun olam, healing the world.For more information on this and other JCRC activities, call (818)587-3200. — W.M.

JFS Reaches Conejo

No need to schlep — heaven forbid — over thehill anymore. Now the Conejo Valley has its own branch of JewishFamily Service, ready to provide counseling and other needed servicesat an affordable price.

In an effort to make social-service programs moreaccessible for the Conejo Valley’s rapidly growing Jewish population,the Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance has given a $50,000 grant toopen an office of the Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles inThousand Oaks. The grant is the Federation’s largest allocation yetfor the Conejo Valley.

“With 40,000 Jews now calling the Conejo home, Ican’t think of a better use for Federation dollars,” said KennethWarner, 1998 United Jewish Fund campaign chair for The JewishFederation/Valley Alliance and an area resident for 25 years.

Jewish Family Service/Conejo Valley offers adiverse range of programs, including individual and group counseling,parenting programs and services for seniors and their families, allavailable on a sliding-fee scale.

Services at the new office, located at 100 EastThousand Oaks Blvd. in Thousand Oaks, are available by appointmentonly. For information, call (805) 379-CARE— W.M.

TheMenschAwards

Call them the Mensch Awards. Two upcomingceremonies, one in the city and the other in the Valley, will honorgraduating seniors who exemplify the best in Jewish values throughtheir behavior both in and out of the classroom.

Since 1985, the Torah Mitzvah Student RecognitionAward has been given to students from Orthodox, Conservative, Reformand community day and religious schools in the Jewish Federation’sMetropolitan Region. This year, organizers have renamed the award inhonor of the late Leyb Nathanson, a prominent community leader.Nathanson’s widow, Dorothy, and son, Danny, were among thoserecognized at a reception held on May 21 at Temple Isaiah. At theevent, 45 young award winners, chosen on the basis of theircharitable activities, their compassionate natures and theirexcellence in Judaicstudies, spoke briefly about Torah or communityservice.

In 1991, the Federation/Valley Alliance JewishEducation Committee, working in cooperation with the Bureau of JewishEducation, began giving its own awards to students from day andreligious schools in the Antelope, Conejo, Simi, Santa Clarita, andSan Fernando valleys. This year, 211 young Jewish role modelsreceived awards and gift certificates at the May 17 ceremony held atChabad of the Valley.

Since the inception of these awards, more than1,000 students from 33 schools have been recognized for exemplifyingJewish values in the areas of Torah (study), avodah (observance ofmitzvot andgmilut hasadim(good deeds). Children of all denominations received the awards.— Beverly Gray,Education Editor

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