This year, more Angelenos than ever get Passover aid from local agencies

This year, more than 1,000 Los Angeles families in need received food from organizations that provide assistance specifically for Passover.

During the weeks leading up to the first seder, on April 6, visitors to distribution sites set up by agencies, synagogues and organizations took home essentials for the holiday — wine, grape juice, matzah, gefilte fish, horseradish, eggs and more — so that they could have seders and kosher food for the eight days of the holiday.

Low-income families received assistance from Tomchei Shabbos, Global Kindness, Valley Beth Shalom, JFS/SOVA, the Israeli Leadership Council, the Iranian American Jewish Federation (IAJF) and elsewhere. Social workers from Jewish Family Service, a nonsectarian social service agency, referred many individuals and families in need to food-giving agencies. Tomchei Shabbos, which provides donations of kosher food to Los Angeles Orthodox families weekly, served additional families for Passover.

The majority of recipients this year were people who’ve lost their jobs in the recent recession, including, said Rabbi Yona Landau, executive director of Tomchei Shabbos,  “people who got sick and couldn’t work, people who were abandoned, women who were abandoned by their husbands and they have to care of the family themselves.

“There’s a lot of different cases,” Landau said. “If they didn’t get our food, they wouldn’t have any food.”

Others receiving food assistance for Passover included immigrant families of Persian, Israeli and Russian descent; seniors with disabilities; and some divorcees, all facing major financial challenges, according to Debbie Alden, a board member of Valley Beth Shalom’s Sisterhood and Nouriel Cohen, CFO of Global Kindness. Many of the recipients were formerly volunteers at these agencies and organizations — people who used to be middle-class — but are now reliant on charity.

“We had people who were donating to us a little bit, and now they are asking, which is really sad,” said Shahla Javdan, president of the IAJF.

Because of privacy concerns, no recipient families gave their names for interviews.

On the night of April 2, an elderly woman living in West Hollywood receiving a delivery from two volunteers in their 20s, told of her problems with sciatica. “Not well,” she replied to a volunteer who asked how she was doing as they brought the food into her home.

Tomchei Shabbos volunteers delivered some of the food for Passover to recipients’ homes. Some requested that the food be left at their doorsteps.

Other recipients parked at the curb at Pico Boulevard and Weatherly Drive, the site of the organization’s storefront, waited to receive the boxes filled with produce, which they loaded into the backseats of their minivans and the trunks of their sedans with the help of eager volunteers.

Tomchei boxes were marked with only families’ initials so as not to give away their identities. Valley Beth Shalom’s distributors employed a similar method for their food giveaway.

In the days leading up to Passover, people strapped for cash shopped at Pico-Robertson grocery stores Elat Market and Glatt Mart using food coupons from the IAJF. The stores cooperated with the IAJF, selling $25 and $50 coupons at a 25 percent discount to the IAJF, which then distributed the coupons to community members.

SOVA, a program of Jewish Family Service, differentiated Passover packages for Ashkenazi and Sephardic families. Ashkenazi families received gefilte fish and horseradish, while Sephardic families received rice and dates in addition to matzah ball soup mix, macaroons, eggs, walnuts and matzah.

“They will be able to do a nice seder with what they receive,” Fred Summers, director of operations at JFS/SOVA, said. “Some of the things will last longer than one night, [but] it will probably not be an eight-day supply.

The numbers of those in need might surprise some. JFS/SOVA provided for approximately 700 individuals and families for Passover, according to Summers. Tomchei Shabbos served around 600 families, estimated Landau. VBS distributed 124 boxes filled with Passover items, Global Kindness helped nearly 350 families, the Israeli Leadership Council provided assistance for more than 100 families, and the IAJF distributed between $30,000 and $50,000 in food coupons, Javdan said.

More families requested Passover food this year than in previous years, Javdan, Landau and Cohen all said, and the agencies couldn’t meet all the demand. Despite news reports that the economy is improving and new jobs are being created each month, Cohen said more people are in need this year than ever before. “Not only for Passover, but for other holidays also.”

PA minister: No further U.N. agency bids

The Palestinian Authority foreign minister denied plans to seek statehood status in 16 United Nations-affiliated groups.

Riyad al-Malki denied on Thursday denied a claim earlier this week by a Palestinian diplomat in Geneva that the Palestinian Authority would attempt to replicate its success at UNESCO, the U.N. agency dealing with science and culture, and would instead focus on its attempt to achieve statehood recognition through the U.N. Security Council.

The UNESCO vote led the United States and Israel to cut funding to UNESCO, and prompted concerns that the United States would similarly have to cut off other agencies, like the World Health organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency, should the Palestinians continue to press their case at U.N.-affiliated bodies.

The Obama administration has pledged to veto any statehood bid through the Security Council.

Sept. 11 Report: Israel Was a Target

Long before the Sept. 11 attacks, Al Qaeda was planning terrorist attacks against Israeli and American Jewish sites.

That, at least, is one conclusion of the 9/11 Commission Report, which was released Thursday.

The report shows that American intelligence agencies received signals that Al Qaeda was looking to attack Israel or U.S. Jewish sites in the months before the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

It also shows that several of the hijackers, as well as Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, were motivated in part by hatred of Israel and anger over the support it receives from the United States.

While much of the information already had been released through public testimony and media stories, the report emphasizes the ties between the terrorist attacks in the United States and U.S. policy in the Middle East.

It also paints a chilling portrait of what might have been, by detailing Al Qaeda proposals to attack Israeli and U.S. Jewish sites that the group either rejected or postponed.

The report shows that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, considered the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, was motivated by his "violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel," according to his own admission after being captured in March 2003. Mohammed was interested in attacking Jewish sites in New York City, and sent an Al Qaeda operative to New York early in 2001 to scout possible locations.

He also brought a plan to bin Laden to attack the Israeli city of Eilat by recruiting a Saudi air force pilot who would commandeer a Saudi jet.

Bin Laden supported the proposals, but they were put on hold while the group concentrated on the Sept. 11 plan.

American intelligence officials believed throughout the spring and summer of 2001 that Abu Zubaydah, a Palestinian member of Al Qaeda, planned to attack Israel.

The terrorist leaders also considered playing off developments in the Middle East. Mohammed told investigators that bin Laden had wanted to expedite attacks after Ariel Sharon, then leader of Israel’s opposition, visited Jerusalem’s Temple Mount in September 2000, and later when Sharon, who by then had become Israel’s prime minister, met with President Bush at the White House.

Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, said the report doesn’t provide information that is new to Israeli intelligence officials.

"There’s very good intelligence cooperation between the two countries," Regev said, noting that counter-terrorism communication is particularly good.

He said that while Israel is used to facing terrorism, it has been spared the type of "mega-terrorist attack" the United States suffered on Sept. 11.

The report is being viewed in the American Jewish community as confirmation of what they’ve been hearing privately for years.

"We didn’t need this report to tell us that Jews were and are a target," said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. "Throughout the years there were evidence and alerts and knowledge of specific times and threats."

The report comes as some Jewish leaders are working to secure federal dollars to make security improvements for Jewish sites. Charles Konigsberg, the United Jewish Communities’ vice president for public policy, said the report will "absolutely help us to make the case" for federal funding.

Other Jewish groups and some lawmakers fear that giving federal aid to houses of worship at risk of terror attacks would violate the separation of church and state.

The report reaffirms what many who follow the issue have believed, that anti-Semitic views were a key motivation for the Sept. 11 plotters.

"In his interactions with other students," the leader of the hijackers, Mohammed Atta, "voiced virulently anti-Semitic and anti-American opinions, ranging from condemnations of what he described as a global Jewish movement centered in New York City that supposedly controlled the financial world and the media, to polemics against governments of the Arab world," the report says.

In original plans for the attack, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was to hijack a plane himself, land it, kill all the male passengers and then deliver a speech that would include criticism of U.S. support for Israel, the report says. However, that plan was scaled down, and Mohammed did not participate in the Sept. 11 hijackings.

In their report, commission members say U.S. support for Israel, as well as the war in Iraq, has fed anti-American sentiment among Muslims. While not critiquing U.S. policy, the report suggests the United States must do more to justify its actions and communicate with the Arab world.

"Neither Israel nor the new Iraq will be safer if worldwide Islamist terrorism grows stronger," the report says.

The report recommends changing the U.S. relationship with Arab states with the goal of improving America’s image. While acknowledging that those who become terrorists likely are impervious to persuasion, bettering America’s image among the general Arab public could minimize support for terrorists.

It also recommends a closer examination of the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia. Commission members suggest political and economic reform must be stressed, as well as greater tolerance and cultural respect.

"Among Saudis, the United States is seen as aligned with Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians, with whom Saudis ardently sympathize," the report said. "Although Saudi Arabia’s cooperation against terrorism improved to some extent after the Sept. 11 attacks, significant problems remained."

JTA intern Alana B. Elias Kornfeld contributed to this report from New York.

Faults and Failures

Last February, the head of the Mossad lost his cell phone. He left it in his car — that’s right, the head of Israel’s renowned top secret spy agency left his cell phone in his car. When he returned, he found someone had bashed his windows and stolen it. On it were the numbers of, well, everyone on whom Israel’s security and defense relies.

“The robbers reportedly broke into the car when it was parked in Tel Aviv and could easily have planted a bomb had they wanted,” Israeli Army Radio reported.

Mossad chief Maj. Gen. (res.) Meir Dagan contacted his cellular service company and had the phone’s memory erased, so in the end all he suffered was embarrassment and of course the royal pain of reprogramming a new cell.

I recall this story as the nation awaits the report of The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, also known as the 9/11 Commission. This is the bipartisan effort President George W. Bush’s White House initially opposed, but eventually chartered under pressure from the families of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. The committee has already made public certain pieces of the report, and has made clear that we should expect no shocking, other-foot-dropping revelations when the full report is released July 21.

Open societies thrive on open inquiry. Saudi Arabia held no public independent hearings into why so many Sept. 11 hijackers devolved from its soil. But Israel’s intelligence community has regularly been the subject of commissions, reports, restructuring and open criticism.

The most well-known example is the Agranat Inquiry Commission, which investigated why Israel was caught by surprise by Arab armies in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

“For the nation as a whole, the major instrument of therapy was an inquiry commission,” writes Abraham Rabinovich in his recent and gripping, “The Yom Kippur War” (Schocken, 2004). It was clear to then-Prime Minister Golda Meir and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan that only such a commission could “restore public confidence in the government and the army” — even though both leaders knew full well their own necks were at stake, too. Within three weeks of the cease-fire, the five-member commission began its work. Within the year, its findings called for six high-level resignations, including that of Eli Zeira as chief of intelligence.

There is no indication that the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation will be anywhere near as far-reaching, or as finger-pointing. For postwar Israelis, accountability was therapeutic. For post-Sept. 11 Americans, the language of therapy has replaced actual accountability. Former CIA Director George Tenet left his post even as the president heaped him with praises. Analysts whose analysis was clearly wrong, politicians whose reactions were clearly lethargic — we are told they all tried their best or did their darndest. Listening to the president and many Democrats as well, I began to wonder what they were protecting: our country or George Tenet’s self-esteem?

The Agranat Commission did not seek vengeance, nor did it make innocents of wrongdoers.

Beyond assigning blame, Agranat also sought structural changes in the Israeli intelligence community. Such will also be the main focus of the 9/11 Commission.

“The system is broken,” Rep. Jane Harman (D-El Segundo) told me, emphatically, when I met her a month ago at her field office.

Harman, a centrist Democrat, is a ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee and helped spearhead all House actions in response to the Sept. 11 attacks as ranking member on the panel’s Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security.

Speaking of the intelligence failures that led up to our invasion of Iraq, she said, “Having now carefully studied the intelligence the intelligence was wrong…. This was a screw up, yes.”

The same system helped keep us in the dark about Sept. 11. “Sept. 11 was a failure to connect the dots,” Harmon said. “With Iraq and WMD, there were too few dots connected to the wrong conclusion.”

Harmon said she supports what is expected to be a centerpiece of the 9/11 report: the appointment of a director of national intelligence, who will coordinate intelligence gatherings from some 15 different agencies with a combined budget of more than $30 billion.

Interestingly enough, Israel’s Agranat Commission called for just such a post, as have numerous Israeli commissions and reports looking into the country’s intelligence lapses over the years. The most recent recommendation came this year in the Steinetz Report, which investigated the failure of Israeli intelligence to accurately assess Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons and missile delivery systems.

But Israel has never followed through on this recommendation, and there’s no indication that the American public will clamor for that change now.

“Israeli national security decision making could probably benefit from the presence of such an adviser,” wrote security analyst Yossi Alpher, “But at the end of the day, no intelligence service is immune to failure.”

Harmon and others will have to convince us how adding more names to a flow chart will make us safer. Without a stronger culture of accountability — people made to feel bad, even, yes, fired — I doubt it will. Meanwhile, I keep thinking of that top-security cell phone, and how even the best intelligence experts can leave us a car window away from disaster.

Who Will Care for Our Aging Adults?

Life isn’t so easy for Genia Cohen. The 68-year-old widow lives in a low-income apartment in Hollywood. She finds it difficult to get together with her sister, her only living relative in the area, who’s also suffering from the aches and pains of age.

But Cohen is one of the lucky seniors, who benefits from a variety of public and private services: She visits the Freda Mohr Senior Service Center on Fairfax to exercise three times a week and lunch weekly, and receives assistance coordinating the bewildering array of available programs through her Russian-speaking case worker at the West Hollywood Senior Center.

Yet agencies like the ones that work with Cohen and other seniors have more clients than they can afford to serve. What will happen over the next 30 years, when — thanks to higher life expectancies and millions of baby boomers advancing in age — the population of adults over 65 doubles?

By the year 2030, 70 million adults, or 20 percent of the nation’s population, will be over the age of 65. And when you consider that the number of seniors who are most frail and in need of services — those over 85 — is expected to climb from over 4 million today to 8.9 million in 2030, you have to wonder what our future will bring.

In the Jewish community, the trend is even worse: with a median age of 42, the Jewish population is seven years older than the general one according to the 2000 Jewish Population Study. Here in Los Angeles the number of area Jews over age 65 has almost doubled in the previous 20 years, a 1997 Jewish Federation survey found. By 2020, the report projected that those 65 and over would comprise 31% of our community.

Is the nation — and our community — prepared for the growing, changing needs of a rapidly aging population? What will those needs look like? And how will they be provided both logistically and financially?

In order to fulfill the needs of an aging population we first need to redefine the very concept of aging, says to Susie Forer-Dehrey, associate executive director of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFS).

“The way we look at older adults needs to change,” she said. “The notion that someone goes off to a skilled nursing facility and their life is over is antiquated. These are people who have a lot to offer our community, our children and our society.”

Forer-Dehrey points out that the majority of older adults do not live in institutional settings. In fact, 95 percent of older Americans live in their homes within the community, and most prefer it that way. Because of this, she said, “the way older adult services are set up now has to be rethought.”

The future will see a host of “increasing needs likely to collide with shrinking public resources,” according to a Los Angeles city task force looking at the delivery of services for seniors.

Sandra King, chair of the National Council on the Aging and former director of Los Angeles’ JFS, who served on the task force, said, “Policymakers haven’t given sufficient attention to this issue. The vast numbers of people who will need services, attention and planning have not been recognized.”

One of the major issues raised by the city report was the “dire shortage” of housing that is affordable, connected with services and set up in a manner that supports the physical requirements of seniors. For example, frail elderly may encounter problems navigating in their own homes. Many of these barriers can be eliminated by making modifications, such as installing wheelchair ramps and walk-in showers. Yet when these modifications are not made, the difficulties may unnecessarily cause seniors to move to an institutional setting.

More complicated is the issue of housing availability and cost. “The average rent in Los Angeles is $1,000 for a one-bedroom apartment,” said Steve Wagner, director of operations and property management for Menorah Housing Foundation. “If you live on a fixed income in an area of rising rents, there’s going to be a problem.”

Menorah Housing maintains 15 buildings throughout the city that provide one-bedroom apartments to low-income seniors, and are funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Eligible residents pay 30 percent of their income for rent. Each building has an activities director and provides on-site classes, nutrition programs and other activities. The newest of Menorah’s buildings, a 65-unit complex completed in Santa Monica two years ago, drew 3,500 applicants.

“HUD funds about five new buildings per year in all of Southern California,” Menorah President and Executive Director Anne Friedrich said. “Obviously the supply doesn’t meet the demand. There just isn’t enough money available.”

Friedrich’s refrain seems to be expressed by almost everyone involved in the delivery of services to seniors.

Promptly at 9 a.m., 82-year-old Vicky Levy begins her exercise regimen on a treadmill, bicycle and step machine at the Eichenbaum Health Center, located at the Freda Mohr Center on Fairfax Avenue. Levy started visiting the JFS-run center after she was widowed four years ago. In addition to the exercise facilities, the center provides Levy with home-delivered meals and a network of friends.

“It’s a pleasure and a blessing to have a place like this,” Levy said of the center. “I can get out of the house and have something to do besides sit in front of the TV. People care about us here.”

Levy is also a client of the Multipurpose Senior Services Program (MSSP), a program funded by Medi-Cal for low-income seniors who might otherwise be eligible for nursing home care. This program enables Levy to manage at home and stretch her limited Social Security check, the majority of which pays for rent. MSSP helps provide Levy with a package of services that includes taxi coupons to help her get to and from medical appointments, and twice-monthly house cleaning. Her case manager, a social worker at the Freda Mohr Center, helps Levy manage benefits and paperwork and assure that her needs are being met. A separate Medi-Cal-funded program, In-Home Supportive Services, provides Levy with a caretaker for about four hours per day who brings her home from her exercise session and assists her with shopping, cooking and bathing.

A nonsectarian agency, JFS is one provider of MSSP services in Los Angeles. Bernie Gruenbaum, director of MSSP Case Management for JFS, notes that this is a costly program, but one that is cost-effective for the state because it is much less expensive than nursing home care. This year, Medi-Cal reimbursement rates were cut 5 percent, so JFS and other MSSP providers are struggling to continue serving their existing clients. Yet many potential clients go unserved. According to the Medi-Cal Policy Institute, MSSP can only serve one in five people who might benefit from the program. And demand is assured to increase.

For those unable to live independently, the demand for assisted living and skilled nursing facilities will also rise dramatically. According to the City of Los Angeles report, five times the current number of seniors currently residing in nursing homes — a number equivalent to the population of Glendale — will require nursing home care in 2030. Yet, in a 1998 federal study, nearly one in three nursing homes nationally were found to have serious or potentially life-threatening care problems. California had twice as many reported deficiencies as the national average.

The Los Angeles Jewish Home for the Aging (JHA), which this year received a zero deficiency rating from the state’s Department of Health Services (meaning that they had no deficiencies ) has a waiting list of about 350 for skilled nursing care, including its state-of-the-art Alzheimer’s unit. JHA houses 800 residents with an average age of 90, and is currently constructing new facilities that include 249 beds. A Westside campus is under consideration.

How will these services — both individually and communally — be paid for? Only one-third of seniors can support the cost of care until the end of life. According to Businessweek, a 65-year-old who retires today and lives to 85 can expect to pay around $100,000 for health care, while those who retire a decade from now will pay at least twice that.

Meanwhile, employers are eliminating or scaling back health care coverage for retired workers. About half of U.S. seniors have any sort of job-based coverage, down from 50 percent nearly a decade ago. Even many of those seniors who accumulated what they felt would be adequate retirement savings have seen their nest eggs diminished by low interest rates and the stock market crash.

These factors will lead to more reliance on Medicare and other publicly funded services. At JHA, for instance, 80 percent of residents are on Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program that provides health care coverage for low-income people without health insurance. Spending for Medi-Cal, which is funded by the state’s general fund and matching federal funds, has more than doubled in the past decade. For Medicare beneficiaries (those older than 65), long-term care is the single largest component of direct health-related out-of-pocket spending, followed by spending on prescription drugs.

Who will provide these services? The pool of professionals involved in care giving fields is shrinking. Nationally, there are shortages of licensed vocational nurses, registered nurses and certified nursing assistants, the people who provide the bulk of bedside care. These challenges will require innovative solutions. One such approach is a partnership between Jewish Vocational Services and the JHA to train low-income immigrants and refugees as certified nursing assistants. Another is a cooperative effort among JFS, four local colleges and several other agencies that serve seniors to address the shortage of geriatric social workers by steering social work students toward that field.

Is the Jewish community prepared for an aging population?

“We’re having the discussions,” said Miriam Prum Hess, vice president for planning and allocation for The Jewish Federation. “Our agencies are really rethinking senior services and the way that they’re providing them. The whole issue of NORCs is a perfect example of trying to be proactive and test new models.”

Prum Hess is referring to the Naturally Occurring Retirement Community, an innovative model for serving seniors that involves a geographic concentration of older adults who wish to “age in place” by remaining in their long-time homes as they grow older. A combined effort between the Jewish Federation, the Jewish Community Relations Committee and JFS has resulted in a half-million dollar allocation from the federal government for JFS to service a NORC in Los Angeles, the first such grant to be made in California. The NORC includes two areas: the city of West Hollywood and the Park LaBrea apartment complex.

“The idea is to provide services to seniors where they already are,” says JFS’ Forer-Dehrey. “We feel this is a model that we can take into the future.”

An assessment is underway to determine what services seniors need, what’s currently available and whether existing services are accessible. Based on the results, new services may be created such as recreational activities, counseling, transportation, preventive health care and in-home support services. JFS is applying for future grants in other parts of the Los Angeles area.

“We’re moving in the right direction — we need to get there faster,” says Forer-Dehrey. “The problem is being paid attention to by those who work in aging, but the whole community needs to take this on as well.”

As the community takes on this issue, it would behoove us to keep in mind the words of Molly Forrest, CEO of the Jewish Home for the Aging: “The choices we make today are the choices that we will live by tomorrow.”

Agencies Survive Budget Battle

For Jewish community-affiliated agencies that receive money from the state, the last two months of past-deadline legislative wrangling over the budget has been a nail-biting time, with some organizations awaiting word on half or more of their annual funding.

"We’ve gotten by without severe cuts to this point," said Jessica Toledano, director of government relations for The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Jewish Community Relations Committee (JCRC).

For Jewish agencies that rely on state general fund dollars, it is clear that the waiting game has just begun. State Controller Kathleen Connell has predicted multibillion dollar deficits next year. In addition, the new budget relies on billions of dollars from the federal government, which in the past have failed to materialize. That may force legislators to cut money currently scheduled for both Jewish and non-Jewish community services.

"Over a period of 30-40 years, many of the agencies created by the Jewish community have become reliant on public dollars, because the state has recognized that they can offer a quality service," said Federation President John Fishel.

Some of the services offered by Jewish agencies will be hit harder than others in the current budget. Among the hardest hit is the youTHink program by the Zimmer Discovery Children’s Museum of the Jewish Community Centers.

The youTHink program, which uses the arts to teach social issues, did not receive the $750,000 it requested from the state. The request represented approximately half of the program’s annual budget.

Esther Netter, the Zimmer’s executive director, remained hopeful that the program will find the money it needs to continue its programs, but said she understands why the funding was cut. "They’re trying to deal with the most critical needs of the state," she said, "They can hardly deal with extras."

JCRC’s Toledano said they are already searching for ways to fund the youTHink program.

Not every Jewish organization lost out in the new state budget. "The Museum of Tolerance seems to withstand a lot of the pressure on the budget," said Rabbi Meyer May, the museum’s executive director.

The museum will continue to receive its annual $2 million allocation for police officer diversity training, as well as funding for teacher training and major exhibits. May said the museum’s programs are "not in danger at all." However, he expressed concern for alternative education and arts programs like youTHink that are endangered by the lack of state funds.

For now, most Jewish service agencies, like other social service agencies across the state, will find themselves somewhere in the middle, with funding reduced, but not so sharply that programs will be cut. Jewish Family Services (JFS), which contracts with Los Angeles to provide a number of programs to clients in the city, is one such organization.

According to Paul Castro, JFS executive director, "There are not cuts so significant that they will impair our bottom-line ability to serve clients." Though JFS will receive less money from the state for service programs such as Linkages, which helps elderly and disabled adults live independently, Castro said that, "ultimately, we can live with it."

The Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) does not receive a large sum from the state, but it does rely on state vocational rehabilitation counselors to refer some of its most needy clients. The state counselors will have less money to spend on serving clients, so JVS said it expects to serve fewer people. "When funds are reduced, clients just sit on a waiting list; the ones on the waiting list are the most employable, the ones with the least severe disabilities," explained Vivian Seigel, JVS CEO.

Jewish organizations said the budget funding could have been worse, but they fear that it might still deteriorate further. This year, lobbying efforts made the Jewish community’s priorities known. In May, more than 200 Jewish activists gathered in Sacramento for the annual lobbying mission of the Jewish Public Affairs Committee (JPAC), a coalition of Jewish community organizations.

Led by JPAC chair Barbara Yaroslavsky, the lobbying mission focused on four legislative priorities. One , the Linkages program, will face some reduction in funding.

A second program on the JPAC list, the Naturalization Services Program that assists legal immigrants in obtaining U.S. citizenship, retained nearly all of its $8 million allocation.

Two legislative actions sought by the lobbying group passed. The Hate Crimes Victims Justice Act, which limits lengthy continuances in cases involving hate crimes, stalking or career criminals, passed in the Assembly and Senate unanimously. A resolution expressing solidarity with Israel also passed unanimously the day after JPAC’s lobbying mission.

State money for Jewish agencies does not go to programs specifically serving Jews. Jewish service agencies contract with local governments to serve Jews and non-Jews in need. When they lose funding, the Jewish community loses what Yaroslavsky calls "a wonderful vehicle for developing relationships with other communities."

Jewish service agencies fear that people in need will lose services like medical and mental health care, educational opportunities and job training. "You either raise taxes or cut services. There’s no magic potion," said Scott Svonkin, who watches the state budget as B’nai B’rith’s public policy chairman and as chief of staff to Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-W. Hollywood). "While this year was very difficult," he said, "we still face challenges next year. Fortunately for the Jewish community, we have a friend in the governor’s mansion."

Friends in the Legislature and in the governor’s mansion will be important because, as Svonkin said, "Basically, the same choices will be on the table next year."

Jewish Groups Help Sept. 11 Victims

The stench in New York after Sept. 11 reminded Julia Millman of Europe.

"I have seen it. I know what it’s all about," said the 76-year-old survivor of Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen.

In addition to losing her 40-year-old son, Ben, in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center — he was a construction worker on the 101st floor of Tower One — Millman said the death and devastation revived gut-wrenching memories of her family’s murder in the Holocaust. As a young girl, Millman was forced to tie a rope around her dead mother’s neck and drag her gassed body to a pile of other victims. Now those old feelings of motherlessness and abandonment have returned.

"If it wasn’t for my social worker that tried to console me, that tried to help me in my sorrow, I don’t know if I would be here today," Millman said.

Millman is one of thousands who have received assistance from Jewish social service agencies for traumas associated with Sept. 11. For the most part, they praise the aid they received.

The Jewish community launched a massive, coordinated effort to help both Jewish and non-Jewish victims of the attacks. The UJA-Federation of New York raised funds in New York, where two of the planes hit, and the United Jewish Communities (UJC), the umbrella group of North American federations, raised funds throughout North America.

In areas affected by the attack, Jewish federations and their affiliated social service agencies also received government grants or private funding from foundations and/or individual donors. The funds have been used to provide support groups for victims and those re-traumatized by the incident, including Holocaust survivors or new immigrants. The funds also were used to provide cash assistance and job counseling and to help victims navigate the bureaucracy to obtain financial aid from government and private agencies.

The UJA-Federation of New York, one of 13 major charities comprising the 9/11 United Services Group, a resource for victims in New York City, has been at the center of the Jewish communal response. As of mid-August, the federation had raised $7.6 million in special funding for its agencies to expand services for Sept. 11 victims.

Of that sum, $2.1 million came from the UJC, which plans to add another $166,000 in the coming weeks, and $3.5 million came from The New York Times 9/11 Neediest Fund. The UJA-Federation raised the other $2 million.

On a smaller scale, the American Jewish World Service, an international development organization, distributed more than $650,000 to community-based organizations providing assistance to undocumented and low-income workers unable to obtain relief from mainstream sources. The organizations that received assistance included the Arab-American Family Support Center, Chinese Staff and Workers Association and American Pan-African Relief Agencies.

For its part, the UJC has raised $5.28 million, dispersing $3.9 million of it for immediate needs. It plans to disperse the rest by the end of the year for long-term services, such as tuition assistance and additional trauma counseling.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington — in the city where the third plane hit the Pentagon — received $100,500 from the UJC. The UJC also allocated funds to hard-hit New Jersey commuter areas like Monmouth County, which received $210,600, and Bergen County, which received $133,121.

Barry Swartz, vice president of UJC consulting, said the federation system did a "remarkable" job of quickly coordinating a response to the crisis. "We told federations right away, if families need money, they’re to disburse the funds, and we would reimburse" them, he said.

Several direct service providers said they were pleased with the response from the organized Jewish community. There wasn’t "one second that we felt that we were out there alone," said Jeff Lampl, executive director of Jewish Family Services of Bergen County. That was mainly due to the federation system and the local federation, "which immediately supplied us with a small amount of money to get going," he said.

The agency’s client pool "doubled almost overnight" after Sept. 11, Lampl said. "Almost to this day, taking care of these families has become the central concern of this agency," he added.

Many of those who received services praised the response. Robin Wiener, who lost her brother, Jeff, 33, in the attack on the World Trade Center, said the sibling support group she attended — sponsored by the Jewish Social Service Agency of Greater Washington, the primary Jewish organization responding to local victims there — was "amazing." The sibling support group, sponsored by the agency, was formed following a February gathering of friends and family members of Sept. 11 victims.

The "emotions you go through and the loss that you feel is a loss that is unique to the relationship you had," said Wiener, 38. "My brother and I were very close and very similar in many ways, and I just always assumed he’d be there."

Weiner’s brother, a senior financial executive, had been about to leave on a vacation in Spain with his wife and had been planning a family, she said. It "breaks my heart for him, what we lost together.

"I never realized how small our family was until now," she said. To know there are other people out there going through the exact same thing" is "kind of eerie, but it’s also extremely helpful."

Robert Alonso praised the Jewish Child Care Association, which helped his family. When the planes hit, Alonso’s wife, Janet, 41, managed to make a quick phone call from the 97th floor of Tower One to tell her husband that she loved him. The call was their last conversation. The sudden death of his wife, the family’s primary breadwinner, left Alonso and his two young children — one of whom has Down’s syndrome — reeling.

The Jewish Child Care Association has provided weekly meetings with a psychologist for Alonso’s children Robbie, 2, and Victoria, 3. It also has helped him obtain the maximum government funds for his family.

Gregory Hoffman, 37, said he "would not have survived" without the Twinless Twins of Sept. 11 program, which he and his wife, Aileen, created. Since his identical twin, Stephen, a bond broker at Cantor Fitzgerald, was killed in the World Trade Center, Hoffman says he feels like Tower One before it fell — still standing but "out of balance," separated from its twin and with a gaping hole inside it.

To date, the Hoffmans have identified and contacted 38 twins who lost siblings in the attack. Six of them participate in the weekly support group meetings led by a twinless twin, and 22 have participated in social outings. Many of the participants have become close friends.

For Marjorie Judge, caseworker Joan Kincaid, director of the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged’s Pets Project, has been "exceptional." Judge, 82, who lived four blocks from the World Trade Center, was evacuated from the building and prevented from taking her cat. Police later rounded up the pets in many buildings, but not in Judge’s.

One week later, aided by police and Judge’s building superintendent, Kincaid entered the evacuated building — dark from failed electricity and reeking of rotten food — and climbed eight floors to rescue Sheba, who was waiting, parched, at the door. All that for a cat Kincaid "hardly knew," Judge said.

While many victims praised the Jewish communal response, some had complaints. Several family members of victims in Washington said there was no outreach from the organized Jewish community, except for their synagogues, according to the Washington Jewish Week. The federation defended its work, saying it was the first agency in Washington to hold a memorial service for victims, and that the Jewish Chaplaincy immediately called the families of Jewish victims to offer help.

The federation has dispersed the nearly $500,000 dollars it raised in its Sept. 11 fund to Jewish and non-Jewish agencies, according to a federation official. UJC funds were earmarked for Jewish needs, the official said, adding, "We really did everything we could."

Wiener, of the sibling support group, saw it differently. There was "plenty of comfort, but not a lot of information," she said.

And while Millman raved about her nurse, Rebecca Bigio, she also complained that "she’s not enough." Bigio said she and a social worker visit Millman at least twice a month and call frequently. But Millman, an ailing widow, said she needs more attention so that she won’t "feel so alone and so lost."

Louise Greilsheimer, vice president of agency and external relations of the UJA-Federation of New York, who coordinated its response to Sept. 11, said complaints are inevitable. "You are always, with this quantity of people, going to find issues," she said. But, she added, "I haven’t heard one horror story in the Jewish community."

"I truly believe the agencies came together and put together not only a coordinated approach," but one that was thoughtful, caring and ongoing, Greilsheimer said. "We’re staying here to follow up and to be able to work with communities that need the support."

To Catch a Terrorist

When Uri Tauber went to a party as a young man, before checking out the availability of girls or drinks, he would first compute in his mind how much dynamite it would take to blow up the place.

This unusual preoccupation stood Tauber in good stead while serving with an elite Israeli commando unit, after joining his country’s intelligence service, and now as a private anti-terrorism expert and consultant.

"To catch a terrorist, you have to think like a terrorist," he pointed out during an interview at the Canoga Park offices of The Chameleon Group, a full-service security organization founded and staffed by Israelis.

Tauber was in town to participate in the one-day Security Forum 2002, co-sponsored by Chameleon and the Israeli Economic Mission in Los Angeles.

The forum drew 170 officials, representing the FBI, sheriff, police and other law enforcement agencies, aerospace companies, port authorities, private security companies, and such diverse organizations as Amtrak, UCLA and the John Paul Getty Trust.

"There are some things Americans can learn from Israelis, not because we’re more intelligent but because, unfortunately, we have had more experience," said Tauber, a heavyset man of 51 wearing a turtleneck sweater and horn-rimmed glasses.

Through such bloody experience, Israelis have developed cutting-edge technology in the battle against terrorism.

An example, Tauber said, is a sophisticated computer and surveillance system to protect shopping malls and sports stadiums. The system integrates aerial photography, constant monitoring on the ground and simulation of worst-case scenarios with training and testing of security personnel.

The system is still evolving, but has been implemented at the Knesset in Jerusalem and other sites in Israel.

Just as important is to raise every citizen’s awareness level to terrorist threats, said Muky Cohen, Chameleon’s CEO, who helped found the 10-year-old company that now has operatives and training projects in Europe, Asia and Latin America.

"There are limits to what the police can do, so every trained eye is needed," said Cohen. "Citizens must know what to look for, as well as the risks they might encounter."

Complementing personal awareness is the need to enhance physical protection. "Every new Israeli apartment house must have a bomb shelter and an airtight room," Cohen said.

As problem solvers, Americans and Israelis bring different virtues to the battle against terrorism.

"Americans are better at organizing, and we are better at improvising," Tauber said.

When confronted with a problem, Israelis will say, "Let’s somehow fix it immediately," he noted. Americans tend to move more deliberately, looking first at the budget, then at likely liability and marketing possibilities, and only then fixing the problem.

Since Sept. 11, U.S. government agencies are learning to move faster, but most private firms are still lagging behind, Tauber said.

The first step in gauging the vulnerability of any potential target, from a private business to a government installation, is a threat analysis. "Where other people might see a fence, our job is to look for the holes in the fence," he said.

Valley Community Resources

According to The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance, 43 percent of the total estimated Jewish population of the greater Los Angeles area live in the San Fernando, Conejo, Simi, Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys.

The following is a partial list of Jewish organizations, schools and synagogues in Valley cities with already developed, and growing, Jewish communities. For more information on Jewish activity in a particular city, call The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance or a local synagogue.

(Please note that some of the synagogues listed may also offer Jewish schooling.)



Conejo Valley JCC
5004 Lewis Road
(818) 865-6663


27400 West Canwood St.
(818) 368-5781


Chabad of Conejo (O)
30345 Canwood St.
(818) 991-0991

Chabad of Oak Park (O)
28708 Timberlane St.
(818) 991-0991

Congregation Or Ami (RI)
28025 Dorothy Dr., No. 105
(818) 880-6818

Temple Beth Haverim (C)
5142 Clareton Dr., No. 160
(818) 991-7111



North Valley JCC
16601 Rinaldi St.
(818) 360-2211


Temple Beth Torah (R)
16651 Rinaldi Street
(818) 831-0835



Hadassah – Western Region
17609 Ventura Blvd., No. 302
(818) 788-1604


Chabad of Encino (O)
4915 Hayvenhurst Ave.
(818) 784-9986

Temple Ner Maarav (C)
17730 Magnolia Blvd.
(818) 345-7833

Valley Beth Shalom (C)
15739 Ventura Blvd.
(818) 788-6000



Emek Hebrew Academy
12732 Chandler Blvd.
(818) 980-0155

Valley Torah High School (Boys)
12003 Riverside Dr.
(818) 984-1805

Valley Torah High School (Girls)
12326 Riverside Dr.
(818) 762-6611


Adat Ari El (C)
12020 Burbank Blvd.
(818) 766-9426

Adat Yeshurun (O)
12405 Sylvan St.
(818) 766-4682

Bais Medresh Ohr Simcha (O)
12430 Oxnard St.
(818) 760-2189

Chabad of North Hollywood (O)
13079 Chandler Blvd.
(818) 989-9539

Em Habanim Sephardic Cong. (O)
5850 Laurel Canyon Blvd.
(818) 762-7779

Shaarey Hahayim Congregation (S)
12500 Emelita St.

Shaarey Zedek (O)
12800 Chandler Blvd.
(818) 763-0560

Valley Mishkan Israel Cong. (O)
6254 Beeman Ave.
(818) 769-8043

Yad Avraham (O)
12428 Burbank Blvd.
(818) 766-6736



Hillel at Cal State Northridge
17729 Plummer St.
(818) 886-5101


Abraham Heschel Day School
17701 Devonshire St.
(818) 368-5781


Chabad of Northridge (O)
17142 Devonshire St.
(818) 368-3937

Temple Ahavat Shalom (R)
18200 Rinaldi Place
(818) 360-2258

Temple Ramat Zion (C)
17655 Devonshire St.
(818) 360-1881

Young Israel of Northridge (O)
17511 Devonshire St.
(818) 368-2221



Eretz Cultural Center (I)
6170 Wilbur Avenue
(818) 342-9303



Southern California Council for Soviet Jews
P.O. Box 1542
(818) 769-8862


Beth Midrash Mishkan Israel (S)
13312 Burbank Blvd.
(818) 901-1598

Chabad of Sherman Oaks (O)
14960 Ventura Blvd.
(818) 789-0850

Congregation Beth Meier (CI)
11725 Moorpark St.
(818) 769-0515

Congregation Beth Ohr (In)
12355 Moorpark St.
(818) 773-3663

Temple B?nai Hayim (C)
4302 Van Nuys Blvd.
(818) 788-4664



Chabad of Tarzana (O)
18181 Burbank Blvd.
(818) 758-1818

Havurat Olam (Re)
14209 Chandler Blvd.
(818) 345-2983

Sephardic Cohen Synagogue (O)
18547 Ventura Blvd.
(818) 705-4557

Temple Beth Solomon of the Deaf (R)
5429 Lindley Ave.
(818) 363-5580

Temple Judea (R)
5429 Lindley Ave.
(818) 758-3800



Conejo Valley Counseling Office
100 East Thousand Oaks Blvd., No. 110
(805) 379-2273


Temple Adat Elohim (R)
2420 East Hillcrest Drive
(805) 497-7101

Temple Etz Chaim (C)
1080 East Janss Road
(805) 497-6891


Beis Midrash Toras Hashem (O)
12422 Chandler Blvd.
(818) 980-6934

Ohr HaTorah (R)
12410 Burbank Blvd., No. 103
(818) 769-8223

Temple Beth Hillel (R)
12326 Riverside Dr.
(818) 763-9148



Jewish Communal Retirees Association of Los Angeles
13834 Califa St.
(818) 786-3687

Valley Cities JCC
13164 Burbank Blvd.
(818) 786-6310



Chaverim – Jewish Programs for the Disabled
22622 Vanowen St.
(818) 884-1092

Habonim Dror Youth Organization
22622 Vanowen St.
(818) 464-3224

JCC Teen Services/Maccabi Games
22622 Vanowen St.
(818) 464-3277

The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance
Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus
22622 Vanowen St.
(818) 587-3200

San Fernando Valley Counseling Center
22622 Vanowen St.
(818) 464-3333

West Valley JCC
22622 Vanowen St.
(818) 587-3300


Shomrei Torah Synagogue (C)
7353 Valley Circle Blvd.
(818) 346-0811

Temple Solael (R)
6601 Valley Circle Blvd.
(818) 348-3885

Valley Outreach Synagogue (RI)
P.O. Box 4717
(818) 348-4867



Beit Hamidrash of Woodland Hills (O)
5850 Fallbrook Ave.
(818) 712-0365

Kol Tikvah (R)
20400 Ventura Blvd.
(818) 348-0670

Makom Ohr Shalom (JR)
P.O. Box 1066
(310) 479-0559

Temple Aliyah (C)
6025 Valley Circle Blvd.
(818) 346-3545