News reports revive AJU environmental debate


Nuclear expert Dan Hirsch made a promise in 1979 that would drag him into a three-decade fight he didn’t ask for, a fight that has since drawn in Boeing, an alphabet soup of regulators and, most recently, American Jewish University (AJU).

Hirsch’s students at UCLA had dug up some files detailing a partial nuclear meltdown in the Simi Hills in 1959 at a site bordering the 3,000-acre Jewish retreat known as the Brandeis-Bardin Campus. Hirsch immediately took the files to KNBC. 

When the story ran in 1979, a Thousand Oaks woman called Hirsch asking him to help, saying she believed the accident had caused her child’s leukemia. He promised he would.

“One tries to live up to promises,” Hirsch told the Jewish Journal in an interview. “But who ever could have conceived that it would have been a third of a century?”

Hirsch unwittingly lobbed an environmental hot potato that has been passed around ever since. In recent weeks, a new, yearlong investigation by KNBC4 has brought to the surface some once-confidential details, raising new hackles and painting AJU into an uncomfortable corner. (Four segments have aired thus far, all of which remain available on the station’s website, nbclosangeles.com.)

In response to the investigation, AJU announced to community members on Nov. 18 a new round of environmental tests it hopes will “reconfirm the safety of the property.”

AJU merged with the Brandeis-Bardin Campus northwest of Los Angeles in 2007, and with it inherited the site’s environmental baggage: The campus is adjacent to the Santa Susana Field Lab, an out-of-commission nuclear and rocket-testing site now owned by Boeing. On the north flank, closest to the Brandeis-Bardin Campus, is a tract called “Area IV,” where an experimental sodium reactor partially melted down in 1959.

That environmental disaster was just the beginning of the site’s woes.

Every time KNBC airs a segment, the reporter, Joel Grover, reveals disquieting details that raise alarm among the scores of Jewish Angelenos who have spent time at the retreat, which includes Camp Alonim. The report has included descriptions of the Santa Susana Field Lab’s nuclear burn pits, poisoned groundwater and radioactive gas released into the breeze.

The latest KNBC segment, which ran Nov. 19, revealed that the institute’s founder, Shlomo Bardin, called the sheriff in 1957 about sludge from the field lab that had ended up in a stream that bisects the educational campus. 

AJU has responded to the recent reports by saying the NBC4 I-Team is spinning tall tales, “relying on innuendo, partial information and speculation rather than evidence and facts.”

In a Nov. 21 statement to the Jewish Journal, AJU wrote, “Testing has consistently found the property to be safe — and nothing presented in recent news reports leads to a contrary conclusion.” (For the full text, click here.)

NBC4’s Joel Grover points to the site of the Santa Susana Field Lab from Sage Ranch Park in Simi Valley.

The statement adds that AJU is committed to transparency, and that “our entire staff takes our stewardship responsibilities very seriously.”

Previously, the TV station’s report charged the university with withholding information from its stakeholders — one segment in the KNBC series was titled “Camp Cover-Up.”

Now, documents uncovered by reporters Grover and Matthew Glasser are pushing AJU to reckon quite publicly with the land’s past, most prominently, its settlement agreement in a 1996 lawsuit BBI filed in federal court against Boeing. The results of that settlement remained confidential until KNBC obtained a copy.

In a related complaint uncovered by KNBC, BBI’s lawyers wrote that hazardous material produced at the field lab had “seeped into, and come to be located in the soil and groundwater of the real property.”

The settlement agreement BBI signed shortly after filing the lawsuit, published by KNBC, includes a sweepingly restrictive release of liability that curtails AJU’s current legal options. 

Jennifer Shaw, who witnessed the Santa Susana rocket tests from the balcony of her Simi Valley home in the 1980s, said that she tried to access the case files, but was told by the court they were sealed.

“Whoever Joel Grover got his stuff from has broken open a whole new area for this story,” she said.

For the parents and grandparents whose children are alumni of the camp or retreats on the property, the deluge of new documents is confusing at best, and, for some, a cause for concern.

KNBC reported that the Jewish youth program Diller Teen Fellows has cancelled a planned retreat at BBI following the reports. A representative of the program declined to comment.

When the first segment of the story aired in September, stakeholders at Milken Community Schools wondered if they should relocate retreats that traditionally have taken place at BBI. The school recently announced it ultimately decided to stick with the site, and a Dec. 4-5 Shabbaton is slated to take place there. 

The question was never about whether the site is safe, Milken Head of School Gary Weisserman said. He takes AJU at its word. But administrators admitted some parents might react negatively.

“We undoubtedly will have a couple of families who will decide not to send their child [to the Shabbaton], but that’s a choice that they’re making,” Weisserman said.

Parents can find some scientific justification on either side.

Hal Morgenstern, a University of Michigan epidemiologist who has studied cancer rates in the area around the field lab site, said his conclusions have been used by both sides: those seeking to prove the field lab was harmless, and those who doubt it.

The elevated cancer rates he found are provocative but circumstantial, he said.

Those who claim the land is safe read scientific studies on the topic as inconclusive, at worst. 

“All the evidence says, ‘Hey, you can relax about this,’ ” said Abraham Weitzberg, a nuclear engineer and former Santa Susana Field Lab official.

Weitzberg heads an organization called the Santa Susana Field Lab Community Advisory Group that generally vouches for the site’s safety. He also has papered the local press, including the Jewish Journal, with letters to that effect.

The debate has also rekindled the passions and rancor of both sides.

Weitzberg also maintains that Hirsch, the nuclear activist, is a puppeteer who has run a three-decade environmental witch-hunt. Hirsch, for his part, says Weitzberg is a Boeing mouthpiece, a claim Weitzberg finds ridiculous. 

Meanwhile, KNBC's Grover said on air that they will “stay with this story a long time.”

NBC investigation reopens contamination question at SoCal Jewish camp


For years, Victoria Tashman didn’t think much of the sonic booms coming from the Santa Susana Field Lab, just uphill from a storied Jewish retreat and campus not far from her Woodland Hills home.

“It was just part of growing up,” she said.

But in 2004, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, her father mentioned it might be related to the site in Simi Valley. And when she caught wind of a yearlong KNBC investigation into the potential contamination, which aired this week, she forwarded it to her whole family.

Now, she’s wondering if her mother’s and mother-in-law’s cancers were also related to the site.

[ESHMAN: Brandeis Bardin needs to be transparent about contamination]

The three-part investigation unearthed a trove of documents indicating that Brandeis-Bardin Institute (BBI), which includes Camp Alonim, was scarred by nuclear and other contamination from the neighboring facility, now owned by Boeing.

“People were exposed; there’s no doubt about that,” Yoram Cohen, a UCLA researcher who studied the site, said during the Nov. 9 broadcast.

The investigation found that rocket tests and “burn pits” for nuclear waste, among other potential contaminants, may have resulted in toxic exposure for the camp. American Jewish University (AJU), which since 2007 has owned and operated the campus, has denied to both KNBC and the Jewish Journal that the thousands of children who attended the camp have been in danger from contamination.

A Nov. 10 email message from AJU president Robert Wexler sent to families affiliated with the campus called the KNBC story “deeply flawed and entirely misleading.”

But an internal report initiated by Brandeis in 1997, obtained by KNBC, indicated that the “property is contaminated, at both the surface and subsurface, with radiological and chemical contaminants.”

“I was reassured over and over the land was safe and that there was no need for me to see any of the materials,” Rabbi Lee Bycel, who directed the Institute from 2000 to 2003, told the Journal. Bycel said in the KNBC report that he would not have taken the job at BBI if he had known the extent of the contamination.

Located just south of the 118 Freeway, the Brandeis-Bardin Campus encompasses nearly 3,000 acres of mess halls, bunks, prayer centers and recreation facilities, including horse stables, a swimming pool and tennis courts. Its website states that it is the “largest parcel of land owned by a Jewish institution outside the State of Israel.”

The site’s perils came to the fore in 1959 when a nuclear reactor experienced a partial meltdown. Workers told the network they were instructed to open the exhaust stacks, allowing radioactive gas to waft toward surrounding areas.

For years afterward, Rocketdyne, the company that operated the site at the time, conducted rocket tests that emitted known contaminants.

In 1997, Brandeis reached a confidential $3.2 million settlement with Boeing, obtained by KNBC, with the aerospace company agreeing to buy a portion of the adjacent land in exchange for Brandeis waiving its right to all future lawsuits over the contamination. AJU did not confirm whether the details of the settlement, as reported by KNBC, are accurate.  

The Jewish Journal attempted an investigation into the contamination three years ago, but according to Journal editor-in-chief  and publisher Rob Eshman, was unable to find enough evidence to produce a satisfactory story (see Eshman’s column, p. 6).  

“We simply lacked the resources and expertise to pursue the story,” Eshman said. “KNBC fielded a team of Emmy-winning reporters and scientific consultants over a period of one year, and Joel Grover and his team are to be commended.” 

AJU continues to assert that the facility is safe and that it has done regular testing of the property.  

Throughout the Journal’s 2012 investigation, AJU refused to release results of tests it said prove that fact. After repeated requests by KNBC, AJU released a number of test results, but not all. 

Both AJU and KNBC are posting numerous documents related to the Brandeis-Bardin property on their websites.

“Based on an exhaustive records review and the conclusion of scientific experts, we found no cause for concern about the health and safety of the campers, staff or other visitors — past or present,” the AJU wrote in a Nov. 5 letter to KNBC. “Current testing confirms the safety of our property.”

But some members of the Brandeis-Bardin community aren’t so sure.

“Everyone is just guessing at this point,” said Robert Cohen, who spent several summers on the campus in the late 1960s and sent his three sons to Camp Alonim. “The only way to know for sure is to do an epidemiological study of the health of all the campers.”

At the age of 21, Cohen’s son Daniel was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Robert Cohen believes the cancer was a result of his son’s romps around the Alonim campus, where the boys’ bunks are just downhill from the field lab.

“Whenever there were heavy rains, the creek became a river, and mud from the hillside would be washed down,” the elder Cohen told the Jewish Journal. “I’m not a scientist, but that always bothered me.”

Bycel, BBI’s former director, stressed that he has the campus’ best interests at heart when he asks for a full accounting of the contamination.

“That’s what Brandeis taught us to do; that’s being loyal to the Jewish community,” he said. “You only question when you care.”

——-

For the Record (11/10/2015): Victoria Tashman's childhood home was corrected to reflect that she lived in Woodland Hills, not Simi Valley.  And her mother-in-law had cancer, not her brother-in-law.

UJ’s Gady Levy excited and eager about Brandeis-Bardin programs


Gady Levy, vice president in charge of the Department of Continuing Education at the University of Judaism (UJ), likes to talk about how “all over the place” he is. It is true that as he talks about the new opportunities offered up by the merger between UJ and the Brandeis-Bardin Institute (BBI), he verbally skitters between programs and philosophies and a zillion new ideas he has. But it is also true that all of his scattered energy focuses in on one goal: enriching people’s lives through Judaism.

That goal seems to be in consonance with BBI’s goal to “touch and to teach,” and most of BBI’s programs will now fall under Levy’s Department of Continuing Education at the newly named American Jewish University.

Take the program he’s already starting for screenwriters. The Bruce Geller Screenwriting Competition, which appears in the just mailed UJ Spring catalogue, offers a $25,000 prize for a screenplay with some sort of Jewish element — a Jewish character, say, or a Jewish storyline.

Why is Levy doing this? First, it will propagate Jewish content. Screenwriters will think about infusing their scripts with something Jewish and just that act of Jewish consciousness may, in a best-case scenario, end up reaching millions, and in all other cases might light a small Jewish spark in the mind of the aspiring artist.

Second, he hopes it will attract the notice of a hip, young cadre who have never heard of the UJ (much less the American Jewish University). With submissions being solicited through stylish ads in Daily Variety and the Hollywood Reporter, Levy hopes to develop a mailing list and then a cohesive group of screenwriters, who then might be inspired to come to another class or attend an art opening or play at the university.

Why does Levy care so much about exposing more people to Judaism?

Because Judaism changed his life.

Levy, 38 and single, was a secular teenager from Israel when he arrived in San Diego in the 11th grade.

“I loved Yom Kippur in Israel, because it meant you could ride your bike in the street,” he says of his religiosity.

He was miserable that first year in San Diego, and his mother urged him to attend Camp Ramah. The camp director almost blew it by reminding Levy in a pre-camp interview not to forget his talit and tefilin for daily prayers. Levy had been to synagogue once — for his own bar mitzvah.

He went to camp and ended up returning to Ramah for 10 more summers as a camper and staff member.

“Here I was at this cold public high school, and I wanted to be connected. I never realized I had a need until my need was fulfilled,” he says.

Levy is still not religious and rarely attends synagogue. But he loves the Jewish people, Jewish culture, Jewish history — anything Jewish.

Levy went to college at the UJ and at CSUN, then held a few jobs as a youth director. He earned a master’s in education from CSUN, a masters in Jewish education from UJ, and a doctorate in education from Pepperdine University.

He was principal of the Hebrew school at Adat Ari El, a Conservative synagogue in Valley Village, for seven years before Robert Wexler, impressed with Levy as a UJ student, hired him as director of the Department of Continuing Education six years ago.

With splashy but sophisticated advertising and innovative offerings, Levy has transformed the department into a revenue-producing, profile-raising entity that sees 10,000 to 12,000 people a year at its various programs, which cover everything from a two-year master class in Judaism to Shabbat dinner with James Carville to stone carving and sculpting.

He brought back the long dormant politics-focused Public Lecture series and stunned himself and everyone else by selling out the Universal Amphitheater with Bill Clinton as a keynote in 2001. Twenty-three lectures later, he is still selling 5,000 tickets per event.

UJ recently received an $32 million donation from the Whizin Family Foundation — enough to rename the department the Whizin Center for Continuing Education. Levy plans to use the grant to seed one new program every two years, which gives him the possibility to think big.

His inagural program will be Los Angeles’ first major Jewish Book Festival, co-sponsored by The Jewish Journal, at UJ’s Bel Air campus this November, and he’s thinking about what might happen if he moved that to the BBI campus the following year.

He is spinning with many new ideas for the Simi Valley campus.

Now, he can complement UJ’s Introduction to Judaism class with Brandeis’ intermarried weekend. The college-level program of BCI is natural for the university’s student population, and, he suggests, how about a retreat on women in leadership? — maybe in partnership with Hadassah or National Council for Jewish Women? — with someone like Madeleine Albright (who already has participated in the Public Lectures) as a scholar in residence?

As someone inspired by having gone to camp, he is eager to integrate the camp experience into what is already going on.

“When this whole [merger] conversation started, I realized that I should have gone to BCI when I was younger,” Levy says. “I am truly excited about this.”

— JGF

BBI’s Linda Gross sees big upside in merger with UJ


When Linda Volpert Gross took on chairing the board at Brandeis-Bardin Institute (BBI), it seemed that she would have a simple tenure. The institute had just hired Rabbi Isaac Jeret as president, someone they hoped could lead BBI into a bright new future.

But ten months into his tenure, Jeret left, and the institute found itself — after multiple changes at the helm — once again searching for vision and direction.

In the end, Gross says, she believes it was the leadership vacuum that allowed Brandeis to merge with the University of Judaism and create the American Jewish University, with the BBI campus in Simi Valley and the Familian campus at the top of Mulholland.

It is a decision she is confident will guarantee the longevity of Brandeis’ core mission and values.

Gross, 43, grew up in the San Fernando Valley. Her family attended synagogue at Valley Beth Shalom (where she’s still a member), she spent afternoons at Los Angeles Hebrew High School and summers at Camp Ramah. She admits that it was probably the fact that she was a latecomer to BBI — that it wasn’t her emotional home — that allowed her to have the distance necessary to oversee the relinquishing of its independence.

She is a keen business person. Gross earned an MBA from Harvard and worked at the McKinsey and Company management consulting firm before she became marketing director at Citysearch.com. After she had kids, she started working part time, and in 1997 became a full-time mom. Her husband, Larry Gross, was president of Knowledge Adventure software, and he recently started an alternative fuel and ethanol firm. They live with their three children — ages 9, 12 and 14 — in the verdant hills of Encino in a spacious and warm home.

The daughter of community activists Dick and Marcia Volpert, Linda had never been on a board before when, in the mid 1990s, a friend asked her to consider getting involved in Brandeis. After one visit to the campus, she was in.

As chairman, Gross has shrunk the board from 72 to 25 people, creating a separate board of trustees for longtime supporters. She launched a strategic assessment that set the foundation for the merger and led to other improvements in the programming.

Veteran Brandeis supporter Dick Gunther says Gross’ navigation of the merger process has been courageous, honest and thorough, blending her business sense with the needs of a nonprofit. Even the small handful of board members who were ambivalent about the merger agree that Gross has been an able leader.

Gross will be on the executive committee of the board of the American Jewish University, and while she is eager to get back to her family life and away from sleepless nights and hours on the phone spent bringing the merger to fruition, she is also ready to stick to her commitment and set an example for her family.

“My children learned that when you say yes you hang in there until it’s done, and you do the best you can and sometimes it’s not easy,” she said. “I don’t think it’s a bad lesson for my children to learn. They are being raised in a loving, wonderful home in the lap of luxury with everything good in the world, and if this is a little tough on them, in the big picture that’s okay.”

Then she adds with a shrug and smile, “In the small picture, it means I have a meeting this afternoon to talk about communications, and I am missing my son’s basketball playoffs.”

— JGF

BBI and UJ join up to forge a home for pluralistic Judaism in landmark merger


The University of Judaism (UJ) and Brandeis-Bardin Institute (BBI), two Southern California institutions that for the last 60 years have educated and inspired Jews of all ages and affiliations — and that have both at times struggled through financial and leadership troubles — this week will announce that they have merged into one entity, to be known as the American Jewish University.

With two campuses, a roster of about 15,000 students and a remarkable range of educational, experiential, cultural and political offerings, the American Jewish University instantly becomes one of the largest and most unique Jewish educational institutions in the country.

The merger allows Brandeis to expand an educational mission that for years has been stagnating under the weight of financial insecurity and struggling lay leadership. It also allows the UJ to reintroduce itself to a local community that can’t seem to shake the image of UJ as a lower-tier university affiliated with the Conservative movement. As American Jewish University, it hopes to emphasize its pluralistic identity and the non-academic educational and cultural offerings that in fact form a much larger part of the institution than the graduate and undergraduate schools.

In its new configuration, these two Jewish academies hope not only to boost their California image, but to raise a national profile with an organization that now includes graduate and undergraduate schools, a rabbinic school, two overnight camps, kosher conference and retreat facilities, an extensive listing of adult courses, a commitment to the arts, Israel programming — and 2,800 acres in the Santa Susana mountains that include a working farm with goats, horses, chickens, cows and some crops.

“This is an important move in the direction of centralizing resources and talent in the Jewish community,” said David Myers, director of the Center for Jewish Studies at UCLA. “If we assume that Jewish literacy is an important ingredient in Jewish survival and continuity — and we educators believe it is — this could be a significant development in reinvigorating the cultural landscape of L.A. Jewry.”

The boards of both the UJ and BBI quietly approved the merger last week and are expected to have signed the closing contract this week, which according to California law will take effect 20 days after closing.

Under the new structure the two organizations will combine all assets and liabilities into the new American Jewish University, which will include the Familian Campus in Bel Air and the 2,800-acre BBI Campus in Simi Valley. They will have a combined operating budget of $25 million, $80 million in endowment, and land assets estimated to be in the high tens of millions of dollars. BBI has long been touted as the largest Jewish-owned property outside Israel.

The two boards will merge, with UJ chairperson and businessman Peter Lowy as president and Linda Gross, BBI’s chairperson, on the executive committee. UJ President Robert Wexler will continue as president, and most BBI programs will fall under the Department of Continuing Education currently run by the UJ and headed by Gady Levy. Gary Brennglass, executive director of BBI, will oversee operations and facilities, possibly at both campuses. Initially, all staff members will be retained and blended.

BBI’s two flagship programs — Camp Alonim, with about 1,200 kids and staffers in the summer, and BCI, a four-week institute for college-aged adults — will retain their own advisory boards within the board of the American Jewish University.

The UJ has operated in the black for the last several years, and UJ Chairperson Lowy, the CEO of mall giant The Westfield Group, says BBI’s financial troubles are moderate, and neither a deterrent nor a surprise — all financial, environmental, legal and other issues of both organizations have been fully disclosed. There is no major issue of deferred maintenance on the property, says Lowy, and American Jewish University is committed to investing capital in improving the BBI campus, starting with helping Camp Alonim wrap up a $6.5 million campaign to build a new dining hall, which already has raised about $4 million.

Brandeis’ Best Option

BBI, a camp and conference facility that both runs its own retreat programs and rents the facility out, approached UJ about the merger last June, not out of desperation or distress, leaders say, but out of a desire to liberate itself from constant struggle and to grow to the full potential its vision and assets imply.

“We could have continued doing what we were doing on our own, but we couldn’t do it big,” said Brandeis chairperson Linda Gross (see story page 16). “It would take a long time to build the infrastructure and the financial support to grow, and this offers us an opportunity to be so much more to this community.”

Some wonder whether the larger institution will simply swallow BBI, spelling the end of a patented approach to experiential Jewish education.

“Clearly this is a great coup for UJ,” said Gary Tobin, president of the San Francisco-based Institute for Jewish and Community Research. “In any corporate structure when you do something like this, one identity emerges more strongly than the other, and clearly the UJ is the stronger of those identities … I know what Brandeis would like to hear, but this sounds more like an acquisition than a merger to me.”

Gross, a Harvard MBA who worked at McKinsey and Company consulting, acknowledges that this is not a merger of equals, but she insists it is not an acquisition. She said she is confident that BBI’s vision and programs will reach greater numbers, and that more people will make their way to the BBI campus.

But she also acknowledges that this might be difficult for BBI’s multigenerational following of passionate and loyal supporters.

“There is a question of giving up our independence and giving up our identity, and there is an emotional loss that this is not going to be the Brandeis-Bardin Institute anymore. But it will always be the Brandeis-Bardin campus; it will always be that same place, that method, those programs. This is something people are going to have to get comfortable with,” she said. “I hope that people see this was a courageous thing.”

A merger at this level is unusual in the Jewish organizational world, where institutional egos and a tendency to over-process make cooperation rare. But this idea arrived at a time when both institutions were ready for change.

Brandeis Taps Bycel


Following a 14-month search, the board of the Brandeis-Bardin Institute (BBI) voted unanimously Feb. 9 to elect Rabbi Lee T. Bycel as BBI’s new chief executive officer.

Bycel brings to his position a wealth of experience in the Los Angeles Jewish community, including 10 years as the dean of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and several years as president of the L.A. County Commission on Human Relations. In addition to his rabbinical ordination, Bycel holds a doctorate in ministry from the Claremont School of Theology. In 1999 he was awarded the title of Humanitarian of the Year by the National Conference of Community and Justice. Bycel returns to Southern California after two years as senior rabbi of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple in Cleveland, Ohio.

From ‘Rubble to Renewal’


The centerpiece of BBI’s reconstruction, the Arts and Conference Center, will be celebrated Sept. 14.With song, dance and prayers of thanksgiving, the Brandeis-Bardin Institute will celebrate the reconstruction of its Simi Valley campus on Sunday, Sept. 14. The community is invited to participate in the free event.

The 1994 Northridge earthquake inflicted some $11 million in damage at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute (BBI), and there was a real possibility that the innovative educational and cultural center would have to close down.

Following an intensive, three-year fund-raising campaign, augmented by government aid, BBI has moved from “rubble to renewal” and from “dream to reality,” according to the invitation to the Sept. 14 event.

The centerpiece of BBI’s reconstruction is the grand Arts and Conference Center, which encompasses the Wapner family main house and salon, the Gunther family dining center, the Lax family administrative center, the Dr. William and Leah Molle library, and a memorabilia room. Other new facilities include a dance plaza, sleeping cottages, a storage building and a sewer system.

This year also marks BBI’s 50th anniversary at its present 3,100-acre rustic site. Best known for its Brandeis Collegiate Institute, which provides a month-long immersion into Jewish life for its 18- to 26-year-old participants, campus programs now range from kindergarten to Elderhostels.

Judge Joseph A. Wapner, the BBI president, will chair the day’s events and will be assisted by executive vice president Dr. Alvin Mars. Speakers will include Herbert Gelfand, president of the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, and Ventura County Supervisor Judy Mikels.

The occasion also will be marked by picnicking, Israeli dancing, swimming, ribbon cuttings, and tours of the facilities.

The general public is invited to the celebration, with gates opening at 9 a.m. The program starts promptly at 10 a.m. at the campus site, 1101 Peppertree Lane, Simi Valley. There is no admission fee, but advance reservations are requested by Sept. 8 to Kim Miller at (805) 582-4450. Visitors may bring their own picnic foods or order them in advance.

As its post-opening inaugural event, the Arts and Conference Center will host an exhibition on Oct. 19, in which 50 artists will display their original sukkah designs.