Israeli military razes West Bank shelters built by EU

Israel razed five buildings in the West Bank constructed without permits, including three built by the European Union.

Forces from the Civil Administration tore down the buildings Tuesday in a Bedouin village near Hebron. A day earlier, three others were razed near Jericho.

The buildings taken down Tuesday housed 27 Palestinians, including 16 minors, according to the B’Tselem human rights group.

Six prefabricated homes funded by the EU in the same village were razed in April.

Regavim congratulated the Civil Administration on the demolitions, which the Israeli legal advocacy organization said occurred just days after it filed a complaint against the buildings.

“In recent years, the European Union has unilaterally built over a thousand illegal structures across Area C in violation of international law,” Regavim asserted in a statement. Area C of the West Bank is under Israeli military control.

The European Union says that providing the houses and shelters is humanitarian assistance and should not need permits from the Israeli military.

Scraping the sky in upscale Tel Aviv

As Yigal Zemah, CEO of Berggruen Residential, stands on the seventh floor of the new Meier-on-Rothschild skyscraper set in the epicenter of Tel Aviv at 36 Rothschild Blvd., a wide smile crosses his face. The luxurious new building slated for completion in 2014 will be the tallest residential tower in the city and, Zemah says with pride, of the absolute highest building and luxury standards currently available inside and out. Although the project represents the tallest residential building in Tel Aviv, Zemah says the original guidelines in the business plan were simple: to build only the best.

“We wanted to do something different and in order to do that we wanted to build something of the highest quality possible with the most sought-after architects in the best location and with the nicest interiors,” he explains. As soon as internationally acclaimed architect Richard Meier agreed to design the building, potential buyers began to call.

As of late summer, 60 percent of the building has already been sold with a ratio of about half foreign and half Israeli buyers. Among the high-profile first investors are financier Nathaniel Rothschild; Eyal Waldman, co-founder and CEO of Mellanox; Lior Reitblatt, CEO of Super-Pharm; and advertising agency executives and partners Mickey Bar and Shoni Reuveni. Although foreign investors are attracted to the project for its unique design and luxurious living standards (a rarity in Tel Aviv until recent years), for many of the ultra-wealthy Israelis who will make this their primary residence, it will be seen in popular culture as the ultimate status symbol.

The grass-roots social justice movement within Israel that is currently fighting against this kind of development sees this luxury tower as one more foot in the grave for Tel Aviv’s middle class. Despite some speculation that the real-estate bubble will eventually burst here just as it has elsewhere in the world, so far it has grown only larger. Towers near the beach such as the Opera and Basel are selling for approximately $550 per square foot. New apartments with a view of the sea are going for as much as $1,455 per square foot and many speculators expect the prices to just keep rising. According to professor Elinoar Barzacchi, the former head of the school of architecture at Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv is rapidly becoming a place for the very rich and the very poor. Luxury towers exacerbate this problem because rather than providing more affordable housing to a market desperately in need, a smaller number of units is sold for top dollar. 

Zemah shrugs when asked about the Meier-on-Rothschild tower in relation to the current social controversy. 

“This isn’t happening just in Tel Aviv,” he explains. “This is a worldwide phenomena that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. We are just another small drop in the bucket.”

There is no doubt that this new residential tower will attract only the wealthiest buyers who can afford not only the steep purchase prices — the penthouse of the building on floors 38 and 39 is, at $45 million, the most expensive apartment ever on the Tel Aviv market — but also the exorbitant maintenance costs for the pool, spa, Jacuzzi, sauna, a 24-hour concierge, gardens, cleaning services and habitual repairs. 

According to Zemah, the building was designed with the most environmentally friendly technology available today in order to lower these monthly maintenance fees. Features include Israeli water-saving technology; pneumatic waste collection to maximize recycling; blinds and shading designed for the local climate to reduce air-conditioning use; windows and glazing to optimize light within the building; and locally sourced building materials to reduce the impact of transportation.  

Upon completion, the sleek-looking, white Modernist tower will stand 590 feet tall. In a nod to his architectural predecessors best known for the functionality and minimalism inherent in their Bauhaus signatures, Meier’s goal was to use the natural light and create a seamless integration with the surroundings. Although one could hardly say that this chic, white tower will even remotely resemble the block buildings at its feet, it will certainly be an impressive icon in the city’s skyline — one that symbolizes the future and celebrates how far this municipality has come since its turbulent beginnings.

Although this is Meier’s first project in Israel, he notes that he has been fascinated by Israel since his first visit to the country 50 years ago. 

“At this point in my life, to be able to give something to this extraordinary city, Tel Aviv, this unique building and wonderful place to live, is the fulfillment of a lifetime dream,” he says. 

Perhaps its most attractive feature, however, is the stunning perspective it will provide to residents. At the edge of a model terrace replete with wooden floors and glass walls to enhance visibility, Zemah notes that even from the seventh floor, the building has spectacular views. 

In the distance, the Mediterranean forms a subtle, azure line between the city’s relatively low skyline and the clear, blue air. Less than 10 minutes away by foot lies the charming neighborhood of Neve Tzedek, the Habima national theater and opera house, Charles Clore Park and a slew of art galleries, open-terraced cafes, restaurants offices, banks, stores and shops. From this height, one can also clearly see the city’s first skyscraper, Shalom Tower, as well as the handful of other towers that rise along the horizon. 

“If you compare it to New York, it’s like being on 59th and Fifth streets,” Zemah says with satisfaction. 

For those who see this tower as another eyesore against the city’s largely low buildings, it is far too late to stop construction now. And for those who can afford it — and the trend shows that many Israelis who can are rapidly making central Tel Aviv their home — these apartments will doubtlessly be akin to living in a museum. 

Jewish activists seize buildings on Jordanian border

Jewish activists seized several buildings near the border with Jordan to protest its interference in Temple Mount affairs.

Approximately 30 right-wing activists entered the buildings—abandoned churches, according to Haaretz—accompanied by a television crew.

The activists reportedly wanted to send a message to Jordan to stay out of matters regarding the Temple Mount. Israel and Jordan have been involved in talks to replace the temporary wooden Mughrabi Bridge, which was erected in 2004 to replace a damaged stone walkway. The bridge was closed Monday after engineers said it could collapse or catch fire.

Jordan has called on Israel to refrain from destroying the bridge, saying it will change the character of the holy site.

Israeli security forces evacuated the protesters.

A Hamas spokesman on Monday called Israel’s closure of the Mughrabi Bridge “a violent act that amounts to a declaration of religious war on the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem.”

Long resented by Muslims, the bridge links the Western Wall to the Temple Mount and had allowed tourists to visit the latter’s Al Aksa and Dome of the Rock mosques.

The structure was to have been demolished last month to make way for a new, permanent walkway, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu postponed the project in a move widely seen as designed to avoid stirring anti-Israel passions in Arab states rocked by political turmoil.

Briefs: Survey to catalog landmark Boyle Heights buildings to prevent destruction; Chabad expands on

Survey to catalog landmark Boyle Heights buildings to prevent destruction

A survey of historic landmark buildings in Boyle Heights will start shortly, spurred in part by the mysterious demolition of a former Jewish Community Center last year.

To prevent such thoughtless destruction in the future, City Councilman Jose Huizar announced funding of a survey to identify “sites of cultural and historic significance, enabling the city and community to proactively protect these cultural treasures.”

Huizar emphasized that “after the Boyle Heights community lost the Jewish Community Center at Soto and Michigan — and The Jewish Journal reported the tragic loss — I redoubled my efforts to catalogue and preserve our cultural landmarks.”

In the 1930s and ’40s, Boyle Heights was the oldest and largest Jewish enclave in Los Angeles, with approximately 35,000 to 40,000 Jews living in 10,000 homes. It was dotted with small Jewish stores and such impressive houses of worship as the Breed Street Shul, currently being renovated and converted into a joint Latino-Jewish center.

The early Jewish, African American and Asian residents have now been largely replaced by Latinos, but, said Huizar, “Boyle Heights is filled with Victorian homes, stately synagogues and other precious remnants of our shared history, and we must protect them.”

The survey will focus on the Adelante Eastside Project Area in Boyle heights, containing some of the oldest buildings in Los Angeles.Encompassing 2,200 acres with 2,800 separate parcels of land, the project area is roughly bounded by Indiana Street on the west, the Los Angeles River on the east, Valley Boulevard on the north and Washington Boulevard on the south.

The survey will be largely funded and conducted by a partnership of three municipal entities: Huizar’s office, the Community Redevelopment Agency and the Office of Historic Preservation.

The razed Jewish Community Center was an outstanding example of the architectural style known as California Modernism and was designed in the late 1930s by Raphael Soriano, a Sephardic native of Rhodes.

One year ago, The Journal first reported that the building had been hastily demolished without a permit and without notification to the appropriate city department or neighborhood organizations. An investigation by The Journal found that the culprit was the federal government, which acquired the property to erect a Social Security regional office.

After protests by the Los Angeles Conservancy and Jewish Historical Society, a U.S. government spokesman apologized and promised to take steps to avoid the razing of historical buildings in the future.Huizar said that the survey is expected to begin this spring and should be completed within 12 months.

— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Chabad expanding West Coast operation

Chabad-Lubavitch, the Chasidic organization known in the Jewish world for its success in outreach, is redoubling its efforts on the West Coast. At its 42nd annual West Coast convention last month, the organization announced that the coming year will see an additional 36 new shluchim, or emissaries. This is in addition to the 220 emissaries already on the West Coast, operating some 150 centers, as well as summer camps, university locales and operational centers.

The Feb. 17-19 convention in Glendale, attended by 212 shluchim from California and Nevada as well as supporters, hosted workshops and presentations designed to better help the rabbis perform outreach in their communities.

Sessions focused on the financial (“Managing Your Finances,” “Making the Dream a Reality: How to build a Chabad Center”), youth (two parts on both “Engaging Your Students” and “Harnessing the Power of Student Participation”) and negotiating in the non-Chabad world (“Resolving Conflicts and Managing Differences,” “Walking on Eggshells: How to Discuss Sensitive Issues”).

“This is one of the most inspiring events of the year for Chabad,” said Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin, the head of West Coast Chabad-Lubavitch. “It’s a gathering of people who dedicate themselves every day to helping those in need — whether it’s at hospitals, shelters, preschools, senior centers or on college campuses.”

Unveiled at the conference were the prototypes of the new “Chabad-mobile,” a fleet of mobile mitzvah units that will drive through the streets, attend Jewish events — both Chabad and non-Chabad — to offer passersby the opportunity to do mitzvahs, study and get involved with Chabad. There will be 20 new Chabad mobiles to start, although, as with everything Chabad, they hope to increase the number soon. The new colorful design, by artist Marc Lumer, features a businesswoman holding a cup of coffee, a surfer, a “Fiddler on the Roof” character, a Chabad rabbi and more.

“They needed a facelift,” Rabbi Chaim Cunin, communications director of Chabad said of the fleet. “We wanted to make it represent what Chabad is really about: A place where everyone feels completely at home — both in the centers and in the mobiles.”

— Amy Klein, Religion Editor

Rabbis and doctors gather at Brandeis for Jewish healing conclave

In January, the Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health held its fourth biennial Partner Gathering at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute. The event drew more than 100 rabbis, physicians, social workers and others from the United States, Israel and Brazil whose work or interest involves Judaism’s role in healing.

Tom Cole, director of the Center for Health, Humanities and the Human Spirit at the University of Texas, delivered the keynote address on “Aging and the Changing Nature of the Human.” He spoke about modern medicine’s potential to dramatically increase the human life span, and the implications of such longevity. “Judaism lacks a vision of the good life for our elder years,” said Cole. “We need to create authentically Jewish visions of later life.”

The gathering allowed participants to “learn, network and recharge,” said Associate Director Michele Prince. “Themes of memory and aging were explored during this retreat, and will influence the ways the Kalsman Partners work with one another, their patients, congregants and students.”

“A special element of the Kalsman Gatherings,” she added, “is that we, as a department of the Reform movement seminary, are able to bring together leaders from across the spectrum of Jewish life — from secular Israeli to modern Orthodox. This transdenominational effort is more than symbolic, and it gave us great pleasure as we davened, learned, networked and recharged together.”

At an evening reception, Rabbi Richard Address, director of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns, was honored with the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s Sherut L’Am Award for “revolutionary work in Jewish congregational life.”

Address has been instrumental in creating congregational programs dealing with such issues as the changing nature of the Jewish family, bioethics, aging and illness.

— Nancy Sokoler Steiner, Contributing Writer

Another Jewish Landmark Faces Demolition


Men slowly arrange scattered clothes into a makeshift tent on the front steps of 126 N. St. Louis St. A few windows in the building’s powder-blue facade are broken; an old chimney stains a sliver of the north wall black.

Today, the anonymous building is one among thousands that dot the Los Angeles cityscape, but in the 1930s and 1940s, the Vladeck Center was the secular heart of Jewish Boyle Heights. The building was a base for the Workmen’s Circle and the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, as well as the founding location of the Jewish Labor Committee (JLC).

The Vladek Center’s history was unearthed last year, half a century after most of Los Angeles’ Jewish community moved west, when the city began moving forward with plans to demolish the building for an expanded Hollenbeck Police Station. Getting the city to alter course seems a tall order, but the planned demolition has attracted critical attention.

Preservationists and Jewish groups want to spare the building for cultural reasons. Separately, community activists have accused the city of cutting legal corners while displacing low-income residents.

“No one is opposed to a new police station,” said Ken Bernstein, director of preservation issues for the Los Angeles Conservancy. The Los Angeles Police Department “has very substandard facilities in Hollenbeck Division. I think what our groups are trying to achieve is a Hollenbeck Station project that also spares and enhances one of Boyle Heights’ defining social-cultural landmarks.”

These days, the two-story building is part church, the Templo Ebenezer Asambleas de Dios, and part residential halfway house. A world away, the building’s original namesake, Baruch Charney Vladeck, was a prominent socialist, New York City alderman and manager of The Forward newspaper.

The city first learned of the building’s Jewish past in the midst of planning for the $28.2 million Hollenbeck Station project, when environmental regulations required determining whether construction would damage any environmental, cultural or historic resources. In late 2003, consultant Portia Lee of the firm, California Archives, began investigating on behalf of the city.

“It looked like a Hispanic church, but I got this clue about its Jewish history from the building permit, [and] I could tell that it certainly hadn’t been built as a church,” Lee told The Journal.

By scrutinizing old Workmen’s Circle newsletters, Lee learned that during the 1930s, Jewish labor organizers met in a different building on the same site. That structure was removed to make room for the Vladeck Center.

“They either moved it onto the site or constructed it in 1940,” Lee said. The building’s distinctive Art Deco flourishes, reminders of another age, caught Lee’s eye. “I’m inclined to believe they moved it onsite, because it looks to me like a much earlier building, but I don’t know that,” she said.

Lee tracked down experts in Los Angeles Jewish history to uncover the Vladeck Center’s story, including Ken Burt, a JLC historian whose paid job is political director for the California Federation of Teachers. Burt compared Vladeck to a more well-known East L.A. Jewish landmark — the Breed Street Shul.

“Ken Burt said the most important thing,” Lee recalled. “‘Breed Street Shul is the religious side of the history, and the Vladeck Center is the secular side.’ That did it for me. Then I knew I could stand up before anybody and say this is an extremely important building.”

Lee suggested alternatives to demolition, such as using the building for a community center. However, that would require reconfiguring construction plans, which call for a parking structure on the Vladeck parcel, and Lee’s opinions failed to sway the city or the LAPD.

In the arcane language of urban planning, the city pushed for a “mitigated negative declaration,” a middling level of environmental review that likely would hasten demolition.

Simultaneously, based on Lee’s recommendations, the city’s Bureau of Engineering submitted the Vladeck Center to the L.A. Cultural Heritage Commission for consideration as a city monument. The building’s defenders accuse the city of using the submission as a gambit, hoping that a quick rejection of historic status would clear the path for an even quicker demolition.

But several well-directed letters from the JLC, the Jewish Historical Society and an attorney representing the L.A. Conservancy persuaded the city to authorize a full environmental impact report.

Meanwhile, the intervention from Jewish organizations helped draw attention to another aspect of the police station project, the impending demolition of about 60 low-income housing units in the surrounding neighborhood. Boyle Heights resident and attorney Miguel Flores accused the city of ignoring a California Environmental Quality Act regulation requiring environmental review before any public purchase of private property.

The current environmental impact report remains in draft form 18 months after land purchases began, and all the tenants, Flores said, already have been forced to move.

“I think people were misled,” he said. “I went to several community boards, such as the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council, and some people weren’t even aware the project was going on at all. I found the whole process very mysterious.”

The city has defended its actions as appropriate, while acknowledging some uncertainly on timing. City attorney spokesman Jonathan Diamond said the law is unclear about whether environmental review needs to take place in advance of land purchases.

“There are differing opinions within the city,” Diamond said. “The extraconservative advice would be, ‘Yes, just do it,’ but there is a question about whether it is, in fact, a necessity.”

Flores responded by citing Title 14 of the California Code of Regulations, which states, in part, that “with public projects, at the earliest feasible time, project sponsors shall incorporate environmental considerations into project conceptualization, design and planning.” The regulations also stipulate that “CEQA compliance should be completed prior to acquisition of a site for a public project.”

Flores added, “The city was negotiating with property owners, and those owners left people in the dark. Finally, they found out because they had a 90-day notice to vacate.”

The entire neighborhood sits in the district of Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa, who is running for mayor against incumbent James Hahn. In an interview, Villaraigosa said he joins the community in fully supporting the police station project, which, he said, is badly needed.

“While I’d like to see the restoration or adaptive reuse of that building [the Vladek Center], it might be difficult to save it,” Villaraigosa said.

For his part, Flores is working to obtain compensation for evicted families, many of whom lost rent-controlled apartments and now live in quarters that are both more cramped and expensive.

Until June 1, the city is accepting public comment on its environmental impact report. After that, the city can move forward with the project — with or without saving the Vladek Center — pending City Council approval.

Salvaging the affordable housing seems a lost cause, but the Vladeck Center “has a large auditorium and a kitchen,” said consultant Lee. “One of the police [officers] told me, ‘We really like to do outreach.’ They could take the property and reuse it for whatever they want to do.”

Because the building lies on the periphery of the proposed Hollenbeck expansion, sparing it from destruction could be doable.

“It just looks like there are lots of ways to keep that building in use,” she said.


Mojitos and Matzah Balls in Havana

Care for an authentic Cuban mojito at the L’chaim bar? How about Israeli salad, matzah ball soup and cheese blintzes?

They’re all now on the menu at the Hotel Raquel, Cuba’s first boutique hotel catering specifically to adventurous Jewish tourists.

Richly illustrated passages from the Bible cover the walls of the small but elegant property, located in what was once a thriving Jewish neighborhood of Old Havana.

The 25-room hotel originally was built as a bank in 1908, a time when thousands of impoverished Jews from Eastern Europe, Turkey and Syria were immigrating to Cuba.

After the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power, nearly all of the Jews fled to the United States and elsewhere. Today, no more than 1,300 Jews live in Cuba, most in Havana.

For many years, the structure housing the Raquel was used as a warehouse and fabric depot. Now, its eclectic architecture and romantic Art Nouveau interiors — all refurbished — have made the Raquel a jewel in the crown of Habaguanex S.A., the state entity charged with fixing up Old Havana’s hotels and restaurants.

The property is located six blocks from Congregacion Adat Israel, Cuba’s oldest synagogue, and boasts the largest stained-glass window on the island.

General manager Jose Manuel Quesada said that since the Raquel’s inauguration in June, it has become popular with Spanish tourists as well as Americans circumventing the U.S. ban on travel to Cuba.

He expects the occupancy rate to reach 80 to 85 percent this winter, thanks to an influx of visitors from France, Germany and Great Britain.

In addition to American Jews, the Raquel clearly hopes to attract tourists from Israel. Though Castro broke off relations with the Jewish State in 1973, tour operators in Tel Aviv estimate that at least 10,000 Israelis have visited Cuba.

Near the Raquel is a kosher butcher shop and a bakery. Some Jewish families still live in the vicinity, and according to Leal, at least seven hotel employees are Jewish.

Eusebio Leal Spengler, director of Habaguanex and Havana’s official historian, said the revival of Jewish culture at the Hotel Raquel is a long and involved process.

“We have built a place of harmony in a Havana neighborhood that respects the best traditions of the Jewish people, members of a community that live in Cuba together with citizens of other beliefs,” he said.

In high season, rooms at the Raquel start at $180 for a double, going up to $282 a night for one of the hotel’s two junior suites. These prices include a welcome cocktail, breakfast, access to a safe, free entrance to all museums and 10 percent off at all Habaguanex-managed restaurants.

The Jewish touch seems to be everywhere in the building, with rooms on the second floor named after biblical matriarchs like Sarah, Hannah, Leah, Ruth and Tziporah. First-floor rooms have names like David and Solomon.

It’s the only hotel in Cuba whose phone system plays the theme song from “Schindler’s List” when callers must be placed on hold.

Four ornate chandeliers patterned after Stars of David hang in the lobby, while contemporary paintings by Cuban Jewish artist Jose Farinis hang on the hotel’s walls.

The lobby bar, meanwhile, is named L’chaim. It’s right next to the Bezalel boutique and gift shop, which sells Judaica, and the Garden of Eden restaurant, where guests can choose a variety of kosher-style items ranging from potato latkes to red beet borscht and vegetable knishes.

For really hungry tourists, the Garden of Eden offers lamb shishlik, sweet-and-sour beef tongue, Hungarian goulash and gefilte fish.

Quesada says the hotel never cooks vegetables together with meat, but Pavel Tenenbaum, a Cuban Jew who used to work at the hotel, says the Raquel does not follow the rules of kashrut.

For more information on Hotel Raquel, visit

Building the Perfect Painting

For local artist Rebecca Levy, building a body of work literally begins with the building. "Each one is different and has a charm of its own," Levy said of her fascination with edifices from all over the world. "Rebecca Levy: A Visual Wanderer’s Retrospective," a one-woman show opening Sept. 16 at The Workmen’s Circle’s A Shenere Velt Gallery, invites the public to take in the angles and archways, doorways and dormers that populate her paintings.

Levy, who moved to Los Angeles from New York many decades ago, has produced numerous paintings based on edifices that caught her eye during her travels with her late husband, Herbert. Subjects include buildings in Mexico City, Rome and Amsterdam. One intriguing painting is a based on a photograph inside a El Salvadorian church, where a mother and child sit in one corner, while a lone man sits across the aisle. Another painting depicts a storybook house that used to stand before the Beverly Center was erected in the early 1980s.

"As we were traveling, I was really attracted to the architecture," Levy said. "It really struck me that the people who build them don’t live in them."

Levy admits that she is not particularly religious, and yet the nonarchitectural, abstract and figurative paintings that fill her home convey a Chagallesque spiritual whimsy.

While there are gems among the exhibit, many of her best works will not be in the show. But the good news is that the Workmen’s Circle is the first of a slew of art connoisseurs with interest in displaying her work.

Levy has plenty of architectural paintings ahead of her, and despite her incredible view of the Grove from her living room window, "I never approached the Farmer’s Market," she said with a twinkling smile.

"Rebecca Levy: A Visual Wanderer’s Retrospective," Sept. 16- Oct. 10, The Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring’s A Shenere Velt Gallery, 1525 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. Levy will appear at a Sept. 20 reception, 4-7 p.m. For more information, call (310) 552-2007.

Community Designs

Although he owns more than 11 million square feet of office space, Charles S. Cohen is not your typical New York real estate mogul.

For one, he spends a lot of time in Los Angeles — calling it his second home — and it seems clear why L.A. culture appeals to him. A lifetime film aficionado, Cohen, 49, has made award-winning shorts and written a book on film trivia. Still, he is far from the bohemian artistic types who populate Hollywood — he dresses impeccably, and is conservative and soft-spoken. But he is also a man with a vision who has radical ideas for what real estate should be doing for the community.

"In real estate, people tend to dwell on the importance of location," Cohen told The Journal from his office in New York City. "Location is critical, but what is more important is to connect the location and the building to the community." Cohen takes a very hands-on approach for every building his company, Cohen Brothers Realty Corporation, owns. It is not enough to simply fill an office building with tenants — the building itself has to give something back to the community, he said.

This is why Cohen feels so passionately about his plans to "raise the blue whale" and revitalize the Pacific Design Center (PDC) on the corner of Melrose and San Vicente. It is the second of three design centers that his company has purchased around the country. Cohen, who bought the 12-million-square foot PDC two years ago, envisions a building that will work with local communities, becoming a place where people can learn about design and attend design-related events. He also hopes that the local entertainment community will embrace the state-of-the-art theater in the PDC, and use it to hold first-run film screenings.

Cohen’s community service ambitions extend beyond business to philanthropy. He supports a range of causes from medical institutions such as Cedars-Sinai, to law enforcement, military and religious institutions like Yeshiva University and United Jewish Appeal. On Oct. 25, a day proclaimed by West Hollywood and Gov. Gray Davis to be Charles S. Cohen Day, B’nai B’rith International will honor Cohen at the Regent Beverly Wilshire with its Distinguished Humanitarian Award. (He will also be honored by the organization at a luncheon Nov. 12 at the St. Regis hotel in New York City.)

His business and philanthropic travels have not been curtailed by the attacks on America. "America was founded as a country, as a respite and a home for freedom. That is what is being threatened here, and that is unacceptable. We can’t have our freedoms abridged. I am proud to be an American, and proud to be a Jew, and I am ready to do anything I can to help."

Cohen, who is in the process of establishing his own foundation, said, "I am at the beginning of what I hope will be a long philanthropic career, which I hope will contribute many millions of dollars to good Jewish organizations."

For information and tickets to the Los Angeles or New York events, contact (323) 692-1944.