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By Keren Engelberg


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Lev Eisha: 7:30 p.m. Andy Hill, former UCLA basketball player and inspirational speaker, discusses “Miracles Do Happen: How You Can Be Touched by an Angel.” $25. Adat Shalom, 3030 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles.(310) 475-4985.

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The Hermosa Beach Playhouse:
2 p.m. and 7 p.m. “Ethel Merman’s Broadway.” $45. Pier Avenue at Pacific Coast Highway. (310) 372-4477.


he New JCC at Milken: 10 a.m.-
4 p.m. Open house for new and old members. Also, 1:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m. Koreh L.A. teen literacy corps training session for eighth-12th graders. 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills. (818) 464-3390.


Temple Akiba: 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. American Red Cross blood drive.
5429 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City.
(310) 398-5783.

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UCLA Israel Studies Program and International Institute: 4-5:30 p.m. “Arafat’s Legacy … and How It Spins Out Now” with Kenneth W. Stein. Free. UCLA Law School Room 1357, enter campus at Hilgard and Wyton. (310) 825-0604.

Jewish World Watch: 7:30-9 p.m. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys) on community response to the Darfur refugees. Valley Beth Shalom, Encino. (818) 784-5224.


University of Judaism: 11 a.m. Cellist Tina Guo performs as part of the Young Artist Concert Series. Luncheon follows. $12-25. Bel Air. (310) 440-1283.

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Adat Ari El: 7:30-9:30 p.m. “Bedtime Stories for Grownups” with Donna Rifkind. Wynn Meeting Room, 12020 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village. (818) 766-9426.

Temple Ner Tamid: 9:30 a.m. Tea and Torah four-part “Tradition” lecture series meets Wednesdays. $10-$15. Fellowship Hall, 10629 Lakewood Blvd., Downey. (562) 861-9276.

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Skirball Cultural Center: Opening of the exhibit “Driven Into Paradise: L.A.’s European Jewish Emigres of the 1930s and 1940s.” Free. 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., LosAngeles. (310) 440-4500.


Colburn School of Performing Arts:
7:30 p.m. Concert composed by Menachem Wiesenberg. Free. 200 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 621-2200.


Nashuva: 6:45 p.m. Nashuva community service-oriented Kabbalat Shabbat. Westwood Hills Congregational Church, 1989 Westwood Blvd., Westwood.” width=”1″ height=”30″ alt=””>

Tu B’Shevat

Saturday, Jan. 29

Congregation Mishkon Tephilo:

12:30 p.m. Seder celebrating the New Year of Trees. PETA’s Aaron Gross speaks on “Kashrut, Religious Values and the Ethical Treatment of Animals.” 206 Main St., Venice. (310) 392-3029.

Sunday, Jan. 30

B’nai B’rith, The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life of Southern California, Jewish Historical Society, JQ International, Nashuva and Temple Beth Israel: 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. A morning of planting and revitalization. Plant trees and shrubs at Temple Beth Israel. 5711 Monte Vista St., Highland Park. (310) 841-2970.

Congregation Kol HaNeshama: Noon-3 p.m. Tree planting at Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. All ages. (949) 551-2737.

Westside Jewish Community Center: Noon-4 p.m. Community festival themed, “Old Roots, New Growth.” Games, art, tree planting and live music. Free.

5870 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles.

(310) 938-2531, ext. 2250.

Beth Shir Sholom: 12:30 p.m. Community Tu B’Shevat celebration.

1827 California Ave., Santa Monica.

(310) 453-3361.


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Singles Helping Others: 9 a.m.-noon. Walk rescued dogs with the Amanda Foundation in Beverly Hills.

(818) 907-2427.

Nessah Synagogue: 1 p.m. Tu B’Shevat celebration for young professionals and college students. $26. 142 S. Rexford Drive, Beverly Hills. (310) 247-1226.

G.E.E. Super Singles (20s-40s):

5:30 p.m. Drinks and progressive dinner. $35. Sportsmen’s Lodge, 12833 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. (818) 501-0165.

Conversations at Leon’s: 7:30 p.m. Saturday Night Mixer. $15-$20.

639 26th St., Santa Monica. R.S.V.P.,

(310) 393-4616.

Temple Ramat Zion and North Valley JCC: 7:30 p.m. After New Year’s Bash with live music by “Nightlife” and dancing. $15-$20. 17655 Devonshire Street at Zelzah Ave., Northridge. (818) 366-4801.

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Jewish Outdoor Adventures:
9:45 a.m. Intermediate hike to Strawberry Peak from Red Box. Carpools from West Los Angeles, the Valley and Angeles Crest Highway.” width=”1″ height=”30″ alt=””>

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Israeli Folk Dancing: 8 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Classes by Israel Yakove meet Mondays and Thursdays. $7. 2244 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 839-2550.

Project Next Step: 8 p.m. Coffee Talk with coffee and pastries. $7. R.S.V.P., 1399 S. Roxbury Drive, third floor, Beverly Hills. (310) 772-2466.

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Westwood Jewish Singles (45+):
7:30 p.m. Therapist Maxine Gellar leads a discussion on “Involvement With the Unavailable.” $10. West Los Angeles area. R.S.V.P., (310) 444-8986.

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Wilshire Boulevard Temple:
7:30 p.m.-midnight. David Dassa’s weekly dance lessons with beginner lessons at 7:30 p.m., regular class at 8 p.m. and open dancing at 9:15 p.m. $7. 2112 S. Barrington Ave., Los Angeles.

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Jewish Communal Professionals of Southern California (20s-30s): 8 a.m. Monthly meeting open to all members for planning and discussing membership development, programs, conferences and award dinners. University of Judaism,

15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. R.S.V.P.,

Conversations at Leon’s: 7 p.m. Discussion about “What Women Really Want, a Woman’s Perspective.” $15-$17.

639 26 St., Santa Monica. R.S.V.P., (310) 393-4616.

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New Age Singles (55+): 6 p.m. No-host dinner at Nibblers followed by a creative arts Shabbat service at Temple Beth Am. Nibblers, 8383 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. Temple Beth Am, 1039 La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 838-7459.

Nashuva: 6:45 p.m. Nashuva community service-oriented Kabbalat Shabbat. Westwood Hills Congregational Church, 1989 Westwood Blvd., Westwood.” width=”1″ height=”30″ alt=””>

Upcoming Singles

Elite Jewish Theatre Singles:
6:30 p.m. Attende a no-host dinner social followed by the musical “Chicago” at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. $42.50. R.S.V.P.,
(310) 203-1312.

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Elite Jewish Theatre Singles:
8 p.m. No-host dinner social and
“2-Across” in the Santa Monica area. $19 (prepaid). R.S.V.P.,
(310) 203-1312.

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J-Ski (20s-40s): Taos Ski Trip. $759. R.S.V.P.,

A Boutique With Benefits

Shop for relief this Tuesday, Feb. 1. Beverly Hills boutique outlet Treasure Depot invites Jewish Journal readers to a Shopping Party and Tsunami Relief Fundraiser that offers a 10 percent discount off already 70 percent marked-down high-end shoes, clothes and accessories by Jill Stewart, Marc Jacobs, Sergio Rossi and others. In addition, 10 percent of all sales for the week of Feb. 1-8 will go to American Jewish World Service’s Asia tsunami relief effort.

5:30-8:30 p.m. 9921 Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 552-3301.

Independence Fest Turns Sweet 16

There was good news and bad news when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office phoned Yoram Gutman, executive director of Israel’s 56th Independence Day Festival, three weeks ago.

The bad news was that the governor would be unable to attend the festival May 2 at Woodley Park in Van Nuys. The good news was why he was unavailable: He was scheduled to be in Israel for an official visit May 2.

That the governor was seriously considering a festival appearance — and that his predecessor did so in recent years — conveys just how far the event has come since its inception as a Yom HaAtzmaut concert at Scottish Rite Temple in 1988.

This year, an estimated 50,000 participants are expected to turn out for the celebration, which is perhaps the largest of its kind in the world, according to Yariv Ovadia of the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles. The festivities will include performances by prominent Israel-based pop singers such as Avihu Medina and a ceremony, emceed by KABC talk radio host Larry Elder, with officials such as Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys) and state Sen. Richard Alarcon (D-Van Nuys).

The lineup not only indicates the success of the event, but of Los Angeles’ Israeli community. When the festival began in the 1980s, only about 12,000 Israeli-born Jews lived here, according to Pini Herman of Phillips & Herman Demographic Research.

“Back then, the Israeli community was a source of shame and embarrassment to official Israeli segments in town,” Herman said.

Attitudes changed as surveys continued to reveal that significant numbers of Israelis would leave the Jewish state if they could, due to political and economic woes. Another reason for the attitude shift: Growing numbers of Israelis in Los Angeles, although current estimates widely vary. Herman believes 26,200 Angelenos identify themselves as Israeli, according to 1997’s “Los Angeles Jewish Population Survey”; others, like Ovadia, feel the statistic could be closer to 100,000.

Whatever the numbers, these Israelis are often better educated and more Jewishly affiliated than indigenous Jews, according to Herman.

“They come here with more Jewish knowledge and affinity than is usually found in the American Jewish population,” he said. They are often professionals who disproportionately send their children to Jewish day school and who tend to live in heavily Jewish areas such as the Valley and Fairfax district.

But while longtime residents are highly integrated into the American Jewish community, where they’re now considered “a source of support,” Herman said, “they also like to be with ‘landsmen.'” Thus they join groups such as the Hebrew-speaking Shalom Lodge of B’nai B’rith and gather at Israeli restaurants such as Haifa and Tempo.

It was a group of four such Israelis who gathered to plan the first festival 16 years ago, according to co-founder Mordechai Avidan, who owns a Woodland Hills accounting firm. In the late 1980s, he said, he and his friends became chagrined when the organized Jewish community stopped observing Yom HaAtzmaut for a time.

“For a couple years, the [holiday] just disappeared, and that made us crazy,” he said.

Gutman, a Reseda businessman who became the festival’s executive director in 1994, agreed.

“We felt Israel Independence Day should be as important to American Jews as the Fourth of July,” he said.

In 1988, Avidan and his friends hired Israeli performers for a Yom HaAtzmaut show at the Scottish Rite Temple. Fifteen hundred people turned out for the concert, prompting the founders to convince the North Valley Jewish Community Center (NVJCC) in Granada Hills to host a more ambitious event (more like a picnic with entertainment) the following year.

By 1990, the crowd had grown to 2,000 — too big for the NVJCC — so the festival moved to larger venues such as Hansen Dam Park, drawing 15,000 participants by the late 1990s.

The overwhelming majority of them were Israeli until the 50th anniversary celebration in 1998, when The Jewish Federation got involved as a major sponsor and brought in significant segments of the organized Jewish community, Gutman said. The event, which drew about 50,000 participants, 40 percent of them American, made media headlines and put the festival on the proverbial map.

From 1998 on, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Golden Star Skydiving Team has kicked off each official ceremony by unfolding giant American and Israeli flags in the air. This year’s festival will feature a Miss L.A./Israel beauty pageant; an amusement park for children; approximately 250 food, Judaica and Jewish organizational booths; and Jewish world music to honor non-Israeli participants (in recent years, the crowd has included several thousand Russian and Persian Jews).

“For Israelis, the festival is like going home for a day, but it’s also perhaps the largest annual Jewish community event in Los Angeles,” Gutman said. “It’s one day that the diverse elements of the Jewish community really come together. And it’s almost entirely planned by volunteers, Israelis living in L.A.”

Yet even as the festival has grown, there have been problems to overcome. For example, the 2003 celebration took place on Mother’s Day, which decreased attendance by approximately 5,000 people, according to Gutman.

“Although the event falls on Mother’s Day every few years, we won’t make that mistake again,” he said. “Instead, we’ll postpone the festival by an additional week.”

Security has also been a major concern, especially after the Sept. 11 tragedy and the subsequent rise in suicide bombings. This year, 100 Los Angeles Police Department officers and 120 private security guards will attend; a chain-link fence will be erected around Woodley Park; metal detectors will be installed at the entrance; and dogs will inspect the area before doors open at 10 a.m.

Despite the focus on security, the festival aims to promote a different side of the Jewish state than appears on CNN.

“It’s an opportunity for people to learn a bit more of what is Israel, the colors, tastes and sounds, not just the news,” Ovadia said. “You don’t see much that is political, which is a good thing, because there is so much more to Israel than politics.”

While the turnout sends a message that there is great local support for Israel, the event is for the entire Jewish community, according to Ovadia.

“It’s the Israel Independence Day Festival, not the Israeli community’s festival,” he said.

The festivities run from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. on Sunday, May2, at Woodley Park on Woodley Avenue (west of the 405 between Victory andBurbank boulevards). Parking is free; admission is $4. For more information,call (800) 644-9505 or visit .