Jewish Groups Vow to Help Sudanese


On Yom Kippur, as his congregants at B’nai David Judea were fasting and praying for the year ahead, Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky asked them to think not about themselves, but about people being killed in Darfur, Sudan.

“I asked people to make a contribution to one of the relief organizations in the amount of what they would have eaten themselves were in not Yom Kippur,” Kanefsky said. “Sudan is calling to us for immediate attention.”

The world response to the crisis in Sudan has been minimal. The Muslim terrorists known as the Janjaweed, which receive support from the Sudanese government, have killed 50,000 people, raped hundreds of women and displaced 1.4 million from their homes in the last 18 months, according to a Time magazine cover story earlier this month.

Secretary of State Colin Powell labeled the crisis a “genocide” when he testified before Congress, but the world community has done little to halt the killings. No sanctions have been placed against the Sudanese, and no international peacekeeping forces have been sent over to stop the killings.

But the Jewish community, fearful of the consequences of world silence and inaction, has been working to engender more aggressive action from the world community to stop the killings. Kanefsky was one of several rabbis to make synagogue appeals for Sudanese refugees during the High Holidays. The Jewish Community Relations Council, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and American Jewish World Service were just a few of the many Jewish organizations that joined the Save Darfur Coalition, a national alliance of faith-based humanitarian and human rights organizations that are working to raise awareness and money.

On Oct. 25, the Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA) will head the Call to Humanity: Darfur Interfaith March, an action endorsed by Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders.

Rabbi Harold Schulweis from Valley Beth Shalom in Encino is starting a Jewish World Watch, which will monitor humanitarian crises around the world.

“The Jewish World Watch will be different [from other watchdog organizations] because it will be a grass-roots organization, run by a religious group, that will be unabashedly Jewish in its motivation. I want Jews themselves to recognize that this is on our moral agenda.”

Schulweis said that after the Los Angeles Times published an article about his intent to start the Jewish World Watch, he received letters from hundreds of Jews and non-Jews expressing interest, and he also received pledges of support from several prominent local rabbis like Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple and Rabbi Stephen Jacobs of Kol Tikvah.

Daniel Sokatch, executive director of the PJA, said that he doesn’t expect a military response from the U.S. government because troops are overly committed elsewhere, but his organization is “still figuring out” which world body to lobby that would be able to effectively deal with the crisis.

“Genocidal civil wars create breeding grounds for chaos and terrorism in the world, and the international community has an obligation to make sure that genocide doesn’t happen,” Sokatch said. “I would like to see meaningful international intervention to end the slaughter. We are focusing on the humanitarian aspect of this right now, in part because verbally the politicians in this country are saying the right things — but how does that get translated into meaningful action and intervention?”

Sokatch will be joined at the march by other Jewish leaders, like Rabbis Laura Geller of Temple Emmanuel, Sharon Brous of Ikar, Joshua Levine Grater of the Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center and Mark Diamond, executive vice-president of the Southern California Board of Rabbis. Over the next six months, PJA hopes to mobilize thousands of Angelenos to support humanitarian relief efforts and to apply strategic pressure to make sure that the relief efforts are successful.

But some in the Jewish community think that the response to Sudan shouldn’t come from the Jews.

Harvey Schechter, the ADL’s Western States director emeritus, wrote in his Schechter Sez newsletter that this is the time for the African American community in America to raise their voices and march on Washington.

“Why am I calling on African Americans to lead these demonstrations?” he wrote on Oct. 1. “Because they are proud of the adjective ‘African,’ which identifies them; because it is their people who are being slaughtered.”

“Jews will jump like crazy to participate in this, but what are the blacks going to do?” Schechter told The Journal.

Jewish leaders working to help the crisis dismiss Schechter’s concerns, saying that now is the time to act, not quibble.

“This is an issue that transcends politics and transcends religion,” Sokatch said.

Call to Humanity: Darfur Interfaith March, will start at 7 p.m. on Oct. 25 at the Islamic Center of Southern California, 434 S. Vermont Ave. For more information, call (323) 761-8350 or send e-mail to href=”http://office@pjalliance.org” target=”_blank”>office@pjalliance.org.

Education Briefs


Day Schools Earn Accreditation

Two area day schools, both founded in 1994, earned full accreditation this summer.

Beth Hillel Day School in Valley Village, the East Valley’s only Reform Jewish day school, was accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE).

“The fact that our school earned a six-year accreditation, the maximum length of time awarded by these certifying boards, is recognition that Beth Hillel Day School is indeed meeting the high goals we’ve set to provide our students with the best education possible in general and Jewish studies,” said Susan Isaacson, Beth Hillel Day School’s education director.

Farther west along the 101, Abraham Joshua Heschel West Day School in Agoura Hills was accredited by the California Association of Independent Schools, the WASC and the BJE.

“Receiving recognition from these prestigious accrediting agencies puts Heschel West in the upper echelon of young dynamic educational institutions,” Heschel West principal Jan Saltsman said. — Sharon Schatz Rosenthal, Education Writer

High School Makes Temporary Move to ShomreiTorah

When New Community Jewish High School students (NCJHS) return to their studies on Sept. 7, they will no longer be meeting at the Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus in West Hills, where the school was founded in 2002 with 40 students.

“We outgrew it,” said Dr. Bruce Powell, head of NCJHS. “We were supposed to be there for three years, but we were only supposed to have 120 [students]. We’re at 170 at this point. We were bursting at the seams there.”

NCJHS moved to Shomrei Torah Synagogue in West Hills on Aug. 29. The school has use of 16 classrooms at the synagogue and will continue to use Milken’s gym for its athletics program. NCJHS expects to be at Shomrei Torah for one to six years and will add modular classrooms as its enrollment grows.

However, Powell said the school has its eye on a property that can be developed as a permanent campus in Agoura Hills, and the city’s planning commission has already issued a conditional use permit.

“Growth is both wonderful and challenging,” Powell said. — Adam Wills, Associate Editor

L.A. Educators Receive NationalAward

Two Los Angeles religious school teachers were honored in July when they received Grinspoon-Steinhardt Awards for Excellence in Jewish Education. Lea Ben-Eli, a music teacher at Temple Beth Am’s Pressman Academy, and Eden Cooper Sage, a eighth- and ninth-grade teacher at Temple Israel of Hollywood, were thrilled to be among the 56 recipients in North America.

The awards, sponsored by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and Jewish Life Network/Steinhardt Foundation, in partnership with Jewish Education Service of North America, are given to Jewish educators who made a career commitment to the field and contributed to his or her school or community in an outstanding way. As winners, Ben-Eli and Sage were awarded $1,000 cash prizes and $1,500 stipends for professional development.

Both women will be honored at the United Jewish Communities General Assembly in November where they will be recognized in a national gathering with an emphasis on Jewish education and communal leadership. — SSR

Cal Lutheran Embraces Diversity

California Lutheran University (CLU) got a lesson in diversity when 22 students and three faculty members participated in the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) A Campus of Difference, an anti-bias and diversity training program.

During the three-day session, which began on Aug. 23, two trainers, representing different cultural and racial backgrounds, prepared the student ambassadors to lead diversity and inclusion discussions on campus. Participants examined stereotyping, explored the idea of culture and discussed issues related to discrimination and bigotry on campus.

CLU is involved in several diversity programs following the receipt of a $400,000 grant from the James Irvine Foundation in 2003. The grant, which will be dispersed over a three-year period, is being used to foster a campus climate that encourages inclusion, crosscultural interaction, respect for and appreciation of diversity and global awareness.

Over the past decade, more than 43,000 people have participated in the campus training programs — which have been held at more than 250 colleges and universities nationwide. — SSR