Ehud Olmert: A political time line

NEW YORK (JTA)—The following is a time line of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s political career:

Sept. 30, 1945 Born to Bella and Mordechai Olmert in Binyamina, near Haifa.

November 1963-1971 Begins military service in the Golani Brigade, but hand and feet injuries that predate his service force him out of the combat unit. He completes his service as a reporter for the IDF magazine, Bamahane.

1965 As student representative of the Herut Party, the predecessor to Likud, Olmert makes a name for himself by demanding the resignation of party chief Menachem Begin.

December 1973 Elected to the Knesset as a Likud Party member.

December 1976 After Olmert discloses to the Knesset that Housing Minister Avraham Ofer is likely to be the subject of a police investigation, Ofer kills himself.

December 1988 Appointed minister without portfolio in charge of minority affairs by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.

April 1989 Comes under criticism for receiving a $50,000 loan from a fictitious company owned by the head of the Bank of North America, Yehoshua Halperin. Olmert is tried and acquitted.

June 1990 Appointed health minister under Yitzhak Shamir.

November 1993 Elected mayor of Jerusalem, defeating longtime incumbent Teddy Kollek.

September 1996 Indicted with other Likud party members for illicit fund raising from corporate donors and for knowingly signing a false statement. Olmert is acquitted of the charges.

February 2003 Appointed deputy prime minister and minister of industry, trade and labor by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

December 2003 Throws his support behind Sharon’s plan to disengage from Gaza, retreating from his former assertions that high Arab birth rates are not a threat to Jewish democracy.

November 2005 Leaves Likud and follows Sharon to his newly formed centrist party, Kadima.

January 2006 – Becomes acting prime minister after Sharon suffers a debilitating stroke.

March 2006 Wins general elections and becomes prime minister.

July 2006 Wages a 34-day war against Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based terrorist group.

September 2006 Questioned by the State Comptroller’s office over suspicions of bribery after purchasing a property in Jerusalem for far less than market value.

January 2007 Questioned by investigators about whether, as finance minister, he used his influence to favor a friend in the sale of a large portion of the newly privatized Bank Leumi.

April 2007 Found ultimately responsible for the failures of the Lebanon war in the interim report by the Winograd Commission appointed to investigate the war’s failures; commission stops short of calling for his resignation. In the same month, the commissioner for standards in public life speaks out against Olmert’s activities during his term as industry minister, accusing him of a conflict of interest when a friend, Uri Messner, applied for government financial benefits.

October 2007 Diagnosed with non-terminal prostate cancer.

January 2008 Leadership during Lebanon War determined by the Winograd Commission’s final report to be conducted in good faith, despite serious failings and faulty decisions.

May 2008 Investigated by police for illegal fund raising, possible bribery and double billing overseas trips in the years before becoming prime minister. Olmert denies any wrongdoing but promises to resign if indicted.

July 2008 Accedes to calls for his ouster and announces he will resign the office of prime minister after Kadima primaries in September, allowing the party’s new leader to form a new government.

Hava Flashback

“Bar Mitzvah Disco” (Crown, 2005) is part-coffeetable book, part-cultural relic, part-archive and wholly embarrassing.

Authors Roger Bennett, Jules Shell and Nick Kroll discovered in one long B.S. session that nothing quite engaged their friends, Jew and non-Jew alike, as a trip back down memory lane to the day of their or their friends’ bar or bat mitzvah. They started a Web site where people could post photos and memories,, and that Web site became this book. It was, the authors explain, “an opportunity to tell the story of a generation” — and to embarrass people. Polyester suits, Farrah-bangs, tables of overfed relations, braces and acne — did we mention the word embarrassing? Along with plenty of photos — which are telling and even strangely brilliant divorced from the context of a bar mitzvah album — there are funny and poignant contributions by, among others, David Kohan, Sarah Silverman, Jonathan Safran Foer and Gideon Yago.


Groups Pitch in With Housing, Tuition

Critics have long derided Jewish federations as functionally outdated and overly bureaucratic — the organizational equivalent of dinosaurs on the brink of irrelevance, if not extinction.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, though, the array of Jewish organizations under the umbrella of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles have shown that they are far from moribund. They have raised large sums of money, moved critical resources to devastated areas and coordinated Jewish agencies to address victims’ needs.

In a few days, The L.A. Federation collected $600,000 to aid Jews and non-Jews alike in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and other parts of the Gulf Coast.

The philanthropic group has also brought local Jewish agencies together to provide therapy, job training and interest-free loans to storm refugees who make their way to the Southland. And it will be trucking supplies donated by area synagogues to Jackson, Miss.

“I’m always impressed how, in a crisis, this community pulls together, how people communicate, how people coordinate, how people cooperate,” L.A. Federation President John Fishel said (see Fishel’s commentary, on page 13). “It’s acting like a community can and should act.”

To the south, the much smaller Jewish Federation of Orange County has raised $110,000. The nonprofit organization is in the process of resettling a married Jewish couple from New Orleans into a Newport Beach house donated and furnished by members of the community, said Kathleen Ron, director of branding and community development. About a dozen Orange County Jews have offered to make available houses or apartments to evacuees, she said.

Much of the money from the nation’s federations and Jewish agencies is going to the United Jewish Communities (UJC), the national umbrella organization. As of Sept. 7, the UJC and affiliated groups had raised $4.3 million to help storm victims, the organization said. Donations are going to Jews and the general community to pay for such basic necessities as counseling, shelter, health care and food.

Like the local federations, L.A. Jewish agencies have reacted quickly and generously.

Several social workers at the Jewish Family Service (JFS) of Los Angeles have undergone emergency training by the Red Cross on the expectation of taking paid leave to provide refugees counseling and other mental health services on the Gulf Coast, said Lisa Brooks, director of communications and donor relations. Closer to home, JFS has begun to offer crisis counseling to newly arrived evacuees.

Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) has helped four freshmen who had been enrolled at Tulane University in New Orleans transfer to UCLA, the University of Wisconsin and elsewhere, said Vivian B. Seigel, the organization’s chief executive. Without the agency’s intervention, these students — all recipients of JVS scholarships for needy Jews — might otherwise have had to forgo their studies this year because of Tulane’s closure.

The Bureau of Jewish Education plans to refer to local Jewish schools any Jewish student refugees relocating to the Southland, Executive Director Gil Graff said. The bureau, which provides educational services to 150 Jewish schools serving 30,000 students, has also disseminated material to local educational institutions on the Jewish response to calamities.

Synagogues have also made important contributions of food, clothes and money. And such efforts will be ongoing, said Rabbi Mark Diamond, executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, the largest rabbinic organization in California with 270 members.

Over the next couple weeks, synagogues throughout the greater Los Angeles area will collect bedding, nonperishable food items — including pasta and cereal — and personal hygiene products, such as soap and shampoo. The donated goods will be consolidated locally and later trucked to a Jewish camp in Mississippi for distribution, Diamond said.

The Board of Rabbis also has called on temple members to contribute Visa gift cards to evacuees, which, he said, helps them preserve dignity, because they can select and pay for their own essentials. Going forward, there is talk of sending volunteers to the battered region to help with the actual rebuilding of homes.

“I am overwhelmed by the generosity, by the humanity and by the willingness across Southern California to respond to the crisis,” Diamond said. “I think this is the highest form of the mitzvah of pikuah nefesh, the mitzvah of saving and redeeming lives.”

To donate to hurricane relief through The Los Angeles Federation, call (323) 761-8200 or visit

For the Orange County Federation, call (949) 435-3484 or visit



Bernard M. Shapiro,
El Caballero Country Club Founder,
Dies at 89

Bernard M. Shapiro who founded the El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana in 1957, died Aug. 26. He was 89.

After playing golf at the Bel-Air Country Club in 1954, Shapiro wanted to join, but a friend told him he would not be welcome because he was Jewish, Shapiro told the Los Angeles Times in 1998.

With the help of a few friends, including supermarket owner Eugene Gelson, Shapiro built a member-owned country club that anyone was welcome to join.

Shapiro was born in Minneapolis to parents who had fled Eastern Europe. His Los Angeles company, Royal Seal, began in the 1930s as a vending machine business and expanded to processing nuts and manufacturing for national candymakers.

When he sold the company in 1947, he retired and became a philanthropist. He helped found the Boys and Girls Club of the San Fernando Valley and served on the board of many service organizations.

He is survived by sons, Melvin, Stanley and Gerald; daughter, Janice; and four grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Boys & Girls Club of the San Fernando Valley, 11251 Glenoaks Blvd., Pacoima, CA 91331.

Esther Wapner Arbeitel died July 30 at 97. She is survived by her nephew, Judge Joseph (Mickey) Wapner; niece, Irene (Russell) Franklin; and many great-nieces and great-nephews. Mount Sinai

Morris Baram died July 30 at 96. She is survived by her daughters, Beverly Young and Charlotte Seigel; seven grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren. Groman

Rachel Berdischewsky died July 28 at 94. She is survived by her son, Myron (Lilith). Chevra Kadisha

Bernard Bergal died Aug. 2 at 77. He is survived by his wife, Caroline; son, Mark; daughter, Lisa; and sisters, Jeanette Braner and Mickie Stangler. Groman

Alfred Biller died Aug. 2 at 97. He is survived by his wife, Judith; son, Jim (Diane); daughters, Jacki (Roger Bjorklund) Coates and Brenda (Daniel) Hanin; and three grandchildren. Groman

Esther Block died Aug. 2 at 86. She is survived by her son, Mitchell. Malinow and Silverman

Arlene Blonsky died July 27 at 72. She is survived by her husband, Paul; sons, Larry (Barbara), Jerry (Sunny), David (Cheryl) and Barry (Siska); six grandchildren; and brother, Ronald (Annette) Aberhams. Mount Sinai

Jacob Churg died July 27 at 95. He is survived by his sons, Warren and Andrew; and two grandchildren. Groman

Solomon Cohen died July 27 at 86. He is survived by his brother, Isaac; sister, Esther Bension; and niece, Delecia Enenstein. Groman

DAVID SOLOMON CRYSTAL died Aug. 1 at 85. He is survived by his son, Lee; daughter, Robin Johnson; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Hillside

Bruce Deyong died July 31 at 57. He is survived by his wife, Paula. Malinow and Silverman

Leo Diamond died July 30 at 89. He is survived by his daughter, Kathleen (Pedro) Vargas; and sister, Ruth Freund. Mount Sinai

Harold Dropkin died Aug. 1 at 93. He is survived by his wife, Mazie; son, Lester (Sara); daughter, Mara (Bruce) Kasper; and three grandchildren. Chevra Kadisha

Jack Fargo died July 29 at 78. He is survived by his companion, Marilyn Weinshenk; sons, Gary (Angela) Herschel, Steven (Debbie) Weinshenk and Lance (Tye); and grandchildren, Daniel, Nicole, Justin, Sarah and Leah. Mount Sinai

GILDA FINK died July 28 at 76. She is survived by her daughter, Arlene (Stanley) Greengard; son, Nelson; four grandchildren; sisters, Marylan Marsh and Sara Bogard; and brother, David Treister. Hillside

Walter Firstman died Aug. 1 at 84. He is survived by his wife, Lee; sons, Curtis and Bruce; daughter, Barbara (Don) Kaplan; and six grandchildren. Groman

Benjamin Glass died July 29 at 91. He is survived by his son, Stanley; and two grandchildren; and brother, Sidney. Groman

Edith Hanauer died July 30 at 95. She is survived by her daughter, Sandra (Les) Bursten; son, Gary; two grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Malinow and Silverman

Philip Heine died July 31 at 81. He is survived by his wife, Rhoda; sons, Richard, Bruce and David; one grandchild; and brother, David. Malinow and Silverman

Malvina Hersh died July 29 at 95. She is survived by her daughter, Rita Smith; two grandchildren; and sister, Pearl Gottesman. Groman

Jack Hirshleifer died July 26 at 79. He is survived by his wife, Phyllis; sons, John (Linda) and David (Siew Hong); and three grandchildren. Chevra Kadisha

Esther Knoblowitz died July 27 at 86. She is survived by her husband, Bernard; and son, Martin. Chevra Kadisha

Nathan Kort died Aug. 2 at 73. He is survived by his wife, Diane; daughter, Stephanie (Tim) Trombley; son, Glen; step-daughter, Cindy (Patrick) Napolitano; seven grandchildren; and brother, Barney (Jean) Kort. Mount Sinai

Tsilia Laufer died July 30 at 90. She is survived by her sons, Eugene and Boris Bakalinsky; two grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Groman

Sol Meyerson died July 31 at 65. He is survived by his wife, Estelle; son, Steven (Annette); daughters, Jo Anne (Paul) Block and Deborah (Abraham) Raphael; four grandchildren; and sisters, Harriet Weisner and Florence Essman. Groman

Avrim Namak died July 27 at 64. He is survived by his wife, Judy; daughter, Shulamit; three stepchildren; mother, Gertrude; and sister, Dena Katz. Malinow and Silverman

MARY RACHLIN died July 29 at 91. She is survived by her daughter, Carol (Marvin D.) Rowen; four grandchildren; 10 great- grandchildren; and brother, Melvin Weintraub. Hillside

Lisa Francine Rowen died July 29 at 46. She is survived by her husband, Eric; sons, Hunter and Austin; daughter, Jessica; brother, Brad (Gina) Lieberman; sister, Kiera (David)Allen; and mother, Laurayne Lieberman. Chevra Kadisha

Arnold Schnitzer died July 29 at 85. He is survived by his wife, Sylvia; and daughters, Leslie Jacobs, Stacy Kenyon, Wendy Willock and Anita McLaughlin. Malinow and Silverman

LAWRENCE SCHULNER died July 11 at 66. He is survived by his wife, Sharalynn; sons, Keith (Debbie) and Matthew; stepsons, David (Gigi) and Brian Shapiro; daughter, Shulamit (David) Widawsky; four grandchildren; and sister, Avis (Marshal) Cohen.

Manfred Schweda died July 31 at 71. He is survived by his wife, Lenora; daughters, Margaret Chroman and Sharon Neiyer; and four grandchildren. Groman

ROBERT MILTON SERIN died July 28 at 65. He is survived by his sons, William and Scott; and two grandchildren. Hillside

BETTY SHEPARD died July 28 at 86. She is survived by her daughter, Maxine; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Hillside

Herbert Singer died July 29 at 76. He is survived by his sons, Jeff (Kellie), Michael (Jennifer) and Stephen (Maureen); daughter, Debbie (Frank) Dimario; six grandchildren; and sister, Helene. Mount Sinai

Irwin Phillip Solomon died July 30 at 71. He is survived by his wife, Marcia; and daughters, Stacey and Shelby. Groman

Robert Turer died July 31 at 47. He is survived by his wife, Shellie; sons, Ethan and Shane; daughter, Nicole; parents, Mark and Betty; sisters-in-law, Debbie, Brenda (Phil), Sherrie, Toni (Dave) and Teri (Craig); and 10 nieces and nephews. Chevra Kadisha

Carol Underwood died July 29 at 55. She is survived by her daughters, Tewlyn (Jesse) Yoburn and Amanda (Kevin) Musselwhite; brothers, Michael (Natalie) and Stanley (Ella) Schwartz; and ex-husband, Phillip (Auyrina). Mount Sinai

Joan Vineberg died July 29 at 74. She is survived by her sister, Jackie Zuravel; brother, Marvin Ripes; and several nieces and nephews. Mount Sinai

Dr. Ernest Otto Weinman died July 31 at 82. He is surivived by his wife, Phyllis; and his brother, Hans. Groman

Lillian Weinstein died July 29 at 88. She is survived by her daughter, Susan; and son, Robert (Alvina) Weinstein. Malinow and Silverman

Mohtaram Youssefzadeh died July 30 at 76. She is survived by her husband Asher Benyamin; and children, Lida Hanaie and Kamal Benyamin. Chevra Kadisha


Bishop Helps Save Silver Lake JCC


In the end, it wasn’t a Jewish organization that saved a valuable Jewish community center, but a forward-thinking Christian cleric.
Bishop J. Jon Bruno, head of Los Angeles’ Episcopal Diocese, has stepped in with the money needed to rescue the Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center, which had faced an imminent shutdown and the sale of its property.
Bruno has joined with the Jewish community group operating the Silver Lake center to purchase the property for $2.1 million in a deal that closed April 20. Bruno used church discretionary funds for the purchase.
“They came to us to help save their school, and … we’re glad it all worked out,” said Bruno, who grew up in the area playing basketball at the center’s full-sized gym in his youth.
The partnership gives a 49 percent ownership stake to the local Episcopalian Diocese, which has 85,000 members in 147 congregations, while the Silver Lake group gets 51 percent. The facility will be shared — with the 110-year-old Diocese planning to hold Sunday services and schedule programming at night. The JCC offers childcare services during the week and programming of its own that serves many Jewish families who are unaffiliated with a synagogue.
“I’m thrilled,” said Silverlake Independent JCC President Janie Schulman, who spearheaded efforts to save the Silver Lake center. “I’m in heaven. It’s still hard to believe we did it.”
The center has more than 100 children enrolled in its preschool and kindergarten and offers social, education and cultural programs.
The center has been operating in the black for some time, but had been endangered by the finances of its former parent organization, the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles (JCCGLA). The former parent organization had used the Silver Lake property as collateral against liabilities that were not the direct responsibility of the Silver Lake center. The parent organization wanted to sell the Silver Lake property at a price that would help retire its debt.
If the Silver Lake group had failed to purchase the property, the parent organization would have put it on the market and shuttered the 54-year-old center as early as June 30, Schulman said.
To commemorate the new partnership, 100 Silver Lake families welcomed Bruno on Sunday at a traditional Passover seder.
L.A. City Councilman Eric Garcetti, a center supporter who worked to broker this solution to the financial crisis, said the outcome heartened him. “I’m very proud to have joined with the committed families and community members to save this neighborhood treasure,” he said in a statement.
For Silver Lake supporters, the sale ends a more-than-three-year struggle to save the center, which has created a sense of community among Jews in Silver Lake, Echo Park and Los Feliz, while also providing services to the wider community.
While the Silver Lake center hadn’t lost money since assuming local control, its fate was tied to the parent organization, which controlled the property. Plagued by financial mismanagement and debt, the parent organization shuttered the Conejo Valley JCC and the Bay Cities JCC in Santa Monica, as well as severing ties with other centers. Valley Cities JCC in Sherman Oaks nearly closed, but remains open with direct support from The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. The Federation, one of the Southland’s largest philanthropic organizations, held a $550,000 lien on the Silver Lake property.
The Federation was criticized in some quarters for failing to forgive the debt incurred by the former parent organization. The Federation contributed no money to this month’s purchase. Instead, Bruno, individual contributions from center supporters and a loan from Far East National Bank made the deal possible, Silverlake’s Schulman said.
The Federation has continued to subsidize the Valley Cities JCC, the Westside JCC in mid-city and the West Valley JCC in West Hills — contributing more than $1.5 million in recent years in direct and indirect subsidies.
A Federation spokeswoman said Silverlake’s board of directors never officially applied for money. Officials from the former parent organization, Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles, did not return calls seeking comment.
Jenny Isaacson, a Silverlake board member, said she preferred not to dwell on past discord with other Jewish organizations.
“My focus is on the terrific new partnership and looking forward,” she said.


Your Letters

Rebirth in Russia

Marc Ballon’s article, “Kazan’s Residents: ‘Jewish and Proud'” (Aug. 6), while generously covering the important work of Chabad in the former Soviet Union, left out another major influence on Jewish life in that region — Reform or Progressive Judaism.

Today, the World Union for Progressive Judaism ( maintains more than 100 congregations and groups in the former Soviet Union. It has also established the Netzer Olami youth movement, considered by many to be the most active Zionist youth movement operating in the former Soviet Union today. In Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic states, Progressive Judaism opens its doors to all Jews, with a Jewish response that brings together modernity, democracy and gender equality.

Despite our shoestring staff and budget (which cannot accommodate paying for press junkets to Russia), the Reform movement in the former Soviet Union is providing a popular and meaningful Jewish alternative for the young and old alike, for women and for many Jews in the former Soviet Union who are not considered Jewish, because they are children or grandchildren of intermarriage. In fact, up to 70 percent of Jews in the former Soviet Union come from interfaith families and would therefore not be welcomed by Chabad.

While the work of Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz is impressive (“The Days and Nights of Berkowitz”), you might consider highlighting one of the Progressive rabbis in the former Soviet Union (one of whom will be in the Los Angeles area in October). Each of our six rabbis (who are all native-born) serves dozens of congregations spanning several time zones, despite severe financial limitations and some groups’ attempts to undermine the Progressive Jewish movement.

Our rabbis, paraprofessional community workers and lay leaders are facilitating a renaissance of Jewish life that is nothing short of miraculous.

Mandy Eisner, Regional Director

Maurice Cayne, Regional President World Union for Progressive Judaism

Underfunded Pension

I was quoted in Marc Ballon’s article, “Federation Faces Underfunded Pension” (July 30), stating that “it appeared The Federation may have acted irresponsibly by lowering [pension] contributions.”

AFSCME, Local 800, which I represent in negotiations, has 450 members covered under the pension plan by virtue of working at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and six other Jewish agencies.

In response to this article, AFSCME requested and received numerous documents and financial reports. We had them examined by a pension specialist from our international headquarters in Washington, D.C., who then met with the plan administrator. Our independent review shows that current and future retirees have no cause for concern.

A review of several years’ prior actuarial reports revealed The Federation consistently contributed more than the amounts recommended by the actuary.

The Federation’s pension plan suffered the same investment losses that virtually all other institutional investors experienced during the market downturn of 2000-2003. Investment earnings pay the majority of the cost of a pension plan, so losses over a period of three years will always create an “underfunding” situation.

The investment markets are now recovering, so the underfunding could correct itself over the next several years without drastic increases in costs to The Federation.

The pension is an important part of The Federation’s and agencies’ ability to function.

Ballon’s article implied that the pension shortfall will result in millions of donor dollars being diverted from needed social services. Employee wages and fringe benefits do not divert donor dollars from needed social service, but rather, are a necessary cost of the business of providing those services.

Jon Lepie, Consultant to Local 800 Culver City

Bar Mitzvah Spoof?

There were a couple of very good articles in your bar/bat mitzvah feature (Aug. 13), particularly “Confessions of a Bar Mitzvah Teacher” and “Random Acts of Bar Mitzvah Kindness.” However, the “B’nai Mitzvah Planning Guide” was startling. Was it meant to be a spoof? Otherwise, it was an appalling example of extreme bad taste, glorifying vulgar practices.

Is a family with a modest income supposed to set up a savings account for the bar mitzvah at birth but only start Hebrew lessons one year ahead? You mentioned booking a hall, band and disc jockey even earlier than the lessons. You also suggest hiring tuxedoes prior to a consultation with the rabbi. I hope no readers take this seriously.

Ruth E. Giller, Winnetka

Bush and Israel

Recent Jewish Journal articles and letters have stated and implied that President Bush is more supportive of Israel than Sen. John Kerry. I totally disagree with this premise. Kerry has always stood with the State of Israel, both as a senator and as a presidential candidate.

Bush, meanwhile, has in the near past abstained from two U.N. Security Council votes resulting in the condemnation of Israel. Also, he coerced Ariel Sharon into not removing Yasser Arafat, therefore being indirectly responsible for the murder of Israelis by the Arafat-backed Fatah movement. His administration has also been against the separation fence with Gaza, which will result in the death of more Israelis.

It is time for The Journal to publish a fair and accurate comparison of the candidates’ positions, including both their actions, as well as words.

Henry J. Pinczower, Los Angeles


The address and phone number for New York Scoop (“The Real Scoop Behind Ice Cream,” July 30) is 20040 1/2 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills, (818) 704-5174.

Walking the Walk for Heritage Pointe

Setting a contemporary example for the ancient value of "l’dor v’dor" (from generation to generation), supporters of Heritage Pointe will walk through Irvine May 31 in a communitywide 5K walk to raise money for the county’s only Jewish retirement home.

"My goal is to help keep this worthy residence in great shape so that senior members of our community won’t go uncared for in their time of need," said Samantha Markowitz, 12, of Villa Park. Three of her great-grandparents, all now deceased, were among the earliest residents of the 14-year-old facility in Mission Viejo.

Markowitz, among 40 or so early registrants, is organizing a team to participate in the walk, called "Generation Celebration," as her mitzvah project. She set an ambitious $10,000 goal and asked for help in a letter to congregants of Santa Ana’s Temple Beth Sholom. Her grandfather promised to match every dollar she raises.

"It’s the community involvement that makes [Heritage Pointe] different from a for-profit," said Meryl Schrimmer, of Laguna Beach, the home’s co-founder and the walk’s organizer. "If you don’t have a resident there or aren’t a volunteer, you wouldn’t know about it," she said. But throughout the year, hundreds of children and adults volunteer at Heritage Pointe, enlivening the environment of more than 120 residents, many of them housebound, with programs and visits.

"Some people think it’s enough to pay the rent, but we want them to be involved," Schrimmer said. For example, Markowitz’s grandparents, Jacquee and Mel Lipson, of Newport Beach, will assist with event registration. Ten years ago, their entire family hit the streets during the first Heritage Pointe walk, including baby Samantha in a stroller.

Proceeds from the walk will go toward $700,000 expended annually for residential scholarships, providing varying levels of financial aid for about a quarter of residents. Funds will also help re-equip an underused recreation room into a planned wellness center. About $30,000 in specialized exercise equipment is needed. "It’s designed for people trying to regain strength as well as equipment that would meet the needs of those maintaining fitness," Schrimmer pointed out.

Some Heritage Pointe residents will participate, such as the 100-year-old grand marshal Rose Horvitz, who lived in Laguna Woods for 20 years before relocating in 2000. She and her caregiver will ride in a convertible, leading the procession from Irvine’s Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School. Schrimmer is hoping for 500 people.

Warm-up events begin at 8 a.m. Walkers, strollers and wheelchairs will complete a circuitous five kilometers after setting out down Federation Way toward Shady Canyon Road and then reversing the route.

"It’s not a timed race," said Schrimmer, who has set suggested fundraising minimums of $200 for families, $1,000 for 10-person teams and $50 for a senior and a child. Teams could be organized by a school, a family, a synagogue or a havurah.

To aid supporters in soliciting funds and involve younger adults, Schrimmer is relying on a Web site to ease registration and encourage competition ( The site allows entrants to seek donations through e-mail, create a personalized Web page and permits online contributions by credit card. Donors receive an instant "thank you" and a tax-deductible receipt.

"It makes it easy for busy people who don’t have hours to spend on the phone," Schrimmer said.

Virtual walkers who seek donations are welcome, too, she said.

While the walk may lack a timekeeper, the Web site keeps score nonetheless with a dollar tally of pledge leaders. Individuals and teams can post both fundraising goals and results. Checks, too, eventually are reflected in results, Schrimmer said.

Early on, Markovitz’ team, "Juniors for Seniors" was trailing among four rival teams, and Victor Klein was leading as the top individual solicitor.

Teams or event volunteers are still welcome and should contact Bonnie Gillman at (714) 838-9797.

Fed Campaign Ends on High Note

Propelled by a tide of last-minute contributions in the final weeks of its annual campaign, the Jewish Federation of Orange County raised a record $2.3 million, a 9 percent gain over last year, outpacing national results by the United Jewish Communities.

“We attribute the increase in the campaign to deliberate relationship building,” said Bunnie Mauldin, Federation executive director.

Each of the Federation’s various support groups increased its giving, though the 39 percent increase by the young professionals’ network was the largest. Gifts ranged from $5,000 to $100,000 or more.

Nearly 90 percent of the Federation’s contributors gave $500 or less, or 16 percent of the total.

“That is pretty much in step with what most philanthropy’s experience: 90 percent of the money comes from 10 percent of the donors,” Mauldin said.

In June, the Journal incorrectly reported the 2003 results as slightly down based on incomplete figures that did not reflect the final campaign push.

The Federation fell short of an ambitious $3.2 million target, but should be considered a success since other communities experienced meaningful declines, Federation President Lou Weiss, noted in the group’s annual report.

This year’s campaign exceeded last year’s level by $235,000, Mauldin said.

Why Aren’t Jews Giving to Jews?

Eli Broad, considered by many to be the most influential, public-spirited and generous Jewish citizen of Los Angeles, estimates that he and his wife gave away $350 million last year, of which $2 million went to specifically Jewish causes.

Broad’s contributions put him and his family’s four foundations in the top ranks of America’s biggest donors, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the bible of foundations and fundraisers.

Yet it’s Broad’s proportion of giving between specific Jewish and general community causes that is of particular interest because it reinforces the conclusions of a major new study, which tracked the donations of America’s biggest Jewish and non-Jewish givers over a six-year period.

The study found that between 1995 and 2000, of the $5.3 billion given by Jewish mega-donors ($10 million or above in one year), only $318 million, or a mere 6 percent, went to specifically Jewish causes, including support groups for Israeli universities. The $5.3 billion came from 188 gifts, of which 18 — 9.6 percent — went to Jewish organizations.

So the $64 million question is: Why are the wealthiest Jews, in the aggregate, not giving more to Jewish causes? And there is another question, not as easily answered as it might seem: Is giving to specifically Jewish organizations, more — well — Jewish, than contributing to the uplift of society in general?

"While Jews are remarkably generous givers to the general society … Jewish organizations received a minute proportion of Jewish mega-dollars," said Dr. Gary Tobin, president of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research in San Francisco. Tobin conducted the study, "Mega-Gifts in American Philanthropy," with co-authors Drs. Jeffrey R. Solomon and Alexander C. Karp.

The generosity of American Jews in general, and of the wealthiest ones in particular, is undisputed. While Jews make up 2.5 percent of the U.S. population at best, the Tobin study found nearly a quarter (24.5 percent) of all American mega-donors were Jewish.

The No. 1 American mega-giver in 2002 was Jewish publisher and diplomat Walter H. Annenberg, who died last October. He bequeathed an art collection worth $1.38 billion, with the lion’s share going to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Mega-donations of $10 million and above are obviously of major importance to the recipients for their sheer monetary heft, but their value extends even further. Checks of that size raise the bar for all subsequent gifts, validate the organizations or causes on the receiving end, create new institutions and initiatives and often point to new paths in philanthropy.

The reasons why the most affluent Jews are not giving in the same ways as in the old days, when they shouldered the charitable burden for the shtetl or its American equivalent, are complex and based more on educated hunches than scientific studies.

One fairly obvious cause is the unstoppable integration of Jews into the general American society. As Jews become active in the broader society, and socialize with their non-Jewish peers, their charitable interests broaden to more universal causes.

Donna Bojarsky, an adviser to major media and Hollywood personalities, notes that a few decades back, non-Jewish fundraisers for major cultural institutions simply didn’t hit up rich Jews. In Los Angeles, this basically social barrier was breached by the legendary Dorothy (Buffy) Chandler in the 1960s, when she wedded Hollywood Jewish money to downtown non-Jewish wealth to fund construction of the Music Center.

In addition, many of the largest givers prefer to start their own projects, rather than write checks to existing institutions. Examples are Steven Spielberg’s Righteous Persons and Survivors of the Shoah Visual History foundations.

Some analysts fault Jewish organizations for garnering such a small slice of the big-money pie.

"Many Jewish institutions are not able to absorb very large gifts," observed Karp, co-author of the "Mega-Gifts" study.

Fellow co-author Solomon asked, "Are we even asking [for the multimillion dollar donations]?"

Mark Charendoff, president of the Jewish Funders Network, says that the biggest donors see their contributions as (social and cultural) investments, not as gifts, and demand solid business plans from the soliciting institutions.

Furthermore, many Jewish groups continue to use old and tried (or tired) methods, such as card-calling, "an aggressive manner of fundraising, whereby a professional fundraiser calls out the name and pledge of donors in public forums and pressures them to make or match the gift," according to the Tobin study. ("Calling cards" and "matching gifts" are among the Jewish contributions to American fundraising techniques.)

By common agreement among the experts, the traditional fundraising pitches may still work among older Jews, but are almost guaranteed to turn off the younger generation. This observation leads to the largest generational divide, the perception of what actually defines "Jewish" giving.

"What’s changing in the Jewish world today," Charendoff said, "is that to younger philanthropists, their giving to any worthy cause springs from their Jewish upbringing and tradition. But to their parents, Jewish philanthropy meant giving to organizations with ‘Jewish’ or ‘Israel’ in the name."

Both the "particularistic" and the "universalistic" approaches to Jewish giving have their advocates. Two of the most articulate spokesmen on opposite sides are Dr. Jack Wertheimer, provost and professor of American Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, affiliated with the Conservative movement, and Rabbi Irwin Kula, president of CLAL-the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.

Wertheimer fears that if Jewish charitable giving keeps flowing predominantly to universal causes, the infrastructure and richness of Jewish community life in America is headed on a downhill slope. He assigns the blame to a number of factors, but aims his sharpest criticism at the current "ideology of tikkun olam [repairing the world] that all you need to be a good Jew is to be a good person. That perception is destructive of Jewish life, cohesiveness and giving."

Such an interpretation of tikkun olam, Wertheimer added, is "a mid-20th century invention … and part of the universalizing concept developed by the Reform movement."

At one time, Jewish giving was fueled by crises, to aid persecuted Jews or fight rampant anti-Semitism. As these issues fade, so is giving to Jewish institutions, representing a real threat to their ultimate survival.

Also contributing to the decline are demographic shifts among American Jews.

"Young Jews intermarry, they live in neighborhoods where there are few other Jews and more of their friends are non-Jews," Wertheimer observed. "Where once high-status universities, medical institutions and museums would not have asked Jews to join their boards, now they are falling all over themselves to invite us."

A more general factor is the shift in giving patterns in American society as a whole. The Depression and World War II generations tended to give to umbrella organizations — in the Jewish case, to federations or United Jewish Appeal — while the baby boomers lean toward more targeted causes, such as research for a specific type of cancer.

Even among the most substantial donors to Jewish causes, far larger sums go to general universities and museums, Wertheimer noted. While he hopes that the younger generation might reconnect to its heritage, he fears that if the present trend continues, the key structures of Jewish life in America will deteriorate.

Wertheimer, who has led a number of research projects on Jewish philanthropy, rejects the charge that Jewish institutions are partially responsible for their plight.

"That’s a form of blaming the victim," he said. "If there is any evidence that Jewish organizations are backward, you have to show it to me."

CLAL’s Kula couldn’t disagree more.

"The idea that Jewish charity means giving to things run by Jews for Jews is a narrow and parochial definition," he said. "If Jewish education and institutions prefer such a narrow way of looking at the universe, they deserve to get only 6 percent of the big donations."

Kula says he resents the implication that there is a split between being Jewish and being human.

"Can you compare the value of a Jewish day school to curing cancer?" he asked. "Is a trip to Israel as worthy as working against illiteracy, poverty and hunger in your community? Perhaps giving to Stanford University is more important than contributing to a Jewish organization."

What riles Kula most is what he describes as "last-gasp efforts" by Jewish fundraisers to scare elderly Jews into giving money to their favorite organizations now, by arguing that if they bequeath their wealth to their descendants, these will not continue to give to Jewish causes.

"Let’s not lie and let’s not be mean," Kula said. "For Jews to become better Jews, let’s not frame our mission in the most narrow way. Let’s speak to our people’s hopes rather than their fears."

Whatever the philosophical arguments, to fundraisers, the practical question is how to up the proportion and amount of money flowing to Jewish institutions and causes.

The answer will become only more urgent over the next two decades as an estimated $3 trillion to $10 trillion pass from the older generation of American Jews to their heirs.

Fundraisers face an even tougher selling job in convincing the new generation of heirs, born well after the Holocaust and the creation of the Jewish State, to continue their support of Israel.

"You can’t do it if Israel is just an abstract concept," Charendoff insisted. "Parents must take their kids to Israel, develop personal relationships with Israelis and, through these, discover a sense of Jewish peoplehood."

Even if such advice is taken to heart, fundraising won’t be easy, if it ever was. Jewish institutions will have to deal with donors who prefer specialized "boutique funding" to catch-all "department store funding," who consider themselves business partners of their designated charities, and who want to be actively involved in the causes their money supports, Charendoff said.

"Those organizations which can inspire the Jewish community will benefit," he noted. "Those which stick with business-as-usual will have a rude awakening."

On the list of the 60 largest U.S. charitable contributions of 2002, compiled by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, are the names and foundations of four Southern Californians, three from Los Angeles and one from San Diego.

The names are those of Angelenos Eli Broad and his wife Edythe, David Geffen and Steven Spielberg and his wife, Kate Capshaw. The San Diego philanthropist is Irwin Jacobs, founder and CEO of Qualcomm, a wireless telecommunications company, and his wife, Joan.

Tracking down the actual amounts given by such major donors in a given year is a tedious and time-consuming job, ripe with opportunities for inaccuracies and misinterpretations.

With this caveat in mind, the starting point for most searches is IRS Form 990, which all tax-exempt foundations are required to file annually, listing both income and distribution of grants. Since most of the 990 forms are apparently submitted in the late summer or fall of the following year, no reports for 2002 were available.

On an ongoing basis, Spielberg turns over most of his donations to his Righteous Persons Foundation, which, in turn, distributes more than 90 percent of its grants to Jewish projects, according to Rachel Levin, associate director.

The foundation has received all of Spielberg’s profits from his 1993 international film hit, "Schindler’s List," which has amounted to approximately $60 million to date.

In 2001, Spielberg gave $4.6 million to the foundation, whose grants for the year came to $21 million. The biggest chunk, $16.7 million, went to another Spielberg initiative, the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, which has videotaped the testimonies of more than 50,000 Holocaust survivors and witnesses.

More modest, six-figure Righteous Persons grants went to Brandeis University, Jerusalem’s Martyrs Memorial Yad Vashem, the Israel Experience and the National Foundation for Jewish Culture.

Spielberg’s other personal charitable interests are children’s health, medical research and arts and entertainment, with Jewish causes "ranking first among equals," said Andy Spahn. As part of his DreamWorks SKG corporate affairs portfolio, Spahn administers the charitable giving of the film studio’s three founders, Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg.

According to the Forbes magazine list of the 400 richest Americans in 2002, Spielberg’s wealth stood at $2.2 billion. His partner, Geffen, outranks Spielberg on the Forbes list with a worth of $3.8 billion.

Geffen made news last year with a multiyear $200 million pledge to the UCLA School of Medicine, plus $5 million to the Geffen Playhouse. A more typical year may be 2001, when, according to the report filed by his foundation, Geffen made close to $2 million in charitable contributions.

The grants reflected Geffen’s primary interests in AIDS research and care, the arts, civil liberties and, following Sept. 11, substantial support to the families of firefighters and police officers killed in the World Trade Center terrorist attack.

Smaller donations, totaling $110,000, went to approximately 15 Jewish institutions, ranging from $800 for the gay-oriented Congregation Kol Ami to $25,000 for Aviva Family and Children’s Services.

Broad, who has made two fortunes, one in home building, the other in financial services, is credited by Forbes with a $4.8 billion nest egg, making him the second wealthiest resident of Los Angeles, behind media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

Broad channels his donations through four personal and family foundations, specializing in public education improvement, the arts and medical research. This month, the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Foundation pledged $100 million for a genetics research institute in Cambridge, Mass., and another $60 million to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Although last year he gave only approximately $2 million to specifically Jewish causes out of a total $350 million budget for charitable giving, Broad told The Journal that philanthropists should balance concern for society in general with support for Jewish and Israeli organizations.

"If I had only a little to give away, my emphasis would be on Jewish and Israeli causes," he said. "Once you get beyond several hundred thousand dollars, you become a better and more respected citizen if you also give to the Music Center and universities. If I would donate only a million dollars, I would split it between Jewish and general community projects."

The 2001 report for the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Foundation lists a $131,000 contribution to The Jewish Federation, $5,300 to University Synagogue, $5,000 each to Bet Tzedek and the University of Judaism and lesser sums to half a dozen other Jewish institutions.

In San Diego, the city’s foremost philanthropists are Jacobs and his wife, Joan. Jacobs, a former engineering professor, founded Qualcomm, a telecommunications firm, whose stock became a Wall Street favorite during the high-tech boom. The stock has since dropped, and the couple’s worth is listed by Forbes as a relatively "modest" $725 million.

Last year, the couple made news by pledging $120 million over 10 years to the struggling San Diego Symphony, the largest single donation ever made to a U.S. orchestra.

The Jacobses also support numerous Jewish organizations, but instead of setting up their own foundation, they have established a charitable fund at the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego.

The Jewish Community Foundation serves in an advisory and administrative capacity and doubles as a major supporter of the 80,000-strong Jewish community. "Just recently, we have helped build a Jewish community center and a Reform temple," said Marjory Kaplan, foundation executive director.

In Los Angeles, the Jewish Community Foundation has been active since 1954. With current assets of $378 million, it ranks as the 10th largest foundation in Los Angeles.

Though also guided by its clients’ preferences, the foundation gave $35 million to Jewish causes last year, including more than $9 million to The Jewish Federation and its agencies, out of a total $45 million in distributions.

Marvin I. Schotland, foundation president and CEO, is more optimistic than most of his professional colleagues that younger Jewish donors will support their community in the future. "I believe that there is a yearning among younger Jews to understand their Jewishness, which didn’t exist three decades ago," he said.

When The Journal began its research on local Jewish philanthropists, it picked out the names of Broad, Geffen and Spielberg, because last year they made the list of America’s 60 largest charitable contributors. However, there are many other individuals who made similarly generous gifts but did so in earlier years or chose to spread out their large donations over a period of time.

The current Forbes 400 list of richest Americans contains the names of approximately 20 Los Angeles Jews, including such familiar ones as Alan I. Casden, Michael Eisner, Guilford Glazer, Katzenberg, brothers Michael and Lowell Milken, Haim Saban and Gary Winnick.

Universities have always been the main magnet for hefty endowments, and locally, UCLA and USC have benefited in recent years from multiple Jewish gifts of $100 million on down.

On the UCLA campus, the buildings housing the engineering school, business school facilities, medical school, eye research center, world arts and cultures departments and the neuroscience and genetics research center, among others, bear the names of Jewish philanthropists.

Local Jewish educational institutions have had a harder time attracting mega-gifts. However, the pioneer Allen and Ruth Ziegler Foundation funded the University of Judaism rabbinical school bearing their names through a $22 million gift in 1995. In addition, the Milken brothers are recognized for their support of Jewish education, including the Milken Community High School.

The activities of two other Los Angeles Jewish entrepreneurs have been prominent on the business news pages in recent times, namely billionaire TV mogul Saban and ex-billionaire Winnick.

Saban, who grew up in a Tel Aviv slum, has been a very open-handed supporter of the Democratic Party and its candidates in this country and of liberal-centrist politicians, such as Ehud Barak, in Israel.

This month Saban and his wife, Cheryl, announced that they are committing $100 million to local and Israeli causes. Included are $40 million to Childrens Hospital Los Angeles; $12 million to benefit Israeli children, disabled combat veterans and victims of terror, and $3 million to the Los Angeles Jewish Community Foundation, said Shai Waxman Abramson, the Saban Family Foundation’s new program director.

The story of another self-made man, Winnick, is also interesting. In 1997, Winnick founded Global Crossing, which built the world’s largest fiber optics cable communications network on the ocean floor. Only two years later, he was crowned Los Angeles’ richest man, with a net worth pegged at $6.2 billion.

In 2000, Winnick topped a string of donations to mainly Jewish causes with a $40 million pledge to the Simon Wiesenthal Center toward construction of a Frank Gehry-designed Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem, which was to bear Winnick’s name.

Early last year, Global Crossing, staggering under a $12 billion debt, filed for bankruptcy, wiping out most of Winnick’s paper fortune. However, according to Forbes, he was still worth $550 million at the end of last year. Inquiries by The Journal indicated that the charitable commitments made by the Gary and Karen Winnick Foundation are being met.

The ultimate question facing the Jewish community may lie in how its elders can inspire their children and grandchildren to support Jewish life in the future.

"Children never listen to what they are told, but they absorb what they see," said Charendoff, of The Jewish Funders Network. "The parents need to be actively involved in the community and explain their reasons for doing so. What parents can’t do is dictate to their children from the grave. If the elders want their charity to flow in the traditional ways they value, they would do better to give the money away in their lifetimes."

Everyone Into The Pool

Alex Fullman has always loved to swim. He started when he was 2 years old and began swimming competitively at 6. So when representatives of American Red Magen David for Israel (ARMDI) visited his sixth-grade class at Heschel Day School to encourage students to consider making a donation as part of their bar or bat mitzvah year, Alex decided to combine his love of swimming with the needs of ARMDI. The organization provides emergency medical services throughout Israel.

The ARMDI Swim-a-Thon took place June 1 at the West Valley Jewish Community Center, drawing 51 participants and raising more than $3,300 for the organization. Participants obtained donation pledges linked to the number of laps they swam or arranged a single contribution.

"I wanted to support Israel, and I wanted everyone — not just Jewish people — to come," Fullman said.

Two members of the UCLA swim team, Nicole Beck and Marilyn Chua, a 2000 Olympics competitor from Malaysia, were on hand to provide coaching for the swimmers. Members of Valley Beth Shalom’s United Synagogue Youth group, of which Fullman is a member, participated, as did the center’s Young at Heart Club.

Fullman’s parents, Sandra Kossacoff and Howard Fullman, said the event became a family project. Younger brother Casey, 9, roped friends into participating.

Alex Fullman, who will celebrate his bar mitzvah at Valley Beth Shalom on Sept. 6, said he hopes the swim-a-thon’s success will encourage other youngsters to find a creative way to support their favorite charity.

"Some people’s bar mitzvahs are completely unrelated to the word mitzvah," he said. "Even though a bar mitzvah is a simcha [joy], it’s still important for people to do things like this."

Tzedakah for Chanukah

The Chanukah wish lists of six needy local Jewish families
will be filled by generous families from Rancho Santa Margarita’s Morasha
Jewish Day School.

“These families have been financially disadvantaged for a
long time,” said Charlene Edwards, social services director for Jewish Family
Service of Orange County. “They asked for things our children take for

On Dec. 4, in time for Chanukah, Edwards was scheduled to
collect gift baskets filled with wrapped toys and clothing, along with gift
certificates for groceries, movie tickets and haircuts. The cumulative
contributions from students, parents and faculty likely tallies $1,500, said
Robin S. Hoffman, the school’s Jewish studies coordinator. “We’ve been
inundated in the last week.”

The Chanukah effort is one of the first outcomes of
Morasha’s involvement with a three-year national research project of Hebrew
Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. Its Rhea Hirsch
School of Education selected eight schools to participate in Jewish Day Schools
for the 21st Century, a project to demonstrate how schools can serve as a
Jewish learning catalyst for an entire community, said Eve Fein, Morasha’s

As part of the project, a 25-parent panel, which has met
regularly over the last year, settled on enhancing certain Jewish values.
Morasha’s parents chose tzedakah (charity).

“So often, kids never see the end result,” said Kathleen A.
Canter, of Aliso Viejo, a panel participant who has two children in the school.
“We wanted the whole school community involved. It’s powerful when it’s visible
to all.”

Pet Project

Dr. Yonatan “Yoni” Peres acknowledges that being the son of former Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres can be a mixed blessing.

“The name helps open some doors,” he said, “but sometimes it closes them.”

The doors through which the younger Peres, a doctor of veterinary medicine, hopes to pass at the present time lead to potential supporters of his pet project, the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind.

With Los Angeles as his base, Peres is spending some months in the United States as the center’s volunteer development director. It’s an assignment in which he must compete with better-known Israeli causes and institutions for contributions from U.S. Jews.

Although the center also has support organizations in Britain, Switzerland and Israel, American donations account for 80 percent of its annual budget of $630,000.

There are some 20,000 blind persons in Israel, among them 150 veterans, blinded through combat wounds.

The acceptance of guide dogs, as of animal pets in general, is not as common in Israel as in the United States, Peres said. According to his statistics, there is one pet dog or cat for every two Americans, while in Israel the ratio is one such pet to every 20 people.

He attributes the difference to the higher living standards of Americans, with their larger homes and backyards, as well as the remnants of a “galut [exile] mentality,” which associates dogs with pogroms and Nazi concentration camps.

Peres was a member of Hebrew University’s first graduating class in veterinary medicine, but he traces his love of animals back to his childhood.

“That’s something you are born with, you don’t acquire it,” he said.

Though not claiming any genetic family inheritance, Peres notes that his father, after arriving in Palestine from Poland, worked as a kibbutznik in charge of cows and sheep.

The middle of three siblings, Yoni Peres remembers a difficult childhood as the son of a famous father.

“You were always under the microscope,” he recalled. “When you did something well, people thought you used your family connections. When you did something bad, it was a public disgrace.”

He has found in the United States a greater appreciation of his father’s talents and contributions than in Israel, but

he quickly turns the conversation back to the present.

“I want to live as a normal person, not as the son of a famous man,” said Peres, a divorcé who just turned 50.

Up until a decade ago, a blind Israeli waiting to acquire a guide dog had to travel to the United States for training, a move that required considerable money, separation from family and fluency in English.

Even those who overcame the obstacles found that the guide dogs, transplanted to Israel, had to make a difficult adjustment to a strange land and language, and no facilities were available to deal with subsequent problems.

In 1991, Noach Braun, who had worked with dogs during his Israeli army service, and subsequently trained in the United States and Britain, opened the guide dog center and three years later moved it to its present location in Beit Oved, south of Tel Aviv.

The facilities were, and still are, spartan by American standards, though the kennels are state of the art. Braun and his wife, Orna, acquired two breeding dogs and four mobile homes — two for offices and two to house four blind persons during their training period.

Peres, then in private practice and teaching at Hebrew University, joined the center as a volunteer shortly after its opening and is largely responsible for the medical screening and evaluation of potential guide dogs.

Just as important are the psychological profiles of the dogs to assure a successful relationship with their blind owners.

“Some dogs are shy, a few are too aggressive,” Peres said. “In the case of Golden Retrievers, for instance, the human partner has to know that they are very sensitive and easily insulted.”

So far, more than 180 Israelis have found a new independence and self-assurance as graduates of the center, and an ambitious building program is underway to accommodate many more.

On the drawing board are plans for a main building to replace the mobile homes, which will include six to eight bedrooms for the trainees, living and dining room, computer and music facilities, a Braille library and administrative offices.

With he Israeli government providing only 9 percent of the center’s operating budget, the bulk of the money will have to be raised through private donations.

For more information about the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind, callthe Los Angeles office at (310) 453-1212, e-mail or visit

Philosophy of a Philanthropist

On the wall of philanthropist and humanitarian Richard Gunther’s office hangs a photo of a man triumphantly standing atop a Western Nepal mountain peak.

While Gunther is not the man in the picture, he is the photographer, and the photo perhaps symbolizes his view of the world. Gunther, 77, lives by two self-coined mottos: 1) "Life is a great big adventure," 2) "Live life with a sense of awe and mystery."

His great big mysterious adventure culminated in receiving the 2002 UCLA Community Service Award on May 18, joining a prestigious group of past recipients that includes actors and community leaders.

While the honor marks a major pinnacle in his life’s journey, Gunther says he never set out in pursuit of reward. Instead, he merely lives by the philosophy that he developed for himself. "I divide my life into thirds," Gunther said, noting the components are business affairs, physical and emotional fitness and involvement in public interest.

Gunther meticulously divides public interest into three categories: 1) the Jewish world, 2) adult development and aging and 3) microenterprise and microfinancing. "It is not a rigid formula, but a vision of the elements in my life," he said.

Yet Gunther chooses his causes carefully. "I like to participate in things as best I can. Not just money, but energy, too," said Gunther, who is constantly out in the field. "I assess a cause from the heart-level. I have to relate to it emotionally, and it has to make sense intellectually."

"A lifetime of experience gives me the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of things," he said, adding that he has not forgotten the importance that Judaism plays in his life, and he has dedicated countless hours to the Jewish world. For example, during one of his first jobs, Gunther’s boss insisted that he attend a weekend at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute in Simi Valley. "It opened up a world to me," Gunther said, noting that his Judaism had not previously played a significant role in his life. Since then, tikkun olam has been Gunther’s driving force. "You have to get beyond yourself," Gunther said.

His past Jewish activities include president of Peace Now, co-chair of Operation Exodus, co-chair of The Jewish Federation Council Committee on Jewish Life and founding chairman of the Israel Economic Development Task Force in Los Angeles. Gunther currently sits on the boards of the Joint Distribution Committee, the Executive Committee of the Israel Policy Forum and The Jewish Journal.

Next on Gunther’s public service agenda is what he refers to as "the business of aging." He is a member of the Commission on Aging for the State of California, the principal advisory body on all issues affecting senior citizens, including health, housing and transportation. Gov. Gray Davis appointed Gunther to the commission in 2000 for his prior contributions in aging advocacy. However, the aspect that Gunther is most involved with is "rebranding aging completely, by changing the consciousness of the population" with efforts such as teaching aging in schools. "Aging should really be looked at as a third stage in life where people can be contributing at that stage and not looked at as a burden," Gunther said.

Most significantly, in 1997 Gunther created the Legacy Award Program, recognizing seniors who make unique contributions in their communities. The program is still in existence today.

Microenterprise and microfinancing, the third objective on his public service agenda, has taken him around the world in his work with Grameen Bank, a bank offering microloans without collateral to 30 million poverty-stricken families. He traveled to Bangladesh and China where he helped extend Grameen’s efforts. "It could make a major dent in world poverty," he said.

Gunther’s life has come full circle: from the day in 1943 when he began classes at UCLA after being discharged from the Army, to the 2002 recipient of the UCLA Community Service Award. He associates positive memories with his alma mater, including sitting in the stands for numerous basketball games. But "my wife is the most important thing I took from UCLA," Gunther said. Gunther and his wife, Lois, proposed to each other on the steps of Royce Hall. Fifty-five years later, they have three married sons and three grandchildren. A fourth grandchild was fatally injured by a drunk driver five years ago.

Now that Gunther has reached the top of the mountain, there are many things that he looks forward to doing while he is there. "I want to participate in the growth of my grandchildren," said Gunther, who is co-authoring a science fiction story with his 12-year-old grandson, Sam. In addition, he and Lois have an annual tradition of choosing a particular state or country, studying it and touring it by way of bicycle. Next year’s destination — perhaps Vietnam.

"I want to continue the life I have," Gunther said. "I feel very fortunate."


Blanche Ruth Sacks of Calabasas passed away suddenly on Sunday, Nov. 18, 2001. Born and raised in Terre Haute, Ind., and a resident of Los Angeles since 1953, Blanche led an exemplary life that continues to be an inspiration to many.

Her whole life was a celebration of family. She was a loving and devoted mother, grandmother and mother-in-law. She leaves behind sons, Phillip and David; their wives, Sharon and Nicholene; and grandchildren, Megan, Samantha, Andrew and Anthony. Most important to Blanche was her 58-year love affair with her husband, Dr. Harry Sacks, who will miss her immeasurably.

Blanche was an elegant woman who loved fun and laughter. She opened her heart and her home to all that needed comfort; and her honesty and sincerity made her a true friend.

We shall remember her always. — Sacks Family

In lieu of flowers, please send contributions in honor of Blanche Sacks to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, P.O. Box 48750, Rm 2416, Los Angeles, CA 90048 .

Wonder Women

Last year Hollywood unleashed woman of action Erin Brockovich, and won the Academy Award for its star, Julia Roberts.

Next month, the Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) will honor the real Brockovich at the Sixth Annual Women of Action 2001 luncheon banquet on Aug. 8. Brockovich’s boss, attorney Ed Masry, will present the woman who valiantly took on an entire corporation with ICRF’s “Woman of the Year” award.

In addition to honoring Brockovich, ICRF will celebrate the achievements of four other individuals who have contributed to the betterment of both science and society.

The award ceremony will salute Dr. Alexandra Levine, medical director of USC/Norris Cancer Hospital and chief of the hematology division, who worked with Dr. Jonas Salk in the development of an AIDS vaccine; California Real Estate Commissioner Paula Reddish Zinneman, the first woman in the state to hold the position; Superior Court Judge Marsha Revel; and Israeli singer Hedva Amrani Danoff (wife of Dr. Dudley Danoff, an ICRF board member). The luncheon, along with an annual racetrack event and winter ball, is a major fundraising opportunity benefiting ICRF’s cause. Overseeing the event will be Jacqueline Bell, chairwoman of the board of ICRF’s L.A. chapter, and Dorothy Chitkov, its vice president.

The achievements of the ICRF itself are worth countless accolades. Since its inception in 1975, the New York-based ICRF, an organization with branches all over North America, has supported research at the 20 major institutions in Israel, including Bar-Ilan, Ben Gurion and Tel Aviv Universities, Hadassah, the Weizmann Institute of Science, Sheba Medical Center and the Technion. Over almost three decades, ICRF has raised $24 million toward cancer research.

Just this year, doctors supported by ICRF developed Gleevic, a wonder drug for leukemia and rare stomach cancers.

Past achievements have included the application of the p53 protein as an inhibitor of the proliferation of disease cells; the hepatitis B vaccine for the treatment of liver cancer; and Doxil, which helps patients with cancer and AIDS.

ICRF relies on a board of 100 doctors who meet and review applications presented by Israeli scientists to determine who will receive research money. Last year, more than $50,000 was raised toward two fellowships. Chitkov, who herself once suffered from Hodgkin’s disease, said that 100 percent of the contributions sent to Israel by ICRF is spent purely on research.

Right now, ICRF has an eye toward propelling its work into the next millennium. The L.A. Chapter recently formed Visions – the Next Generation, a new fundraising group composed of young professionals, ages 20-40, and headed by attorney, and ICRF board member Greg Bell. Visions’ first outing will be a Monte Carlo Night on Sept. 8 at the Park Plaza Hotel in the Wilshire District.

And this year, the L.A. Chapter plans to double the $1-million tally raised last year.

“I’m a former cancer patient, and I came to this because my doctor told me to get involved. I was told to do it for four weeks, and that was eight years ago,” Chitkov said with a laugh.

For more information on Israel Cancer Research Fund and Visions – The Next Generation, call (323) 651-1200.