Groman Eden to be rededicated


Groman Eden Mortuary will be hosting a dedication ceremony on June 13 at 6:30 p.m. to commemorate its restoration.

The ceremony will be officiated by Rabbi Jerry Cutler of Creative Arts Temple. He will be blessing the building and placing the prayers inside mezuzahs that will hang on the upper right side of certain doorways.

The ceremony will also include a brief history of the mortuary. Afterward, there will be a light reception, and guests can tour the mortuary on their own or with a staff-led group. A shomer will be in attendance to explain the custom of watching the bodies of the deceased before burial, and another person will be available to explain the functions of the newly refurbished taharah, or ritual washing room.

Groman Eden Mortuary began its restoration project in 2010, according to general manager Anthony Lampe. The electrical system, wiring, carpet and some furniture were replaced, but the original colonial style of the building was retained.

Groman Eden Mortuary is part of the network Dignity Memorial. More information on Dignity Memorial services can be found at dignitymemorial.com.

The mortuary is located at 11500 Sepulveda Blvd., Mission Hills. RSVPs for the restoration ceremony are encouraged and may be left with Phyllis Grabot at (805) 341-7269. For more information about Groman Eden Mortuary, call (818) 365-7151 or visit gromanedenmortuary.com.

VIDEO: Virtual Rabbi David presents ‘The Jewish Olympics’


Virtual Rabbi (and Olympics fan) David Paskin presents a Shabbat message based on the determination and dedication of Olympic athletes.

David Paskin, or Rabbi David as he is known by his congregants, is an accomplished spiritual leader, singer/songwriter, entertainer and award-winning Jewish educator. For more than a decade, David has served as full-time Spiritual Leader of Temple Beth Abraham in Canton, Massachusetts

 

VIDEO: Torah dedication by Chabad of Thousand Oaks


Chabad of Thousand Oaks was honored to receive a Torah, generously donated by Rabbi Mordechai and Ethel Bryski in memory of their parents (great-grandparents of Rabbi Chaim Bryski, Rabbi of Chabad of Thousand Oaks), survivors of the Holocaust. This scroll was rescued from the Holocaust as well, and was painstakingly restored before coming to its permanent home at the Thousand Oaks Jewish Center.

Circuit


 

Light ‘Em Up

It was easy to tell when Chanukah hit this year because of the preponderance of menorahs of all shapes and sizes spreading light throughout California. On Dec. 9 in Sacramento on the steps of the Capitol, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger lit a menorah and danced the hora with none other than West Coast’s Chabad Lubavitch irrepressible Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin. Joining them was funnyman Adam Sandler, and Chabad’s long-time friend, Jon Voight.

Light ‘Em Up, Again

On the same night back in Los Angeles, Chabad of Mount Olympus (CMO) held a gala event at Hollywood and Highland. The Simcha Orchestra serenaded guests, while a professional ice carver chipped away at a block of ice until a menorah emerged, ready to be lit by CMO’s Rabbi Shlomo Rodal.

Light ‘Em Up Part III

Chabad of Ventura hosted its own Chanukah Festival on Dec. 12 at Ventura Harbor Village, with carnival rides, hot latkes and arts and crafts. A Torch of Unity and Peace was passed through the crowd as an act of solidarity with U.S. soldiers overseas. Capt. Paul Grossgold, the commanding officer of Ventura County Naval Base, then used the torch to light the menorah.

Chanukah Bush?

‘Tis the season to light the candles – at the White House that is. On Dec. 9, about 400 guests, including Stephen S. Wise’s Rabbi Eli Herscher, Dr. Joel and Roya Geiderman, Dennis Prager, Elliot and Robin Broidy, Nathan Hochman and Mark and Christina Siegel, celebrated Chanukah with President Bush. After davening maariv, guests sang and danced to the melodic strains of a cappella band Kol Zimrah, and posed for photographs with the president and the first lady.

Kadima Comes Home

It was a miraculously sunny morning on Dec. 12 in a string of rainy Sundays, as Kadima Hebrew Academy’s head of school, Barbara Gereboff, noted in her speech. The 35-year-old school’s long-awaited permanent home at the Evanhaim Family Campus was dedicated around the corner from its former campus in West Hills, in front of a community showing of more than 650 people.

The Kadima choir kicked off the event and sang throughout the ceremony. Donors and volunteers were honored at the ceremony, including building and grounds officer Shawn Evenhaim and his wife, Dorit. Evenhaim was honored for finding the new campus and making a significant donation to the new facility. For their efforts Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) presented the Evenhaims with a flag from the Capitol.

“It’s great day for the Jewish community of the Valley and Kadima,” Sherman said. “It matches the parable of the wandering Jew, but now we have a new facility.”

Members of the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety were honored for their work in getting the school opened before September.

Ehud Danoch presented the school with a certificate. Councilmen Dennis P. Zine, Tony Cardenas and Greig Smith and Los Angeles City Controller Laura Chick participated in the ceremony along with Jewish community leaders such as Rabbis Stewart Vogel, Abner Weiss and Richard Camras; L.A. Bureau of Jewish Education Director Gil Graff; and Carol Koransky, executive director of the Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance.

Tours of the new building were given before and after the ceremony by parent volunteers while older students helped direct traffic. Following the ceremony, a simultaneous mezuzah-hanging ceremony took place in the various classrooms of the building.

The new facility includes a computer lab with flat screen monitors, a science lab facility, a teaching kitchen, a playground, a swimming pool and a kosher cafeteria. The school currently has 185 students enrolled and caters to students from kindergarten to eighth grade. Kadima plans to add a preschool program next year. – Emily Pauker, Contributing Writer

Romania Remembers

The Romanian Consulate, the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust and the American Jewish Committee came together to observe Romanian Holocaust Remembrance Day at the museum’s Wilshire Boulevard ORT Building locale on Oct. 28.

More than 50 people attended the event, which follows Romania’s first national memorial day to remember the victims of the Holocaust, an effort spearheaded by President Ion Iliescu and first observed in Romania this year on Oct. 12. (The Romanian government originally selected Oct. 9 – the day in 1941 when Jewish deportation orders were signed – but since the day conflicted with Shabbat last year the event was moved.)

Rachel Jagoda, executive director of the L.A. Museum of the Holocaust, said that Nazi policies sent more than 270,000 Romanian and Ukranian Jews to their deaths between 1933 and 1945, and sent 25,000 Romani to Transdniestria, where perhaps half died. At a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe, Romania is proactively wrestling with its past.

“Romania is willing to embrace its history with honesty,” said Claudiu Lucaci, consul general of Romania in Los Angeles.

UCLA history professor David Myers praised the Romanian government’s historic move to acknowledge its role in the Holocaust. “I’m deeply heartened by Romania’s efforts to come to terms with its past,” he said.

Other speakers included Western Regional AJC Director Rabbi Gary Greenbaum and Dr. Nathan Shapira, a UCLA professor emeritus and Romanian Holocaust survivor who read from “The Child Looked Under a Leaf” by fellow survivor Lupu Gutman. – Adam Wills, Associate Editor

Scientific Excellence

American Technion Society-Western Region (ATS) hosted its Rel-Event at the Four Seasons Hotel on Nov. 8, drawing more than 125 people to its forum highlighting innovations coming out of the Israeli university that have relevance to our everyday lives.

Moris Eisen, Technion’s head of the Institute of Catalysis Science and Technology, discussed the practical application of plastics and polymers – from creating artificial disks for the spine in back surgery to developing a recyclable tire.

The event also marked the fourth year ATS recognized science students from Milken Community High School of Stephen S. Wise Temple whose science projects took top honors. Winners of the Excellence in Science award this year include eight-graders Loren Berman, Karlie Braufman, Richard Dahan and Nathan Halimi; and ninth-graders Lisa Hurwitz and Rachel Kraus. – AW

Terrific Torath Emeth

The Orthodox Yeshiva Rav Isaacsohn Torath Emeth Academy held its annual scholarship dinner Jan. 16 at the Regent Beverly Wilshire. The dinner, which honored Torath Emeth parents Henry and Lisa Manoucheri, celebrated 52 years of Torath Emeth in Los Angeles.

Generations

On Nov. 18, Lara Goulson’s fifth-grade boy’s class at Emek Hebrew Academy Teichman Family Torah Center in Sherman Oaks hosted an Intergenerational Day for the students’ parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings. Each student completed an art project with his relatives, and then the boys wrote poems about their families and read them aloud.

 

Chabad Brings Brooklyn to L.A.


Amid the kosher restaraunts, Judaica stores and storefront
synagogues on a particular stretch of Pico Boulevard, a little  piece of Brooklyn
has just been built.

OK, the new three-story, 47,000-square-foot brown-brick
building is hardly little, but it is straight out of 770 Eastern Parkway, the Crown
Heights address that houses the central Chabad center and the headquarters of
their former spiritual leader, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, otherwise
known as “the Rebbe.”

After nearly 10 years, $10 million and lengthy negotiations
with the city council and Pico neighbors, West Coast Chabad Lubavitch last
Sunday inaugurated their new girls elementary school, Bais Chaya Mushka, named
after the rebbe’s wife, and renamed the street — located between Doheny and Wetherly
— “Schneerson Square.”

The March 28 dedication — which brought out notables like
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger, actor Jon Voight, Mayor James
Hahn, City Councilman Jack Weiss, County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and state
Education Secretary Richard Riordan, as well as greetings from President Bush
and Gov. Schwarzenegger — demonstrates the West Coast religious organization’s
tremendous fundraising powers and their presence in the city. While Chabad has
always had a presence in Pico with its girls schools, middle school, high
school and synagogues, it never dominated the street in the grandiose fashion
it does now.

The 770 replica (this is the seventh, including ones in
Melbourne, Australia; Kfar Chabad and Jerusalem, Israel; Buenos Aires,
Argentina and Westwood) is a fitting tribute to the rebbe, who sent emissaries
all over the world to spread Judaism. One of those young emissaries was Rabbi
Boruch Shlomo Cunin, the director of West Coast Chabad Lubavitch, who, since
his arrival in the Chabad-less West in 1965 has peppered the city with 120
Chabads, and established himself as a figure to be reckoned with.

While the Pico edifice is replicated on old-time Brooklyn,
the school is tailored to the modern day. It features 18 bright and airy
classrooms equipped with Internet access and Pentium 4 Dell computers, an
indoor and outdoor gymnasium with rock-climbing equipment and basketball
courts, playgrounds with rubberized floors and the latest in play equipment, a
large library and a computer and science laboratory.

The new school bills itself as a community school and is
expected to house 330 students. Chabad says that 80 percent of these students
will be on a scholarship of some kind.

The new building has been in the planning stage since 2001.
When Chabad first proposed it to the City Council, they requested permission to
build a four-story, 57-foot building.

But some neighbors were apprehensive about the project. D.
Solaiman Tehrani wrote to the city concerned that “the proposed height renders
the project out of scale with the surrounding commercial developments and
contextually unfit,” and that the pick-ups and drops-offs and playground area
of the school itself would generate neighborhood noise and block driveways. At
a hearing in March 2001, neighbors voiced concerns about the shadow the
building would create, the noise level and the blocked driveways, double
parking and honking that pick-ups and drop-offs would generate.

While there were 13 letters and one form petition of 44
signatures submitted in opposition to the project, there were two petitions and
34 letters with a total of 809 signatures submitted to the city in support of
the project.

The Department of Building and Safety denied the variance to
build the four-story building, but it did allow Chabad variances to the
building code to build a smaller building as long as it adhered to certain
regulations: The building needed to be built in an O- or U-shaped structure with
an interior courtyard that would buffer the noise from the playground. The
school was also required to appoint a traffic coordinator to organize carpools
so that the school could achieve an average vehicle ridership of three persons
per vehicle, and to ensure that all pick-ups and drop-offs would happen on
site, with no vehicles entering the alley. The school was also not permitted to
hold functions like bar mitzvahs or weddings on its premises; to that end they
did not install a commercial kitchen.

“It was a challenge, not a struggle, to get all the
ordinances [approved],” said Rabbi Chaim Cunin, director of public relations
for West Coast Chabad Lubavitch.

Once the building was underway, Chabad had a basis to
spearhead their other project: getting the city to officially recognize
Schneerson, a project that was stymied by previous City Councils.

Weiss and his staff spearheaded the legislation to rename
the area. They first checked to make sure that city had named streets after
religious leaders, so that Schneerson Square would not be an anomaly, and found
streets named after bishops, like St. Andrews Place. Using those streets as
precedents, the city dedicated the block to Schneerson in honor of his devotion
to community, education and philanthropy.

At last week’s dedication, Weiss told the crowd that at the
groundbreaking two years before he had said, “Welcome to 770 Pico Boulevard.”

“But then I checked the numbers and I found out that 770
Pico was around the Staples Center,” Weiss said, noting that renumbering the
street was out. “We are standing at the intersection of Wetherly and Pico — but
I say we are also standing at the intersection of victory and Chabad.”

For more information about Bais Chaya Mushka or other Chabad
projects, call (310) 208-7511.  

Man With a Plan


Students from Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life gathered one night during the recent General Assembly of the Jewish federation system and confronted Richard Joel.

The students peppered Joel, Hillel’s president and international director, with criticism that events during the United Jewish Communities’ annual gathering had condescended to them.

Joel — who had delivered speeches, participated in panels and spent days working the summit halls — listened intently. He expressed sympathy for the students and asked them how they would have done things differently.

For Neil Moss, the chairman of Hillel’s board of directors and a longtime colleague, Joel’s reaction was “warm and engaging” — typical for a corporate chief who also plays accordion, dances and sings into the wee hours at summer Hillel retreats.

“Sometimes I joke with him that he’s an overgrown camp counselor,” Moss said. “He’s the guy who loses his voice.”

Joel’s voice now will resonate in a much wider arena as the president of Yeshiva University (YU).

Joel is expected to stay with Hillel through the spring of 2003, at which time he will take up his post at Yeshiva University. Hillel has assembled a search committee of 12 members, representing its philanthropists, national and regional staff and student activists.

No short list of prospects is yet in the offing, and it could take from one to sixth months to find a new president.

Joel’s election capped a controversial two-year search that reflected the debate over whether to allow someone other than a Torah scholar to head the world’s largest Orthodox university.

“I think he’ll take an excellent institution and take it to all kinds of places we haven’t dreamed about,” said Barry Shrage, president of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston.

Shrage, who also is a member of the modern Orthodox movement, predicts Joel is “going to continue to develop a vision for modern Orthodoxy that can be communicated within the community and outside of it.”

But others aren’t as pleased, because Joel is neither a rabbi or an academic.

“The choice of Richard Joel for the presidency of Yeshiva University raises a question on leadership of the institutions of Judaism in the USA: what credentials are required?” Jacob Neusner, Research Professor of Religion and Theology at Bard College wrote in a letter. “The trustees of Yeshiva University have repudiated the twin-ideals that Yeshiva University was founded to embody: both Torah and secular learning (Torah umada). Mr. Joel has neither.”

For his part, Joel insisted he’s setting his sights strictly on the world of YU, where he once was dean of the Cardozo School of Law. He has a daughter at the school’s Stern College for women and a son at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS).

“With real humility, I’ve accepted the presidency of YU. No one has offered me the leadership of the Orthodox world,” he said.

Many who have worked with Joel said they’re confident he’ll succeed. In part, they point to Joel’s professional skills and his 14-year track record at Hillel: He took an organization of campus religious chapters loosely tied to B’nai B’rith and on the brink of financial collapse, and transformed it into a high-profile, well-funded, corporate-style entity, they said.

“He took an organization that was considered dorky and turned it around into a place kids want to be,” said Lynn Schusterman, president of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation, which has donated a good portion of Hillel’s $46 million annual budget.

Many involved in Hillel said Joel fueled the turnaround with his sheer magnetism. Schusterman calls Joel a “pied piper,” while many cite his “charisma” in the near-reverent tones groupies reserve for rock stars.

“He has a vision for Jewish life that is very deep and compelling and profound,” said Rabbi Jim Diamond, director of the Center for Jewish Life at Princeton University and of the Princeton Hillel.

“He is the total package. He has extraordinary ability in all areas — vision, speaking, people skills, management skills, creativity,” added Jay Rubin, Hillel’s executive vice president.

Joel’s rhetorical abilities are well-known. Nathan Diament, director of the Orthodox Union’s Institute for Public Affairs, said Joel “realizes the power of language in conveying ideas, in motivating people and institutions.”

It was Joel who created the two key catch-phrases at the core of Hillel: “Jewish renaissance” and the motto, “maximize the number of Jews doing Jewish.”

Still, some say the key is Joel’s ability to marry lofty words to real strategies.

“It’s not a JFK-style charisma, it’s something deeper,” Shrage said. “What he has is a real vision that he can articulate and bring to life. People know he’s for real.”

Joel is also a workhorse, many said. Seth Goldstein, now a New York University law school student, earned an Edgar Bronfman scholarship while he was a Hillel member at Cornell University, which enabled him to work as an aide to Joel for a year.

“He’s nonstop; he never said no,” recalled Goldstein, 24. “His days start at 6:30 a.m. and go to 2:30 a.m. I would leave him at 1:15 a.m. and he’d still be going.”

Joel also served as chairman of an Orthodox Union (OU) commission that investigated sexual harassment in the case of Rabbi Baruch Lanner. In December 2000 the panel released part of a scathing 332-page report blaming OU leaders for ignoring reports of Lanner’s abuse and urging major organizational reforms

At Hillel, Joel applied the kind of power-sharing leadership techniques that management gurus advocate. Colleagues speak of having “autonomy” and being allowed to “take ownership” of their work.

But he also set the bar high.

“One of Richard’s hallmarks was to say, ‘We’ve done this — now what?'” Rubin said. “He strives for excellence.”

“Now what?” is a good question.

The search for a new YU head was so fraught with tension that it was only in the two days preceding the Dec. 5 vote that the boards of trustees for the university and RIETS appeared ready to back Joel.

Even then, it came only after Joel met with the trustees at length, face to face.

In the end, YU officials arrived at an arrangement that some called surprising: Joel was named president of YU and chief executive officer of RIETS, while YU’s outgoing president Rabbi Norman Lamm, a highly regarded Torah scholar, will become rosh yeshiva of RIETS and university chancellor.

Yeshiva, a top-ranked university with five locations in New York — including RIETS, medical and law schools, affiliated health-care centers and high schools — has become a “variegated” entity, according to Julius Berman, president of the RIETS board and a former president of Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s board of directors.

In light of its “complex” character, Berman said, Yeshiva “requires that much more leadership.”

The institution will remain committed to the motto “Torah U’madda” — Torah and science — indicating a synthesis of Jewish and general studies, Berman said.

Joel also has vowed to encourage “a more integral relationship” between different segments of the university, Berman added.

For example, Joel might invite Lamm or other Torah scholars to lecture at the medical school on cloning and Jewish law, Berman said, or ask a medical school professor to speak at the college.

Exactly how Yeshiva’s new power structure will develop remains to be seen. Berman and others, including Joel himself, said the exact parameters of the roles Joel and Lamm will play still need be defined.

But those who know Joel said he embodies what Yeshiva is about, and is deeply committed to the university’s success.

A former New York assistant district attorney, Joel remains devoted to his wife and six children, reportedly never missing a Shabbat with them.

He also helped found a modern Orthodox congregation, Kemp Mill Synagogue, in his home city of Silver Spring, Md., that today includes 250 families.

Diamond said Joel will “do great things” for Yeshiva, though even his friend is “not the Moshiach.”

No one is perfect. He moves very fast, he has a clear idea of what he wants and doesn’t want, and he can be very tough,” Diamond said. “But I think that’s going to help him at Yeshiva. To be a university president, you have to be tough.”

Campus Envy


I am not a big fan of Jewish unity when it’s ideological. A room full of informed

and opinionated Jews, arguing their ideas back and forth, is a sign of a healthy people.

But I do support Jewish physical unity. Life is with people, and Jewish life flourishes when we learn, play, pray and — of course — argue together.

That’s why I stood on a hill in Irvine last Sunday, suffering — as an L.A. Jew — from a case of campus envy.

The occasion was the dedication of the Tarbut v’Torah Jewish Community Upper School and a tour of the building site of the Samueli Jewish Campus. The school itself is state-of-the-art, spacious, with a professional-quality performance and lecture hall, and even a rock climbing wall in the playground.

We do have good Jewish high schools here, with nice buildings, and I’m certain there will be more of them as the years go by. But that Samueli Campus beside the school, that’s another story.

Last Sunday, a crowd of about 1,000 Orange County Jews came for a "virtual tour" of what will be a $63 million, 120,000-square-foot Jewish community campus. On that breezy hilltop overlooking Orange County, tantalizing, full-color renderings of the future laid propped up beside what is now a dusty building pad. The new campus will house the Orange County Jewish Federation and its affiliated agencies, as well as a full-service Jewish Community Center (JCC). The new JCC will include two massive swimming pools, a 50,000-square-foot fitness center, a 500-seat theater, classrooms and facilities for children from infancy through the teen years, kosher kitchens and space for weddings and celebrations for more than 300 people.

Construction on the site is expected to begin once a $20 million capital campaign is completed. Already, 72 families have pledged $11 million. "This is the catalyst for the center of Jewish life in Orange County," said Henry Samueli, the Broadcom Corp. co-founder who, along with his wife, Susan, donated the land for the campus. "So, 20 years from now, you could open a travel book and look up ‘Jewish center’ and you will find this. This is a place for everybody in the Jewish community to come."

The Samueli Jewish Campus will serve an estimated 2,500 people per day, according to Orange County JCC president Mary Ann Malkoff. "This is our future and it’s all about to happen," she said.

What, I wondered, about L.A.’s future? When is that going to happen? Orange County is a much smaller Jewish community — 100,000 souls at most — more homogenous than ours. But it is also spread out across 700 square miles, and filled with its share of the disinterested and marginally involved. Now all these Jews will have a true central address, a place for all denominations, all political persuasions, all ages. As our JCCs either remain closed or struggle to exist, as we cast about for both leadership and togetherness, we can look south for some valuable lessons:

One person with the right vision can make a huge difference.

There were numerous people involved in the Orange County campus, but one crucial element revolved around one family’s vision, and pocketbook. Henry Samueli is a resident of Orange County who, along with an anonymous donor, funded most of Tarbut v’Torah. ("We are very selfish in doing this," joked Susan Samueli during the dedication ceremony. "We have daughters who will be graduating from this school.") When school officials informed the Samuelis that the school might lose its option to buy valuable adjoining acreage, the couple helped envision the kind of Jewish center of life and learning that Henry Samueli had experienced first-hand as a child growing up — in Los Angeles’ Fairfax district.

Big visions generate big excitement.

In the beginning, as Susan Samueli said, all her transplanted family was looking for was a Jewish school. They could have written a building fund check and called it a day. Instead, they and other Orange County leaders stepped back and imagined the best possible scenario for their community’s Jewish future. That not only inspired large donors to give even more, it galvanized a community that many had written off as dispersed and apathetic.

Real leadership builds real community.

Perhaps most striking thing about the Sunday event was the cooperation and excitement shared by staff and lay leaders of all the Orange County Jewish agencies and organizations. Of course they have had their conflicts, and they will have more, but the project only worked because people worked together. "What makes this special is the relationship between the JCC and Tarbut, between JCC and Federation and between Tarbut and Federation," said Malkoff, echoing the day’s spirit. "Having a campus where we can all work together is extremely meaningful."

No one needs reminding that these are uncertain, perilous times, and we certainly have enough life-and-death causes — terror, Iraq, Israel, the economy, Argentina, anti-Semitism — that demand our money and attention.

Coming together to deal with these crises, as we have in Los Angeles, is an important achievement. This community has always responded to emergencies well. But how much better off would we be if along with our ability to demonstrate unity with Jews in crisis abroad, we brought ourselves together as well, in a big, bold way, as they’ve done in Orange County.

The Circuit


2002: A Cayse Odyssey

Valley Outreach Synagogue will honor Ray Cayse as Man of the Year, Ruth Bail as Humanitarian of the Year, Eleanor Mizrahi as Woman of the Year and Don and Mickey Bilsky as Couple of the Year on April 6 at the Odyssey Restaurant in Granada Hills.

The Big 2-0

Marking the Encino branch’s 20th anniversary, Rabbi Harold Schulweis installed a mezuzah at Bank Leumi USA. After the installation, the 200 people in attendance joined Schulweis in singing “Hinei Ma Tov Umah Naim.”

My Dear Watson!

Rep. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles) met with an articulate group of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) students in her L.A. office to talk about personal experiences with diabetes and to ensure that juvenile diabetes research funding remains a top priority. One of the highlights of the meeting was when Emma Klatman, 10, tested her blood sugar and explained to Watson what she needed to do in order to enjoy one Payday candy bar. This simple but profound demonstration showed the politician what people with diabetes have to go through to perform the simple act of eating.

“You are preaching to the choir,” said Watson, who supports JDRF in terms of legislation, research, funding and finding a cure.

 

Curran Studies at ORT

Westlake Village resident Sandra Curran has been named a protégée in the Women’s American ORT (WAO) National Mentoring Program. The selective yearlong program partners dynamic local WAO leaders with members of the national board of directors, who serve as their mentors for growth within the organization. Curran is president of the Oakhills-Sharonah chapter.

Celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, WAO is the largest private contributor to World ORT, one of the world’s largest nongovernmental education and training organizations, supporting a network of schools and programs in almost 60 countries, including Israel, the United States and the former Soviet Union. The Los Angeles ORT Technical Institute offers courses in computer technology, electronics and other key areas that provide graduates with marketable vocational skills.

For more information about WAO, visit www.waort.org .

Finders Are Keepers

Gary and Rochelle Finder and Chabad of the Valley’s Rabbi Joshua B. Gordon and Rabbi Mordechai Einbinder announced the dedication of the new Finder Family Camp Gan Israel at a recent banquet. For the past 29 years, Camp Gan Israel has given Jewish pride to thousands of San Fernando Valley children. Citing the Finders’ “selfless devotion to the needs of others,” Einbinder saluted the couple for “assuring that all the goodness of Camp Gan Israel will continue on at the heart of community life.”

A Gore-geous Tribute to Hochman

Former Vice President Al Gore was in rare humorous form at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Legal Services Division gala benefit posthumously honoring Bruce J. Hochman.

“I’m a visiting professor at UCLA — veep for short,” Gore joked to the Regent Beverly Wilshire audience of lawyers, judges, politicians such as Gov. Gray Davis and many supporters of the legendary tax attorney and community activist. Hochman, who died in August 2001 at the age of 72, was a tireless worker on behalf of Israel and the worldwide and Los Angeles Jewish communities. He chaired the United Jewish Fund campaign, was a former president of The Jewish Federation, former regional president of the Anti-Defamation League and served on the board of numerous organizations. Hochman’s wife of 38 years, Harriet, attended the gala with their four children, Nathan, David, Nancy and Jennifer.

“Bruce Hochman was a man of principle: committed to justice, constant, consistent — he touched many thousands of lives in a very positive way,” Gore joked.

“I haven’t seen so many lawyers in one place since the last day of the campaign in 2000 — that’s what it came down to,” Gore said, revealing for the first time since the election both a cleanshaven face and a sense of irony. “If I had to do it over again … I would have kissed Tipper longer — but she was struggling,” he said.

Other one-liners: “I used to introduce myself as ‘The Man Who Was Going to Be the Next President.'” And: “On the night I gave a concession speech, David Letterman said it was the best speech of my life. [Pause for laughter.] That’s not funny.”

Once, when he was out of the country, Gore got an emergency letter from Washington: “I thought, ‘What could be wrong?’ Then I remembered, ‘A lot could be wrong.'”

In his half-hour speech, Gore turned serious — and back to the more familiar didactic persona — when talking about world affairs. “Our nation is still dealing with the pain of Sept. 11 and its aftermath … and of course, in the Middle East we are hoping and praying and working with our government to help bring peace with security,” he said. “We must stand by the people of Israel.”

Gore, whose wife, Tipper, announced this month that she would not seek her husband’s old Senate seat from Tennessee, did not announce his future plans or if he would seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004. — Staff Report

What a Nice Chap!

Los Angeles Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz, chaplain for the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and the LAX Airport Police, visited Ground Zero, site of the World Trade Center attack. Kravitz was invited by Deputy Chief Len Macesy and taken on a VIP tour by New York Port Authority Police. Kravitz shared words of appreciation, encouragement and prayer on behalf of the men and women of the agencies he represents.

Righteous Rescuers Honored


Though certainly one of the most bitter memories of history, the Holocaust was also a time of true heroism and great humanity. On Sun., May 6, Mt. Sinai Memorial Park in Simi Valley dedicated a grove of trees to the non-Jewish heroes who risked their lives to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust. Lidia Furmanski of Pasadena, a rescuer from Poland, and Bert Lerno of Simi Valley, a Jewish Dane who was rescued, were guests of honor at the dedication ceremony.

"Mount Sinai’s mission is to provide solace and honor human spirit," said Arnold Saltzman, general manager of Mount Sinai Memorial Parks. "The Grove of the Righteous Rescuers is an eternal testimonial to the thousands of non-Jewish rescuers whose courage and respect for their fellow men and women set a high standard for us all."

The Grove of the Righteous Rescuers is the first of its kind in this country and consists of 20 olive and almond trees. An additional 18 Jerusalem pines were donated by the Jewish National Fund, best known for planting more than 210 million trees in Israel. Through the grove winds a path among stone plaques acknowledging each of the 38 countries where citizens, at their own peril, protected Jews. In addition to a commemorative plaque, the centerpiece of the grove is a fountain of water surrounding an eternal flame. Dr. Edward Kamenir noted that the "combination of fire and water represents two extremes that can live in harmony." Kamenir worked as a volunteer to develop the new cemetery and was inspired by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem’s Holocaust memorial, to create a memorial to the heroes of the Holocaust.

"In front of [Yad Vashem] is a grove of trees dedicated to the righteous gentiles of the world. It impressed me that they had a place," Kamenir said. "Wherever we memorialize those who were sacrificed by the Nazis there should also be a memorial for those who sacrificed themselves to save them."

Simi Valley Mayor Bill Davis spoke during the ceremony and worked with local school children to plant a few trees in the grove.

Rabbi Harold Schulweis of Valley Beth Shalom, the ceremony’s keynote speaker, focused on the importance of remembering our history. "One thing is more powerful than death itself — memory," Schulweis, said, adding that "memory is a subtle art. You have to know how to remember."

Schulweis, the founder of the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, noted that if you leave people with only a melancholy memory, that memory could turn to cynicism. "Remember evil and do not forget goodness,"he said.

Message From The President


MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL
MR. MOSHE KATSAV

It gives me great pleasure to send you congratulations and best wishes from Jerusalem on the important occasion of the dedication of the new Los Angeles Federation Center which is yet another proof of the community’s significance and vitality.

We in Israel are very grateful for your meaningful support, whether political, financial or cultural throughout the years and which you have shown again recently by your active encouragement and loyalty in the crises we are facing. These events can serve to strengthen and fortify the bond between us. I am confident that we will be able to continue to rely on you and that you will show your solidarity by visiting our country and sending your youth on student programs.

It is important that the commitment of North American Jewry to Israel be extended, especially in these difficult times. This is important for you, as it is for us, in your fight against assimilation. One of the top priorities on my agenda is Diaspora Jewry. We are brothers and sisters and have a common heritage and fate. Every Jewish child is entitled to a quality Jewish education and I believe that there is much we can do together to guarantee this birthright.

May the word of the Lord and Zion go forth from the new Center and may the Los Angeles Jewish community continue to grow and flourish.

Edifice Rex


The official dedication of the Jewish Federation headquarters at 6505 Wilshire Blvd. this weekend marks a new era in the history of Jewish Los Angeles.

The structure near Wilshire’s intersection with San Vicente Boulevard is stunning. From a distance it appears as a gleaming tower of cool, aqua-colored glass. Up close, it greets drivers and pedestrians with a grove of mature olive trees and a facade of Jerusalem stone. The trees in their heavy planters are, of course, an ideal security barrier, but they are also inviting, symbolic, perfect.

There is every reason to be proud of this place, created on the frame of the old 6505, which was damaged by the Northridge earthquake. Of course 6505 will stand as the new headquarters of the Jewish Federation, but is this, then, the headquarters of Jewish L.A.?

The answer is, positively, unequivocally, maybe. Perhaps. It depends.

Inside the Federation’s Goldsmith Center, as 6505 has been renamed, you get a feeling the architects struggled to combine 21st century design with traditional notions of communal space, and they succeeded. Walk in, and you feel welcome, secure and impressed.

To your left is the Slavin Children’s Library, a nice message there. To your right is the Zimmer Children’s Discovery Place, a 10,000-square-foot state-of-the-art children’s museum that will serve as an ideal introduction for all children to the values of Jewish life and community. The Zimmer will open officially in February, but a walk-through in the company of museum founder and director Esther Netter brings it to life. The tens of thousands of children expected to visit the Zimmer will begin to understand not just what a community is, but how it is built and maintained.

The floors above the Zimmer will house the work spaces of the Jewish Federation staff and those of many of its affiliated agencies. (Full disclosure: the Federation is this paper’s largest client. The Journal is independently incorporated and managed, and our offices are, as they have always been, deep in the vibrant heart of Koreatown.) These areas are nice, but hardly exciting. It’s here that much of the heavy lifting of community building gets done. The Federation is the central planning, coordinating and fundraising body for 18 local and international agencies that provide humanitarian programs to Jews and non-Jews: food, clothes and legal services for the poor; job training and immigrant resettlement, relief services, child care, literacy and other programs. This is important labor, and it costs money. The Federation and its fundraising arm, the United Jewish Fund, are the second largest fundraising endeavor in Los Angeles, after the United Way. Raising money at that level is a corporate undertaking, and its headquarters need to reflect that.

A relative handful of men and women contributed the more than $20 million dollars necessary to renovate 6505. Some people have complained that the funds would be better spent elsewhere. The answer to these critics is simple: Don’t worry, there’s plenty more money out there. This is a very wealthy community whose capacity to fund worthy causes has yet to be really tapped. The Skirball Cultural Center, the Wiesenthal Center, the University of Judaism, Milken Community High School of Stephen S. Wise Temple, the Irmas Campus of Wilshire Boulevard Temple are just a few examples of entire campuses — and in some cases whole institutions — that came into being when people with a vision encountered people with deep concern — and the kind of checkbook that turns dreams into reality.

The 1994 earthquake that damaged 6505 also served as a reminder that a building, no matter how grand, can offer only the illusion of shelter and stability. Whether the Goldsmith Building will be the headquarters of the Jewish L.A. of the future depends on what vision emanates from within its striking exterior. The headquarters of L.A. Jewry will in the end be known by the good it does for others and the message its leaders articulate for the next generation.

Restoring Hope


A prayer and study center honoring Jewish life has opened near the place that for more than half a century has been the paramount symbol of Jewish death.

Jordan’s Prince Hassan joined Roman Catholic clergy, Polish, U.S. and Israeli officials and Holocaust survivors in an emotional ceremony Sept. 12 dedicating the Auschwitz Jewish Center in Oswiecim – the town outside which the infamous Nazi death camp was built.

The center complex, which includes study, prayer and educational facilities, encompasses the lone remaining synagogue in Oswiecim – the Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot Synagogue – which has been fully restored. It is the only active Jewish institution near the site of the Auschwitz death camp.

“There is in today’s ceremony a message of hope, of tikvah,” said Hassan, who attended the ceremony in his capacity as moderator of the World Conference of Religion and Peace.

“After survival comes revival,” he said. “The message here is that death is not the end of life.”Hassan, the brother of the late King Hussein, noted that he was aware of the “delicate nature” of his participation in the ceremony. But, he added, “further understanding through sharing in our common humanity is a duty of conscience.”

Former Knesset speaker Shevach Weiss, a Holocaust survivor from Poland who is now the chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, hugged Hassan warmly and welcomed his presence.

“The fact that you are here with us is a symbol of the continuity of making peace,” he said. “It means solidarity with the present time and understanding of what happened in the past.”

The $10 million Auschwitz Center project was conceived and sponsored by the New York-based Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation, founded in 1995 by philanthropist and businessman Fred Schwartz.Its aim is to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and mourn their loss, not by showing how they died but how they lived, focusing on the life, culture and history of the prewar Jewish community of Oswiecim as a microcosm of destroyed European Jewry.

“The camps represent the anonymity and mechanics of death,” Schwartz – known from U.S. television commercials as “Fred the Furrier” – said before the ceremony. “Our center counters this anonymity.”The center also hopes to establish itself as a positive, living Jewish presence near the place that is the world’s biggest Jewish cemetery and the ultimate symbol of the Shoah. There are more than 40 Catholic institutions in the area.

“This synagogue is a testament to the vibrant souls who lived life to the fullest within its walls,” said Michael Lewan, chairman of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, a co-sponsor of the project.

“Today, Oswiecim has reconciled with its past in an act of love, an act of peace,” he said.The Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot Synagogue was restored to how it looked in the 1930s, when the town’s 7,000 Jews made up more than half of the local population and Oswiecim was widely known among Jews by its Yiddish name, Oshpitsin.

The building attached to the synagogue, once the home of local Jews, includes an auditorium, an exhibition on Jewish life in Oswiecim, and a family history center where people can trace their ancestry through computer databases.

The walls of the complex are hung with historic photographs of Oswiecim Jews and with prewar scenes of the town.

“My grandparents came from Oswiecim and had a most marvelous childhood here,” said Lucia Goodhart of Baltimore, who attended the ceremony.

“Opening this center represents not only a rejuvenation but a restoration of relationships. During the ceremony I felt my heart beating out of my chest,” she said. “It is a justification that we lived here. From despair, I have serious feelings of hope.”

The opening of the center took place against a background of controversy over the establishment last month of a discotheque in a local building that had been used for Nazi-era slave labor.

The Polish government joined Jewish groups in criticizing the opening of the disco and urged the owners to move it to another location.

At the dedication of the Auschwitz Center, Oswiecim Mayor Jozef Krawczyk welcomed the new center and new Jewish presence.

He said he hoped that the center would serve as an aid to reconciliation and called on Jews to be sensitive to the day-to-day problems of the city and its citizens.

Community Briefs


From the “Who Knew?” department comes this interesting tidbit: Lashon hara has a staunch opponent and Judaism an enthusiastic fan in, of all people, the pop musician known as Beck.

In a special music insert of last week’s LA Weekly, the pioneering Grammy-winning post-modernist – best known for genre-blending albums such as “Odelay” and “Midnite Vultures” – was asked to comment on a rumor circulating that linked him to Scientology. Beck answered the question this way:
“I’m not a gossip at all, maybe because I’m a Jew, and Jews believe you shouldn’t talk about people. I’m the same way about stealing – I’m absolutely unable to steal. My family weren’t observant Jews, but I wanted a bar mitzvah, and when I was a teenager I used to go to synagogue and study Torah with a friend who lived in Tujunga.

“If I have children I’ll raise them as Jews, because it’s a great religion. I like to look at things from as many different angles as possible, and one of the things I love about Judaism is that it gives 100 different interpretations of a single line of Torah.”