Community Briefs

They must put something in the water at El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills. Not only did the school recently take first place nationally in the fiercely competitive Academic Decathlon; another team from ECR won the first annual Jewish Quiz Bowl, on April 26, at the Westside Jewish Community Center. For their efforts, grand-prize winners — classmates and close pals Rich Cain and Steve Glickman, both 18-year-old seniors — received summer Israel trips worth about $2,500 each, courtesy of the Jewish Federation’s Israel Experience Program and the Jewish Community Foundation.

Thirty teens from 15 public high schools participated in the Quiz Bowl, which was modeled after the Academic Decathlon and sponsored by Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles Teen Services.

In the weeks leading up to the contest, students were provided with a packet of information on Zionism and Israel’s history and politics, as prepared by Stacey Barrett, director of Jewish education for JCC/LA. Barrett also offered two study sessions for the students, who were selected to compete on the basis of an essay on their most significant Jewish experience. The teams prepared during their free time for the timed multiple-choice test, which they took in front of an audience of family, friends and community members.

In the end, the competition boiled down to a heart-racing tie-breaker between Cain and Glickman and the second-place team of Dmitri Khaytovich and Igor Vaysbeyn, from the Los Angeles Business Magnet’s Russian Jewish Club. Placing third were Damian Cavaleri and Morgan Wyenn of Monroe High School.

JCC Teen Services, which launched the Jewish Quiz Bowl in honor of Israel’s 50th birthday, intends to make it an annual event, with different questions but the same top prize — a trip to Israel. — Ruth Stroud, Staff Writer

Shultz at the Skirball

“Mixed sovereignty” among the Israelis and Palestinians is the key to peaceful coexistence in the Middle East.

That was the message of former Secretary of State George Shultz on his recent visit to the Skirball Cultural Center. The lecture, which attracted approximately 600 people to the museum, was the first of four public symposiums, dubbed “Vantage Point: U.S. Foreign Policy & the State of Israel” (with Alexander Haig to follow on May 21; Dennis Ross on June 4; and a film on Harry S. Truman on June 30).

Warning against what he called the “dangerous road” of separatism, Shultz — who served as U.S. secretary of state from 1982 to 1989, during the heat of the Cold War — emphasized that programs educating Israelis and Arabs to respect each other must start on the individual and community level.

The Reagan-era politician also shared some insights into the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations during his term, and offered his opinion on the current state of affairs. He called on the need for the United States to play “a strong role” in the peace talks, but tempered this advice by adding, “I don’t think we should get in the position of trying to order people to do things…because we’re dealing with security.”

Shultz elicited the biggest laugh of the afternoon by recalling a Jerusalem Post cartoon that depicted Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian leaders beating on Shultz with clubs. The caption underneath read, “Well, at least they all agree on something…” — Michael Aushenker, Community Editor

Honoring the Fallen Soldiers

In a dignified and deeply moving ceremony, Los Angeles Jews and Israeli diplomats and residents last week honored the memory of 20,330 men and women who gave their lives for the survival of Israel since the founding of the state to the present.

Their sacrifices were not only for their own country but for the Jewish people throughout the world, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky noted. Thanks to the Israeli Defense Forces, “we are masters of our fate and no longer at the mercy of others,” he said.

More than 1,200 people crowded into the sanctuary of Adat Ari El in North Hollywood for the one-hour ceremony, organized with military precision by the staff of the Israeli Consulate General.

The tribute to the fallen took different forms: in an address by Consul General Yoram Ben Ze’ev; in the “Kaddish” recited by Consul Aharon Bar-Nathan; in the rendition of “Yizkor” and “El Male Rachamim” by Cantor Ira Bigeleisen; in the poems of Amir Gilboa and Natan Alterman; and in the songs performed by the Los Angeles Shir choir, conducted by Judea Pearl, and the Kibbutz Artzi choir from Israel, led by Yuval Ben-Ozer.

Mimi Sommer, of the consulate staff, presided over the ceremony, conducted in Hebrew and English. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

50 Candles

Everyone loves a birthday party. And Jewish students throughout Southern California went all out to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Israel’s birth.

* For students at Valley Beth Shalom Day School, Yom Ha’atzmaut was a chance to dress as tourists and go to Israel for the day. Without leaving their school, they visited a biblical zoo stocked with live animals, an army base complete with an obstacle course, a Yemenite Village where they baked pita, and, of course, the Western Wall. Everyone lunched on falafel along a re-creation of Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street.

* At Emek Hebrew Academy, one highlight was an outdoor display, “Pictorial Essay — 50 Years of Israel,” to which all students contributed. The youngest children played the Geography Game, which used a Monopoly-type board to test their knowledge of Israeli places, and the Aliyah Game (a variation on Chutes and Ladders), which explored the struggles and challenges facing emigrants to Israel. Older students learned firsthand about life in Israel by forming a council to hammer out the bylaws of a new kibbutz.

* At Pasadena’s Chaim Weizmann Community Day School, children from all grades created a mosaic mural that depicted Israel’s history. The mural, which measures 3 feet by 8 feet, was first displayed at Pasadena’s Armory Center for the Arts, but will soon find a permanent home on the school’s campus.

* With the help of their families, Adat Ari El’s day-school, religious-school and preschool students all contributed decorated squares to a huge Israel-themed patchwork quilt. — Beverly Gray, Education Editor

Remembering the &’009;&’009;Children

Under gray skies, 800 schoolchildren gathered at Pan Pacific Park on April 23 to remember the youngest victims of the Holocaust. The event was notable for bringing together students from many cultures. Student leaders from Daniel Murphy Catholic High School shared the stage with youngsters from Temple Emanuel Day School. A multiethnic chorus from Melrose Avenue Elementary School sang in awkward but heartfelt Yiddish and Hebrew. Orthodox day schools were represented by a choir from Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy.

One highlight was the appearance of Dana Schwartz, who provided a child’s perspective on the Holocaust. Schwartz, born in Poland, endured the horrors of the Nazi regime from ages 4 to 10. Even the more restless students became rapt as she described scenes from her childhood: boiling water and pretending it was a meal, hiding under the floor of her apartment building in mortal fear of Nazi boots, watching babies starve, being forced to separate from her parents.

Steve Erdman, the child of survivors, drew the audience’s attention to the nearby Los Angeles Holocaust Monument. He explained that it was built to bear witness to events that happened because the world stood silent. Noting that, in recent years, there have been other outbreaks of genocide — in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia — he urged his listeners not to forget the value of human life. As flames atop the monument were ignited, the sun finally came out from behind the clouds, and everyone joined in the singing of a modern Hebrew song, “Halleluyah.” — Beverly Gray

Yom HaShoah in West Hollywood

A different kind of Yom HaShoah commemoration took place at Plummer Park in West Hollywood on Sunday evening, April 26, as the struggles and persecution of gays, lesbians and Russians were recalled by a gathering of more than 500 people.

“This was organized to bring together the different constituents of West Hollywood — the gay and lesbian community, the Russian community, the Jewish community and even the non-Jewish community,” said Rabbi Denise Eger, spiritual leader of Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood, who hosted the program and recited the “Kaddish.”

Sponsored by the city of West Hollywood, the Human Services Commission, the Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board, Congregation Kol Ami, the Russian Community Center and the Lesbian and Gay Interfiath Clergy Association, the program included the performance of a Russian folk song; renditions of “Somewhere” and “America the Beautiful” by the West Hollywood Chorale; remarks by Si Frumkin, chair of the Southern California Council for Soviet Jews; a reading of real stories about gay and lesbian victims of the Holocaust; a reading of a Babi Yar poem; and a scene from the play “The Diary of Anne Frank.” All remarks and readings were translated into both English and Russian.

Members of the non-Jewish community were represented as well. The Rev. Dan Smith of the West Hollywood Presbyterian Church, representing the Lesbian and Gay Interfaith Clergy Association, led the audience in a special prayer that called for “love and respect for the whole human family.”

“If we forget the Holocaust, then we forget the most tragic event of the 20th century,” said Smith. — Orit Arfa, Contributing Writer

Yom HaShoah at &’009;&’009;Pan Pacific Park

“Under the green trees of Poland play no more little Moishele and little Shloimele.”

Almost half a decade later, under the green trees of Pan Pacific Park, Cantor Ira Bigeleisen of Adat Ari El sang these words, in Polish, before 1,800 Los Angeles residents who came together on April 26 to commemorate the Holocaust.

Sponsored by the Los Angeles Holocaust Monument, the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, the Jewish Federation and Second Generation, the ceremony was the largest Yom HaShoah commemoration in Southern California. Among the program’s participants were Yoram Ben Ze’ev, Israel’s consul general in Los Angeles; state Treasurer Matt Fong; Lt. Gov. Gray Davis; Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush; and County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

Keynote speaker Michael Berenbaum, president and CEO of the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, praised Fong and Quackenbush for their efforts in securing from European insurance companies monies that rightly belonged to Holocaust victims and their heirs.

The program was followed by the lighting of the Flames of Memory atop the six 18-foot triangular columns that make up the Los Angeles Holocaust Monument, situated in the corner of the park. These six flames burn for 24 hours each year on Yom HaShoah, one flame representing the 1 million children who perished in the Holocaust. — Orit Arfa

The Los Angeles Shir choir and the Kibbutz Artzi choir from Israel both participated in the tribute to fallen Israeli soldiers. Photo by Moshe BrantzPasadena day school students from all grades created a mosaic mural.More than 500 people paid tribute to the struggles of gays, lesbians and Russians in the Holocaust at a West Hollywood commemoration. Photo by Iosif Gurevich