Miss Sixty founder dies


Wicky Hassan, a Libyan-born Italian Jew who founded the popular Miss Sixty fashion brand, has died in Rome.

Hassan died Friday after a four-year battle with cancer. He was 56.

Born in Tripoli, Hassan arrived in Rome with his family in the late 1960s when thousands of Libyan Jews were forced out of their country in the wake of the Six Day War. In addition to Miss Sixty, he also founded brands such as Energie and Killah.

Taking a cue from Apple, following the death of Steven Jobs, the Miss Sixty web site filled its home page with a portrait of Hassan and his birth and death dates.

Stan Levy: The exact opposite of founder’s syndrome


Stan Levy, a lawyer with Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, sat down with a journalist at the firm’s offices in West Los Angeles on a Monday afternoon earlier this month. At one point during the conversation, Levy threw out a few favorite quotations, one of which concerned the difference between the law and justice.

The quote came from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s 1962 book, “The Prophets.”

“ ‘An act of injustice is condemned not because the law is broken,’ ” Levy said, “ ‘but because a person has been hurt.’ ”

It’s the rare commercial litigator who quotes Heschel, and rarer still to find one who can say that the 20th century Jewish philosopher was one of his teachers.

But Levy, who turns 70 this month, is a special kind of lawyer, and not just because he’s also an ordained rabbi. Levy has had, by any accounting, a unique and remarkably productive career. As a lawyer, he helped found three public interest law firms in Los Angeles while maintaining a successful commercial practice. As a rabbi, Levy founded a congregation that is still going strong in its fifth decade, and a rabbinical and cantorial school that will celebrate its 10th anniversary this month.

Levy managed the careers of a handful of recording artists and managed to raise a family, too — and last month, this multifaceted man was honored at a black-tie dinner in New York City as one of the recipients of The American Lawyer magazine’s 2011 “Lifetime Achiever” award.

“To me, the real honor is having done the work,” Levy said, in a humble fashion that those who know him say is typical.

“He’s truly a renaissance person,” Mitchell Kamin said of Levy. Now a litigator in private practice, Kamin spent eight years leading the Jewish legal services agency Bet Tzedek, which Levy co-founded in 1974.

But Kamin, who grew up as a close childhood friend of Levy’s oldest son, said his first impression of Levy was as a “young lawyer and manager of rock and jazz musicians.”

“I used to hang out at his house, listen to great music, and he would take us to concerts,” Kamin said.

Years later, in 1994, Levy — the rabbi — married Kamin and his wife. But it was when Kamin was hired as Bet Tzedek’s executive director in 2003 that he truly saw the extent of Levy’s humility and openness to that which others have to contribute.

“There’s a condition known as ‘founder’s syndrome,’ ” Kamin said, referring to a tendency among those who establish organizations to hold onto control for too long and become resistant to change. “Stan was the exact opposite of that in every way.”

For evidence of Levy’s success as a founder, one need only look to the long line of successful organizations he’s left in his wake.

In addition to Bet Tzedek, Levy was involved in the founding of two other public-interest law firms, both of which are still operating. In 1968, Levy, who was just two years out of the law school at UCLA, joined the Western Center on Law and Poverty, a firm focused on class-action litigation. He later served as its second executive director, overseeing 54 attorneys.

Then, in 1970 — before his 30th birthday, for those keeping track — Levy helped launch another public interest firm, now known as the Public Counsel Law Center. As its founding executive director, Levy set up the organization’s structure, financing and mission, and today Public Counsel is the largest pro bono firm in the country, counting more than 32,000 low-income clients in 2010.

Wearing his rabbi hat — this past Sukkot, it was a large, multicolored, thick-gauged knitted kippah — Levy established B’nai Horin in 1968. The spiritually centered congregation, whose name translates as “Children of Freedom,” has never had a building nor has it been affiliated with a particular movement, yet is still going strong, drawing hundreds to its High Holy Days services and b’nai mitzvah, and a smaller but dedicated core group to its monthly Shabbat morning services.

Levy founded the congregation even before he had been ordained as a rabbi through the ALEPH — Alliance for Jewish Renewal rabbinical program. But his experience as a rabbi was so fulfilling, he figured he probably wasn’t the only professional who would jump at the chance to become one. So, in 2001, Levy co-founded the transdenominational Academy of Jewish Religion (AJR), California, which ordains rabbis, cantors and chaplains.

“He’s a can-do person, almost to the degree that you think he’s living in his imagination rather than reality,” Rabbi Mel Gottlieb, the president of AJR, said of Levy. “Ninety percent of the time, it does become true reality.”

“There are plenty of lawyers who are complete workaholics and are extremely dedicated to their clients,” said Robin Sparkman, editor-in-chief of The American Lawyer, explaining Levy’s selection as a “Lifetime Achiever.” “This award is actually broader than that. The recipients both have to be great lawyers and have to have done things for the general good in their careers, as well.”

In nine years, the magazine has given “Lifetime Achiever” awards to a U.S. senator, two secretaries of state and, this year, to former Vice President Walter Mondale.

Levy, Sparkman said, was an easy choice.

“He founded three public interest law firms,” she said. “He’s a rabbi. He’s a record executive. And he’s a great lawyer.”

Levy has worn enough hats to fill the shelves of a walk-in closet. His profile on the firm’s Web site mentions a four-year stint in the 1990s as general counsel for the Guess? clothing company, and his profile in the September issue of The American Lawyer notes his representation in the 1980s of uninsured depositors in a case against their failed bank, but in person Levy seemed more interested in talking about the public interest and pro bono cases he’s been involved with over the years.

While he was running Public Counsel, the firm helped break “an unwritten but absolute firm rule” that prohibited minorities from hosting shows on radio or television stations. “They could be guests, but they couldn’t be hosts,” Levy said. “We broke that color barrier in the media.”

It was his recent work with Bet Tzedek in creating the Holocaust Survivors Justice Network that drew national attention.

For about 10 months in 2008, Levy worked pro bono — and basically full time — with two staff lawyers at Bet Tzedek to create an international network of more than 5,000 attorneys and paralegals.

The goal was to help as many individual survivors as possible fill out a specific German government pension form. The project may sound bureaucratic and mundane, but behind the alphabet soup of German government acronyms and complex filing guidelines, the volunteers were helping survivors qualify for German government pensions, compensation for the so-called “voluntary work” they had performed during the Holocaust in ghettos under Nazi control.

Since the network was launched in May 2008, its impact has been impressive — and easily quantifiable. As of September 2011, it has helped 2,200 survivors around the world secure more than $11 million in reparation payments from the German government. Over the next five years, the total payout to survivors eligible for the pensions could end up being close to $200 million. In 2009, Levy accepted the American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award on behalf of the network.

That Levy was loaned by his firm to Bet Tzedek came, Levy said, as a complete surprise — and not just to him.

Kamin, who was executive director of Bet Tzedek at the time, had asked Manatt’s director of pro bono work, Cristin Zeisler, if the firm could spare someone to help Bet Tzedek launch the Holocaust Survivors Justice Network.

Kamin was expecting “a paralegal or a junior associate to help us get the program off the ground,” he said. “We were completely blown away when I got a call from Stan, saying, ‘I’m the guy.’ ”

“He was basically volunteering full time with the organization he founded on this new initiative, and was instrumental to its success,” Kamin said.  “That’s the kind of guy he is.”

Levy is also the kind of guy people turn to when they’re searching for words of wisdom.

“I had to preside over a service for a staff member who died,” said California State Assemblyman Mike Feuer, thinking back to something that happened while he was executive director of Bet Tzedek. “I wanted to find just the right words from Jewish tradition to invoke. I turned to Stan.”

Levy’s preferred primary sources extend far beyond traditional Jewish texts, though.

Ask him about his accomplishments, about his service to the community, and Levy will almost certainly downplay the importance of his qualifications — law degree, rabbinical ordination and prestigious national awards — and insist that all must serve, no matter their position in society.

During his conversation with The Journal, Levy relied on the words of a Christian pastor and of a prominent Muslim-American to make these twin points.

“You need to have a heart full of love and of compassion and of kindness, but anybody can serve,” said Levy, paraphrasing Martin Luther King Jr. “You don’t need a Ph.D. to serve, you don’t need to make your subject and your predicate consistent, you just have to want to do something to try to help other people.”

For Levy, it is King who teaches that anybody can serve, and Muhammad Ali who teaches that everybody must.

“Muhammad Ali, after one of his championship fights — and this is in the mid-’70s — went to an old-age home in New York,” Levy said. “I’m pretty sure it was a Jewish old-age home, and he gave them a very large contribution. And someone asked him why, and his response was, “Service to others is the rent I pay for my room here on Earth.”

Levy has been urging those in the legal profession to serve others for his entire 46-year career. He makes the case that it’s the right thing to do, sure — but also reminds his colleagues that the experience is tremendously rewarding.

“For me, personally,” Levy said, “the feeling of bringing some meaning and purpose in my own life through service to others, and also having had a very successful commercial private practice career, has just felt wonderful.

“That sense of gratitude, for the opportunity to be of service, is everything in the world to me.”

Obituaries


Rabbi Meier Schimmel,
Congregation Beth Meier Founder,
Dies at 89

Studio City’s Rabbi Meier Schimmel died Sept. 30 at age 89, almost 47 years after he opened Congregation Beth Meier and watched it become a quiet, unassuming little staple of Jewish life in the San Fernando Valley.

Congregation Beth Meier opened in December 1958, near Moorpark Street and Colfax Avenue. Early on, the shul’s Star of David was stolen and a swastika painted on one of its white walls. Schimmel left the swatiska up for a week — to be seen by all, he told The Journal last year, to “let my neighbors feel what’s happening here.”

Today, the Traditional-Conservative congregation has about 150 families. Schimmel started turning over major duties to Rabbi Aaron Benson in 2003, although until about six months ago the elder rabbi recited opening and closing Shabbat prayers. The rabbi’s wife, Rochelle, died in 1981 after spending 40 years running the shul’s 125-student school.

The son of a Frankfurt rabbi, Schimmel was one the last of the pre-Holocaust generation of European-trained rabbis. After fleeing Nazi Germany, he arrived in America and was an Army chaplain in the war.

He turned down Steven Spielberg’s request to sing a prayer in “Schindler’s List,” saying he was too busy.

Along with his theological pedigree, Schimmel had a big heart. When an elderly, childless couple’s parrot died, Schimmel officiated at a little parrot funeral service, thus honoring the couple’s childlike affection for the bird.

He is survived by his daughters, Debby (Ken) Bitticks and Selma; four granddaughters; and eight great-grandchildren; and sister, Fanny Grossman. — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

 

Rose Esther Allen died Sept. 14 at 95. She is survived by her son, Robert (Carmen Villar); daughter, Toni (John) Allen-Broderick; seven grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; and brother, Martin (Victoria) Gordon. Mount Sinai

Farang Barlavi died Sept. 14 at 84. She is survived by her granddaughter, Soheila Halimi. Chevra Kadisha

SANFORD BLOOM died Sept. 18 at 84. He is survived by his wife, Mary Jane; sons, Gregory and Clark; daughter, Marsha (Alan) Garber; five grandchildren; one great-grandchild; and sister, Evelyn Schwartz. Hillside

Ethel Bromberg died Sept. 11 at 92. She is survived by her sons, Bruce (Terri), Michael (Gail) and Dennis (Nan); eight grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; brother, Norton Figatner; and sister, Helen Dresser. Groman

Carl Chaplan died Sept. 14 at 85. He is survived by his wife, Rose; sons, Ronald and Leslie; daughter, Ellen Jannol; seven grandchildren; and sister, Esther Chapman. Groman

Margie Druker died Sept. 14 at 84. She is survived by her son, Larry; and granddaughter, Amy. Mount Sinai

James Finley died Sept. 18 at 87. He is survived by his sons, Rabbi Mordecai and Steven; daughters, Deborah Delamore and Diana Johnson; 10 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Groman

Delores Diane Flasher died Sept. 15 at 80. She is survived by her sons, Jeffrey and Gary; daughter, Barbara; five grandchildren; brother, Marty (Bunny) Solomon; and sister-in-law, Florence Solomon. Mount Sinai

Gerald Freidlin died Sept. 15 at 78. He is survived by his son, Michael. Malinow and Silverman

PAUL LEWIS GOLDFINE died Sept. 15 at 42. He is survived by his father, Melvin; brothers, Brian (Lisa) and Phil (Valarie); and nephew, Kase. Hillside

Sylvia Guggenheim died Sept. 16 at 87. She is survived by her daughters, Barbara and Eileen. Malinow and Silverman

Jerome Jules Gurnick died Sept. 17 at 74. He is survived by his wife, Marcia; son, Ken (Sherly); daughter, Ellen (John) Rosenberg; four grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Ella Ivanushkina died Sept. 18 at 56. She is survived by her daughters, Mariya and Jenny. Mount Sinai

Rachel Kagasoff died Sept. 15 at 89. She is survived by her sisters, Helen (Jack) Stein and Freida Margolis; three nephews; and one niece. Mount Sinai

DOROTHY VIVIAN KALIFF died Sept. 17 at 89. She is survived by her daughter, Marla Sherwood; one grandchild; and sisters, Ida Stein and Ann Dorf. Hillside

Aghdas Kashanchi died Sept. 14 at 82. She is survived by her daughter, Minou; sons, Bahram (Myrian), Harry (Flora) and Behnam (Minou); nine grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Malinow and Silverman

Ida Kraim died Sept. 14 at 80. She is survived by her husband, Harry; sons, Jerry (Adina) and Steven; and two grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Adele Laxer died Sept. 19 at 85. She is survived by her son, Gerald (Leslie); daughter, Carol Rosenbaum; grandchildren, Lisa and Kevin (Kathy); and sister, Florence Binder. Mount Sinai

Ida Miller died Sept. 18 at 94. She is survived by her daughter, Susan Spiritus. Malinow and Silverman

David Milstein died Sept. 19 at 87. He is survived by his daughter, Beth; son, Mitchell; grandson, Dylan; and nephews, Lester and Mark Shufro. Mount Sinai

Ashraf Naeim died Sept. 14 at 86. She is survived by her son, Faramarz; and daughter, Farzan Meshkinpour. Chevra Kadisha

Helen Nathanson died Sept. 16 at 81. She is survived by her husband, Jerome; daughter, Roberta (Larry) Erlichman; sons, Lawrence and Donald (Esther); three grandchildren; brother, William (Sandy) Jurman; sister, Mildred Rosen; and sister-in-law, Pearl. Mount Sinai

Yaghoub Noorizad died Sept. 16 at 84. He is survived by his wife, Ezat; and son, Pirooz. Chevra Kadisha

Louise Nobakht died Sept. 15 at 73. She is survived by her daughters, Ziba (Behzad) Soroudi, Jila Montnegro, Mitra and Yasaman Akaks; brother, Moise Koutal; and sisters, Gity Bostani, Jenine Kamkar and Mahin Zahir. Malinow and Silverman

Ruth Mildred Pressman died Sept. 16 at 84. She is survived by her husband, Abe; son, Barry; daughters, Sheryl Dialey and Kayla; and two grandchildren. Groman

Ruth Rothman died Sept. 14 at 84. She is survived by her husband, Dr. George Leonard; and daughter, Barni Robb. Groman

Steven David Schatz died Sept. 14 at 59. He is survived by his mother, Jean; sons, Aaron (Kathryn) and Noam (Sarah); one grandchild; and sisters, Miriam Harris, Francine (Stephen) Heiks and Carole (Jack) Robberson. Malinow and Silverman

TERRY SHANBROM died Sept. 14 at 72. He is survived by his wife, Frances; daughters Barbara (Brad Greenberg) and Karen (Marilyn Ader); son, James; and four grandchildren. Hillside

JOSEPH EFRAIM SIEGEL died Sept. 15 at 79. He is survived by his wife, Kay; children, Lynn, Howard and Jill; and four grandchildren. Hillside

Sanford Zellic Scharf died Sept. 18 at 52 He is survived by his wife, Michele; son, Jeremy; daughter, Brittany; mother, Lillian; brothers, Alan Ducker, Marty (Barbara), Lonny (Nancy) and Norman; sisters, Susan (Neal) Epstein, Janee (Alan) Friedman and Michelle. Mount Sinai

Barbara Straus died Sept. 16 at 77. She is survived by her daughter, Denise; son, Mark (Susan); and two grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

Moisey Tarnavskyi died Sept. 14 at 88. He is survived by his daughter, Larisa (Vladimir) Tarnayskaya; granddaughter, Ella (David) Fedonenko; and two great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Gerhard William Thilgen died Sept. 18 at 83. He is survived by his wife, Olga; and son, Thomas (Deborah). Mount Sinai

HAROLD SAMUEL VISTOR died Sept. 15 at 80. He is survived by his wife, Marjorie; sons, Bruce, Skip and Jonathan; six grandchildren; and sisters, Judy Stulberg, Shirley Finkel and Harriett Goldberg. Hillside

IRWIN WARD died Sept. 16 at 82. He is survived by his sons, Jeff and Douglas; and daughters, Susan Raitano and Wendy. Hillside

Helen Wandell died Sept. 17 at 90. She is survived by her daugther, Sunny Glenda (Ben) Benjamin; grandchildren, Jeffrey and Kerry Benjamin; brothers, Henry and Bill Strull; and sister, Gertrude (Julie) Heichman. Mount Sinai

Q & A With Andy Lipkis


Andy Lipkis is founder and president of TreePeople, a nonprofit agency that has pioneered efforts at urban reforestation and creating a “sustainable city.” Documentarian Harry Wiland sat with Lipkis to talk about the impact of the Southern California wildfires and our possible responses to them.

Jewish Journal: Are you optimistic about the restoration of the forests that have been destroyed?

Andy Lipkis: It is hard to define at this moment because we are already years behind on restoring what has already been destroyed by past fires. There are also major challenges that we don’t understand — including the effects of global warming. It’s causing changes that may make it impossible to restore the higher altitude pine forests that have, up until now, been native to our region. Native chaparral areas are very good at restoring themselves and don’t really require much action on the part of humans. It is the upper-elevation pine forests that we are most concerned about.

JJ: What practical steps are you and TreePeople taking to begin the healing process?

AL: We have a history of 30 years. This is what I started at Camp JCA Shalom back in 1970 when the forests were dying. Smog weakened the trees and they were being killed off by an infestation of bark beetles. It is the same thing that is happening now. Healthy trees can fight off bark beetles. Weakened trees cannot. L.A. has really cleaned up its act over the past 30 years, but the last four years of drought has had a devastating impact and that has allowed for the infestation of the beetle.

We have just issued a call for volunteers who want to be trained in restoration activities. It’s important to know that it takes three years for trees to be ready for restoration activities. You have to find trees close to the burnt areas. They have to be from the same elevation and microclimate. It takes awhile to get everything coordinated. We have a tree nursery at TreePeople and we will be working with the Forest Service, and others, in an attempt to restore native species in our damaged forests.

There is a lot of controversy about approaches to restoration, from “leave it be” to dramatic intervention. TreePeople proposes an emergency fire symposium to have respected scientists, ecologists, foresters, restoration experts and economists brief all the relevant agencies and organizations to understand the damage and define the scope of needed restoration, coordinated approaches and, hopefully, come up with a consensus for action.

JJ: What are some of the lessons the rest of the country can learn from what happened?

AL: Six months ago we knew this was coming. We worked hard and got Gov. Davis to declare a state of emergency. This is what you have to do to get Washington to act. We saw the impending disaster. But Washington turned us down. What’s the lesson? We are very bad at prevention. FEMA is organized to respond to disasters. So much money could be saved, and so much misery averted, if we could invest a little bit on the front end for prevention. On the back end we are talking about the loss of billions of dollars, and the loss of life and property. And that’s where we are today.

JJ: How does your passion and commitment toward the creation of an integrated resource approach to caring for our ecosystem fit in with what you are trying to do to heal our scarred landscape?

AL: My mission is to inspire people to take personal responsibility for the urban forest, which means for the environment. You can’t do that without information. Events like this serve as a wake-up call. Everyone needs to understand that every single person living in this environment is a manager of the environment. We are mismanaging so much now and we don’t even know it. It’s nobody’s fault, but information can battle ignorance.

JJ: How does your Jewish tradition lend itself to the healing process?

AL: I’ve been trained to respond when people are hurting. Tikkun olam is about healing people and healing the earth. The community is responding to both. It is helping individuals and families get fed, clothed and find a place to live. But this is about more than human pain. We have to help restore the environment in which we live, or there will be even greater human pain. There are 18 million of us living in this ecosystem, depending on its air and watersheds for survival. We need to take physical and political action to make sure we get the resources and people we need to do the healing.

JJ: How does tikkun olam figure in the equation?

AL: It is our directive. The ecosystem we live in, in Southern California, depends on the air we breathe and the water we drink. They are two things that we can’t live without. A change in either will have a profound impact on our lives. It must be protected. Interestingly, the another meaning for tikkun olam is completing the circle. We live in an air cycle and a water cycle. We breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. The trees in the forest breathe in hydrogen and breathe out oxygen. Each fully grown tree holds thousands of gallons of water. If we don’t have enough trees, the cycle is broken and out of balance. We need to heal that cycle.

JJ: So this is about restoring nature’s balance?

AL: The point is to change the notion that we can control nature. Nature is proving that we cannot. We need to return to partnership.

For more information on TreePeople, including volunteer
and leadership training opportunities, visit

Restoration’s Silver Lining


Silversmith David Friedman has the unique ability to trace the origin of almost every antique that comes across his desk. “People ask me all the time, ‘How did you know that? How did you know that goblet was actually made in India?'” Friedman said. “We just know from experience. We see a lot of pieces and a lot of metal.”

The founder of Friedman & Co., an antique repair and restoration service, Friedman has been working with metal since he was 17. Trained in the apprentice style in southeastern Wisconsin, he began making his living repairing musical instruments. But when his clients urged him to expand his business further, Friedman discovered the world of antiques.

“I found this work much more interesting and stimulating,” said Friedman, who runs a store in Beverly Hills and a plating facility in North Hollywood. “Musical instrument work, although it’s very rewarding, can be somewhat repetitive, because once you’ve overhauled a clarinet and you’ve overhauled 1,000 clarinets, a clarinet is still a clarinet.”

Friedman prefers antiques because each one tells a story. He often sees pieces that have been passed down through generations or have sentimental or historical significance.

“I remember repairing a tray once that was buried before or during World War II,” Friedman said. “Jews often buried their possessions so that they would not be confiscated. When the owners dug up the tray after the war there was a pick ax hole through the middle of the tray, which they brought to me all these years later to repair.”

While Friedman often hears such stories because much of his clientele is Jewish, he insists that those who use his services are as diverse as the art itself.

“Silversmithing is an ancient art and there were Jews that were silversmiths. It’s part of Jewish life and Jewish history, but silversmithing covers the entire spectrum of humanity and it’s associated with all religions … our door is open and welcome to anybody to come here. Whoever comes to our counter we treat them with respect and try and help them.”

Community Scholar


Driven by a personal desire for intellectual growth, Arie Katz set out last year to attract to Orange County the sort of eminent Jewish scholars that few synagogues can afford to woo on their own.

With little more than his own chutzpah and considerable networking skills, the Newport Beach attorney won support and financial backing from the area’s most influential Jewish agencies to establish a community scholar-in-residence program. Its first event, at 7 p.m. Jan. 28, will kick off at the Jewish Federation Campus in Costa Mesa with the arrival of Avigdor Shinan, an Israeli professor and author.

During a monthlong U.S. stay, Shinan, 55, agreed to a jam-packed schedule of lectures, Shabbat events and study series at a range of interdenominational synagogues, four campuses, an educators retreat and a working weekend in Seattle. An engaging speaker and author of six books, Shinan is a specialist in rabbinical literature and has served as a guest lecturer at Yale University and New York’s Yeshiva University. He is currently a professor of Hebrew literature at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University and is the immediate past chair of the department.

In an e-mail interview, Shinan told The Journal he agreed to the demanding schedule, although he conceded the visit will contribute little to his own career. "What is being a teacher if not standing before anyone who is ready to listen and try and bring into their life something new?"

Most of the lectures, with titles such as "Folk Stories in the Talmud and Midrash," are from material Shinan developed for previous presentations at established community scholar programs in Washington, D.C., and Houston, Tex.

If the pilot program’s intent is giving adults affordable access to high-level learning, it also reveals that the county’s Jewry is capable of organizing across denominations and institutional boundaries. "The Federation felt it was very important to create a communitywide education concept," said Bunnie Mauldin, executive director of the agency, which contributed $10,000 toward the program’s $25,000 cost.

"It’s one of the few co-sponsored events that builds community," added Julie Rubin, assistant executive director of the county’s Jewish Community Center (JCC). "It’s a model for Jewish programs in our community."

Only one major synagogue is not participating in the community-scholar program. Newport Beach’s Temple Bat Yahm has its "university," a five-part lecture series that on its own can afford to attract celebrated speakers. "I have speakers from Hebrew University all the time," explained Rabbi Mark S. Miller. "We ask our people to come to so much; we risk overload. I would wonder where to fit it in."

Though most local synagogues offer their members cultural and theological enrichment by scheduling visits by guest lecturers, a community scholar program’s duration can create a different opportunity. "My hope is it will whet people’s appetite for more, teaching adults that Jewish learning is a lifelong endeavor," said Rabbi Elie Spitz of Tustin’s Congregation B’nai Israel, a Conservative synagogue of 480 families that is sponsoring Shinan’s talk on "Moses and His Two Wives." "The depth of learning that creates personal transformation only comes through consistency," Spitz said.

While the region’s Jewish population of about 60,000 is successfully supporting the physical expansion of new schools and new shuls and providing learning opportunities for youth, the area lacks resources for adults that are available in larger cities. In fact, the void here is reflected in most American Jewish communities, which place less cultural emphasis on adult learning than communities in Europe and Israel, Spitz says.

Some residents resort to unusual steps to fill that vacuum. Take Linda S. Seidman. Before returning to full-time work, the Irvine aerospace engineer would schlep to Los Angeles to satisfy her interest in serious scholarship from a nontraditional, feminist perspective. That luxury ended when she resumed design work on a global positioning satellite for Boeing in Huntington Beach. Seidman’s solution was to hire her own professor, underwriting for a year weekly classes studying how Judaism perceives women. It is attended by a dozen other students and offered through the county’s Bureau of Jewish Education. "We’ve gotten stuck in the first two chapters of Genesis and haven’t come up yet," Seidman said. "I’d rather dig deeper than go broader."

Seidman, though, is an exception. Most Jewish adults effectively end their Jewish education after their confirmation. "What I think is missing is not big-name speakers but sustained education," explained Joan Kaye, director of the county’s Bureau of Jewish Education, which is sponsoring two multipart Shinan courses. "The problem with adult Jews, is they leave Hebrew school after the seventh grade; they have a 12-year-old’s vision of the world."

Demand for adult education has increased over the last 15 years, Kaye says, growing out of family-oriented programs in day schools and synagogues. "What family education has started to do is give people a taste of Jewish learning," she said.

Many communities offer nondegreed, adult education courses based on curriculum developed by the rabbinical training schools. These include the Melton curriculum, developed by the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, training ground for rabbis of the Conservative movement, and the Me’ah Program, developed jointly in 1994 by the Committee of Jewish Continuity and Hebrew College, the Reform movement’s rabbinical school.

Avoiding denominational barriers and potentially drawing people out of hidebound routines is a clear benefit of a secular community scholar program. "Synagogues have their own agenda and bring a scholar that’s consistent with their religious orientation," pointed out Marilyn Hassid, program director for Houston’s JCC, which has hosted scholars in residence since 1985.

"People live for this," said Hassid, estimating that the Houston program cumulatively reaches about 4,000 people annually. That includes a cadre of 40 scholar groupies, who often attend every lecture by following the scholar’s itinerary. One consequence, she said, "is there’s a desire to continue learning after the scholar leaves."

The inspiration for Orange County’s community scholar program came from a weekend retreat that Katz attended last February through his synagogue, B’nai Israel. Noam Zion, a visiting scholar and master teacher infused the study of the familiar biblical story about Cain and Abel with relevancy about contemporary family relationships. "We did an intense text study that made people excited to learn," recalled Katz, 34, a corporate attorney who relocated with his family from Boston four years ago. "It was interesting and motivating."

After learning of the Houston and Washington scholar-in-residence programs from Zion, Katz set out to replicate their success by first seeking advice from two other synagogue members. "To me, it’s a very significant event in the development and growth of the community," said Mike Lefkowitz, who suggested Katz rely on the JCC for organizational strength.

"If it’s successful, it will perpetuate itself," added Dr. Harold Kravitz, a retired Costa Mesa family practitioner, who made federation introductions for Katz.

"No other institution offered this," Katz said. "We didn’t find it, so we created it." For seed money, he and 19 friends chipped in. Synagogues are paying fees beginning at $500 per session, which will help underwrite succeeding year’s events.

Even before getting underway, the scholar program is generating unexpected benefits, such as a co-presentation planned with the Balboa Performing Arts Theater Foundation of celebrated Israeli author A.B. Yehoshova next month.

Clearly an optimist, Katz is already securing bookings for February 2003.

Tuning In


As founder and chair of Westwood One, the biggest

radio network in the country, Norman J. Pattiz has an impact on what’s carried over the airwaves in the United States and beyond. Now that he is a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, he has an even greater voice in international broadcasting.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors oversees the government’s nonmilitary international broadcasting services, including Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Radio Free Asia. Pattiz was appointed to the nine-member board by President Clinton last year. While serving on a committee reviewing the collection of 61 different languages in which programs are broadcast, Pattiz said, “it became obvious that what we were doing in the Middle East was insignificant at best. U.S. broadcasts make little if any impact.”

In other parts of the world people have sought out U.S. broadcasts as a source of unbiased information, Pattiz told The Journal.

“I’ve come to realize the roles these stations have played in places like Kosovo and Bosnia. They were the most listened-to broadcast services in the region during tense times, especially right around the downfall of Milosevic,” he said. “During periods of crisis, people turn them on to find out what’s going on.”

Yet in the Middle East, he estimates that U.S. broadcasts achieve less than 1 percent penetration in the region.

After Pattiz pointed out this deficiency to the Broadcasting Board, he soon found himself chair of its Middle East Committee. He recently embarked on a fact-finding mission that involved meetings with government officials, ministers of information, broadcasters, academics and others in Israel, Jordan, Egypt, the Palestinian Territories and Qatar.

“There’s a media war within the region,” Pattiz said, and it entails disinformation, hate radio and incitement to violence.

As a result of the committee’s work, Voice of America now has an opportunity to make a major impact through a 24-hour broadcasting network. “Broadcasts will originate from the region and truly engage Arab listeners,” Pattiz said, noting that the network will “uniquely present America and its policies with the immediacy and relevance of a local broadcaster.”

Broadcasting accurate, timely and relevant news and information about the region and the United States will advance U.S. strategic interests and benefit all parties in the region, Pattiz says.

Pattiz is no stranger to Middle Eastern politics. He has been an active force in the Israel Policy Forum (IPF), an organization which promotes U.S. awareness and involvement in the Middle East peace process. Becoming involved shortly after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, Pattiz soon traveled to the Middle East to meet with key Israeli politicians and King Abdullah II of Jordan. He hosts IPF monthly roundtable discussions where prominent community members meet with Israeli leaders, media representatives or other individuals with unique insight about the Middle East.

In 1999, Pattiz was honored by IPF at a tribute dinner where former Prime Minister Ehud Barak presented the award and called Pattiz “an ever-increasingly important conduit of information and good will.” Last spring, Pattiz and his wife hosted a private reception at their home for Queen Noor of Jordan to raise funds for the King Hussein Foundation, which promotes democracy and peace in the Middle East.

Regarding the acceleration of turmoil in the region, Pattiz said, “It’s tragic. [Peace] seemed so close.”

But he’s not ready to give up on the idea.

“Peace is an absolute necessity in the region for all parties…. Nothing has changed about the basics of why the peace has to happen and will eventually happen,” Pattiz said. “What has changed is the realization that while we’ve been preparing ourselves for peace, the Palestinian side has not really worked with its population to get them ready for a real, lasting, achievable peace process.”

Here at home, Pattiz also serves at the state level. He was appointed by Gov. Gray Davis to the California Commission on Building for the 21st Century, which looks at how the state should address building and infrastructure needs such as transportation, natural resources and technology in order to best meet the demands of the future.

“Norm is not just a successful entrepreneur … he’s a committed civic leader,” Davis said. “He’s got great energy and ideas, which he brings to all of his endeavors.”

Pattiz lends his support to the Democratic Party locally and nationally. He attended the Democratic National Convention and hosted a reception for Davis and approximately 200 members of the national press who were covering the convention. Earlier this month, he joined Democratic senators visiting California as part of a national fundraising effort. And last week, he attended a small private dinner for Clinton at the home of supermarket magnate Ron Burkle. A Southern California native, Pattiz, 58, credits his community involvement to his Jewish upbringing.

“My mother’s parents were Orthodox Jews … I have very fond and intense memories of my grandparents. Every Jewish holiday was a day where we would spend time in shul and then spend time at my grandmother’s house, where the family would gather and have a meal together.

“I consider myself a moral person, a caring person, a fair person,” Pattiz added. “And I think all of those things come from my background as a Jew.”

This outlook fuels his philosophy on political activism. “If you’ve been fortunate enough to be successful, [political activism] is almost a requirement,” he said. “I think it’s important if you’re caring and have a point of view, you do what you can to support people and politicians and causes and countries that share those views.”

Pattiz remains loyal to his alma mater, Hamilton High School, and recruited record and music companies to help Hamilton become a magnet school for music and the performing arts. He personally donated funds to transform the school’s auditorium into a marble-and-glass-bedecked theater, which was officially designated the Norman J. Pattiz Concert Hall. Last summer, he spearheaded a gala that raised more than $400,000 for Hamilton’s Academy of Music.

Pattiz has served as president of the

Broadcast Education Association (BEA), where

he sought to connect academia with the broadcast industry to foster student interest in broadcasting careers. He serves as trustee for

the Museum of Television & Radio and the Hollywood Radio and Television Society, as

well as on several university communications boards. He was a force behind last October’s

Los Angeles Radio Festival, a first-time

weeklong event of seminars, broadcasts and special events for the radio community and

the public, which is slated to become an

annual event.

Pattiz approaches his personal life with the same vigor he lavishes on his professional and political activities. He met his wife, Mary Turner, through the radio business. Turner was a disc jockey at local rock station KMET, and Pattiz was looking for someone to host the rock interview show “Off the Record.” Because Turner “knew every major artist in town,” Pattiz said, she was a natural choice.

“I’ve been in the business a long time, so I know sometimes the voice and the image don’t match,” he said about Turner. “When I finally found a woman on the radio who looked as good as she sounded, I married her.” They have been together for 21 years.

At Westwood One, the radio network he founded in 1974 as a one-room operation, Pattiz spends much of his time conceptualizing projects and making deals with artists and recording companies to generate entertainment programs for broadcast. The company has earned a reputation for blockbuster entertainment programming, airing concerts by such megastars as Barbra Streisand, The Rolling Stones, Garth Brooks and Paul McCartney. Last week, it aired Bruce Springsteen’s HBO concert.

Pattiz seems to thrive on the variety of endeavors that has him speaking on the phone to Barbra Streisand and U.S. Senator Evan Bayh on the same day, and a few days later, attending a seder for about 100 people hosted by Maverick Records’ Guy Oseary.

“I’m a very lucky guy,” Pattiz said.

Honoring Dedication


Shirley Levine is a woman with many admirers. She was the founding principal of both Abraham Joshua Heschel Day Schools in Northridge and Agoura and has been dedicated to their success for more than 25 years. Just speak with one of the many parents whose children attend one of the Heschel schools and he or she will be quick to list her talents.

“She is so extraordinary,” says Ellen Smith, a parent with two children at Heschel West in Agoura. “She knows what has to be done and is tireless in accomplishing whatever is needed for our children.”

On Nov. 5 at the Partnership in Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE) Conference in Cambridge, Mass., Levine received unprecedented recognition for her leadership and unparalleled excellence as a Jewish educator among all educators in North America. For the first time in its history, PEJE presented an award for Distinguished Professional Leadership in the Day School World. The award was created with Levine in mind.

“This was our third conference of grantees. Ever since Heschel became a grantee, we’ve been trying to get Shirley to come, but this was the first year she was able to come out,” says Rabbi Joshua Elkin, the director of PEJE. “We felt that it was extremely important to recognize her contributions to this school.”

Though Levine was the inspiration for the award, Elkin is hoping that further opportunities for such recognition of other leaders in Jewish education will present themselves. “We may try to replicate it in the future. But that could be hard to do, because few people dedicate themselves to a school for 20-plus years.”
PEJE is a national initiative designed to strengthen the quality of Jewish day school education in North America. The goals of its Challenge Grant Program, in which Heschel is a participant, are to enhance the excellence of new day school initiatives and to increase universal Jewish literacy through access to quality Jewish day school education.

Levine was extremely honored by the award. “I had worked with PEJE in establishing Heschel West, so they knew my work.”

But this was her first opportunity to attend a PEJE conference; her lack of attendance in the past is further evidence of her dedication to her schools.

“It’s hard to get away from the schools. So I was just excited about being at the conference. They had a dinner and Rabbi Elkin was telling us about this wonderful woman who had done all these great things and I was thinking, ‘I’ve got to meet this woman.’ I was looking around trying to see who it was,” said Levine.
Though a complete surprise to Levine, those who know her and her work feel it was completely deserved. In the Heschel West newsletter, assistant principal Rob Anker wrote, “This recognition confirms Shirley’s preeminent position as a leader not only for Heschel West, but also for all educators who aspire to excellence.”