DIY gift: Make a grad glad with dollar bill roses


It’s graduation season, and, as evidenced by the flower vendors lining the streets near schools (and at freeway off-ramps), it has become customary to give a bouquet to students after they pick up their diplomas.

But your graduate is extraordinary and deserves an exceptional kind of bouquet to say “Mazel tov!” — like this bouquet of roses made from dollar bills. Each rose consists of six $1 bills, so it’s easy to create bouquets in multiples of 18.

Besides graduations, these dollar bill roses also are perfect for bar and bat mitzvah gifts, as you wish “L’chaim!” to the special young person.

What you’ll need:

 

  • Dollar bills
  • Wire
  • Masking tape
  • Pencil

 

1. Pinch the dollar bill in the middle. It will look like a bow tie.

2. Wrap a wire around the middle and twist it in the back.

3. Gather six wired dollar bills, evenly spacing the dollar bill “petals.”

4. Wrap masking tape around the wires to join them together into one stem.

5. Roll the corners of the dollar bills to shape them into petals.

6. Scrunch the two middle petals to make them look more closed.


Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself projects at jonathanfongstyle.com.

Two rockets fired from Gaza, no injuries reported


Two rockets fired from Gaza landed in open areas in Israel’s Negev Desert.

No injuries were reported from the rockets fired Wednesday night, the Times of Israel reported.

The attack came eight days after a Grad rocket fired from Gaza landed in the Israeli town of Gan Yavneh. Grad rockets have a longer range than Kassams and had not previously been fired from Gaza.

During last summer’s Israel-Gaza war, Palestinians fired over 4,000 rockets at Israeli towns and cities. Over 2,200 people were killed in the war, the majority of them Palestinians.

Working toward ‘never again’


Milken Community High School senior Leah Gluck is dedicated to raising awareness about genocide, even though it seems so distant and unsolvable.

“I think it’s an issue that really is very far away for a lot of people at my school … and I think that it’s important,” Gluck said.

Since her freshman year, the 18-year-old has worked with Jewish World Watch (JWW), a nonprofit that focuses on preventing genocide and mass atrocities across the globe as well as engaging individuals and communities to take action locally.

Gluck recently co-created an exhibition, “From Darkness to Light,” set in Milken’s beit midrash, spotlighting the genocide in Darfur and human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Gluck planned the exhibition over the course of nearly five months and built the displays during a 15-hour marathon. Student docents led their peers through “From Darkness to Light,” which featured video interviews with victims, photographs of refugee camps, drawings made by children living in camps, and an “action center” where students pledged to become involved with JWW.

For the exhibition’s culmination, Gluck led an effort that consisted of Milken’s entire student body calling the White House at once to discuss Sudan. “That was super cool,” she said.

Gluck has put her design skills to use as head editor of Milken’s yearbook, serving as the point person for section editors and student staff members.

She also spends considerable time in the water, as a member of Milken’s water polo and swim teams. This summer, she plans to work as a lifeguard at Camp Ramah.

Outside of her JWW advocacy, Gluck gets her tikkun olam fix volunteering with KOREH L.A., an organization that helps young students develop their reading abilities, and she spends every Shabbat supervising young children of adult congregants at B’nai David-Judea, leading them in davening, play time and various activities.

This fall, Gluck will attend Washington University in St. Louis, where she might pursue her interest in psychology.

For now, she has enough on her plate to keep her busy.

“I’m just used to not getting home until 7,” she said.

A real page-turner


Corinne Kentor may be coming of age in the iPad and Kindle era, but she feels most at home surrounded by books. The more classic the volumes, the better. It’s “Candide” and “Don Quixote” that thrill this New Community Jewish High School (NCJHS) senior, who lights up when she discusses the works of Shakespeare or the Brontë sisters.

“I wrote my college essay on why our house is like a library,” said Kentor, 17, who will leave her Bell Canyon abode this fall to study English literature at Yale University. “There’s a stocked section for each kind of literature.”

Kentor also traced her literary passion to influential teachers in San Fernando Valley public schools, including Round Meadow Elementary School librarian Carole Farhit. “She was this tiny woman, but with a deep, raspy English-accented voice—it was perfect for storytelling. I used to have lunch with her in the library.”

In her years at NCJHS, Kentor immersed herself in languages, achieving fluency in Spanish and studying Hebrew. At Yale, she said, she plans to continue her Hebrew studies and explore Arabic. She’s dabbled in English poetry and even attempted a novel as part of a “NaNo-WriMo” project—for National Novel Writing Month, in November. Spanish teacher Raquel Safdie and AP English teacher Michelle Lindner have called Kentor’s writing university-level work.

“I want to be an English professor someday,” Kentor said. “I also really want to be an author—I feel most at home in prose.” The senior honed her editing and coaching skills this school year by shepherding the young school’s first newspaper, The Prowler. She and her co-editor, Jason Tinero, helped boost the paper’s staff to 17 students and published five issues—all on extracurricular time.

“I’m really, really proud,” Kentor said. “The quality of the writing has changed and developed so much. I feel proud every time I get to hand out the paper—it reflects the spirit of the school.”

Kentor, who chose between Stanford University and Yale, credits her stellar grades to a deep love of school, “which I know is not that normal.” Never a procrastinator, she learned time management in elementary school when she balanced long practice hours for rhythmic gymnastics with homework.

An injury in eighth grade ended her gymnastics career but led Kentor to another graceful passion: yoga. “It gave me the physical stimulation without the competitiveness, which I hate.” She recently earned her teaching certification and started leading Hatha/Vinyasa flow groups at InnerPower Yoga in Woodland Hills. Kentor said she’s eager to join the “Yogis at Yale” group and continue teaching. “Yoga gives me a community wherever I go.”

And what’s a bookworm to do with her last West Coast summer? Her very creative family, including mom Adrienne, dad Eric and older sister Nikki—an intern with local circus troupe Dream World Cirque—are planning a trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. To family and friends, Kentor may then quote the Bard: “Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow.”

Sometimes, less is more


In her junior year, Oakwood senior Katherine Bernstein spent two weeks in Sierra Leone with the North Hollywood school’s immersion program. Amid carrying buckets of cement for a new school and helping to paint a map of the world in its library, she was struck by a major difference between life in Southern California and the West African nation.

“I was expecting to go there and have some depressing, transformative experience. Like, one that makes you appreciate what you have. And it was transformative, but not in that way,” the 17-year-old said.

She was surprised to find that people seemed happier there than they are here, despite the lack of electricity and indoor plumbing.

The people she worked with in Sierra Leone focused on people rather than things, Bernstein said, and she was taken aback by how much attention the people she visited with in Sierra Leone gave to her when she spoke, making her realize how distracted people often are in the United States.

Children followed Bernstein’s classmates wherever they went and got excited when the American students learned to count to 10 in their language, Mende. The children also made toys out of water bottles or whatever else they could find, Bernstein said.

“I think people here have an expectation of having things. I remember in middle school, people used to break their phones to get news ones. It’s never enough,” she said.

Bernstein graduates from Oakwood with a 4.42 grade-point average, having taken four AP classes in the past year: human geography, physics C, English and Spanish. She refers to her number theory and cryptology classes as “really cool.”

Judaism’s emphasis on education has had a large impact on her. “There’s an attitude in my family about education—that it’s very important to know about the world,” she said.

Bernstein will attend Stanford University in the fall, and she is considering studying medicine.

Outside of school, Bernstein has volunteered with L.A. Family Housing for several hours every week since middle school. This organization aids families in transitioning out of homelessness and severe poverty. As a volunteer, Bernstein helps the children in the program with art projects and homework.

A piano player for most of her life, she taught one boy piano through the program and is now trying to collect musical instruments and compile a music library for the center.

“I love working with kids,” Bernstein said. “I probably want to do something with kids in the future. I really like spending my time that way. I feel like I’ve developed over the years as a teacher.”

It’s all about the kids


When his late grandmother was first diagnosed with terminal cancer three years ago, Jason Aftalion was moved by the volunteers who visited her at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. “I was so touched by how they talked to her and spent time with her, so she wouldn’t be lonely,” said Aftalion, a Persian-American senior at Milken Community High School.

Aftalion was inspired to sign up as a volunteer, drawing on “the Jewish values of tikkun olam, or repairing the world,” he said. After a six-month application process, the then-15-year-old was assigned to work at Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA. He still spends four hours visiting patients each Saturday.

Aftalion, 18, still remembers a young heart patient named Michael who loved pirates. He delivered a toy pirate ship to the boy and spent an hour and a half playing with the delighted child. “He was going through more than I’ve ever been through in my entire life, and he could still have fun,” Aftalion said, marveling at the boy. “It meant so much for me to see how excited he was.”

For his summer-school project at USC’s business school, Aftalion co-founded a nonprofit organization, curechildren.org, which aims to buy a breathing machine for a children’s hospital, among other goals. He kick-started the fundraising by working as a private children’s sports coach, drawing on expertise gleaned as a captain and “most valuable player” on Milken’s basketball and track and field teams.

Back at school, he helped rekindle Milken’s waning Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring program, quadrupling student volunteers. As a mentor himself, he said, he’d “try to give advice and moral perspective. It was amazing when kids really opened up and talked about their lives.”

For all of his activism, Aftalion has been honored on a “Cool Kids” segment on KABC and on “The Young Icons” program on KTLA; he’s also received a $1,000 scholarship and a citation from the Los Angeles mayor’s office. This fall he’ll attend USC and hopes eventually to combine his passion for kids and business by serving as the president of a children’s hospital. “My Jewish values will help me to become the person I want to be,” he said.

A song in his soul


Quinn Lohmann closes his eyes and tilts his head slightly. His fingers find their place between the frets of his guitar, and his voice rings out, soft and crystal clear.

“We all got a life to live. We all got a gift to give. …”

Lohmann stops mid-strum. “I need to tune,” he says, as he twists the keys on the head of his guitar.

Lohmann, who has autism, also has perfect pitch, and he knows when the sound is just right.

“Open up your heart and let it out,” he continues.

Lohmann’s mother, Kathy Finn, said he started playing tunes on the piano by ear when he was 3, so she started him on music therapy, and he quickly excelled at piano and, later, guitar. Finn decided to have Lohmann, who had some severe behavioral issues, study for a bar mitzvah, and with the help of Cantor Steven Puzarne, founder of Vision of Wholeness, Lohmann led the entire service and chanted the whole portion at his bar mitzvah at Kehillat Israel in Pacific Palisades.

In fact, Lohmann continues to chant Torah at Temple Akiba in Culver City, as well as at other congregations, and at Nes Gadol, the Jewish studies program at Vista Del Mar that he has been a part of for many years.

He’s also a song leader at Nes Gadol, and fills that role at Camp Ramah in the summers, as well.

For many summers Lohmann attended Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s Camp Hess Kramer, where he thrilled in enjoying a typical summer with typical kids. He loves to play baseball, basketball—and at a lanky 6-foot-2, he’s pretty good on the court—ride his bike and swim. He went on a NFTY Reform youth group Israel trip without additional support.

Lohmann, who is 19, graduated Village Glen School last year, but stayed on for a yearlong transition program where he worked at the school cafe, and learned job and life skills.

Next year, he’ll be attending Pathway, a program at UCLA Extension where adults with special needs take classes at the university and learn to live independently.

Lohmann would like to continue with his music, perhaps studying to be a cantor or a song leader in a synagogue.

While Lohmann’s conversation and social skills are somewhat stilted—he mostly responds to questions with short answers—the song he chooses to sing tells the story for him.

It is “B’tzelem Elohim,” “In God’s Image,” by Dan Nichols, and Lohmann learned it at camp.

“We all got a peace to bring. We all got a song to sing.

Just open your heart and let it out. …

We all got a mountain to climb. We all got a truth to find.

Just open your heart and let it out. …”

Taking her role(s) seriously


Disguised as an elderly woman in czarist Russia, Sheridan Pierce took the stage at Brentwood School. As the bright lights touched her face and the character took over her body, Pierce poured her heart into her role, and she realized that she was meant to act. 

The play was “Fiddler on the Roof,” and Pierce, a ninth-grader at the time, was playing Yente the matchmaker. The significance of the role, she said, was her connection with the character on a more personal level. “Deep in my soul, I’m already a little old Jewish lady,” she joked.

With leading roles in 12 of her 15 school plays, a role in a film directed by Oscar-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler (“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”) and performances at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and most recently at Lincoln Center with Brentwood’s Concert Singers, Pierce is certainly an accomplished performer. “I really like to become a character,” she explained.

Pierce also fosters a passion for improvisation and stand-up, participating in The Second City Teen Troupe and The Groundlings. Focused on her desire to make people laugh, Pierce has set her eyes on her ultimate goal: to someday be on “Saturday Night Live.”

Pierce also contributes comedic essays to one of the three Brentwood publications she writes for, and writes Spanish poetry for a foreign-language publication.

Pierce combines her acting and writing career with a commitment to community service. Working tirelessly with organizations such as the Special Olympics, SOVA, Operation Gratitude, TreePeople and the Los Angeles Public Library Teen Council, Pierce has received numerous awards for her service. Pierce’s interest in bettering the community, she said, is motivated by her love of “working together with a lot of people for one goal.”

Despite the additional challenge of a strenuous course load, Pierce managed to find time in each of the last four years to hold positions in student government. “I just wanted to make a difference in my school, and I knew that was the best way to do it,” she said.

She has continued to strive for more responsibility, ultimately landing the highest elected position at her school, that of prefect, during her senior year. She has also earned the positions of arts chair, homecoming/assembly chair, technology liaison and charity coffeehouse chair/host, as well as a seat on the Honor Board.

Talking to Pierce is like watching a Ron Popeil infomercial—at the end of every sentence you find yourself thinking, “But wait, there’s more!” And after a conversation with Pierce, one thing becomes clear: She is always driven to act. Whether on stage as a character or within her community as a leader, Pierce pours her heart into every role she takes on.

“I’m definitely not a lazy person,” she joked. “I like to set a lot of goals for myself, and there is so much I want to do in my life. I just really get inspired to do the most that I can at an early age.”

Rocket from Sinai strikes Eilat


A long-range Grad rocket fired from the Egypt hit a near a residential area in Eilat.

The rocket fired from the Sinai Peninsula exploded in the southern resort town early Thursday morning. No injuries were reported. The rocket landed in a construction site, according to reports.

Three explosions were heard in the city, but the other two rockets have not been located, according to reports. City residents and tourists flooded the police and other emergency numbers with concerned calls.

The attack came a day before the start of Passover, when hundreds of tourists – both from Israel and abroad – flock to the Red Sea resort town.

Egypt’s security chief denied that the attack had originated in Sinai, according to the French news agency AFP. However sources told the news service that security officials were investigating the border area for launchers or other evidence.

“We are building a security fence but it will not stop missiles; for this too a situation will be found. We will strike at those who attack us,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday morning.“There can be no immunity for terrorism; it must be fought and we are doing so. In the end, nobody will defend the Jews if the Jews do not defend themselves; this is an important principle.”

He said the Sinai was “turning into a terrorism zone.”

In August 2011, eight Israelis were killed in a terrorist attack on a bus and cars traveling near Eilat. Israel claimed the Palestinian attackers entered Israel through the border with Sinai.

The previous year, several long-range rockets were fired at Eilat from the Sinai.

Israel is currently constructing a 16-foot-tall border fence from Eilat to Gaza, to keep out terrorists and migrants.

Palestinian group slams storing rockets in civilian areas


A Palestinian human rights group in the Gaza Strip condemned the storage of rockets used against Israel in civilian populated areas.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights in a statement posted on its website Tuesday called on the Hamas-controlled government in Gaza to investigate three incidents of homemade rockets exploding in densely populated civilian neighborhoods, causing heavy property damage and injuring six Palestinians, including a baby.

The center also noted that “members of the Palestinian resistance continue to store explosives or to treat such explosives in locations close to populated areas. This poses a major threat to the lives of the Palestinian civilians and constitutes a violation of both International Human Rights Law and the International Humanitarian Law.”

The statement did not condemn the firing of the rockets on Israeli citizens, however.

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