EU issues new guidelines on West Bank — but do they matter?


There’s been much handwringing this week about a set of new European Union directives that render Israeli projects in eastern Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the West Bank ineligible for EU funding or grants.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued an indignant statement saying he would “not allow the hundreds of thousands of Israelis living in Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and the Golan to be harmed” by the new regulations and suggesting that the European Union invest its energy in stopping the civil war in Syria or Iran’s nuclear program.

Bibi was outdone by Uri Ariel, Israel’s minister of housing from the Jewish Home party, who reportedly compared the guidelines to boycotts against Jews in Europe 76 years ago.

Haaretz, which broke the story Tuesday, described the guidelines this way: “The European Union has published a guideline for all 28 member states forbidding any funding, cooperation, awarding of scholarships, research funds or prizes to anyone residing in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”

Actually, no. For one thing, the guidelines apply only to the EU, not to its member states. And according to the guidelines, a copy of which was obtained by JTA (they are due to be published Friday), the benefits in question are “grants … prizes and financial instruments to dedicated investment vehicles.”

“Only Israeli entities having their place of establishment within Israel’s pre-1967 borders will be considered eligible,” reads the document, whose stated aim is “to ensure the respect of EU positions and commitments in conformity with international law on the non-recognition by the EU of Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967.”

An unnamed senior Israeli official quoted by Haaretz describes the guidelines as an “earthquake,” saying, “This is the first time such an official, explicit guideline has been published by the European Union bodies.”

That’s true only if one ignores the Dec. 10, 2012, statement by EU foreign ministers that “all agreements between the State of Israel and the EU must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967.”

Then there’s the statement by the EU’s 27 foreign ministers last year saying they support labeling Israeli goods from settlements, an issue whose likely economic impact probably dwarfs the effect of an odd grant or prize.

According to The New York Times, the EU is trying to downplay the significance of the guidelines. The newspaper also reported that the guidelines could complicate John Kerry’s efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks by hardening Israeli positions at a delicate moment.

But actual impact on the ground? A senior Israeli diplomat in Europe told JTA on condition of anonymity that the guidelines are “much ado about nothing” because the European Union already declines to reward Israeli entities and activities based in areas it believes Israel is illegally occupying.

“For many years, any engagement with the EU has a territorial clause, which means it does not apply to areas the EU doesn’t regard as belonging to Israel,” the diplomat said.

Camp Moshava receives conservation grant from Maryland


Habonim Dror Camp Moshava has received $1.36 million from the state of Maryland to permanently set aside 230 acres for conservation.

The grant, the largest of its type this year, comes through Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program and affects 85 percent of the land at Camp Moshava.

Located in Hartford County, the land to be set aside will preserve the habitats of native plant and wildlife species, support natural resources, and protect forests and wetlands.

According to its website, Camp Moshava is an international Labor Zionist youth movement dedicated to teaching the values of kibbutz.

The Maryland Rural Legacy Program provides funding to protect large areas of land from development sprawl and provide environmental protection.

“Our campers and staff have always taken great pride in the special natural features of our site,” said Eytan Graubart, the camp’s executive director. “Now we have ensured that this unique environment will be preserved forever.”

Hadassah awards grants to help women


The Hadassah Foundation has awarded $182,000 in grants for 2011 to help women from diverse cultural groups in Israel and the American Jewish community.

This year, due to the global economic downturn, in addition to funding programs in the fields of economic security for low-income Israeli women and leadership and self-esteem programs for adolescent Jewish girls and young women in the United States, the foundation also funded economic empowerment and financial training programs in the United States.

“The Hadassah Foundation is proud to provide support for activists and advocates who work to create social change for women and girls,” said Linda Altshuler, director of the foundation.  “Over the past decade, we have helped to leverage innovative grant-making as an important vehicle that now energizes a network of partners in philanthropy here and in Israel.”

Among this year’s grantees are the Clinic for Legal Aid for Women in Family Law at Bar-Ilan University; the Public Interest Litigation Project at the Center for Women’s Justice in Jerusalem; Itach-Maaki – Women Lawyers for Social Justice in Tel Aviv; Shalom Bayit, a Project of the Tides Foundation in Oakland, Calif.; Gan Nashim: Growing Strong Jewish Girls through Hazon in New York; and Life$avings: Financial Literacy for Young Women, part of Jewish Women International in Washington.

Jewish fund calls for grant proposals


The Jewish Venture Philanthropy Fund of Los Angeles (JVPF), in collaboration with The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, is currently seeking grant proposals. Any local, national and Israel-based Jewish nonprofit can submit a request for funds.

Grant proposals are due by 5 p.m. March 7.

JVPF is a group of 25 business leaders who contribute $10,000 annually, and each has an equal vote on which organizations to fund. JVPF expects to issue grants totaling $250,000 this year.

In determining grant recipients, the organization looks for innovative groups whose efforts are needed by the Jewish community, are in a position to grow, have potential for a large impact and are sustainable, according to the JVPF Web site.

“It’s always helpful if there’s a specific L.A. impact,” said Scott Minkow, The Federation’s vice president of partnerships and innovation.

Since its founding in 2002, JVPF has distributed $1.2 million to Jewish organizations, such as Moishe House and jewcy.com.

For more information, visit jewishla.net/jvpf-la.

State Dept. awards $770,000 to push diversity in Israel


The U.S. State Department has given $770,000 in grants to Merchavim, an Israeli NGO promoting diversity and shared citizenship in Israel.

Most of the grant, some $750,000, will go to expand the collaboration between Merchavim and the American nonprofit Sesame Workshop, producer of “Sesame Street,” to continue to produce Israel’s version of the show, “Rechov Sumsum,” which features Israeli Jews and Arabs. The grant will help develop content in Hebrew and Arabic for use by 1,200 kindergarten teachers from various ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Another $20,000 will go to help Merchavim develop a training manual for its Kulanana initiative.

Kulanana is a consortium of NGO, government, business and philanthropic partners that are trying to build an inclusive Israeli society by targeting primarily the 16- to 29 year-old demographic across the country’s five deepest divides: Jews and Arabs; immigrant and veteran Israelis; rich and poor; and internal divides both within the Jewish and Arab communities.

Kulanana is working to promote initiatives along three major themes—citizenship, diversity and fairness.

Camarillo Chabad awarded $635,000 to fight drug abuse


Chabad of Camarillo, located just outside the planned senior community of Leisure Village, is receiving a federal grant of $625,000 to prevent teen drug abuse in Ventura County. It will also receive $10,000 in county funds to focus specifically on prescription drug abuse.

Rabbi Aryeh Lang is leading a coalition of local law enforcement officials, educators and civic organizations in an effort he calls Saving Lives. His team is sponsored by the Drug Free Communities Support Program in conjunction with the Office of National Drug Control Policy and Mental Health Services Administration.

The loan, which will be distributed in yearly increments of $125,000 for five years, has been awarded to coalitions around the country since the late 1990s. Chabad of Camarillo was one of 169 groups awarded the loan out of more than 500 that applied this year.

“It’s not just the government giving money,” Lang said. “We will be raising money to match those funds locally and independently.”

“We like to fund groups that are motivated, organized and enthusiastic,” said Dan Hicks, prevention services manager of Ventura County’s Alcohol and Drug Program, which is administering the county’s $10,000 reimbursement loan to the rabbi’s coalition. The county will hold the coalition accountable by requiring substantiating documentation of spending, according to Hicks.

Chabad runs a drug rehabilitation center in Los Angeles and other cities, and Lang said he received training at the Los Angeles center.

Referring to his group’s mission and challenge, Lang said, “The real power relies on the group’s ability to mobilize people.”

He said his coalition will work to curtail the overuse of prescription drugs, including those in the average home’s medicine cabinet, and teen abuse of alcohol and marijuana.

Camarillo Chabad awarded $625,000 to fight drug abuse


Chabad of Camarillo, located just outside the planned senior community of Leisure Village, is receiving a federal grant of $625,000 to prevent teen drug abuse in Ventura County. It will also be receiving $10,000 in county funds to focus specifically on prescription drug abuse.

Rabbi Aryeh Lang is leading a coalition of local law enforcement officials, educators and civic organizations in an effort he calls Saving Lives. His team is sponsored by the Drug Free Communities Support Program in conjunction with the Office of National Drug Control Policy and Mental Health Services Administration.

The loan, which will be distributed in yearly increments of $125,000 for five years, has been awarded to coalitions around the country since the late 1990s. Chabad of Camarillo was one of 169 groups awarded the loan out of more than 500 that applied this year.

“It’s not just the government giving money,” Lang said. “We will be raising money to match those funds locally and independently.”

“We like to fund groups that are motivated, organized and enthusiastic,” said Dan Hicks, prevention services manager of Ventura County’s Alcohol and Drug Program, which is administering the county’s $10,000 reimbursement loan to the rabbi’s coalition. The county will hold the coalition accountable by requiring substantiating documentation of spending, Hicks said.

Chabad runs a drug rehabilitation center in Los Angeles and other cities, and Lang said he received training at the Los Angeles center.

Referring to his group’s mission and challenge, Lang said, “The real power relies on the group’s ability to mobilize people.”

He said his coalition will work to curtail the overuse of prescription drugs, including those in the average home’s medicine cabinet, and teen abuse of alcohol and marijuana.

L.A. Receives Emergency Grant, Sinai Head Appointed, Composer Wins Soup Contest


L.A. Receives Emergency Grant to Pay for Jewish Education

Five communities, including Los Angeles, will split an $11 million emergency grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation for day school and Jewish camp tuition assistance over the next two years. The San Francisco-based foundation will begin paying money out immediately to Jewish federations in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston and its neighboring North Shore, and the greater Washington, D.C., area.

“This is a critical economic time,” Jim Joseph Foundation President Alvin Levitt said, “and a critical response to an emergency situation. To the greatest extent possible, these grants are meant to make the difference between kids being able to afford to go to Jewish school and camp — and not going.”

The L.A. Federation will administer the grant of up to $2.5 million over the next two years to help families pay for Jewish day school and high school, residential summer camp and early childhood programs. The Federation is still working out the mechanism by which it will distribute the funds to the 10,000 kids in Jewish day and high schools in the Los Angeles area and thousands more in overnight camps and preschools.

L.A. Federation President John Fishel called the grant “an extraordinary gift,” but one that comes with challenges.

“The scope here is so vast, it’s going to take some extremely thoughtful people to really develop the criteria,” Fishel said. “This is a significant sum of money to get from a single body, but how you administer it in an equitable fashion, get it out as quickly as possible, get it out to the neediest people, and have it be really meaningful — that will be a big challenge for us.”

The Jim Joseph Foundation hopes the money will stabilize schools as well, since many institutions have seen ominous drops in registration for next year, and even some students dropping out this year. Fishel said a recent study revealed that the Los Angeles area’s 35 day schools and other community organizations have given out $28 million in tuition assistance this year.

This is the second tuition assistance grant the Jim Joseph Foundation has made in Los Angeles in recent months. Last December, the foundation announced a $12.7 million grant to the L.A. Federation and the Bureau of Jewish Education to help five high schools increase enrollment by paying for tuition subsidies for middle-income students over the next six years. Part of the $12.7 million pays for development directors, additional teachers for new students, and marketing, evaluation and administrative costs. The schools and the larger Jewish community are obligated to raise an additional $21.25 million within the next six years for a community endowment fund to pay for Jewish education into the future.

Like the $12.7 million grant, the new money is meant to provide scholarships on top of what schools are already offering; recipient schools may not replace their scholarship money with the Jim Joseph funds.

The Jim Joseph Foundation has given out $142 million since it was founded three years ago. In Los Angeles, it has funded Jewish camp initiatives and a study of alumni of Birthright Israel, a program that strengthens Jewish identity by sending young people on a free trip to Israel.

Levitt hopes the emergency grant will inspire other foundations — which themselves are hurting — to respond in this time of crisis.

“Private foundations have an obligation to step up — at least proportionally to their assets. But it doesn’t have to be in Jewish education, as we’ve done,” Levitt said. “It could be to help the elderly — or the poor. This is a critical time and people are in real need. If not now, when?”

Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Senior Writer

Sinai Head of School Appointed to National Post

Sinai Akiba Academy’s head of school, Rabbi Laurence Scheindlin, has been appointed president of the Solomon Schechter Day School Association, an organization that develops tools and resources for professional and lay leaders in its 76 member schools. This is the first time a head of school, and someone from the West Coast, is leading the association, a part of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ).

“We think we have a unique role to play among the day school associations in that we have a lot of expertise in areas of curriculum and instruction,” said Scheindlin, who has spent more than 30 years at Sinai Akiba, the day school connected to Sinai Temple in Westwood.

Three years ago, the association adopted a strategic plan that for the first time put heads of school and educational professionals on the board, to serve along with Conservative day school lay leaders. The plan also yielded an emphasis on selling parents on the need for a day school experience, curriculum development and publications to help teachers and lay leaders. The association produced a curriculum on Bible that is used not only in Conservative schools, but also in other Jewish schools, and is currently finishing up a similar curriculum on rabbinics.

Scheindlin said he sees increased attention to students’ spiritual experience.

“Without diminishing the academic rigor of our Judaic studies programs, we are finding way to enhance spirituality on campus, so kids are not just learning about Judaism, but they are coming away with a feeling of Jewish life and inner life, and the ways in which we sense God’s presence around us.”

Scheindlin’s appointment is a one-year position, at the end of which a new governance structure will be implemented. Scheindlin is leaving open the possibility that his tenure will be extended.

“We are extremely pleased to have Rabbi Scheindlin serve as our board president,” said Elaine R. S. Cohen, associate director of USCJ’s department of education. “His extensive experience and insights are already a tremendous asset to our organization and integral to achieving our strategic priorities of promoting educational excellence, increasing advocacy and promoting synergies with partner institutions.”

Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Senior Writer

L.A. Architect Wins Top Israel Prize

A Los Angeles architect has won two top prizes in Architecture of Israel Quarterly’s third annual Project of the Year Competition. Raquel Vert, principal at Raquel Vert Architects, won the building category and the Yuli Ofer Prize for Advancement of Architecture for her work on The Deichmann Center for Social Interaction and the Spitzer-Salant School of Social Work at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Vert shares the awards with Irit Axelrod and Yasha Grobman from Grobman-Axelrod Architects.

More than 300 works were submitted for prize consideration. Vert beat out four other finalists in the building category, and earned a first-place win for the Yuli Ofer Prize, which is awarded to the top three projects among the competition’s six categories (building, landscape, interior design, unbuilt projects, research and student).

Vert, a Tel Aviv native, lives in Encino and worked for several Southern California architects — including Frank Gehry — before setting up her own practice in Santa Monica. In 2004, Vert established a branch office in Israel and was commissioned to design the Spitzer-Salant Building and the Deichmann Building. The buildings are part of a complex at the entrance to Ben-Gurion University, which links the town of Beer-Sheva with the campus.

“The buildings’ form have a bold, playful and sculptural spirit, with a tilted concrete wall sitting in water holding a floating cubic structure and a curved metal wall penetrating the building through sheets of glass, all enforcing a sense of indoor-outdoors,” Vert said.

“Truly, as important as the prestige of these awards, is the knowledge that our design has succeeded in its goal of opening BGU to the city, linking the university’s academic life with the history of Beer-Sheva and establishing a cultural core for the entire community.”

Adam Wills, Senior Editor

Local Composer Wins Soup Contest

A Los Angeles amateur chef has won the 2009 “Better Than Your Bubby’s Chicken Soup Challenge” sponsored by the National Jewish Outreach Program.

Michael Cohen, 31, a Hollywood composer who scored “The Hebrew Hammer,” beat out four contestants in the final round of the nationwide search for the best chicken soup recipe. Cohen’s recipe, “Elat Chicken Soup,” named for the Pico Boulevard market where he buys his ingredients, features a mix of chickpeas, eggplant and Middle Eastern spices. 

Noted food experts, including kosher cookbook author Jamie Geller and syndicated columnist Lenore Skenazy, judged the finals, which were held on March 12 at Abigail’s on Broadway, a New York City kosher restaurant. 

Cohen received a round-trip ticket to Israel for his prize-winning recipe. He has won $40,000 in previous national cooking contests over the past four years.

To see the winning recipe, visit http://betterthanyourbubbys.blogspot.com.

Lisa Armony, Contributing Writer

Federation drops security grants for shuls; Farmar shoots, scores for Chabad


Federation Drops Grants to Provide Security for High Holy Days at Small Synagogues

In 2006, in the wake of Israel’s war with Hezbollah, Jewish communities throughout the Diaspora were on edge. A lone gunman had already killed one and wounded five at a Seattle Jewish center, and many were concerned that High Holy Days could make Jews an easy mark.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles responded by granting $1,000 each to nearly 150 small synagogues to be used for High Holy Day security.

This year, The Federation will not be offering those grants.

“This year, we decided we wouldn’t do it again,” said John Fishel, Federation president. “What we are doing, and will continue to do, is in-depth security analyses with Jewish schools throughout Los Angeles, which is not really focused on getting a guard for the holiday. We think focusing on venues that on a daily basis have children and youth and could be targets is a better use of community resources.”

Concern about security at services and how to fund it persists among at least some of the small synagogues, which will now need to reallocate resources or decide to go without.

“It will be extremely difficult to provide security,” said Andrew Friedman, president of the 100-member Congregation Bais Naftoli. “I’m not going to say we are not going to for two reasons: (a) we may, and (b) I don’t want the terrorist to know we will not provide security. We may — but it will be a great financial burden.”

Though 2008 has been marked by several high-profile anti-Semitic attacks, including the firebombing of The New JCC at Milken, the global threat against Jews seems to have lessened since summer 2006.

Fishel said that in such a noncrisis atmosphere, the security briefing co-sponsored annually by the Anti-Defamation League and L.A. Councilman Jack Weiss is sufficient for improving cautionary measures during holiday season. The briefing, held last Friday at the Skirball Cultural Center, instructed the 80 synagogue and Jewish institutional leaders attending on how to increase security for the High Holy Days and improve it throughout the year. Amanda Susskind, ADL regional director, said all members of the Jewish community bear a responsibility in protecting against threats.

“Everyone who works at a Jewish institution is part security officer,” she said.

The ADL offers a manual, “Protecting Your Jewish Institution,” on its Web site, www.adl.org/security.

— Brad A. Greenberg, Senior Writer

Chabad Telethon Raises $8 Million


Los Angeles Lakers star Jordan Farmar shoots 36 baskets in 90 seconds to raise $64,800 for Chabad. Apparel executive Masud Sarshar offered the challenge

Chabad’s “To Life” telethon raised more than $8 million Sunday night — some of it due to amazing basketball shooting by Lakers star Jordan Formar.

Farmar, just back from Israel, shot 36 baskets (‘double chai’) in 90 seconds to raise over $64K for the organization. Apparel exec Masud Sashar offered to donate $1800 from every basket the UCLA alum shot.

The telethon, which was broadcast nationally on the AmericanLife TV Network, featured Chabad rabbis dancing on stage with high-profile donors such as former Beverly Hills Mayor Jimmy Delshad. The mayor, a Persian Jew, contributed $1,800 and made a plea in his native Farsi for others to donate.

The actor Jon Voight, making his 18th appearance on the Chabad telethon, was given a Lubavitch-style black hat. Voight also made a plug for Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Other celebrities featured on the show included Martin Landau, James Cromwell, Camryn Manheim, Mimi Rogers, JoBeth Williams, Tom Arnold, Kellie Martin and Merrin Dungey. Pre-taped messages of support came from Larry King, Jackie Mason, Howie Mandel and Regis Philbin.

The $8,092,269 raised during the telethon will be used to support, among other large-scale religious and philanthropic projects, the Chabad Residential Drug Treatment Center in Los Angeles, as well as Chabad’s Camp Gan Israel, which has been a safe haven for Israeli girls escaping rocket attacks in Sderot.

— Dennis Wilen, Web Director, with contributions from Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Adat Ari El Completes New Gym

Adat Ari El Day School has completed the installation of a state-of-the-art sports pavilion. The facility includes a covered basketball court and climbing wall, among other features, and enables students to participate in physical activity year round.

Haim Linder, the school’s head physical education teacher, said the temperature in the pavilion is about 20 degrees cooler than the outside temperature — important during the Valley’s hot, summer days.

“It’s a big milestone for our school,” he said.

Linder said the sports facility would also help ensure that students stay focused, because research shows that children who are physically active are better able to concentrate on academics.

Additionally, the facility gives the school’s sports teams a place to practice. The pavilion will be named after Mannon Kaplan — one of the founder’s of the school — and in memory of his wife, Sybil. The Kaplan family funded the project and a dedication and thank you ceremony will be held at the school on Sept. 21.

— Lilly Fowler, Contributing Writer

Congress OKs bill barring military chaplains from mentioning Jesus in official prayers


Congress OKs bill barring military chaplains from mentioning Jesus in official prayers
 
The U.S. Congress rescinded language in Pentagon orders that allowed military chaplains to mention Jesus in official prayers. Controversy over including similar language in the Defense Authorization Act, a critical spending bill, dogged attempts to pull the bill out of a Senate-House conference committee before Congress recessed for midterm elections.
 
The conferees ultimately decided to strike the language and order the Pentagon to rescind its earlier instructions. Mikey Weinstein, a former U.S. Air Force officer who led the battle to remove the language, applauded the decision.”We welcome the opportunity Congress has afforded to discuss the appropriate role of religion and chaplains in the military,” Weinstein, who is Jewish, said last week in a statement issued by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which he founded. “The passage of this bill will be a victory for those of us who have been fighting so assiduously to protect both the rights of the men and women in our armed forces and the United States Constitution.”
 

Austrian extremists gain in elections
 
Two far-right parties with a history of anti-Jewish rhetoric made gains in Austrian elections. National elections held over the weekend saw a 50 percent rise since 2002 elections in the percentage of votes for the Freedom Party and the Alliance for Austria’s Future. Members of both parties have expressed antipathy toward Israel and are known for their campaigns against Muslims living in Austria.
 
The left-leaning Social Democrats won the election with nearly 36 percent of the vote, followed by the center-right People’s Party with 34 percent. The Freedom Party came in third with 11 percent, and the Alliance for Austria’s Future, run by right-wing extremist Jorg Haider, received 4 percent of the vote. The Social Democrats and People’s Party are expected to form a governing coalition.
 
Federal legislation Includes grant for Federation model elderly care program
 
A Jewish federation model to facilitate care for the elderly in their home communities will be included in federal grant legislation. The United Jewish Communities, the umbrella body for North American federations, launched the “Aging in Place” initiative in 2002, helping 40 communities in 25 states obtain federal dollars for naturally occurring retirement communities.The model was featured in a U.S. Senate hearing this year to consider re-authorization of the Older Americans Act. As a result, a federal grant program for the retirement communities is included in language agreed to by House-Senate conferees.
 
Swiss stage pro-Israel rally
 
Approximately 3,000 demonstrators held a pro-Israel rally in the Swiss capital. Saturday’s rally in Bern called for the Swiss government to support Israel’s right to exist and show solidarity with the Jewish state’s fight against terrorism. Twenty organizations signed a resolution urging the government to refuse negotiations with terrorist groups that reject the existence of the Israeli state.
 

British House of Lords member faces probe by party over Israel lobby remarks
 
A member of Britain’s House of Lords will be investigated by her party for comments about the “pro-Israel lobby.” Liberal Democrat Party members have announced that Baroness Jenny Tonge’s position in the party will be reviewed in response to her public remarks.
 
In a speech that recently aired on BBC Radio, Tonge said, “The pro-Israeli lobby has got its [financial] grips on the Western world. I think they’ve probably got a certain grip on our party.”
 
More than 20 of her peers in the House of Lords wrote a letter to the Times condemning Tonge’s comments, stating, “Baroness Tonge evoked a classic anti-Jewish conspiracy theory,” and that her language “as a member of the House of Lords, was irresponsible and inappropriate.”
 
In early 2004, she was fired from her position as Liberal Democrat spokeswoman on international development for saying she could understand why a Palestinian would become a suicide bomber and also that she would consider becoming one were she a Palestinian.
 
Remains of Czech Jewish graveyard found
 
Evidence of a medieval Jewish cemetery was discovered in the Czech Republic.Researchers from a preservationist organization in the city of Pilsen say they found documents in the city archive revealing details of what they believe was one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Czech lands in the 14th century.
 
The cemetery’s existence was already known, said archaeologist Radek Siroky of the West Bohemian Institute for Heritage Conservation and Documentation, but the new documents reveal more specifics about its location.
 
He said that only excavations, approved by religious authorities, could provide more details about the cemetery’s size and the nature of the Jewish community there.
 
Briefs courtesy of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Community Briefs


Holocaust Memorial Rites at Pan Pacific Park Draw 2,000

Although their numbers are thinning with age, Shoah survivors comprised most of the audience of about 2,000 at the annual Holocaust remembrance service Sunday at Pan Pacific Park in the Fairfax district.

Hungarian survivor Eva Brettler was 7 years old when she saw her mother killed on a forced march from Budapest to the Ravensbruck and Bergen-Belsen camps, from which she was liberated.

“It’s a way of connecting with all the lost people,” Brettler said of Sunday’s event. “It’s very difficult, but it’s, in a way, remembering and, God willing, it will never re-occur again.”

Calling the survivors a “living testament to the Holocaust,” Israeli Consul General Ehud Danoch spoke, along with former U.S. Ambassador Dennis Ross, State Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Jona Goldrich, chairman of the Los Angeles Holocaust Monument.

“What we’re here to remember is the importance of memory itself,” the mayor said. “This year, we mark the 60th anniversary of the trials of Nuremberg.”

Villaraigosa asked all Shoah survivors present to stand, and most of the audience rose to applause.

Speakers implored Jews and non-Jews worldwide to confront continuing anti-Semitism and remain vigilant against the Islamist terrorist group, Hamas, which in February gained control of the Palestinian Authority.

“Hatred of Jews because they are Jews is still very real,” Danoch said.

The annual remembrance took place near the Los Angeles Holocaust Monument and was held two days before the worldwide Yom HaShoah/Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 25. Yom HaShoah events also included the annual remembrance Tuesday at the Museum of Tolerance, plus an event for Catholic, Jewish and public schoolchildren on April 25, also at Pan Pacific Park.

Sunday’s service ended with the crowd reciting Kaddish, the mourners’ prayer, and a choir singing “The Partisan Song.”

Survivors and their children then made their way to the park’s nearby Holocaust monument. An 80-year-old Dutch survivor stood over the monument ground’s flat plaque bearing the phrase, “The Netherlands 100,000,” and as he looked down, he wept, briefly. — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

Waxman Ties Judaism to His Attitude Toward Politics

For longtime Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles), it is through action that Jews can best demonstrate core Jewish values. During his 32-year tenure in Congress, that has meant supporting legislation to help those in need and playing watchdog to the powerful.

Waxman, 66, was the keynote speaker for this year’s eighth annual Carmen and Louis Warschaw Distinguished Lecture and he spoke of how Judaism affects his attitude toward policy and politics.

Unlike some past series speakers, Waxman delivered remarks that were sharply political and not very revealing at a personal level. But Waxman’s earnestness was evident as he talked about serving in the House as a Democrat, while Republicans held sway in both Houses of Congress and the White House.

Describing the last six years of “essentially one-party rule in Washington,” Waxman cited numerous examples of what he termed inappropriate government behavior, including legislation forced through without proper discussion, bills delayed while recalcitrant voters were rounded up, violations of parliamentary procedures, and the withholding of key information. He also found fault with the substance of Bush administration policies, which he said prioritized the interests of the wealthy and corporations to the detriment of the poor and the middle class. The current political climate, he said, is characterized by the terrible triumvirate of arrogance, secrecy and lack of accountability.

For Waxman, such abuses have no place in a democracy.

“I believe,” he concluded, “that the leadership of our government in both Congress and the executive branch has turned away from core values we have as Americans and as Jews.

“By the way,” he added, “I think those values are very much the same. Justice Brandeis said, ‘If you want to be a good American, be a good Jew.’ I make these comments in the great tradition of our people that we should be willing to speak truth to the powerful.”

Waxman has been called one of the “ablest members of the House” by the authoritative Almanac of American Politics. He has developed legislation on a range of issues, such as health insurance protections, air and water quality standards, pesticide control, Medicare and Medicaid coverage, anti-tobacco efforts, AIDS prevention and treatment and funding for women’s health research.

As the ranking member of the Government Reform Committee, Waxman is noted for spearheading numerous investigations. Recent efforts have focused on White House ties to Enron, contract abuses in Iraq and the politicization of science. In a recent profile outlining his persistence and efficacy, the French newspaper, Le Monde, referred to him as “l’Eliott Ness du Congres.”

Waxman said he tries to base his actions as an elected official on tzedakah — “which means righteousness, not charity; [helping to] bring justice to others and sanctity to ourselves.”

Waxman, an unapologetic liberal, also is known for his strong support of Israel. In his speech, he criticized the prosecution of two former American Israel Public Affairs Committee staffers accused of allegedly disclosing classified information they received from a Pentagon employee.

In introductory remarks at the Sunday event, Rep. Howard Berman (D-North Hollywood), Waxman’s long-time friend and colleague, noted Waxman’s value by quoting an unnamed Republican strategist. This strategist’s first argument for maintaining Republican control of both houses of Congress, said Berman, was the horror of imagining what would happen if Waxman chaired an oversight committee and could fully investigate Congress and the Bush administration.

Some of that analysis could apply as well to Berman, who last week was named to the House Ethics Committee, where he will be the ranking Democrat. Berman, who has served in the post previously, replaces Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va), who withdrew from the committee when questions arose recently over his ethics.

In an interview with The Journal, Berman said he accepted his new role on the House Ethics Committee with some reluctance. “It’s an honor, I could have done without,” said Berman. “It’s never fun to have to make judgments about your colleagues.”

Officially called the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, the ethics panel is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, the only committee configured that way. The thinking, said Berman, who previously served as ranking Democrat from 1997-2003, was to prevent partisan politics from being the driving force in the committee’s work.

“But there’s no doubt,” he added, “that the current intensity of partisan battling and confrontation has made this difficult.”

The Warschaw lecture, presented by the Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life, has become an annual opportunity for political leaders and thinkers to examine the intersection of Jewish values and political activity.

Waxman, who has represented the 30th District since 1974, told the USC audience that he’s always had a strong Jewish identity. However, he added, it was only as an adult that he began to more deeply explore the Jewish religion.

A Conservative Jew who observes the laws of kashrut and Shabbat, Waxman said that rituals provide “a check on our arrogance and self-importance.” Shabbat, for example, provides a weekly reminder that “no matter how important I may be, the world can get along without me quite well for one day.” – Naomi Glauberman, Contributing Writer

Congregation Adat Chaverim Receives $50,000 Grant

Congregation Adat Chaverim in the San Fernando Valley will use its $50,000 share of a grant to pay for a part-time rabbi and grow as a religious community.

Adat Chaverim is one of two U.S. congregations selected to share a $100,000 Pivnick Community Development Grant from the Society for Humanistic Judaism. The grant carries an award of $50,000, payable over a period of three years.

Since it was founded in 2000, lay members of the congregation have conducted services, educational programs and organized special life-cycle and holiday events. The funds will allow the congregation to bring in on a more frequent basis Rabbi Eva Goldfinger, who has visited the congregation several times to conduct special events, including a Passover fair and a Tu b’Shevat seder over the past year.

Members said they hope to hire Goldfinger on a full-time basis eventually. The rabbi grew up in a Chasidic family and was ordained by the International Institute of Secular Humanistic Judaism in 2005. She is currently director of adult education at the Oraynu Congregation for Humanistic Judaism in Toronto.

The Adat Chaverim membership consists of 43 families and “70-few” people, said congregation president Joan Waller, a retired professor of early childhood education at the College of the Canyons. “We’re energetic and hard working and have good potential. And with the appointment of Rabbi Goldfinger, we will be the only Humanistic Jewish congregation west of Chicago to have our own rabbi.”

According to a statement by the Society for Humanistic Judaism, the movement was founded in 1969 and “embraces a

human-centered philosophy that affirms the power and responsibility of individuals to shape their own lives independent of supernatural authority.” The movement “endorses ideals derived from the Jewish experience.”

Congregation Adat Chaverim meets for services, educational and other programs at Friends of Valley Cities Jewish Community Center in Sherman Oaks.

The grant will be formally presented at the Society for Humanistic Judaism’s annual convention in Cambridge, Mass., on April 28. To earn the award, Adat Chaverim submitted a grant application that included detailed plans for fundraising, marketing and publicity campaigns, as well as a five-year budget. — Peter L. Rothholz, Contributing Writer

Israeli Nobel Laureate Speaks at Sinai Temple

Israel’s first Nobel Prize laureate in science, professor Aaron Ciechanover of Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, made a recent stop at Los Angeles’ Sinai Temple to address Saturday morning services.

Ciechanover discussed the award-winning research that earned him the 2004 prize in chemistry, which he shared with Technion’s Avram Hershko and Irwin Rose of UC Irvine. Their joint collaboration, beginning in the early 1980s, led to the discovery of ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation, which ultimately has led to promising treatments or potential treatments for a variety of diseases. At the time, such work “went against the stream,” because few researchers were interested in protein-breakdown, said the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in bestowing the award upon the trio.

As a result of their research, it is now possible to understand at a molecular level how a cell controls a number of central processes by breaking down certain proteins and not others. Processes governed by this system include cell division and DNA repair.

In his April 8 talk, Ciechanover noted that his team’s findings offer a window of opportunity to develop drugs against cervical cancer, cystic fibrosis and various autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases. — Melissa Maroff, Contributing Writer

 

A Case for Pasadena


Most people are surprised, even flabbergasted, to learn that there is a sizeable Jewish community in Pasadena, one that has been here for well over a century.

I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, and I had never been to Pasadena. I knew little about it — mostly that the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl were there; I had no idea how close it was to Woodland Hills, where I lived. And I certainly didn’t think about if there were Jews there.

Pasadena is located in the San Gabriel Valley — or what locals call the “Other Valley” — and it’s surrounded by the San Gabriel Mountains. It sits at the foot of Mount Wilson, home to the observatory where Albert Einstein worked during his stay at Cal Tech. It’s also home to Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the leading U.S. center for robotic exploration of the solar system, which offers us a connection to space, science and some of the best minds in the world.

Jews first came to Pasadena at the turn of the 20th century, not long after the city was founded. Jewish women formed an aid society, and the men formed a congregation. Meetings first took place in congregants’ homes, and High Holiday services were held in the Union Labor Temple. In 1920, Temple B’nai Israel incorporated and established a presence on Hudson and Walnut streets, and from 1925 to 1932 the congregation grew from 60 families to 207 families. In 1940, the congregation moved to its present location on North Altadena Drive.

When Rabbi Max Vorspan arrived to head the congregation 1947, he encouraged the Pasadena Jewish community to reconstitute itself as the Jewish Community of Pasadena, with Temple B’nai Israel, B’nai B’rith Men and Women, Hadassah and ORT as constituent organizations. The congregation adopted the name “Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center” (PJTC). Vorspan went on to become the University of Judaism’s dean in 1952.

When I took over the rabbinic leadership of PJTC two years ago, I learned not only about the amazing cultural, social and natural wonders of Pasadena, but also about the awesome Jewish community here: It’s one that has a solid base and an incredible potential for dynamic growth.

In addition to PJTC, there is also a Chabad of Pasadena. All different kinds of Jews live here — and are moving here in large numbers.

The area features a wonderful preschool, B’nai Simcha Jewish Community Preschool, which cares for 70 children ages 2-6, and is located a short drive down the road in Arcadia. On the PJTC campus is an accredited day school, the Chaim Weizmann Community Day School, which has recently been awarded a science and arts grant for its work with Eaton Canyon Reserve, as well as a city of Pasadena Unity Award, for its Daniel Pearl program bringing together Jewish, Christian and Muslim children.

PJTC is currently home to almost 400 families, with many young families joining every month. We have a vibrant and nationally recognized religious school, the Louis B. Silver Religious School, with more than 175 kids.

I am using my experiences from my time at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Manhattan to bring innovative prayer experiences to PJTC. We have “Shabbat B’lev,” Shabbat of the Heart, featuring musicians who create an incredibly deep and passionate Shabbat evening service. PJTC is also engaged in social justice programs, including acting as one of three host synagogues for a May 26 program focusing on the Sudan, partnering with Longfellow Elementary in an extensive tutoring and mentoring program, serving monthly meals at our local homeless shelter and raising money to build a reservoir in Israel.

I constantly hear from people who are interested in moving to a more open and expansive part of town. Given how crowded the San Fernando Valley and the Westside are — Pasadena is set to explode to become the next major Jewish community in Los Angeles.

With a greater number of committed Jews moving here, we will have the chance to open kosher restaurants and markets, which are currently not available. The saying promises, “build it, and they shall come,” but in this case, I think we need to build it together.

I can see a time in the next 10 to 15 years when Pasadena will take its rightful place as the newest — yet oldest — addition to Jewish Los Angeles. I foresee a future when people will mention Pasadena’s Jewish community alongside Jewish neighborhoods like Pico-Robertson, Fairfax and Valley Village. Of course, given how often Pasadena is compared to the San Fernando Valley, our Jewish community may be known as the “other Jewish neighborhood.”

For more information on PJTC, visit

The Circuit


Dollars for Access

The Jewish Community Foundation awarded a $7,500 grant to the Access Center of OPCC (formerly the Ocean Park Community Center). The money will be dedicated to maintaining the project’s critical core programs to assist homeless youth, adults and families. The Access Center opened in 1963 and it is often the first port of entry for homeless individuals and families seeking services. In addition to providing emergency services such as food, clothing and shelter to approximately 275 clients daily, the center assists homeless men, women and children in developing individual plans to identify strengths and goals in order to return to a life of stability and self-sufficiency.

Pint-Sized Philanthropists

It is never too early to start giving tzedakah (charity) in a very adult kind of way. On Jan. 6 the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade girls at Emek Hebrew Academy Teichman Family Torah Center in Sherman Oaks presented a $30,473 check to Randi Grossman, the West Coast regional director of Chai Lifeline, a charity that provides services to families who have children with special needs. The girls raised the money by organizing parlor meetings for the women in their respective synagogues, having bake sales, tabling outside kosher markets in the Valley, holding fund-raising parties and basically asking everyone they knew for money.

“All the kids expressed how good it felt to raise the money — they said it felt good for their neshamas [souls], knowing that they were helping to bring a smile to a sick child,” said Debbie Eidlitz, the Emek teacher who oversaw the fund-raising. “A lot of the shyest kids forced themselves to go out there and raise the money, and they all felt that they grew tremendously from the experience.”

School Banquet Season

On Jan. 11 Samuel A. Fryer Yeshivat Yavneh held its annual banquet at which the school honored the J. Samuel Harwit and Manya Harwit Aviv Charitable Trust for its support and dedication to Jewish education. Rabbi Yissocher Frand, a teacher at the Ner Israel Yeshiva in Baltimore, was the guest speaker at the banquet.

Yavneh, located in Hancock Park, is one of the largest Orthodox elementary schools in the city. It aims to educate students to be firmly committed to Torah, Judaism and Israel and the principles and values that are a part of American life.

Another large Orthodox elementary school, Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy in Beverly Hills, also held its banquet recently. On Dec. 21 at the Century Plaza Hotel, supporters of Hillel gathered to honor Robert and Rosina Korda at the academy’s 55th annual Scholarship Banquet. At the banquet, Hillel also honored Joel and Roslyn Linderman, who jointly received the Dor L’Dor Award, and Dr. Benjamin Rosenberg, who received the Alumni Award.

On Nov. 25 Valley Torah High School held its annual communitywide Scholarship Banquet at the Hilton Universal City and Towers. The school’s dean, Rabbi Abraham Stulberger, presented awards to Eliezer Jones (Alumnus of the Year) and Eli and Sandra Eisenberger. A number of new developments were announced at the dinner, including the opening of a new girls’ school, Beis Malkah V’Sara Esther later this year.

Loen’s Lights

The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, a program of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, recently honored Masha Loen at the first Festival of Lights cocktail party and silent auction, which was held in December at the museum. Loen was honored on her retirement for a lifetime of dedication and service.

Forest for the Trees

The U.S.D.A. Forest Service hosted a special guest in January — Jewish National Fund (JNF) forester Adi Naali of Israel. Naali has worked for the JNF for the past six years supervising new tree plantings and recreation areas, and taking part in forest and land-use planning teams. He was a member of the Alexander River Rehabilitation Project, which won the Australian River-Price Competition, one of the most prestigious ecological restoration competitions in the world.

As part of his visit, Naali toured Southern California and Arizona to view the devastation to the national forests caused by fires.

Hadassah Encourages Women to ‘Check Out’ Program


Janine McMillion was 29 when she married, entered her third year of law school and was diagnosed with breast
cancer. Today, the Huntington Beach resident is an employment lawyer, whose
survival story was the centerpiece of “Check It Out,” an early-detection
program for youth put on by Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization.

The program was instigated by Adena Kaufman, 34, of Aliso
Viejo, compelled to action by the loss of a girlhood friend to breast cancer in
2001. “It’s made me grateful to be alive,” she said.

The December event for the Bureau of Jewish Education’s
TALIT students was the first presentation in Orange County by Hadassah, which
introduced the program in Texas a decade ago. About 90 girls and their mothers
attended the program at Santa Ana’s Temple Beth Sholom. They received bags
stuffed with brochures, an anatomically correct breast model with simulated
lumps, instruction on self-examination and genetic risk factors.

“Nobody ever explained that to me before,” 15-year-old
Daniella Gruber told her mother, Roe, afterward.

“She got something out of it,” Gruber’s mother said.

Despite winning a $5,900 grant in December 2001 from the
Susan G. Komen Foundation to present the program free to 2,000 students,
Hadassah’s Long Beach-Orange County chapter has, so far, found few takers.

“We’ve had a difficult time getting into public schools,”
said Michelle Shahon, director of the 3,200-member Costa Mesa-based group, “If
you teach them good life habits early on, that’s the best method of early
detection,” she said.

Shahon intends to seek an extension of the grant and keep
knocking on doors.

Community Briefs


Spielberg Donates $1 Million to AidIsrael

Producer-director Steven Spielberg pledged $1 million to aid Israeli terrorism victims and has named five Israeli and U.S. organizations as the initial recipients of the grant. Spielberg’s Righteous Persons Foundation cited the filmmaker’s “concern for the current crisis in Israel and for the country’s innocent victims” in announcing the grants.

Spielberg established the Righteous Persons Foundation in 1994 and has financed it through his entire profits from “Schindler’s List.” Until now, practically all grants by the Righteous Persons Foundation have been earmarked for projects to strengthen Jewish life in the United States, including those related to education about the Holocaust.

However, under the impact of terrorism on Israeli life, this policy has now been changed, and the foundation has designated at least 10 percent of its new commitments in 2002 for “efforts to respond to the tragic situation,” said Rachel Levin, associate director of the Righteous Persons Foundation. A similar percentage for the same effort is foreseen for 2003, although the money will not necessarily go to the same organizations.

Named as the initial recipients of “significant donations” are:

  • The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles for its Jewsin Crisis program, which directly funds mobile emergency units, trauma centers,school security and assistance to terror victims in Israel.
  • American Friends of the Hebrew University forscholarships in memory of the nine Israelis and Americans killed in the July 21terrorist attack at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
  • Selah-Israel Crisis Management Center, a volunteernetwork that assists new immigrants victimized by terror, violence and suddencrisis.
  • Natal-Israel Trauma Center for Victims of Terror and War,which provides professional psychological counseling to terror victims and theirfamilies.
  • Eran, which operates an around-the-clock help lineoffering emotional support, in four languages, for those in crisis. Withcontinuing terrorist attacks, the volume of callers rose to 53,000 in the firsthalf of 2002 alone. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Battle to Recover Nazi Loot Advances

The long legal and emotional battle by Maria V. Altman to recover the paintings stolen by the Nazis from her family moved a major step forward when a federal appeals court ruled last week that she can proceed with her suit against the Austrian government. The unanimous decision by a three-member panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco marked the first time that a court at this level has decided that a foreign government could be held to answer in the United States for a Holocaust claim.

Altman, an 87-year-old Cheviot Hills resident, is seeking to recover six paintings, now valued at $135 million, by the Austrian artist Gustav Klimt, including a portrait of her aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer.

Professor Michael Bazyler of the Whittier Law School, an expert in Holocaust-related claims, described the court ruling as a milestone in Holocaust restitution legislation. Altman’s attorney, E. Randol Schoenberg, who initiated the lawsuit two years ago, also hailed the ruling as “a very big deal … and in many ways unprecedented.” Peter Launsky-Tiefenthal, the Austrian consul general in Los Angeles, said that his government would most likely file an appeal. — TT

Panel Looks at Image of Jewish Women inMedia

Seven women in the entertainment industry visited UCLA Nov. 13 to participate in a panel discussion titled, “Hollywood Images: A New Look at Jewish Women in the Media.”

“Chances are that most people in the world won’t know a Jew, which means that most people will only know about Jews through what’s portrayed in film, television, books or other media, so we feel that it’s important that that portrayal be accurate, diverse and positive,” said Olivia Cohen-Cutler, vice president of broadcast standards and practices for ABC.

Cohen-Cutler was moderating the panel comprised of members of the MorningStar Commission, a group founded by Hadassah that advocates improving the image of Jewish women in the media.

The event, which was part of UCLA Hillel’s newly established Arts and Culture Initiative, was sponsored by UCLA Hillel, USC Hillel and The MorningStar Commission. It included panelists Joan Hyler, president of Hyler Management; Laraine Newman, actress; Andrea King, screenwriter; Susan Nanus, film and TV writer; Arlene Sarner, screenwriter, playwright and producer, and Paula Silver, president, Beyond the Box Productions.

Each panelist explained how she broke into the entertainment industry and described the ways that she integrates her Jewish identity into her current success. Newman, an alum of “Saturday Night Live” who recently played a rabbi’s wife on “7th Heaven,” told the audience that when she was beginning as an actress, she was often pressed to get a nose job and refused. “I really wanted to maintain my Jewish features. I made my way looking the way I did, and that was very important to me,” she said.

“I’m very comfortable being Jewish and very proud of being Jewish,” Nanus said. “I wasn’t always popular and didn’t care.”

Nanus said she dedicates her career to creating screenplays falling under the categories of “women, children, Jews and the underdog,” including, “If These Walls Could Talk” and “Rescuers, Stories of Courage in the Holocaust.”

King, who has written for the Jerusalem Post and whose scripts include “Body Language” and “Two’s Company,” has one key career rule: She refuses to work on a story where a Jewish man gets together with a non-Jewish woman. “I don’t want to contribute to the perpetuation of an image that I think is unfair,” King said.

Silver often tries to incorporate tzedakah (charitable giving) into her work. At the premiere of “Boyz N the Hood,” she asked everyone who came to bring books to be donated to schools. While developing the marketing campaign for “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” her company became involved with a Greek foster-care organization.

“If you can do good while doing business, it’s part of being Jewish,” Silver said. — Rachel Brand, Contributing Writer

UCLA Wins Grant


The Center for Jewish Studies at UCLA, only seven years old, has received one of academe’s highest recognitions, a $500,000 challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for the study of Jewish Civilizations. It is the only one this year awarded for Jewish studies, the only one for UCLA and one of only seven awarded to American universities.

A rigorous evaluation by leading scholars “found that the [center’s] new emphasis on Jewish Civilization will be comprehensive, of high quality, and significant to the humanities,” NEH Chairman William R. Ferris wrote to Dr. Kenneth Reinhard, director of the UCLA center.

“This endowment, while enhancing the educational experiences for students at UCLA, will also have a huge impact on strengthening basic resources in Jewish studies,” Ferris notes.

The grant carries with it both considerable responsibilities and benefits for the Jewish community of Los Angeles. The “challenge” in the challenge grant calls for the raising of $2 million in private donations over the next four years to reach the goal of a $2.5 million endowment.

Foremost among the benefits is a series of lectures, symposia and conferences, most open to the public, that will bring some of the keenest minds in the field — mostly Jewish, but also Christian and Muslim — to the Westwood campus.

At the heart of the UCLA center’s planning is the relatively new academic concept of Jewish Civilization as the focus of its studies and research.

“We hope to study that which is both singular and universal in Jewish civilization, and its constant interaction — in harmony or in conflict — with the world’s other cultures,” Reinhard says.

“Wherever Jews live, they have transformed the host civilization and been transformed by it.”

A curtain raiser to a three-year program of intensive intellectual examination of the field will be an international conference on “Jewish Civilization and Its Discontents,” with presentations by some 18 scholars, to be held Nov. 3 to Nov. 5 at UCLA. The conference is open to the public without charge.

The conference derives its title and theme from two landmark books on Jewish thought, “Judaism as a Civilization” by Mordecai Kaplan, and “Civilization and Its Discontents” by Sigmund Freud.

The two books, published within four years of each other in the early 1930s, with fascism in the ascent, in a sense examine the brighter and darker aspects of the same coin.

Kaplan, the father of the Reconstructionist movement, saw Jewish religion and history as a positive evolutionary process that would bridge the boundaries separating religion from society, community and culture.

Freud, on the other hand, looked at what he considered as the darker side of religious Judaism and at the often-tragic consequences of Jewry’s interaction with other civilizations.

Also set for the fall semester is a public forum on “The Legacy of the Ten Commandments: Ancient Text and Modern Contexts.” Subscription to the entire series is $55, with a $10 fee for individual lectures.

In each of 11 Thursday evening sessions, starting Oct. 4, a rabbi or Christian minister will be paired with an authority on law, religion, philosophy or literature to explore a specific commandment.

For instance, in examining the prohibition against stealing, a legal expert on intellectual property rights might address issues raised by new media technologies and the Internet.

“The Decalogue is neither obvious nor irrelevant,” Reinhard says. “To either intone the commandments as universal principles for living, or reject them as an emblem of trite moral sententiousness, is to miss the very real challenge they present us with today…. It is our hope to win back the Ten Commandments from their banalization by both the right and left in this country.”

In dealing with UCLA students or interested laymen, Reinhard’s goal is to “integrate the study of Judaism into what it means to be a knowledgeable person,” he says.

In present-day America, “Judaism is only vaguely understood by both Jews and Christians,” Reinhard maintains.

By some, Judaism is viewed as the poor older brother of Christianity, while others find appeal in kind of vacuous “Seinfeld Judaism,” he adds.

Although few professors enjoy the job of asking for financial support, Reinhard is undaunted by the challenge of raising $2 million.

Since the recent announcement of the NEH grant, he has already come up with $160,000, and has set next year’s goal as $650,000.

“I am hitting the pavement and going after both the big money, through wealthy individuals and family foundations, and little money, from people of average means,” Reinhard says.

His task is made easier by the formidable reputation the center achieved under its two previous directors, professors Arnold J. Band and David N. Myers.

For more information call: (310) 825-5387 or access theWeb site at www.humnet.ucla.edu/cjs .

Espresso and Expression


For most of the poets and essayists at Lulu’s Beehive coffeehouse on Wed., May 16, this was their first public reading of their work. But every one of the readers was already a published author, thanks to Ohmanut, a new Jewish student arts magazine published by Hillel at Pierce and Valley Colleges with a grant from The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance.

It was standing room only at the Studio City coffeehouse as magazine contributors, friends and family, and other interested patrons listened to the students read their work. Pierce College journalism major Reina Slutske, who read her poem “Where Are They Now?” to the crowd, explained her involvement with the magazine: “[Ohmanut] proves that people are interested in the arts and accepting of many different messages.” Having her work published in the magazine, she said, “validates me as an artist and as a member of the Jewish community.”

Also contributing to the event was Nomi Gordon, director of Hillel at Pierce and Valley Colleges, who read a poetic essay of her own. Program Director Rick Lupert, who designed, edited and laid out the magazine with student editor Emily Gardner, read from one of his own previously published volumes of poetry, titled “I’m a Jew, Are You?” As Gordon expressed her hope that the Jewish student publication would become a “model for the nation,” the crowd engaged in some model behavior of its own. Audience members clapped and cheered and shouted out their support for Jewish students and their creative expression.

Rouss Resigns


Wanted: Administrator to lead one of the largest Jewish agencies in Los Angeles. Must be able to handle national crises, raise vast sums of money and please people aged 3-103, from Conejo Valley to Venice Beach.

Staff and lay leaders for the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles say they were taken by surprise March 14 when executive vice president Jeffrey L. Rouss handed in his resignation. Rouss, 52, has a 20-year history with the organization, working his way up from director of teen services at the North Valley Jewish Community Center. He will leave his current post as overseer of the L.A.-area’s seven JCCs in late April to become head of development for the western regional fundraising arm of the American Friends of Hebrew University.

“His resignation really came as a surprise, although we knew he had turned down other offers over the years,” said Rouss’ second-in-command, associate director Nina Lieberman Giladi. “He will be sorely missed.”

“We’re in a different place than when Jeff took over,” said Lee S. Smith, president of the JCC board. “We have the community center in the Conejo Valley, which never would have happened without him. We have the Emma Stern Senior Adult Camp, which also never would have existed without his help; he took a dormant if not dead plan and made it happen. We have a much-changed Zimmer Discovery Children’s Museum with a state grant and a new home at 6505 in large part because Jeff supported and helped that program grow.”

Along with the JCCs, Rouss oversaw JCC Teen Services, SOVA, the Shalom Institute and the Israel Levin Senior Center. He managed an operating budget of $15 million annually.

Not all Rouss’ moves were universally applauded, Smith acknowledged. Rouss’ handling of the aborted sale of the Westside JCC to Shalhevet High School in 1998 bitterly divided the area’s Jewish community. Some community leaders were also distressed by comments Rouss gave to the media following last summer’s shooting at the North Valley JCC in Granada Hills.

“Some people did not support the revitalization of the Westside JCC, but now we have close to a $4 million campaign, and Jeff was the person who [obtained] the lead gift. That’s one of reasons why the American Friends wanted him,” Smith said.

As for the shooting, Smith said he thought Rouss “handled things in the best possible manner, especially in light of the horrendous nature of the event and the pressures that were faced by everyone.”

JCC leaders have already begun the search for Rouss’ replacement, as well as for an interim director, according to Giladi.

“The board has put together a search committee which will work closely with the Jewish Community Centers Association in New York to find someone,” she said. “We are also looking for an interim director, as we expect the search to take several months.”

Greenlighting the Future of Jewish L.A.


Lynne Sturt Weintraub had a problem. It involved what she prefers to call the “chronologically gifted” members of Temple Beth Zion, where she is co-president.

“Unfortunately they’re on fixed incomes,” says Weintraub. Unable to drive, and with most of their money going to food and medical care, Beth Zion’s elderly congregants had no way of getting to shul. “There were people who would like to participate at Beth Zion,” Weintraub says, “who couldn’t.”

That’s when Weintraub remembered the Jewish Community Foundation. Every year, the Foundation — a nonprofit agency based at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ headquarters — allocates millions of dollars in grant money for special initiatives in the Jewish community.

It is a kind of local goldmine. While the process of applying for a Foundation grant can be time-consuming and exacting, once tapped, the Foundation can be a financial lifeline for an up-and-coming social services agency or a budding cultural program.

Indeed, meeting the needs of Jewish institutions has been the primary concern of the Foundation for nearly 40 years. In 1964, the Foundation was created by the Jewish Federation to serve as the charitable gift-planning agency on behalf of L.A.’s Jewish community. Currently, the Foundation is the largest central distributor for Jewish philanthropists in Southern California. In fact, the organization’s assets have tripled in size between the years 1989-98, and the Foundation presently manages 850 individual donor funds.

The Foundation’s grant money is derived from these funds — legacies established by donors during their lifetime or in a will. The philanthropical caretakers at the Foundation assist in directing these monies to specific charities and fields of interest throughout the Jewish and general communities. All Foundation donors play a role in supporting the Foundation’s community grants programs because a small percentage of the earnings from donor funds helps to subsidize them. These grants fall under five basic categories:

* Community Emergency Grants — may be accessed any time during the year to address a crisis, i.e. Kosovo and the Sacramento synagogue bombings. In 1989, the Foundation flowed $1.5 million into local infrastructures to absorb Soviet emigrés; and also provided $1 million in aid following the Northridge earthquake.

* Capital Grants — designated for capital projects usually in the $10,000-$40,000 range. Valley Torah High School recently spent $40,000 renovating their buildings on such a grant, which is executed on a biannual basis.

* New and Innovative Grants — seed money for projects that frequently require ongoing subsidies.

* Comprehensive Development Grant — for programs involving a collaborative process among several agencies. Unlike New and Innovative grants, which generally provide a year’s funding, this type of assistance blankets a 5 year period. Case in point, the Israel Experience Program, where the Jewish Federation, in conjunction with area synagogues, sends teens to Israel.

*General Community Grant — for programs outside the Jewish community (ie. Friends of Los Angeles Retarded Citizens Foundation).

Of the $782,185 total that the agency will award to 36 recipients, $553,935 will go toward 23 green-lit programs as diverse as “The Leadership Conference on Understanding the Genetics of Breast and Colon Cancer in the Jewish Community” (Hadassah); “Reggae Passover: Songs of Freedom” (Temple Beth Am); “Yom HaAtzmaut 2000: A Tapestry of Cultures Through the Arts” (Keshet Chaim Dance Ensemble); “Rabbinical Internship Program” (University of Judaism); “Celebrating the New Moon: A Rosh Chodesh for Mothers and Teen Daughters” (Temple Adat Elohim); and “California Institute for Yiddish Language and Culture” (Yiddishkayt Los Angeles).

This year, $111,250 of new and innovative money will go to 13 synagogue-sponsored projects. That’s where Marsha Rothpan comes in. As assistant director for the Jewish Federation’s Council of Jewish Life, she acts as liaison among the Foundation, the Federation and the synagogues. In effect, Rothpan shepherds all synagogue candidates — from helping them devise proposals, to staffing volunteer hearing committees to whom they will pitch their idea, to distributing the approved grants. The Synagogue Funding Evaluation Committee she oversees even assists in the execution and the guidance of the programs.

“This is a perfect example of the Foundation and the Federation working together to build community,” Rothpan says. The administrator feels particularly inspired by the approved youth-based programs, like Chabad of Conejo’s “Scribes and Scrolls” classes, which, in Rothpan’s words, “bring Shabbat to life for these kids,” and “Machar,” an ambitious $10,000 project conceived by a triumvirate of congregations and designed to build bridges among Conservative, Reform and Orthodox youth. Rothpan finds such venues crucial to the healthy advancement of Jewish culture.

“When you’re young, you’re a little bit more open to learning and accepting people of other denominations, as opposed to when you’re older and already set in your ways,” Rothpan says .

Such pluralistic efforts have not gone unnoticed by the Foundation’s top brass.

“We encourage collaboration,” says Marvin I. Schotland, the Foundation’s president and CEO. “We allow philanthropists to dream and think creatively … to ask themselves, How do we do something new? How do we do something better?”

Schotland and his staff are proud of the cross-denominational ventures that they’ve helped realize, such as Teen C.L.A.L., which has since attracted financial support from the Righteous Persons Foundation for their upcoming year.

“We’re open to all of the strains of Jewish life in the community,” Schotland says. He cites some day schools they have assisted as examples of that breadth: Valley Torah Yavneh Academy, Milken High School, Herschel Day School West.

For many of the programs proposed each year, the Foundation’s assistance can be the make-or-break financing needed to get an idea off the ground. Ask Abigail Yasgur, director of the Jewish Community Library, who shopped around her concept earlier this year. The Foundation approved “One People, Many Stories” — a series of 10 half-hour specials of Jewish-themed music and stories targeting Valley-area families — which is now set to air on KCSN (88.5 FM) this Passover. Yasgur credits her Foundation grant: “This is what has enabled us to do those specials.”

For Kadima Hebrew Academy, moving forward with their “Strategic Planning for the New Millennium” did not hinge entirely on receiving Foundation funds. Nevertheless, the Woodland Hills school’s headmaster, Dr. Barbara Gherboff, is extremely appreciative of the philanthropical assist they received for an October retreat where school administrators and staff will “flesh out what we see are issues for the school in the next 10 years … In a sense [the Foundation’s grant] jump-started things for us.”

While a majority of the grants go to local Jewish causes, some are applied to initiatives outside the L.A. or Jewish parameters. Past recipients have included South American victims of Hurricane Mitch, and institutions such as Occidental College. In 1999, $87,000 will be applied to such General Community Grant candidates.

Schotland notes that the Foundation also helped launch many organizations that now thrive on their own. A decade ago, Beit T’Shuvah began with a Foundation grant. My Jewish Discovery Place also took off with the Foundation’s assistance.

This year, competition was steep since more proposals than ever were submitted. That didn’t deter Weintraub and her Temple Beth Zion staff, who hatched a program idea — “Operation Independence and Continued Existence” — to provide transportation for their senior citizen contingent. Weintraub met with two different Foundation lay committees in March and May. Despite losing an entire proposal when a computer crashed, and having two early requests denied by the committees, she persevered, and the Foundation pulled through. By July’s end, she received notification that a financial package was on the way. Thanks to the Foundation, “Operation Independence” is a go, and many of Beth Zion’s will enjoy Shabbat services, dinners, social functions and both major and minor holiday programming in the year 5760.

“A larger amount definitely would have helped more,” admits Weintraub of the $3,000 she received for “Operation Independence,” “but we also understand that they’re trying to meet the needs of a lot of synagogues. This is a start.”

The Foundation is on a mission to raise its profile outside of the Jewish community. Since late 1998, the agency has undergone a marketing overhaul, redesigning its logo and running new ad campaigns in the Southern California editions of the Wall Street Journal and Business Week, and the Los Angeles Times.

But even as the Foundation reaches into the general domain, Foundation benefactors and beneficiaries alike recognize that the institution’s roots will always stay firmly planted in the Jewish community.

“We more than appreciate … the fact that the Jewish Foundation exists,” Weintraub says. “We’re all working for the same thing, for the betterment and the survival of the Jewish community.”

For more information, contact the Foundation at (323) 761-8700; or by e-mail: info@jewishfoundationla.org.


Teaching Skills


Fifteen years ago, when he was 16, Sandra Lanza’s son Mark, received his first job through Jewish Vocational Service. It was a summer position he landed with the help of a program then called “Project Gelt.” Now his mother is following Mark’s example and seeking help at JVS as well. “My son told me many years ago, ‘Mom, if you want to find a job, you have to learn computer skills.'” For Lanza, who is past 50, the age factor is a worry, not only because we live in a youth-oriented culture, but because the march of technology so quickly makes years of experience obsolete.

“Many people our age aren’t familiar with the computer,” she said. “I have friends who are afraid of it, and that’s a big drawback when you’re going for a job today.” Lanza herself, who has a background as a telemarketing manager and was laid off after six months from a job as a technical recruiter, has fairly good computer skills, but needed even more to pursue a career in human resources. At JVS, with aid from a new grant being offered to mature workers through Hillside Memorial Park, she took JVS Skills Plus classes in PowerPoint and Excel to help her be more competitive in her new field. PowerPoint taught her to make her own slide presentation, deciding on logos, font size, clip art and even sound effects. “It’s almost as much fun as sex,” she said.

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