Hillary and the JCC

When Hillary Rodham Clinton came to the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills last week, it was a reunion of sorts for the five victims of a white supremacist who allegedly sprayed the center with gunfire Aug. 10.

There was 6-year-old Benjamin Kadish, still in his wheelchair, traversing the same hallway where he lay near death Aug. 10. There was receptionist Isabelle Shalometh; counselor Mindy Finkelstein, 16; James Zidell, 6, and Joshua Stepakoff, 6, walking without a limp despite the wounds he sustained to his leg and pelvis. The family of Filipino-American Joseph Ileto, the postman allegedly killed by Buford O. Furrow on the same day as the NVJCC killings, was also on hand, as Clinton praised the survivors and their families for refusing “to allow the forces of hatred to win.”

During her two-hour visit to the center, Clinton met privately with the families; she read a children’s book, “The Rainbow Fish,” to pre-schoolers and lobbied hard for tougher federal gun-control and hate-crime laws.

Celebrating A Miracle

If you need proof that miracles still happen in this world, look no further than Benjamin Kadish.

When Kadish, who was shot twice during the Aug. 10 attack on the North Valley Jewish Community Center, was first brought into the emergency room he had no pulse, according to Dr. Charles Deng, head emergency physician for Providence Holy Cross Medical Center.

“We had only seconds to get an IV in and get his pressure back up,” Deng said. “We also knew that in order for [his pressure] to drop that much, there had to be internal damage. Fortunately, everything worked out that day. The paramedics did exactly what they should have done, which is get him over here as quickly as possible, what we call ‘scoop and run.’ There’s not a doubt in my mind that if they had tried to fly him to Children’s [Hospital] or another hospital, Ben would not have made it.”

Because of the extensive media coverage, many people knew that Benjamin’s abdomen and left leg were pierced by bullets. What most people do not know is that, because of the severed artery and vein on his right side, Ben could easily have lost the use of his right leg. Deng credits Vascular Surgeon Dr. Mehdi Fakhrai, along with Dr. Clarence Sutton, Dr. Robert Roth and anesthesiologist Dr. Rene Barga, for making it possible for the boy to walk again.

“I, too, want to mention Dr. Barga,” Fakhrai said. “He was there all the time, for the entire six hours the boy was in surgery, and because of him we were able to get everything done we needed to do.”

On The Road To Normalcy

An estimated 1,000 people gathered at the Unity Rally held Sunday, Aug. 15, at Cal State Northridge. Co-sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles, the Southern California Board of Rabbis and the Anti-Defamation League, the rally brought together national, state and local officials to honor the heroes and victims of last week’s shooting rampage in Granada Hills.

David Kalish: A Caring Voice

After working a 24-hour shift on the day of the North Valley Jewish Community Center shootings, Cmdr. David Kalish, LAPD’s spokesperson, arrived home at 2:30 a.m., exhausted.

“When I responded to the scene, my responsibility was to disseminate information to the media,” says Kalish, who is Jewish and a past president of the Shomrim Society, a fraternal organization for Jews in law enforcement. “In emergency situations, you can’t allow your emotions to interfere.”

But Kalish finally allowed his personal feelings to emerge as he changed out of his uniform and removed his gun belt in the wee hours the night after the shooting.

“As a Jew, I felt an extreme amount of anger and outrage that Jews had been attacked,” says Kalish, 46. “I also felt frustration, as a police officer, that we knew the identity of the suspect, but we hadn’t yet caught up with him. Yet I did feel a certain amount of optimism and relief that so many people had come together to address the issue.”

Ask Kalish, the father of a 4-month-old son, about whether he will feel comfortable sending his child to religious school, and he responds, “Yes, of course.” But he would like his synagogue and others to re-evaluate their security options and take precautionary measures without going overboard. He wouldn’t want to send his son to a Jewish school that resembled a prison.

Kalish, now a familiar figure on the nightly news, grew up in the San Fernando Valley and Orange County, where he attended a Tustin synagogue. He initially dismayed his parents with his intentions of becoming a police officer. Jewish men, they assumed, become doctors and lawyers, not cops. “It’s cute when a little boy says he wants to become a policeman, but when he grows up and still wants to be a police officer, that causes anxiety,” Kalish says.

Over the years, he steadily worked up the LAPD ranks. He served as a patrol officer in South Central, a detective working with juveniles in Rampart Division, a captain in the Hollywood Patrol Division and a commander working in criminal intelligence, among other positions, before Chief Bernard Parks appointed him department spokesperson two years ago.

In the aftermath of the NVJCC shootings, Kalish had a message for the Jewish community: “This incident and others throughout history have taught Jews that we must be concerned about security, but we don’t need to overreact,” he says.