Report: Iran weeks away from nuke


Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build a nuclear bomb in as little as a month, according to a new estimate by a top American think tank.

“Today, Iran could break out most quickly using a three-step process with its installed centrifuges and its low-enriched uranium stockpiles as of August 2013. In this case, Iran could produce one significant quantity in as little as approximately 1.0–1.6 months, if it uses all its near 20 percent low-enriched uranium hexafluoride stockpile,” the Institute for Science and International Security wrote in a report published on its website Thursday.

The new assessment comes as the White House invited Senate staffers to a briefing on negotiations with Iran as part of its efforts to persuade Congress not to go ahead with a bill to stiffen sanctions against Iran.

“Shortening breakout times have implications for any negotiation with Iran,” stated the report. “An essential finding is that they are currently too short and shortening further.”

David Albright, president of the institute and a former inspector for the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, was quoted by USA Today as saying the estimate means that Iran would have to eliminate more than half of its 19,000 centrifuges to extend the time it would take to build a bomb to six months.

The Obama administration has said Iran is probably a year away from having enough enriched uranium to make a bomb.

The White House has said new sanctions legislation should wait while current negotiations — which began last week and are scheduled to resume officially in Geneva next month — are underway.

But Israeli Intelligence and International Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz has said that Iran had made no concrete offer to resolve the conflict around its nuclear program during the last round of talks.

He made the statement during talks Wednesday with U.S. officials in Washington over Israeli-American strategic cooperation, Israel’s Army Radio reported Friday. “Teheran made no offer to resolve the crisis,” Steinitz was quoted as saying.

Reports by the Associated Press and other media, however, said Iran submitted a proposal to the six world powers involved in the talks: the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

No details of the proposal were made public but Western officials meeting with Iranian negotiators indicated interest, AP reported.

“The talks in Geneva were just feelers,” Steinitz was further quoted as saying.

Boston bomb suspect spotted on video, no arrest made


Investigators believe they have spotted a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing from security video, a U.S. law enforcement source said on Wednesday, but no arrest had yet been made.

Police may make an appeal to the public for more information at a news conference scheduled for later on Wednesday, a U.S. government source said.

Earlier, cable news network CNN reported a suspect was in custody, citing Boston and U.S. law enforcement sources, but it later retracted its report.

Three Reuters sources also disputed there had been an arrest. Officials later confirmed the arrest report was inaccurate.

The suspect in the video had not yet been identified by name, two U.S. government officials said.

“Despite reports to the contrary there has not been an arrest in the marathon attack,” Boston police said in a statement.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a statement asking the media to “exercise caution and attempt to verify information through appropriate official channels before reporting.”

Shortly after the false arrest report, security officials at Boston's federal courthouse ordered staff, media and attorneys to evacuate and move at least 100 yards (91.4 meters) away, according to a Reuters reporter on the scene.

Bomb-sniffing dogs and fire engines arrived at the courthouse.

The identification of a possible suspect marked the most significant, publicly-disclosed break since Monday's blasts at the Boston Marathon's finish line killed three people and injured 176 others in the worst attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001.

The bombs killed an 8-year old boy, Martin Richard; a 29-year-old woman, Krystle Campbell, and a Boston University graduate student who was a Chinese citizen. Boston University has identified the student as Lu Lingzi.

The crowded scene in central Boston was recorded by surveillance cameras and media outlets, providing investigators with significant video of the area before and after the two blasts.

Investigators were also searching through thousands of pieces of evidence from cellphone pictures to shrapnel pulled from victims' legs.

Based on the shards of metal, fabric, wires and a battery recovered at the scene, the focus turned to whoever may have placed homemade bombs in pressure cooker pots and taken them in heavy black nylon bags to the finish line of the world-famous race watched by thousands of spectators.

Streets around the bombing site remained closed to traffic and pedestrians on Wednesday, with police continuing their work.

SENSE OF RELIEF

Rich Havens, the finish area coordinator at the Boston Marathon who also witnessed Monday's blasts, said he was relieved officials had identified a suspect.

“When the police said we are turning every rock, they really meant it,” Havens said. “There is a sense of relief that the amazing work they are doing – breaking through bits and pieces – is actually turning things up. And that they've gotten to this point in a matter of two days.”

Bomb scene pictures produced by the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force and released on Tuesday show the remains of an explosive device including twisted pieces of a metal container, wires, a battery and what appears to be a small circuit board.

One picture shows a few inches of charred wire attached to a small box, and another depicts a half-inch (1.3 cm) nail and a zipper head stained with blood. Another shows a Tenergy-brand battery attached to black and red wires through a broken plastic cap. Several photos show a twisted metal lid with bolts.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

“Whether it's homegrown or foreign, we just don't know yet. And so I'm not going to contribute to any speculation on that,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who until January was Massachusetts' senior senator. “It's just hard to believe that a Patriots' Day holiday, which is normally such time of festivities, turned into bloody mayhem.”

The head of trauma surgery at Boston Medical Center, which was still treating 19 victims on Wednesday, said his hospital was collecting the shards of metal, plastic, wood and concrete they had pulled from the injured to save for law enforcement inspectors. Other hospitals were doing the same.

“We've taken on large quantities of pieces,” Dr. Peter Burke of Boston Medical Center told reporters “We send them to the pathologists and they are available to the police.”

Security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said instructions for building pressure-cooker bombs similar to the ones used in Boston can be found on the Internet and are relatively primitive.

Pressure cookers had also been discovered in numerous foiled attack plots in both the United States and overseas in recent years, including the failed bombing attempt in New York's Times Square on May 1, 2010, the officials said.

Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington and Scott Malone in Boston; editing by Daniel Trotta and Gary Crosse

Reports that Allen Iverson will play for Maccabi Haifa are false


Reports that retired NBA star Allen Iverson will play for Israel's Maccabi Haifa basketball team in two upcoming exhibition games against NBA teams are false, a Maccabi representative told JTA.

“The local Israeli press completely made this up,” said Andrew Wilson, director of marketing for Triangle Financial Services, which is chaired by Maccabi Haifa owner Jeffrey Rosen. “We’ve had no contact with Allen Iverson so it’s a fabricated rumor.”

Rosen, who bought the team in 2007, was not available for comment.

Initial reports in the Israeli Sport5 website and later picked up by JTA said that Iverson, 37, will suit up for Haifa when it takes on the Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves later this month in the United States. Sport5 had added that Maccabi Haifa officials were considering signing the perennial NBA All-Star guard to a longer contract if the experiment succeeded.

Haifa coach Brad Greenberg was part of the Philadelphia 76ers staff when Iverson starred for the team. Left without a team for this season, Iverson announced his retirement earlier this year. In 2011, Iverson played for the Turkish club Beshiktash. This year he declared bankruptcy.

Jordan: Reports of attack on Jews in Al Karak are false


A Jordanian official said that reports in the Arab media of an alleged attack against a group of kipah-clad tourists in the town of Al Karak were false.

The Arab media accounts last week were reported by the Israeli news site Ynet and noted in a June 5 JTA news item. According to the reports, Jewish tourists were said to have been harassed and attacked by Al Karak locals, who chased away the tourists.

On Monday, Jordan’s ambassador to the United States, Alia Bouran, said the story was untrue.

“We have contacted the relevant Jordanian authorities on this matter and I would like to convey to you that these reports have been found to be entirely false,” Bouran wrote in a letter to the Anti-Defamation League, which had called on the Jordanian government to investigate the alleged incident. “Furthermore, I can assure you that Jordan takes such allegations very seriously and places great significance on promoting religious tolerance and interfaith harmony. We look forward to maintaining an excellent relationship with ADL.”

Reports highlight Jewish issues in Poland, Hungary


Reports released by a Jewish think tank in London highlighted the need for the reform of Jewish infrastructure in Hungary and support for Orthodox and non-Orthodox alternatives in Poland.

The reports issued Thursday, published by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, assessed the development of Jewish communities in Hungary and Poland since the collapse of communism, as well as the challenges they face going forward.

Research in Hungary reveals a community reinvigorated over the last 20 years but facing the challenge of low engagement in communal life; only 10 percent of the Jewish population is affiliated with a Jewish organization. The report calls for the Hungarian Jewish communal infrastructure to be restructured to ensure that decisions on issues affecting the whole community are made in a democratic and transparent fashion. It also called for more religious pluralism and more cooperation among groups and initiatives.

The report on Poland calls for continued support for the Orthodox mainstream as well as for the development of non-Orthodox alternatives. It urges support for educational initiatives and the preservation of Jewish heritage.

If your gut tells you something seems suspicious, report it


On Aug. 30, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) held its annual security meeting at its Los Angeles headquarters to advise local Jewish leaders on possible threats facing the community in advance of the High Holy Days.

United States Postal Inspector Glenn Fiene and ADL civil rights specialist Steven Sheinberg discussed “How to Deal With Suspicious Mail” and “Being Safe and Welcoming: Practical Strategies for Jewish Institutions,” respectively.

An FBI spokesman, who asked not to be identified, said no additional threats are facing the Jewish community in light of the High Holy Days, but the ADL, local law enforcement and Jewish institutions will continue to work together on preventive security measures.

“Our attitude toward combating hatred and bigotry is comprehensive,” said Amanda Susskind, ADL Pacific Southwest regional director. “We have both a preventive and responsive role.”

The briefing drew 80 representatives of synagogues, Jewish institutions and organizations, including The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Temple Israel of Hollywood and Beth Jacob Congregation.

Fiene spoke at length about mail bombs and attacks.

“We haven’t had a bomb in the mail for a couple years in this area,” he said, but he described what people should be aware of when receiving packages: whether the package came from a foreign country; if there is excessive postage or misspelled words on the envelope; if it’s bulky, lopsided, has a strange odor and/or doesn’t have a return address.

“If your gut feeling tells you something’s wrong with a letter or parcel, call us, call a local bomb squad immediately,” he said.

Sheinberg said leaders of Jewish institutions should make a “security risk profile” and can implement a strong security plan by identifying the institution’s members and neighbors, getting technology and equipment that is site-appropriate, and ensuring that everyone tasked with security is doing his/her job — otherwise, expensive technology and equipment won’t help in keeping the institution safe.

Sheinberg acknowledged that developing comprehensive security plans might contradict a Jewish institution’s mission of inclusiveness — but it’s about finding the balance, he said.

“Having an open-door policy doesn’t mean every door needs to be open,” he said. “There are ways to think about and plan for your institution so you can make the institution as open and welcoming as you’re comfortable with.”

The ADL security briefing takes place each year right before Rosh Hashanah. The event on Aug. 30 ran for three hours.

The ADL is encouraging Jewish institutions to download its security manual, “Protecting Your Jewish Institution,” available for free on the ADL Web site. Susskind said the resource is updated regularly.

Leslie Gersicoff, director of the Jewish Labor Committee Western Region, was among the Jewish leaders who attended the briefing.

“Particularly with the holidays coming again, with the upheaval in the world, as agitated as people are over the economic situation, it’s great to be aware of possible threats,” Gersicoff said in an interview. “And ADL has been a wonderful partner organization.”

Goldstone committee members stand by report


Three members of the United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza war say they stand by the report.

Calls to retract the Goldstone report disregard the rights of the victims, the international law experts said in a statement published Thursday in the British newspaper the Guardian.

“Aspersions cast on the findings of the report cannot be left unchallenged,” the statement said.

It was the first official response by the three since the head of the committee, former South African judge Richard Goldstone, in an April 2 Op-Ed in The Washington Post withdrew a critical allegation in the report—that Israel did not intentionally target civilians as a policy during the Gaza War.

Hina Jilani, a Pakistani human rights lawyer; Christine Chinkin, a professor of international law at the London School of Economics; and Desmond Travers, a former Irish peacekeeper, in their statement say they believe there is no justification to reconsider the report, “as nothing of substance has appeared that would in any way change the context, findings or conclusions of that report with respect to any of the parties to the Gaza conflict.”

The statement never mentions Goldstone by name, but it does shoot down the main contentions of his Op-Ed and implies that he succumbed to pressure from critics.

“We consider that calls to reconsider or even retract the report, as well as attempts at misrepresenting its nature and purpose, disregard the right of victims, Palestinian and Israeli, to truth and justice,” the committee members wrote in the Guardian.

“We regret the personal attacks and the extraordinary pressure placed on members of the fact-finding mission since we began our work in May 2009. This campaign has been clearly aimed at undermining the integrity of the report and its authors. Had we given in to pressures from any quarter to sanitize our conclusions, we would be doing a serious injustice to the hundreds of innocent civilians killed during the Gaza conflict, the thousands injured, and the hundreds of thousands whose lives continue to be deeply affected by the conflict and the blockade.”

The United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict was appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council to look into allegations of war crimes committed by Israel and Hamas during the monthlong Gaza war in winter of 2008-09. The report accuses both sides of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity. Israel did not cooperate with the commission, saying its biased mandate would not give Israel a fair hearing.

Goldstone barred from grandson’s bar mitzvah


South African judge Richard Goldstone is being barred from attending his grandson’s bar mitzvah.

Following negotiations between the South African Zionist Federation and the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol in Sandton, an affluent suburb of Johannesburg where the event is due to take place, an agreement has been reached with the family. As a result, Goldstone will not be attending the synagogue service, scheduled for early next month.

Goldstone was the head of a United Nations-appointed commission that investigated last winter’s Gaza war. The commission’s final report accused Israel and Hamas of war crimes and said there may be evidence of crimes against humanity.

Some of the role-players were tight-lipped when contacted by JTA, with Avrom Krengel, chairman of the SAZF, saying: “We understand that there’s a bar mitzvah boy involved – we’re very sensitive to the issues and at this stage there’s nothing further to say.”

Jewish groups had planned to organize a protest outside of the synagogue if Goldstone was in attendance, according to reports.

Reached in Washington where he is currently based, Goldstone was reluctant to comment save to say: “In the interests of my grandson, I’ve decided not to attend the ceremony at the synagogue.”

Retired chief justice of South Africa Arthur Chaskalson said it was “disgraceful” to put pressure on a grandfather not to attend his grandson’s bar mitzvah.  “If it is correct that this has the blessing of the leadership of the Jewish community in South Africa, it reflects on them rather than Judge Goldstone.  They should hang their heads in shame.”

Briefs: ADL helped Feds in skinhead Obama plot, FBI report says hate crimes down


ADL Helped Track Alleged Plotters

The Anti-Defamation League assisted in the investigation into white supremacists arrested in an alleged plot to assassinate Barack Obama.

The ADL, which tracks white supremacist groups, provided the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives with information on Daniel Cowart, 21, of Jackson, Tenn., and Paul Schlesselman, 18, of West Helena, Ark.

A joint ATF and Crocket County, Tenn., Sheriff’s Office investigation culminated Oct. 22 in the arrests of the two men, who were charged with “possessing an unregistered firearm, conspiring to steal firearms from a federally licensed gun dealer, and threats against a major candidate for the office of president,” according to an ADL release.

News reports said the men planned to murder 88 blacks, possibly at a local high school, and also discussed assassinating Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate.

ADL had information on the pair partly because of Cowart’s involvement in Supreme White Alliance, a racist skinhead group monitored by the Jewish civil rights body.

“The arrests of these dangerous white supremacists prevented what could have been the most serious act of domestic terrorism in recent years,” said Abraham Foxman, ADL’s national director. “This case shows how extreme ideologies easily lead to extreme actions.”

Hate Crimes Down Slightly in ’07

Hate crimes in the United States declined slightly last year, according to the FBI.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations’ annual report on hate crime data documented 7,624 hate crimes in 2007, compared to 7,722 in 2006. Crimes directed against Hispanics, gay men and lesbians increased, however; with the rise in acts due to sexual orientation at nearly 6 percent.

Religion-based crimes fell to 1,400 in 2007 from 1,462 in 2006. The number of anti-Jewish crimes was about the same — 969 in ’07 and 967 the previous year.

“While we welcome the fact that reported hate crimes declined slightly in 2007, violent bigotry is still disturbingly prevalent in America, with nearly one hate crime occurring every hour of every day of the year,” said Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman.

Foxman said the ADL is looking forward to working with the new president and Congress in January on ways to combat the problem, including the passage of legislation that would expand the federal government’s ability to assist local authorities in investigating and prosecuting such crimes.

— Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Mayor: Building inspectors need better training, sensitivity to block another Yom Kippur showdown


One year after an emotional incident in which city building inspectors sought to halt Kol Nidrei services for Orthodox worshippers at a Hancock Park service, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has followed up with a report with recommendations designed to increase sensitivity and prevent future problems.

The confrontation at the Yavneh Hebrew Academy in the Hancock Park area outraged the Orthodox community and its political supporters.

Triggering the incident was a series of anonymous phone calls from a neighbor of Yavneh, alerting the city Department of Building and Safety (DBS) to a probable violation, on Yom Kippur, of restriction governing the hours that Yavneh could use the facilities.

At 8 p.m., while Rabbi Daniel Korobkin was conducting Kol Nidrei services for some 200 worshippers, two inspectors walked into the lobby and told startled congregants that they had to vacate the premises immediately.

When told that worshippers would leave only if carried out by force, the inspectors left and the services continued.

The roots of the incident lay in a contentious nine-year feud between some residents of the upscale Hancock Park neighborhood and an influx of strict Orthodox families.

Villaraigosa, together with city councilmen, felt the heat from both sides and the mayor asked the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom “to independently review, pro bono, the events that occurred on Sept. 21, 2007…and to make recommendations.”

In a letter yesterday (Sept. 23) to DBS general manager Andrew A. Adelman, obtained exclusively by The Journal, Villaraigosa cited 12 findings and recommendations by the law firm and asked for a response by Nov. 7.

In general, the report found that DBS had not singled out the Orthodox community as such, but called for an improved inspection process within DBS, and better communications with the city planning department and with institutions, such as Yavneh, operating with certain restrictions under a conditional use permit.

Specifically, the report recommended continued “awareness seminars” for inspectors at the Museum of Tolerance, supplemented by a “cultural diversity” program, in addition to the following points.

Training to avoid conflicts while conducting building inspections.

Review of the policy under which DBS accepts anonymous complaints.

Avoid interrupting cultural or religious events.

Institutions operating under conditional use permits to appoint community liaisons, who would be notified of complaints before city officials take action.

Korobkin, the Yavneh spiritual leader, said he was very pleased with the mayor’s recommendations and that the fault for last year’s incident lay mainly in the way DBS was structured, as well as a certain lack ofsensitivity.

There is no chance that last year’s incident will be repeated, he said. For one, Kol Nidrei falls on a weekday this year, which allows for extended operating hours.

Korobkin also asserted that relations between Yavneh and its neighbors had improved over the last 12 months and that complaints came mainly from a hard core of seven to eight residents.

But future relations between Yavneh and the Hancock Park Homeowners Association, which includes a fair number of Jewish families, will bear watching.

No spokesperson for the homeowners was immediately available, but in the past they have persistently accused Yavneh of violating the terms of its conditional use permit and have initiated a number of court actions.

Although Yavneh is not located within his district, City Councilman Jack Weiss has been a vocal champion of the religious school.

He said that in the dispute, “justice is on the side of Yavneh – it’s not even close.”



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Under-40s reshape Jewish engagement, report finds


Close to 3,500 people showed up the evening of Dawn, an all-night Shavuot celebration at San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum on June 7. Mostly in their 20s and 30s, they’d come ready to spend the night marking a Jewish holiday with performance art, dancing to live bands, listening to cutting-edge authors and even studying Jewish texts.

Between 500 and 1,000 didn’t get in.

“Many, if not most of the people there had never celebrated Shavuot before,” said David Katznelson, 39, who has run this dusk-to-dawn re-imagining of Tikkun Leyl Shavuot four out of the past five years. “And people weren’t just filling the rooms with the fun stuff. They were filling the rooms where the serious conversations were going on as well.”

The tidal wave of Jewish cultural creativity in the under-40 crowd, and their willingness to show up for these Jewish-themed art, music, dance and literary events, has been noted for some years by Jewish communal leaders, sociologists and writers.

A new report lends muscle to certain aspects of the phenomenon, hinted at by Katznelson: Young Jews’ desire to be with other young Jews and their interest in creating their own Jewish experiences rather than signing up for long-standing programs.

Uncoupled: How Our Singles Are Reshaping Jewish Engagement” is the third in a series of reports on Jews under 40 by sociologists Steven Cohen of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York and Ari Kelman from UC Davis. Its main findings show that young, single, non-Orthodox Jews are just as proud of being Jewish and just as interested in exploring their Jewish identities as their married peers. Their Jewish behaviors might differ, but not their attitudes.

Like the two reports that preceded it, this study uses data from the 2007 National Survey of American Jews, a mail-back and Web-administered survey of self-identified Jews. Cohen and Kelman focused on the 1,704 non-Orthodox respondents between the ages of 25 and 39, and compared singles to in-married couples.

Their findings showed that, contrary to conventional wisdom, Jewish engagement does not kick in for young, non-Orthodox Jews only when they get married and have kids.

While married Jews do show higher levels of institutional affiliation their single counterparts, those changes occur whether or not the couples have children — another surprise for the researchers.

“The biggest behavior changes come with getting married, not with having children,” Kelman said. “Neither of us expected that.”

And Jewish singles are just as interested in being engaged Jewishly as their married peers, just not along institutional lines. They’re just as pro-Israel, just as proud to be Jewish and just as likely to have many Jewish friends.

But because the singles are not seeking out Jewish involvement along traditional institutional lines nearly as often as their married counterparts, that presents a programmatic challenge to the Jewish community, Cohen says.

“Instead of thinking how to bring young Jews to our institutions, we should be thinking how to support young Jews in creating their Jewish lives,” he said.

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Jewish Poor Fear Stigma of Poverty


For Albert Osher, life was good. The co-owner of a Fairfax antique store that registered annual sales of $100,000, he enjoyed romantic dinners with his live-in girlfriend, theater and movies. To prepare for his impending retirement, the now-78-year-old New York native stashed away more than $100,000 in savings, a cushion that gave him a strong sense of financial security.

Like Osher, Linda (not her real name) lived well. Growing up on the Westside in a million-dollar home, the closest she ever came to poverty was when her Jewish youth group visited the occasional soup kitchen or homeless shelter.

After graduating from a University of California campus, Linda headed east to Washington, D.C., where she transformed herself from a political junkie into a political player. Between 1987 and 1993, she held several high-ranking positions on the staffs of prominent Democratic representatives and senators. Returning to Southern California to live closer to her family, Linda eventually parlayed her political skills into a local lobbying career.

On the surface, Osher and Linda would seem to make good poster children for ambitious, bright, successful Southland Jews. Dig a bit deeper, though, and the picture is less pretty. For different reasons, Osher and Linda found themselves in dire financial straits that threatened to plunge them into abject poverty.

That they both managed to pull themselves from the abyss in no way mitigates the real, albeit often-hidden, phenomena of Jewish poverty. A recent report by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles found that nearly one in five local Jews, or 104,000 out of 520,000, earns less than $25,000 a year, with 7 percent living beneath the poverty line. Los Angeles’ high cost of living makes it especially difficult on poor Jews, who often go without health insurance and are reluctant to ask for assistance.

“There’s a sense of shame and of not letting your peers know about your situation,” said Miriam Prum Hess, The Federation’s vice president for planning and allocations. “There’s a desire to make everything look OK. As a community, our challenge is to preserve people’s dignity and make it safe for them to receive needed services.”

Osher’s downward spiral began in the mid-1990s, when his live-in partner of nearly three decades, Sybil Kerns, fell ill. Wracked with diabetes, anemia and finally Alzheimer’s, she needed expensive in-home care and medicines only partially covered by insurance. To help out, Osher dipped into his savings and sold off Kerns’ antique doll collection for $30,000. Her care proved so costly, though, that he ended up going through all the money by the time Kerns died in 1999.

After her death, Osher found himself emotionally and financially spent. Nearly penniless, the proud entrepreneur took to eating free meals at friends’ and family’s homes and hitting them up for loans. Some nights, he said, he went to bed hungry.

To save what little money he had, Osher vacated the two-bedroom house he had rented with Kerns and moved into a small Fairfax apartment. His Social Security and disability checks bought some food but were not enough to cover the rent. His landlord soon evicted him.

Having exhausted his inner circle’s good will, Osher found himself on the streets. For an entire week, Osher, then in his 70s, spent his nights crisscrossing town on a bus, boarding at Melrose and getting off an hour and a half later at Santa Monica Beach. He would turn around and make the round-trip again and again and again.

“When you’re sitting alone on the bus or walking down the street late at night, you feel all alone,” Osher said. “It’s a terrible feeling.”

These days, he lives safely and securely at Villa Poinsettia in Hollywood, an assisted-living home that he discovered through a friend. Osher volunteers at the Freda Mohr Multipurpose Center five days a week, greeting folks as they drop by and helping them read.

His monthly Social Security and disability checks cover room and board and leave him with $100 in pocket money. However, Osher rarely spends much of it on himself. Perhaps remembering what it’s like to have nothing, he said he gives away what little he has.

“If a couple of people need a couple of bucks, I share it with them,” he said.

The story of 39-year-old Linda is less dramatic but no less illuminating about how quickly a person can lose their financial bearings.

So sure of her marketability was Linda that she had no reservations about quitting her well-paying lobbying job in late 2000, because of a personality conflict with a superior. With $5,000 in the bank, a strong resume and a Rolodex full of contacts, she jumped on a plane and vacationed in China. Linda figured it would take no more than two months to find new full-time work.

It took nearly three years.

As the U.S. economy struggled, so, too, did Linda. Her confidence gave way to concern which morphed into worry. Although she had no trouble landing interviews for government and other positions, she was unable to nail down a job. Employers, she said, had piles of resumes on their desks from qualified people just like her who desperately needed a job.

When she ran out of money, Linda took on a slew of part-time work. She tutored students in English and Hebrew, coached children’s sports, baby-sat cats and dogs and helped write and edit a college guide for overseas students.

Linda eventually cobbled together enough work to earn about $27,000 a year. Still, she had no sick leave, paid vacation or health insurance. Linda stopped eating out and bought everything on sale — when she could afford it. She had to drop out of synagogue, because she couldn’t afford the dues. In an ill-advised attempt to curtail spending, she took to skipping her prescription drugs.

Financially, Linda barely got by, living paycheck to paycheck. Then a crisis nearly bankrupted her.

In spring 2003, Linda felt an acute internal pain. Despite her intense discomfort, she put off visiting a doctor for several hours, because she had no health insurance.

Finally, she broke down and went to the emergency room. After three hours of tests, doctors ruled out appendicitis but could not identify her problem. As if that wasn’t reason enough to worry, they also handed her a $600 bill.

Linda, with nowhere to turn, asked her father for the money. Although relieved to pay off her debt, she said she experienced a certain amount of humiliation having to ask him for money in her late 30s.

She realizes she was lucky. Some poor people have no one to bail them out, and if her condition necessitated surgery, she could have slipped tens of thousands of dollars into debt.

Recently, Linda found a new job with benefits. She works in the admissions office of a Los Angeles college. Looking back, she still can’t believe that someone as educated and hard-working as she is ended up as part of the working poor.

“I have a good job, a 401(k). I guess I shoud feel happy,” Linda said. “But in the back of my mind, I’m a little worried. I kind of feel like I should run out to the UCLA job board and write down leads, just in case.”

Study Points to Big Church-State Shift


A new study reveals that the Bush administration is succeeding beyond the most optimistic projections of supporters — and the most pessimistic fears of critics — in funneling government social service dollars to religious groups, despite the refusal of Congress to pass most of its faith-based initiative.

Last week the Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy issued an exhaustive report indicated that religious groups “are now involved in government-encouraged activities ranging from building strip malls for economic improvement to promoting child car seats.”

The White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, according to the report, has set up offices in 10 federal agencies designed to facilitate grants to religious groups.

The report also highlights new policies implemented by executive order that allow “faith-based groups receiving federal funds to consider religion when employing staff, and to build and renovate structures used for both social services and religious worship.”

Jewish groups, divided on the “charitable choice” question, reacted predictably.

Nathan Diament, Washington director for the Orthodox Union, said that “all the administration has done is create an environment in which faith-based groups can be treated as equals in the grant process. So more of these groups are getting funds — and that’s the correct result.”

He pointed to a recent grant from the Compassion Capital Fund to the New York Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty as an example of how the Jewish community could benefit.

But another Orthodox activist said he has been disappointed by the fact that few Jewish groups have gotten any money under the faith-based push.

“They’ve been stringing us along on several programs we’ve very interested in,” this source said. “And there’s no question Christian groups have gotten the vast majority of grants. Maybe there’s resentment in the administration that so many Jewish groups have been opposed.”

The administration’s charitable choice actions may anger liberal Jewish groups, but don’t look for much action on the issue in this year’s presidential campaigns.

Unlike some of his rivals in the Democratic primaries, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the Democratic nominee, has tried to straddle the issue. Kerry has indicated strong support for a faith-based approach to fighting social problems, although he also signaled he opposes giving religious groups that get federal money the right to discriminate in hiring.

He has not revealed what he would do about dozens of Bush executive orders that have resulted in thousands of religious groups getting government grants without the traditional church-state restrictions.

The reasons aren’t hard to fathom.

African American churches — key players in the effort to turn out core Democratic voters — hope to be major beneficiaries of these programs, especially in troubled inner-city neighborhoods.

And Kerry has been trying to close the “God gap” — the perception, actively encouraged by the Republicans, that the Democrats are anti-religion.

Liberal Jewish leaders, wary of putting a candidate they regard as a friend on church-state issues in an awkward political spot, are not pressing Kerry on the faith-based issue.

“We think he’ll be fine, if he’s elected,” said an official with a Jewish group adamantly opposed to government money for sectarian institutions. “But it would be a big mistake for us to push the campaign on this, given today’s political realities. We just have to trust he’ll do the right thing.”

ADL: U.S. Election Spurs Arab
Anti-Semitism

This year’s presidential election is already shaping up as one of the ugliest in recent memory. But that’s nothing compared to the venomous response in other parts of the world.

According to a new study by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), newspapers across the Arab world have combined legitimate coverage of the contest with a “darker underbelly of hatred and anti-Semitism.”

Even mainstream papers in countries supposedly allied with the United States — including Jordan and Saudi Arabia — depict a U.S. government manipulated by sinister Jewish puppet masters.

The ADL has compiled an online gallery of offensive images and articles –including numerous political cartoons depicting President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) as pawns of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

In one cartoon featured in a Saudi newspaper, black hats and coats –representing Orthodox Jews — are shown hanging from hooks outside a door labeled “Democratic Convention.” In another, from the United Arab Emirates, both presidential candidates are shown stuffing stars of David into ballot boxes.

In an image from a Saudi newspaper, a gross caricature of a Jew is riding Uncle Sam’s shoulders, dangling a ballot box, while a slumping Arab reaches in vain for the dove of peace. In another from the same country, a grossly stereotyped Jew is using a radio control device to make Congress dance to his tune.

Foxman called on Arab leaders to condemn the new wave of anti-Semitism focused on the U.S. election.

Santa Monica Tries to Tread Lightly


How many trees does it take to absorb the emissions from your car’s commute? How much land does it take to feed and raise the beef you eat for dinner? How much space on earth does your trash take up?

The city of Santa Monica has taken up the task of answering those questions in “Santa Monica’s Ecological Footprint, 1990-2000,” released in March. The report measures the amount of land used to produce everyday products and services like electricity, transportation, garbage disposal and housing. That land use is called the ecological footprint, and it can be measured individually or citywide.

“If we are taking more from nature than can be provided indefinitely, we are on an unsustainable track,” the report notes.

“[The footprint] seemed to us it would make an educational tool to help people understand how to visualize their impacts on the face of the earth,” Brian Johnson, manager of the environmental division of the city of Santa Monica told The Journal.

Jewish environmental activists are extremely pleased.

“The city of Los Angeles and cities across the country could learn a valuable lesson from the city of Santa Monica,” said Lee Wallach of the Coalition on the Environment in Jewish Life. “They truly do make a real effort.”

The report found that between 1990 and 2000, Santa Monica managed to decrease its footprint by 5.7 percent, or about 65,000 acres. That decrease notwithstanding, Santa Monica, a city of 8.3 square miles, still has an ecological footprint of 2,747 square miles, an area approximately the size of Los Angeles County.

“Now that we have [the footprint], we must ask what lessons are learned and how can we implement them in a manner that’s good for residents, business and the economy,” Wallach said.

According to Johnson, the gains came from the city’s efforts to be more environmentally conscious between 1990 and 2000. He noted one area where government has taken the lead and business may want to follow: All public city facilities in Santa Monica are now based on 100 percent renewable energy, which is in large part where the 65,000 acres in savings came from.

“I think the experience the city had during [the California energy crisis] further confirms the decision the city had made in looking for opportunities for alternative energy generation,” Johnson said.

Those resource savings from alternative energy sources (in Santa Monica’s case, the city purchased geothermal energy) are particularly important: Energy and recycling are actually the only two categories of its footprint that the city managed to significantly shrink.

Nevertheless, Santa Monica has shown that it can make progress toward “sustainability,” which is that enlightened scenario where humanity does not consume any more than the earth can replace.

To compare, Santa Monica’s new per capita footprint is 20.9 acres. The U.S. average is 24 acres per person. A sustainable level would be a far more modest 4.5 acres per person.

To reach that goal, Wallach emphasized the importance of community working with politicians and businesspeople to create an environmental vision that is not overly idealistic.

“It takes a combination of political and communal will,” he said. “It can’t happen with only one and not the other.”

Doing that, Wallach said, is part of the Jewish duty to future generations, to leave the world in better shape than we inherited it. Santa Monica’s footprint is a tool designed to help measure progress in that endeavor.

Santa Monica is a relatively small place, and its report indicates that it has a significant, albeit shrinking, footprint. One cannot help but imagine what the ecological footprint for the city of Los Angeles would look like.

“There have been presentations and discussion at the Westside Council of Governments about sustainability and Los Angeles has been a part of that dialogue,” Johnson said. “As of yet we don’t have any direct relationships with their programs or planning, but we’re certainly hoping that the 800-pound gorilla comes along with us,” Johnson said of the second-largest city in the United States sitting next door.

To measure your “footprint,” take the quiz at

Sept. 11 Report: Israel Was a Target


Long before the Sept. 11 attacks, Al Qaeda was planning terrorist attacks against Israeli and American Jewish sites.

That, at least, is one conclusion of the 9/11 Commission Report, which was released Thursday.

The report shows that American intelligence agencies received signals that Al Qaeda was looking to attack Israel or U.S. Jewish sites in the months before the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

It also shows that several of the hijackers, as well as Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, were motivated in part by hatred of Israel and anger over the support it receives from the United States.

While much of the information already had been released through public testimony and media stories, the report emphasizes the ties between the terrorist attacks in the United States and U.S. policy in the Middle East.

It also paints a chilling portrait of what might have been, by detailing Al Qaeda proposals to attack Israeli and U.S. Jewish sites that the group either rejected or postponed.

The report shows that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, considered the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, was motivated by his "violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel," according to his own admission after being captured in March 2003. Mohammed was interested in attacking Jewish sites in New York City, and sent an Al Qaeda operative to New York early in 2001 to scout possible locations.

He also brought a plan to bin Laden to attack the Israeli city of Eilat by recruiting a Saudi air force pilot who would commandeer a Saudi jet.

Bin Laden supported the proposals, but they were put on hold while the group concentrated on the Sept. 11 plan.

American intelligence officials believed throughout the spring and summer of 2001 that Abu Zubaydah, a Palestinian member of Al Qaeda, planned to attack Israel.

The terrorist leaders also considered playing off developments in the Middle East. Mohammed told investigators that bin Laden had wanted to expedite attacks after Ariel Sharon, then leader of Israel’s opposition, visited Jerusalem’s Temple Mount in September 2000, and later when Sharon, who by then had become Israel’s prime minister, met with President Bush at the White House.

Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, said the report doesn’t provide information that is new to Israeli intelligence officials.

"There’s very good intelligence cooperation between the two countries," Regev said, noting that counter-terrorism communication is particularly good.

He said that while Israel is used to facing terrorism, it has been spared the type of "mega-terrorist attack" the United States suffered on Sept. 11.

The report is being viewed in the American Jewish community as confirmation of what they’ve been hearing privately for years.

"We didn’t need this report to tell us that Jews were and are a target," said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. "Throughout the years there were evidence and alerts and knowledge of specific times and threats."

The report comes as some Jewish leaders are working to secure federal dollars to make security improvements for Jewish sites. Charles Konigsberg, the United Jewish Communities’ vice president for public policy, said the report will "absolutely help us to make the case" for federal funding.

Other Jewish groups and some lawmakers fear that giving federal aid to houses of worship at risk of terror attacks would violate the separation of church and state.

The report reaffirms what many who follow the issue have believed, that anti-Semitic views were a key motivation for the Sept. 11 plotters.

"In his interactions with other students," the leader of the hijackers, Mohammed Atta, "voiced virulently anti-Semitic and anti-American opinions, ranging from condemnations of what he described as a global Jewish movement centered in New York City that supposedly controlled the financial world and the media, to polemics against governments of the Arab world," the report says.

In original plans for the attack, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was to hijack a plane himself, land it, kill all the male passengers and then deliver a speech that would include criticism of U.S. support for Israel, the report says. However, that plan was scaled down, and Mohammed did not participate in the Sept. 11 hijackings.

In their report, commission members say U.S. support for Israel, as well as the war in Iraq, has fed anti-American sentiment among Muslims. While not critiquing U.S. policy, the report suggests the United States must do more to justify its actions and communicate with the Arab world.

"Neither Israel nor the new Iraq will be safer if worldwide Islamist terrorism grows stronger," the report says.

The report recommends changing the U.S. relationship with Arab states with the goal of improving America’s image. While acknowledging that those who become terrorists likely are impervious to persuasion, bettering America’s image among the general Arab public could minimize support for terrorists.

It also recommends a closer examination of the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia. Commission members suggest political and economic reform must be stressed, as well as greater tolerance and cultural respect.

"Among Saudis, the United States is seen as aligned with Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians, with whom Saudis ardently sympathize," the report said. "Although Saudi Arabia’s cooperation against terrorism improved to some extent after the Sept. 11 attacks, significant problems remained."

JTA intern Alana B. Elias Kornfeld contributed to this report from New York.

Group Releases E.U. Anti-Semitism Study


In an act of defiance against the European Union, the main Jewish body in Europe has released an unpublished report that found rising anti-Semitism among Muslims in Europe.

Critics who want the study made public said the Vienna-based E.U. Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia was not prepared to deal with the sensitive subject of anti-Semitism among Muslims, who constitute Europe’s largest minority. The E.U. department that commissioned the report said the data was too flawed to publish.

"We cannot accept that a study be confiscated on the grounds that it could create tensions," Serge Cwajgenbaum, secretary general of the European Jewish Congress (EJC), said in explaining the decision by EJC President Coby Benatoff to release the report without E.U. permission.

The furor that emerged last week around the E.U. decision to withhold the report reflects increasing concern among European Jewish groups for their safety. It also raises questions about the transparency of an organization that is meant to fight discrimination against all minorities in Europe. The report was prepared last year for the Monitoring Center, but it was not released after its completion in February. The Monitoring Center disclosed recently that it was preparing a new report to replace the first one.

Those who released the report publicly insisted that they are not trying to spread fear.

"Most of the Muslims in Europe, and particularly in France, are not anti-Semitic," said Francois Zimeray, a French member of the E.U. Parliament. "They are looking for integration for themselves, and they are looking for peace in the Middle East."

However, he said, "this study shows how deep the link is in Europe between criticism of Israel and anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. It also shows how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict fuels anti-Semitism and how this conflict is used by some to organize the revival of old European Christian anti-Semitic myths."

Cwajgenbaum said other attempts to address the problem of growing anti-Semitism had failed.

"We have approached governments on a national level and on a European level," he said. "And in spite of good will and good intentions, the result is that Jews are still being threatened, which means that more has to be done. And this is one of the reasons why," he said, the EJC "decided to circulate this document."

The report, "Manifestations of Anti-Semitism in the European Union," prepared by Berlin’s Center for Research on Anti-Semitism for the Monitoring Center, has been withheld for the past 10 months.

The Monitoring Center insisted it withheld the report on the basis of quality. It is preparing a fuller report to be released in early 2004.

Critics suspect, though, that the real reason for withholding the report is political. The research team that prepared the report, Juliane Wetzel and Werner Bergmann, have said as much.

Finished just before the Iraq War began last spring, the report found an increase in anti-Semitic crimes committed by Europeans of Arab or Muslim background, as well as by some left-wing extremists and anti-globalization activists.

The EJC would not say how it obtained a copy of the report, which it released Monday in English on the official Web site of the French Jewish community, www.crif.org. It was expected to be available on the Web sites of Jewish organizations in all 15 E.U. member countries.

The World Jewish Congress (WJC) joined in the effort almost immediately.

"We are e-mailing it to virtually anyone we know," said Elan Steinberg, WJC executive vice president. "We think the suppression of this study was an act of intellectual dishonesty and moral treachery, and if the E.U. won’t release its own poll, we will do it for them."

The report not only focuses on sources of anti-Semitism but "also urges the governments of Europe to act," Zimeray said. "This is why it is not acceptable to know that this report has been kept secret for so long."

The release of the report came two days after Zimeray, who is Jewish, disseminated excerpts via e-mail. Zimeray would not go into detail about how he got the report but said it did not come from the Berlin institute that prepared it.

He said that he had urged the Monitoring Center to release the study before taking measures into his own hands. Zimeray said he intends to follow up with the Monitoring Center.

"I want to know why this report was sleeping in their offices since February 2003," he said. "I want to know why transparency hasn’t been the policy of this institute. And I want written answers to these questions."

Neither the institute nor the Monitoring Center could be reached for comment Monday.

The 105-page report found an "increasing number of anti-Semitic attacks, committed frequently by young Arabs/Muslims and by far-right extremists" in most E.U. member countries.

The rise in attacks "was accompanied by a sharp criticism of Israeli politics across the entire political spectrum, a criticism that in some cases employed anti-Semitic stereotypes," the report states.

In another section, the report says that "observers point to an ‘increasingly blatantly anti-Semitic Arab and Muslim media,’ including audiotapes and sermons, in which the call is not only made to join the struggle against Israel but also against Jews across the world. Although leading Muslim organizations express their opposition to this propaganda, observers assume that its calling for the use of violence may exert a certain influence on readers and listeners."

Bergmann and Wetzel were warned that their report might be seen as making negative generalizations about Muslims in Europe. However, the report cites several examples of Muslim-Jewish cooperation and Muslim condemnation of anti-Semitic acts, and also notes that Muslims often are victims of prejudice themselves.

"Of course we have some Muslim activists who are very anti-Semitic," Zimeray said, "but the majority are looking for peace, and that is a good reason to have hope."

Cwajgenbaum said the EJC is planning to organize discussions among Jews, Christians and Muslims in early 2004, preferably in Turkey.

Main Findings in Suppressed Report


The study that the European Union’s Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia commissioned was prompted by a wave of anti-Semitic incidents in Europe that intensified in the spring of 2002. The report was suppressed, allegedly to avoid offending Europe’s large Muslim communities. The European Jewish Congress obtained a copy of the report and released it Monday.

Among the report’s findings were these:

In many cases, perpetrators of attacks could not be identified. But in cases where they could, the attacks "were committed above all either by right-wing extremists or radical Islamists or young Muslims, mostly of Arab descent, who are often themselves potential victims of exclusion and racism."

Attacks such as desecration of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries, painting of swastikas, sending threatening and insulting mail and Holocaust denial generally were attributable to the far right.

Physical attacks on Jews and the desecration and destruction of synagogues often were committed by young Muslims. Many of these attacks occurred during or after pro-Palestinian demonstrations, which also were used by radical Islamists for engaging in verbal abuse of Jews. In addition, radical Islamist groups were responsible for placing anti-Semitic propaganda on the Internet and in Arab-language media.

On the extreme left-wing scene, anti-Semitic remarks were made at pro-Palestinian and anti-globalization rallies and in newspaper articles that used anti-Semitic stereotypes in criticizing Israel.

This combination of anti-Zionist and anti-American views formed an important element in the emergence of an anti-Semitic mood in Europe, the report found. Israel — portrayed as a capitalistic, imperialistic power — the "Zionist lobby" and the United States are depicted as evildoers in the Middle East and as a negative influence generally on world affairs.

More difficult to record and evaluate than street-level violence against Jews is "salon anti-Semitism," which is found in "the media, university common rooms and at dinner parties of the chattering classes," the report said.

In public debate on Israeli politics, individuals who are not politically active and do not belong to the far left or far right often voice latent anti-Semitic attitudes, the report found. Opinion polls show that in some European countries, a large proportion of the population harbors anti-Semitic attitudes and views, but they usually remain latent.

Observers point to an "increasingly blatant anti-Semitic Arab and Muslim media," including audiotapes and sermons, in which the call is made to fight Israel and Jews across the world. Though leading Muslim organizations sometimes express opposition to such propaganda, calls for the use of violence are assumed to influence readers and listeners.

The report also discusses the media’s possible influence on the escalation of anti-Semitic incidents. The question is whether such escalation is due merely to daily coverage of Israeli-Palestinian violence or whether the reporting itself had an anti-Semitic bias.

One study of the quality German press concludes that the reporting concentrated greatly on Israeli military actions and was not free of anti-Semitic cliches, but negative views also were applied to Palestinians. The report on Austria found anti-Semitic allusions in the far-right press.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, some Europeans argued that Islamist terrorism was a natural consequence of the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for which they held Israel alone responsible. They also believe Jews have a major influence on America’s allegedly biased, pro-Israel policies.

This nexus is where anti-American and anti-Semitic attitudes could converge and conspiracy theories about "Jewish world domination" could flare up again, the report says.

The assumption of close ties between the United States and Israel provides further incentive for harboring anti-Semitic attitudes. Especially on the political left, anti-Americanism is closely bound up with anti-Zionism. Additionally, dovish activists, globalization opponents and some Third World countries view Israel as aggressive, imperialist and colonialist.

Such criticism is not necessarily anti-Semitic, but the report found that there are exaggerated formulations in which criticism of Israel crosses the line into anti-Semitism, such as when Israel and the Jews are accused of replicating Nazi crimes.

The tradition of demonizing Jews is in some sense now being transferred to the State of Israel, the report found. In this way, traditional anti-Semitism is translated into a new, seemingly more legitimate form, which could become part of the political mainstream in Europe.

Educational campaigns targeting Muslims, which include such arguments as burning "a synagogue is like burning a mosque," have encouraged dialogue, the report found. — TA

Turbulence Grows in Weinberg Case


Former students and colleagues of Rabbi Matis Weinberg are wearily watching as events swirl around allegations that Weinberg sexually abused students at a California boarding school 20 years ago and more recently at a yeshiva in Israel.

As alleged victims have come forward in the press and wispy rumors gain substance after circulating for 25 years, supporters, who just two months ago asserted that Weinberg was the subject of a vindictive witch hunt, are now adopting a wait-and-see stance.

"In my own heart, I just don’t know," said one former student, who along with many of Weinberg’s former students, lives and teaches in Los Angeles. "But I do believe it should be handled more fairly. I just want to have a chance to see the faces of the people and hear the evidence."

The turbulence surrounding Weinberg began to churn in February, when Yeshiva University in New York (YU) severed ties with Yeshiva Derech Etz Chaim (DEC) in Jerusalem, after it determined that Weinberg — whose association with the yeshiva is a topic of dispute — had allegedly sexually abused students at Kerem Yeshiva in Santa Clarita in the 1970s and had behaved inappropriately with current students in Israel.

In May, DEC filed a civil suit against YU, claiming defamation and breach of contract. The contract, which enables YU students to receive college credit while studying at DEC, includes a clause saying that "neither party will disparage the other’s institution or academic programs, but will be supportive of each other’s efforts."

The suit, filed in the Federal Court in Manhattan, also claims that the allegations against Weinberg are false, and that he is not employed or affiliated with the school. Weinberg had given a lecture once a week at DEC, for which he was not paid and which was terminated following YU’s complaint. The founder of the school, Rabbi Aharon Katz, is a student of Weinberg’s, as are many of the teachers.

Katz is a co-plaintiff with DEC, claiming damages to his own reputation and a threat to the institution’s existence. Currently, DEC has five students enrolled for next year — down from an average of 45 students.

The suit asks for an immediate restraining order to stop YU from maligning DEC, Weinberg and Katz.

YU did not return phone calls asking for comment.

The monetary damages have not yet been specified, but will exceed $75,000, the minimum required for a suit in federal court.

Hayim Gross, counsel for the plaintiffs, said it will be up to the judge to decide whether the plaintiffs will be required to prove Weinberg’s innocence.

"The allegations against Rabbi Weinberg are not true, and if it becomes necessary to show it, to the extent that we can prove the negative, we are prepared to do that," said Gross.

Recent press reports may work against the plaintiffs. In May, Gary Rosenblatt of New York’s Jewish Week published an article that included allegations from unnamed victims, detailing Weinberg’s alleged abuses.

One student who was in Israel last year told The Jewish Week that on a winter excursion, Weinberg climbed into his bed and at other times kissed him slowly all over his face. Three students from Kerem gave accounts of Weinberg lying on top of them or fondling their private parts.

In the same report and in earlier interviews with The Jewish Journal, Weinberg denied all wrongdoing.

The charges were taken up in May by a panel of rabbis in New York, who heard the alleged victim’s stories. They did not contact Weinberg. The panel of rabbis transferred the case to Israel, where Weinberg resides in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Weinberg has been a controversial figure in education for decades. The son and grandson of two successive rosh yeshivas of Ner Israel in Baltimore, a preeminent Orthodox seminary, Weinberg started Kerem Yeshiva in the mid-1970s in Santa Clarita, when he was 29.

His magnetism, combined with his unorthodox educational style, earned him both a loyal following and the watchful eye of colleagues.

Students — even those who still support Weinberg — admit that he constantly flouted social convention. He allegedly nibbled on students’ ears, kissed and hugged them often, occasionally pinched behinds, Kerem students said. He admitted to The Jewish Week that on a few occasions he got violent with students.

One former student — who some two months ago claimed Weinberg is the victim of jealous and vindictive rabbis — recently said that friends at Kerem had confided in him that Weinberg had touched them in a sexual way. He said he passed that information on to other rabbis. Those friends recently called the student again, saying they were going to become part of the current proceedings.

Whether or not Weinberg is guilty, the damage has already been done to DEC, which until this incident had been highly successful in its five years of existence. One rabbi who knew Weinberg at Kerem believes that the most tragic causalty in all of this is Katz.

"He is the most upstanding, straightforward and idealistic person you can imagine. I know him and his wife very well, and they are beyond reproach," he said.

Even if DEC is successful in its lawsuit, it most likely cannot force YU to include it in the program from which it was severed. And without YU students, DEC may not be able to recover.

Community Briefs


ADL Sponsors “Safe Community” Program inEncino

Earlier this year, a string of arson attacks on five houses of worship rocked the interfaith community. Earlier this month, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) sponsored an interfaith forum to prepare the community in case such events should reoccur.

“The series of attacks served as a wake-up call that we must remain vigilant,” ADL Pacific Southwest Regional Director Amanda Susskind said.

The First Presbyterian Church of Encino, which suffered $75,000-$100,000 in damages after it was firebombed on April 26, held the June 2 program, “Making Your Community and Religious Institution Safe,” featuring a panel of security experts and city officials, including Cmdr. Mark Leap of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Counter Terrorism Bureau; Chief Bill Bamattre and Assistant Chief Dean Cathey of the Los Angeles Fire Department; Col. Yoni Fighel, director of the educational program at the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Israel; City Councilman Jack Weiss; and L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

Each panelist stressed the importance of community involvement.

“We would not have identified that suspect if it were not for a few people in the community that actually stepped forward…. I encourage you to form alliances in your community,” Leap told the audience. “Certainly [form] interfaith alliances, so that if we do have a situation like we did a month ago, there are already those built in lines of communication so that you can get the word out.”

Yaroslavsky reminded participants to put acts of hate into perspective, but to also respond with total vigilance.

“We need to celebrate one another,” he said. “To walk a mile in each other’s shoes. We need to understand what makes each other tick. Because when we do that, we find out that our differences are far outweighed by our commonalties. We have the same ambitions, we have the same aspirations, we have the same frustrations, we have the same fears.”

Participants also received a copy of the ADL’s security handbook, “Keeping Your Jewish Institution Safe.”

To order a copy of “Keeping Your Jewish InstitutionSafe,” call (310) 446-8000 or visit www.adl.org . — Rachel Brand, Contributing Writer

Camp Valley Chai Returns to GranadaHills

Camp Valley Chai, the only Jewish day camp in the north side of the Valley, is back after a one-year hiatus. The camp, which will continue to operate out of the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills, is returning for a ninth summer.

“We want everyone to know that we’re back, we’re reopening and we’re bigger and better than before,” said Amy Grofsky, the camp’s director, who is returning to the position she’s held for six years after being away last summer.

The Jewish day camp is available to children from kindergarten through eighth grade and will offer the usual camp fare, in addition to swimming, karate, gymnastics, Shabbat services on Fridays and an Israeli cultural experience.

Camp begins June 30. For more information, call (818) 366-0907. — Sharon Schatz Rosenthal, Education Writer

Heschel West Holds Hearing on NewComplex

Like the plight of most Angelenos, Abraham Joshua Heschel West School’s biggest obstacle in obtaining permission to build its new campus is all about traffic. The Heschel West School Board had its second hearing before the Los Angeles County Planning Commission on May 7 in an effort to obtain a conditional-use permit to build a nine-building school on a 70-acre site near Chesboro Road in Old Agoura in the Conejo Valley.

The hearing focused on the property’s Environmental Impact Report. In addition to concerns like noise and destruction of the area’s rustic charm, the opposition is currently focused on the expected influx of traffic.

“They haven’t begun to satisfy traffic access. Their stated access is unacceptable,” said Jess Thomas, president of the Old Agoura Homeowners Association.

Representatives for Heschel West say its current site, near the Liberty Canyon exit of the 101 Freeway, is inadequate for the growing student body.

Brian Greenberg, president of Heschel West, said the school’s board will respond to the traffic concerns and was clearly not thrown by the prospect of additional hearings.

“This is the process, and we knew ahead of time that it’s long and complicated process,” Greenberg said. “I personally don’t see any surprises.”

A third hearing is set for Sept. 10. — SSR

Don’t Circle the Wagons


The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) just issued a report headlined, “Anti-Semitism on the Rise,” announcing that “a strong undercurrent of Jewish hatred persists in America.” The report cites data on anti-Semitic attitudes virtually unchanged from a decade ago, but slightly higher than four years ago.

To most of us — especially Jewish urban dwellers — the report’s findings and its dire warnings are counterintuitive. The majority of Jewish Angelenos and Jewish Americans, especially those under 50, haven’t encountered anti-Semitism in their lives and do not relate to it as an issue that puts them at risk — with good reason.

Among the numbers cited with greatest concern are those regarding anti-Semitism in the African American and Hispanic communities. Among Hispanics, the polling data among new immigrants are disturbing, but they are never compared to the attitudes of new immigrants from other countries with strong, doctrinaire churches and relatively few Jews. Among blacks, the current study reveals, although not noted in the press release, a near doubling of those in the “not anti-Semitic” category since 1992.

There is also virtually no effort to square the glum “spin” of the report with the fact that less than two years ago, an Orthodox Jew was nominated for the vice presidency of the United States and his Jewishness had no perceptible negative impact on the viability of his candidacy. Nor, for us Californians, is there even a footnote to acknowledge that we have two female, Jewish United States senators — a nonissue here for nearly a decade.

As Leon Wieseltier recently wrote in a brilliant piece in The New Republic, “There is nothing, nothing, in the politics, the society, or the culture of the United States that can support” comparing today’s anti-Semitism to the 1930s, as the ADL did recently. Wieseltier warns of the inappropriateness of the ethnic panic that we seem all too prone to. “For we are the luckiest Jews who have ever lived,” he writes. “We are even the spoiled brats of Jewish history. And so the disparity between the picture of Jewish life that has been bequeathed to us, and the picture of Jewish life that is before our eyes, casts us into an uneasy sensation of dissonance.”

Currently, the forces that are most vocal and energized in our community tend to encourage that dissonance. This is not the result of malevolence on the part of many ethnic and religious leaders (in numerous different communities, not just ours), but rather, because of the difficulty of discarding a mind-set developed over decades. That mind-set promotes ethnic panic and a concomitant inner focus.

As a significant part of the Los Angeles community, the most diverse on earth, we, as Jews, should be especially concerned about how diverse communities relate to one another, the degree of balkanization and the extent to which we share, or don’t share, a common sense of citizenship. These are critical matters for us all, but almost always ignored, except for noteworthy anniversaries and the de rigueur annual “Brotherhood Week” celebrations.

However, of all the aspects of our daily lives, none has more impact on how we live and feel than the quality of human relations in our city. Whether we live in fear of those we don’t know and areas we “dare” not visit, or whether we engage in the world around us speaks to how we feel about the world.

But Los Angeles, unlike many other major urban centers, provides very few opportunities for contact across racial, ethnic, or socio-economic lines. We do not ride public transportation or walk the streets together — rather we sit hermetically sealed in our cars and ride over and around communities with which we simply have no contact.

There are those all too brief periods when we do come together and experience what it is like to feel a sense of shared citizenship. In the weeks following Sept. 11 we felt a shared fate across this country, millions of flags reflected that unity.

But those moments are fleeting and we soon forget what it’s like to share a common experience with strangers.

We in the Jewish community are as guilty of insularity and fear of the unfamiliar as any group in Los Angeles. Too many of us operate in our comfort zones, and never vary one iota from what we’ve always known and been acquainted with.

For not only do we share the concerns of many other Angelenos regarding perceptions of crime and fear of the unknown, our anxieties about leaving our comfort zones are stoked by historical, if not almost genetic, concerns regarding anti-Semitism in the communities around us.

There are facts to nourish some anxiety about anti-Semitism. Some of the anti-Semitism data in the polls are troubling, even if not revealing a “strong undercurrent of Jewish hatred that persists in America.” They do not justify the withdrawal to parochial concerns and fear that are all too present today. We are not under siege. Tolerance has become the mantra of America and such extremists as persist are ostracized and subject to ridicule.

With a realistic view of where we truly are and where the real dangers to our success as active and secure participants in society lay, a recommitment to our full community and to participating in it is in order.

These efforts can’t be the anachronistic “dialogue groups” that seem to run out of steam even before they begin. Rather, we must focus on real projects that involve folks in dealing with real issues — transportation, job training skills for young people and access to education and services.

The 20th anniversary of the L.A. riots, in 2012, is too long to wait for the general public’s — and the Jewish community’s — attention to be focused on these issues.

Now is the time, Los Angeles is the place.



David A. Lehrer is the head of comUNITYadvocates, a new human relations organization dealing with issues of diversity, tolerance and fostering common ground. He served with the ADL for 27 years, and was its director in Los Angeles from 1986-2001.

Y Troubles


YMCA leaders in Los Angeles strongly denounced a report by an international YMCA affiliate in Geneva, which accuses Israel of using "massive force against unarmed protesters and completely innocent people" and urges that "the YMCA take the side of the oppressed Palestinian people."

The report, titled "A Shattered Peace" and "A History of Oppression," was issued by the World Alliance of YMCAs. It has been met with outrage and protests by YMCA leaders in the United States and Canada, and by several Jewish organizations.

These critics note that the report was compiled during a four-day visit to Palestinian areas by a five-person group, which made no attempt to visit Israel or get the Israeli viewpoint.

"I am appalled by the report, which is dramatically unbalanced and fails to recognize the suffering on all sides," said Larry Rosen, president and CEO of the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles, in a phone interview Tuesday. "It undermines the quiet, behind-the-scenes efforts by YMCAs to achieve a peaceful solution in the Middle East."

Rosen noted that the World Alliance has no governing or policy-making role and functions mainly as a facilitator in arranging conferences and interchanges among YMCA branches, each of which governs itself independently.

In its report, the World Alliance also claims that the world media has a pro-Israel bias, criticizes the "increasing brutality of the Israeli army and settlers," and charges Israel with "systematic and widespread human rights abuses." The report also calls for the creation of an "international protective force" to shield Palestinians.

Leading the criticism of the report in the United States is Kenneth L. Gladish, national executive director of the YMCA of the United States, headquartered in Chicago.

"[The report] can serve only to inflame the long-standing tensions in the region," Gladish wrote to Nicholas Nightingale, a Briton who serves as secretary general of the World Alliance.

In a sharply worded follow-up letter, Gladish slammed the "prejudicial, political and polemic rhetoric" of the World Alliance, and warned bluntly that Nightingale "put at great risk the financial and organizational support" of the American YMCA.

One of the curious aspects of the report is that it seems to have been issued with the goal of attracting minimum attention, even among YMCA branches.

The 3,000-word report was released in the December issue of the World Alliance magazine and posted on its Web site, neither of which, apparently, enjoys a wide readership.

"We didn’t know of the existence of the report for nearly a month after it was posted, and then learned about it through a call from an Israeli reporter," said Arnold Collins, spokesman for the national YMCA of the USA.

Collins said there had been no formal response from Geneva to Gladish’s critical letter, but that a "dialogue" on the issue was underway.

However, acknowledging the widespread criticism, the World Alliance has posted a defense of sorts on its Web site (www.YMCA.int). The rebuttal states that the investigating team was unable to visit Israel "for reasons of time and circumstances.

"Our position is not against the Israeli people," the posting continues. "We condemn all violence and reaffirm that Israel has the right to exist within safe and secure boundaries."

Among Jewish organizations protesting the report are the Anti- Defamation League (ADL) and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center, said that he has scheduled a press conference for Mon., Feb 26 and will demand that YMCA branches around the world cease funding the World Alliance, unless the report is rescinded.

Cooper spoke on Tuesday from Washington, where he has taken up the matter with members of the House Foreign Relations Committee. Earlier, he visited Canadian YMCA leaders in Toronto.

"If we ignore this matter, there is the danger of a disastrous domino effect, in which other non-governmental organizations will gang up on Israel to justify the behavior of the Palestinian Authority," said Cooper.

In the ADL statement, national director Abraham H. Foxman said that "To release a report that does not mention Palestinian violence or concern for Israeli victims, under the auspices of the international YMCA, provokes the situation more than it subdues it."

The YMCA has branches in 130 countries, with 2,372 centers in the United States alone.

Junk Mail


There is no Editor of cyberspace, and that’s too bad. The latest e-mail craze to spread like the Melissa virus through the cc: box of various e-mails is the report of a man named Joseph Farah.

Farah is an Arab-American journalist who has cashed in on some Jewish Americans’ willingness to believe exactly what they want to believe. His report, called “Myths of the Middle East” has ricocheted from e-mail to e-mail. It has arrived at our offices dozens of time, usually preceded by the sender’s imploring, “You MUST read this!” or “Bet you don’t have the GUTS to print THIS!”

Farah’s “Myths” passes itself off as a set of “courageously” told “truths,”which, taken together, purport to prove that there is no Palestinian people, no Palestinian claim on land in the Middle East and no Muslim claim on Jerusalem.

Let’s forget for a minute that no serious Israeli leader believes this hooey. Better to look at who Joseph Farah is. He is a writer for a range of garden-variety outlets of the Christian far right. As Gershom Gorenberg reported in The Jerusalem Report (12/12/00), a Columbia Journalism Review piece on Farah documented his past as a former publisher of the ultra-conservative Sacramento Union and founder of the Western Journalism Center, which promoted dark theories on the death of White House deputy counsel Vincent Foster.

On Farah’s WorldNetDaily, you can read his similarly insightful pieces on how President Bill Clinton ran an international crime syndicate from the White House, why guns reduce crime, and the evil of Steven Spielberg, whom Farah calls “a capitalist pig.” Cc that.

You can also peruse his article, “Jerusalem: The Burdensome Stone,” in which Farah cites chapter 14 of Zechariah “in the standard fashion of Christian fundamentalists who see Israel as a sign that the End is near,” writes Gorenberg. WorldNetDaily is full of links to works that envision a Middle East in which Israel rebuilds the Temple and Jews convert in vast numbers to born-again Christianity on the eve of the Second Coming.

It is sad and true that the same people who would slam the door on Farah if he came peddling his wares in person eagerly forward his Internet “scholarship.” The Palestinian problem is real, and Joseph Farah’s mythologies can only make it worse.

In the Center of Controversy


Since 1954, the Westside Jewish Community Center (WJCC) has served as a destination for neighborhood Jews. Near the intersection of Olympic and San Vicente boulevards with Fairfax Avenue, the venerable institution – a branch of the Jewish Com-munity Centers of Greater Los Angeles (JCCGLA) and the Jewish Community Centers Association of North America, which is a national beneficiary agency of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles – offers an array of educational and recreational outlets, including a preschool, a senior center and physical fitness facilities. Centrally located near the Fairfax district, the WJCC is also central to local Jewish history, the haimish cultural nexus where young and old alike can learn about their heritage and from one another, passing on tradition and deepening community ties.

But lately, things have not been as ideal as this picture. The new director of WJCC, Michelle Labgold, has inherited a center that, in recent months, has been subject to media scrutiny and internal friction. This summer, a Los Angeles Times article marked last August’s North Valley JCC shooting by focusing on security concerns at WJCC. Although some WJCC members and Federation leaders have strongly disputed the Times’ findings, others have wondered aloud what happened to a facility renovation plan proposed several years back. And some WJCC members have voiced a litany of problems:

breaches in security – frequent car break-ins in the parking garage; unprotected doorways; understaffed security; gaping holes in a fence adjacent to a poorly lit alley.

worn-out facilities – broken water faucets; unkempt locker rooms; chlorine odor from the indoor pool wafting into the classrooms.

poor communication from administration – thick bureaucracy; unreturned phone calls; vague responses to member queries; lax attitude regarding problems.

In short, conditions not normally associated with a complex within minutes of some of the world’s most affluent communities.

This is not the first time that WJCC’s constituents have confronted JCC officials. Two years ago, the JCCGLA Executive Committee decided, behind closed doors, to entertain a $4-million-plus purchase offer proposed by neighboring modern Orthodox high school Shalhevet. When word of this leaked, it was met with great disapproval by WJCC members who felt slighted that they were not consulted. A community outcry directed at the JCCGLA and Federation ultimately pressured the JCC board to abandon the idea.Shortly after, then-JCCGLA President David Aaronson proposed a complete reconstruction of the center at a cost of about $4.5 million. A Sept. 1998 Jewish Journal article reported that a $1-million matching grant from the Baltimore-based Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation was made toward renovations, which were to include a teen center, a communications academy, a performing/fine arts facility and an expansion to the senior center. This was beside the $1.5 million already secured. Hillary Selvin, then senior assistant executive director of JCCGLA and WJCC director, said, “The renova-tion and expansion is expected to begin this fall and take place over the next 24 to 36 months.”

Nearly two years later, a vocal contingent of WJCC members is now asking what happened to those renovation plans. They are indignant over the current state of the center, deeming WJCC – the largest of the area centers with nearly 1,350 member units represent-ing about 2,800 people – a symbol of atrophy among L.A.’s seven JCCs, with facilities that have barely changed in five decades, a deterioration even upper-echelon JCC executives cop to. One high-ranking official, in an e-mail correspondence between board members, admitted that some of L.A.’s JCCs are in severe disrepair, “viewed nationally as a joke.” Some members say they are frustrated with WJCC’s politics, accusing administrators of stonewalling, mismanagement, even failing to provide a safe environment. JCC top brass insist that improvements to the center are on the way. Yet people are upset with the lackadaisical pace of the long-promised renovations, and they can not fathom why the WJCC – which receives about $700,000 each year from Federation and has supposedly raised millions toward refurbishing – hasn’t yet begun the process.

Karen Benjamin says she pays $8,000 to send her daughter to the preschool. “That’s a lot of money for a place that’s rough around the edges,” Benjamin says. “That’s not counting the $432 for a basic membership to send your kid there.”

The general impression that parent Amy Raff gets at the WJCC is that “nobody is running the ship. The place is incredibly horrible and suffering from neglect. The facilities are really junk.”

Members also feel that the center could be more user-friendly, particularly to senior citizens. Some have pointed out that if a functioning elevator were installed in the obsolete elevator shaft on the premises, it would benefit senior citizens, who must climb up flights of stairs to get to the center’s largely vacant upper levels.

“We could have 50 to 60 persons occupying that area a day,” says Naomi Axelrod, who serves on WJCC’s committee for senior citizens program planning. Another longtime member wonders why WJCC is not on a DASH bus route to assist seniors better.

Safety, especially in the aftermath of the North Valley JCC shooting, also has been a prime concern.”There’s one security man for the whole facility,” says Raff. “What kind of security is that?”

That’s security for the entire center, including a multitiered garage structure.

“Obviously one guard is not doing the job,” says Benjamin. “Friday, my purse was stolen out of my car on the upper level. I’m not that paranoid of a person, but I will tell you that after the North Valley incident, people were checking bags and lunch boxes.

Axelrod says that her car was also broken into a few years ago. She echoes the security concerns from a senior’s perspective, reporting that “accessibility is very, very poor. There is no parking at night, and people are afraid to walk a block or two because the neighborhood is not safe.” Without direct access into the building from the parking area, senior citizens have no choice but to traverse the poorly lit alley, which is riddled with bumps that might cause seniors to trip.

Some feel the safety factor has been overblown.

“I don’t consider cars being broken into in the garage lapses in security,” says preschool parent Maggie Scott. “They’re not the same people who are responsible for the tragedy at the North Valley JCC last year. I don’t think they’re the same thing. One is petty crime, the other totally irrational violence. It’s a very big leap to our children being unsafe on the premises.”

“Clearly car break-ins are very frustrating and upsetting,” admits Labgold. “We’ve taken steps to address it. There are signs posted in the parking garage warning parents. There haven’t been any violent acts, just people being opportunistic and seeing a purse lying in a car and taking it. They are not security concerns regarding people.”

Labgold insists that measures have been taken all along and that the school’s security advisor has advised her not to discuss them in great detail.

However, parents were upset to learn about the break-ins through word of mouth or firsthand experiences instead of from the school. They insist that the garage signs are recent and the center never issued a bulletin regarding the wave of break-ins. It was only in the aftermath of August’s Times article that children at the center’s Camp Chai summer program were sent home with a memo notifying parents and prescrib-ing precautions; around the same time, the center also threw a tarp over a hole-ridden fence. Some parents see these moves as further proof of the WJCC’s culpability: a face-saving gesture provoked by embarrassment.But Michael Kaminsky has a different perspective. A JCCGLA Committee member and vice president of the WJCC board, Kaminsky slams the L.A. Times article as “irresponsible journalism.” “I’m sorry we’ve not been more effective in communicating with our members. We clearly have not done a good enough job of explaining what we’ve done and where we’re going,” he admits.

Poor communication might be the reason why some members feel that the renovation plan has dragged for too long, but Kaminsky, who has seen the evolution of the overhaul project, believes that a lot has been accomplished during the past two years. In late 1998, following the announcement of the undertaking, the WJCC enlisted Building Technics – whose principals include Rodney Freedman, who spear-headed Federation’s 6505 Wilshire headquarters rebuild – and the Albert Group to assess the WJCC campus. On April 14, 1999, the firm delivered what Kaminsky calls a “4-inch thick building assessment,” as well as detailed drawings of the site, stored on computer for refer-ence. By summer 1999, the WJCC board had hired Betsy Zeidman to help the center’s Program and Design Committee to evaluate programming. That research was completed this spring. Kaminsky observes that making matters worse was last summer’s departure of Selvin, the center’s director of 15 years. It took six months to find an adequate replacement in Labgold.

Both administrators and members are looking forward to the next few months, which should herald a rosier future for the WJCC. Labgold confirms that the WJCC board has already secured $4.2 million in pledges from various sources – the Weinberg Foundation, the Zimmer Family Foundation and other contributors. The board has received financial proposals from several architectural firms.

“Within the next month or two, we will probably select an architect to take on that next phase,” says Kaminsky.

As for the overhaul’s final tally, Labgold says that “con-struction costs have skyrocketed” since the announcement to redo the center, and she adds, “My best guesstimate is that it will be closer to $6 million.” The cost will depend upon the architectural firm chosen and the direction taken.

Some have criticized The Westside JCC for perceived security lapses and physical deterioration, while defenders cite its importance to the community and its forward-looking new leadership.

“I was very active with the ‘Save the Center’ program,” says parent Mark Rothman, referring to the Shalhevet situation. “I’m thrilled with how much money they’ve raised in a relatively short time. Two years ago, when we picketed on Olympic Boulevard, I didn’t think anyone would contribute a dollar. And now they’re approaching 100 percent of their goal.”

WJCC officials can not speculate on the date for completion of the project, but an optimistic Paula Pearlman, president of the WJCC board, hopes to see groundbreaking take place on Tu B’Shevat – Feb. 8, 2001. The current plan is to keep WJCC open as it renovates one section at a time.

In the meantime, Pearlman believes the center remains in capable hands.

“I work very closely with Michelle Labgold, and I’ve been pleased with her,” says Pearlman. “She has a vision on how to carry on the mission. I found her very sensitive to the needs of the organization. I feel the same way about [JCCGLA Assistant Executive Vice President] Nina Lieberman Giladi.”

Ultimately, administrators and members are united in their concern for the WJCC’s future.

“I think that this place has so much potential,” says one longtime member and preschool parent. “It could be dynamite. It could have an art series, programs with LACMA, and be this thriving, incredibly cultural place for all parts of the community. I would love to see that happen.”

Those on the WJCC board can relate to membership frustration.

“We all use the facilities. It isn’t like we’re on some far-off island,” says Kaminsky, whose daughter attended the nursery. “At the same time we need to proceed correctly, not quickly, because that would be just throwing good money away.”

Labgold notes, “Doing a project of this scope and size, if we didn’t do our homework, then it wouldn’t be the best possible outcome. It does take time. It’s a community project with community money, and we have to be sensitive that we’re building in the most efficient way, in such a way that it will be with us for the next 50 years.”

Labgold, Kaminsky and Pearlman are emboldened by the fact that the WJCC building fund has already raised a core amount before its official fundraising push.

“The WJCC is an incredibly important institution in our society,” says Kaminsky. “It does seem that there are a number of questions about the individual JCCs and the JCC network as a whole. People want the system and Westside JCC in particular to thrive.”

ADL reports on Hate Group


Hate groups have been out of the news in recent months, but that doesn’t mean they are not exploiting recent events–including the tumult on the stock market and the Monica Lewinsky scandal–to expand their base.

That was the message in a new Anti-Defamation League report on the National Alliance, which the Jewish watchdog group called “the single most dangerous organized hate group in America today.”

The glossy 46-page report, released late this week in Washington, at a Van Nuys press conference on Thursday, described 16 active NA cells and membership in at least 26 states, with a concentration in Ohio, Florida, Michigan, New York, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and New Mexico. In Southern California, the group has been linked to recent anti-Semetic incidents throughout the west San Fernando Valley.

The report suggested a link between the group and the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh, who has been convicted of the crime. While the group was not directly implicated, the ADL argued that McVeigh “was a devoted reader of The Turner Diaries,” which the group described as “a violent and racist novel” written by William L. Pierce, the NA’s leader.

The report also pointed to the NA’s growing network of contacts with foreign extremist and neo-Nazi groups.

The ADL cited several reasons for the National Alliance’s growth, including its ability to appeal to a wide range of potential members and its effective use of information-age technologies, including short-wave radio broadcasts and the Internet.

“It maintains one of the most technologically sophisticated sites on the World Wide Web, exploiting the potential power of the Internet to showcase its racists and neo-Nazi ideology and peddle its wares,” said Howard P. Berkowitz, ADL’s National Chairman.

NA activists and sympathizers also infiltrate Internet discussion groups and chat rooms, Berkowitz said.

The NA Web site includes material “documenting” various Jewish plots to control the government and the media, historical anti-Semitic material–including writings by Henry Ford–and articles attacking the ADL as “America’s greatest enemy.”

The site also features NA radio broadcasts, which can be heard using several Internet audio formats.

A recent broadcast by Pierce, which opens with an announcer describing the National Alliance as “the world’s foremost organization working for the longterm interests of white Americans, and people of European ancestry wherever they may live,” describes a scandal-ridden Bill Clinton as “white trash.”

But Clinton’s downfall, Pierce said, is more related to the “powerful Jews” who supported Clinton in the past–but now that he has been embarrassed by a Jewish women, want him removed from office.

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