U.C. Riverside student govt. rescinds Israel divestment resolution

The student government of the University of California, Riverside, rescinded a decision to divest from Israel.

The Associated Student Government's Student Senate on Wednesday voted 10-2 to cancel the March 6 resolution that called on the school to withdraw funds from companies that did business with the Jewish state.

Pro-Israel activists successfully appealed the resolution that was passed following a presentation by Students for Justice in Palestine organization.

“Their presentation was full of wild accusations, libelous, and since nobody got a chance to really answer them, the senators voted without really realizing what they were voting on,” Philippe Assouline, a research associate for the pro-Israel organization StandWithUs, told the Campus Reform website.

Activists supporting the Palestinians told the pro-Palestinian website Electronic Intifada that they planned to appeal the vote.

“We’re going to make sure it stays in the senate and if it is amended, that the language doesn’t change to the point that we no longer recognize our own divestment,” Amal Ali, a Palestinian activist, was quoted as saying.

Israeli flag vandalized at California university

An Israeli flag belonging to a Jewish student group was defaced with the word “terrorists” at the University of California, Riverside.

The word was scrawled in pencil near the center of the flag, which was displayed on a hallway bulletin board outside the campus Hillel office, the Los Angeles Times reported. Campus police are investigating the vandalism, which was discovered Tuesday.

“The defacement of any nation’s flag with pejorative characterizations of its people is an insult to every nation and its people,” the university’s chancellor, Timothy White, said in a statement. “Such behavior diminishes us all, and we have zero tolerance for it.”

The vandalism follows a campus appearance on March 1 by two Israeli soldiers that drew pro-Palestinian protesters. According to Riverside’s Press-Enterprise, protesters walked out of the event and interrupted the question-and-answer session. The soldiers had come to discuss their army experience.

The campus Hillel director, Adina Hemley, told The Press-Enterprise that it was “a bit of a strange coincidence” that the defacement was discovered days after the event.

Hadil Bashir, the president of the campus chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, condemned the vandalism.

“I think the first thing that came to people’s minds was it’s SJP, due to the friction between Hillel,” she told The Press-Enterprise. “I just want to make it clear, we condemn the act, and we hope the perpetrators are found and are given their deserved punishment.”

COMMUNITY Briefs: Radio Show Suspended, Chabad Vandalized, Wisenthal Expansion Approved

KPFK Suspends Radio Show for Hate Speech
“La Causa,” a KPFK call-in radio show aimed at Latino audiences has been suspended following an article in the March 20 issue of The Jewish Journal.

The article quoted the host and callers’ consistent criticism of Jews and of Israel; a statement on the KPFK Web site said the show “facilitated hate speech.”

Calling such speech “deplorable and unbefitting of the Pacifica Foundation mission,” the statement added, “We have addressed this matter with the programmer in question as well as countless constituents and have concluded that allowing the broadcast of bigoted and racist content demonstrated a severe lack of judgment on the part of the programmer.”

The show will not come back on the air, the statement says, “unless and until we are 100 percent assured that there will be no repeat airing of any such offending content.”

— Staff Report

Riverside Chabad Vandalized

Swastikas and anti-Semitic graffiti were painted last week on the walls and windows of the Chabad Jewish Community Center of Riverside. “SS” and “88” — two terms popular with white neo-Nazis — were painted above a swastika on one door. Below were the German words “Actung! Juden” — or “Warning! Jews.”

The synagogue and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the identification and arrest of the vandals.

“Vandalizing a Jewish house of worship sends a message of hate to the entire Jewish community,” said Alison Mayersohn, ADL senior associate director for the Pacific Southwest region. “A crime such as this doesn’t merely affect one building, but is of concern to the entire community. We thank the Riverside Police Department for their immediate response and thorough investigation.”

The ADL urged anyone with information to contact Riverside Police Department’s Centralized Investigations Division at (951) 353-7100.

— Brad A. Greenberg, Senior Writer


Orthodox School Purchases Daniel Murphy Building

Orthodox day school Yeshiva Aharon Yaakov/Ohr Eliyahu has purchased the former Daniel Murphy Catholic High School building on Third Street, near La Brea Avenue, in the heart of the Fairfax district’s Orthodox community.

Rabbi Shlomo Goldberg, Ohr Eliyahu’s principal, confirmed that donors had purchased the building for the school and said details would soon be forthcoming about when the preschool through eighth grade school would move.

Goldberg did not disclose the purchase price for the 60,000-square-foot cluster of buildings. Since the Los Angeles Archdiocese closed the more than 50-year-old Daniel Murphy building in 2008, community members have been speculating which Jewish organization might snatch up the site.

Ohr Eliyahu currently occupies a former Culver City public school on a lush 4-acre campus near Kenneth Hahn State Park, which it purchased for $1.4 million in 1999 after leasing the site for four years. Ohr Eliyahu was founded in the mid-1980s in Venice.

Over the last 25 years, the school has established itself as a strictly Orthodox institution focused on developing strong morals among its nearly 300 students through character development programs, solid academics and artistic expression. Currently several miles from Orthodox neighborhoods, the school prided itself on forging a self-selective parent body.

Goldberg says the move will make the school a more convenient destination for more people, but does not signal any change in the school’s mission. Goldberg says the courtyard at the center of the campus retains the open feel the school has enjoyed.

Daniel Murphy has occupied the site since 1953, and the current buildings, erected in the 1960s, include classrooms, chapels, residential quarters where the nuns lived, a gymnasium and an outdoor yard. Citing declining enrollment at the school, the Archdiocese announced the closure of the 240-student school in Oct. 2007, as part of a large sell-off of properties to help pay a $660 million settlement to victims of clergy abuse.

— Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Senior Writer


Wiesenthal Center Expansion Approved

A lengthy and frequently acrimonious dispute between the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its residential neighbors reached a crucial point last week when the Los Angeles Planning Commission approved a somewhat modified expansion plan for the center’s Museum of Tolerance.

After 18 months of proposals, hearings and protests, the commission, by a vote of 8 to 0, on March 26 endorsed the essence of MOT’s expansion project. In doing so, the panel rejected the opinion of senior city planner Jim Tokunaga, who had urged more restrictive conditions.

However, the museum also cut back on some of its original demands. On one particularly contentious point — MOT’s plans to rent its projected new facilities to outside parties and organizations for late evening meetings and social events — the museum agreed to set the curfew at 10 p.m., rather than at midnight. In addition, attendance will be limited to 500 people, rather than the 800 originally requested, but the commission permitted the museum to hold 18 such events a month, rather than the two proposed by Tokunaga. The panel also approved modifications in the size of a buffer zone separating the museum from its neighbors, but at the same time went along with extended hours for museum visitors.

Throughout the protracted dispute, many of the 144 single-family homeowners in the North Beverlywood neighborhood, adjoining the museum on three sides south of Pico Boulevard, had protested that the expansion would further aggravate existing noise, traffic and litter problems from museum visitors and the adjacent Yeshiva of Los Angeles.

Susan Gans, co-chair of HOME (Homeowners Opposed to Museum Expansion), argued that the museum had consistently violated restrictions imposed under its conditional-use permit and could not be trusted to self-enforce any limitations on the current expansion plans. “You can no more trust the Wiesenthal Center to police itself than you would trust Bernie Madoff with your savings, “ Gans said.

Susan Burden, the Wiesenthal Center’s chief financial and administrative officer, struck a more conciliatory tone. “The Museum of Tolerance is very pleased that the City Planning Commission understood our need to expand to meet the growing need for our programs,” Burden said. “We substantially modified our original proposal in response to neighborhood concerns and requests from the City Council office and we believe that the result is a plan that will work for everyone.”

Gans said that her opposition group would appeal the planning commission’s decision to the Los Angeles City Council, and if rejected, would file a lawsuit to stop the expansion project.

— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor


Tarzana Preschool May Close

Unless new donors step up with a generous offer of support, the Eretz Alliance preschool in Tarzana could shutter its doors at the end of the academic year in June. The center, which has funded and shared its Wilbur Avenue campus with the school for 12 years, announced in a January letter to school parents that it could no longer pay to keep the facility open due to hard economic times.

“Gradual decrease in donations, and low tuition for the past few years, created a serious and dangerous situation for the center,” the center’s board members wrote in the letter. They said they wouldn’t be able to keep funding teacher and staff salaries and other expenses needed to keep the school open past this year.

Many parents have agreed to pay higher tuition and raise funds themselves to keep the Conservative, 62-student school open, director Cookie Spancer said. Tuition is on the low end of the scale for similar school programs — $6,300 per year — but many parents have said they would be willing to pay as much as $8,000.

Still, Eretz Cultural Center representatives told Spancer these measures would not be enough, she said. The school building would need major structural repairs to remain open, they said, which family fundraising efforts couldn’t cover.

The center has received several offers of support to keep the school open, Spancer said. An unnamed Orthodox organization came forward but could not reach a deal with the center. A former school mother offered to purchase the school and run it as a for-profit institution at a different location, but zoning issues could prevent the school from using the new site. Spancer said she is now hoping for “a miracle.” In the meantime, she is urging parents to secure spots for their children at other neighborhood Jewish schools and “save themselves” in case the offer falls through.

Some parents said they are having a hard time finding other preschool programs with a comparably close-knit atmosphere.

“This is devastating for us,” said school mother Lobat Abrams, of Tarzana, whose son, Aaron, has one year left before kindergarten. “It’s such a family-oriented place. It breaks my heart that it’s closing.”

Eretz Cultural Center board members could not be reached for further comment.

— Rachel Heller, Contributing Writer


Idan Raichel Performs Solo

Idan Raichel, the creative mastermind behind The Idan Raichel Project, made a special solo appearance at Temple Israel of Hollywood on March 30, orchestrated by the Israeli Consulate. The dreadlocked singer-songwriter spoke and performed in front of an audience of approximately 150 day school students as well as 36 girls from the neighboring Aviva Family and Children’s Services Residential Treatment Center. The center provides round-the-clock treatment and assistance to abandoned, neglected, abused and at-risk youth aged 12 to 18.

Raichel, who seemed more bashful in front of this young audience than he had for the near-capacity crowd at the downtown Orpheum Theatre the night before, played snippets of his songs on the piano, but spent much of the time answering questions from the audience about the meaning of his songs, his musical inspirations, Israeli culture and his personal life (“How long did it take you to grow out your hair?” and “Are you a vegetarian?”). The highlight came when a girl requested that Raichel sing “Boi,” adding that they had learned a dance to his song. As Raichel sang one of the hit tracks that catapulted him to the top of the Israeli music scene in 2002, a group of day schoolers surrounded the piano and swayed and turned in a synchronized dance.

“I am so touched,” Raichel told the kids. “It was a great honor to play for you. Thank you.”

— Dikla Kadosh, Contributing Writer


Youth Support Maccabees

If you happened to pass by the chic West Hollywood club Guy’s on March 25, you might have heard the rapper Kurupt giving a shout-out to all the “Young Maccabees” in the house, partying to support the “Jewish Olympics.” A stylish, mostly 20-something crowd packed the hotspot for a party to benefit Maccabi World Union (MWU), which sponsors Jewish athletes attending the 18th Maccabiah Games in Israel July 12-23.

In addition to the MWU’s influential Committee of 18, which includes Steve Soboroff, Jamie McCourt and Kirk Douglas, Los Angeles now has a Young Leadership Committee with 20 members and an active board of six. (The other U.S. chapters of the MWU are in Miami and New York.) With 350 attending last week’s event, board co-chair Ari Friedland said, “This was just a warm-up to let people know who we are, what our goals are,” and will be followed by a gala in May.

The event was promoted principally through personal networks on Facebook, as well as a new site called Paperless Post, which hosts both invitations and ticket purchasing. Friedland said he considers Maccabi to be one of the most vital forms of creating Jewish pride and identity.

“It’s non-religious and non-political, so it’s a big unifier,” he said. “And it’s a perfect fusion of the two things many of us were raised loving: Israel and sports.”

The cost is $4,800 to sponsor an athlete who would otherwise not be able to attend the Jewish sport quadrennial, which is tied for the third-largest sporting event in the world, measured by participants. The Maccabi organization hopes that as many as 10,000 athletes will compete. (Although only Jewish athletes are invited globally, all Israeli citizens are eligible, and Israeli Arabs have won medals in past competitions.) About 80 percent of the non-Israeli athletes who will compete have never been to Israel.

The 18th Maccabiah Games will be broadcast for the first time in the U.S., through Jewish Life TV and its major cable partners.

For more information, visit maccabiah.com or maccabiusa.com.

— Daniel Housman, Contributing Writer