The Circuit

JCC Open for Business

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sent his greetings, as did Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.). So did more than 600 other well-wishers, eager for an eyeful of the county’s spacious Jewish Community Center at an Aug. 15 opening. Local leaders described the facility as a model for the country. MaryAnn Malkoff, the JCC’s retiring chair, said such a center appeals to “Jews on the edge,” who migrate into a better-connected Jewish community.

Since beginning its membership drive in spring, 1,100 members have joined, said Dan Bernstein, the JCC chief executive, which didn’t include 60 more who signed up that day.

O.C.’s Maccabi Medals

In the week preceding the Athens Olympics, about 60 Orange County youth competed in the slightly smaller but equally spirited Jewish version of the games. They returned with six medals, new friends and a joint mitzvah experience at the 17th Maccabi games, held around the country in places Columbus, Ohio, and Rockville, Md

The 15- to 16-year-old boys’ basketball team earned gold and the girls’ under 16 volleyball team won silver. In individual medals, Daniel Desatnick won gold in tennis doubles; in golf, Graham Waks and Daniel Shapiro won gold and silver, respectively.

The surprise gold medal went to the girls under-14 soccer squad, that arrived in Columbus short a player. Nicole Shane was sidelined with a knee injury, but proved the loudest spectator, yelling coaching directions in an ankle-to-hip cast. The OC roster was filled out with a Dayton player.

“Not only was [it] competitive, but it was very social, and it was an outstanding opportunity to make friendships and meet people from all over the globe.”

The youths stayed with host families and were accompanied by staff from the O.C. Jewish Community Center, including assistant director Julie Rubin and Abby Pezzner, who headed the Washington delegation.

A Bite Out of Life A Long, Strange Trip

Another unusual summer trip was that by professor Benjamin Hubbard, chair of Cal State Fullerton’s comparative religions department. After hosting 15 Muslim scholars here last spring, Hubbard turned the tables, visiting them in India and Bangladesh. The exchange was partly funded by the U.S. State Department and the University of Louisville.

“They have strange ideas about Jews,” he said, surprised at the lingering conspiracy theory that Jews had advance warning to flee the Sept. 11 attacks. Hubbard offered a 3,000-victim list with many Jewish names.

“That was a low point,” he said, adding that his hosts were better informed on other issues, such as U.S. policy in Iraq. “Hopefully, it created a little goodwill,” he said.

Baby Love

Nancy Linder, cantor of Westminster’s Temple Beth David, was showered with baby gifts last month by the temple sisterhood. Linder and her husband, Charles, parents to 4-year-old Nathan, are expecting all-boy triplets.

The event was organized by congregants Roberta English and Cathy Katz.

Around the County

Steven Berman joined Anaheim’s Temple Beth Emet as choir director.

Bill Klein, a retired entrepreneur and Orange County resident since 1989, succeeds Fred Forster as president of Heritage Pointe. Klein’s mother, Shirley, is a resident of the Mission Viejo assisted-living facility.

Rabbi Allen Krause was recognized on his 20th anniversary as Temple Beth El’s spiritual leader during the last sabbath service of summer.

Garratt Nada, of Newport Beach’s Temple Bat Yahm, was the recipient of the 2004 Maurice Sherman Award, a $250 cash prize and $200 religious-school donation given annually to an outstanding confirmation student.

Surf’s Up

Those oh-so-serious Jewish scholars in July took on another humbling pursuit, donning wetsuits for surfing lessons at Huntington Beach’s Bolsa Chica State Park. Helping the Community Scholar Program-novices hang ten were veteran surfers Corky Carrol and Rabbi Nachum Shifren, of Los Angeles, who offers “kosher surf camps.”

Before demonstrating his board technique, Shifrin described his life as an assimilated Jew looking for the world’s best breaks, and his vocational transformation to “the surfing rabbi” after a trip to Israel. He said he experiences Judaism in nature.

Those interested in joining another surf adventure should call the CSP at (949) 682-4040.

New Year, New Leaders

The Pacific Community of Secular Humanistic Jews, which meets in members homes and holds religious school at the Jewish Community Center, installed candidates for two-year leadership positions at a beach house garden party in June. Elected were Phyllis Jacobs, president; Leslie Zwick, vice president; Alice Selfridge, secretary; Karen Knecht, treasurer; Shirley Spiegel and Marsha Harman, co-chairs of programs; Felix Kopstein, publicity; and Jerry Zwick, hospitality.

The Winner Is…

The winners in the annual O.C. Community Scholar Program (CSP) raffle fundraiser on Aug. 12 were Miki and Steve Sholkoff, of Temple Bat Yahm; Larry and Linda Seidman, of University Synagogue; and Amir and Sharon Horovitz, of Congregation B’nai Israel. The winners help select future visiting scholars. Raffle proceeds pushed CSP fundraising to nearly $50,000.

Collecting an Unpaid Debt

Campus organizations often go overlooked or get taken for granted by students and alumni alike. Hillel at Pierce and Valley Colleges has those problems — and then some. Try serving thousands of students on multiple campuses with a small staff and a smaller budget. And from an office in a strip mall, no less. That’s precisely what Nomi Gordon does as director of the Pierce and Valley Hillel.

“The Hillel at the community colleges nurtures the Jewish students who go on to be effective leaders at their future campuses,” Gordon said. “Many of our students transfer to CSUN or UCLA and continue to build on the foundation we’ve given them. That’s why our presence is so important, especially as more students see the benefits of beginning their [post-high school] education at a two-year college. And in order to be a better presence, we need to be raising more funds.”

To that end, the organization will host its biggest fund-raiser of the year, Comedy Nite ’99, at Pierce College’s Performing Arts Theater, on Saturday, Jan. 30. Director and actor Richard Kline, best known for his role as “Larry” on the ABC sitcom “Three’s Company,” will be honored for his contributions of time and talent to Stephen S. Wise Temple and Milken Community High School. The evening will also feature comedians Wendy Kamenoff and Steve Mittleman, as well as a silent auction and raffle.

Currently, Hillel at Pierce and Valley Colleges is housed in Corbin Village, a strip mall on Ventura Boulevard in Woodland Hills. The corner office is deceptively spacious, with offices for Gordon and a part-time office manager, another for a student intern, a library/conference room, a kosher-style kitchen and a large room that doubles as a meeting hall and sanctuary. In addition to Gordon and the two part-time employees, the organization also employs a rabbinic intern.

Together, the small staff works to serve a combined population of 3,500 Jewish students from the two campuses (plus an additional 500 at Moorpark College) on a shoestring budget of $150,000 a year. In comparison, UCLA Hillel has an operating budget of $540,000 for 5,000 students, according to Eitan Ginsburg, associate executive director for the Los Angeles Hillel Council. Of that total, UCLA Hillel is able to raise about $365,000 on its own, while the Pierce/Valley Hillel ekes out about $16,000 through donations, relying mostly on grants from the Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance.

“UCLA Hillel has the advantage of being attached to a prominent university,” Ginsburg said. “It is also the largest and oldest campus organization, with a well-respected leader, Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, who has been there for 23 years.

“Students at Los Angeles community colleges have different needs than at a four-year university. Still, we would like to see all of our units grow. There isn’t a single staff at any campus, including UCLA, that is at full capacity right now, and that’s purely a function of budget.”

According to Gordon, raising funds at the community college level is made more challenging by the surrounding universities.

“We work with students for only about two years, and then they move on,” she said. “By and large, their allegiance is to the school where they get their four-year degree. I would love to be able to establish a better connection with our alumni because so many of them grew through their involvement [in Hillel], and now they could have the opportunity to give something back.”

Last year, Hillel at Pierce and Valley Colleges raised almost $9,000 with Comedy Nite. This year, it hopes to surpass that figure, according to Scott Svonkin, chair of development for the organization and a member of the Los Angeles Hillel Council board.

Svonkin said that there is still room for donations to the event’s silent auction and for sponsors.

For more information or to obtain tickets, call (818) 887-5901.