Class Notes – A Ramah Reunion

A group of 25 campers from Ramah of California’s pilot summer in 1955 returned to camp this summer to kick off a yearlong celebration of Ramah’s 50 years on the West Coast. The camp officially opened in 1956.

Back then, there were 62 campers and 24 staff members. Tuition for the 10 days was set at $56.16 — with scholarships available. Today, there are 1,275 campers at the Ojai location, just down the road from the original campsite and a four-week session costs $3,120.

Rabbi Jacob Pressman, director of the camp that first summer, and assistant director Miriam Wise were among the delegates this summer. Rabbi Daniel Greyber, current director, presented the two with an award of recognition for their service.

The alumni toured the camp and then spent the evening in a singalong with current campers. Young campers and alumni alike were touched and amazed to hear that they knew the same camp songs, some of them authored by the adult guests.

Among the participants were Rabbi Danny Pressman, Daniel Farkas, David Farkas, Pam Suplin Farkas, Mark Lainer, Nahum Lainer, Rabbi Ron Levine, Alicia Susman Lewis, Rabbi Joel Rembaum, Ken Rowen, and Michelle Bledstein Susman, and their spouses. Also present was Liat Yardeni-Funk, daughter of 1955 camper Tzvili Yardeni and current Ramah staffer.

For more information, visit or call (310) 476-8571.

Snowboarding for Chabad

Spiritual snowboarders, get ready for winter.

West-Coast Chabad Lubavitch has purchased a 70-acre campus on a San Bernadino National Forest mountaintop for educational programs, retreats, and summer camps — and coming soon: snowboard and ski camps for Chabad.

The wooded campus, in the mountain community of Running Springs, was previously owned by CEDU Mountain Schools, a boarding school for at-risk youths, which filed for bankruptcy in March. The site is about 14 miles from Big Bear, and 87 miles east of Los Angeles.

The campus, which Chabad purchased this month for $4.3 million, will be ready to open in three months, said Don Braham, the newly appointed director and controller of the campus who is supervising renovations. This will be just in time for winter sports camps for skiing and snowboarding.

But the primary purpose of Chabad at River Springs will be educational. The campus of 18 buildings — a “chai” coincidence? — includes dormitories, administrative buildings, classrooms, science laboratories, a computer room, a library and an “art barn,” with a darkroom and audiovisual studio. The central lodge contains a commercial kitchen and dining hall. Outside, there is an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a tennis court, a hardtop basketball court, a soccer field, a volleyball pit and squash courts.

West-Coast Chabad intends to host conferences, seminars, retreats, summer camps, and programs for children with special needs. Chabad is discussing the possibility of opening a full-time school there; it has retained the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accreditation that the CEDU schools had acquired.

Three Chabad schools in Los Angeles have recently received accreditation from WASC: the Bais Chaya Mushka Elementary School, Bais Rebbe Junior High, and Bais Chana High School.

Since it arrived in California 40 years ago, West-Coast Chabad has opened myriad religious centers in Southern California, more than 25 schools and 30 summer camps, and various social-service programs for drug rehabilitation, the homeless and senior programs. Its main fundraising program, the nationally televised Chabad Telethon, will be held on Sept. 25. — Amy Klein, Religion Editor

Temple Israel’s Two Stars

Temple Israel of Hollywood dedicated its major annual fundraiser last year to honoring two early childhood educators: Jane Zuckerman, who previously directed the temple’s nursery school and is now executive director, and Sherry Fredman, who taught at the temple’s day school before she became principal of the nursery school in 2001.

“For a congregation to honor two staff members who both have served as nursery school principals over a period of 18 years is testimony not only to the love and esteem in which they are held by our community … but also is demonstrative of how much our congregation appreciates the critical role they have played in nurturing our youngest members and families,” said Temple Israel’s Rabbi John Rosove.

And, as it turns out, going back to nursery is good for fundraising, too.

The dinner sold out at 400 people — the temple’s largest ever — and raised $130,000.

For information on Temple Israel of Hollywood, visit or call (323) 876-8330.

Restoring Memories

In the fall of 2001, Yehudi Gaffen, CEO of a San Diego construction company, traveled to Skapiskis, Lithuania to visit the small shtetl where his father once lived. There he found the one remaining Jewish relic — a cemetery, ignored for more than 60 years, overrun with vegetation, headstones in disrepair.

This past year, Gaffen and a committee of several like-minded descendants of the shtetl of Skapiskis, began restoring the cemetery — and he enlisted the local Lithuanian community for help.

The Cemetery Restoration Project has been incorporated into the local high school curriculum, where the students will, help with the restoration and immerse themselves in learning about the life of the pre-war Skapiskis Jewish community and the Holocaust that destroyed it. The program will culminate in an annual award ceremony honoring a local high school student who produces the best essay touching on some aspect of the Skapiskis Jewish Community.

“The Skapiskis Jewish Cemetery Restoration Project is about remembering and honoring the dead. It is also about life and the living — reconciliation, teaching the younger generation and preserving Lithuanian Jewish heritage,” Gaffen said.

For information, contact project coordinator Sol Kempinski at or visit

Genesis Generation

Four L.A.-area students were among 69 participants this summer in Genesis, a program that integrates Jewish studies, the arts, community building and leadership skills at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass.

The students are Benjamin Steiner, an 11th-grader at Shalhevet; Nikki Wallen, a 12th-grader at Oak Park High School; Jenna Barocas, a 12th-grader at Cleveland Humanities Magnet; and Franci Blattner, a 12th-grader at Milken Community High School.

They spent four weeks at Brandeis with Jewish students from diverse religious and socio-economic backgrounds participating in arts workshops, academic courses, and a hands-on social action projects. They also planed their own Shabbat programs.

For more information, visit

Pole Positions

On Sept. 21, millions of Christian students are expected to participate in See You at the Pole, a worldwide event where students meet to pray at school flagpoles before school hours. Last year 2 million American students participated in the student-led and organized initiative, which is supported by about 100 diverse Christian organizations.

The event is legal — a 1990 Supreme Court decision affirmed the rights of religious groups to hold events at schools not during school hours. But teachers and administration are not permitted to either encourage or discourage students from attending. In a letter to school superintendents, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) recommended that teachers themselves do not attend.

“Students are impressionable and easily susceptible to coercion, conformity and peer pressure, especially when they see their teachers standing with other students and participating,” wrote Amanda Susskind, regional director for the Pacific Southwest Region of the ADL.

Susskind also gave the superintendents a heads-up about mid-week Jewish holidays that might interrupt schedules for students as well as teachers and staff.

Susskind’s letter specified the dates for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur this year, and quoted the section of California code that requires schools to accommodate students’ religious observances.

For ADL guides to religion in public schools visit

Teen Talk

Need some help having that talk with your teen? You know, the one that starts out, “Now that you’re a grown-up you’d better start acting like one….”

The latest edition of “When You Become 18: A Survival Guide for Teenagers,” published by the California State Bar Association, is a no-nonsense booklet that outlines for young adults their rights and responsibilities.

It addresses everything from paying taxes, voter registration, military service, jury duty, marriage and identity theft to contracts, rental agreements, statutory rape laws, domestic violence, and crimes and consequences.

The publication, and another on “Kids and the Law: An A-to-Z Guide for Parents,” is available free of charge.

For information, visit or call (888) 875-5297. — Julie M. Brown, Contributing Writer

You can reach Julie Gruenbaum Fax at or (213) 368-1661, ext. 206.