Israeli embassies threatened, may close


Four Israeli embassies may be closed after receiving serious threats.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that security at the embassies, which it did not identify, had increased to the maximum level. Security at all Israeli embassies has been increased as well, according to reports.

The ministry said in Tuesday’s statement that “a number of irregular incidents targeting Israeli destinations were recorded in the past few days.”

“At this point we estimate that a threat exists against the locations and it is being dealt with,” said the statement. “The relevant Israeli authorities are in contact with the relevant authorities in the countries in question.”

The threats coincide with the third anniversary of the death of Hezbollah senior official Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in Damascus by a car bomb that the terrorist organization blames on Israel. Hezbollah has vowed to avenge his death.

Also out of concern following threats of revenge kidnappings, Israel’s Counter Terrorism Bureau issued a warning late last week to Israeli travelers urging them to avoid certain destinations, including Egypt, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Cote d’Ivoire, Mauritania and Venezuela.

Jewish Voice for Peace’s L.A. chief is threatened


The head of the Jewish Voice for Peace in the Los Angeles area was threatened for her involvement in the organization.

Estee Chandler,  the organization’s Los Angeles chapter leader, said she found a poster on her front porch last week reading “WANTED for treason and incitement against Jews.” The poster featured her picture and gave information including her workplace, personal information, and the names of her nieces and nephews.

The poster, which targets her work with Jewish Voice for Peace, a Jewish organization that champions Palestinian rights, charged her with using “her own presumed Jewishness as a weapon against the Jewish People and the Jewish State of Israel while conspiring with other well-known anti-Israel groups to assist in Israel’s destruction and to otherwise engender hatred and incite further violence against the Jewish People and the Jewish State of Israel.”

Chandler had been in the media as part of a national effort to convince the retirement fund giant TIAA-CREF to divest from from holdings in companies that the Jewish Voice for Peace says profit from Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.

The creators of the poster have not yet been found, according to a Jewish Voice for Peace news release.

“I was forewarned about extremists when I first decided to start a Jewish Voice for Peace chapter here in my hometown of Los Angeles,” Chandler said. “I went into it with my eyes open.”

She added, “Ultimately I think these people really are cowards, and not really to be feared.”

Rescuing Dollars for Seniors, Immigrants


 

With many health care programs threatened because of cutbacks in government funding, Jessica Toledano and other members of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ advocacy arm have redoubled their work on behalf of the elderly, immigrants and other vulnerable groups. In at least three recent instances, those efforts have paid off and saved imperiled programs from debilitating cuts or untimely demises.

Under Toledano’s direction, The Federation’s Government Relations Committee and its supporters have successfully convinced local, state and federal politicians to spare programs that train immigrants on welfare to become certified nurse assistants, provide adult day health care services for Alzheimer’s sufferers and offer seniors living in so-called naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs) in Park La Brea and West Hollywood with such services as in-house social workers and transportation to doctors appointments that allow them to continue living at home.

“Last year was a very tough year, but we had some successes that will benefit the community here in L.A.,” Toledano said.

Among those victories:

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• Last month, members of The Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Committee (JCRC) and others landed a $200,000 federal grant to save a Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) program that has helped dozens of immigrants and refugees move off the dole and into nurse assistant and other nursing jobs. After L.A. County decided not to renew a $125,000 grant because of budgetary problems, Toledano contacted Rep. Howard Berman’s (D-Van Nuys) office to see whether Congress might allocate money for the highly touted program. Toledano met with the congressman and his staff to make her case. She also arranged for JVS executives to meet with interested U.S. senators and representatives in both Los Angeles and in Washington, D.C. As a result of those efforts, Congress just passed the Certified Nurse Assistant Training/Nursing Career Ladder Program, which Berman sponsored.

“Having the opportunity to get federal dollars adds to the credibility and the long-term sustainability of the program,” said JVS Chief Operating Officer Claudia Finkel, who personally lobbied Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles) and Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles), among others.

The new-and-improved JVS nursing program will also help certified nurse assistants advance in their careers by offering training to become licensed vocational nurses and registered nurses. With California’s residents graying and its population growing, nursing homes, hospitals and other medical facilities are hungry for nurses at every level, experts said.

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• Working closely with County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Toledano and others helped prevent the county from cutting $360,000 over four years for an adult day health care center in West Hollywood that caters to Alzheimer’s patients. Toledano personally took members of the supervisor’s staff to the center to see how the programs it offered benefit the Jewish and non-Jewish elderly. The county later restored the funding.

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• With the Jewish Family Service-sponsored NORC program starved for funds, Toledano tapped former Rep. Mel Levine — now the chair of the JCRC — to lobby senators and representatives for money. The NORC program just landed a $650,000 federal grant for the 2005-2006 fiscal year, after receiving no federal money last year. Waxman sponsored the legislation in the House of Representatives, while Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) supported it in the Senate.

“We really listen to the seniors, see what they need, the kind of things they think would improve the quality of their lives and try to connect them with the appropriate resources,” JFS Executive Director Paul Castro said. “This is what senior programming will look like in the future.”

NORCs enjoy support among many politicians partly because of economics, Diana Aviv, vice president for public policy at the United Jewish Communities has said. She estimated that nursing home care costs $55,000 annually per person, while senior housing with special services is around $20,000. By contrast, NORC support services cost about $5,000.

Despite those bright spots, several programs run by Federation recipient agencies fared less well, including a domestic violence program, Toledano said. Looking forward, Toledano added that she and others will have to fight even harder this year to protect important community initiatives because of the rising tide of government red ink.

“I think 2005 will be the toughest year we’ve ever had,” she said.

 

Material Girl Nixes Israel Dates


Has the Material Girl become the new target for terrorists? According to Britain’s The Sun, Madonna cancelled the Israel leg of her Reinvention Tour after terrorists allegedly threatened to kill her and her children, Lourdes and Rocco, if she performed in Israel.

The threats reportedly came in the form of a series of poison-pen letters that were sent to Madonna’s Los Angeles office. According to The Sun, Madonna first thought she was being targeted because of her kabbalah beliefs, but then she realized that she was being threatened because she represented all the things that these terrorists hate about the West. The terrorists were reportedly Palestinian, and Madonna took them seriously enough to cancel her three September concerts at Tel Aviv’s Bloomfield Stadium — her first concerts in Israel since 1993 — because they knew intimate details about members of her staff.

But is it true?

Not quite, said Madonna’s representative at Warner Bros. Records.

“The Israel dates were never confirmed,” a rep from publicist Liz Rosenberg’s office told The Journal. “She was never threatened.”

Skipping the Holy Land, Madonna will show the rest of the world her new and improved self, made more refined, perhaps, through her very public association with the controversial Kabbalah Centre.

According to Madonna fan Denis Ferrara, who was quoted in Liz Smith’s New York Post gossip column, the concerts of the Reinvention Tour will have “no crotch-grabbing, pointed bosoms or pointless profanity from the star.”

Ferrara said Madonna was still an artist who wanted to amuse and engage, but, “She seems, however, to have put Shock — for so long her random companion — to bed. She never really needed him.”