Tinseltown Backs Terror Fight — Thanks to Israel Consul General Danoch

Any Hollywood producer would give his right arm for the stars listed last week in a full-page advertisement in the Los Angeles Times.

Nicole Kidman, Bruce Willis, Michael Douglas, Sylvester Stallone, Danny De Vito, William Hurt, James Woods, Gary Sinise, Millie Perkins and others.

But the list wasn’t the cast of an upcoming blockbuster, but a plea by much of the Hollywood and media elite to back the fight against Hezbollah, Hamas and worldwide terrorism.

The ad, which resonated in the global entertainment industry through additional placements in the trade publications Variety and Hollywood Reporter, read:”We the undersigned are pained and devastated by the civilian casualties in Israel and Lebanon caused by terrorist actions initiated by terrorist organizations, such as Hezbollah and Hamas. If we do not succeed in stopping terrorism around the world, chaos will rule and innocent people will continue to die. We need to support democratic societies and stop terrorism at all costs.”

The wording would not have appeared particularly militant and pro-Israel had it been issued by heads of Jewish defense organizations, but for Hollywood, often markedly silent in the face of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel attacks, the statement was a bit of a bombshell.

“We wanted to get Hollywood off the fence,” as one signer put it.

Producer-writer Lionel Chetwynd noted that “I’ve been around here for a long time, and I can’t remember a time when so many people in the industry stood up for Israel. I tried something similar in 1982, when Israel was fighting in Lebanon, but I couldn’t get it off the ground.”

The names of the stars who signed the ad caught the attention of readers and listeners around the world — the Australian media ballyhooed Kidman’s participation — but to Hollywood insiders the most impressive among the 84 signatories were the men and women who wield the real power and influence in Tinseltown.

Mega-media moguls Rupert Murdoch, Sumner Redstone and Haim Saban signed on, as did studio heads Amy Pascal, Ron Meyer, Meyer Gottlieb and recently retired Sherry Lansing, as well as dozens of prominent producers, directors and writers.In a professional category by herself was tennis star Serena Williams.

The man who initiated the project was Ehud Danoch, Israel’s consul general in Los Angeles, whose territory extends over seven southwestern states and Hawaii.When the slim, curly haired Danoch arrived in Los Angeles in October 2004, as a 34-year-old on his first diplomatic assignment, he was preceded by a reputation for being very smart, very young, and having a knack for knowing the right people.

His grandparents had come to Israel in 1950 on Operation Magic Carpet, the mass airlift of Jews from Yemen, with their 3-year-old son, the diplomat’s future father.

Both of Danoch’s parents were tapped by Israel’s Ministry of Education to serve as overseas envoys, and young Ehud spent three years in Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital, and the same span of time in French-speaking Montreal.

After his army service, Danoch earned his law and MBA degrees from the Israeli campus of Britain’s Manchester University.

The young lawyer became a protégé of Israel’s then finance minister, Silvan Shalom. When Shalom was named foreign minister, he appointed Danoch as his chief of staff, and later to the consul general’s post.

In his first interview after arriving in Los Angeles, Danoch identified the entertainment industry as one of his special concerns, while noting the important groundwork laid by his predecessor, Yuval Rotem.

“Everybody knows that Hollywood is important,” he told The Jewish Journal. “But before I jump in, I want to talk to people and find out how Hollywood works.”Now there’s evidence he’s a quick study, too.

“I started meeting with studio heads and executives, producers, directors and actors,” Danoch said Monday during an interview in his high-rise office, overlooking central Los Angeles to the Hollywood Hills beyond. Even on a hot day and during an informal discussion, Danoch was dressed as the complete diplomat in suit and tie.

His first emphasis was on the economic side, pitching Israel as a great location for film shoots. It’s been a tough sell, not primarily due to the volatile situation in Israel, but because of the generous incentives offered by some 25 other countries, with Morocco trying to corner the market on desert shoots.

Danoch is now in discussions with Israel’s finance ministry as to what packages it can offer American filmmakers, in addition to the wide-open spaces of the Negev.

Currently, one studio is scouting Israeli locations for a series of seven TV movies, with an investment of $60 million.

After he got his feet wet in the often-tricky Hollywood tides, and learning that personal relationships are everything, Danoch started meeting with actors and inviting them to visit Israel.

“I don’t ask them for anything, I don’t ask them to take a political stand, only to come and see Israel for themselves,” he said.

His modus operandi is simple.

“I was at a reception and saw Morgan Freeman,” Danoch recalled. “I introduced myself and asked him to come to Israel. He was ready to go immediately.”

The approach is labor intensive, but it has paid off. Among the more high-profile visitors have been actress Sharon Stone, who has become so interested in Israel that she receives regular briefings on the Middle East situation from Danoch.

There’s nothing like star power to give millions of movie and TV fans a different view of a country usually defined in crisis bulletins.

“We invited Will Smith to come to Israel, and when he inadvertently crashed a bar mitzvah ceremony at the Western Wall, it seemed like every radio and TV channel in the world reported on it,” Danoch said.

Danoch is particularly pleased that there is now enough momentum that some in the movie colony are planning to organize tours on their own initiative, such as a prominent talent agent who want to take a group of directors to Israel.

When the fighting in Lebanon started, Danoch decided that it was time for the generally silent movie colony to make its voice heard.

He first tapped the growing colony of Israelis in Hollywood, including producers of such standing as Arnon Milchan, Danny Dimbort, Avi Lerner, Avi Arad and David Matalon.

The task force also included such veteran Israel supporters as Chetwynd, entertainment attorney Bruce Ramer, producer Branko Lustig and actor Gary Sinise.

The core group approved the wording of the ad, drafted by Danoch, with the emphasis on humanitarian concern and the common fight against terrorism, rather than a down-the-line pro-Israel statement.

From that point on, in a kind of electronic daisy chain, members of the initial group e-mailed their friends, who in turn e-mailed other friends, and so on.

Given time constraints and publication deadlines, it was assumed that the ad would carry no more than 50 to 60 signatures. But the names kept coming in, until the organizers had to close the list at 84 names, said Gilad Millo, Israel consul for communications and public affairs.

Dimbort, co-chairman of the Nu Image production company, contacted 28 people. Most signed on, although “some were scared to do so,” he said.

His company also paid for the full-page ad in the national and international news section of the Times, which costs $117,132, according to the paper’s advertising department.

Since Nu Image’s phone number appeared at the bottom of the ad, Dimbort fielded most of the compliments and complaints in the days after the publication.”We got hundreds of phone calls, most very enthusiastic, but about 20 to 30 percent of the callers screamed and yelled at us,” he said.

Meyer Gottlieb, president of Samuel Goldwyn Films, received only positive feedback, with friends reporting that they were emotionally moved by the message conveyed by the ad. Others called to chide him for not having been asked to sign the statement.

Chetwynd called more than a dozen people to participate, of whom four or five declined or didn’t respond. After the ad appeared, “More than 50 people called me, and I was just amazed by the response,” he said.

Cable television host Phil Blazer said that given the overwhelming demand on Hollywood talent for support of innumerable petitions and causes, he was “shell-shocked” by the number and standing of the ad’s signatories.

As for Danoch, he’s staying busy. One meeting last week with Adam Sandler and his family yielded support of another kind, when the star of “Click” and “50 First Dates” announced he would donate 400 Sony PlayStations to Israelis whose homes were damaged by Hezbollah rocket attacks.

What is the payoff for Israel? “For one, stars shape public opinions and fashions,” Danoch said. And their visibility may be the biggest boon of all. “By their very presence, the celebrities show that Israel is a safe place to visit. This helps tourism and the economy, and besides, the Israeli public likes to see them.”

For the Kids

We Love to Laugh

Jews have always used humor to get themselves through difficult times. And you better believe that Jews have had difficult times! Maybe our humor is what has kept us alive as a people for more than 5,500 years. Certainly, our humor has been used to teach the world a great deal about humanity.

Jammin’ Jokes

Some of our very own Jewish comedians have this to say:
Q: What do you get when you squeeze
a synagogue?

A: Fresh Jews!

Sent in by Raquel Rosen, 12,
Beverly Hills

A Year to Remember

I once had a history teacher who was ambivalent about dates.Before a test, an anxious student would invariably ask whether we’d need to remember what year an event happened.

He’d wave off the question, “Just remember the big ones.”

Don’t you get the feeling 2003 will be a Big One?

Every generation believes it is witness to momentous times.That desire accounts for people at the fringes who forecast the imminent end ofthe world — then are forced to readjust their predictions when, say, 2000 cameand went like lunchtime.

But it also accounts for the rest of us who smirk whenreciting the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times,” certain that,as opposed to the Chinese guy who came up with the phrase, ours really areinteresting times.

Even those of us who don’t stand asteroid watch sense thatthe world has been spinning faster since Sept. 11, 2001. “I rise to issue a warning and sound the alarm to you, my dear congregation,” Rabbi JacobPressman of Temple Beth Am said in his Rosh Hashana sermon this year. Afterspeaking of the ominous clouds gathering over the heads of American Jewry, herevealed that his words, which rang true on Rosh Hashana 2002, were firstspoken by his rabbi on the first day of Rosh Hashana — 1938.

Indeed, 2003 looks like it could be, if not, heaven forbid,1939, then a date up there with the big ones. Consider:

The Second Gulf War — It’s not if, it’s when.

President Bush and his advisers see the fall of SaddamHussein as the key to democratization throughout the Mideast — the dominoeffect, with us pushing the first tile. Others say the president’s motivationis cheap oil. And Bush himself says it’s because Saddam is a weapon of massdestruction waiting to happen. All three motivations are no doubt at work,though in what proportion who can say.

War will bring havoc, but how much and to whom no one canpredict. Remember Gulf War syndrome? The burning oil fields? The Scuds? Theineffectual Patriot missile batteries? The chaotic and ill-informed end, whenwe deserted Saddam’s opposition to face his wrath? We will likely not facethose catastrophes again, but there will be new and unpredicted ones.

Israel — This week the Quartet pushed forward a Mideastpeace plan that outlines in relative detail the steps Israel and the Palestiniansmust take to disengage their forces. The plan will not go into effect untilafter Israel’s elections on Jan. 28, and even then it is predicated on thePalestinians adhering to a cease-fire and Israel suspending the growth of itssettlements. The former is something the various Palestinian factions have beenunwilling to do; the latter something the Israelis went on doing through everygovernment, including Ehud Barak’s.

During the Second Gulf War, Israel will face a far greaterthreat than will the United States. After the Second Gulf War, America, havingput its soldiers on the line in eradicating one of Israel’s greatest enemies,might come calling to cash in big chits. Until then, there is little sign thatthe terror and retaliation will cease.

The Economy — The lean times are upon us  with a vengeance.The California budget deficit of $34.8 billion (and ticking) will necessitateacross-the-board cuts in social services. Combine these with a failinghealth-care system, increased public expenditures on security needs and lowercharitable giving due to a slack economy, and the scope of the crisis seemshistoric.

The Other Shoe — This is the unpredictable lurking behindthe unknowables. To hear many of our own elected officials tell it, anothermajor terror attack is inevitable. I’m still not certain what they expect us todo with that information, other than remember not to vote them out of officeafterward for not warning us — should they or we be around for the afterward.

Graded on a curve, of course, we have much less reason forfear and foreboding than most people in the world, or, for that matter, thanmany people in our city. We are not an Iraqi mother waiting for the bombs tofall, an African teenager dying of AIDS, an Israeli father maimed by a suicideattack or an Angeleno sleeping on the streets these winter nights.

Many of us would do well to focus more on these people’sworries than our own, not just to improve our perspective but to improve ourworld. If we can’t worry any less, let’s give more — there’s one response to aworld that feels slated to go awry. Few of us can jump on the levers of power.Most of us have to choose in much, much smaller ways whether or not to be oneof the bright spots in a dark year. History may prove that 2003 was America’sdarkest hour, or its brightest.

As essayist Louis Menand reminds us, never “worry about whatfuture historians will think of us: they’ll despise us no matter what. It’swhat we think of us that we need to be concerned with.”

Happy New Year.  

Why Some Jews Hate the L.A. Times

On April 1, Los Angeles County children’s social worker Jules Weingart sent the Los Angeles Times a letter protesting its predilection for calling Palestinian suicide-bombers "militants." As a courtesy, Weingart attached a list of normative definitions of the terms "militant," "terrorism," "terror" and "extremist."

On April 18, Weingart received a response from Times Readers Representative Jamie Gold. "The word terrorist is not applied to combatants in Israel," Gold informed Weingart on behalf of the newspaper, "because it is considered a politically loaded word."

That this is some perverse form of political correctness, few can doubt. But as Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center has asked repeatedly over the last year, "Political correctness for whom — suicide-bombers?"

Foreign Editor Simon Li, meanwhile, sent an automated e-mail message to Weingart, indicating that he was out of the office until April 22. Li, who has long attracted resentment for what many perceive as his imperious stance toward critics of the Times’ coverage of Israel, concluded his e-mail with: "And if it’s a complaint about our alleged anti-Israel bias, thank you, but I’ve received so many, that mere repetition only serves to dilute the impact of your protest."

The Times announced on Tuesday that Li was stepping down as foreign editor to be replaced by former Mideast correspondent Marjorie Miller.

Even so, given such a history of editorial policy, is it any wonder that the local Jewish community sometimes finds itself skating perilously close to hysteria when it comes to the Times?

In recent weeks, the Times has been the target of several distinct readership revolts. In mid-April, the grass-roots group StandWithUs organized a 10-day boycott on home subscriptions. It was an attempt to get the paper’s attention without actually abandoning it, said a founding member, who for fear of retribution asked to be called Ruth.

"We loved the Times," Ruth said, "and we want to love it again. But when the only two reporters in the region charged with covering Israel deliver a pro-Palestinian spin day after day after day — I don’t need the Times. I can get Al Jazeera instead."

Concurrently, several local synagogues, including Beth Jacob, Stephen S. Wise and Valley Beth Shalom, urged a more modest one-day delivery stoppage on Israel’s Independence Day, April 17.

A cursory review of Internet discussion groups reveals a pervasive belief that there is a direct link between this tame and limited expression of disquiet and the Times’ failure to report on the community’s celebration of Israeli Independence Day, one of the largest ethnic gatherings of the year.

The Times’ editorial department told irate members of the community through a reader’s representative that (a) the assignment to cover the festival had gone to the international desk, which decided that since the event was receiving coverage in Israel, there was no reason to do so here; (b) that the one reporter it reserved for such events had attended a memorial for Daniel Pearl (less than a mile away) instead; and (c) the e-mail flagging the Independence Day ceremonies had disappeared.

In a letter to reader Michael Zarrabian, who complained about the dearth of coverage, the Times’ Gold wrote: "In any other year, for almost any other country celebrating its independence here in L.A., I could tell you that the answer would be that the paper cannot possibly cover all of these celebratory events that take place on any given weekend in the five counties that the Los Angeles Times serves. However, given the circumstances in the world today, that editorial decision to not cover this seems questionable."

However, the damage was done. Large numbers of Jewish subscribers from across the domestic and Israeli political spectrum have cancelled their subscriptions. On April 18, two days before the conclusion of the StandWithUs boycott, Bill O’Reilly of the Fox News Channel’s "The O’Reilly Factor" announced that 1,000 people had stopped delivery of the paper. According to StandWithUs, however, an internal document recently spirited out of the Times’ headquarters and into the hands of a competing newspaper reported that number of cancellations climbed to more than 6,000 last week alone. The Times would not confirm that number.

Times Senior Editor David Lauter defended his paper’s record April 28 at Temple Beth Am. The event, sponsored by the temple’s Brotherhood, drew a capacity crowd of about 100 . Several audience members waved clippings of offending articles at Lauter, demanding explanations. (For Lauter’s defense, see p. 7. )

Jewish communities in Minneapolis, Chicago, Boston and New York have registered grievances against their papers’ coverage of the Middle East. The protests were notable for the fact that the protesters came from across the political spectrum. In Los Angeles, concern for Israel and dislike of the Times has united Jews over the past months as few issues have.

Mention the Los Angeles Times to attorney Eric Menyuk, 42, of Agoura Hills, for example, and he vents his anger: "Their hypocrisy is almost beyond belief," he said, "and I’m a lawyer. If we are supposed to tolerate the killing of innocents in Kabul because we’re going after the Taliban — if the Times has no trouble calling Al Qaeda terrorists — then why do they make excuses for Palestinians, who dressed as Israeli soldiers go door-to-door shooting 5-year-olds?"

Sandy Beim, a member of Valley Beth Shalom who is active on the Valley congregation’s computer discussion board, said she did not cancel her subscription to the Times. However, she does have some sense that the community’s unhappiness may have registered with the paper.

"The layout of headlines and photos, especially on the front page, seems so much more even-handed then was the situation as recently as one week ago," she said. "If this is the product of boycotts or a general shift in reporting, I do not know. There is the probability that the boycott and threat of further and enlargement of this boycott movement contributed to this ‘new’ L.A. Times editing policy."

Mainstream community leaders said they sympathize with public dissatisfaction with the Times, but said a boycott is only one way of expressing dissatisfaction. "There are other ways," said Los Angeles Federation President John Fishel, noting that people should write letters to the editor about errors or misreporting. Over the years, Fishel said they have met with the editorial board to discuss the community’s concerns, and they are trying to set up another meeting soon.

Other community members suspect the efficacy of boycotts. "About a year ago, there was an attempt to boycott Radio Station KABC in an attempt to get conservative radio talk show host Larry Elder off the air," said boycott sympathizer Barry Lowenkron. "That didn’t work either."

David and Goliath and David

You want media bias? I’ll give you media bias. Here’s one big city newspaper’s account of the Israeli incursion into the Jenin refugee camp: “Jenin camp looks like the scene of a crime. Its concrete rubble and tortured metal evokes another horror half a world away in New York, smaller in scale, but every bit as repellent in its particulars.”

That’s from the London newspaper The Guardian. The Los Angeles Times, in contrast, ran a long, two-page investigation into what happened in Jenin. It reported the evidence of terrorism that led to Israel’s decision to go in. It documented the precise and risky manner by which the Israeli army chose to carry out its operation. It recounted the fear of the soldiers and refugees, the killing of innocent Palestinians (that’s part of the story) and it investigated the wildly inflated stories of Palestinian propagandists and found them lacking.

It was a good — but as Dan Gordon reveals on page 10, not perfect — report, done under difficult wartime circumstances. Along with it, the Times editorialized against Palestinian claims of the camp’s innocence. “In tiny rooms,” the editors wrote last week, “men packed gunpowder and fertilizer into canisters that some bomber would use to blow apart Israeli men, women and children.”

If that’s their Guardian, and this is our Times, why are so many Jews so enraged at the folks at First and Spring?

As Sheldon Teitelbaum reports on page 10, Jewish community anger toward the Times has only increased since The Journal’s first story on May 25, 2001 investigating the paper’s Israel coverage. The outrage peaked nearly a year later on April 22, when the Times, alone among major L.A. media outlets, neglected to report on the Israel Festival, which drew between 30,000-40,000 people to Woodley Park the previous day.

Last Sunday, a week after that festival, Times Senior Editor David Lauter presented his point of view on the controversy at a panel discussion, “The Media and Israel,” at Temple Beth Am. I was on the panel, along with Matt Chazinov. Chazinov is foreign editor of the Orange County Register and, like Lauter and me, a member of Beth Am.

But the discussion wasn’t about “the media.” It was about the Times. Lauter tried deflecting some of the criticisms up front, in an opening statement.

“We simplify,” he said. “We condense. In the interest of clarity, we sacrifice nuance.” Such is the nature of journalism, and people who know the most, and care the most, about a given subject are most likely to notice what the editors left out. A frequent omission is context and history.

“Journalism is only the first rough draft of history,” Chazinov reminded the crowd.

But they were not assuaged.

Lauter cited studies demonstrating that people who are partisan about one side or another almost always feel news coverage is slanted against their side. He said the Times fields numerous complaints of pro-Israel bias from the Arab community. “It is not possible for the coverage to be biased in both directions,” he said.

The crowd was not assuaged.

Lauter continued: Foreign correspondents are most often generalists, not regional experts. Operating under demanding conditions, buffeted by the spin from competing points of view, they work hard to balance, to fact check and verify reports. And despite their best intentions, they sometimes make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, said Lauter, but, “when we make a mistake, we publish it and show it to 2 million readers.”

The crowd brought up specifics: a subhead that used the word “vicious” to describe an Israeli action. (Lauter said that was a mistake, and the copy editor who wrote it was chastised.) A photo of a Chassidic rabbi that misrepresented the majority of people who showed up for a pro-Israel rally. (A mistake, said Lauter, and the photo editor was chastised.) The failure to cover the April 21 rally. (A big mistake, said Lauter, and the people responsible were chastised.) These mistakes and more “do not necessarily represent bias,” Lauter said. (Though I have to say there do seem to be quite a few goofs for a paper that aspires to greatness.)

Rabbi Joel Rembaum raised the question of whether Foreign Editor Simon Li wasn’t responsible for some of the least-appreciated headlines, photos and captions. Lauter said that Li, who was singled out in The Journal’s reporting on the Times last year, is a superior, dedicated editor who is simply not adept at handling readers’ complaints.

That may be true, but the end result, for many readers, is an air of aloofness and unresponsiveness surrounding the Times. People would be even more impressed, I imagine, if Times editors would come out of their compound and talk more often. In Chicago, Tribune editors held two open meetings at which Jews upset with Israel coverage voiced their complaints. Editors at the Trib’s subsidiary, the Times, have been less than forthcoming.

(At press time, The Journal learned that Li had stepped down as Times foreign editor. Former Mideast correspondent Marjorie Miller will take his place.)

If anything, said Lauter, American newspapers are biased in favor of Israel. He pointed to a sympathetic profile the Times ran in April of an Israeli woman soldier. “When was the last time you read a story [in the Times] about the bravery of a Palestinian fighter?” he asked. Editors, like the rest of us, see the world through a certain framework. The American press sees Israel as a sometimes flawed, democratic nation facing people who resort to violence and terror in their essentially just fight for nationhood, he said. “If you believe media coverage influences public opinion,” Lauter said, “it’s hard to square consistent support for Israel with allegations of media bias.”

What Lauter did not directly address was the fact that despite their pro-Israel “framework,” journalists almost always root for the underdog, and almost all have a bias against Israel’s permanent occupation of the West Bank and Gaza The bias against occupation does influence coverage — my opinion, not Lauter’s.

Nevertheless, audience members were perhaps a bit more mollified at this point. They were impressed that their specific complaints had made an impact on Times editors. Specific complaints get attention. The more general and hot-headed the gripe, Lauter said, the more likely it was to be shelved. He was referring, not too obliquely, to a litany of grievances sent to the Times by StandWithUs.

Toward the end of the discussion, one woman in the audience admitted that she preferred the old days when the press portrayed Israel as David and the Arabs were Goliath. Lauter was nonplussed. “Ninety-nine percent of the time Goliath wins,” he said. “So stick with Goliath.”

Shalom Leases

An announcement last week by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) that it will not renew leases for its West San Fernando Valley properties will have an impact on two Jewish institutions: Kadima Hebrew Academy and the Rabbi Max D. Raiskin West Valley Hebrew Academy.

However, the announcement, which first appeared in the Los Angeles Times Jan. 9, may not be the last word on the subject, according to LAUSD spokeswoman Stephanie Brady.

"The Times article may have been premature," Brady said. "The closed-school policy for the district remains under review. There should be a recommendation to the Board of Education within the next month."

Although Kadima Hebrew Academy has only been a resident for 10 years, it seems that it has always been a fixture on the green and busy corner of Shoup Avenue and Collins Street in Woodland Hills. However, the reported decision by LAUSD to not renew its lease, which ends in July 2002, means that while the school will continue to exist, its address for next fall is yet to be determined.

Fortunately, the district’s decision was not unexpected. In September, Kadima’s administrator, Barbara Gereboff, and its president, Cheri Mayman, sent out a letter to parents alerting them that, "for a variety of reasons, LAUSD has decided not to lease its Valley schools beginning in Fall of 2002, which happens to coincide with the end of our 10-year lease." The letter noted that the school’s board of directors is seeking a permanent site for the future, as well as a temporary site for the next school year. A later letter, mailed in December, informed parents that a new site had been found but that the location would remain confidential in order to avoid a potential fight with neighbors over the required conditional-use permit.

"We’re moving ahead on another property, although we’re still unsure of the outcome for this property," Gereboff said, adding that Kadima had made a prior offer on the site several years ago but it was declined.

Until it is able to ascertain LAUSD’s intentions regarding the site, Kadima’s board continues its preparations for a possible move, including fundraising. Already, the school has a commitment from The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles for a $50,000 grant to use toward new development, and officials are also looking into applying for a loan through the Avi Chai Foundation, which provides funding to Jewish day schools throughout the country.

Kadima, a Solomon Schechter day school affiliated with the Conservative Movement, was founded in 1970 and has since built a reputation for incorporating a solid Hebrew language and Judaic-studies curriculum within the framework of a secular education. The school is also known for attracting students from a wide spectrum of the Jewish immigrant community, a factor which Gereboff regards as one of its greatest strengths.

"We want our kids to be proud of their diverse backgrounds and even rewrote our mission statement to reflect that," she said. "It’s a part of what makes our school unique."

With enrollment at 300 students from kindergarten to eighth grade, Gereboff said she anticipates continued growth, particularly for the middle school, which feeds into the new Milken Community High School currently in its first year at the Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus in West Hills.

The West Valley Hebrew Academy, also a kindergarten to eighth-grade school, has experienced similar growth in the past year, although at 150 students, it faces fewer challenges to moving from its present location on Oso Avenue. The school is affiliated with Beit Hamidrash of Woodland Hills, which owns a large piece of property on Fallbrook Avenue that is already zoned and licensed for a day school although it still needs a city permit for any expansion, said Alan Shapiro, the congregation’s president.

"We do already utilize our campus on Fallbrook; we’re just going to have to use it more," Shapiro said, adding that school officials have been prepared for an announcement of this sort. "We all have leases and [LAUSD] made it clear that the lease was for 10 years and never promised to renew, although there’s always the hope and the thought they would."

Shapiro said West Valley actually has a little more time than Kadima, because the former’s lease expires in 2003.

"We would appreciate an extension of the lease because it would give us more time [to raise funds] for the expansion," Shapiro said. "Especially because of Sept. 11, which set back our fundraising campaign for the new campus by about a year."

Shapiro anticipates the eventual move will be a positive one for several reasons, among them a higher profile in the community and greater security for the school itself.

The West Valley Hebrew Academy is run by Rabbi Zvi Block, founder of the Aish HaTorah Institute (now named Beis Midrash Toras HaShem) in North Hollywood.