FILE PHOTO: Firefighters battle flames from a Santa Ana wind-driven brush fire called the Thomas Fire in Santa Paula, California, U.S. on December 4, 2017. REUTERS/Gene Blevins/File Photo

Over 212,000 People Forced to Abandon Their Homes As Southern California Fires Rage On

The fires throughout southern California have now forced over 212,000 people to leave their homes and have no sign of slowing down.

There are currently six major fires plaguing southern California: the Thomas Fire (Ventura County), the Skirball Fire (West Los Angeles), the Creek Fire (Sylmar), the Rye Fire (Santa Clarita), the Liberty Fire (Riverside County) and the Lilac Fire (San Diego).

The Thomas Fire is the largest of the fires, which has burned 132,000 acres of land since Monday – well over two times larger than the city of Washington, D.C. – and has now spread into Santa Barbara County, resulting in a mandatory evacuation for the people in the city of Carpinteria. A total of over 88,000 people have been forced to abandon their homes as a result of the Thomas Fire.

The Lilac Fire started on Thursday evening and has already blazed over 4,000 acres of land. Several people, including firefighters, have suffered from burns and smoke inhalation from the Lilac Fire and 20 buildings have been destroyed in its wake. Evacuations have already been issued.

None of the fires are anywhere close to being contained. The Creek Fire is the fire that is the closest to being contained at 40%, followed by the Rye Fire (35%), Skirball Fire (30%), Thomas Fire (10%), Liberty Fire (10%) and Lilac Fire (0%).

The fires could potentially worsen over the weekend, as the Santa Ana winds are forecasted to intensify to 40 to 60 miles per hour on Saturday, putting southern California at a heightened risk of fires.

President Trump has declared a state of emergency for the people afflicted by the fires, thus providing the state and localities with federal assistance to deal with the fires. California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has already declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles, Ventura and San Diego.

Biking the coast: Swell on wheels

If you’ve ever driven between Ventura and the coastal town of Carpinteria, you’re familiar with the dramatic ocean vistas that beg for attention along the west side of the 101 Freeway. 

While making that drive in recent months, I’ve noticed a new bike path along a portion of the freeway, with bicyclists gliding blissfully alongside the ocean, shielded from traffic by a sturdy barrier. How, I wondered, do you get on that bike path? And is it possible to take it from Ventura all the way to Santa Barbara, which seems a more likely destination?

On a rare, free Sunday, I decided to find out. 

Before setting out, I scoured the Internet for information, but what I found was incomplete. I learned that the new bike trail, opened in September 2014, covers about four miles between Ventura and Carpinteria. But I could find no detailed maps showing how the bike trail connects with other bike paths. 

So, feeling like a true pioneer, I set off with my boyfriend to figure out the route. What awaited us was an epic, 29-mile adventure that took us past breathtaking beach scenery but challenged us with tedious stretches of road and confusing signage.

For those wanting to try this route themselves, I’ve divided this guide into segments. Pick a portion or ride the whole way. If bicycling fast, you can cover the entire one-way route in about three hours.

Starting out: Ventura through Emma Wood State Beach

We began our ride at the northern edge of Ventura, close to parking and the bike trail. You can park for free in a lot off of West Main Street, opposite Peking Street. There is also a bike shop close by, the Ventura Bike Depot, where you can rent bicycles for the day ($35 to $62). 

Begin your journey by heading north from the parking lot onto the bike trail that runs along Main Street. Follow the trail into Emma Wood State Beach, where it continues along the ocean for about two miles until you reach Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). 

Pacific Coast Highway

Get your fill of beach scenery along PCH. This approximately seven-mile stretch is marked by beach after windswept beach. Check out the surfers and seabirds, and gaze at the mountains rising up to the east.

Caution: You’ll be bicycling alongside the road, so look out for traffic. When you first enter PCH from the end of the bike path, there is no safe place to cross to the right side of the road. We rode along the left side until we felt safe crossing to the other side.

Hungry? Pull into Faria Beach Park on the left, about six miles in, for breakfast burritos and coffee at the Faria Beach Cafe. 

To continue, follow the painted bike path along PCH. You’ll leave the coastal views, pass a 101 Freeway entrance and ride under a bridge to Mobil Pier Road. This is where the new bike trail begins.

Oceanfront bike trail

Part of a $102 million California Department of Transportation freeway project, Ventura County’s new protected coastal bicycle trail is nothing short of gorgeous. Where bicyclists used to have to ride on the shoulder of Highway 101, they can now ride on a wide, two-way path beside the ocean, protected from traffic by metal railings. The ocean is within feet of your bicycle, and you can feel the sea-spray on your face.

The path takes you past the small community of Mussel Shoals, where you can stop for an oceanfront lunch at Shoals restaurant inside the Cliff House Inn.

Continue along the path until you hit Rincon Point — you’ll know you’re there when you see the surfers. The path ends at Bates Road beside the entrance to Rincon Beach Park. Here, the signs direct you under a bridge and onto the 101 Freeway.

To Carpinteria and beyond

Rincon Beach (also known as Bates Beach) is a beautiful spot for swimming and picnicking, and a worthy destination in itself.

However, to continue to Carpinteria and Santa Barbara, you will have to ride for a short stretch on the freeway. Follow the bike trail sign onto the 101 North. Then take the first exit — Exit 84 — toward Ojai/Lake Casitas. At the bottom of the exit ramp, turn left onto Rincon Road, then right onto Carpinteria Avenue. The three-mile ride will take you past the Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve.

To explore Carpinteria, turn left when you get to Linden Avenue, which takes you into downtown. Otherwise, continue until you pass the Best Western Plus Carpinteria Inn, and turn right on Santa Ynez Avenue, which takes you over a bridge.

Onward to Santa Barbara

After crossing the bridge, turn left on Via Real and you will see the painted bike lane begin about half a mile in. The road is relatively unused by cars, although it runs next to the 101 Freeway, so there are fumes and noise. Continue for about five miles until you reach the small town of Summerland.

Summerland is a cute place to grab a drink, a snack, or browse antique shops. When you’re ready to continue, ride through downtown, past the “Big Yellow House” sign and the 101 Freeway North entrance. You’ll see a sign pointing to the protected bicycle trail on your left.

The trail again takes you out onto a road, North Jameson Lane; continue until you reach Olive Mill Road in Montecito. Carefully turn left on Olive Mill Road and follow it to the beach, where it becomes Channel Drive. Stop and take in the beauty of Montecito’s Butterfly Beach.

The final stretch

When you can bear to pull yourself away from the beach, follow Channel Drive up the hill and past the Santa Barbara Cemetery. Carefully cross Cabrillo Boulevard to the bike path that runs alongside the lake at Andree Clark Bird Refuge. Congratulations! You are now in Santa Barbara!

Continue on the bike path, crossing to the beach side at Milpas Street. Keep going until the historic Stearns Wharf is on your left. Stroll the wharf, where you can eat, shop and take in marine life at the Sea Center (part of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History). Or turn right from the bike path and follow State Street into downtown, where you can also browse shops, people-watch, and grab some food and drinks. Alternatively, you can collapse in a heap on the beach. Well done! You made it!

Returning home

The great advantage to this route is that you don’t have to bicycle back. Amtrak operates trains from Carpinteria and Santa Barbara. A one-way ticket from Santa Barbara to Ventura costs as little as $15. You will need to reserve a space for your bike when you purchase a ticket. Go to or call 1-800-USA-RAIL. Happy riding! 

State budget woes slow Ventura charter school

The chances of a new elementary charter school offering Hebrew language classes opening in Ventura County next fall diminished last week.

In a decision disappointing the school’s supporters, the Ventura County Board of Education rejected an appeal to open a new local branch of the Albert Einstein Academy for Letters, Arts and Sciences (AEA). The appeal fell in a 3-2 vote taken by the board at its March 28 meeting.

The Ventura Unified School District rejected the initial AEA Ventura petition in November 2010. The recent decision came as a surprise to the school’s backers.

“I think the district put a lot of pressure on the county to not approve us,” said Joel Simon, a local Realtor and father of three who is the lead petitioner on behalf of AEA Ventura.

The first AEA charter school, a middle and high school in Santa Clarita that offers both Hebrew and Spanish language classes, opened in August 2010. Since then, Rabbi Mark Blazer, the spiritual leader of Temple Beth Ami in Santa Clarita and AEA’s executive director, has been working with parents like Simon to open additional branches around the Los Angeles area, without success so far. In the past seven months, four separate school districts have rejected AEA petitions to open elementary schools, including Los Angeles Unified and two Santa Clarita school districts.

While rejections by other districts have been based in part on concerns about the Hebrew language portions of an AEA school’s curriculum and the ability of AEA schools to attract diverse student bodies, these were not the primary concerns underlying the Ventura board’s decision.

“From my perspective, I think the board members who voted against cited issues associated with the [school’s] budget and the aggressive enrollment projections,” said Roger Rice, associate superintendent in charge of student services at the Ventura County Office of Education.

The AEA Ventura petition proposed starting the school with three grades (K-2) and a student body of 225, and projected growth of one grade per year, to 525 students by its fourth year.

So far, Simon said, 100 parents have expressed interest in the school.

At least one board member brought up the uncertainty of the California state budget as a reason for voting against AEA Ventura.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s initial budget plan, which did not include any cuts to K-12 public education, depended upon voters approving a five-year extension of certain temporary tax hikes. Budget talks broke down last week because there was not sufficient bipartisan support in the state legislature to put that measure onto the ballot in June.

That opens up the possibility that California will have to balance its budget exclusively by making cuts to services, including cuts to public education.

Even in that “worst-case scenario,” Blazer believes a new charter school could succeed and points to AEA Santa Clarita school as proof. “We were able to open and thrive in the midst of a crisis,” Blazer said.

Blazer remained confident about the prospects for AEA Ventura. “We’re going to open a school in Ventura; the question is the timetable,” he said.

Deals on December getaways

It is so good to be a traveler during December. Whether you want a romantic escape, a girlfriends’ getaway or a family vacation, the deals are abundant as many people choose to stick closer to home through the holiday season. My family and I have traditionally hit the road and enjoyed destinations that are packed with value and are not crowded — great places for a quick winter trip. 

Here are a few places to visit that are loaded with value:

Las Vegas
December bargains and Las Vegas go hand in hand. The Mirage Hotel offers a great grown-up getaway called The Serenity Spa and Room Package. Through Dec. 24, guests can spend two nights in a deluxe room and enjoy two 50-minute Swedish body massages or opt for two nights in a deluxe room with one 50-minute massage and a manicure/pedicure at a cost of $331 for Sunday through Thursday arrivals. Friday and Saturday arrivals are available at $461. Call (800) 234-7737 and ask for the “spa weekday” or “spa weekend” package.

All-inclusive vacations have made their way to The Strip with a jam-packed offering at The Luxor. Starting at $209.99 per night through Dec. 28 (two-night minimum stay), guests can enjoy all-you-can-eat at MORE Buffet; two tickets to “Criss Angel Believe,” two tickets to “Titanic: The Artifacts Exhibition,” two Nurture Spa day passes, VIP admission for two to LAX Nightclub and CatHouse Ultra Lounge plus VIP check-in. Call (877) 386-4658 and mention promo code “PDALL1.”

We’ve hit the slopes at the end of December several times and found that it is a terrific time to enjoy a ski/snowboard holiday. is a great resource for planning a value-packed winter vacation, and there are a couple of terrific packages being promoted for December. Snowmass ( is one of the best family ski destinations in the world and they are offering 30 percent off of lodging from Dec. 18 to Jan. 1. Located at the base of the mountain, The Treehouse is a massive, kid-friendly experience filled with winter activities and lots of fun.

Crested Butte Mountain Resort ( is also running an added-value promotion with an early booking incentive of a fifth night free. These rates are subject to making your reservations by Nov. 23. is also featuring an awesome air special with a fourth airline ticket free after the purchase of three.

Cabo San Lucas is an easy trip by plane and The Marquis Los Cabos ( has extended its Thanksgiving Promotion to Dec. 20, making it even more enticing. The all-suite, beachfront hotel is giving a lot of bang for your buck with a fourth night free, $300 spa credit per suite, VIP roundtrip airport transportation, up to two children (under 12) complimentary, unlimited access to the fitness center and one dinner for two (drinks included during the first hour) at the resort’s Vista Ballenas restaurant. There is also a complimentary daily continental breakfast. Nightly room rates start at $590 for a junior suite.

Bay Area
San Francisco is another ideal destination for a December escape, via a road trip or quick flight. The Hyatt at Fisherman’s Wharf and The Hyatt Regency San Francisco have designed “San Francisco on Sale” packages that are filled with added value. The Fisherman’s Wharf property ( has room rates that start at $161 and include a $25 food and beverage credit as well as the Shop SF/Get More savings card, which features special offers and discounts at more than 200 retailers around the city. Rates at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco ( begin at $169. There are plenty of ways to enjoy San Francisco, from hopping on board a City Lights Cruise on the Red and White Fleet or ice skating at the Embarcadero Center’s ice rink. New Year’s Eve at the Hyatt properties is value-packed as well with a great location to view the Waterfront Fireworks and enjoy all kinds of special amenities, from champagne to breakfast buffets with rates of $299 at the Hyatt at Fisherman’s Wharf and $219 at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco.

If you want to feel like you are miles away yet stick close to home, the city of Ventura ( is a perfect option. Best-known for its cozy beachside atmosphere, Ventura bursts with activity during the month of December. The Winter Wine Walk takes place Dec. 4 with a sampling of fine wines and delicious appetizers in downtown Ventura’s restaurants and stores. Ventura Harbor’s Winter Wonderland and Carnival takes place Dec. 19 with faux snowfall, fudge tastings, ice-sculpting demonstrations and more from noon to 4 p.m. The harbor is filled with boats decked out with lights, and fireworks fill the sky during a two-day celebration on Dec. 17 and 18 with a family carnival and something for everyone.

Quarterly calendar


Fri., March 16

“Irish Writers Entertain: An Evening in the Company of Irish Writers.” One-man show starring Neil O’Shea. Part of the annual Irish Cultural Festival. Loyola Marymount University (LMU). 7:30 p.m. Free. LMU, Barnelle Black Box, Foley Building, 1 LMU Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 338-3051.

Sat., March 17

“Cult of Childhood.” Multiple artists explore the menace and charm of childhood. Opening reception 7-10:30 p.m. Through April 15. Black Maria Gallery, 3137 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 660-9393.

Thu., March 22

Joffrey Ballet Performances. Two dance programs, one featuring live orchestra accompaniment, and the other featuring contemporary music by The Beach Boys, Prince and Motown artists. Choreography by Twyla Tharp, George Ballanchine and four others. Through March 24. $25-$115. Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 972-0711.

Werner Herzog Tribute and Film Retrospective. Screenings of “Heart of Glass,” “Fitzcarraldo,” “Grizzly Man,” and other films by the German director. Herzog will be discussing his work at some of the programs. American Cinematheque. Through March 25. $7-$10. Max Palevsky Theatre at the Aero Theatre, 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica. (323) 466-3456.

Ventura County Jewish Film Festival. Film subjects include the fate of European art during the Third Reich, a French butcher who saves the lives of three Jewish children, the journey of musician Debbie Friedman and a romantic tale of unrequited love. Through March 25. $36 (festival pass), $10-$12 (individual screenings). Regency Theatre Buenaventura 6, 1440 Eastman Ave.; and Temple Beth Torah, 7620 Foothill Blvd., Ventura. (805) 647-4181.

Sun., March 25

“Projectile Poetry.” Hosted by Theresa Antonia, Eric Howard and Carmen Vega, the program features readings by published poets as well as an open mic for newcomers. 3 p.m. Dutton’s Brentwood Books, 11975 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 476-6263.

“Requiem.” World premiere of Christopher Rouse’s musical piece, performed by the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Los Angeles Children’s Chorus and baritone Sanford Sylvan. Conducted by Grant Gershon. 7 p.m. $19-$109. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (800) 787-5262.

“Distracted.” Lisa Loomer’s comedy about an 8-year-old boy diagnosed with ADD and the fast paced, overly wired environment that may have caused it. Directed by Leonard Foglia and starring Rita Wilson and Bronson Pinchot. Center Theatre Group. Through April 29. $20-$55. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 628-2772.

Tue., March 27

“Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life.” Tony Award-winning dancer stars in a musical production celebrating her 50-year career. Directed and choreographed by Graciela Daniele. Through April 1. $25-$75. Wilshire Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (323) 655-4900.

Fri., March 30

Roy Zimmerman’s “Faulty Intelligence.” Singing political satirist takes aim at Saddam, Dick Cheney, creation science and more. 8 p.m. $25. Steinway Hall at Fields Pianos, 12121 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 471-3979.

“California Style: Art and Fashion From the California Historical Society.” Exhibit includes Victorian-era paintings, ball gowns and a re-created private parlor from the 1880s. Through May 27. $3-$9. Autry National Center, Museum of the American West, 4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles. (323) 667-2000.


Thu., April 5

“The Art of Vintage Israeli Travel Posters.” Commemorating Israeli Independence Day, the exhibit displays posters produced by Israeli government tourism agencies as well as national and private transportation companies during the 1950s and 1960s. Through July 8. Free. Skirball Cultural Center, Ruby and Hurd Galleries, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500.

Fri., April 6

John Legend Concert. Special guest Corinne Bailey Rae. 8:15 p.m. $30-$75. Gibson Amphitheatre at Universal CityWalk, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City. (818) 622-4440.

Sat., April 7

“Sleeping Beauty Wakes.” Musical adaptation incorporating deaf and hearing actors signing and singing to the book by Rachel Sheinkin. Also features GrooveLily .Center Theatre Group/Deaf West Theatre. Through May 13. $20-$40. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City. (213) 628-2772.

Wed., April 11

“The Elixir of Love.” Gaetano Donizetti’s light-hearted romantic opera is set in a West Texas diner in the 1950s. Opera Pacific. Through April 22. $27-$200. Orange County Performing Arts Center, Segerstrom Hall, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. (800) 346-7372.

Thu., April 12

“KCLU Presents Terry Gross.” The host of National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” will speak about her experiences interviewing renowned writers, actors, musicians and political figures. Book signing will follow discussion. California Lutheran University. 8 p.m. $15-$50. Fred Kavli Theatre, Countrywide Performing Arts Center, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks. (805) 449-2787.

Malibu International Film Festival. Competition festival premiering films from around the world. Opening night party at The Penthouse and awards night at Geoffrey’s Malibu. Through April 16. $10-$100. Aero Theater, 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica. (310) 452-6688.

Jane Austen Book Club. Series of six book club luncheons discussing Jane Austen novels with UCLA Professor of English Charles Lynn Batten. Novels included. Literary Affairs. 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. May 10, June 14, July 12, Sept. 27, Oct. 25. $375. Beverly Hills Country Club, 3084 Motor Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 553-4265.

Fri., April 13

“The Diary of Anne Frank.” Selections from the book performed as an opera and staged in specially prepared areas of parking garages. Featuring Laura Hillman, Schindler’s List survivor. Composed by Grigori Frid. Long Beach Opera. Through April 19. $15-$70. Lincoln Park parking garage, Ocean Boulevard and Pacific Avenue, Long Beach; Sinai Temple parking garage, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (562) 432-5934.

Sat., April 14

“Preschool Poetry Jam.” David Prather hosts interactive children’s program with jump rope jingles, Shel Silverstein’s poetry, tumbling boxes, scooters and more. Part of Pillow Theatre Series for 3-6 year olds. Music Center. 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. Free. BP Hall, Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 972-3379.

Tue., April 17

Community Briefs

Young Judaea Sends L.A. Youths to Israel

Five students from the Los Angeles area left for Israel on Sunday, Sept. 2. They will spend the next 10 months living, studying and working in Israel with Young Judaea’s Year Course program. While getting a firsthand look at Israeli life through volunteering, travel and contact with Israelis, they will earn college credits to take back with them to the United States. This year’s Hadassah-sponsored Young Judaea Year Course program is the largest to date. Attending are 150 participants from the United States, 75 participants from FZY (Federation of Zionist Youth) in Great Britain and five Israeli tsofim (scouts).

For more information about Year Course call (310) 709-8015 or check the web at

–Staff Report

Ventura County Celebrates Judaism

“The Jews have gone West,” said Joel Aaronson, president of the Jewish Federation of Ventura County, as he surveyed the Ventura County Jewish Festival on Sept. 9. Aaronson says they plan to make the event an annual one, especially after the turnout of more than 5,000. “We may not be millions,” said Cheri DeKofsky, executive director, “but we are mighty.” Held at Cal State Channel Islands in Camarillo, the festival was designed to bring together Jews of every denomination with food, arts and crafts and entertainment.

Aaronson was very proud that Jews and non-Jews throughout the county, regardless of denomination, were able to work together. “If we can do this, the world can do this.”

The Ventura Klezmer Band started off the festivities with a lively mix of Hebrew and Yiddish tunes — with a little Gershwin thrown in. A children’s stage and play area allowed the whole family to enjoy the festival. “This is really incredible,” said Karen Cardozo of Ventura. “It really pulls the whole Jewish community together.” Planning will begin in late fall for next year’s festival. To get involved with the 2002 festival, contact (805) 647-7800. — Shoshana Lewin, Contributing Writer

Pam Remembered

The American Orthodox community suffered the loss of one of its guiding lights with the recent passing of Rabbi Avraham Yaakov Pam, head of the Torah Vodaas Yeshiva in New York. Scores of Angelenos, many of them professional educators, regarded him as their chief mentor and guide; hundreds more turned to him for counsel and his characteristic loving smile. In reminiscing about Pam, a few vignettes emerged as favorites.

Pam stepped into a cab in New York on a cold, winternight with a student, who later recounted the details. As the driver began topull away, Pam noticed that the meter was not turned on. When he pointed out theassumed oversight to the cabbie, the cabbie said: “I should make a lot moremoney than my boss pays me! The fare is $12 bucks. Why should you care if Imoonlight a bit?” Pam was adamant. “It’s not honest.” The driver was just asinsistent, until Pam offered to pay him double, with half going to the boss.

The driver agreed. At the end of the trip, the meter read $12. Pam paid him $24 — and added a $2 tip!

The cause dearest to his heart was the organizationShuvu (Return), which he founded in 1990 to provide Jewish education to Sovietimmigrant children. Too weak to attend its recent annual fundraiser on his own,he arrived by ambulance, and came into the hall on a stretcher. Even though hehad not met the 10,000 children, he would not let them down.

— Contributed by Shelly Fenig

Chanukah in Ventura

One sure sign the Conejo Valley Jewish community is growing comes every year about this time. That’s not when demographers turn in their latest report, but when the community holds its annual Chanukah festival. Organizers say nothing better reflects the burgeoning Jewish population in this area.

“There has been a massive exodus westward from the traditional Jewish corridor along the 101,” says organizer Saria Kraft. “There are five synagogues in the Thousand Oaks-Westlake-Agoura triangle alone.”
Indeed, this year marks the beginning of a new era for the Conejo Valley Hanukkah Festival. Organizers have decided to take the festival to the next level by mounting “The Magical Miracle of Hanukkah,” a magic show staring Richard Burr and Josette. The production will be held in the Fred Kavli Theater at the Thousand Oaks Civic Plaza and will be accompanied by a candle-lighting ceremony and a performance by the Conejo Valley Community Children’s Choir, led by Cantor Kenny Ellis.

Kraft said the event’s new location is also indicative of a stronger Jewish presence. “When a population holds a holiday event that is religious in nature at the most prestigious venue for arts, culture and entertainment in the county,” she said, “it makes a profound statement about their active presence in the community.”

The festival started five years ago with a grant from The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance as mostly a craft fair and vendor boutique. Each year the festival has drawn a huge crowd of Chanukah-hungry families searching for something more than the single shelf of merchandise at the local grocery store. This year, festival organizers are expecting to attract an estimated 5,000 attendees to the Dec. 10 event.
“From the beginning there were 5,000 people. From the beginning there was a need for the festival,” says organizer Bev Futterman. “We have a big community out here, and especially with all the Christmas around, it’s nice to have a big Chanukah event.”

Much of what has made this Chanukah event popular in years past will still be available for free at the Civic Center. Many children’s entertainers, programs and activities will be on hand, including Zany Brainy and Zimmer Jewish Discovery Place. There will also be more than 45 vendors selling gifts, food, jewelry and art.

“It’s fantastic,” says Ellen Smith, a parent of two Heschel West day school students. “We’ve gone to the Hanukkah Festival every year that we’ve lived in Thousand Oaks. And this year not only is it a wonderful gathering, but there will also be family entertainment. Plus my kids will see their friends there.”

The Conejo Valley Hanukkah Festival will be held Sun., Dec. 10, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd. The festival is free, but there is a $6 admission charge for the magic show, “The Magical Miracle of Hanukkah.” For more information, call (818) 991-7111.