The Westside JCC, which was targeted with two bomb threats. Photo by Ryan Torok

Second bomb threat in two weeks at Westside JCC is another hoax


The Westside Jewish Community Center (WJCC) received a bomb threat via email March 9 — the second time in less than two weeks that it has been targeted in a series of incidents sweeping the nation.

“Today at approximately noon we received an email with a bomb threat that resembled the ones other JCCs have been receiving over the past few weeks,” Brian Greene, executive director of the WJCC, wrote in a March 9 statement addressed to “Westside JCC Families.”

The threat, which turned out to be a hoax, prompted an evacuation of the facility.

“We contacted the Los Angeles Police Department [LAPD] and followed our emergency protocols to evacuate the building. Within an hour the police had very thoroughly checked our building and gave us the ‘all clear’ to re-enter and return to our normal day,” Greene’s statement reads. The WJCC executive director was not immediately available for an interview.

Located near Olympic Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, the JCC previously received a threat on Feb. 27. That one was made via a phone call.

Bomb threats against Jewish institutions, 2017 through March 12. Source: Anti-Defamation League.

Bomb threats against Jewish institutions, 2017
through March 12. Source: Anti-Defamation League.

Since Jan. 4, there have been more than 160 threats against Jewish community centers, schools and other institutions in more than 30 states. The threats have been a mix of live and prerecorded phone calls and emails.

According to an email from The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles Community Security Initiative and obtained by the Journal, the threat occurred at 12:15 p.m. “The email received is identical to an email bomb threat received by the Jewish Children Museum in Brooklyn NY earlier this morning,” the email says.

On the morning of March 9, the Jewish Children’s Museum was evacuated after receiving an email saying pipe bombs had been hidden in the building, according to nydailynews.com.

In a phone interview, LAPD Sgt. Matt McNulty confirmed that the email sent to the WJCC contained language about pipe bombs.

“So basically, they got an email stating there were possible pipe bombs on the property, and that generated a police response. Students were evacuated, and Los Angeles Police Department officers, along with representatives of the school, conducted a walk of the location, deemed it to be safe, found no suspicious devices,” McNulty said.

Debora Parks, principal at Harkham-GAON Academy, which rents out the third floor of the WJCC, told the Journal on the afternoon of March 9 that her school’s students were not among those evacuated as their day had been cut short in observance of a pre-Purim fasting day. School was not in session; instead, Parks said, “I was having a meeting with a mother and a potential student, because it was after school. So we had to tell them, ‘Sorry, we can’t continue the interview. We have to leave, we have to evacuate.’ ”

Parks was among those who joined LAPD officers in searching the building. The search went faster than the last time the WJCC received a threat as multiple floors were searched at once, with JCC leaders pairing with officers and guiding them to different places on the campus where the bomb or bombs could have been placed, Parks said.

McNulty said identifying the perpetrator or perpetrators won’t be easy.

“A lot of the stuff is computer-generated, and some of the times, this stuff is generated overseas, so you have a hard time pinning down where it is coming from,” he said. “We did take a criminal report for the bomb threat and that will be investigated by [the LAPD] Major Crimes Division.”

The WJCC accommodates programs for preschool children, operates a swimming pool, runs events for senior citizens, and more. Why someone would target a place like that is beyond Parks.

“I don’t know what the motivation is. It seems like the motivation is to cause disruption and they’re successful in that,” Parks said. “That’s for sure.”

Letters to the Editor


Westside JCC

The problems at the Westside Jewish Community Center (WJCC) have been a recurring theme over the past few years (“In the Center of Controversy,” Sept. 22). It is very unfortunate that this prime resource in our community continues to be underutilized. These problems are endemic throughout the JCC system in Los Angeles. We certainly experience our share of similar challenges at Valley Cities JCC.

At this point, the board of Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles (JCCGLA) and the interim director feels the best method to begin this healing process is to eliminate all local boards throughout the system. This may have a streamlining effect for decision-making but does not address the basic malaise in the system: a lack of leadership and long-term planning. The corporate structure instituted over the last few years has looked to members for leadership. In our most successful years we were led by strong staff leadership that knew how to work the halls.

I am certain The Federation as well as JCCGLA would be much more comfortable with our centers if members and staff were moving forward, achieving shared goals. The enumeration of these goals, particularly in the areas of programming, short-term financial needs and long-term capital improvements, will yield much more positive results than the continued strategy of instituting a rigid top-down corporate structure.

Bill Kabaker, Sherman Oaks

Tamar Andrews cannot seem to get her story straight (“Preschool Packs a Rock Solid Rep,” Sept. 22). In one breath she claims she was “fired” from the WJCC nursery school for “complaining too much,” and in the next she says that parents only told her she was doing a good job after she “resigned.” Which is it? The truth is that she resigned with no warning and was asked repeatedly to reconsider. She was asked to leave only after it was learned that she was slamming the school and the WJCC to parents.

Andrews’ misrepresentations and the carping of one or two malcontents to the contrary, the WJCC nursery school continues to be a vibrant and thriving preschool that is strongly supported by its students’ families. Our daughter attended both the nursery school and kindergarten and our son is in his third year at the nursery school; both have had outstanding preschool experiences. The teachers are nothing shorts of amazing: dedicated, warm, loving, knowledgeable and incredibly patient. The developmental program allows children to master preschool skills through play and directed activities. And they get free swimming lessons as part of the curriculum to boot.

The high esteem in which the WJCC nursery school is held by other educators around the city is demonstrated by the high acceptance rates of WJCC graduates in the top private schools – both Jewish and secular – on the Westside. Last year, every WJCC graduate who applied to private school got in.Any parent who is looking for a nurturing, educational and well-rounded environment for their child would do well to consider the WJCC nursery school.

Judy and Mark Landry, Los Angeles

I resigned from my position as preschool director of the WJCC preschool at the end of May 2000. Due to the commotion that my resignation caused, I was told to leave on June 29 without finishing out the summer program. Although I left earlier than anticipated, my resignation was my own decision.

However, your article made the WJCC and its preschool appear to be much worse off than it is. The preschool has a magnificent staff of both Jewish and non-Jewish teachers who still come to my home for Shabbat and holiday meals. The facility, while old and in need of some repairs, still stands above many, many facilities in this city.

You quoted one parent who called the preschool facilities “junk,” when in fact she is a returning parent. Why would a parent knowingly send her child to this preschool when there are so many in this city? I would hope that your readers do not take the article too seriously, otherwise they would miss out on the opportunity to send their children to a wonderful preschool. It just wasn’t the right place for me. However, during my tenure, I helped the preschool achieve national and Bureau of Jewish Education accreditation, implemented the High/Scope curriculum and increased enrollment by 30 children. Many of the needed changes were implemented during my tenure and to this day there are still changes being made to improve the center and the preschool. Could this really be “junk”?

Before Yom Kippur, I can easily say that I am not perfect. The WJCC is not perfect. The Jewish Journal should admit the same. For while we are all not perfect, we all are after the same goal – to help and serve the Jewish community. There are better ways to achieve this than speaking badly about one another.

Tamar Andrews, Los Angeles

In spite of the run-down facilities and inefficiencies, many of us continue to send our children to the preschool because the teachers are very good and the location is convenient.

However, this does not excuse the lack of accountability and responsibility that WJCC Director Michelle Labgold and Preschool Director Ellen Green must have towards the preschool program. Green is the fifth director in the last five years.

We pay premium tuition for the preschool program. We are promised weekly music, art and dance/movement specialists. We have still not received these items.

The program was to include computers in all classrooms. We were told that the numerous computers donated by a parent last year are in some closet. We have also heard that the computers are missing, stolen or too old to be used.

Parents expect that tuition money paid to the preschool go directly to the school, not to be used for other purposes. We are stonewalled and given the runaround when we ask why we don’t have a complete program with specialists. We are told that it’s expensive. The tuition and membership fees more than covers what the program should be and if this is what we are promised, then they must honor it and follow through immediately.

It is truly sad and unfortunate that this has to be discussed in a public forum.

Name withheld by request

Gene Lichtenstein

I am going to miss Gene Lichtenstein. While I did not always agree with him, I will miss the contribution he has made to The Journal.

In his years as editor, he took a publication which at best I glanced at to one I looked forward to reading each week.

I urge you to maintain the diversity that has been established. Please don’t play it safe and retreat into being a house organ or you’ll lose many of your readers.

Joshua Gross,Beverly Hills

I never spoke to or met Gene Lichtenstein; wouldn’t know him if I passed him in the street. Yet he came to my house and visited each week for 15 years. We talked, we discussed, we agreed sometimes and sometimes not. Even thought the contents were not always cover-to-cover magic, it was still far, far superior to the dull, drab, insipid writings the local press had to offer.

All the more remarkable considering that pleasing 50,000 Jewish readers probably makes the head position at The New York Times or The Washington Post feel like a walk in the park. For all the above, Gene Lichtenstein, my appreciation, my thanks.

Maurice Kornberg, Los Angeles

Rosh Hashanah Cover

Your Sept. 29 cover was lovely, but I hope you’re not going to make it permanent. Neither the glossy paper nor the metal staples can be recycled. We owe it to ourselves to be kind to our Mother Earth.

Joan F. Kaufman, Los Angeles

Dennis Prager

Dennis Prager said that the only reason he will vote for George W. Bush is because he is not a Democrat (“Jewish Republicans Assess Bush,” Sept. 15). It is utterly disgraceful, disgusting and insulting to every thinking American.

Barbara Rona, Culver City

Letters to the Editor


Orthodox Numbers

As a sociologist of American Jews, I read the three articles (“Setting the Record Straight,” “Flawed Methodology” and “Standing by the Data,” Sept. 15) with great interest. Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, along with Anthony Gordon and Richard M. Horowitz, raised important methodological issues which – if unaddressed – do indeed have the potential to undercount the Orthodox population. These Orthodox advocates also correctly pointed out the explosion of Orthodox Jewish institutions in numerous neighborhoods. Nonetheless, I would tend to agree with Pini Herman that the numbers of Orthodox Jews in Los Angeles has not increased in recent years.

How can this be? How can these two facts exist simultaneously? The answer lies in understanding important generational differences in the social construction and definition of Orthodoxy. For the older (65 and over) generation of Orthodox Jews, historical and sociological conditions in the U.S. dictated a more integrated, acculturated approach to American life. These Jews, for example, would often attend public schools, eat in restaurants not under rabbinical supervision and cover their heads while in synagogue or at home, but not at work or in the street. For younger Orthodox Jews, by contrast, individual and institutional distinctiveness, visibility and separation (parochial day schools, kosher pizza parlors and even Hatzolah ambulances, to name but a few examples) are fundamental elements which shape their understanding of contemporary American Orthodox life.

A drive down Pico Boulevard reveals the strength of the younger generation of American Orthodoxy. But the older, less visible – yet demographically substantial – Orthodox generation is dying out. Recent community and national studies, such as the 1990 National Jewish Populations Survey, have consistently demonstrated that older American Jews are more likely to self-report as Orthodox than American Jews of any other age range. In the short term, at least, the quantitative state of L.A.’s Orthodox Jewry will not change significantly. In qualitative terms, however, it has already dramatically redefined what it means to be Orthodox in American society.

Jonathon Ament, Instructor
American Jewish Studies/Modern Jewish Sociology University of Judaism

One of the many problems with this type of study is that the respondent defines himself subjectively rather than by any objective criteria. As a day school principal for 27 years, numerous parents told me that they came from Orthodox families. Subsequent discussion revealed this to be inaccurate. However, parents or grandparents who attended an Orthodox synagogue more than twice a year and kept some form of kosher observance were considered Orthodox even if they worked on Shabbos.

For many years, I worked for a large Orthodox congregation of 700 families, of whom perhaps two dozen were actually Orthodox. Yet the members clearly identified themselves with the Orthodox movement. Such congregations and even Orthodox day schools where the large majority were not observant in the Orthodox manner were very common 30 years ago. Today, this is not common partly because of the rise in the number of non-Orthodox schools. Most Orthodox congregations today have only a few non-Orthodox members.

Dr. Herman may be right in the number who identify with Orthodoxy, but there can be absolutely no doubt that the number of practicing Orthodox Jews is dramatically up. For him to simply dismiss the obvious realities in the number of day school and yeshiva students, synagogues, kosher restaurants, etc., without looking behind the facts or openly discussing the shortcomings of the methods employed smacks of arrogance.

Dr. George Lebovitz, Los Angeles

WJCC

I appreciate the opportunity to have contributed my thoughts to The Jewish Journal’s article on the Westside JCC (“In the Center of Controversy,” Sept. 22). However, there was such an expanse of time between my interview and publication that the situation is now noticeably different.

I wish to acknowledge the progress on security issues made by the center’s administration. I also feel that the core of my personal position was somehow lost in the editing process. I believe that the center is a place with great potential. My willingness to speak out is an expression of my hope for its future.

Karen Benjamin, Los Angeles

Jesus Day

If Fred Sands honestly wants to understand the brouhaha over Gov. George W. Bush’s calling June 10, 2000, Jesus Day in Texas (Letters, Sept. 15), I suggest that he give me a call at (310) 854-3381. I will introduce him to Zack, a 12-year-old boy from Texas. As reported on ABC’s “20/20,” three months before his Bar Mitzvah, Zack was invited to a Southern Baptist youth meeting and coerced by an adult into converting to Christianity. This Southern Baptist even told Zack that he could be Jewish and believe in Jesus at the same time. Zack and his parents will gladly explain the painful difference between “Jesus Day” and “Honor Israel Day.”

Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz , Jews for Judaism

Fred C. Sands completely misses the point of the “brouhaha over Gov. George W. Bush’s proclamation calling June 10, 2000, Jesus Day in Texas.”

The point is separation of church and state. Anyone in public office in this country must never blur the line of separation of church and state or people of all religions – particularly the Jewish people – will be in serious trouble.

Sands asks, “Why are Jews so afraid of the mention of Jesus Christ?” It is not the mention of Jesus, but who mentions it and under what circumstances that is frightening. When people are truly religious, they don’t push religion everywhere they go. If they do, especially if they are in public office in this country, one has to question their motive.

Let us ask all politicians to respect and adhere to separation of church and state and live each moment of their lives in a religious way but not preach to us about how religious they are.

Roslyn Walker, Marina del Rey

KOREH L.A.

As the first year of operation of KOREH L.A. draws to an end, I wanted to share some interesting statistics with you. Close to 600 KOREH volunteers worked in over 30 schools throughout Los Angeles during the past year. Another 800 people indicated their interest and are waiting to be trained.

In order to evaluate this first year, KOREH L.A. hired two Cal Tech researchers to probe the response of volunteers, teachers and principals to the program. One of the questions posed to the volunteers was where they heard about KOREH L.A. You will be interested to know that over 20 percent of our volunteers first learned about KOREH L.A. from The Jewish Journal.

As we recruit for our second year, we are keeping careful records of where each prospective volunteer heard about the program. The informal information that the KOREH L.A. staff has gathered indicates that close to 25 percent of the prospective volunteers heard about the program from The Jewish Journal.KOREH L.A. has touched the Jewish community in a very deep way. It has allowed many people to put into action their commitment to education and literacy, and especially their commitment to the welfare of our city. As we look forward to a second successful year of KOREH L.A., we thank you very much for your ongoing support.

Elaine Albert, DirectorKOREH L.A.

Teresa Strasser

When I read the letter written by a reader in Mission Viejo (Letters, Sept. 15), I had to respond.This person claims to be “unprejudiced” but seems to be intolerant of interracial marriages. I was unsure from the letter whether this person was more offended by the picture of a white woman in the arms of a Black man or by an assumption that this man was not Jewish.

What I would really like to know is would this reader be offended by my wedding picture – a nice Jewish white girl in the arms of a Black man, who also happens to be Jewish?

Name withheld by request, Los Angeles