September 15, 2019

Shelter Visit, Big Sunday, JCC Shooting Event

Earlier this month, California Legislative Jewish Caucus members including (back row, from left) State Sen. Henry Stern, Assemblyman Richard Bloom, State Sen. Ben Allen and Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel, visited the Otay Mesa Detention Center and the Jewish Family Service (JFS) Migrant Family Shelter in San Diego. Photo courtesy of California Legislative Jewish Caucus

Legislators from the California Legislative Jewish Caucus and the California Latino Legislative Caucus visited the Otay Mesa Detention Center and the Jewish Family Service (JFS) Migrant Family Shelter in San Diego, on Aug. 9.

The delegation toured both facilities, conducted interviews with detainees at Otay Mesa and met with migrant families at the JFS facility. 

The trip was organized by the Jewish Caucus, which has grown increasingly concerned with federal immigration policy and widespread reports of abuse and mistreatment of immigrants and asylum-seekers at the southern border.

The delegation included Jewish Caucus Chair and State Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica); Vice Chair and Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Encino); Latino Caucus Vice Chair and State Sen. Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles); State Sens. Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) and Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park); Assemblymembers Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda), Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) and Adrin Nazarian (D-Van Nuys) and Board of Equalization member Antonio Vazquez.

“It was at once powerful and heartbreaking to come face to face with the immigration crisis, and see the inspired work being done by JFS, ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] and HIAS to overcome it,” Allen said in a statement. “These organizations are under-resourced, over-performing and need all of our support to help these courageous asylum seekers — many of whom are victims of war, domestic violence and persecution — find a better life.”

Gabriel said the experience of visiting the two sites was meaningful. 

“As a parent, it’s painful to witness families being separated and the abuses at our southern border,” Gabriel said in a statement. “But we cannot look away. We came here today to bear witness and to educate ourselves about what we can do to end this humanitarian crisis. Our Jewish, American and California values demand that we help end the shockingly cruel and clearly unconstitutional mistreatment of refugees and asylum-seekers that is happening in our state and being done in our name.”


Max Wellman; Photo courtesy of Wolf, Rifkin, Shapiro, Schulman and Rabkin

Max Wellman, an associate in the litigation and dispute resolution department of Wolf, Rifkin, Shapiro, Schulman & Rabkin, was named a Rising Star in the 2019 edition of Super Lawyers in the Southern California region.

Wellman, a former futures board member with the Jewish National Fund, was named a Rising Star for the second consecutive year. According to the website of his L.A.-based law firm, no more than 2.5 % of attorneys under the age of 40 are selected for this honor.

Wellman, who predominately handles complex business litigation matters, including partnership disputes, corporate dissolution, commercial debts and real estate disputes, is the past president of the Downtown Los Angeles Bar Association.


Social service organization Big Sunday’s 10th annual Back-to-School Drive and Community Dinner drew more than 250 volunteers.
Photo courtesy of Big Sunday

Approximately 250 people attended volunteer organization Big Sunday’s 10th annual Back-to-School Drive and Community Dinner, held on Aug. 8 at Big Sunday’s headquarters on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. 

As part of the effort, Big Sunday collected more than 2,000 backpacks for children at several low-income schools and organizations across the region. 

According to Big Sunday—which is led by founder and executive director and Temple Israel of Hollywood congregant David Levinson—participants sorted, counted and packed a variety of requested items, including spiral notebooks, pencil pouches, pens, pencils, crayons, markers, colored pencils, glue sticks and more. Volunteers also handwrote and decorated cards that will be placed in each of the backpacks welcoming children to the new school year.

Recipient schools and organizations included Fulbright Elementary, Department of Children and Family Services, 96th Street Elementary, Lovelia Flournoy Elementary and the LAUSD Homeless Education Program.

L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn, the Meyer Levy Fund and the Wilshire Rotary Club of Los Angeles were among the event’s sponsors.

Representatives from every organization and school that received backpacks for students in their respective communities were in attendance, and everyone stayed for the community dinner, which consisted of fried chicken and various side dishes, a “Back-to-School” drive tradition.


Front row, from left: Scott Schmerelson, Kathryn Barger, Brad Sherman, Sandra Thomas, Luz Rivas; (middle row, from left) Bob Hertzberg, Guadalupe Montaño, Bob Blumenfield, Danni Wang; and (back row, from left) Amanda Susskind, Nancy Parris-Moskowitz and Eric Kingsley attended a 20th anniversary ceremony for the 1999 shooting at the Valley JCC. Photo by Matt Friedman

With the country still reeling from recent mass shootings in Gilroy, Calif.; El Paso, Texas; and Dayton, Ohio, a community-wide gathering marking the 20th anniversary of the Aug. 10, 1999, shooting at the North Valley JCC was held at Temple Ahavat Shalom in Northridge. 

The event, which recounted how white supremacist Buford Furrow entered the JCC and sprayed the site with bullets, wounding five people in the process, also recalled Filipino-American postal worker Joseph Ileto, who subsequently was killed by Furrow.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the office of County of Los Angeles Supervisor Kathryn Barger organized the event, which drew more than 90 community members. 

Attendees included Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Porter Ranch), who on Aug. 10 held a similar commemorative ceremony at the Chatsworth Post Office to mark two decades since the shooting; Los Angeles City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield; State Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys); Assemblymember Luz Rivas (D-Arleta) and LAUSD Board Member Scott Schmerelson.

According to the ADL, Temple Ahavat Shalom Rabbi Arturo Kalfus welcomed the crowd and pointed out the event coincided with Tisha b’Av, one of the saddest days in the Jewish calendar. Sherman spoke of the events of that day two decades ago, Rea Nagel discussed being a teacher who gave first-aid to some of the injured victims, and Ismael Ileto, spoke about his late brother.

Additional speakers included Donna Finkelstein, the mother of Mindy, who at the time of the shooting was a 16-year-old camp counselor and was wounded that day, Loren Lieb and Alan Stepakoff, parents of then-6-year-old Joshua, who was also shot and wounded, and Nancy Parris-Moskowitz, a member of ADL’s executive committee board and the former chair of the Valley JCC.

A panel reflecting on the events and how they foreshadowed the rise of hate crimes in this country featured Amanda Susskind, regional director of the ADL, Vince Gonzalez, board member of Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ), and LAPD Deputy Chief Peter Zarcone.

The program closed with a moment of silence for victims of mass shootings.

Additional participating organizers included American Jewish Committee, AAAJ, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles; the Valley Jewish Community Center and Temple Ahavat Shalom.


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