August 22, 2019

Briefs: Body of Santa Monica teacher found in Panama, campers leave the mountains to heal the bay

Joey Lutz, an English teacher at Santa Monica High School and a central leader in a Muslim-Jewish dialogue, was found dead Sunday in Panama.

Lutz, 25, had been hit by a massive wave July 17 and swept to sea while wading in shallow water along the coast of Bocas del Toro island. Hope that he had survived ended Sunday when a fisherman found his body.

“He was just very special, he really was. A very beautiful human being,” said his mother, Freda Lutz. “It is not quite hitting me.”

A beloved teacher, Lutz was the kind of communicator who listened as much as he spoke.

“I dig talking to people. Though I’m not crazy about small talk,” Lutz wrote on the social-networking site Friendster. “Enthusiasm turns me on more than anything else.”

About 70 friends, family members and students gathered Monday night at Dockweiler State Beach to hold a bonfire in Lutz’s honor. The bonfire was organized by NewGround, the Muslim-Jewish dialogue run by the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Progressive Jewish Alliance. Lutz was a fellow in the second class of 11 Muslims and 11 Jews that began in March, and quickly demonstrated his ability to lead and his desire to learn.

“He was a linchpin,” said Malka Fenyvesi, the Jewish co-director.

“He was the type of guy who was so intensely thoughtful and gave so much insight when he spoke that you couldn’t help but connect and fall in love with him,” added Aziza Hasan, the Muslim co-director. “He was the type of person who wanted to make sure every person’s thoughts were fully expressed so he could understand them, and then he would add his own analysis that was so unbelievably thought out that he made everything complete; he made every conversation complete.”

At press time, funeral arrangements had not been confirmed by Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary.

Donations can be made “In Memory of Joey Lutz” at Washington Mutual, 10970 Jefferson Blvd., Culver City. The account number is 0494-0000054121-5.

— Brad A. Greenberg, Senior Writer

Campers Leave the Mountains to Heal the Bay

In the sweltering heat of a warehouse deep in a manufacturing strip of Van Nuys, Jewish teenagers crowded around tables of disassembled wheelchairs, scrubbing clean piles of metal parts and rubber wheels and somehow figuring out how to put all the pieces back together again.

For 280 Jewish teens at sleepaway camp this summer, the inaugural Inter-Camp Mitzvah Day provided a tangible Humpty-Dumpty experience in the lessons of repairing a broken world. The teens from Camp Alonim, Camp JCA Shalom, Camp Ramah and Camp Hess Kramer took a break from the mountain air, sports and socializing that are the usual parts of camp, to study texts on tikkun olam and devote their hearts and hands toward improving their community.

The 14- and 15-year-olds participated in beach cleanup activities with Heal the Bay; feeding the hungry with SOVA food pantry; reading to young children at KOREH L.A.; learning about the impact of globalization at Tree Musketeers; restoring destroyed habitat at Friends of the L.A. River and Mountains Restoration Trust Tree Care; and refurbishing donated wheelchairs to send to the developing world with Wheels for Humanity. The day was organized by Becca Hailpern, Inter-camp Mitzvah Day Coordinator.

The L.A.-area camps have been coming together for a few years for inter-camp days of sports and Jewish rock concerts, and this year camp administrators felt that the way to really give back to these campers was to teach them how to give of themselves, according to Beth Kanofsky, assistant director of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple Camps.

Most striking about the day was the electric energy the campers brought to the activities. Counselors were amazed that the same campers who required 20 minutes of strategic negotiation to get them into the pool had no need for any explanations to participate in Mitzvah Day. Even before the introductions had begun, the kids were singing and cheering together.

In a response typical of the service-minded attitude of the campers, when Zack Unger, 14, of Camp Ramah headed off to Heal the Bay and was asked what he felt would be the best part of the experience, he instantly responded, “Cleaning the beach.”

Josh Katelo of Camp Alonim expressed his sense of empowerment to “make their life easier” through Wheels for Humanity and in a humbled voice noted, “I didn’t think they needed it this much.”

— Marion Ashley Said, Contributing Writer

Jewish Home for the Aging Graduates First Nursing Class

As the nation wrestles with a nursing shortage, the Annenberg School of Nursing, a full-time program at the Los Angeles Jewish Home for the Aging in Reseda, graduated its first class of 24 students on June 26.

The school, which is funded by the Annenberg Foundation, prepares students to pass a state-licensing exam with 500 hours of classroom instruction at the Jewish Home and 980 hours of clinical training at local hospitals. Graduates can go on to become licensed vocational nurses, and the program is seeking to expand to include training for registered nurses.

California is expected to be short 25,000 vocational nurses by 2010, according to the California Economic Development Department. The shortfall of registered nurses is expected to be more than 100,000.

If the Annenberg students take a nursing job with the Jewish Home after graduation and stay for two years, $10,000 of the $19,000 tuition is forgiven.

With the inaugural class complete, the Annenberg School now is facing its next task: recruiting students for the upcoming year. The school is now accepting applications for its second term, which begins in September.

“This is an amazing program for those looking to establish a bright future for themselves while helping others,” said Marie Fagan, Annenberg’s head of school.

For information about enrollment, call Cindy Thomas at (818) 757-4431.

— Molly Binenfeld, Contributing Writer

College Students Spend Summer Learning in Israel

This summer, 27 Jewish college students from 15 campuses around the country are spending a month in Israel as the first Global Service Learning Fellows. Their all-expense-paid trip is sponsored by the Orthodox Union’s Heshe and Harriet Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (JLIC). In addition to studying, the students will perform various community service activities, attend Shabbatons and tour Israel.

“One of the great strengths of the Fellowship is the dual model of learning and internships, which sets an important standard in how the students participating should live their lives,” said Rabbi Ilan Haber, the National Director of JLIC. The women will reside at Midreshet Harova, while the men will be based at Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh, both in Jerusalem. Los Angeles-based David Cohen (UCLA) and YULA graduate, Aden Ratner-Stauber (NYU), are members of the group.

— Jina Davidovich, Contributing Writer

Gan Israeli Campers Gather at Running Springs

On July 17, more than 500 Gan Israel campers from across California joined together at Camp Gan Israel of Running Springs. Ranging in age from 8 to 13, the campers celebrated the commencement of a new Torah, donated by AskMoses, and a performance by the 8th Day Band. Camp Gan Israel (CGI), multidenominational Jewish camps run by Chabad, are among the fastest growing and largest networks of day camps.

“There was an incredible display of unity,” said Fruma Wilschanski, assistant direction of CGI Running Springs. “To see all the girls singing and dancing together made it all worth it.”

— JD