In a Class of Its Own

Community Briefs
September 17, 1998

About 100 San Fernando Valley residents gathered at a community forum Sept. 2 to discuss a spate of recent and troubling anti-Semitic incidents.

The meeting, held at Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills, demonstrated the kind of rapid response team that a scattered history of hate crimes has engendered in Southern California. Law enforcement authorities and the Anti-Defamation League, which sponsored the event, reacted immediately to the crimes. An LAPD representative told the audience that police “have a suspect in mind,” but declined to reveal the name.

Deputy Chief Michael Bostic of the LAPD’s Valley Bureau added that residents who encounter hate crimes should report them immediately to authorities. The bureau can be reached at (818) 756-8303.

The incidents which sparked the meeting took place in Agoura, Santa Clarita and Glendale. On July 31, Temple Solael in West Hills and Temple Ahavat Shalom in Northridge were spray painted with anti-Semitic graffiti that included the World Wide Web address of a white supremacist group. Brochures from the group — including some that threatened director Steven Spielberg — were found inside food boxes at area grocery stores and in residential mail boxes.

These may amount to no more than petty crimes by a group that makes the lunatic fringe seem respectable. But, warned ADL lay leader Bruce J. Einhorn, such crimes could easily escalate into more serious ones.

In response, ADL attorney Tamar Galatzan said her organization alerted grocery store managers and contacted the police.

The forum was just one of a series of ADL-sponsored events dealing with hate speech, anti-Semitism and tolerance. On Sept. 4, the organization ran full-page ads in four New York newspapers denouncing the Million Youth March led by the bigot Khalid Abdul Muhammed. “This weekend,” the ads read, “a hatemonger will lead a march in Harlem.”

On Sept. 15, the ADL will conduct its “World of Difference” training courses on diversity and discrimination for teachers in the Oxnard School District. The two workshops were underwritten with a $5,000 grant from the investment banking firm Smith Barney.

California State Assembly Speaker Antonio R. Villaraigosa selected the “World of Difference” courses for a Sept. 15 training session for the Assembly staff. — Staff Report

Go on an Archaeological Dig at the Skirball

The first question is inevitable: “Do we get to keep the dinosaur bones we dig up?” But Lynn Swartz doesn’t lose her cool. Swartz, assistant curator of archaeology at the Skirball Cultural Center, calmly explains to the small girl that she will be helping uncover the remains of a town from the time of King David. Though the town existed some 3,000 years ago — “before cars, microwaves, computers and baseball caps” — there were apparently no dinosaurs hanging around the Middle East back then.

Each month, the Skirball offers family groups the chance to become archaeologists for the day. Under staff supervision, children and parents dig in the Skirball’s outdoor sandpits, uncovering artifacts and putting together clues about what happened to Kiryat Ha Malachim (“The City of the Angels”) and its inhabitants. Swartz reveals that there’s a mystery to be solved here: why did the people abandon this site? The participants offer some quick hunches: Famine? Drought? War? Tornado? Earthquake? A giant meteor? Of this last, Swartz quips, “Someone’s been to the movies lately.”

By the end of an hour of digging, the new archaeologists have found their share of oil lamps, cooking vessels, spear points and the occasional paper clip. They’ve unearthed part of a road, the walls of a town and maybe a temple altar. With coaching from Swartz, they’ve arrived at an educated guess about what calamity might have befallen this civilization. They have also acquired new insight into the daily lives of an ancient people, as well as a sense of how archaeologists go about their work.

The Archaeology Dig Workshop, the Skirball’s most popular family attraction, is held monthly, with the next sessions being scheduled for September 12 and October 17. Children (ideally 8 years old and up) are charged $5 each to participate; all youngsters must be accompanied by a parent. Because space is limited, advance reservations should be made by calling 310-440-4636. Be sure to bring along sunscreen, a water bottle and a spirit of adventure: it’s hot, thirsty work out there in the Skirball desert. — Beverly Gray, Education Editor

Staying Put

Westside JCC to get $1 million grant to renovate, expand

By Ruth Stroud, Staff Writer

Just six months ago, the Westside Jewish Community Center appeared to be on the brink of selling its landmark 44-year-old building in the Fairfax area and moving elsewhere. Last week, executives of the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles (JCC/LA), the Westside JCC’s parent organization, signed an agreement to receive a $1 million grant from the Baltimore-based Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. The money is being donated with the understanding that another $2 million will be raised by the end of 1999 to finance the necessary renovation and expansion of the Westside JCC. About $1.5 million has already been pledged toward the projected $4.5 million overall cost attached to the project.

“It’s just absolutely terrific,” said Westside JCC Board President Dr. Beverly Siegal. “We expected to raise the money, but this just makes a nice way of kicking off the campaign.”

“We want Westside to be as it once was — the flagship of Jewish Community Centers in Los Angeles,” added JCC/LA Board President David Aaronson. “These funds will help bring it back to its glory days.”

The renovation and expansion is expected to begin this fall and take place over the next 24 to 36 months. The center, its preschool and all other activities will continue with minimal disruption throughout, said Hillary Selvin, senior assistant executive director of JCC/LA and WJCC director.

Plans include a new after-school program at the center’s preschool (kicking off immediately); a teen center; an academy dedicated to communications, performing arts and fine arts; an expanded senior adult center; and a general overhaul of the aging facility, which opened in 1954 and doesn’t even have an elevator.

Despite demographic trends that show some shifting of the Jewish community toward the west, the area surrounding the Westside JCC, which is located just east of Fairfax Avenue on Olympic Boulevard, is still home to the largest — and probably most diverse — concentration of Jews in the greater Los Angeles, noted JCC/LA Executive Director Jeffrey Rouss.

Shalhevet High School, housed at the JCC since its founding six years ago, made an offer to buy the JCC, but will now end up departing the site. Rouss said he hopes to give the school “the best last year” at the facility that he can, but expects them to leave July 1, 1999, although they may still decide to lease some of the JCC’s recreational facilities.

The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation is a $1 billion philanthropic organization that helped finance the JCC/LA’s new Emma Stern Senior Adult Center at Camp JCA Sholom in Malibu. Nancy Bell and Helene Seifer, both past presidents of the WJCC board, will co-chair the capital campaign. For more information, call (323) 938-2531, ext. 2208.

President of the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles (JCC/LA) David Aaronson (seated); with Westside Jewish Community Center President Beverly Siegal and Jeff Rouss, executive vice president of JCC/LA.

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