When it came time to choose a charity project for his September 2014 bar mitzvah, Ben Moody knew he wanted to support a cause close to his heart. “We’re always on our boat and at the beach, and we love the water,” Moody, 12, said of his Westlake Village family. He counts surfing and bodyboarding as some of his favorite activities. “I love the beach and everything about it,” he said.
When Rabbi Laura Geller learned that her father had Alzheimer’s disease, she struggled with the news. He was only in his 70s, after all, and it was painful for her to watch the man who had raised her — who she said had been “important and powerful and wonderful” in her life — lose his ability to perform daily tasks.
Of all Julie Weiss’ memories of her father, his larger-than-life personality stands out most: Maurice Weiss was a drummer — a regular on the radio by age 5 — a bandleader, a stock broker, and a tennis and racquetball player who took up acting at the ripe age of 70.
When Al Ashley first began peeking inside Los Angeles’ Jewish day schools to review their business practices, it was partly for personal reasons: He wanted to make sure his three children would get a sound education.
It started with the morning paper. Every day, when Joe Sherwood read the news, he was struck by an imbalance he saw in law-enforcement reporting.
It’s a Tuesday evening, and Rabbi Craig Wyckoff is turning the compost in a wire bin next to rows of kale, tomato and cucumber plants on the grounds of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Studio City (UUCSC).
Room 9500 is the bottom rung at Beit T’Shuvah, the first stop for male addicts newly arrived from prison, the hospital or the streets. Six rookies at a time inhabit this snug dormitory as they adjust to life in rehab.
Al Azus has found his fountain of youth, and he’s not keeping it a secret. In fact, the 92-year-old philanthropist recently published a memoir whose title all but gives his formula away: “Live Longer by Giving.”
At his recent bar mitzvah, Noah Genco-Kamin managed to tell one of the most well-known stories in the Jewish canon — that of the Israelites wandering in the desert after the Exodus — in a way that no one present had heard it told before: from the perspective of a cow.
“Early-start” is finally starting. After delaying implementation of a new, earlier school calendar last year, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) will begin classes three weeks sooner this fall for the majority of students.
On a chilly Monday morning in late November, the sunlit patio outside Kip’s Toyland in the original Farmers Market was awash in anticipation. Reporters and city officials milled about, and passers-by with cameras hovered among the tables and chairs.
Whirling Dervishes, an elaborate feast and a lecture by a prominent Muslim scholar – Musallah Tauhid’s joyous celebration of its move to a new home in 2008 heralded good times ahead for the Sufi Muslim worship group.
Each summer, thousands of gleeful children at Jewish summer camps everywhere split into color-coded teams and compete against their peers in water balloon tosses, three-legged races, baton runs and the inevitable sing-off.
Tal Sheyn likes to say she built her fashion career “from Z to A.”
Traditionally, the weeks leading up to the High Holy Days are a time of account settling for Jews, marked by personal reflection, repentance and prayer.
It happens most Friday nights. I close my laptop, pack stray work-related thoughts into my mental filing cabinet and begin to decompress for the weekend, when an insistent pang starts tugging at my brain. Something, I’ve long felt, is missing.
Hebrew schools across Los Angeles are starting to look less and less like, well, Hebrew school.
The time: evening, after a delicious fleishig dinner. The place: outside the local cupcake shop. The contenders: one kosher nosher versus a towering heap of buttercream frosting. Sweet tooth, thwarted.
The walls of Ora Tamir’s home are covered with color-soaked landscapes, masked faces and dystopian, dreamlike structures. Just don’t ask her what any of it means.
About 40 seniors gathered in a sunny community room at Leo Baeck Temple on a Wednesday morning as Fredda Wasserman, adult program director of Our House: Grief Support Center, discussed the nuances of mourning the loss of a loved one. Many clutched tissues and dabbed at their eyes throughout the presentation.
If it’s happening in the San Fernando Valley, chances are Karen Young knows about it. Not only that — she’s probably already been there, chatted with the bigwigs and written up a whip-smart recap for her thousands of online readers.
Dvora Weisberg doesn’t think she’s had any unfair advantages over her fellow rabbinical students graduating from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) this month. Well, maybe a few. “I do have a considerable number of years over most of the other students,” Weisberg, 51, admitted recently. That, and she’s also the director of HUC-JIR’s School of Rabbinical Studies.
Yossi Dresner has coached teens for their b’nai mitzvah at Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) for 40 years. He has run the adult b’nai mitzvah program for 26. As ritual director, he also conducts VBS’ morning and evening minyans and coordinates holiday services.
“We ride for those who died” — that’s the motto of the national Police Unity Tour (PUT), a grueling, three-day bicycle ride in which teams of police officers from across the United States pedal to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. The annual spring event is held to honor the memory of officers killed each year in the line of duty.
Los Angeles public schools could be poised for revolution due to a controversial state law gaining momentum locally. The landmark “Parent Trigger” law, passed by the California government in January 2010, grants parents at failing schools the power to force their district to make sweeping changes in a bid to improve school performance. Petitions are now under way at several Southland schools, but the law remains little known among many Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) families who could benefit from it most, according to Los Angeles education reform advocate Larry Sand.
Jewish day schools in the Los Angeles area have until April 1 to take part in a unique contest that will award grants of up to $25,000 for cutting-edge classroom technology and programs.
Thirty-two: That was the deadline, and Danit was sticking to it. That was the age, she’d decided, when she would finally heed her maternal impulse – husband or not. Danit (not her real name) had always known motherhood was her calling. For years, she worked at her mother’s day care center in Israel, relishing the chance to surround herself with children. But after a long-term relationship ended in a failed marriage, she found herself in her early 30s, alone and facing some grim truths. Her dream of a fairy tale family was slipping further and further out of reach.
As the piano struck the first notes of Debbie Friedman’s “Elohai N’Shama,” Cantor Linda Kates paused before the approximately 1,500 people gathered in the sanctuary at Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) and recalled a story about how the late singer-songwriter energized a crowd of Jewish students while teaching them the song.
Ask anyone who knew him: Daniel Pearl loved music. He joined bands in Atlanta, Paris and Mumbai, relishing the way a good melody can draw people together. So imagine how the slain Wall Street Journal reporter, killed by terrorists in Pakistan in 2002, might have felt watching the second-period choir class at Daniel Pearl Magnet High School as its members stand, roll their shoulders back and belt out a lilting rendition of “Seasons of Love” from the musical “Rent.”
The music of Debbie Friedman energized generations of Jews across denomination lines. This weekend, a memorial concert to be held in the late singer-songwriter’s honor will attempt to do the same through a celebration of Friedman’s popular tunes.
“We now have a ‘makom’ — a sacred space in which to house our values,” said Bruce Powell, head of school at New Community Jewish High School, shortly after the deal was announced that New Jew may have finally found a permanent home — at the site of its first home.
This summer was going to be the one — the one when Prissi Cohen’s daughter, Tillie, would finally get to enroll with a friend in a late-summer overnight session at Camp Ramah. But now Cohen’s not so sure. If Tillie, 10, winds up going to a Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) middle school in the fall, she would have to be at her desk two days before camp ends.
Usually, Fryda Dvorak needs a cane to move around. But put her behind a pingpong table and you wouldn’t know it. Dvorak, 86 and living with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, returns volley after volley with her confident lob, sometimes gritting her teeth in concentration as she reaches to hit the ball. She’s so focused on the game that she refuses to put the paddle down for a breather when her instructor, Irina, suggests they take a break.
“We now have a ‘makom’ — a sacred space in which to house our values,” said Bruce Powell, head of school at New Community Jewish High School (NCJHS), shortly after the deal was announced that NCJHS may have finally found a permanent home — at the site of its first home.
They might not have Kurt Hummel or Rachel Berry among their members, but Magevet, Yale University’s Jewish a cappella group, exudes plenty of “glee.” Round them up at a Jewish historical site and they’re liable to belt out a spirited tune. They’ve serenaded passersby on the streets of New York, the beaches of Florida and in the Jewish Quarter in Prague. In fact, there are few places where the New Haven, Conn., group isn’t prone to spontaneous fits of crooning. “We all love to sing, especially with each other, so we burst into song rather often,” Daniel Olson, the club’s student manager, explained.
Dozens of children (and their parents) flocked to The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles building on a recent Sunday, drawn to a cheerful corner of the first floor where two performers led a tambourine-studded sing-along about barnyard animals.
Ask anyone who knew him: Daniel Pearl loved music. He joined bands in Atlanta, Paris and Mumbai, relishing the way a good melody can draw people together.
In a brightly lit classroom on a Wednesday morning, Rabbi Deborah Silver leads a standing-room-only crowd of pupils in an absorbing dissection of Psalm 27.
When Jasmine Jafari sat down to write her college application essays this fall, she was gripped by a troubling fear.
In the early 1960s, when Jewish delis, kosher butchers and bakeries lined the Venice boardwalk, Temple Mishkon Tephilo was Aliza Wine’s neighborhood social hub.
As a high school freshman, Katie Hoselton decided to join an extracurricular club called “End Worldwide Genocide.” She didn’t know much about the issue at first but read up on conflicts in Eastern Europe and Africa and became a passionate activist for the cause.
After teaching for 50 years, Adina Bender is looking forward to retiring this June — sort of.
Tefillah, sports, study sessions and even a dance — the four-day youth convention on Nabugoye Hill in late January was almost like a typical United Synagogue Youth (USY) convention, according to the three Southland USYers who traveled to Uganda to help run the event.
David Cygielman was a sophomore at UC Santa Barbara, a business major and the energetic president of the school’s Hillel, when he found out his father didn’t have long to live.
From the cheerful campus of Milken Community High School, Los Angeles’ Skid Row can seem worlds away. But the realities of homelessness and squalor plaguing L.A. city streets were brought home for student Lindsy Seidel last year on a “life-changing” visit.
Sometimes, in the midst of Shabbat morning davening with her USYers, Merrill Alpert will fall silent for a few moments and listen to the teenagers’ voices.
With the many LAUSD schools having spotty reputations, and given the array of private schools to choose from, Jewish support for Los Angeles public schools in recent years has been at best tepid. But that wasn’t always the case.
When Robyn Ritter Simon first checked out Canfield Avenue Elementary School for her sons in 1995, she didn’t like what she saw.
On a typical Monday, school starts with an hour of davening for Shari Rosenman’s two children. They next spend two hours with a music teacher and work with online grammar and math curricula before unwinding with lunch and recess at a local park. Swim team practice and an art history DVD round out the evening, with Rosenman and her husband joining their kids on the couch to share in the learning.
Some recovering addicts call it their “moment of clarity.” Others call it their “bottom.”
In an airy Encino dining room, Cantor Judy Greenfeld instructs 12 women gathered around a lace-covered table on how to relax. Eyes closed, she tells the women to lean back in their chairs, abandon stressful thoughts and picture themselves on a pristine white beach.
When asked if we’re monotheists, most Jews will hardly flinch before answering, “Yes.”
As Charles Goldsmith became more active in his synagogue, he yearned to know more about the meaning of services and the sacred texts. So the retired physician, 66, decided to enroll in a Classical Hebrew course at the Whizin Center’s Hebrew ulpan.
Celebrated Jewish thinker Mordecai Kaplan, whose philosophy helped shape American Jewish University (AJU), once wrote that one of the most powerful ways to bond a community is through the performing arts.
It’s T-minus five months to one of the most high-profile headlines in the history of American Jewish University’s (AJU) annual lecture series: On Feb. 22, former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are slated to share a stage at Universal’s Gibson Amphitheatre, with AJU President Robert Wexler probing their perspectives on world affairs.
Of all the prophets, Jeremiah has always been the personal favorite of Rabbi Zoë Klein. So in a series of two fictional works, the prolific pulpit rabbi and fiction writer did him a favor: She gave him a lover.
When the Silverlake Independent JCC (SIJCC) opens its new Jewish Learning Center on Sept. 22, it hopes to enroll a new kind of student along with the target crowd of grade-school children: their parents.
Barbara Schloss had gone to Orthodox day schools her whole life. When it came time for high school, she figured, why change?
In the flicker of a yahrtzeit candle, congregants and community guests rose and draped their arms around each others’ shoulders. As Cantor David Berger strummed the first chords of “Oseh Shalom,” men and women began to swa
After a while, Rachel (who didn’t want her last name printed) stopped calling the police. They never believed her when she told them her husband was physically abusing her — no one could see the bruises because he would hit her around her head. Afraid for her two young sons, she went to court in November 2005 and filed for divorce.
After getting wait-listed at her top three colleges, Liora Simozar seemed poised to go to UCLA. She had already sent in her acceptance when, out of the blue, she heard back from Harvard.
As the march toward health care reform takes place nationally, the debate over what form it should take is heating up on the local level, as well. Many California doctors believe the best plan to cover the uninsured is laid out in a bill slowly gathering momentum in the California State Senate: a government-financed health system backers call “Medicare for all.”
Five years as a yoga instructor gave Priel Schmalbach an intuitive sense of others’ well-being and a desire to heal the medical ailments that lay beyond yoga’s reach. So the Miami native enrolled in UC Irvine’s School of Medicine as an MD/PhD student, pursuing a career as a family practitioner.
Each summer, Erica Groten saves money on summer camp for her son, Ethan, by enrolling him in an exclusive program with only one opening: Camp Mom.
Groten takes Ethan, 6, to places like the Natural History Museum and the Los Angeles Zoo, and organizes beach days with other families and their children. She plans to reprise her role as camp director this summer, creating educational trips for her son.
North Hollywood widow Rita Pauker plans to appeal a recent L.A. Superior Court decision that would bar her from reclaiming a set of Torah scrolls her late husband, Rabbi Norman Pauker, left in the care of his former colleague, Rabbi Samuel Ohana, when Pauker retired in the mid-1990s.
Along with homework time, crafts and supervised games, grade school students in several Los Angeles Unified School District elementary schools this spring are getting something different at their after-school programs: spiritual awareness.
A belt. Sheet music. A miniature 18th century Megillah scroll, its parchment worn and browned. People hung onto whatever they could through the Holocaust, hiding items in walls, in attics or burying them in the ground. Many gave valuable heirlooms to non-Jewish neighbors for safekeeping, hoping to reclaim them one day should the nightmare ever end.
When Nazi officials confiscated the faded white Torah covering, they stamped the Reichsadler — the emblematic German eagle and swastika — onto the inner fabric. The valuable 1868 piece, stitched in Transylvania, was intended for display in the Central Jewish Museum in Prague, what Nazis conceived as the “Museum and Historic Archive of the Extinct Jewish Race.”
Working in a factory at the Reichenbach labor camp, Eva Klein David manned a soldering iron, fusing wires together to make parts for radios. The dexterous teenager was good at what she did. That, she believes, is why the Nazi soldiers didn’t kill her when she began fainting at work due to hunger and stress.
As a fifth-grade student, the Rev. John Neiman couldn’t fully grasp the significance of Anne Frank and her diary. It took a second reading and repeated trips to the library a few years later for him to form a bond with the text that would change the course of his life
Rachel Arazi gathers the blouse in her hands and brings it to her face. “I wonder if it’s still possible to smell my grandmother’s scent,” she muses.
The Chosal Farm seemed like a safe place to Boris Zeltzman — it was located in Vichy, France, and owned by a Christian family. In 1941, he took two ammunition boxes, and, in secret, buried more than 3,000 manuscripts penned by Russian cantor and composer David Nowakowsky.
The walls of Dr. Bernard Lewinsky’s office resemble the pages of a National Geographic calendar: sweeping lake vistas and verdant forests brush up against sculptured rock formations and sun-mottled Yosemite hills. Looking at his photographs, patients remember vacations, times when they felt relaxed and at peace. It takes their minds off their cancer.
Innovative Hebrew School Evokes Student Enthusiasm
Budget Shortfall Threatens Academic Decathlon
Growing up in Danbury, Conn., Prissi Cohen didn’t give much thought to Judaism until she started going to summer camp at age 9. Then, the eight weeks she’d spend immersed in friends, sports and Hebrew songs became a thrill she looked forward to year after year.
Entertainment Fund Shuttering Hospital, Care Facilities
On a chilly night in early December, crowds of parents filed into the auditorium at Kadima Hebrew Academy/Kadima Heschel West Middle School, chatting and clutching cups of coffee. The atmosphere was almost festive as finance committee chair Brett Grauman stood at the podium, framed by blue tinsel Stars of David.
Most of the kids in Jacob Schiff’s classes at Santa Monica College don’t realize he’s the youngest one there. Last semester, for instance, several students in a math class got a shock when they asked him whom he planned to vote for in the presidential election.
When the Geffen Playhouse commissioned a new piece from Donald Margulies five years ago, the award-winning playwright bided his time.
Talking investment strategy might not top everyone's agenda for a bright Sunday morning, but about 75 local residents gathered at Young Israel of Century City on Dec. 21 to do just that.
The Community Tuition Partnership, which will take effect in the 2009-2010 academic year, will lower costs for the entire K-8 student body
After school, Joey Freeman doesn't have much free time. He's got homework to contend with from his classes at Milken Community High School. He's slogging through a heap of college applications. And, oh, yeah -- he's also helping to run an entertainment industry executive's campaign for Los Angeles City Council.
The collection of images Grover brought back offers a tentative answer: Her portraits depict a people traumatized by war, yet able -- through the aid of relief agencies and the sustaining human spirit -- to maintain a measure of hope.
If there's one thing Gabe Goldman wishes more Angelenos would do next spring, it's get their hands dirty.
Jewish voices had joined both sides of the bitter and costly Proposition 8 debate leading up to Election Day. Reform and Conservative leaders largely condemned the stripping of civil rights from a fellow minority population, while Orthodox officials praised constitutional protection for the biblical definition of marriage.
It's never too early to start educating kids about the environment, says Alison Hestrin Lerner -- so the Harvard-Westlake high school senior in September published a children's book, "The Green Street Kids: The Earth Warriors," targeting future "green" advocates aged four and up.
A growing number of families are turning to private consultants to allay the competition that marks modern college admissions, local consultants and school officials say.
As an "accidental Mexican" born to an Eastern European family, author and essayist Ilan Stavans has hurdled critics to become one of the nation's foremost commentators on Latino culture. As a Mexican American, he has written widely on immigration, the clash and fusion of languages and the quest for acceptance.
On paper, the Rosh Hashanah ritual of Tashlich is about doffing one's sins to start the new year with a clean slate. For Jason Mauro, 16, it's also about beach football
For almost 12 years, Lucy traveled each day to University Synagogue in Brentwood with her owner, Rabbi Allen I. Freehling, then the synagogue's senior rabbi. The golden retriever mix soon became one of the most popular members of the Reform congregation.
Having cancer has emboldened Kaufman in other ways, too -- after her first surgery in 1999, she traveled to Israel for the first time.
"Hy looked at me and said, 'He's not Jewish,'" recalled his wife, Zucky Altman, 89. "I said, 'So what? He's hungry.' From that moment on, we decided we would just feed everybody."
"We want to nurture a diverse body of students who are passionate about learning, engaged in their community and have respect for themselves and others."
It was a sight Mar Vista doesn't see every day -- a guitar-studded procession of more than 100 Jewish revelers marching jubilantly down South Barrington Avenue with five Torah scrolls.
The mural was meant to be a collaboration: A public arts agency led the bid for its creation, the surrounding community approved its design and Chicago artist John Pitman Weber stayed in the homes of local residents while he and a team of volunteers painted it during the summer of 1993.
A spiritually-attuned mother of two with a background in software sales, Rabishaw might not seem like your typical Hadassah member. Then again, many young members say, this isn't your grandmother's Hadassah.
Some relationships progress naturally and quickly. Others reach a certain point and plateau. Still others are forcibly stunted by the desire -- however long it lasts -- to keep things casual.
While most people celebrate their only bar or bat mitzvah at age 13, a passage in the Book of Psalms has in recent times led to the notion that one's first need not be the last. According to King David, the average person's lifespan is 70 years, and those who live past that age are thought to start life anew. Thirteen years later, tradition says, the time is ripe for another bar mitzvah.
The notes are short, direct and never signed. They come from all over Los Angeles, from the South Los Angeles tenements to the San Fernando Valley suburbs. Their authors differ in age, ethnicity and religion, but have at least one thing in common: They all live with HIV/AIDS.
Their gratitude is directed at Project Chicken Soup, an L.A.-based nonprofit whose volunteers gather twice a month to cook nutritious, kosher meals and deliver them, free of charge, to the doors of clients across the city.
Ann Spicer's experience is not unique among the more than 100,000 Holocaust survivors who immigrated to the United States after the war. But she has chosen to share her memories this year in a unique way -- by contributing this photograph to a "Shoah Quilt" project put together by Mount Sinai Memorial Parks in honor of Yom HaShoah
When the boys decided to raise funds for developmentally disabled children in Israel, they made an effort to involve their families, their community and even their four-legged friends.
Stop me if you've heard this one before.
Student gets into good university. Student obtains esteemed degree. Graduate flounders in unsteady job market; must confront the dreaded possibility of moving back in with her parents, Ima and Abba, whom I dearly love -- and come college, was all too ready to leave.
It's been three months since we called it a wrap. We'd become different people than we were and outgrew the priorities we used to share. To say I'll miss his sarcastic jabs, one-ups or whoops of victory when he opens a single paycheck worth half my yearly salary -- that would be a stretch. But the competition did push us to improve our craft, to excel, to outdo ourselves, along with each other.