Jewish Journal

Rachel Heller

  • Keeping the Los Angeles coast clear

    September 18, 2013 | 12:37 pm

    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...

  • Weeklong event explores Judaism and wellness

    April 18, 2013 | 1:56 pm

    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...

  • Running for life: 52 marathons in 52 weeks

    February 27, 2013 | 8:56 am

    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. 


  • Al Ashley: Strengthening day schools

    January 3, 2013 | 11:00 am

    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.

    “I thought, hopefully, it would be a benefit to our children,...

  • Joe Sherwood: Honoring good police work

    November 20, 2012 | 5:06 pm

    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. 

    “Anytime there was a bad cop, it would be front-page news,” recalled Sherwood, 95. “They never talked about all the good police work...

  • Holy harvest

    October 11, 2012 | 10:27 am

    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). 

    When he’s finished, he leans his pitchfork against a shed. But...

  • The big reveal: How design makes rehab more serene

    July 5, 2012 | 11:16 am

    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. For years, 9500 marked a dark and dreary start toward recovery...

  • Giving as a fountain of youth

    May 23, 2012 | 10:27 am

    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.”

    Azus has donated time, energy and millions of dollars from his...

  • Raising the bar brings zest, creativity to rite of passage

    April 25, 2012 | 11:05 am

    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.

    Wearing a...

  • Shorter summer challenges camps

    January 26, 2012 | 1:41 pm

    “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.

    Caught in the middle are local summer...

  • At 95, Kip’s Toyland owner ready for more fun and games

    December 22, 2011 | 11:25 am

    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. A birthday surprise was in store...

  • The big tent:  Jews, Muslims, Christians celebrate spirituality in a shared sacred space

    December 21, 2011 | 11:22 am

    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. As a friendly gesture, the group invited its new neighbors for...

  • JCA Shalom Color Wars for adults who are kids at heart

    October 19, 2011 | 4:40 pm

    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.

    But why should they have all the fun?

    Grown children who...

  • Tal Sheyn

    September 16, 2011 | 5:24 pm

    Tal Sheyn likes to say she built her fashion career “from Z to A.”

    “I didn’t start out with a business plan or any kind of marketing strategy,” Sheyn said. “Instead, I got all these clients, and I had to very quickly figure the rest out.”

    Clearly, she succeeded —...

  • Wrap mind, and body, around Holy Days prep

    September 14, 2011 | 11:46 am

    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.

    But how about some Jewish yoga to get the ball rolling? Why not try some visualization exercises or Jewish meditation?

    About 30...

  • The shul that fits

    August 19, 2011 | 3:30 pm

    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.

    Several months ago, I finally put my...

  • Religious schools add family programs, new apps

    August 17, 2011 | 12:04 pm

    Hebrew schools across Los Angeles are starting to look less and less like, well, Hebrew school.

    A growing number of programs now invite parents to learn alongside their children. Computer software is becoming just as crucial in class as teacher instruction. And often, lessons...

  • Kosher, allergy-free bakery brings sweet indulgence downtown

    August 9, 2011 | 4:06 pm

    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.

    At Babycakes NYC, this scene might have played out differently. The vegan, kosher...

  • Paint by soul

    July 21, 2011 | 6:38 pm

    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.

    “I don’t try to put a message in my paintings. Each piece evolves as I paint it — it just flows,” Tamir...

  • Leo Baeck’s community of elders bridges the generation gap

    May 24, 2011 | 5:30 pm

    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...

  • Valley and Proud: Valley Savvy

    May 20, 2011 | 12:58 pm

    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.

    Young, a spirited connoisseur of all things...

  • Educator realizing lifelong dream to become rabbi

    May 10, 2011 | 6:13 pm

    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...

  • VBS’ beloved adult Hebrew tutor has a way with words

    April 20, 2011 | 4:51 pm

    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.

    Yet despite all of...

  • Police bike tour seeks funds for Israeli cyclists

    April 12, 2011 | 5:55 pm

    “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...

  • LAUSD schools accountable to new law

    April 5, 2011 | 6:50 pm

    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...

  • Grant contest will award Jewish day schools new classroom technology

    March 23, 2011 | 12:16 pm

    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.

    The Technology for Schools Grant Contest, open to day schools across the country, is a new...

  • Single mom by choice

    March 16, 2011 | 1:29 pm

    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...

  • 1,500 raise voices in song to remember Debbie Friedman

    February 15, 2011 | 6:16 pm

    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...

  • Pearl’s passions: magnet honors slain journalist

    February 15, 2011 | 11:00 am

    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...

  • Debbie Friedman honored by peers

    February 8, 2011 | 6:05 pm

    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.

    Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) will...

  • New Jew to relocate to larger, permanent West Hills campus

    January 27, 2011 | 2:09 pm

    “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.


  • LAUSD’s new calendar impacts camps, families

    January 25, 2011 | 6:27 pm

    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...

  • Pingpong therapy brings net gains to Alzheimer’s patients

    January 25, 2011 | 6:20 pm

    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...

  • NCJHS to move to larger, permanent West Hills campus

    January 5, 2011 | 10:21 am

    “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....

  • ‘Glee’-ful Magevet bringing sound of (Jewish) music to L.A.

    December 22, 2010 | 4:11 pm

    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...

  • Children’s library in jeopardy

    December 15, 2010 | 10:21 am

    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.

    Kids settled onto the carpet or...

  • Diverse Daniel Pearl magnet nurtures leaders

    November 3, 2010 | 10:45 am

    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...

  • Sisterhood strikes gold with adult ed

    October 27, 2010 | 10:24 am

    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.

    Some 35 “students” — most silver-haired, some with canes or walkers — offer their thoughts on the rhythm of the psalm,...

  • Students and learning suffer in ‘Race’

    October 6, 2010 | 9:39 am

    When Jasmine Jafari sat down to write her college application essays this fall, she was gripped by a troubling fear.

    “What am I supposed to write? ‘Hi, I’mNo. X on your list, and there are 50,000 other applicants just like me — but here’s this quirky, charismatic story...

  • Mishkon Tephilo’s members look to shul’s future

    September 8, 2010 | 9:42 am

    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.

    Wine and her Hebrew school friends would take drama classes and plan their Rosh Hashanah outfits together. The local...

  • Pray with your feet, end genocide

    March 23, 2010 | 5:56 pm

    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.

    “The whole...

  • The joy of teaching

    March 23, 2010 | 2:54 pm

    After teaching for 50 years, Adina Bender is looking forward to retiring this June — sort of.

    The petite, auburn-haired woman crinkles her nose when she contemplates leaving Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) Day School, her home away from home for half a century.

    “I asked another...

  • Teens build bridges, from So Cal to Uganda

    February 24, 2010 | 2:58 pm

    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.

    But there...

  • The house that David built

    January 29, 2010 | 5:01 pm

    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. 

    The diagnosis of terminal cancer threw Cygielman’s world into disarray. With no money for the...

  • Lindsy Seidel: A Hunger to Supply Relief

    January 6, 2010 | 1:55 am

    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.

    “What we saw was...

  • Merrill Alpert: Inspiring Youth

    January 6, 2010 | 1:45 am

    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.

    “It gives me such pride to hear their ruach [spirit] and see them wanting to take part in prayer,” Alpert said recently....

  • A Brief History of Jews in Public Schools

    November 30, 2009 | 2:01 pm

    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.

    Jews in L.A. have had a long and textured...

  • Healing the World, One School at a Time

    November 25, 2009 | 12:25 pm

    When Robyn Ritter Simon first checked out Canfield Avenue Elementary School for her sons in 1995, she didn’t like what she saw.

    Test scores weren’t stellar. The school grounds needed improvement. And in the heavily Jewish Pico-Robertson area of West Los Angeles, where the...

  • Jewish Home-Schooling Advocates Band Together

    September 23, 2009 | 8:27 pm

    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...