Jewish Journal

Briefs: Big results and rewards at Big Sunday, Former Weiss deputy enters Fifth District race

May 8, 2008 | 6:00 pm

Fixing up a park at Sendak Elementary school on Big Sunday. Photo by Dan Chavkin

Big Sunday Is L.A.'s Makeover Weekend

Big Sunday, which has morphed from an annual Sunday event into a full weekend of volunteer opportunities, once again thrived on May 3 and 4. Organizers say that this year the number of volunteers again reached about 50,000, working at about 325 projects from Santa Barbara to Orange County to the Inland Empire and throughout Los Angeles. The efforts ranged from tours for homeless teens at a Hollywood prop-rental facility to rehabilitating inner-city gardens, to primping rescue dogs, to dancing with seniors in homes for the aged, as the signature Big Sunday T-shirts became the ubiquitous fashion statement of the day.

Big Sunday founder, David Levinson, as always, shared the credit with every participant, even as he was dubbed "volunteerism's reluctant rock star" on the national "NBC Nightly News."

-- Staff Report

Former Weiss Deputy Enters 5th District Race

When Adeena Bleich was in grade school, her mother sat her down and told her, "You are a Jewish factor, and everything you do matters. Everything you do will reflect the Jewish world and the greater world as well."

These early memories inspired Bleich, 30, to run in March 2009 for the 5th District City Council seat currently occupied by Jack Weiss, who plans to run for city attorney.

But Bleich wasn't always political. She wanted to help people directly, volunteering at old-age homes, in soup kitchens, trying to make a difference. "I never thought I would want to run for office. I voted and cared about the world but I was more of an activist," she said.

But when the 2000 presidential election debacle in Florida caused the final results of the election to be decided by the Supreme Court, she changed her thinking -- she had always thought that every vote counted, she said, and Bush vs. Gore really upset her. But then she realized she didn't know how politics and the government actually worked -- so she decided to become more involved. She left her job at the University of Judaism (now American Jewish University) and spent the next four years working for Jack Weiss, first as a field deputy -- mainly as the Jewish community liaison. Next she served as Bob Hertzberg's director of communications when he ran for mayor, and for the last three years she has been the Los Angeles director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

With the ongoing debate over traffic flow on Pico and Olympic boulevards, she says the time has come for her to run for the 5th district City Council seat, against four other candidates also in the race -- former Assemblyman Paul Koretz, attorney Ron Galperin, activist Robyn Ritter Simon and businessman David T. Vahedi. Although Bleich does not have a position on the plan, she calls the way it was handled "divisive."

Having lived in Sherman Oaks, Bel Air and Pico Robertson -- all neighborhoods in the district -- Bleich said, "This is my home, and the decisions being made today will affect us in 20 years. I want to have a direct positive effect for my children and all the neighborhood children."

-- Amy Klein

Angelenos Remember Holocaust, Honor Survivors

As the Holocaust's survivors age, an urgency to remember the 6 million Jews who perished underscored the citywide Holocaust Remembrance Day at Pan Pacific Park on May 4. Marking 70 years since Kristallnacht, an impressive list of city and state officials and religious leaders joined nearly 3,000 community members, including hundreds of survivors, in the public commemoration.

Surrounded by hundreds of police officers, firefighters and security details, the crowd packed into a blue-and-white striped tent circled by Israeli flags, where prominent voices vowed to remember the millions murdered but also emphasized using the Holocaust as a lesson to decry global violence and injustice whenever it occurs.

"We know that the source of history's greatest crime is rooted in the silence," said L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has attended the event every year since the mid 1990s and was accompanied by California Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and City Councilman Tom LaBonge

"On Yom HaShoah, we come together to say 'Never again,' and we must make these words more than a simple promise to be repeated as a matter of ceremony," Villaraigosa said, urging action on behalf of current global crises like the food shortage and genocide in Darfur. "We must state in one clear voice that in times of crisis and injustice, silence is never an acceptable response."

Survivor Jona Goldrich, who sponsors the annual commemoration and donated $1 million to build a new Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust on the same site, shared the mayor's sentiments.

"We relied on God too much," Goldrich said about the crippling silence during World War II. "Now the responsibility lies with the second and third generations to carry forward the lesson."

Consul General of Israel Jacob Dayan shared a personal story about his grandparents, who escaped the Holocaust but live with its memories every day of their lives.

Performances by Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra cellist Barry Gold and the TOVA Concert Singers, who sang the prayer for Israel, "Avinu Shebashabayim" and "When You Believe," from the film the "The Prince of Egypt," complemented the powerful tone of the ceremony.

"The Shoah is such a powerful experience, such an unprecedented happening in the history of humanity that there is a temptation to use it for something else," said Sinai Temple's Rabbi David Wolpe, who delivered the keynote address. "We remember, because those who died deserve to be remembered."

-- Danielle Berrin, Contributing Writer

Wiesenthal's 'Interactive' Office Dedicated

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa also observed Yom HaShoah at the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The two were joined by the center's officials and trustees and other guests to dedicate the Museum of Tolerance's interactive installation recreating Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal's office in Vienna.

The Museum of Tolerance includes artifacts transported from Austria from Wiesenthal's office -- his desk, books and many of the awards and honors he received for his work that contributed to the capture and successful prosecution of more than 1,100 Nazi war criminals, including Adolf Eichmann; Franz Stangl, commandant of Treblinka death camp; and Karl Silberbauer, the Nazi who arrested Anne Frank. The exhibition was made possible by a grant from Alan and Susan Casden.

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