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Up Front

December 4, 2003 | 7:00 pm

Shoah Survivor Chanukah Lunch Launch

In an attempt to infuse a professional networking group with Jewish values, Aaron Weiner is recruiting volunteers to assist Orange County's Jewish Family Services put on an annual Chanukah lunch for about 100 local residents, who are Holocaust survivors.

"We wanted an event we could call our own," said Weiner, a new director of the Jewish Federation's real estate division, which has 300 members.

Providing manpower for the lunch was suggested by Deborah Klein, director of the Federation's professional group divisions. The event also gets financial help from Temple Beth El's Men's Club and a mother-daughter group, said Marcia Marcinko, JFS volunteers director.

Though members of the real estate group loyally convene for monthly bagel and speaker get-togethers, Weiner expects volunteers to serve as foot soldiers for the Dec. 23 event at the Federation campus auditorium in Costa Mesa.

"Providing transportation, finding entertainment, cleaning up. My goal was to find an event where we could roll up our sleeves, not just write a check," Weiner said.

It is a special opportunity to be of service to Holocaust survivors, Weiner said. "They're dying off; it's a privilege to be involved with that effort."

University Debuts Its Synaplex

An overflow crowd of more than 500 people came to experience University Synagogue's "synaplex," a multifaceted approach to Friday night services, which was introduced Nov. 7.

"It was like a finely layered cake; everything very sweet with each building on the previous experience," said University's Rabbi Arnie Rachlis, who began organizing the new format after winning a grant last spring from a private foundation.

Relying on the multiscreen cineplex as a model, grant winners are to develop more flexible and varied Shabbat-related programs as a tool for outreach and to deepen the involvement of existing synagogue members. University's first marquee included meditation, creative writing, dinner, children's services, a music service, a high-profile speaker and schmoozing for singles.

"Synaplex" attendance exceeded the 350 to 400 people who generally attend University's monthly "Shabbat Alive" music-oriented service, which is double the routine Friday-night crowd. "I think it's a phenomenon," said Rachlis, whose Yom Kippur sermon urged members to put monthly "syneplex" events on their calendar like a subscription series to an orchestra. "It will be wonderful to see if people change their attendance," he said.

Space constraints at University, which shares space with a church, should abate by next September. After many delays, last month remodeling started on the former ice rink that is to be the synagogue's permanent home. Its social hall and sanctuary will hold 1,200 people.

Ken Blady, author of a book on exotic Jewish communities outside the mainstream Ashkenazic and Sephardic regions, is scheduled to speak at University Synagogue on Dec. 5.

A Mezuzah on Main Street

While walking down Disneyland's Main Street, U.S.A., one might look up and notice that the windows above the stores are covered with the names of the men and women who helped build the park more than 48 years ago.

However, if you peek in a doorway along the Emporium on the west side of the street (before reaching New Century Jewelry) there's one name that's a bit different from the rest: Dr. Benjamin Silverstein.

It's not just that Silverstein's name is on a door rather than a window. It's that if you look to the right of the door, you'll find a mezuzah on the workplace of the only fictional person on Main Street -- Dr. Benjamin Silverstein, general practitioner, only exists at the "Happiest Place on Earth."

Don't worry if you missed seeing the mezuzah during your last visit, the well-hidden piece of Judaica (which does have a scroll inside, although its authenticity has yet to be verified) has only been around for a few years.

When former Disneyland President Paul Pressler, who recently left the company to head Gap Inc., took the position in 1995, he expressed concern that, during the holidays, there was nothing in recognition of Chanukah, according to John McClintock, regional market publicity manager for the Disneyland Resort.

So the decorating team at Disneyland placed a menorah in one of the upstairs windows on Main Street and -- in true Disney storytelling tradition -- created the name below to go with it.

But despite the welcoming sign on the door, "Have a fever? Have the flu? Come on in and we'll cure you," if you do get nauseous from one too many spins on the Mad Tea Party, it might be best to stick to the First Aid Center. -- Shoshana Lewin, Contributing Writer

Fed's Final Push for Campus Funds

Community volunteers, many who have already made their own pledges toward construction of Orange County's new Jewish campus, last month manned telephones in an unusual pre-Thanksgiving drive for the final $1 million needed for its completion.

About 2,500 families were called over three days by 21 volunteer dialers, who included Charlene and Ken Zuckerman, Dassie and Chuck Feingold, Phil Waldman, Polly Sloan, Adeline Cohen, Mary Ann Malkoff, Marti Eisenberg, Roberta Zeve, Cindy and Adam Muchnick, Adena and Jeff Kaufman, Sheila and Mike Lefkowitz, Richard Carpe, Byron Landau, Lauren Klein, Adele Sender and David Young.

The phone-a-thon is an attempt to involve more people in a project of historical importance to Orange County's Jewish community, said Bunnie Mauldin, executive director of the Jewish Federation, which plans to relocate to Irvine from Costa Mesa along with other agencies when the campus is finished next August.

The $19 million pledged in the last two years toward the building's construction was raised principally from major donors by Ralph Stern and his campaign managers, Mike Lefkowitz and Irv Chase. The facility's $40 million parcel was purchased by the Samueli Family Foundation and an anonymous donor.

Money isn't the only obstacle; in October, nearby residents filed a lawsuit to halt building. They seek some limits on campus operations and more landscaping. The campus is to share some facilities with neighboring Tarbut V'Torah Community Day School.

JCC Hires New Director

Anticipating a major expansion in its programming after moving to the Samueli Campus in Irvine next year, the O.C. Jewish Community Center's board hired an executive director who has overseen similar expansion in another fast-growth, sunbelt city.

Dan Bernstein, 53, the former executive director of the JCC in Sarasota, Fla., began in a similar position this month in Costa Mesa, succeeding Gerry Buncher, whose resignation is effective Dec. 31.

"I was looking for another challenge and Orange County is proving that challenge," said Bernstein, who has spent 21 years in varying positions at JCCs in Arizona and Florida. "My kids grew up at the JCC; they were JCC brats."

Mary Ann Malkoff, the JCC's president, described Bernstein as a manager with "a businessman's brain and a social worker's heart." She cited Sarasota's elderhostel programs as an example of Bernstein's enterprise. "That made our head swim; we know we need to do that," she said.

"We're going to have to do a lot of nice things to fill the building," said Bernstein. "Our job is to not give any Jewish person an excuse not to come."

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