December 16, 2004
Weller Pleads Not Guilty
George Russell Weller, the 88-year-old driver whose Buick killed 10 shoppers at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market, pleaded not guilty Dec. 8 to 10 counts of felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.
The criminal case against Weller continues with a Jan. 26 pretrial hearing at the Los Angeles County Superior Court's airport branch courthouse.
Weller's 1992 Buick plowed through the market on July 16, 2003, killing 10 people including Jewish shoppers Movsha Hoffman, 70, Molok Ghoulian Nabatian, 63, and Nabatian's toddler grandson, Brandon David Esfahani.
Weller's attorneys believe an undiagnosed heart condition may have contributed to the accident, and Weller also mistakenly thought his car's gas pedal was the brake.
The federal National Transportation Safety Board also has criticized Santa Monica city officials for not erecting concrete barriers to prevent cars from entering the twice-weekly market area near the Third Street Promenade. – David Finnigan, Contributing Writer
OU West Coast Convenes in L.A.
In what has become a December tradition for Los Angeles' Orthodox community, the West Coast Region of the Orthodox Union will hold its annual convention Thursday, Dec. 23, through Sunday, Dec. 26, based at the Crown Plaza Hotel on Beverly Drive with venues at various locations around the city.
This year's topic, "God's Role in Our World: Our Role in God's World," brings together scholars from around the country to discuss issues of theology, social action, Israel and personal faith.
Highlighting the conference at the keynote dinner Thursday night is a talk by Pittsburgh's Judge Daniel Butler titled, "Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?" in memory of his son, Mikey, who died last year of cystic fibrosis.
A kosher food expo featuring local and national vendors is open to conference participants on Sunday at the Crown Plaza, 1150 S. Beverly Drive.
Distinguished speakers this year include newly elected OU President Stephen J. Savitsky; OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb; Rabbi Hershel Schachter, rosh kollel and professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University (YU), and Rabbi Moshe Tendler, rosh yeshiva and professor of biology at YU.
Tendler will lead a health-care/legal subconference, meeting on Friday and Sunday, that is open to the public and lawyers are eligible for continuing education credit.
For those who can't make it to the Crown Plaza for the weekend, scholars will be fanning out to shuls around the city over Shabbat (see the Web site for a full listing.)
To register or for more information go to www.ou.org/west or call (310) 229-9000 ext. 3. – Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor
Medical Tour of Israel Slated
Doctors who hanker to learn more about the age-old connection between Jews and medicine may be interested in a special tour of Israel now scheduled for May 15-22, 2005.
Sponsored by the American Physicians Fellowship for Medicine in Israel, in conjunction with Tel Aviv's Center for Jewish Medical Heritage, the unique trip features visits to Israeli tourist sites that have a medical connection. Participants will view Maimonides' grave in Tiberias, tour the museum home of pioneer ophthalmologist Albert Ticho in Jerusalem and pay tribute to Holocaust martyr Janusz Korczak – a Polish pediatrician who refused to abandon his patients-at Yad Vashem.
In-depth tours of Israeli hospitals and clinics will also be on the agenda. Along the way, travelers will take part in discussions of bioethical issues. Language will be kept nontechnical, so that spouses and others without medical degrees can easily participate.
The tour is being coordinated by Keshet: The Center for Educational Tourism in Israel. A total package fare of $2,475 per person includes a round-trip El Al flight from Newark, all accommodations and two meals each day.
To learn more, contact the tour's co-leader, Dr. Michael Nevins at firstname.lastname@example.org. – Beverly Gray, Contributing Writer