Jewish Journal


August 28, 2003

Community Briefs


Programs Survive State Budget Slash

Several programs that cater to a largely Jewish clientele have survived California's budget ax -- for now.

The Adult Day Health Care Center in North Hollywood, which had been expected to close with the passage of a state budget, got a new lease on life when the Legislature voted to exempt most long-term elder-care programs from cuts. That move also helped the Los Angeles Jewish Home for the Aging, an 800-resident facility that had braced itself for cuts in nurses, social workers and such programs as exercise and knitting.

Intensive lobbying in Sacramento by the Jewish Public Affairs Committee (JPAC) of California helped sway the politicians. So, too, did a mission of influential Jews to the state capital, including several members of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, said Jessica Toledano, director of government relations for the Jewish Community Relations Committee, a department of The Federation.

Despite the victory, Toledano said continuing budget woes made the future less than bright.

"I think we have stalled the serious cuts for at least one year," she said.

To protect programs for seniors, JPAC plans to form a coalition with Catholic Charities, AARP, the Salvation Army and other groups, she said.

In related news, the Multipurpose Senior Services Program (MSSP), which provides poor seniors with taxi vouchers, home meal preparation and other services to keep them out of nursing homes, suffered a financial setback. The Jewish Family Service-run program will receive 5 percent less from the state because of Medi-Cal cuts. Davis had initially proposed 15 percent reductions. Because of the reduced funding, MSSP will care for about 50 fewer patients. -- Marc Ballon, Senior Writer

Custody Case Allows Boy to Live in Israel

After two years of litigation, a Los Angeles appeals court has ruled that it is safe for 5-year-old Yuval Abargil to live in Israel.

Yuval has been at the center of a custody fight by a divorced Israeli couple, in which the mother, Michal Abargil, wished to take him back to her native country. The father, Aharon Abargil, argued that the boy should stay with him in the United States, because terrorist attacks made Israel too dangerous a place to raise the child.

Justice Laurence Rubin, in upholding the decision of a lower court, concluded that, "We would be naive to believe that there is no danger in living in Israel.... [But] few, if any, places in the world are safe from all danger, be it political, ethnic, religious, natural or random."

Michal agreed with the three-judge panel.

"When you live in Israel, it's not nearly as scary as it looks from the outside," she said in a phone interview.

The case was complicated from the beginning. Aharon and Michal met and married in Los Angeles, but each had earlier entered the United States on a tourist visa and illegally stayed on after the visas expired.

Aharon has two applications pending for permanent residence here, while Michal has been barred from re-entering the United States for 10 years.

Under the circumstances, it will be impossible, in the foreseeable future, for the father to travel to Israel to see the child, or for the mother to bring Yuval to America to see the father.

To assure Aharon's parental rights and long-distance contact between father and son, Rubin ordered that the case would remain under California jurisdiction, though registered and enforced by an Israeli court.

Michal has returned to Israel with Yuval and said she will settle permanently in either Ramat Gan or Givatayim, where she has relatives. She hopes to find work as a graphic designer. She also hopes to find a publisher for her recently completed children's book on divorce, titled "When Mommy and Daddy Are Getting Separated."

"The most important thing is to convince the kids it's absolutely not their fault that the parents are getting a divorce," she said. -- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Federation Lays Off JCRC Executive Director

Michael Hirschfeld, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Committee (JCRC), has been laid off after nearly a quarter-century on the job due to financial difficulties at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

In an e-mail to his colleagues, the 24-year JCRC veteran said his job had given him immense personal satisfaction over the years and praised JCRC programs that combat illiteracy in schools, blunt anti-Semitism on campuses and create new leaders for the Jewish community. "We in the JCRC have contributed to the life of our Jewish community and our Los Angeles civic society immeasurably," he wrote.

Hirschfeld declined to comment.

His departure comes at a time when The Federation, JCRC's parent, has completed an internal audit to improve its efficiency, increase its relevance and boost its fundraising. The Federation, as part of its restructuring, has eliminated JCRC's executive director position. At least one member of The Federation's communications department was laid off.

The Federation's fundraising has been flat for nearly a decade, although it has edged up slightly this year.

Under Hirschfeld's leadership, JCRC developed KOREH L.A., a literacy program that places Jewish volunteers in public elementary schools to tutor students. JCRC also helped create the Campus Coalition Initiative to teach Jewish university students to respond to anti-Zionist propaganda at campuses. -- MB

Bronfman Offers Young Leaders Chance at $100,000

An annual $100,000 award to recognize Jewish leaders of the future under age 50 has been announced by the family of philanthropist and business leader Charles Bronfman.

The international award will "celebrate the vision and talent of individuals, or a team of individuals, whose accomplishments on behalf of others enrich Jewish life ... and inspire the emerging generation of Jewish people," the announcement stated.

The Charles Bronfman Prize was conceived as a 70th birthday tribute to the Montreal-born philanthropist by his children, Stephen Bronfman and Ellen Bronfman-Hauptman, and son-in-law Andrew Hauptman. The Hauptmans are co-chairs of Andell Entertainment and Mission Pictures, headquartered in London and Los Angeles.

Nominations may be submitted in English or Hebrew, with a deadline of Oct. 31. The inaugural award will be presented in spring 2004.

For information and forms, go to www.TheCharlesBronfmanPrize.com, e-mail info@TheCharlesBronfmanPrize.com  or phone the New York office at (212) 572-1035. -- TT

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