Jewish Journal


September 11, 2003

Community Briefs


Financial Institutions Waive Fees for Survivors

More than 100 of California's largest financial institutions have agreed to waive wire-transfer fees charged Holocaust survivors and their families for reparation and restitution payments from abroad.

These payments, mainly from Germany, average $350 per month, and with banks up to now charging a $10-$40 handling fee per transfer, such fees can subtract up to 10 percent of the modest monthly checks.

The announcement that 108 California banks, credit unions, savings and loans and broker-dealers had pledged to eliminate the fees was made by State Treasurer Phil Angelides, who earlier had sent letters to 170 leading financial institutions requesting the voluntary waiver.

Some 140 of these institutions engaged in more than $70 billion worth of transactions with the state treasurer's office during the last fiscal year.

Much of the impetus for the waiver campaign came from Bet Tzedek Legal Services in Los Angeles. The free legal service organization has represented close to 2,000 indigent Holocaust survivors, said Mitchell Kamin, its executive director.

An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 survivors live in California, the second largest such concentration in the United States, of whom some 6,000 to 8,000 receive restitution payments. Among the latter, about 40 percent live in poverty, said Kamin.

Angelides and Kamin spoke at a press conference on Thursday, Sept. 4, in San Francisco, held at the offices of the Jewish Family and Children's Services, which assists more than 1,000 survivors each year.

A list of cooperating banks and other financial institutions can be found on the Web at www.treasurer.ca.gov/holocaust. -- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Sharsheret Head Honored for Fight Against Breast Cancer

Rochelle Shoretz, founder and executive director of Sharsheret, an organization linking young Jewish women fighting breast cancer, was recently named a Yoplait Champion in the Fight Against Breast Cancer.

Yoplait will donate $1,000 to Sharsheret, and Shoretz will be recognized in the October issue of Self Magazine and at a two-day awards ceremony in New York City in September.

Since she founded Sharsheret two years ago while in chemotherapy at the age of 28, Shoretz, a former clerk to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has received national recognition for her efforts to forge one-on-one supportive relationships between young Jewish women who have survived breast cancer and those fighting it.

The transcripts from two medical symposiums Sharsheret hosted, "How Do We Care For Our Children? Issues for Women and Men Facing Breast Cancer," and "Breast Cancer and Fertility" are available at www.sharsheret.org.

For information on setting up a link or supporting Sharsheret, or for organizations wishing to partner with Sharsheret to raise awareness about the issues affecting young Jewish women fighting breast cancer, call (866) 474-2774. -- Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Religion Editor

Israel Consul General Rotem Becomes Ambassador

Israel's consul general in Los Angeles is no longer The Honorable Yuval Rotem. His character is as upright as ever, but from now on diplomatic protocol calls for addressing him as "Your Excellency."

The new title goes with Rotem's new personal rank of ambassador, an unusual distinction for an Israeli career diplomat. At any one time, no more than 20 professionals in Israel's foreign service can carry the permanent title and, at age 43, Rotem is the youngest Israeli career ambassador in the world.

Rotem's promotion was recommended last February by then-Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and went into effect on Sept. 1.

No citation or encomiums accompanied the upgrade. After considerable urging, Rotem allowed that "they must have reviewed my accomplishments and decided to make me an ambassador" and reluctantly acknowledged that the new rank "was a source of satisfaction."

Among his new perks are a raise in pay and pension benefits, but Rotem sees the most immediate benefit in elevating the status and clout in Israel of the local consulate, whose territory includes Southern California, Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

Rotem vetoed any celebration of the promotion by his staff but noted that "my mom and dad in Israel sent me some nice flowers."

Since assuming his present post three years ago this month, Rotem had greatly expanded the involvement and outreach of his office, not only within the Jewish community, but also among the Southwest's diverse ethnic and religious groups. He is scheduled to leave next summer, but his next assignment is unknown.

So far, Rotem wears his new distinction lightly. When a reporter closed an interview by congratulating "your excellency," Rotem pleaded, "Come on, get off it." -- TT

Survivor Descendant Convention to be Held in Los Angeles

"Living The Legacy: Los Angeles," a convention gathering descendants of Shoah survivors and their families, will take place locally for the first time on Sept. 14.

The daylong event will offer symposiums and workshops dealing with survivor offspring issues, such as marrying into a descendant/survivor family, intermarriage and interfamily dialogue.

This year marks the second annual "Living the Legacy: A Gathering of Descendants of Survivors of the Shoah and their Families" convention dedicated to outreach to the Holocaust offspring community. The event is cosponsored by Jewish Family Service (JFS), The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Bet Tzedek Legal Services, Metro Western Region of The Jewish Federation, and The Morgan Aging with Dignity Fund of The Jewish Federation. The first "Living the Legacy" took place in Chicago in July 2002.

According to organizer Darlene Basch, "Living the Legacy 2003" will expand on the first gathering's breadth, offering more panels, two art workshops, a returning memoir writing course, a glatt kosher lunch, and the event's first awards ceremony.

This year's "Legacy" will also honor Dr. Florabel Kinsler and Dr. Sarah Moskovitz, two Holocaust survivors who each worked extensively in Los Angeles with survivors and their descendants for more than 30 years.

Kinsler, a social worker and psychotherapist, founded and spearheaded the JFS Holocaust Family Project from 1981 to 1993. Kinsler pioneered the founding of the JFS group outreach to children of Holocaust survivors, forming intergenerational dialogues and survivor groups from 1976 to 1993. In 1987, Kinsler began Cafe Europa, a child Holocaust survivors support group.

Moskovitz, professor emeritus of human development and counseling in the department of educational psychology at CSUN, is the author of "Love Despite Hate: Child Survivors of the Holocaust And Their Adult Lives" and writes poetry in English and Yiddish. Earlier this year, she was awarded a grant from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., to translate Yiddish poetry in the Ringelblum Archives.

Kinsler and Moskovitz have led more than 25 groups for child survivors under the aegis of JFS, and they believe that such conventions as "Living the Legacy" provide survivors and their offspring with a necessary outlet.

"It's the value of community," Moskovitz said. "Any meeting where they can get together and talk, support, eat together and even fight with each other, is like extended family."

"Living the Legacy: Los Angeles," takes place on Sept. 14, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at The Jewish Federation, 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, contact Darlene Basch at (323) 937-4974 or via e-mail at dbasch@aol.com . -- Michael Aushenker, Staff Writer

Federation Gives $100,000 to Bus Bombing Victims

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles transmitted $100,000 in grants to two Jerusalem hospitals treating victims of the Aug. 19 suicide bombing of a Jerusalem bus, which killed 21 people.

The funds are earmarked for the pediatric unit of Hadassah Hospital, and for emergency aid and specialized equipment for Sha'arei Tzedek hospital.

"We have immediately contacted our representatives in Israel to help in any way that we can," said Jake Farber, chairman of the Jewish Federation, "and we will do our best here in Los Angeles to support the victims devastated by this horrendous incident."

The Federation adamantly condemned the Sept. 9 double bombings in Israel. "The continued slaughter of innocent Israelis by Palestinian terrorists must end," Farber said. Speaking on behalf of Los Angeles Jewish community, Farber continued: "As every political, academic and right-minded individual knows, the continuing attacks on Israelis by Palestinian terrorists only makes getting back to the negotiating table that much more difficult. It is only at the negotiating table that this decades-long conflict will be resolved."--TT

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