Jewish Journal


July 14, 2005

Community Briefs


Suit Seeks $51 Million in Israeli Immigrant's Slaying

The family of an Israeli immigrant fatally wounded by Burbank police has filed a $51 million wrongful death suit against the cities of Burbank and Los Angeles. Assaf Deri, 25, died June 25, 2004, when Burbank undercover officers shot him in a North Hollywood alley.

The fatal shooting occurred when plainclothes officers approached Deri, after "boxing him into an alley with their vehicles," according to the suit. A coroner's report concluded that Deri died after officers shot him multiple times.

Officials said the shooting occurred after two officers approached Deri's car on foot while conducting a narcotics investigation in an alley near Coldwater Canyon Avenue and Oxnard Street. Police said Deri, who was alone in the car, accelerated the vehicle, hitting and slightly injuring one of the officers. The officers then opened fire.

The shooting remains under investigation by the L.A. County District Attorney's Office. However, the city of Burbank has denied any wrongdoing. Its shooting review board determined that officers acted "within policy," and that they were "defending themselves from death or serious injury."

The suit asserts that Deri "was not engaging in any illegal or suspicious activity, and was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol." It also states that Deri had no previous criminal record.

In addition, the suit alleges that officers were quick to draw their weapons because Deri looked Middle Eastern. The suit charges that Deri "was killed because of his race and national origin [Middle Eastern], and his religion [Jewish] and/or his perceived religion [Muslim]."

Later the night of the shooting, police reportedly went to Deri's apartment and handcuffed his father, who was visiting from Israel, and his girlfriend, according to family friends. Officers allegedly roused them at midnight, told them that Deri was dead, then held them there overnight without allowing them to make phone calls.

The suit says that officers "conduced a fruitless search for contraband and/or illegal activities without probable cause and without reasonable suspicion."

The family went public late last week with its legal action. But the claim was apparently filed late last month, just prior to the one-year anniversary of Deri's death.

The Burbank City Attorney's Office said it is preparing a statement in response. The city of Los Angeles, where the shooting took place, has already rejected the claim, according to attorneys. -- Howard Blume, Senior Editor, and Jim Crogan, Contributing Writer

GOP Jewish Coalition Raises USO Funds at Gathering

About 500 Jewish Republicans chastised liberals at an annual bash that paid tribute to U.S. troops in general and the Bob Hope Hollywood USO in particular.

The July 10 gathering at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley was put on by the Southern California chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC). One-fourth of the each $100 ticket was set aside for the USO.

Jewish moralist and radio talk show host Dennis Prager told the crowd that traditionally liberal-voting Jews should remember that the Democratic Party today is not the same one it was in the Depression.

"Roosevelt is dead," said Prager, who singled out anti-war activists for criticism. "What exactly ended the Holocaust if not war? Do you know how South Koreans would be living if not for war?"

He also accused liberals of failing to denounce "this resurgence of Nazism called Islamic fascism. You can't say, 'It's the wrong war in the wrong time at the wrong place,' and then say, 'Hey, I support the troops.'"

Speakers generally did not comment on Israel's planned withdrawal next month from the Gaza Strip.

The 21-year-old RJC has 20,000 members nationwide, said Matthew Brooks, the national group's executive director. Brooks added that there is "nothing more important" right now than creating Jewish support for John Bolton, President Bush's controversial nominee for U.N. ambassador. The event attracted Jews from GOP chapters in Santa Barbara, Orange County, Sacramento and Fresno.

Prager clearly enjoyed his receptive audience, saying, "It's so eerie for me to actually speak with people I agree with." -- David innigan, Contributing Writer

Here's Mud in Your Face

A teacher reaches some students with poetry. Others are inspired by idealism, or by the team spirit of athletics or by the imagined universe of books. But if putting Dead Sea mud on your face does the job, so be it.

That's part of how Catholic schoolteacher Theresa Yugar connected her religion class students to Israel at Sacred Heart High School, a girls school in East Los Angeles.

As for Yugar, she developed her own connection through a program that sends Catholic educators to Israel. The Holy Land Democracy Project is run by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The goal is to combat negative perceptions of Israel.

Last year, the program was conducted as a pilot project in five Catholic high schools. This year, another seven high schools came aboard, with seven religion or social studies teachers spending March 28 to April 10 in Israel. They followed up the trip with a weeklong course for their students in May, emphasizing Israel as a Middle East democracy.

It worked for Yugar, who was in the second group of teachers in the program. When she wanted to share her new-found bond with Israel, she decided this spring to use a piece of the land -- some mud.

"They thoroughly loved it," said Yugar. "They're girls. They're totally girls."

Participating high schools include those located in poorer areas, such as Sacred Heart and Verbum Dei in South Central L.A., plus more middle-class campuses, such as Mary Star of the Sea in San Pedro, and tony Villanova Preparatory in Ojai.

At a June awards ceremony, organizers handed out $1,900 in Israel Bonds as prizes for student essays, art projects and poems that arose out of their teachers' post-Israel class assignments.

Traveling to Israel was "an experience that will take a very long time to sort out," religion teacher Mary Killmond of Bishop Alemany High in Mission Hills told the audience at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

"Going there inspired me," said Jeanine Di Cesaris, a social studies teacher at the all-girls Pomona Catholic High School, who traveled to the Israel on the first trip last year. "It wasn't like going to Hawaii. Israel stayed with me. It becomes a part of you."

The Federation would like to expand the program to Catholic schools in Mexico. -- DF


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