September 28, 2006
Happy Rosh Hashanah: swastika flags fly over SoCal, Florida highways
Swastikas were found flying from highway overpasses in Los Angeles and northern San Diego County, as well as in Orlando, Fla., just before the Jewish New Year. Calls began coming in to law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles at around 5:45 a.m. on Sept. 22, saying flags with swastikas were hanging from the overcrossing between Balboa and White Oak boulevards over the eastbound Ventura Freeway, according to California Highway Patrol officials.
"Obviously, they're offensive, and a huge distraction," CHP Officer Leland Tang said in a televised news report.
Flags also were reported at the Escondido Avenue overpass of Highway 78 in Vista, near San Diego.
The flags were taken down soon after they were discovered. Jewish leaders have denounced the acts.
-- Staff and Wire reports
Steven Windmueller to serve as interim Dean of Hebrew Union College
Steven F. Windmueller, a scholar who has held several prominent positions in local Jewish organizations over the years, has been named interim dean at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR).
Windmueller previously served as director of HUC-JIR's School of Jewish Communal Service and said he will remain in the new position for an undetermined period. During his tenure, he said, he hopes to tighten HUC-JIR's links with other institutions of higher education, as well as the federations and the Union for Reform Judaism. Windmueller also hopes to grow HUC-JIR's Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health and the Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation.
"I want to reposition HUC in the constellation of the Western Jewish scene," Windmueller said. "I want a higher profile, greater engagement with the Reform movement and a larger voice on Jewish life, whether it's intermarriage or how to welcome new Jews into the community."
Meanwhile, Windmuller has just returned the prestigious Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission's John Allen Buggs Award given him in 1995 for his strong record in intergroup relations. He gave back the prize last week to protest the commission's decision to bestow the honor upon Dr. Maher Hathout, chairman of the Islamic Center of Southern California and senior adviser to the national Muslim Public Affairs Council, who has been outspokenly critical of Israel. Much of Los Angeles' organized Jewish community opposed Hathout's being given the award.
"The commission didn't look for a candidate who could find common ground but rather chose one who was divisive by his actions and words," Windmueller said.
Windmueller replaces Dr. Lewis Barth, who served twice as HUC-JIR dean and whose nine-year tenure ended in June. HUC-JIR has 525 graduate students at campuses in Jerusalem, New York, Cincinnati and Los Angeles, with 120 students here. The educational and intellectual center of Reform Judaism, HUC-JIR trains rabbis, cantors, communal and educational professionals. Locally, about 650 USC undergraduates also take courses at the school in subjects ranging from Holocaust studies to Zionism.
During his 11 years as HUC-JIR's director of Jewish communal service, Windmueller established several programs that he said were designed to deepen students' educational experience. He helped create the "New York Jewish Experience," a biannual program that takes Los Angeles' Jewish communal students to New York to meet with national Jewish leaders and to visit landmarks of the American Jewish experience, including synagogues. In 2001, Windmueller oversaw the creation of a program that sends students to Germany to study contemporary and historical Jewish life in the country.
Under his direction, HUC also increased its cooperation with USC and added several dual-degree communal studies graduate programs with the university, including in business administration, communications management and public arts management.
"He combines two remarkable skills," said Rabbi Alan Henkin, a sometime HUC-JIR lecturer and regional director of Pacific Southwest Council for the Union for Reform Judaism, the umbrella organization for 80 local Reform synagogues. "He's able to keep his eye on the big picture, even as he attends to the small details of running the school."
Windmueller, 64, received a doctorate in international relations from the University of Pennsylvania. He began his professional life at the American Jewish Committee, before moving to the Greater Albany Jewish Federation -- now known as the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York -- where he served as a director. Heading west in 1985, he served as head of the local Jewish Community Relations Committee for a decade.
-- Marc Ballon, Senior Writer
High Holiday party raises funds for Israel