Jewish Journal


February 11, 2009

Super Sunday Calls Raise $4.5 Million


Volunteer Wendy Wengrow from South Bay, seated, on phone. Photo by Jason Lipeles

Volunteer Wendy Wengrow from South Bay, seated, on phone. Photo by Jason Lipeles

Super Sunday Calls Raise $4.5 Million
Los Angeles’ annual Jewish telethon campaign obtained $4.5 million in pledges for The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. The total raised during Super Sunday on Feb. 8 is even with 2008, but $100,000 higher than 2007.

Federation President John Fishel said that the 12-hour fundraiser was especially important, given increased requests for services in the midst of the recession.

“There are indeed many, many more people who need our help this year than in the past,” he said. “The good news is that people are responding, and they’re responding with increases.”

The Federation cut its South Bay location this year, and its volunteer pool was reduced by nearly one-half compared to 2008, with 1,000 people calling from its Wilshire headquarters and Valley site.

Veteran volunteer Alan Shuman, who was at the first Super Sunday more than 25 years ago and spent his time this year at The Federation’s 6505 Wilshire Blvd. headquarters, said, “I’m giving more money this year, and a lot of people are giving more money this year because of the economic downturn….  We must give more money during this time, no matter what.”

Super Sunday co-chair Ryan Yatman said many people donated and mobilized to make a difference. “[Sunday] was a magical day,” he said, “One of hopefully many more to come.”
— Jason Lipeles, Contributing Writer

Community Library Director Resigns
With a possible merger between the Jewish Community Library and the library at American Jewish University (AJU) on the horizon, Abigail Yasgur resigned from her post as director of the community library.

Yasgur, who has held her position for 12 years, said she did not want to shepherd the library through a potential transition she believes will harm the institution and the community.

“I am disappointed in the direction,” Yasgur said. “What I would really like to see instead is people thinking about something bold and ambitious, that is concerned with the community and providing them with the resources they need.”

The library, housed at headquarters of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles on Wilshire Boulevard, is currently operated by the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE), with funding from The Federation. The collection has 30,000 volumes, including films, music recordings, community archives and modern and ancient books in English, Hebrew and many other languages.

However, with Federation funding for the library dwindling and the bureau facing its own budget crunch, professional and lay leaders have been exploring the possibility of moving the library to the American Jewish University on Mulholland Drive in the Sepulveda Pass. AJU plans to expand its library facilities in the next three years and open the collection to the public. In the current negotiations between AJU, The Federation and BJE, the children’s library would remain at its current location at 6505 Wilshire Blvd.

A group of library supporters and lay leaders have created a committee (www.savethejewishlibrary.com) to explore spinning the library off into an independent nonprofit that could occupy a street-level storefront, which they maintain can spike library visibility, patronage and community support.

The presidents of the Association of Jewish Libraries and of its Southern California branch are advocating against the merger with AJU, which they say will undermine the library’s mission as an easily accessible, community institution.

“Libraries like this need to be integrated into daily, community life, because books and literacy are a part of daily life. It can’t be so set apart that you have to travel 20 minutes on the freeway to get there,” Yasgur said.

Under Yasgur’s leadership, the library established an online catalog and strong Web presence, increased programming, raised the library’s profile in the community and grew the client base.

Yasgur will bid farewell to the community at a tea on Feb. 26, where she will reveal her top 10 favorite books and promote her own children’s book on the 1969 Woodstock Festival, held on the farm of her cousin, Max Yasgur.

“Being able to connect people with books or information that they are looking for, and seeing them glow or smile as a result, is remarkable work,” Yasgur said.
— Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Senior Writer

Hamas Needed War, Terror Expert Says
When Hamas started firing missiles into Israel from the Gaza Strip, the terrorist organization acted rationally by its own light, according to one of the world’s leading terrorism experts.

“Hamas was losing popularity in Gaza and, in line with its worldview, could reverse this only by reinforcing its credentials as resistance fighters,” said Brian Jenkins of the Rand Corp. in Santa Monica, a regular U.S. government adviser on terrorism, counterinsurgency and homeland security.

“By provoking conflict with Israel, with the anticipated destruction and death in Gaza, Hamas leaders believed they would emerge more popular than before,” Jenkins noted.

During a wide-ranging interview, Jenkins touched on the Iranian threat; U.S. intelligence failures; his new book, “Will Terrorism Go Nuclear?” and why the level of policy and public debate in Israel “is much richer and more thoughtful” than in the United States.

In analyzing the threat posed by the nuclear ambitions of the “bad guys,” Jenkins proposed that the United States must keep its focus on “nuclear terrorism” and not fall victim to “nuclear terror.” The distinction is that “terrorism” consists of an enemy’s actual or potential capability to use nuclear weapons, while “terror” is the alarm and apprehension induced in the West by “jihadist fantasies.”

While there are legitimate concerns about Iran’s potential capability, al-Qaeda’s propaganda threats have pumped up Osama bin Laden’s organization to the point where “al-Qaeda is the first terrorist nuclear power that has no nuclear weapons.”

Iran, on the other hand, has to be taken seriously, to the point that the United States must consider going beyond economic sanctions or demands for the dismantling of facilities to more muscular deterrents.

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “is not getting a lot of domestic mileage from his nuclear ambitions, but he is now approaching his most dangerous point,” Jenkins said.

He fixes that point at “just before Western intelligence thinks that Iran has reached nuclear weapons capability or just after Iran announces its first successful test. That’s when Washington must decide, in Western movie terminology, whether to slap leather and reach for the nuclear six-shooter.”

Before that point is reached, America’s most valuable deterrent is Iran’s uncertainty about Israel’s reaction. “Israel’s moves are much less predictable than America’s, and that uncertainty is a very useful deterrent,” Jenkins said.

In that sense, Israel’s role is similar to that of France during the Cold War. “The Soviets thought that the United States was a rather predictable actor, but the Kremlin wasn’t sure what the French might do,” he said.

Jenkins endorsed Israel’s policy of never stating publicly whether it possesses a nuclear arsenal. “The threat [of having or deploying nuclear bombs] is more effective than the established fact,” he said.

In all these speculations, there is some hope that a sense of self-preservation will deter Iran’s rulers.

“Tehran must know that any nuclear conflict would be suicidal, and governments rarely behave as suicide bombers,” he said.

Jenkins wouldn’t be pinned down on how far Iran is from developing a nuclear weapon, but in light of U.S. intelligence failures in both wars with Iraq and in anticipating the Indian-Pakistani nuclear race, he did not put too much stock in Washington’s take on Iran’s intentions or timetable.

It may astonish some Israelis that Jenkins believes strategic debates and media analyses are on a much higher plane in Israel than in the United States.

“In America, we tend to see world events in very simplistic terms,” he said. “Whenever I visit Israel, where I have had long discussions with Yitzhak Rabin and some of his successors, I am struck by the thoughtful analyses and open debates you don’t find in any other country,” Jenkins said.

“You just have to read the blogs and op-eds in the leading Israeli newspapers to learn a lot more than you do on CNN or FOX.”
— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Community Foundation to Honor Grants
Despite the economic downturn and losing $18 million in the Bernard Madoff investment scandal, the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles has announced that it will keep previous grant commitments.

“We want to reiterate and reassure the many nonprofits in the Jewish community here, in Israel and in the general Los Angeles community that we will continue to honor any previous grant commitments in 2009 and beyond,” Marvin Schotland, the foundation’s president and CEO, said in a prepared statement.

“With the responsibilities vested in being principal steward of Jewish Los Angeles’ charitable assets and owing to the economic uncertainty, we are taking a hard look at revenues and expenditures to ensure that we can direct the largest amount of dollars possible to worthy causes at a time when they’re needed most.”

Last year, the foundation’s family support foundations and donor funds, which were unaffected by the Madoff losses, gave $63 million to charitable organizations. The foundation also awarded $1.6 million in Cutting Edge grants, which are paid out over three years to a handful of innovative Jewish nonprofits.
— Brad A. Greenberg, Senior Writer

Itzhak Perlman to Perform at Sinai Temple
Israeli-born violinist Itzhak Perlman, who performed with Yo-Yo Ma, Gabriela Montero and Anthony McGill at President Obama’s inauguration on Jan. 20, will be stopping in Los Angeles for a Feb. 19 concert at Sinai Temple.

Perlman originally planned to skip Los Angeles on his current West Coast tour, which includes stops in San Francisco, Seattle and Portland. That was before Sinai Temple’s new program director, Dahlia Greenbaum, cold-called and cold-e-mailed the virtuoso’s manager, Elizabeth Sobol.

“I’m a ‘no is not an answer’ type of person,” said Greenbaum, describing her persistence in courting Sobol.

“Dahlia seems very knowledgeable about music and is professional,” Sobol said of Greenbaum, who is also a professional singer.

Greenbaum said the least expensive tickets to the performance, priced between $75 and $100, sold out within hours. Only a few tickets, priced between $200 and $500, remained at press time.

Perlman will be joined by Rohan De Silva, a Sri Lankan-born pianist. The duo will perform the music of G.F. Handel and Beethoven in the synagogue’s Barad Hall.

For the synagogue, the performance marks the beginning of the kind of programming it hopes to present at the new Israel Center, which focuses on Israeli culture, education, activism and travel.
— Lilly Fowler, Contributing Writer

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