Jewish Journal


August 20, 1998

Up Front


Save the Trees -- and the Sukkahs

For several years, the city of Los Angeles Street Tree Division has treated the Jewish community to a bounty of free palm fronds to use as schach , covering for the huts built in honor of the early autumn holiday of Sukkot.

But this year, the city is cutting back on tree trimmings in an effort to keep the trees healthy.

"We've been noticing the trees in a state of decline, and, in an effort toward preserving the trees, we are attempting to trim fewer fronds and leave more of a green canopy at the crown," said Greg Monfette, acting chief forester for the Street Tree Division.

Early this year, City Council members Michael Feuer and Ruth Galanter set up a task force made up of rabbis and Street Tree representatives to come up with a plan to keep both the trees and the Jewish community happy.

Synagogues, which in the past received about 100 fronds from the city, now will make do with only 60 green fronds. They also will receive 20 dried fronds, and the remainder will be swamp mahogany, a type of eucalyptus with long leaves.

Individuals, who are entitled to receive fronds once the synagogues have collected their share, will receive foliage in the same percentage.

Rabbi Marvin Sugarman of Shaarey Tzedek Congregation in North Hollywood says that nearly any vegetation is halachically permissible for a sukkah. The question is one of practicality -- what is long enough to fit comfortably over the slats, what will stay fresh through the week-long holiday.

But more than that, there is an aesthetic consideration. While East Coasters are used to covering their sukkahs with bamboo, spoiled Californians consider only the verdant, lush palm fronds "real schach."

That's where the PR campaign comes in. Letters announcing the changes have gone out to congregations.

Rabbi Paul Dubin, who was executive director of the Southern California Board of Rabbis when this project began, says he believes that the community will cooperate when they learn that the health of the trees is at stake.

Sugarman also expects the change to be accepted, particularly since the service is a favor from the city.

"We certainly are grateful to the city for making the fronds available. The city is not obligated in any way to provide this service, and we're very appreciative of the effort to accommodate us," Sugarman says. -- Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Religion Editor

Rabbi Paul Dubin and Greg Monfette try out alternative sukkah coverings.

Cyber Library

''Great Jewish Book Caper" is not, as it sounds, a tale about a daring heist of a valuable ancient Hebrew text. It is the name of the new web site of the Jewish Community Library of the Los Angeles Jewish Federation. Reachable on the World Wide Web at www.jclla.org , it is created by the library's director, Abigail Yasgur. The web site has a calendar of events, holiday book titles, Jewish software and video titles, teacher lesson plans, Jewish stories and music on-line, archival photographs from the JCL, and a place to e-mail the library with questions and suggestions.

The site has received financial and/or other support from the Federation's Valley Alliance and Metro regions, the Jewish Community Foundation, the Jewish Community Library Committee and the San Diego-based web service, WebStationOne.

The Federation has been seeking to finalize plans on a location for both the library and the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust in Museum Square, near the organization's temporary headquarters at 5700 Wilshire Blvd. "I'm optimistic it will be a matter of months," Yasgur said. "But it's still up in the air."

Jack Rutberg

Portrait of an Art Dealer

As with many successful people, Jack Rutberg says his career evolved as a "hobby that got out of control."

The "hobby" he refers to is the fine arts. For more than 25 years, Jack Rutberg, 50, the son of Warsaw ghetto survivors, has acted as dealer, curator, and consultant representing important American and European artists, including Patrick Graham and the late Hans Burkehardt. His gallery, Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, has been dealing in modern and contemporary art since 1981. Located in the crossfire of the hip and the Chassidic on the trendy part of La Brea Avenue near Beverly Boulevard, Jack Rutberg Fine Arts has featured exhibitions from Ruth Weisberg, Arshile Gorky and Alexander Calder. And, for the last 10 years, Rutberg has curated the Galway Arts Festival in Ireland.

The gallery's current exhibition is "Small Treasures," a collection of etchings, lithographs and paintings from a wide range of artists, from Goya to Marc Chagall to Roy Lichtenstein.

The "Small Treasures" exhibit will run through Sept 12.

Sweet Emotion: "There are certain shared experiences that all human beings have. Art transcends borders and politics. Whether they be reactionary or romantic, certain artists can evoke responses that are sometimes very magical.... I've had people stand up in front of a painting and literally well up in tears.... People want things that evoke emotion, and wallpaper and graphic design and posters don't do that."

With Great Art Comes Great Responsibility: "I think [caretaking art] is a Jewish instinct deeply rooted in Jewish tradition, instilled in us as children. I can remember the first time I held a Rembrandt etching in my hand, knowing there were other lives attached to it [over the course of several centuries]."

Post-Pop Go the Weasels: "The problem is the [conceptual artists] who look to Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol as being the standard [and copy them].... I call it 'art through declaration' -- justifying mediocrity as conceptual.... Had Warhol or Jackson Pollock lived for 200 years, they would not have stayed in the same place. They were reacting to something and moving to a new horizon. Once you're there, you move forward. That's the sign of a great artist." -- Michael Aushenker, Community Editor

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