Posted by Julie Gruenbaum Fax
Students, alumni and staff at Maimonides Academy in West Hollywood rallied around their security guard, Juan Martinez, whose wife and two daughters were killed in a car accident allegedly caused by a drunk driver over Memorial Day weekend.
Lynzne Martinez, 30, and her daughters Brianna, 7, and Loryana, 2, died in the crash early Monday morning in Willowbrook. Juan, 28, suffered a broken leg. His year-old son, Aiden Cruz, was unharmed.
The family had spent the night at a friend’s house, not wanting to drive home the night before after having had a few drinks. The driver of a white Cadillac, who was allegedly on drugs and intoxicated, tried to flee the scene after he plowed into the Martinezs’ Chevy Tahoe, but he was stopped by witnesses, according to news reports.
By Wednesday afternoon, the school community had raised nearly $25,000 to help Martinez pay for expenses, according to Rabbi Aharon Wilk, principal of Maimonides, a preschool-8th grade Orthodox day school. Parents set up an online fundraiser at wepay.com, and others brought funds directly to the school. A parent who is a lawyer called to volunteer his services, families sent meals to the grieving relatives, and someone started a diaper and baby clothing collection.
“I told my brother the first day I saw him that I notified the school, and they called me right away and told me they had already started a fundraiser to help us,” said Ignacio Martinez, Juan’s brother, who also works as a security guard at Maimonides. “My brother, he felt loved. He felt that from the school and all the families.”
Three years ago, Juan’s infant son died from SIDS, and the school also supported the family then, Ignacio said.
Wilk said Juan and Ignacio – known by his nickname, Nacho – along with the rest of the security team, are part of the school family, setting a tone of warmth and welcome. Juan usually runs traffic at morning carpool, and he knows each kid by name and has inside jokes with many of them. Sometimes, Wilk said, Juan reminds boys to wear their yarmulkes.
“They are treated like heroes at our school, because they have shown over a number of years that they would do anything for our kids to keep them safe,” Wilk said.
Some students had already heard about the accident when they arrived back in school on Tuesday morning. Wilk and the school counselor visited each classroom in the 4th-8th grade to discuss the accident. Jewish Family Services’ Aleinu program briefed teachers on what to expect and how to handle questions, and then sent counselors to the school Wednesday to meet one-on-one with any kids that needed to talk.
Wilk said in every classroom he visited, the students had one question: “When can we see Juan?”
Kids prepared cards and letters to send with staff who visited Juan on Wednesday. Wilk and the school’s executive director, Rabbi Baruch Kupfer, were planning to visit on Thursday. The funerals for Juan’s wife and daughters were not yet scheduled.
“We just want to thank everyone who has been with us from day one,” Ignacio Martinez said. “We appreciate all the love and support.”
Click here to donate to the Martinez family.
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May 21, 2012 | 12:09 pm
Posted by Julie Gruenbaum Fax
In September 2009 The Jewish Journal began following a class action law suit against Service Corporation International, owner of Eden Memorial Park in Mission Hills. The suit alleges that SCI broke burial vaults and mishandled human remains as it tried to cram graves together, an allegation SCI denies.
The Eden trial is set to begin in October 2012.
In a “60 Minutes” segment that aired May 20, Anderson Cooper took a broader look at problems raised about SCI at some of the 1,800 funeral homes and cemeteries it owns.
Cooper looked into cases where SCI double sold plots, then exhumed existing graves when the new body arrived.
While funeral homes are federally regulated, cemeteries are regulated on a state level, leading to often patchy oversight, according to Cooper’s report.
Joshua Slocum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, told Cooper that SCI “generates a disproportionately large number of the complaints we get from consumers.” He also said the complaints are all similar –- high pressure sales tactics, misleading or dishonest information and double-sold plots.
Cooper’s report looked at Eden as well.
About 37,000 people are buried at Eden, a 72-acre facility at Sepulveda Boulevard and Rinaldi Street, which has been in operation for more than 55 years. SCI purchased Eden in 1985.
Groundskeepers deposed in the law suit, filed by Michael Avenatti of Eagan Avenatti, LLP, in Newport Beach, testified that some 200 bodies were disturbed or moved. But SCI says its investigation found problems with four graves, and the situations were handled directly with the families.
SCI, which did not comment on camera for “60 Minutes,” told the Jewish Journal in January 2012 that it follows protocol and properly handles human remains.
“We have different versions of what happened than the plaintiffs do,” SCI spokesperson Lisa Marshall said. “We are continuing to prepare for our day in court.”
May 8, 2012 | 3:32 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Businessman Austin Beutner has announced that he is withdrawing from the race for mayor of Los Angeles in order to spend more time with his family.
“Everything I have been successful at, I have busted my butt,” Beutner told the Daily News’s Rick Orlov. “I didn’t feel I could devote the time to this and balance it with my family.”
Beutner, who is Jewish, was running in a crowded field, and trailed a number of better-known candidates in a race to succeed his one-time boss, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Beutner, who worked as the mayor’s “jobs czar” for just over one year, finished behind three declared mayoral candidates—City Councilman Eric Garcetti, Controller Wendy Gruel and City Councilwoman Jan Perry—in a recent poll.
That poll, by the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University, found that Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who has not announced his intentions regarding a bid for mayor, finished in a virtual tie with Garcetti and Gruel.
The election is not scheduled to take place until March 2013.
May 8, 2012 | 1:35 am
Posted by Tom Tugend
Reputed Israeli crime boss Itzhak Abergil pleaded guilty Monday in a Los Angeles federal court to participating in a large-scale Ecstasy distribution ring, whose members killed an accomplice in Sherman Oaks nine years ago.
His attorney, Mark Werksman, told the Associated Press that as part of the plea agreement, Abergil, 43, will serve a 10-year prison term. Sentencing is set for May 21.
Abergil, his brother Meir, and three associates were extradited by Israeli authorities to Los Angeles 16 months ago.
They have been held in a federal prison facility since, with the exception of Meir Abergil, who was freed last August and returned to Israel, after serving three years in Israeli and American prisons.
In a 77-page, 32-count indictment, and in subsequent statements, U.S. prosecutors charged that the Abergil brothers and their associates ran one of the largest rings importing narcotics into the United States, working with two other drug syndicates, the Jerusalem Network and another in the San Fernando Valley.
Yitzhak Abergil was also charged with racketeering conspiracy in the murder of Sami Atias. In his guilty plea, Abergil said that Atias was killed for stealing a large drug shipment from the gang.
The indictment listed the underworld monikers of the alleged mobsters, with Yitzhak Abergil also known as The Friend, The Big Friend, and the Man from the South.
The three indicted associates are Sasson Barashy, Moshe Malul, and Israel Ozifa (aka Israel the Tall or The Tall One).
Two other defendants, Yoram El-Al (aka The Wounded) and Luis Sandoval (aka Barney Twin or Hog), are fugitives and sought by police.
Israeli courts have rarely agreed to extradite their nationals to other countries, and in this case Israeli and U.S. officials agreed that if the defendants were found guilty, they would not receive the death penalty and would serve any sentences in Israeli prisons.
The Los Angeles Police Department has been concerned with Israeli crime in the city since the 1970s. “Israeli crime here tends to be quite sophisticated and hard to track,” said Captain Greg Hall, commander of the department’s Major Crimes Division in an earlier Journal interview.