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Jewish Journal

The Circuit

by Gaby Wenig

December 4, 2003 | 7:00 pm

Hope, Law and Community

As the site of its first anniversary celebration, hosted by Hope Warschaw and John Law, Community Advocates (CA) picked a stunning beachfront house, with some 150 well-wishers fitting comfortably into the open-ended reception hall.

A (very brief) welcome was extended by CA President David A. Lehrer and Vice President Joe R. Hicks, who founded the innovative human relations organization. Belying their energy and looks, the two men claimed a combined count of 60 years in communal and civil rights work -- Lehrer as regional director of the Anti-Defamation League and Hicks as executive director of the L.A. City Human Relations Commission and of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Richard J. Riordan, CA's chairman and former L.A. mayor, couldn't attend as he was being sworn in the same evening as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's secretary of education.

Hicks pointed out that too many civil rights and defense organizations among African Americans, American Muslims and, yes, Jews, "were looking into the rearview mirror" to the clichés and self-victimization of the 1960s and '70s, ignoring the very real progress that has been made since.

Socializing in a roomful of politicians and young and elderly activists were veteran Democratic leader, and mother of the hostess, Carmen Warschaw; political consultant Donna Bojarsky, with 1-year-old son Joshua in her arms; and "Local Talk" host Bill Rosendahl, who told The Circuit, with relative cheerfulness, that he had just been fired by the new management of Adelphia Cable.

Another wounded veteran was Terry Smooke, former Gov. Gray Davis' longtime liaison to the Jewish community, who noted that a lot of people were beginning to discover that her recalled boss "was really a good guy."

Among senior figures in attendance were Judge Harry Pregerson and Hy Haves. -- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Funding a Special Need

American Friends of Beit Issie Shapiro held its inaugural banquet at Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel in Westwood to raise awareness and much-needed money -- $80,000 -- for the Israeli treatment and support center for people with developmental disabilities and their families.

Located in Ra'anana in central Israel, Beit Issie was established in 1981 and initially helped 16 mentally challenged children.

"Beit Issie Shapiro is probably the leading national organization in the field of disabilities," said Naomi Stuchiner, executive director and daughter of the organization's namesake, who had dedicated his life to aiding Jews with disabilities.

Today, the center offers direct monthly services to more than 1,200 children and adults with special needs through day care; outpatient, education and support services; health care and therapy programs. The disabilities that the center serves include moderate to severe mental disabilities, Down's syndrome, Rett syndrome, autism, sensory and motor disorders and cerebral palsy, among others.

Another 4,000 people benefit each year from indirect services and opportunities, like counseling for parents, students training for volunteers that join their youth tolerance program and continuing education for professionals through the center's training institute.

However, the center was hard hit by Israel's financial crisis, both in terms of government subsidies and parental support.

"The government has made cuts.... The parents are unable to pay what they usually pay, but we never turn away a family who can't afford the fees, so we have to provide subsidies. Donations in Israel have dropped," Stuchiner told The Circuit. "The United States and Canada now account for two-thirds of our fundraising budget."

Local initiatives to benefit Beit Issie include Cycles for Smiles, an annual tricycle ride at 16 area synagogue preschools; and the Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Partnership, which will help Milken students volunteer at the center when they travel to Israel next semester.

Banquet emcee and actress Mili Avital attended with fiancé Charles Randolph, and Broadway star Mike Burstyn provided the evening's entertainment. Others in attendance included Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Rabbi Levi Meier, chaplain of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

For more information about Beit Issie Shapiro, visit www.beitissie.org. -- Adam Wills, Associate Editor

Baum for Bikes

Think you know Los Angeles? OK, then who was the father of the bicycle lanes and paths in gridlock city?

The name is Alex Baum, and it was he who told former Mayor Tom Bradley that a way to relieve the traffic congestion was to give bicyclists a chance to use their favorite mode of transportation in relative safety.

Baum has since served as chair of the L.A Bicycle Advisory Committee under the last three mayors, and on the board of directors of the 1984 Olympics.

Recently, the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition bestowed its Cycles of Angels award on Baum at a gala whose invitation read, "Bike Valet Parking Available."

During World War II, Baum was taken prisoner by the Germans while fighting in the French resistance, but was "fortunately" classified as a political -- rather than Jewish -- prisoner. After time in Buchenwald, Baum was transferred as a forced laborer to Wernher von Braun's V-2 buzz bomb project, during which some 20,000 people were worked or starved to death.

Later, when von Braun became head of the U.S. rocket program, Baum tried to convince Walter Cronkite and commentator Walter Lippman that von Braun was a mass murderer, but "they told me that they wouldn't touch the story with a 10-foot pole," Baum said. -- TT

'Step' in the Right Direction

Kudos to Temple Beth Tikvah of Fullerton for receiving an Honorable Mention from the Union of Reform Judaism for its interfaith outreach program "Starting Outreach Programming Step-By-Step."

The Art Market

From Nov. 15-16, the social hall at Temple Isaiah became a bustling marketplace of Jewish art, photography and crafts, for the 23rd annual Festival of Jewish Artisans. Artists from all over America traveled to the temple to display their wares, which is one of the only Jewish art festivals where the profits of the sales go to the artists themselves. Among the beautiful things on display: Arel Mishory's vibrant and happy paintings on metal, which included a clock with messages for keeping shalom bayit (peace in the home), Lisa Slovis's intriguing and modern metal menorahs, and Flori Hendron's mesmerizing watercolor paintings of blessings.

"Last spring, as I faced recurrent breast cancer, my art began to change," Hendron said. "It became a form of prayer for me. I became fascinated with the Hebrew word for life -- chai. I paint this symbol, over and over, each time expressing my emotions: Fear, faith, hope and love. And as I paint, and as I pray, and as I breathe, I am transported to a place of safety and comfort."

Burekas for Israel

It's always good when Israel can be associated in our minds with something other than conflict, tensions and terrorist attacks. Which is why during Israel Week at UCLA in October, an Israeli bazaar held on campus gave students a chance to see a different side of Israel -- an Israel that is the country of hookahs, shesh-besh (backgammon), folk dancing, burekas and baklava. Students also learned modern Israeli dance and listened to a talk from Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys) about Israel's importance to the United States. Bruins for Israel sponsored the Israel Week on campus.

Bringing Masada to L.A.

Eitan Campell, director of Israel's Masada National Park, gave a presentation on the condition of national parks in Israel at a reception at the Century Plaza Hotel on Nov. 16. Campell spoke about the significance of Masada's history, the unique nature of the vestiges on the mountain, and the massive campaign to conserve and preserve this site for future generations. Listening to Campell were Tashbih Sayyed, publisher of Pakistan Today; Cheryl Kane, the event's coordinator; and philanthropist Lucille Gravelle, who was also the event's underwriter.

A New YU-LA

It's no surprise that Alan Gindi took the initiative to spearhead a capital campaign effort to rebuild and revitalize Yeshiva University of Los Angeles' (YULA) girls high school. Alan and his wife Barbara have five daughters, two of them already at YULA.

"I got involved because I saw so many challenges there that go along with so much potential," said Gindi, who works closely with his father Jack to run the Jack E. and Rachel Gindi Foundation, which funds Jewish initiatives.

YULA held a groundbreaking ceremony Oct. 26 at the site of the new school, a 26,000 square-foot, $6.5 million building to house the 150 girls enrolled in grades 9-12 at the Orthodox high school.

Fifth District City Councilman Jack Weiss presented the school, a branch of the educational institutions run by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, with a city award. Rabbi Meyer May, executive director of the Wiesenthal Center, accepted the award before an audience of nearly 200 people at the building site.

For the last 12 years, the girl's division of the 24-year-old high school has occupied a 13,000-square-foot building on a corner lot on Robertson Boulevard south of Pico Boulevard. The new building, at the same site, is expected to be finished in time for the 2004 academic year. It will have a bilevel library, a technology center, a fine-arts center, a gym and enough classroom space for 250 students.

"The idea is to have students be full participants in the secular world and appreciate democratic values, while at the same time being uncompromising in their Yiddishkayt," Gindi said.

The $12.6 million renovations on the boys' 50,000-square-foot high school, which is adjacent to the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Museum of Tolerance, were completed last year.

Gindi said this is the first time the school has an active lay board, which is not only heading up the renovation project but steering the direction and operations of the school.

"With a lay-driven operation and a lay-driven campaign and construction project, we can really soar with this school," Gindi said. "There is nothing holding us back." -- Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Religion Editor

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