Triumph of the Technion
Two students and a professor from the Technion -- Israel Institute of Technology, toured Southern California in a late February fundraising tour for the Haifa school's new cancer research unit.
A Feb. 26 gathering brought about 20 philanthropists to the Beverly Hills home of Joan Seidel, president of the local chapter of the American Society of Technion. There they listened to an informal talk by engineering student Adi Gurfinkel, cancer researcher Itay Shafat and aeronautical engineering professor David Durban.
When asked if suicide bombings have hurt fundraising efforts, Durban said, "On the contrary, people are now much more willing to give and donate to scientific fellowships, scholarships, research. There's no question that the Technion is the embodiment of the promise of the Zionist dream and Israel's hope for the Jewish people."
Critical problems in Israeli education, Durban said, are due partly to serving the 1990s massive influx of immigrants to the Jewish state, notably from the old Soviet Union.
"Twenty percent of the Jewish population arrived in 10 years," he said.
Philanthropist Janey Sweet, a co-chair of the fund for Technion's new cancer institute, said donations to the school go further because Israelis have less administrative costs to cover.
"You really get a lot more bang for your buck in Israel than you do [with U.S. institutions]," she said. "Without the Technion, there wouldn't be an Israel today." -- David Finnigan, Contributing Writer
The Circle of Friendship
About 200 parents and kids attended a pre-Purim party Feb. 29 for special-needs and emotionally handicapped Conejo Valley children at an Agoura Hills elementary school.
"We wanted to give the children with special needs the idea that Purim is theirs, too," said Rabbi Moshe Bryski, executive director of Chabad of the Conejo. "Unfortunately they're always getting lost in Purim. Families stand out. Here the whole environment is theirs."
The two-hour Purim masquerade party at Willow Elementary School was sponsored by the Chabad's Friendship Circle, an outreach program that services special-needs children and their parents.
With similar children at the Purim party, the Israeli-born mother of a 6-year-old autistic boy said, "You don't have to be proper. Everyone here is like us, and you don't have to look at the 'weird' behavior."
The event appeared to relax stressed-out parents; after one young couple placed their 8-year-old son among the other kids, they grabbed a snack, smiled and kissed each other.
About 10 Agoura High School students volunteered for the Sunday afternoon party of songs, pizza, costumes, finger painting and other activities building on their regular weekly visits to local special needs kids and their siblings.
Agoura High senior Adina Farkash, 17, had spent much of Sunday working on a term paper for her English class. But hanging out among the kids at the nonstressful Purim party, Farkash said, "You get to come out and play around." -- DF
The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles announced $100,000 in new grants on Jan. 29. The grants went to the Advocacy for Youth, Business Committee for the Arts Inc., Center for Cultural Innovation, Community Advocates Inc., Community Partners, Exceptional Children's Foundation, Grand Performances, Homeboy Industries, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, OPCC (Formerly Ocean Park Community Center), Project GRAD Los Angeles, Inc., Puente Learning Center and Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, Inc.
"These grants exemplify The Foundation's continued commitment and effort to help the Southern California community," said Marvin I. Schotland, president and CEO of The Foundation. "The grants reach beyond just secular causes and support a broad range of programs intended to improve the quality of life in the region. In today's challenging environment, every dollar of these grants plays a crucial role in building our greater Los Angeles community."
And speaking of grants, the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles received a $450 grant from The Library of America and the National Endowment for the Humanities to develop programs about Isaac Bashevis Singer that will be free and open to the public. The library will also receive the three-volume, authoritative collection "Isaac Bashevis Singer: Collected Stories," which The Library of America will publish in July 2004.
Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary dedicated the Court of the Matriarchs and the Garden of the Matriarchs -- an elegant new garden mausoleum -- in early February. The new mausoleum has rotundas on each end, breathtaking city views, is surrounded by a three-level garden with a central fountain and adds 2,854 mausoleum spaces.
Joe Berchtold, board chair of Los Angeles Team Mentoring, announced that Michael Hirschfield will be his organization's CEO.
Previously, Hirschfeld served as executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, the public policy and political affairs arm of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Team Mentoring is the largest mentoring program in Los Angeles' middle schools, and it currently serves more than 1,000 Los Angeles Unified School District students in nine schools. Hirschfeld said he hopes to double the number of students participating in the Team Mentoring program over the next several years through significant expansion.
During the High Holidays at Temple Adat Elohim in Thousand Oaks, Rabbi Alan Greenbaum appealed to his congregation to raise enough money to donate a $60,000 ambulance for American Red Magen David for Israel. The community stepped up to the plate by raising enough money for two ambulances. In December 2003, Greenbaum led a congregational tour to Israel, and the group got to go Tel Aviv and see their gifts and dedicate the ambulances.
TV Tune In
Even if you know the snaps and don't know the words, "The Addams Family" theme song is one of those melodies that, once you hear it, you just can't get out of your head. We have Vic Mizzy to thank for that tune. Mizzy has been composing hit songs since the 1930s, and now, at age 82, he still considers music a very important part of his life.
After hearing that the students had been learning "The Addams Family" theme song as part of their curriculum, Mizzy paid a visit to Woodland Hills Elementary School on Feb. 2 to teach a fourth-grade music class about the finer points of music composition and the lighter side of songwriting.
"Music should be an integral part of every child's life," Mizzy said. "If kids are taught from an early age to enjoy and appreciate high-quality music, their lives will be richer and fuller."
Roth Your World
The American Jewish Committee is presenting Revolution Studios founder Joe Roth with the Dorothy and Sherrill C Corwin Human Relations award on March 31 at the Regent Beverly Wilshire.