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Jewish Journal

L.A. Celebrates 62 Years of Israel

by Adam Wills

April 27, 2010 | 10:11 pm

Yoram Gutman, executive director of the Israel Independence Day Festival, is still kvelling about the April 25 Woodley Park weather, which barely hit 80 degrees.

“I wish it was like this every year,” he said, referring to the frequent triple-digit temperatures of past festivals.

Based on ticket sales, 15,000 people gathered at the San Fernando Valley park to celebrate the Jewish State’s 62nd anniversary. A police count put the crowd at about 20,000.

Festival organizers noticed a larger turnout from young families, representing a cross section of the Los Angeles Jewish community. “Lots of kids were getting into the atmosphere of Israel Independence Day — we feel that’s very important for the future of the festival,” Gutman said.

During the event’s official ceremony, L.A. City Councilman Dennis Zine accepted the Yakir HaKehila Award on behalf of L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was unable to attend. And to the surprise of festival organizers, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom dropped in, joining fellow dignitaries: state Sens. Carol Liu (D-La Canada Flintridge), Alex Padilla (D-Pacomia) and Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills); Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles); Assemblymen Bob Blumenfield (D-San Fernando Valley), Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) and Jeff Miller (R-Corona); L.A. City Coucilmembers Jose Huizar, Paul Koretz, Tom LaBonge and Jan Perry; L.A. City Controller Wendy Greuel; L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky; L.A. Sheriff Lee Baca; LAPD Cmdr. James Cansler and Israeli Consul General in Los Angeles Jacob Dayan.

Gutman said that despite the beautiful day, one cloud is hanging over the festival — a $43,000 bill for police, fire and other city services, which organizers were handed less than three weeks ago. The expenses have been handled by the city of Los Angeles for the past 19 years, but that policy changed this year due to the ongoing budget crisis.

“It’s a terrible burden. The city used to waive those expenses,” Gutman said. “Suddenly, it’s a new ballgame.”

The festival has pulled together $7,000, and organizers are hopeful they can raise the remaining $36,000 by the city’s May 5 deadline.

Gutman expects to face similar expenses for next year’s festival — set for May 15, 2011   — but he says now they can budget the amount and begin approaching sponsors to help offset the cost.

“At least now we’ll know we need to extend our fundraising,” he said.

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