Volunteers spent five hours uprooting dead trees and planting new ones; setting up herb planters in front of stores; repainting curbs, poles and fire hydrants; sweeping mulch and dirt off the sidewalks; and lugging heavy garbage bags in the predominantly Orthodox neighborhood of Pico-Robertson in West Los Angeles.
The Jewish community needs a clean Pico-Robertson, Rabbi Yonah Bookstein said during Tikkunfest, an Oct. 24 community service event organized by his group, Jewlicious.
“This is the thriving heart of much of the Jewish community, a place with shuls and schools and restaurants and stores,” he said. “It really needs some TLC.”
Between 100 and 150 volunteers worked on projects along 10 blocks of Pico Boulevard, between Doheny Drive and La Cienega Boulevard, organizers said.
Most volunteers cited a similar reason for participating: a desire to give of themselves to something bigger than themselves.
“I wanted to come because it’s a great way to give back to the Jewish community, to give to the community in general,” said Samantha Eddahabi, a Santa Monica College student, who knelt close to the ground on Pico Boulevard with traffic whizzing by as she repainted a curb’s red zone. “It’s a major mitzvah.”
Rabbi David Bluman of Kadima Day School in West Hills said he came “to give back to the community, to do some tzedakah [charity]. I live in the neighborhood, and it’s time to clean it up.”
In addition to cleanup and repair, volunteers also assisted seniors and collected clothing and food for the needy.
Event sponsors included The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles and City Council member Paul Koretz’s office.
Koretz, whose District 5 seat includes Pico-Robertson, dropped by to show support for the clean-up.
“The Pico-Robertson area, I think, sometimes looks a little run down and needs to be cleaned up. This will give it a shiny new face and it’ll also give folks in the community a chance to participate,” Koretz said. “Especially in this era where government services are being cut and the city’s budget is hundreds of millions of dollars short, I think the community stepping up and helping out is critically important.”
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Noah Bleich, founder of L.A. Green Mile Project, an environmental group that partnered with Jewlicious, said that Tikkunfest shows how small community groups can organize service events with cooperation from businesses and the city — a bottom-up approach to social change.
Bleich said he wants to “turn Pico Boulevard, from La Cienega to Beverly Drive, [into] a green mile, where, ecologically outside and ecologically inside, community and businesses and government work together.”
After hours of work, the volunteers returned to the event staging site — a parking lot near Pico and Robertson boulevards — for a concert featuring the band Cousin Junebug and Jewish rapper Kosha Dillz.
Despite organizers’ best outreach efforts, they were not able to attract enough people to fulfill Tikkunfest’s ultimate goal, which was to have volunteers work approximately 18 blocks of Pico-Robertson, Bleich said.
Bookstein said volunteers planned to gather again Oct. 31 to continue beautifying the area, and that his group will continue to make planters available to businesses in the neighborhood.
Volunteer Neda Zarabi said she participated for the sake of “tikkun olam, [to] repair the world,” adding that people should not mistake the concept as merely a cliché. “It’s one of the foundations of Judaism. You have to make it real to not be a cliché; that’s how you make it tangible.”