Jewish Journal

Back on Track

New AJCongress officers announce upcoming projects and priorities following L.A. office reopening.

by Tom Tugend

Posted on Oct. 5, 2000 at 8:00 pm

The American Jewish Congress (AJCongress) has reestablished its Los Angeles-based regional office with the appointment of a new president and a new executive director.

AJCongress national president Jack Rosen named Dr. Steven A. Teitelbaum as president of the Pacific Southwest Region, and Gary A. Ratner as executive director.

The regional chapter ceased operation in the spring of last year following lengthy and bitter disputes with the national organization, which is headquartered in New York.

At the time, local chapter leaders claimed that the national AJCongress had forsaken its traditional liberal agenda. National officers replied that the Los Angeles group had been shut down because it wouldn't pay its bills.

The leadership of the former local chapter has reincarnated itself as an independent organi-zation, the Progressive Jewish Alliance (see story, Sept. 29).

Teitelbaum, 38, is a Santa Monica plastic surgeon and native Angeleno who has been active in Israel Bonds. His most recent foray into politics came during the Democratic Convention, when he organized a fundraiser for Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Among his planned projects is a recognition dinner for Robert Scheer, honoring the Los Angeles Times columnist for his steadfast defense of nuclear engineer Wen Ho Lee, freed after being charged with spying for China.

Other areas of interest will be racial profiling, police corruption, and relations with Mexico and the local Latino community.

Teitelbaum said that he has always been interested in politics and the Jewish community and harbors no grudge against his predecessors now leading the Progressive Jewish Alliance.

"It's not like the UCLA vs. USC rivalry. It's more like two UCLA players; one plays football and the other basketball," explains the UCLA alumnus.

Teitelbaum, who is single, came to the attention of AJCongress leaders after they recently honored his brother, Douglas, a New York businessman.

Ratner, 51, the new executive director, was a lifelong Chicago resident and is a veteran community activist, entrepreneur, business executive, teacher and fundraiser. He has spent considerable time in Israel, and his wife, Dalia, born in the Jewish state, owned the All My Muffins store in Beverly Hills during the 1980s.Given the previous chapter's financial difficulties, AJCongress president Rosen stressed in his announcement that "(Ratner) not only understands the needs of the Los Angeles Jewish community, but he understands how to raise the funds and to provide the services to meet these needs."

Ratner, too, lists among his priorities forging alliances with other ethnic groups and revision of the "abusive and ineffective" immigration laws.

Gary Ratner has set up offices in Santa Monica and can be reached at (310) 450-8740.

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