The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life rolled out its big guns last week for lunch with some 70 major local supporters and the message was upbeat.
During a panel report and discussion at UCLA's Yitzhak Rabin Center, national and international leaders gave a quick survey of Hillel activities at 513 campuses in the United States and Canada, foundations in Israel, Latin America and the former Soviet Union, and affiliates in the United Kingdom and Australia.
Here are some lively sound bites from the panelists:
Edgar M. Bronfman, chairman of the Hillel board of governors, megaphilanthropist and author of the recently published "Hope, Not Fear": "The most difficult job is to keep the Jewish community together in a free society."
On intermarriage: "It's a chance to bring in others. We should welcome everyone into Abraham's tent."
"I feel much more hopeful about the Jewish future now than I did a few years ago."
Adam Bronfman, hip son of Edgar and vice chair of Hillel's board of directors: "I like the idea that at Queens College in New York, we have Muslim students come over to Hillel to play Ping-Pong."
Wayne Firestone, national president: "We need a larger Hillel presence at universities in Europe. More American Jewish students study there than in Israel."
Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, director of UCLA Hillel, who interrupted his sabbatical leave to participate: "When I started working for Hillel in the 1970s, we had an image problem. We had to fight the N-word -- nebbish."
On his vision of the future: "We can't have a future if we are always fighting the past. Jews are not put in the world just to fight anti-Semitism."
"UCLA Hillel functions as a regional center. Everyone knows, this is the place to hang."
Alex Glass, UCLA sophomore (female) and Hillel intern: "I went to Brazil on a Hillel-sponsored aid project and I was amazed. We had 220 students for Shabbat."
For more information about Hillel, go to www.hillelhebrew.org.
-- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
At-Risk Teens View Holocaust Art
Los Angeles artist Mark Strickland is taking his murals inspired by a trip to Dachau concentration camp to a nonprofit learning center in Pasadena that helps at-risk youths stay and succeed in school. The exhibition continues through June.
The title piece, "Indomitable Spirit," was created after Strickland's visit to Dachau last year. "I remember being visibly shaken by seeing the gas chambers next to the church, where some people still feel the vestiges of human suffering," Strickland said. Using passages from Elie Wiesel's "Night" throughout the 21' x 10' mural, Strickland illuminates the effects of cultural turmoil on the enduring human spirit and its ability to rise above tortured surroundings.
For this exhibit at Learning Works!, Strickland developed four murals that raise awareness on the difficult choices faced by the teens such as those who go to Learning Works! programs.
The show is open by appointment only through June 1 at Learning Works!, 90 N. Daisy Ave., Pasadena. Call (626) 564-9890 to schedule an appointment and for information visit www.markstricklandart.com.
Yom HaShoah Program Honors Mother of 100
Sixth-through eighth-graders at Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy performed an original play inspired by the life of Lena Kuchler Silberman in honor of Yom HaShoah. After surviving the war, Silberman rescued 100 Jewish war orphans in Poland in 1945. She managed to get them false IDs to emigrate to Israel, then raised these children on a kibbutz.
The students performed for other classes as well as parents and community members in the evening, and students also viewed "My One Hundred Children," a film about Silberman.
Councilman Weiss Office Defaced by Anti-Semitic Attack
When two employees for Los Angeles Councilman Jack Weiss arrived at his Sherman Oaks office Thursday morning, they were greeted by yellow caution tape, three swastikas and a minimanifesto.
"Our Policy: We have no time to listen to Jewish American children!!! If you don't believe us, just try talking to us," the letter, which like the swastikas and a second note was glued to a door, began. "We'll have a homoerotic cop feeling up your Jewish ass in no time!!! Hail Weiss!! Mein Fuhrer"
As detectives were preparing to leave the scene, they spotted Adonis A. Irwin, 32, who fit the suspect description given by a neighbor. Irwin, who had previous contact with Weiss' office and Los Angeles police, was arrested.
He was charged this week with vandalism, posting a swastika on private property and committing a hate crime, and faces up to three years in jail and $11,000 in fines. Irwin's bail was increased from $40,000 to $175,000 and he was referred for a mental evaluation.
Weiss -- a Jewish councilman for a predominantly Jewish district that includes the Valley Hills, Westwood and the Fairfax District -- learned of the vandalism while attending a morning meeting at the Israeli consulate. He said in an afternoon press conference that "neither my staff nor I will be intimidated."
According to the Anti-Defamation League, anti-Semitic incidents declined in California by about 17 percent from 2005 to 2006 but remain "disturbingly high."
-- Brad A. Greenberg, Staff Writer