As prices at the pump continue their march toward $4 a gallon, about 40 members of the American Jewish Committee (AJCommittee) traveled to Sacramento last week to discuss reducing fossil-fuel consumption to slow climate change and reduce dependence on foreign oil.
"Over a Barrel?" program attendees from AJCommittee's Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and San Francisco chapters heard Sunday, March 2, from keynote speaker R. James Woolsey, former director of Central Intelligence Agency, and Robert Hertzberg, former speaker of the California Assembly. While Woolsey focused on the risks to American security caused by dependence on foreign oil, Hertzberg talked about possible legislation that would encourage the use of renewable energy and ways to lobby the Legislature.
"I wanted to give them the nuts and bolts, the strategy, of how we get to the goal," said Hertzberg, now an environmental entrepreneur and a partner at the law firm Mayer Brown. "When you are in a situation like this, it is not about being right, about being correct, but it is about moving toward a common goal between right and left.
"When you talk about nuclear energy it upsets Democrats; when you talk about carbon taxes, it upsets Republicans. But there are a lot of ideas where there is common ground," he said.
Joined by members of the Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's staff, the delegation spent the following day discussing the implementation of California's energy standards and fuel alternatives in a state notorious for its freeways. The group also met with 21 legislators, including the Senate majority and minority leaders, and urged lower oil consumption.
"We are putting our economy at serious risk as the price of oil continues to rise, and we are putting our security at serious risk because we are literally funding the war on terror from both sides," said AJCommittee spokesman Eli Lipmen. "The goal was to really raise our profile on this issue, to encourage the state to implement some particular programs and focus not just on reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, which they are really good about, but coupling that with reducing our dependence on foreign oil."
Energy independence is the only thing the Jewish community is in near unanimous agreement about the importance of, and for several years, AJCommittee has been a leading advocate. In 2006, the organization offered bonus checks to employees who purchased fuel-efficient vehicles and asked rabbis to connect the story of Chanukah with a campaign to reduce energy consumption, from replacing SUVs to using CFLs.
"This," said Hertzberg, who has long been involved with AJC, "is the issue that is going to define our generation.
-- Brad A. Greenberg, Senior Writer
Yeshiva University Students Spend Break Doing Community Service
A group of 26 Yeshiva University students, including two Angelenos, spent their winter break putting their Jewish values to work doing community service Jan. 13-20.
Melissa Stieglitz, a first-year Yeshiva University student, distributed food and orange juice at Los Angeles' Midnight Mission in "Jewish Life Coast to Coast: West Coast Service Corps," a community service project funded by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. Participants spent the morning serving breakfast to more than 550 homeless men and women at the mission, which is the oldest soup kitchen in Los Angeles.
Another L.A. native traveled to Baan Kamklanga, a village in Thailand, through a program developed by the American Jewish World Service. While there, students lived alongside the natives, slept on straw mats in huts and helped build the foundation for a single-room school.
-- Celia Soudry, Contributing Writer
Special-Needs Camp Honors Community Member
Etta Israel, a mid-Wilshire nonprofit organization for people with special needs, is renaming its summer camp in honor of the late Jack Gindi, renowned community leader and philanthropist.
The Etta Israel Center's Gindi Family Camp, held at the YULA girls high school campus, incorporates traditional camp elements with therapeutic components to meet the needs of campers with developmental disabilities. The camp will expand its range of activities and programs, including elementary school-age and teenage divisions, through the continued support of the Gindi family.
Camp registration is currently open. For more information call, (818) 985-3882, ext. 225.
-- Celia Soudry