The American Jewish Committee (AJC) joined last week in a mock graduation to urge Congress to pass the DREAM Act, which would enable the estimated 50,000 undocumented students who graduate high school each year to enter college and earn citizenship.
"Abraham was the prototype of an immigrant. More accurately, he can be viewed as the first successful immigrant," Seth Brysk, executive director of AJC's Los Angeles office, said at the protest in downtown Los Angeles. "We must give students the opportunity to complete their education, regardless of their immigration status, to pursue higher education, to obtain legal status and to contribute to American society."
The DREAM Act -- short for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors -- has been included in two immigration reform bills but not passed into law. Currently, undocumented students face greater challenges in getting financial aid for college and in-state tuition, as well as uncertain career opportunities. The DREAM Act would allow those who immigrated more than five years ago or when they were 15 or younger to work toward citizenship upon graduating high school; a requirement would be two years of college or military service.
-- Brad A. Greenberg, Senior Writer
City Clears Holocaust Museum Hurdle, One More Remains
The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust is a big step closer to being able to start building its permanent home at Pan Pacific Park.
Four months after the L.A. City Council unanimously approved a 50-year lease for the museum, the paperwork was finally signed in late October. The only hitch is that the city is still waiting to take over title of the state-owned park. But the city and state reached an agreement on the acre of the park where the museum is scheduled to break ground next Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Rememberance Day).
David Michaelson, chief assistant city attorney, said escrow should close by the end of November. The city paid in the ballpark of $30,000 for the title transfer and continues to negotiate regarding the remaining 30-plus acres of the municipally operated park.
Gillerman Sees Hope for Peace Talks
Daniel Gillerman was rejected by UCLA when he tried to enroll some decades ago, but he finally made it last week when he spoke as Israel's ambassador to the United Nations.
Addressing some 300 students under the auspices of the increasingly active Bruins for Israel, Gillerman had bad news and good news.
On the pessimistic side, Gillerman warned that if the current turmoil in Pakistan degenerates into a takeover of the nation by Islamic extremists, "Israel will face a lethal danger and existential threat."
Add to that Iran's development of nuclear technology and weapons, and the cumulative dangers threaten not only Israel and the West, but the Arab world, as well.
"I believe that most Muslims want peace and that Islam as a religion is being held hostage by militant radicals," he said. "Much of the Muslim world is beginning to wake up to that threat."
On the brighter side, Gillerman held out some qualified hope for the U.S.-sponsored Mideast peace conference, due to convene in Annapolis later this month.
"The chances for a convergence of minds have never been better," he said. "Washington wants results, [Mideast peace envoy] Tony Blair wants results, and Israel, the Palestinians and the Muslim world are ready."
But to advance the hoped-for results, the Palestinians' hand must be strengthened through what Gillerman described as his LBL formula -- legitimacy, business and leadership.
"The Arab world must give legitimacy to the Palestinian leadership, the international community must boost the Palestinians' business and economy through a Marshall Plan, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas must be strengthened in his leadership role," Gillerman said.
-- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Shul Organizes Holiday Volunteer Program
Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Eve and Day can be a lonely time for the elderly, the poor and others at institutions because of short staffing, so Young Israel of Century City has started "Tain Yad" ("lend a hand" in Hebrew), a three-day volunteer effort for Jews to reach out to the community at large. Sponsored by the synagogue and City Councilman Jack Weiss' office, Tain Yad was the idea of a board member, who suggested it to Rabbi Elazar Muskin. The rabbi asked his 17-year-old daughter Dina to helm it.
Tain Yad has room for some 230 volunteers for one- and two-and-a-half-hour slots at 11 different institutions on the three holidays. (Thanksgiving slots run from 10 a.m to 4 p.m., so there's still time to prepare the meal.) Volunteers can visit the elderly at hospitals, convalescent homes and nursing homes, drive food on Project Angel Food routes, help at a county fair for the Midnight Mission, paint houses for Hands for Hope or clean up public areas for L.A. Family Housing.
"One of the major ideas in this project is that the non-frum community has given back to L.A. institutions, but the Orthodox community does not participate normally in Big Sunday and the like," said Dina, referring to Mitzvah Days and other projects that non-Orthodox synagogues organize to help the greater Los Angeles community. "It's really important for our Orthodox community to get involved also."
A mandatory training session will be held Wednesday night, Nov. 21, for all volunteers. To sign up, visit www.yicc.org.
-- Amy Klein, Religion Editor