May 3, 2007
Briefs: Federation files for permit to demolish pool at New JCC at Milken; Big Sunday is a big success
Notices went up around The New JCC at Milken in mid-April that the pool in the West Hills facility would close on April 24, and documents obtained by The Journal indicate that the closure could possibly be permanent.
In an application filed on April 11 with the City of Los Angeles' Department of Building and Safety, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, which owns the Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus, requested a permit for plans to "demolish and fill in [the] existing pool."
"The permit relates to possible work for the pool," said Federation spokeswoman Deborah Dragon, who cited mold in the walls of the pool and locker room areas as the reason for the closure in an e-mail.
The e-mail also states that "the best long-term solution to this problem may be the repurposing of the pool area of the facility."
Closure "is within the scope, but it has not been determined," she said.
On April 18, Milken JCC's Executive Director G. Anthony Flores, who as of this week is no longer employed with the center, sent a letter to members indicating that despite the center's best efforts, the pool would close.
Nathan Gordon, 80, who regularly uses the Olympic-sized pool, which was dedicated in 1999, was shocked to receive the letter.
"All they said was there is another place where we could go to and show our card, and that was in Northridge at a YMCA, which I'm not going to do," said Gordon, a retired U.S. immigration judge. "But no one seems to know what's going to take place."
Other fitness facilities at the center remain open.
-- Adam Wills, Senior Editor
Big Sunday Is a big success
An estimated 50,000 volunteers fanned out to hundred of sites in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura and Riverside Counties on April 28 and 29 to paint and plant, cook and clean, educate and entertain for Big Sunday, the largest region-wide weekend of community service in the nation.
For the second year, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joined forces with Big Sunday organizers, including Big Sunday chair David Levinson, the writer who founded the community service program in 1999 as a Mitzvah Day for Temple Israel of Hollywood. That first year 300 people showed up to work on 17 small restoration and cleanup projects.
This year, volunteers of all ages, religions, races and income levels -- members of almost 200 synagogues, churches, mosques, schools, clubs and even beneficiary groups -- could be seen throughout town wearing the classic T-shirts given as a gift to participants; they worked at close to 400 nonpolitical and nondenominational projects benefiting hundreds of nonprofits throughout Southern California. Last year's Big Sunday, which took place on only one day, attracted 32,000 volunteers.
The Big Sunday Web site (www.bigsunday.org), developed to coordinate all the activities and sign-ups, received about 3.6 million hits during the month of April.
New this year was the Big Sunday Soccerfest, in which 1,000 soccer players, ages 9 to 14, from underprivileged communities gathered at Friendship Field in Griffith Park to learn soccer skills from professional coaches of Chivas USA, the L.A.-based professional soccer club. The youths, who had to complete a community service project in their own neighborhoods to participate, mingled with other teams, enjoyed refreshments and received autographs from Chivas players, as well as tickets to a Chivas home game.
In an unusual project, writers interviewed a preselected group of longtime Skid Row residents at the Volunteers of America Drop-in Center in downtown Los Angeles and recorded their life stories. Residents were also photographed by Mexican photographer Antonio Turk. Organizers hope to publish the finished stories and photographs, giving a new voice and face to America's homeless.
Big Sunday volunteers also assisted at other major events taking place in Los Angeles the same weekend, including the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, held Saturday and Sunday at UCLA, and the Israel Independence Day Festival, which took place Sunday at Woodley Park in Encino.
Yoram Gutman, executive director of the Israel Independence Day Festival, believes that Big Sunday had an impact on attendance at his event, which he estimated at 25,000, down from 40,000 the previous year. Still, he complimented the 12 volunteers sent by Big Sunday as among the hardest working.
"Big Sunday is about everybody putting their best foot forward and that really happened this year," Levinson said. "I'm exhausted, but I'm really thrilled."
-- Jane Ulman, Contributing Editor
Novelest Yehoshua wins big at book festival
Israeli novelist A.B. Yehoshua won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for fiction April 27 for "A Woman in Jerusalem" (Harcourt), a story of an unclaimed corpse of a victim of a suicide bombing that becomes a symbol for a collective Israeli numbness to civilian death during the second intifada. Yehoshua, who was unable to attend the ceremony at Royce Hall, appeared in a videotaped interview as the awards kicked off the 12th annual Times Festival of Books last weekend.
In addition, the winner in the biography category, Neal Gabler -- who had previously tackled Jewish movie moguls in his book "An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood" -- won for his dissection of another pop culture auteur in "Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination" (Alfred A. Knopf).
The prizes, which were granted in nine categories, marked the 27th anniversary of the Times awards.
-- Naomi Pfefferman, Arts & Entertainment Editor
Community concert to benefit ailing rabbinical student
Los Angeles musicians Craig Taubman, Julie Silver and Chazzan Mike Stein will join together May 10 for "Voices of Healing," a community concert in support of rabbinical student Joel Shickman.