Jewish Journal

Briefs: Groundbreaking for Holocaust Museum, finally

Posted on Jan. 31, 2008 at 7:00 pm

(From Left to right: Douglas Comstock (NASA), Christo Magri (team Penguin Education), Michael Hakimi (team Michael and Talia), Talia Nour-Omid (team Michael and Talia), Samantha Hopkins (team Gad Astro), Brett Alexander (X PRIZE Foundation), Nancy Conrad (wife of Pete Conrad)

(From Left to right: Douglas Comstock (NASA), Christo Magri (team Penguin Education), Michael Hakimi (team Michael and Talia), Talia Nour-Omid (team Michael and Talia), Samantha Hopkins (team Gad Astro), Brett Alexander (X PRIZE Foundation), Nancy Conrad (wife of Pete Conrad)

Groundbreaking on Holocaust Museum

After 47 years of waiting for a permanent home, everything seems to be moving quickly now for the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. Museum officials and an impressive list of L.A. politicos broke ground Jan. 25 on the museum's future home at Pan Pacific Park, joined by the survivors who founded the first memorial of its kind in the United States nearly five decades ago.

The event coincided with the 63rd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz; and it came more than three months earlier than planned. Until the museum, currently located in Mid-Wilshire, signed a 50-year lease with L.A. Department of Recreation and Parks in November for the Pan Pacific property, the groundbreaking had been planned for Yom HaShoah in early May.

"We realized we had a major accomplishment when we signed our lease with the city, and we wanted to celebrate," said Mark A. Rothman, museum executive director.

So on a cold and wet afternoon, some 250 people packed the park's senior center to honor the achievement and symbolically dedicate the land by digging into a box of dirt atop the auditorium's stage. The new 15,000-square-foot museum is expected to be completed in 2010 and will include several exhibits, a library and an archive. Officials hope to educate 50,000 students each year.

"This museum will serve not only as a memorial for those who died in the death camps," said L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, "but for those who survived and started life anew in Los Angeles."

Being built across town from the better-known Simon Wiesenthal Center's Museum of Tolerance -- which covers a history of human rights abuses including the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide and Darfur -- the Museum of the Holocaust will be dedicated solely to remembrance of the atrocities committed by the Nazis. About $7 million of the $20 million needed for construction has been raised.

"There aren't enough," said Jona Goldrich, a board member who donated more than $1 million to the museum and built the monument. "If you built a museum on every corner of every street in Los Angeles, you wouldn't be able to tell the whole story."

-- Brad A. Greenberg, Senior Writer

Live for Sderot Benefit Concert Planned for L.A.

The Israeli consulate in Los Angeles began a campaign this week to raise awareness about the precariousness of life in the western Negev, which has been bombarded by more than 7,000 Qassam rockets since fall 2001.

The consulate uploaded a video to YouTube that shows the daily struggles of those living around Sderot. A benefit concert featuring Ninette Taieb, a top Israeli singer who won that country's first "American Idol"-style contest. The benefit is scheduled for Feb. 26 at the Wilshire Theatre, and plans are also being made to bring a group of children to Los Angeles.

"We'd like to present to the Americans the plight of Sderot, which is constantly under fire since the disengagement from Gaza," Consul General Yaakov Dayan said. "The concert will provide an opportunity to show the solidarity that the people in Los Angeles feel toward the citizens of Sderot."

Daily life in the western Negev is a constant test of will power and psychological strength. With sometimes dozens of rocket attacks each day, residents learn to respond with measured terror to the siren warning of an incoming attack.

"Tzeva adom" (red light) they hear, and then they've got 20 seconds or less to take cover.

"The attacks are unprovoked, unpredictable and continuous, and their effect has been close to catastrophic for us, both economically and psychologically. Our every action, our every waking moment, is geared toward minimizing the impact of living under enemy fire," Marcell Bar-On, a resident of Kibbutz Nir-Am whose family was profiled in these pages last summer, wrote in a recent e-mail.

"Our first concern is always for our elderly and our children. My son Gabi, who turns 10 in December, was 3 years old when the bombings started, and doesn't remember life without Qassam bombs. There are no reinforced rooms in our homes, and the old communal shelters cannot be reached in the five to 10 seconds it takes a Qassam bomb to travel between Beit Hanoun and Nir-Am. So our family does what all the other families do: when we hear the 'tzeva adom' alert, we huddle in a small windowless area (in our case, a small passage between bedrooms), our bodies and the tiled roof the only barriers between our children and the incoming bomb. We silently count the seconds to impact; I often need to remind the children to breathe -- they are frozen in total terror. And we pray that this time, too, we will be spared."

For more information, visit Live4Sderot.org.

-- BG

Jews In Space

Two Milken Community High School students (photo, above) who won first prize in a national space-oriented high school competition were recognized this month in a ceremony at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Seniors Michael Hakimi and Talia Nour-Omid won the inaugural "Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Award" from the X Prize Foundation in September for developing a business and technical plan for a device that would effectively monitor a human being's vital signs while in space. The X Prize sponsors various awards that recognize civilian efforts to further scientific and technological breakthroughs, and this is its first award for high school students.

In Washington, Hakimi and Nour-Omid helped unveil a new traveling exhibit, co-sponsored by NASA and the X Prize Foundation, which showcases their proposal and other entries into the 2007 X PRIZE Cup at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

The Conrad Award Scroll, inscribed with the names of the winning team, will be carried to the International Space Station in the fall of 2008 by Richard Garriott. The team also won a $5,000 grant for the school's science program and a trophy presented by Nancy Conrad, wife of the late Apollo astronaut Pete Conrad and creator of the prize, and Erik Lindbergh, X PRIZE Foundation Trustee, great-grandson of Charles Lindbergh and designer and sculptor of the First Prize trophy.

Hakimi and Nour-Omid are both students at Milken's Mitchell Academy for Science and Technology, founded in 2003 and headed by Roger Kassebaum. Students there immerse in college-level research and pair up with professors at local universities. Milken students have placed in the Intel Talent Search, a young epidemiologists competition, an Israeli physics competition, and a civil engineering competition. In October of 2004 the X PRIZE Foundation awarded $10 million to Mojave Aerospace Ventures, led by Burt Rutan and Paul Allen, who built and flew the world's first private vehicle to space twice in two weeks. The Foundation has since launched the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE and the $10 million Archon X PRIZE for Genomics.

For more information, visit www.xprize.org or http://www.milkenschool.org/.

-- Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor

Kadima Mega-Raffle Shrinks

Kadima Hebrew Academy in West Hills didn't give away a million-dollar house at its first home-giveaway raffle in the last days of 2007. In fact, the grand prize ended up being $25,000 -- not the promised brand-new home or alternate prize of $800,000, and Kadima didn't make any money on the major fund raising endeavor.

Kadima had set out to sell 18,000 raffle tickets at $150 each, which would have netted the school about $1 million. But the Conservative kindergarten through eighth-grade day school sold about 5,000 tickets. The cost of marketing, administration and the prizes will most likely exceed what it took in, once the final numbers are tabulated, according to Allison Krumholz, the school's director of advancement.

The outcome was disappointing but not that surprising, since million-dollar home raffles rarely reach that goal in the first year, Krumholz said.

A 2001 change in the California Penal code opened the door for nonprofit mega-raffles, and last year an estimated two dozen such raffles took place in Southern California. Only a few that have been around for several years give away the full grand prize.

Krumholz said the raffle's failure to bring in money has not endangered the school, which continued other fund raising efforts and did not count on it to make budget.

The board will assess the project -- the administrative burden to the school versus a possible greater return next year -- and determine by spring whether Kadima will attempt a home raffle again.

The raffle wasn't a total loss for ticket holders. The school gave away almost $200,000 in prizes, including the $25,000 grand prize to Bill Knoll and Linda Long, a BMW (winner Carlos Pongo of Simi Valley opted for the $30,000 cash equivalent), several $10,000 and $15,000 prizes, and many other smaller purses at four early-bird incentive drawings.

Most of the prizes went to ticket holders who were not members of the Kadima community. While the school had some explaining to do about the diminished prize levels -- contingencies that were spelled out in the contest rules -- most ticket-holders took the news well.

"In general, most people understood that it was for the school, and we did our best, but it didn't happen for us," Krumholz said. "I think most people were pretty positive."

-- JGF

Israeli Gymnast Cancels Tournament Appearance

One day before her scheduled arrival in Los Angeles on Wed., Jan. 23, representatives for Israeli rhythmic gymnast Irina Risenzon e-mailed the Los Angeles School of Gymnastics to cancel her appearance at the L.A. Lights Tournament of Champions on Jan. 24-27.

According to Tanya Hallman, the meet manager, the e-mail was short and vague, saying that the Olympic hopeful and another junior level gymnast from Israel slated to appear would not be able to attend the competition due to "safety concerns."

Despite repeated efforts, the L.A. School of Gymnastics was not able to reach the Israeli team for further details.

Fortunately, the last minute no-show did not cause much of a stir among fans and most likely will not hurt Risenzon's Olympic hopes.

"Our meet is pretty early in the season," Hallman said. "So it won't likely affect her career, but she needs to be out competing by March in order to establish a ranking and make an impression on the judges. Otherwise, she will have missed the boat for the 2008 Olympics."

-- Dikla Kadosh, Contributing Writer

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