October 22, 2008
Briefs: North Valley JCC stages return, CSULB Senate denounces Prof. MacDonald
Don't count the North Valley Jewish Community Center (NVJCC) out just yet. Five years after the center's Granada Hills campus was sold to an Orthodox trade school in the aftermath of the JCCs crisis, NVJCC organizers have announced plans to establish a physical presence in the North San Fernando Valley or Santa Clarita Valley.
"Nobody thinks we exist," Executive Director Jerry Wayne said.
The surviving independent North Valley Jewish Community Center Inc. board is currently scouting several possible sites and working with an architect to evaluate development potential. Organizers are also developing a business plan that would allow the center to thrive without ongoing operational support from an outside agency, like The Jewish Federation or the Jewish Community Center Development Corp.
"We need to be self-sufficient," Wayne said. "And every program we develop is going to give back to the community in some way."
Wayne, who was director of the center from 1980 to 1992, is drawing a token salary and working with a handful of unpaid former center employees to revive its programming in the meantime.
The center still boasts about 100 member units, and is currently enrolling for its fall series of programs, which include a moms social group, a teen mitzvah group, a dinner club, a Yiddish conversation club and chaverim for young families to seniors. Activities take place at Temple Beth Torah and Temple Ramat Zion in Granada Hills or the Tesoro Senior Apartments in Porter Ranch.
For more information about North Valley Jewish Community Center, call (818) 360-2211 or e-mail email@example.com.
-- Adam Wills, Senior Editor
Long Beach Academic Senate Denounces Professor's Views
Cal State Long Beach's Academic Senate voted this month to disassociate the university faculty from the work of Kevin MacDonald, a psychology professor whose writings have been likened to "Mein Kampf" and "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion."
"While the Academic Senate defends Dr. Kevin MacDonald's academic freedom and freedom of speech, as it does for all faculty, it firmly and unequivocally disassociates itself from the anti-Semitic and white ethnocentric views he has expressed," the senate's resolution stated.
In an e-mail, MacDonald called the statement "fairly meaningless."
"Given that such statements have not been made about other faculty, I suppose it's not fair. But that's life," MacDonald wrote. "I am hoping that the statement by the Academic Senate is the culmination of all the ethnic activism that has been directed against me for over two years and that the end of all this harassment is near."
The vote, though not necessarily its passage, was expected. Tension on campus was building last spring when The Journal profiled MacDonald, leading to a community forum at the Alpert Jewish Community Center in Long Beach; this was followed by an entry for MacDonald on the Anti-Defamation League's Web site "Extremism in America."
University President F. King Alexander had said that although MacDonald had the right to his own opinion, Alexander found those "views deplorable and reprehensible." Several departments, including history and the Jewish studies program, denounced MacDonald's work as "professionally irresponsible and morally untenable"; his own department, psychology, disassociated from his writings because of their popularity with "extremist groups." And as the year came to a close, a resolution distancing the entire faculty from MacDonald was discussed.
He is best-known for his three-volume series "The Culture of Critique," which argues that Judaism is not a religion but a group evolutionary strategy, complete with its own eugenics program -- the Talmud.
MacDonald claims that Nazism "may well have been caused or at least greatly facilitated by the presence of Judaism as a very salient and successful racially exclusive antithetical group strategy within German society."
MacDonald also claims that Jewish intellectuals and influentials, from their place at major media and the social sciences, seek to "destroy Europeans" by convincing them of their moral bankruptcy and the Jews moral superiority.
Jeffrey Blutinger, director of Cal State Long Beach's Jewish studies program and a professor of Jewish cultural history and post-communist Holocaust memorialization, led the crusade against MacDonald and hailed the decision.
"The Academic Senate represents the faculty of the university; it is the premiere institution on campus representing all faculty and speaks on their behalf," Blutinger said. "When Kevin MacDonald speaks, and he has the first amendment right to speak, he speaks only for himself and not for us."
-- Brad A. Greenberg, Senior Writer
Iranian Jews Released on Bail for Alleged Kidnapping
Three defendants arrested on the day before Rosh Hashanah for allegedly kidnapping and holding for ransom a man whose diamond business they invested in were released on bail on the morning of Friday, Oct. 17.
Jamshid Daniali, Parviz Daniali and Hayame Lalezarian and his wife, Zhilla Lalezarian claimed they had invited Bension Vardi, an Afghani Jew who had solicited investments from Los Angeles' Iranian Jewish community, to the Lalezarian's Tarzana home and requested their $50,000 back. Shortly after Vardi arrived, his fiancée called police and said he was being held for $4.5 million ransom.
The Danialis and Lalezarians were charged with home invasion robbery, attempted kidnapping and kidnapping for ransom. Zhilla Lalezarian was the first to be released on bond because she is undergoing chemotherapy. Last week Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Karen Nudell granted the defense's request to have bail reduced from more than $1 million to $100,000 for the other defendants.
The L.A. County District Attorney's Office also dropped the home invasion count but added two other charges: simple kidnapping and criminal threats. The preliminary hearing was continued until Oct. 29.
'Beyond 60' Helps Educators Teach About Israel
Education experts are examining just how to present the complex world of Israel to youth at an upcoming conference, specially designed for current day and religious school principals and teachers in "Beyond 60: A Summit on Israel Education," said Phil Liff-Grief, associate director of the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Los Angeles and moderator of the program.
"There have been changes in both arenas," Liff-Grief said. "There are so many issues that have to be taken into account today."
The program will begin with a town-hall discussion, including Liff-Grief; BJE's David Ackerman; David Leichman, founder of Pinat Shorashim -- a park in Israel dedicated to peace and the environment; and Dr. Steven Windmueller, dean of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles.
Theoretical and practical discussions involving youth groups, camps and other topics of interest to education professionals, will round out the last two parts of the program.
Ackerman said the conference is important particularly because "we no longer have the exclusive rights to the story" as young adults have access to all kinds of information about Israel -- not all of it accurate -- via the Web.
The conference begins at 9 a.m., Wed., Nov. 12. $18 (a continental breakfast, lunch, nature walk, and a tour of the Maria Bennett Israel Discovery Center and Garden are included in the cost).
For more information, visit http://www.shalominstitute.com.
-- Lilly Fowler, Contributing Writer
Head of Lithuanian Jewish Community Visits L.A.
Simon Gurevich, right, executive director of Lithuania's Jewish community, with Jack Frydrych, chair of The Federation's World Jewish Communities Committee, and Zane Buzby, co-founder of The Survivor Mitzvah Project
"The miracle of Jewish life is taking place in our country," said Simon Gurevich, head of Lithuania's Jewish community, last month in a talk to the World Jewish Communities Committee of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.
With an annual budget of $1.3 million, the Jewish Community of Lithuania provides social services as well as educational, religious and cultural activities for many of Lithuania's estimated 5,000 Jews. More than $300,000 of that total is donated by the World Jewish Communities Committee, chaired by Jack Frydrych, through the Los Angeles-Baltic Partnership. The money supports Jewish renewal, sending some 600 youngsters to summer camp and more than 1,300 participants to the Baltics' Limmud Conference.
But only $300,000 of the annual budget is targeted to help Lithuania's needy, including 200 at-risk children and almost 1,200 destitute seniors, many who are Holocaust survivors. These social services include $30 monthly food cards for 104 people, hot meals served daily for 100 people and about 25 hours a month of home care for 126 people.
"Unfortunately, there are more people. We need to look for more resources," said Gurevich, 27, who emphasized the Jewish community's number one priority is ensuring a dignified life for all Lithuanian Jews.
And while Gurevich is optimistic about the future of Jewish life in a country in which about 90 percent of the estimated pre-war population of 220,000 Jews were killed by Nazis and their collaborators, he spoke about four unresolved issues.
One is the question of restitution of both Jewish communal and private property, which remains unsettled. Another is the building of luxury condominiums and other developments on the centuries-old Snipiskes Cemetery, where an estimated 50,000 Jews are buried. Even the U.S. House of Representatives, on Sept. 25 of this year, passed a resolution condemning the Lithuanian government for building on cemetery property.
A third concern is the rise of "Holocaust obfuscation," a form of double symmetry in which Jews, accused of conspiring with the communists, are partly blamed for causing their own annihilation, and Lithuanians are viewed as Soviet victims rather than Nazi collaborators. And while no Lithuanian war criminal has been persecuted since Lithuania's independence in 1989, the government has accused several former Jewish partisans, including Israeli Holocaust historian Dr. Yitzhak Arad, of killing innocent Lithuanians.
Lastly, Gurevich deplored the recent rise of anti-Semitism, pointing to a neo-Nazi March last spring and the painting of swastikas on Jewish community buildings on Tisha B'Av.
Zane Buzby, co-founder of the Survivor Mitzvah Project, which raises money to assist more than 850 destitute and forgotten Holocaust survivors in Lithuania and other Eastern European countries, also addressed the committee. She stressed the direness of the survivors' needs for food, medicines and money for heating, explaining that inflation of 12.6 percent will cause heating bills to average $160 monthly this winter, while pensions remain stagnant at $50 to $80 monthly.
"This is an emergency situation," she said.
-- Jane Ulman, Contributing Editor