Shefa Fund Invests in Community
The Shefa Fund, which coordinates a cross-denominational, synagogue-based effort to increase economic opportunity for low-income residents of the greater Los Angeles area, recently set up its Los Angeles Rabbinic Council. The council is comprised of 20 rabbis from all denominations. Through its Torah of Money program, Shefa (which means abundance) also educates synagogue members about the way wealth can be used as a tool for justice making. "The role of the rabbis and synagogues is to lend a spiritual element to the work," says Celia Bernstein, the Shefa Fund's West Coast director.
Shefa invests money in community development financial institutions (CDFIs) that then loan money to members of low-income communities who don't have access to mainstream banks.
Since its inception in Philadelphia in 1988, Shefa's mission has been one of tikkun olam -- socially responsible Judaism that uses resources of the Jewish community to level the playing field for those less fortunate. In order to keep this focus, the West Coast offices aims to invest $5.4 million in Los Angeles CDFIs over the next few years. For more information see www.shefafund.org -- Gaby Wenig, Contributing Writer
LA Times Criticized
Los Angeles Times staff writer and reporter Kenneth Reich aimed to show his support for Israel when he agreed to speak at Temple Etz Chaim recently on the subject of the L.A. Times' perceived bias against Israel and its responsiveness to the Jewish community. But the gathering of about 50 agitated members of the Thousand Oaks Jewish community gave him a critical response.
Reich, who was with the Times for 50 years as a writer and reporter, repeatedly expressed his concerns regarding the Times' coverage of the current situation in the Middle East. He said he found their coverage of the suicide bombings too understated. The audience repeatedly pressed him for answers to what lay behind the Times' decision to print articles they found heavily biased and one-sided. Reich answered that reporters have their own perception of events, oftentimes first impressions which can be mistaken. He went on to say that the community members themselves could possibly be seeing things in too skeptical a manner. This only provoked hostility from the crowd. At one point someone asked, "How many mistakes does the L.A. Times have to make?"
"If I appeared before an Arab audience," Reich said at the end of the evening, "they would be just as unhappy." -- Shanee Michaelson, Contributing Writer
It's Good to Be Good
"In the next few years you're going to be really tested in terms of doing what is right," motivational speaker Sandra Zerner told the sixth-grade class at Sinai Akiba Day School on May 14.
The Sinai Akiba class is one of many middle school classes that Zerner has spoken to, hoping to "arm students with the ammunition to deal with peer pressure," said Zerner, who received her master's in education from the University of Judaism. Her presentation, "What's so bad about being good?" is an interactive experience of games, stories and role-playing, that ultimately offers students suggestions for making positive, moral choices and remaining confident in the face of peer pressure. "The whole foundation of Judaism is based on being a good person," Zerner told the class.
When Zerner herself was a young girl, she buried the "good part" of herself in order to be popular, and was mostly miserable. "I don't want you to make the same mistakes," she told the students. Zerner presented three benefits to being a good person: the world will be a better place, your self-esteem will improve and you will be a happier person.
Part two of Zerner's presentation took place on May 15, consisting of strategies to help the students deal with peer pressure. Her suggestions included walking away, being direct, diverting to a positive activity and using reverse peer pressure. She ended the presentation with inspirational stories of children who have made a difference, such as one student who donated her hair to cancer patients.
Before leaving, the class made an important promise to Zerner: they would each do one good deed every day for a month. -- Rachel Brand, Contributing Writer