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Community Briefs

June 19, 2003 | 8:00 pm

ADL Sponsors "Safe Community" Program in Encino

Earlier this year, a string of arson attacks on five houses of worship rocked the interfaith community. Earlier this month, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) sponsored an interfaith forum to prepare the community in case such events should reoccur.

"The series of attacks served as a wake-up call that we must remain vigilant," ADL Pacific Southwest Regional Director Amanda Susskind said.

The First Presbyterian Church of Encino, which suffered $75,000-$100,000 in damages after it was firebombed on April 26, held the June 2 program, "Making Your Community and Religious Institution Safe," featuring a panel of security experts and city officials, including Cmdr. Mark Leap of the Los Angeles Police Department's Counter Terrorism Bureau; Chief Bill Bamattre and Assistant Chief Dean Cathey of the Los Angeles Fire Department; Col. Yoni Fighel, director of the educational program at the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Israel; City Councilman Jack Weiss; and L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

Each panelist stressed the importance of community involvement.

"We would not have identified that suspect if it were not for a few people in the community that actually stepped forward.... I encourage you to form alliances in your community," Leap told the audience. "Certainly [form] interfaith alliances, so that if we do have a situation like we did a month ago, there are already those built in lines of communication so that you can get the word out."

Yaroslavsky reminded participants to put acts of hate into perspective, but to also respond with total vigilance.

"We need to celebrate one another," he said. "To walk a mile in each other's shoes. We need to understand what makes each other tick. Because when we do that, we find out that our differences are far outweighed by our commonalties. We have the same ambitions, we have the same aspirations, we have the same frustrations, we have the same fears."

Participants also received a copy of the ADL's security handbook, "Keeping Your Jewish Institution Safe."

To order a copy of "Keeping Your Jewish Institution Safe," call (310) 446-8000 or visit www.adl.org . -- Rachel Brand, Contributing Writer

Camp Valley Chai Returns to Granada Hills

Camp Valley Chai, the only Jewish day camp in the north side of the Valley, is back after a one-year hiatus. The camp, which will continue to operate out of the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills, is returning for a ninth summer.

"We want everyone to know that we're back, we're reopening and we're bigger and better than before," said Amy Grofsky, the camp's director, who is returning to the position she's held for six years after being away last summer.

The Jewish day camp is available to children from kindergarten through eighth grade and will offer the usual camp fare, in addition to swimming, karate, gymnastics, Shabbat services on Fridays and an Israeli cultural experience.

Camp begins June 30. For more information, call (818) 366-0907. -- Sharon Schatz Rosenthal, Education Writer

Heschel West Holds Hearing on New Complex

Like the plight of most Angelenos, Abraham Joshua Heschel West School's biggest obstacle in obtaining permission to build its new campus is all about traffic. The Heschel West School Board had its second hearing before the Los Angeles County Planning Commission on May 7 in an effort to obtain a conditional-use permit to build a nine-building school on a 70-acre site near Chesboro Road in Old Agoura in the Conejo Valley.

The hearing focused on the property's Environmental Impact Report. In addition to concerns like noise and destruction of the area's rustic charm, the opposition is currently focused on the expected influx of traffic.

"They haven't begun to satisfy traffic access. Their stated access is unacceptable," said Jess Thomas, president of the Old Agoura Homeowners Association.

Representatives for Heschel West say its current site, near the Liberty Canyon exit of the 101 Freeway, is inadequate for the growing student body.

Brian Greenberg, president of Heschel West, said the school's board will respond to the traffic concerns and was clearly not thrown by the prospect of additional hearings.

"This is the process, and we knew ahead of time that it's long and complicated process," Greenberg said. "I personally don't see any surprises."

A third hearing is set for Sept. 10. -- SSR

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