Avi Schnnur doesn't get a lot of sleep these days. Schnnur, a West Los Angeles physicist who works for the defense industry, now spends nearly all his nonwork hours putting the finishing touches on a communitywide conference he has organized, billed as "Spiritual Responses to September 11."
Slated for Dec. 2 at the Radisson Hotel at LAX, Schnnur was inspired to create the event because the nation has exhibited an "unprecedented reaction to what really was this generation's Pearl Harbor," he told The Journal, "Even people who were not directly affected by the events of Sept. 11 have a pervading sense of insecurity. I hear it everywhere I go: people realize they need to find ways to treasure the people around them, and to look for ways to find spiritual answers to this horrendous attack. They want to add more meaning to their lives."
The conference, presented jointly by the Westwood Kehilla and Aish HaTorah, will feature some of the nation's leading Jewish speakers, including Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, best-selling author of "The Committed Life," and Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald, director of the National Jewish Outreach Center in New York.
Other speakers include Rabbi Joel Zeff, former rabbi of the Westwood Kehilla who made aliyah several years ago, who will give an Israeli's perspective on America's terrorist threat; and Rabbi Michel and Feigi Twerski of Milwaukee, both dynamic speakers on topics of Jewish spirituality.
George Steuer, an FBI special agent, will also address the gathering about the nation's state of preparedness for bioterrorist threats, and a New York member of Hatzalah, a Jewish emergency medical response team, will provide an eyewitness account of his rescue efforts at the World Trade Center.
Remarkably, although nearly 175 Hatzalah volunteers worked side by side with New York firefighters on Sept. 11, only one Hatzalah volunteer sustained any injuries, despite having worked in the inferno.
In addition to the feature presentations, the conference will offer smaller workshops on a variety of topics, including: making our home lives more harmonious, building communities, how to speak to God, women's spirituality, and making a blueprint for living life happily and meaningfully.
Schnnur believes that Los Angeles is the first Jewish community in the nation to organize this kind of conference. "We hope that this will be a beginning and not an endpoint," Schnnur said. "If we have an enthusiastic response to the workshops, they will grow into ongoing projects."
Schnnur also plans to make planning materials available to other communities as a template for their own conferences. "As Jews and as Americans, we are obligated to take these terrible sacrifices and somehow translate them into growth that can yield greater strength than we had ever seen before 9-11. At one level, this is a way to absolutely deny victory to the terrorists."
The conference will run from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 2, at the Radisson Hotel, 6225 W. Century Blvd. Admission is $36 per person, including lunch. Walk-in registration will be accepted, but please call ahead if possible. For a full conference schedule and online registration, go to www.kehilla.org , or call 310-441-5288 ext. 29.