Joyce Brooks Bogartz's look isn't quite what you'd expect from the owner of a kosher restaurant. Adorned with brown-and-cream dreadlocks, the nearly 50-year-old proprietor of Malibu Beach Grill would at first glance seem to fit in better with customers sporting board shorts than black hats. But this post-punk Gidget is the kind of 'Bu Jew who is as comfortable around Chabadniks as she is with surfers.
"Having a kosher place, you can only be so risque in your appearance," she said. Situated a quick jaywalk across Pacific Coast Highway from Surfrider Beach and the Malibu Pier, Malibu Beach Grill is a kosher oasis in a town renowned for breathtaking seaside vistas, A-list celebrity sightings and new-age crunchiness.
And nearly two years after the controversial ouster of Malibu Chicken by building owner Chabad of Malibu, Malibu Beach Grill is well on its way to carving out its own niche with an eclectic menu that can best be described as California fleishig (meat).
But the road to winning over the locals wasn't easy.
Brooks Bogartz and her husband/silent partner, Gary Bogartz, each worked full-time jobs in addition to the restaurant during the first year. Malibu Beach Grill was open 16-hour days in the first six months, and differentiated itself from many area restaurants by offering delivery.
"I thought I worked hard before this. I had no idea," said Brooks Bogartz, a former entertainment publicist and Chabad Telethon coordinator. "For a year we were the walking dead," she said. "I was sleeping four hours a night."
Business is starting to pick up at this cozy kosher surf shack, both from word-of-mouth in the observant world and hipster bon mots in the L.A. Weekly last summer.
To compensate for being closed Friday night and Saturday, the restaurant stays open until 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, making it a favorite with Pepperdine students, especially during winter months. The free wi-fi doesn't hurt, either.
The novelty of buying kosher food at the beach keeps observant families showing up en masse on Sundays and on weeknights during the summer. More than a few put Malibu Beach Grill on the itinerary so out-of-town guests can savor the SoCal ta'am (flavor).
"It's a small place, but it's better than what we have in Philadelphia," said Shira Weitz, 22, who was visiting with friend Este Kahn.
"They put an interesting twist on everything," said Kahn, a 22-year-old Fairfax resident. "It's different from what you get at other kosher restaurants. It's not just a plain burger."
The burgers at Malibu Beach Grill offer a Cali twist: the Sunset features sundried tomatoes, caramelized shallots and basil aioli. And when the kitchen staff asked Brooks Bogartz how she wanted to prepare the Mexican food, in Jewish fashion she answered the question with another question: "How does your grandmother do it?"
Kashrut for the restaurant is handled by Rabbi Levy I. Zirkind out of Fresno. Brooks Bogartz identifies as shomer Shabbat, and as a resident of the Malibu area since 1994 she attends services at Chabad of Malibu, which has featured a sign with a surfing rabbi has graced PCH since 2001.
Despite the dread cred and her sister Collette's local notoriety as a surfer, Brooks Bogartz has yet to actually grab a stick and hit the waves.
"My dream is to learn how to surf in Hawaii, where it's warm," she said. Instead, Brooks Bogartz spends her time working alongside her dedicated kitchen crew, which has remained the same since its opening, slowly building up the restaurant's catering and walking the tables to make sure her customers are happy.
"I have the Jewish mother inclination to feed everybody," she said.
Jewish Federation Raises $10 Million for Israel
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles recently announced that the organization has raised $10 million in pledges just three weeks after launching its Israel in Crisis Fund.
All of the monies raised will go toward supporting direct services to Israelis who have suffered during the recent crisis, including providing counseling for terror victims, aiding the elderly, disabled and other at-risk populations with intervention programs, and helping to underwrite the cost of sending thousands of young Israelis from the north to summer camps in safer parts of the country. "This is a time to do two things," Federation President John Fishel said. "If you feel like you want to or can, you should get on an airplane and stand in solidarity with Israel. Even if you can't, it's a time to respond by making a generous donation to the state of Israel."
Fishel recently went on a mission to Israel. During a visit to the northern Israeli city of Naharya, he spent several hours huddled in a hospital basement while Hezbollah missiles exploded nearby.
The local Federation hopes to contribute a total of $15 million to United Jewish Communities, the umbrella group of the nation's federations that is coordinating the fundraising efforts.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles chapter of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) has raised more than $100,000 for the AJC's Israel Emergency Assistance Fund, also a national campaign. Like the Federation, 100 percent of the AJC's proceeds go to Israel, said Saundra Mandel, the local chapter's acting director. Local money has helped purchase two mobile intensive-cardiac-care ambulances for Magen David Adom, Israel's Red Cross, and 500 first-aid kits to bomb shelters, Mandel added.
Another organization, the American Friends of Magen David Adom, has raised $700,000 locally since kicking off a war-time campaign on July 12, according to Ellen Rofman, the group's Western regional director. That money has gone toward purchasing ambulances and medical supplies, as well as toward testing donated Israeli blood for viruses and other requested items, she said.
To attract funding, Rofman said she has sent out e-mails to rabbis throughout Southern California, advertised in the Jewish press and contacted Jewish country clubs and private foundations. Given the needs of the Israeli people, she said the fundraising drive, named Code Red Alert, will continue until mid-October.
To make a donation to the Federation's Israel in Crisis Fund, call 866-968-7333 or, visit www.jewishla.org.
To make a contribution to the American Jewish Committee, visit www.ajc.org.
To make a donation to American Friends of Magen David Adom/ARMDI, call (818) 905-5099, or visit www.afmda.org.
-- Marc Ballon, Senior Writer
Spielberg Adds $1 Million to Relief Funds
Steven Spielberg is giving $1 million for relief efforts in Israel during the current conflict, with the initial $250,000 going to the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.
Additional future gifts are earmarked for the liberal-oriented New Israel Fund and other relief organizations in Israel, Marvin Levy, the filmmaker's chief spokesman, announced this week.
Spielberg's is among the major gifts to the Los Angeles Jewish Federation's special crisis fund and is being donated through his Righteous Persons Foundation, capitalized entirely through his personal profits, estimated at around $40 million, from his Academy Award-winning movie, "Schindler's List."
Fishel said that the crisis fund concentrates on alleviating the devastating effect of Hezbollah rocket barrages on northern Israel, particularly on children, the elderly and disabled.
In addition, Spielberg's grant will be used to retrofit Haifa's three hospitals with shatterproof glass and for emergency assistance to the main hospital in the hard-hit town of Nahariya.
The unspecified donation to the New Israel Fund will go for emergency assistance to communities in northern Israel through support of crisis hotlines, economic help and improved food distribution.
At the same time, another Jewish high-profile Hollywood personality is disbursing $1 million.
Barbra Streisand is giving that sum to former president Bill Clinton's Climate Change Initiative, which seeks to create a consortium of major cities around the world to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Steisand recently announced plans for a concert tour in October and November, whose proceeds will go to organizations concerned with environmental, women's health and educational issues.
-- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
New Program Welcomes Learning Disabled Students to Day Schools
A year-old program for children with learning disabilities at Los Angeles Orthodox day schools has room for a few more kids for this September.
Kol Hanearim -- Hebrew for all the children -- started last year to meet the challenge of keeping children with learning disabilities in Jewish day schools. The children, who have all left or been asked to leave Jewish day schools, have their own class embedded in a host school. A special education teacher and trained aides teach classes in academic subjects as well as social and study skills.
"The unique thing about what we're doing is the kids will develop a sense of belonging within the host school, and that will lead toward the class being integrated as much as possible within the host school," said headmaster Rabbi Levy Cash.
The Kol Hanearim curriculum and schedule is designed to flow with the host schools, so that kids join their grade for classes like art, computer and physical education, and for prayers, lunch and recess.
Last year, Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy hosted the first class of six fourth-graders, who are generally two to three years behind grade level academically and might also have behavioral issues. This year, in addition to the fourth- and fifth-grade class at Hillel, the program will offer a second- and third-grade class at Maimonides Academy, and a sixth- through eighth-grade class at Perutz Etz Jacob Academy. Each cohort will stay within the host school from year to year, so they can benefit from stable friendships and consistency of educational approach.
"There is a lot our kids can gain from their peers, and there is a lot their peers can gain from us being in the school," Cash said, noting that the host schools have been welcoming and cooperative.
For information, contact (818) 536-9741 or e-mail Kolhanearim@gmail.com.
-- Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor