A Los Angeles Jewish day school official is at the center of an investigation that forced Bill Richardson to withdraw from consideration for a Cabinet post.
David Rubin, board chairman of the Orthodox Yavneh Hebrew Academy in Hancock Park, is also the CEO of CDR Holdings, which is under federal grand jury investigation for an alleged "pay-to-play" deal to acquire a New Mexico government contract worth $1.48 million.
Rubin and his company reportedly donated at least $110,000 to three political committees formed by Richardson, most of it around the time that CDR received the contract in 2004. President-elect Barack Obama picked Richardson, the governor of New Mexico, to be his secretary of commerce, but Richardson withdrew from consideration on Sunday.
Media reports have noted that Rubin has donated millions of dollars to liberal and Jewish causes over the years. Among his other political contributions over the past decade were two $5,000 donations to the Women's Pro-Israel National PAC in 1998 and 1999.
-- Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Swastikas Found at Camarillo Preschool
A Jewish preschool in Camarillo has once again become a victim of a hate crime, with swastikas and anti-Semitic messages written in black marker on its sidewalk and walls.
In what investigators believe to be the third such incident for the preschool in a year, Gan Camarillo Preschool, part of Chabad Jewish Center of Camarillo, was vandalized on New Year's Eve. Two similar incidents occurred at the school in 2008.
Julie Novak, senior deputy at the Ventura County Sheriff's Department, said no arrests related to the incident have been made.
Ross Bonfiglio, a public relations officer with the Sheriff's Department, characterized the hate speech scattered on the property as "offensive," "profane" and "anti-Jewish" in nature.
Rabbi Yosef Muchnik of Chabad Jewish Center of Camarillo said he is pleased with the work the Sheriff's Department is doing in reaction to the crime, including the installation of a surveillance camera and beefing up patrol in the area.
"It's happened before," he said. "We feel it's just ignorant young teenagers who are venting hatred randomly."
Muchnik said although the children at the school are too young to understand the nature of the crime, the center might be meeting soon with preschool parents to discuss the vandalism.
-- Lilly Fowler, Contributing Writer
Hamas Posters Found at Irvine Synagogues
Police are investigating as hate crimes the posting of anti-Israel and pro-Hamas placards at two synagogues.
Three letter-sized, hand-written signs were discovered Dec. 30 at Beth Jacob, an Orthodox congregation in Irvine. One poster proclaimed, "Gaza -- The New Shoah" and a second read, "Hamas Recognizes Israeli Genocide."
Similar posters were found on the same day at the nearby Reform Congregation Shir Ha-Ma'alot.
Kevin O'Grady, Orange County regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, condemned the "targeting of temples to express anger toward Israeli action in Gaza."
-- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Jewish Family Service Changes Logo
For the first time in Jewish Family Service's 155-year history, the social service agency is re-branding itself in order to increase public awareness of the organization's many programs.
The new branding, being rolled out as JFS programs update their materials and renovate services centers, includes a revised logo, new tag line -- "A family of services. A family that serves." -- new agency colors of brown and light blue and a style guide.
"Our new branding will help us communicate more effectively with the public, our clients and policymakers about JFS' critically needed services for the vulnerable," Paul Castro, CEO and executive director, said in a statement.
The campaign, which was created by Innovation Protocol, was honored recently by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals with a gold MarCom Creative award in the pro bono category.
-- Brad A. Greenberg, Senior Writer
Israeli Film Takes Top Honors
An Israeli film was named the best picture of 2008 by a society of American critics.
"Waltz With Bashir" was the choice of The National Society of Film Critics at its annual meeting Jan. 3 in New York.
The film combines state-of-the-art animation, an anti-war documentary theme and a psychoanalytical approach to recover the memory of a traumatized Israeli soldier.
Director Ari Folman is the film's central character, as a 20-year-old infantryman whose unit spearheaded the Israeli advance into Lebanon in June 1982. The announced goal was to stop incursions and rocket attacks on northern Galilee towns by the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Israel's current incursion into the Gaza Strip to eliminate Hamas rocket attacks provides "Waltz" an added relevance.
"Waltz" already had earned recognition at international film festivals, from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the Golden Globes nominating committee.
The top pick by the national critics is rarely emulated by the Academy Awards voters, but the local buzz is that "Waltz" may well become the first Israeli film to win an Oscar.