Like a young family relishing the newfound freedom of a first home, Kadima Hebrew Academy in West Hills has painted the walls of its new building whatever colors it wants.
Kadima, a 34-year-old Solomon Schechter Conservative day school, had been renting a building from Los Angeles Unified School District, but about two years ago LAUSD wanted its campus back.
Dorit and Shawn Evanhaim, Israeli Angelenos who own California Home Builders, stepped up to the plate with a $7.2 million donation that allowed Kadima to purchase a former hospital about a mile away. For now, just the first floor of the three-story, 55,000-square-foot building on 4 acres has been fully renovated, offering plenty of space for the 180 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. The school is opening an early childhood center next year and ultimately hopes to grow to 500 students.
The new building is fully wired and has a gym, computer labs, spacious playgrounds and a swimming pool that will make the campus a great venue for summer camp.
It is next door to a retirement home, and head of school Barbara Gereboff has already set up joint programs where the kids work together with the elderly.
"The thing that people know about our school is our emphasis on character education," Gereboff said. "Many schools teach values, but we want it to be part of the language the children use all the time."
City and community dignitaries, including Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), are expected to take part in a ceremony dedicating the Evanhaim Family Campus on Sun., Dec. 12 at 10 a.m. at 7011 Shoup Ave. in West Hills. For more information, call (818) 346-0849 or visit www.kadimaacademy.org.
Youth Leadership Summit
It wasn't so much the details of the discussions on interfaith marriage or nonaffiliation or Israel or social action that energized Avi Schaefer at Panim El Panim, a Jewish Teen Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., in October.
It was the fact that 60 youth leaders of all denominations spent three days looking past their differences and putting their heads and their hearts together.
"We had all these crazy different viewpoints in one room, and we stood together and said 'there is a problem with American Jewry and it needs help, and we can do it,'" said Schaefer, a 16-year-old from the Santa Barbara area who is on the board of NFTY-SoCal, the Reform movement's youth arm.
Sponsored by PANIM: The Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values, the yearly summit has brought together 11,000 teens from 200 communities since it began in 1988. In addition to Schaefer, three Californians participated this year.
For more information, visit www.panim.org.
Art for Education's Sake
Educators from public and private schools around the city had multiple chances to learn new ways to integrate the arts into the curriculum this month.
About six Jewish schools sent representatives to the Skirball Cultural Center last week to view "The Jewish Lens." Compiled by renowned photographer Zion Ozeri, the curriculum for middle school children asks students to examine Ozeri's evocative close-ups of Jews from around the world and identify depictions of Jewish values and then link them to biblical and rabbinic texts. The kids then put their own talents to work, shooting photographs that tell their own stories and speak of their own values.
"Teaching texts all the time gets boring, but teaching through the arts really talks to the kids' hearts," Ozeri said. "Photography specifically is a great tool, because it is accessible to all. How many people can paint or do a sculpture? Everybody can use a camera."
A workshop in May in Los Angeles will teach educators how to implement the program.
For more information, visit www.jewishlens.com.
Artwork by Samuel Bak, a Holocaust survivor, is at the center of a monthlong program at the New JCC at Milken. Twenty-six educators from public and private schools gathered last month, and with the help of the national nonprofit group, Facing History and Ourselves, learned how to use Bak's art as a focal point for studying history and linking it to current events and universal themes of tolerance and diversity.
Bak's exhibit, "Between Two Worlds," will be at the JCC through Jan. 9, with a full schedule of lectures and community events, including a Community Festival with art, drama, music and food Dec. 12, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. at The New JCC at Milken, Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus, 22622 Vanowen St. in West Hills. For more information, visit www.jccatmilken.org.
After Elaine Hall Katz attended an event at the Zimmer Children's Museum aimed at children with special needs, she wished there were other creative Jewish venues for her child, who has autism. Katz is the founder of Kids on Stage, which stages plays for children of varying abilities from gifted to moderately impaired. She decided to create The Miracle Project, which will introduce children with social and developmental challenges to the world of Judaic art and culture. The project involves two 11-week workshops for children where they will create, act in and stage design their own Jewish-themed play, plus participate in a documentary film on the project and a cast album recording. A concurrent program for parents will involve them in Torah learning and helping with the production.
Katz envisions the 40-child troupe to include 20 "typical" children, 10 children with mild to moderate challenges who are used to being in a mainstream setting and 10 children whose challenges are more serious (for example, requiring an aide). The Jewish Community Foundation has provided a $40,000 grant; Katz is relying on in-kind donations and support from participants to make up the balance, which she estimates at $120,000. There will be a $594 fee per student to cover the workshops and participating in the play, but Katz said no one will be turned away due to lack of funds.
Recruitment for both children and volunteers is ongoing through the end of December, with session one slated to begin Jan. 12. There are no auditions; participants will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis.
For more information, contact the Miracle Project at (310) 963-2240. --Wendy J. Madnick, Contributing Writer
And We Want to Thank...
Students across the city celebrated Thanksgiving last week with food, drama and old-fashioned gratitude. At Maimonides Academy, eighth-graders raffled off a turkey to raise money for the class trip, and Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy students collected food and then packaged Thanksgiving baskets for the Jewish Family Service's Family Violence Unit.
At the Conejo Jewish Day School, kids from kindergarten through sixth grade participated in a Thanksgiving festival, where themes of being thankful for everyday miracles and cooperating with each other were brought into focus through poetry, song and drama.
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