July 8, 2009
New Wall in Jerusalem Honors Soldiers
A wall is going up in Jerusalem, this one to honor the soldiers who fought and fell in the 1948 and 1967 wars to defend and reunify Israel’s capital city.
The Wall of Honor is a project of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and will be erected at Ammunition Hill, where some of the bitterest fighting of the two wars took place between Israeli and Jordanian forces.
JNF is reserving a portion of the wall to pay tribute to the Machal, or overseas volunteers who participated in the War of Independence. The families of four local ’48 vets launched this effort at a dinner of the Southern California JNF branch at Temple Bat Yahm in Newport Beach on May 31.
Jason Fenton, who joined the ’48 fighting as a 16-year-old British youngster, explained the project and the role played by the 3,600 overseas volunteers from 43 countries, of whom 120 fell in battle.
“Going to Israel and establishing a Jewish state there after a 2,000-year exile was the most important thing we ever did,” Fenton told the audience, which included Gabriella Shalev, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, as a guest of honor.
“We went there on a very personal mission, and now the mission of the children and grandchildren of the volunteers should be to recognize the courage and sacrifices of their parents and grandparents,” Fenton said.
A plaque honoring a specific Machal volunteer can be obtained through a $5,000 donation to the Jewish National Fund.
At the dinner, Fenton presented JNF with a check for $20,000, representing donations from four families to honor their own veteran volunteers.
The donors were Inge Behr for her late husband Michael, Shirley Bleviss for her late husband David, Joyce Flint for her husband Mitchell on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary, and the family of Jason Fenton.
The Ammunition Hill project will also include an educational and historical exhibit.
For more information, e-mail Fenton at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the JNF Web site at jnf.org/ammunitionhill.
— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Chesed Campers Connect With Compton
Two communities came together on the baseball diamond at Compton Community College for the Compton Little League’s closing ceremonies on Sunday, June 28. Surrounded by cheering parents and the hickory smell of barbeque — “Closing ceremonies aren’t complete without something to eat!” Darrel K. Miller, director of the Urban Youth Academy and emcee for the afternoon, laughed — hundreds of Compton Little Leaguers, T-ballers to teens, lined up to receive their trophies, each one presented by the special needs campers of Camp Chesed. It was hard to tell which group of children was beaming more.
The connection began when Jacques Hay, director of Los Angeles’ oldest special needs Jewish camp, which runs entirely free of charge and on a volunteer basis, read an article in the Los Angeles Times about the community’s struggle to give the children of Compton a Little League.
“It gives the kids a place to go and a pure dream, something that is good,” said Tim Lewis, a driving force of the reinstitution of the Compton Little League, which had been absent for nine years. “So they can be just like us when we were little and dreamt of playing for the major leagues.”
Hay called League president James Moore to see what he could do to help. Owner of Award Winners in Reseda, which specializes in custom trophies, Hay decided that Camp Chesed would take the Compton Little League on as their mitzvah project and make them personalized participation trophies.
“Every child remembers his first trophy, they really do. And it’s an accomplishment, it’s an act of pride ... just look at their faces — these kids are ecstatic,” Hays said. “Mr. Lewis told me that he comes out to home plate every day and he prays that the kids will at least get a medal; you know, we were fortunate enough to pull this off.”
The campers of Chesed, with disabilities ranging from cerebral palsy to Down syndrome, were excited to help out with the creation of the intricate trophies with revolving baseballs.
An assembly line of 60 special needs children and 90 volunteer counselors had spent Saturday night in Hay’s shop making as many trophies as was physically possible. “They stayed in my store until 3:30 last night,” Hay said, “just boxing them and engraving them and putting them all together.”
“I was in charge of screwing on the bolts and putting the screwdriver in right,” 14-year-old Mason Fine said with a look of excitement and accomplishment.
“It’s rare to see people moved to action,” Miller said. “They are often moved to shed a tear but then move on. Not in this case though. People do something and pay it forward, and you don’t forget to extend that same passion and love for someone else.”
— Laura Stampler, Contributing Writer
Professional Leaders Project Mentees Well Placed
All seven Academic Fellows graduating this year from the Professional Leaders Project (PLP)’s highly selective mentoring and full-stipend program for young Jewish leaders completing an MBA, MPA or degree in education have been placed in prestigious positions nationwide.
Jobs include leadership positions at the Covenant Foundation, Repair the World, American Jewish World Service, the Wall Street and Financial Services Division at UJA-Federation of New York, the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, Birthright Israel Next and Hillel at UC Davis and Sacramento State.
The PLP’s Academic Fellowship was founded four years ago and has consistently placed its graduates in prominent positions.
— Laura Stampler, Contributing Writer