Ramat Zion Breaks Contract With Menitoff
Rabbi Michael Menitoff has been notified that his position as spiritual leader of Temple Ramat Zion in Northridge will be terminated effective March 31. The termination would come 20 months into a five-year contract.
Menitoff previously led Ramat Zion for seven years before its board decided not to renew his contract in 1980; he returned in August 2007 to help the congregation heal from the loss of Rabbi Steven Tucker, whose 2005 death was ruled a suicide. Menitoff replaced the synagogue’s interim rabbi, Michael Graetz, who returned to Israel.
Ramat Zion, whose membership consisted of 470 family units in 2007, now has approximately 400 and is struggling amid the current economic downturn, board president Barbara Leyner says.
“As with many other synagogues, we are experiencing some financial difficulties,” she said. Leyner said the board has held discussions with several organizations and has been exploring arrangements to shore up its finances. However, she would not answer questions about Menitoff’s dismissal or his contract, saying that it was Ramat Zion’s policy not to comment on personnel or contractual matters.
Menitoff said he has a most profound affection and love for Temple Ramat Zion, and he intends to fully cooperate during the transition.
— Adam Wills, Senior Editor
Hadassah Magazine Lays Off Half Its Staff
Hadassah Magazine has joined The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and a raft of other venerable publications in cutting its staff, in this case by 50 percent.
In a widely circulated memo to the magazine’s writers and contributors (including this writer), managing editor Zelda Shluker announced that five of the 10-person full-time editorial staff had been laid off, though two editors might still continue on a freelance basis.
In the same memo, Shluker wrote that the hitherto monthly magazine will from now on appear only six times a year, augmented by two or more Web-only editions.
Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, was in for a belt-tightening in any case, but the unkindest cut of all was apparently delivered by — what’s his name — Bernard Madoff.
Hadassah has stated that it lost $90 million in Madoff’s alleged Ponzi scheme, though apparently the women’s organization withdrew considerable profits in preceding years.
The 94-year old publication goes mainly to some 300,000 Hadassah members, but it is much more than an organizational house organ.
Under veteran editor Alan Tigay, the magazine ranges widely across the Jewish and Israeli world, with lively features by well-known writers and insightful travel pieces on Jewish communities across the globe.
— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
New Head of School Hired by Temple Israel of Hollywood
Temple Israel of Hollywood has hired educator Rachel Lewin to take over as head of the synagogue’s day school starting in July.
Lewin will replace Eileen Horowitz, who is retiring this year after 14 years as head of school. Temple Israel’s board of trustees announced Lewin’s appointment on Jan. 16, after a seven-month national search and several interviews with synagogue clergy and staff.
“I am absolutely delighted by the decision to hire Rachel, and I look forward to working with her over the next six months as we plan for a smooth and meaningful transition,” Horowitz said in a statement.
Lewin is currently the middle school principal at Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School in Foster City in Northern California. She has also held positions at three other private Jewish schools. Lewin was a founding board member of Kehillah High School and Oakland Hebrew Day School in Northern California, and is a fellow at the Jewish Theological Seminary’s Day School Leadership Training Institute.
Between now and July 1, Lewin will be working with Horowitz to transition into Temple Israel’s day school community.
— Rachel Heller, Contributing Writer
Malibu Synagogue Vandalized
Employees of the Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue arrived at work recently to find a glass door broken, beer bottles tossed across the property and shaving cream sprayed on the walls and windows in the shape of swastikas and sex acts.
“Everybody was upset,” said Pam Katz, who discovered the vandalism and is executive director of the 250-family congregation. “We are looking into heightening our security measures. We feel it was a wake-up call that even Malibu has anti-Semitism out there.”
Sheriff’s officials are investigating the Jan. 16 incident as a hate crime.
— Brad A. Greenberg, Senior Writer
Charter School Works With KOREH L.A.
New Los Angeles Charter School has begun its enrollment process for the 2009-2010 school year and is seeking students to fill its incoming sixth-grade class.
The Mid-Wilshire area school is holding a series of informational meetings to educate prospective families about its social justice-based mission and to encourage parents to apply for one of 75 available spots. As a public charter school, New L.A. is free and open to all state residents, and does not test or evaluate students as part of admission.
“Our aim is to develop students who are passionate about learning,” said executive director Matt Albert, a former Milken Community High School educator. “The program is very hands-on and interactive. We stress respect and engaging students in the community.”
The meetings will be held Feb. 9 at Carthay Center Elementary School, Feb. 20 at the Tom Bradley Youth and Family Center (Spanish language only), Feb. 21 at Crescent Heights Elementary School, Feb. 24 at Saturn Elementary School and Feb. 28 and March 9 at the New L.A. campus at the Oasis Theatre on Wilshire Boulevard.
Applications are only available at the meetings. If the number of students applying exceeds the number of openings, enrollment will be determined by a public random drawing.
Students at the fledgling middle school, which just opened its doors this past fall, have so far taken part in several volunteering and neighborhood improvement projects. Once a month, students travel to a local elementary school to read with first- and second-grade children through KOREH L.A., a non-sectarian literacy program of The Jewish Federation. New L.A. students also spent an afternoon helping to sort and pack donated clothing to be sent to at-risk children in Uganda through Project Watoto, a nonprofit that cares for orphan children.
“It’s been wonderful,” Albert said of the school’s first semester. “We’ve been able to provide students who really need it an excellent public school option.”
For more details about the enrollment meetings, visit www.newlosangeles.org/enrollment.
— Rachel Heller, Contributing Writer
Free Sports Program Will Cater to Children With Special Needs
Children with special needs have an opportunity to enjoy a full range of sports activities, thanks to a program sponsored by the Conejo Valley Friendship Circle.
With the help of Coach Tim Buchanan of Sports n’ More and teen volunteers, children with special needs, ages 8-13, will participate in basketball, handball, soccer and baseball.
“The kids have a chance to socialize, be physically active and learn new skills,” said Yehudis Silverman, Friendship Circle program director. “The league is also a big confidence booster. Everyone receives constant positive feedback.”
Sponsored by the City of Agoura Hills and the Valley Alliance/Jewish Federation, the Miracle Sports League will take place on Thursday evenings from 5-6 p.m. at the Oak Park Community Center in Oak Park.
Winter semester dates include Jan. 29, Feb. 5, 19 and 26, and March 5, 12 and 19.
The program is free, but space is limited. Call the Conejo Valley Friendship Circle at (818) 865-2233 or e-mail email@example.com to register.
— Lilly Fowler, Contributing Writer