Veteran Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) board members Julie Korenstein and Marlene Canter, both of whom are Jewish, announced in late October that they would not seek re-election for their terms, which expire in June.
Korenstein has served on the seven-member board for 22 years and is the longest-serving representative in LAUSD history. On Oct. 30 she released a statement saying she felt it was time to retire.
"I have had many amazing experiences serving on the board -- everything from reducing class size in K-3, supporting full-day kindergarten, improving test scores to advocating dropout prevention programs," said Korenstein, a grandmother of four who represents the San Fernando Valley's District 6. "I am proud of the contributions I have made, and I look forward to a very exciting and rewarding retirement."
Her decision came one day after Canter, a two-term board member, announced she would not renew her bid for the District 4 seat.
Canter released a statement Oct. 29 saying she was proud to have led efforts to ban junk food in schools, build new facilities to accommodate swelling class sizes and improve test scores.
"While this experience has been immensely rewarding, it is time for me to seek new challenges and avenues to improve the lives of children," Canter said. "I will continue to focus on working with those who are bringing unique and meaningful improvements to education."
The eight-year board member has also campaigned to bring Westside families back to public schools from private schools. On Oct. 21, she hosted a Westside Middle School Information Night to urge parents to explore local public school options.
-- Rachel Heller, Contributing Writer
StandWithUs Conference Focuses on Israel
The unofficial standard bearer of a StandWithUs Israel in Focus conference on Nov. 9 was Hillel Kook, a Zionist activist who faced enormous obstacles in sounding the alarm in the United States during the early stages of the Holocaust. Cited first in the opening speech by Esther Renzer, the organization's president and co-founder, Kook's story of persistence and solitary struggle became a theme echoed by the speakers throughout the daylong symposium at Sinai Temple.
Itamar Marcus, founder of Palestinian Media Watch, pioneered the practice of monitoring and reporting on various Palestinian media sources and presented a disturbing slew of video clips and excerpts from Arab television, school textbooks and newspaper articles.
A rapid-fire, joke-riddled seminar by communications expert Neil Lazarus offered a crash course in how to advocate for Israel more effectively -- one person at a time.
In Kook fashion, investigative author Edwin Black railed against United States inaction in addressing the looming oil crisis. Best known for his book, "IBM and the Holocaust," Black discussed his latest publication, "The Plan: How to Rescue Society the Day the Oil Stops -- or the Day Before," which lays out a detailed strategy for surviving a sudden, potentially catastrophic shortage of oil, a fate he warns is imminent.
Looking toward the future, Micah Halpern, a Middle East columnist and terrorism expert, offered a brief analysis of what's next in U.S. and Israeli politics: "In Israel you can often predict what will happen in four days, sometimes guess at what will happen in four weeks and never know what will happen in four months."
Heading in the opposite direction, historian and StandWithUs consultant Roberta Seid whizzed through 3,060 years of Israeli history, pointing out overlooked or misunderstood facts about the contested region.
Wendy Lewis concluded the conference on an upbeat note with "Israel, Small Country Big Ideas: Israel Beyond the conflict -- Amazing Innovations," a slide show of futuristic inventions, such as a Jetsonesque flying car planned for production in 2010 and critical environmental advances, such as a working desalination plant in Ashdod that provides 15 percent of Israel's drinking water.
-- Dikla Kadosh, Contributing Writer
Saul Friedlander Wins Holocaust Scholarship Prize
Holocaust historian Saul Friedlander, 75, is one of three scholars named as inaugural recipients of the Holocaust Educational Foundation (HEF) Distinguished Achievement Award for Holocaust Studies and Research. Friedlander, who was born in Prague and hidden through the war in a French monastery, holds the 1939 Club Chair in Holocaust Studies at UCLA. This year he won the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction for his book, "The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945."
The Skokie, Ill.,-based HEF, founded by survivors in 1980, presented the awards earlier this month at its biannual Lessons and Legacies conference, which attracted 250 Holocaust scholars.
"This award is an important part of the foundation's efforts to encourage future Holocaust studies and research," said Theodore Weiss, president of HEF.
Other recipients are Christopher R. Browning, author of seven books on the Holocaust and the Frank Porter Graham Professor of History at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and Michael Marrus, the Chancellor Rose and Ray Wolfe Professor emeritus of Holocaust Studies at the University of Toronto, author of many books on the era.
-- Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor