Jewish Journal

Briefs: Olympic-Pico traffic plans on hold; Pearl lecturer says Israel is not surrounded by hostile

Posted on Mar. 8, 2008 at 5:00 pm

The Olympic-West, Pico-East Traffic Initiative has been delayed for three weeks, until March 29

The postponement follows the filing of two lawsuits aimed at stopping the plan. Neither the Los Angeles mayor's office nor the city attorney's office, which announced the delay, would comment as to whether it came in response to the legal actions. The Greater West Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce filed suit Feb. 28, alleging the mayor's plan to proceed with the initiative despite the fact that the City's Department of Transportation recommended further study, is in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act, a law requiring an environmental impact report if there is "reasonable possibility that the activity will have a significant effect," according to the Chamber of Commerce press release. The Westwood South of Santa Monica Boulevard Homeowners Association also filed suit.

"We're very concerned that we have to use the justice system to do what's right and what's legal," Judy Bowen, of the South Carthay Neighborhood Association, said at a press conference on Feb. 28. Bowen opposes the three-tiered plan, which would limit parking on Pico and Olympic boulevards during rush hour, because she feels it would increase traffic on smaller streets in the neighborhood and affect businesses and the environment.

"Until air quality is considered and environmental tests are done, I want the city to be realistic about traffic: Traffic doesn't exist in a vacuum, it happens because of bad planning," she said.

The mayor's office would not comment on the delay, saying only that the plan is set to go into effect on March 29.

"The mayor and the councilman have committed all along to work with the communities and businesses to make appropriate modifications as necessary," said Matt Szabo, a spokesman from the mayor's office.

Meanwhile, some changes have been made to the original plan. Instead of continuing to La Brea Avenue, the plan extends from Centinela Avenue to Fairfax Avenue. Peak-hour parking restrictions -- the part of the plan that has raised the most objections among local business owners fearing it would hurt commerce -- have been scaled back. Peak-hour parking will be permitted between Gateway Boulevard and Centinela Avenue on the north side of Pico Boulevard, and in the afternoon on the north side of Pico between San Vicente and La Cienega boulevards.

Over the next three weeks, a "dialogue" may take place between the parties, Frank Mateljan, a spokesman for the City Attorney said.

"We were only forced to file suit based on the mayor's decision on Feb. 14," said Brandon Silverman, of Pico-Olympic Solutions, a group involved in the lawsuits, referring to the mayor's decision to proceed with the plan. Silverman hopes the community's concerns will be heard. "This has always been about doing the right thing."

-- Amy Klein, Religion Editor

Jewish Community Foundation Increases Grant-Giving

Increasing its General Community grants by 67 percent from last year, the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles announced last week that it has awarded $200,000 in grants to 18 local organizations. The recipients' missions range from combating gang violence to training math and science teachers to helping homeless parents obtain jobs.

"The Foundation has had a longstanding tradition of seeding and sustaining Los Angeles-area organizations in the community at large," said Marvin I. Schotland, president and CEO. "It's an essential part of our mandate because we believe that tikkun olam -- repairing the world -- means strengthening and supporting the vitality of our entire community, including the Jewish community and the community at large."

The two largest grants, $25,000 each, went to the American Red Cross' Major Disaster Readiness program to develop a catastrophic relief plan for the L.A. area and to The Advancement Project for a new program called the Alliance of Mothers of Murdered Children, which aims to curb gang violence.

"After 30 years of law enforcement's 'war on gangs,' L.A. has six times as many gangs and twice as many gang members," said Connie Rice, co-director of the Advancement Project. "It's time for a campaign to rescue our children. The Alliance of Mothers of Murdered Children is the moral backbone of the movement to end the gang violence epidemic in Los Angeles."

Other recipients of grants ranging from $5,000 to $12,500 included Heal the Bay's Key to the Sea educational program; Beyond Shelter for an employment-support program; the PTA of Pomelo Drive Elementary for expansion of the ballroom dance program at the West Hills school; and Zeitgeist Community Center for an after-school program for low-income and minority children in the Crenshaw area.

For more information about grants from The Foundation, call (323) 761-8705, e-mail grants@jewishfoundationla.org, or visit http://www.jewishfoundationla.org.

-- Brad A. Greenberg, Senior Writer

David Brooks Bucks Labels at Annual Pearl Lecture

Pundit David Brooks was considered the house liberal when he wrote for the conservative Weekly Standard, and is now tagged as the house conservative for the liberal New York Times.

Whatever the label, the UCLA audience listening last week to Brooks delivering the annual Daniel Pearl lecture, which honors the young American journalist killed by Islamic extremists, could agree that Brooks is a very funny guy.

He is also Jewish, he quickly announced, was Pearl's colleague at the Wall Street Journal, and his children attend a Jewish day school.

The talk was not notable for its broad theme or penetrating analysis, but yielded an assortment of rapid-fire observations well worth repeating.

On his interviews with political leaders: George W. Bush has tremendous self-confidence and is smarter than he comes across on television.

Hillary Clinton is well regarded by her peers and respected as a professional by her fellow senators, but it's hard to get behind her thought processes.

Barack Obama looks at problem solutions from the bottom up. He is very perceptive, can read your mind and can summarize your arguments better than you can.John McCain is fixated on the concept of honor, but is also a fun guy to be around.

Voters may not be up on all the policy arguments, but they are very good at judging the character of the candidates.

On Israel:

Obama is less overtly pro-Israel than the other candidates, but American support for Israel is stable and will continue.

Israel is surrounded by unstable countries that are not nations but families with weapons.

On journalism:

All journalists should go out and interview at least three people each day.

Other observations:

[Liberals] feel it's OK to drive a luxury car, as long as it's made in a country hostile to U.S. foreign policy.

It's not the fish that are important, but the water they swim in. Translation: A nation's leadership is less important than the cultural and social mores, which define a country's foreign policy.

The next U.S. president will face a series of insoluble problems, but we will muddle through.

-- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Valley Torah Musical Gives Name to 'Unknown' Survivor

For decades after Masha Bruskina was executed by the Nazis in Minsk, a photo of her snapped just prior to execution was published in several Soviet textbooks and exhibits, but her identity was always listed as "Nietzvesnaya," "unknown." That anonymity was turned on its head when "The Harvest," a play filling in the details of Bruskina's life, was produced off-Broadway in 1995, and this week the show debuts in its musical version in a production by Valley Torah High School, an Orthodox school in Valley Village with 85 girls.

Both the author, award-winning playwright and librettist Jennie Staniloff-Redling, and composer Deeann Macomson, are flying in from New York for the show.

Redling, herself of Russian Jewish descent, came across Bruskina's photo and was intrigued by the unnamed women. Research led her to two recent books on Minsk, which revealed that although researchers had identified the woman in the photo in 1968, the Soviets persisted in using the "unknown" caption.

Redling filled in the scant information known about Bruskina, who was 17 when she was executed, to construct a play where an angel-like character guides Masha, an aspiring actress, through figuring out how to fulfill her life's purpose. With the German invasion, Bruskina joins the Partisan resistance. Her spiritually infused journey ends when she is caught smuggling goods out of a hospital, and she is executed.

The play was produced at the Mint Theater in New York in 1995, and Redling was finishing up the musical version when Lisa Robin, a Valley Torah mother, contacted her last year about using the script for the school's annual production. The Valley Torah production, which is open to women and girls only, will be the first time the entire musical version is produced.

Robin had worked in film production and acting before she became Orthodox about a decade ago. She directed 30 girls (playing male roles, as well) and enlisted another 20 to work on the set. A live orchestra will accompany the musical. She said the girls particularly relate to Masha and the other characters, because many of the actresses are the same age as the characters.

"I really can work with these girls on a different level, really teaching them how to act, because this is a serious and wonderful script," Robin said.

"The Harvest," Sunday, March 9 at 7 p.m. and Monday, March 10 at 8 p.m. at Bancroft Middle School Theater, 929 N. Las Palmas Ave. The show is open to women and girls, ages 10 and up. For tickets or more information, call (818) 581-9290.

-- Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor

Leo Baeck Institute Appeals for Archival Materials

On her recent visit here, Carol Kahn Strauss, director of the Leo Baeck Institute (LBI), made an urgent appeal for "documents and artifacts that record German-speaking Jewish life" that may still be in the hands of immigrant families from Germany, Austria-Hungary and Switzerland. Addressing some 80 guests at the residence of Dr. Christian Stocks, Consul-General of Germany in Los Angeles, Strauss stressed that this has become "very urgent because the survivor population is getting older and the second generation has no idea of the value of the papers. Our legacy is a proud one ... and we are interested in the papers of survivors as part of the continuum of our people. Let them not get lost or be discarded."

Dr. Frank Mecklenburg, LBI's archivist, said that among the most desirable items sought are diaries, memoirs, letters and correspondence, family records, diplomas and certificates, passports, membership and ID cards, photographs and other items that will help scholars understand the fabric of Jewish life in German-speaking countries.

Aubrey Pomerance, director of archives of the Jewish Museum, Berlin, who accompanied Strauss and Mecklenburg, stated that the LBI sends all its microfilms to Berlin where they are digitized by the Jewish Museum.

"These materials have already had a tremendous effect on research and scholarship in Europe," he added.

The Leo Baeck Institute is the principal repository for the history and culture of German-speaking Jewry, located in New York, Berlin and Jerusalem. In addition to its archives, the LBI maintains a reference library and art collection. It also organizes exhibits and a variety of educational programs, seminars and symposia.

For additional information or to donate materials, contact Dr. Mecklenburg at fmecklenburg@lbi.cjh.org.

-- Peter L. Rothholz, Contributing Writer

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