The effort to reinstate the University of California's study in Israel program entered the state Legislature last week.
Sen. Carole Migden (D-San Francisco) introduced a resolution on Jan. 17 that urges the UC to adopt a policy similar to those at other universities, which allow study in countries under U.S. State Department travel warnings. Since the UC suspended its program in Israel in April 2002, during the Second Intifada, countless students have had to officially drop out of school and enroll directly in an Israeli university or through a third-party provider.
The move cost some students their financial aid and had to be made without the guarantee that credits earned during their semester or year abroad would be recognized by their UC campus. The same has been true for those wanting to study in the Philippines.
"The UC EAP policy does a disservice to interested students by judging potential programs without weighing the potential academic benefits against the potential nominal risks of traveling in a country subject to a less severe travel warning," Migden, who is Jewish, wrote in SR 18.
Such resolutions have already been passed by the student bodies at Berkeley, Davis, San Diego and Los Angeles. In the meantime, UC Provost Wyatt R. "Rory" Hume has asked campus chancellors to at least simplify the process of studying in Israel or the Philippines by providing counselors to explain which courses would count for credit, allowing students to keep their university e-mail and facilitating re-enrollment without reapplying.
-- Brad A. Greenberg, Senior Writer
Riverside Jewish Family Service to Close
Jewish Family Services of the Inland Communities, the only Jewish agency in the city of Riverside not affiliated with a synagogue, is shutting its doors on Jan. 31.
"Because we don't have a Jewish federation to fund us, we were unable to get that base amount of money," said Ilene Stein, the group's manager.
The office on 10th Street served nearly 100 clients from western Riverside and San Bernadino counties, offering services to Holocaust survivors, organizing grief and health workshops, visiting Jews in assisted-living facilities and nursing homes as well as providing gifts on Jewish holidays.
Stein said that the organization was dependent on grant money, and in the last two years its income dropped from $46,000 to $31,000.
"In the last four years, the grant cycles played against us," she said.
Jewish Family Services of the Inland Communities was incorporated in 1995, and board president Margie Orland told the Riverside Press-Enterprise that some volunteers would continue to serve people on their own.
"There's a lot of need in the community. We hope some of this continues, perhaps through the temples," she said.
Jewish Family Service of the Desert, which receives steady funding of almost $1 million from the Jewish Federation of the Palm Springs/Desert Area, has yet to discuss the possibility of expanding into the area covered by JFS of the Inland Communities.
In the meantime, Stein says Riverside congregations are struggling, and she worries that unaffiliated and secular Jews in the area are losing a critical resource.
"Where the biggest hurt is going to be is looking for Jewish information," Stein said. "It's going to be hard for new people moving into the area."
-- Adam Wills, Senior Editor
New Federation Chair Shares Vision at Hebrew Union College
Stanley P. Gold took over lay leadership of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles on Jan. 1 with high hopes for a new future for the umbrella organization for L.A. Jewry.
"Have we made any progress?" he rhetorically asked about 30 students and faculty at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) last week. "A little bit. I've been on the job two weeks."
Gold's talk, which focused on his vision for The Federation, was the first in a series of dean's lunches. He began by telling the students why he took the volunteer job even after his wife and rabbi and friends and children counseled him otherwise.
"The one thing I am good at," said Gold, who serves on the board of governors for HUC-JIR and is president of the private-equity firm Shamrock Holdings, "is I am a change agent."
And certainly that is something The Federation could use. Jewish umbrella organizations across the country are suffering from decreasing involvement from younger Jews who no longer see the central model as integral to Jewish life. Locally, annual campaign revenues have been practically flat since the early 1990s (not including the $20 million Los Angeles raised in 2006 for the Israel Emergency Campaign).
"The Federation finds itself -- and this is not a disparagement of past lay leaders or communal leaders -- but it finds itself with a model and culture that was probably terrific 50 years ago, but society has moved on. Jewish life has changed," Gold said. "It needs to change in order to accommodate."
He had reiterated the three areas on which he has said he wants to direct The Federation's focus: making Federation headquarters at 6505 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles' premiere Israel address; strengthening community relations, particularly with Latinos; and improving leadership and education programs. He also emphasized that The Federation needs to stop performing services "where we are sixth or seventh or eighth best. We don't need to offer programs that other people in the community are doing better. We need to support them."
Gold said he's given himself six months to change The Federation's culture and governance, and also said he expects to increase campaign revenues by at least 10 percent this year.
"Quite honestly, quietly we have an even bigger number in mind. But at least 10 percent," Gold said. "And if we don't achieve it, somebody ought to call us on the carpet about it. We ought to be held accountable."
His first big test will be Feb. 10, when The Federation hosts its Super Sunday fundraiser. -- BG
Homeland Security Convention Touts Israel's Best
When David devised a slingshot and stone to slay Goliath, the young homeland security (HLS) champion came up with a new weapons system. His modern descendants have carried such innovation to new heights.
This felicitous analogy was advanced by an Israeli business executive during a show-and-tell conference and exhibit introducing California officials to the latest in Israeli HLS (homeland security) technologies.
The three-day (Jan. 14-17) 2008 Homeland Security Stakeholders Science and Technology Conference was held at the cavernous downtown Convention Center.
Making an economic virtue out of an anti-terrorist necessity, Israel's more than 450 security-related companies provide not only for domestic needs but annually export above $1 billion in equipment and know-how to the United States, India and dozens of other countries.
Among clients using these protective systems are Buckingham Palace, the Vatican, Eiffel Tower, Heathrow and Kennedy airports, and various Olympic Games venues.
Exports range from automated speech recognition systems and remote sensors to video image location and identification, early warning devices, and advanced tactical imaging systems.
Twenty participating Israeli companies pushed such wares through exhibits and slide shows and at an afternoon session, open to reporters.
The session was conducted in a jargon barely comprehensible to the layman, such as "innovative turnkey solutions for geospatial data needs," "web-centric ICU management and control systems," "softwing parafoil systems" and "tracking algorithm."
Top California HLS officials, most of whom had visited Israel at least once, needed little convincing of Israel's competence in the field.
Mike Grossman, commander of the L.A. County Sheriff's HLS office, observed, "Israel is simply tops."
Matthew Bettenhausen, director of the California Office of Homeland Security, said, "The Israelis bring us real-life experience that you get when you live in a hot zone."
Besides, he said, "Gov. (Arnold) Schwarzenegger keeps stressing the importance of a close partnership with Israel. We're all in this together."
Doron Almog, a reserve major general who led the Israeli delegation, is executive chairman of Athlone Global Security, Inc., an investment company focusing on the HLS venture market.
"With 9/11, everything changed at how the United States and the world look at homeland security," he said. His own company is expanding rapidly and expects to open an office in Washington shortly.
In addressing the conference, Almog drew on his personal experience in losing five members of his family to a one-woman terrorist attack on a Tel Aviv restaurant in 2003.
He also raised some eyebrows by advocating "a database on everyone in society" as a primary line of defense in the war on terrorism.
"This may sound like an invasion of privacy, but we need it in detecting individual terrorists in advance, which is like finding a needle in a haystack," he added.
Some 400 participants attended the conference, including experts from Britain, Canada and Sweden.
Los Angeles-based Israeli organizers of the event included Deputy Consul General Yaron Gamburg, and Shai Aizin and Iftach Yavets of the Israel economic mission.
-- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
UCSB Establishes Jewish Studies Chair
The Santa Barbara campus of the University of California is establishing an endowed chair in Jewish Studies as part of an expanded curriculum and research program in the field.
Jay Glazer, a business entrepreneur, and his wife Marsha, a noted art collector, have donated $1 million to fund the professorship and have pledged additional funds for faculty and student support.
"This inspiring gift will help launch a new Jewish studies initiative, which will strengthen intellectual and cultural communities beyond the campus," said David Marshall, dean of humanities and fine arts at UCSB. "It will stimulate new scholarship and thinking and create increased understanding of the history and culture of Judaism."
Over the next five years, the university hopes to raise additional funds to create a Center for Jewish Studies. The center would coordinate programming, courses, research projects, grants and fellowships, and communication with students, faculty, staff and the Santa Barbara community.
A minor program in Jewish studies was established on the campus in 1995 in the Religious Studies department, which offers courses ranging from Hebrew and Yiddish to Jewish life in medieval Spain and the architectural history of modern Jerusalem.
An estimated 2,400 Jewish students are enrolled at UCSB, out of a student body of 21,000. Santa Barbara County has more than 7,000 Jewish residents.
The Glazer family has also endowed chairs in Jewish Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle and at Indiana University.
Polish Foundation Restores Structure, Culture
After having been destroyed by Nazi invaders and then neglected by succeeding communist regimes, some 1,200 cemeteries and 200 synagogues have now been renovated by the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland.
However, since some 60 percent of the world's Jews have roots in Poland, much work still remains. This was the message delivered by Monika Krawczyk, 35, Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation, at the annual meeting of the "1939" Club at Congregation Beth Israel.
The Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland was established in 2000 by the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland and the World Jewish Restitution Organization. Its mission is to reclaim the properties owned by Jewish religious communities (rather than individual Jews) prior to World War II, to protect and, where possible, to restore those with religious or historic significance.
It also works to teach school children and the general public about Poland's rich Jewish history, and monitors anti-Semitic incidents to make sure they are prosecuted as hate crimes and not as mere vandalism.
Prior to World War II, the Polish Jewish community owned approximately 5,000 properties. Of these, 130 have been turned over to the Foundation, which receives most of its operating income from rents earned by the properties under its management. Additional support is provided by private contributions, while much of the physical labor needed for the restoration work is provided by European Jewish students.
Before assuming her present position, Krawczyk, was an international lawyer. A graduate of the University of Warsaw, she also studied in Israel and was a Rotary Fellow at the University of Toledo (Ohio) Law School.
She can be reached at email@example.com.
-- Peter L. Rothholz, Contributing Writer