Swastikas were found flying from highway overpasses in Los Angeles and northern San Diego County, as well as in Orlando, Fla., just before the Jewish New Year. Calls began coming in to law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles at around 5:45 a.m. on Sept. 22, saying flags with swastikas were hanging from the overcrossing between Balboa and White Oak boulevards over the eastbound Ventura Freeway, according to California Highway Patrol officials.
"Obviously, they're offensive, and a huge distraction," CHP Officer Leland Tang said in a televised news report.
Flags also were reported at the Escondido Avenue overpass of Highway 78 in Vista, near San Diego.
The flags were taken down soon after they were discovered. Jewish leaders have denounced the acts.
-- Staff and Wire reports
Steven Windmueller to serve as interim Dean of Hebrew Union College
Steven F. Windmueller, a scholar who has held several prominent positions in local Jewish organizations over the years, has been named interim dean at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR).
Windmueller previously served as director of HUC-JIR's School of Jewish Communal Service and said he will remain in the new position for an undetermined period. During his tenure, he said, he hopes to tighten HUC-JIR's links with other institutions of higher education, as well as the federations and the Union for Reform Judaism. Windmueller also hopes to grow HUC-JIR's Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health and the Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation.
"I want to reposition HUC in the constellation of the Western Jewish scene," Windmueller said. "I want a higher profile, greater engagement with the Reform movement and a larger voice on Jewish life, whether it's intermarriage or how to welcome new Jews into the community."
Meanwhile, Windmuller has just returned the prestigious Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission's John Allen Buggs Award given him in 1995 for his strong record in intergroup relations. He gave back the prize last week to protest the commission's decision to bestow the honor upon Dr. Maher Hathout, chairman of the Islamic Center of Southern California and senior adviser to the national Muslim Public Affairs Council, who has been outspokenly critical of Israel. Much of Los Angeles' organized Jewish community opposed Hathout's being given the award.
"The commission didn't look for a candidate who could find common ground but rather chose one who was divisive by his actions and words," Windmueller said.
Windmueller replaces Dr. Lewis Barth, who served twice as HUC-JIR dean and whose nine-year tenure ended in June. HUC-JIR has 525 graduate students at campuses in Jerusalem, New York, Cincinnati and Los Angeles, with 120 students here. The educational and intellectual center of Reform Judaism, HUC-JIR trains rabbis, cantors, communal and educational professionals. Locally, about 650 USC undergraduates also take courses at the school in subjects ranging from Holocaust studies to Zionism.
During his 11 years as HUC-JIR's director of Jewish communal service, Windmueller established several programs that he said were designed to deepen students' educational experience. He helped create the "New York Jewish Experience," a biannual program that takes Los Angeles' Jewish communal students to New York to meet with national Jewish leaders and to visit landmarks of the American Jewish experience, including synagogues. In 2001, Windmueller oversaw the creation of a program that sends students to Germany to study contemporary and historical Jewish life in the country.
Under his direction, HUC also increased its cooperation with USC and added several dual-degree communal studies graduate programs with the university, including in business administration, communications management and public arts management.
"He combines two remarkable skills," said Rabbi Alan Henkin, a sometime HUC-JIR lecturer and regional director of Pacific Southwest Council for the Union for Reform Judaism, the umbrella organization for 80 local Reform synagogues. "He's able to keep his eye on the big picture, even as he attends to the small details of running the school."
Windmueller, 64, received a doctorate in international relations from the University of Pennsylvania. He began his professional life at the American Jewish Committee, before moving to the Greater Albany Jewish Federation -- now known as the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York -- where he served as a director. Heading west in 1985, he served as head of the local Jewish Community Relations Committee for a decade.
-- Marc Ballon, Senior Writer
High Holiday party raises funds for Israel
The war in Israel may be over, but fundraising efforts in Los Angeles are not. On Saturday, Sept. 16, a party at the Henry Fonda Theater in Hollywood raised $22,000 for Israel through the Israel Help Fund, which was started by the Council of Israeli Communities (CIC). The party was jointly put on by the CIC, DJ Eyal Productions, DJ Ziv Productions and Sababa parties. Approximately 1,100 people -- primarily Israelis -- attended the $20-a-ticket event, with two floors of dancing, one on the roof.
"Sitting back and watching what was going on during the war, we felt compelled to do something," said LiAmi Lawrence, head of Sababa parties, which generally holds for-profit parties.
But this time everyone was willing to donate their services for free, including seven Djs: DJ Eyal, DJ Udi, DJ Avi, DJ Ziv, DJ Titus, DJ Shay and DJ George, who drove in from Las Vegas. Lawrence said that DJ Eyal had already booked the Fonda for that date for his own High Holiday party but donated the club and the party for the cause. Many people who couldn't attend the party sent in checks.
"I was touched and inspired by the generosity of the people," Lawrence said. The money will primarily go to rebuilding Ziv Hospital in Tsfat and to helping firefighters in the north.
Donations can still be made to the Israel Help Fund, 16027 Ventura Blvd, Suite 400, Encino, CA, 91436.
-- Amy Klein, Religion Editor
Chesed Connection Fundraiser Nets $30,000
Another hip, fun fundraiser also raised thousands of dollars for Israel. The Sept. 13 event at the Hamilton Gallery in Santa Monica raised $30,000 for the Israel in Crisis fund. The event was put on by the L.A. Chesed Connection, a new effort to bring Jews together for good deeds.
Started by Lew Groner, Aron Abecassis, Lori Pietruszka and Dubby Teichman in April, the organization is geared to single Jews in their 30s and 40s. At first, it simply hosted Shabbat dinners but has also donated the proceeds to local charitable organizations, such as Tomchei Shabbos and Hatzolah. The September event, which featured a raffle and a silent auction, was attended by about 200 people, with tickets priced $25 and $36.
The group is also accepting donations through the holidays, hoping to reach the $50,000 donation mark.
Tax-deductible donations can be made to Beth Jacob Chevra Mikra by Oct 15.