Radio talk show host Dennis Prager will be leading services these High Holy Days in La Canada Flintridge for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. "There is no Jewish life as such in La Canada and there are Jews there, and I would like them to meet each other," Prager said in an interview.
The services are also open to everyone, he said. Although there are some inspiring services for the High Holy Days, "I believe that Jews are mostly bored at services," Prager said. "The boredom comes from not having the tradition made meaningful."
He said it's easy to make services interesting by abandoning tradition - creating a political service, for example. But the challenge is to keep people interested while sticking with the tradition.
"To make it religiously meaningful is what I intend to do," he says.
For more information on times and location, contact Dennis Prager at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- Amy Klein, Religion Editor
Sam Nazarian Hosts Dueling Democratic Events
On Aug. 9, Iranian Jewish hotel and nightclub entrepreneur Sam Nazarian hosted separate events for Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama at two of his company's trendy West Hollywood venues. Following her participation in a presidential speaking forum in Los Angeles on issues facing the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, Clinton joined 700 supporters at The Abbey, a restaurant and bar operated by Nazarian's SBE Group.
"The Abbey was chosen because Mrs. Clinton wanted to go to West Hollywood where the LGBT community lives to address issues important to them," said Luis Vizcaino, a spokesperson for the Clinton campaign in Los Angeles. On the same night, SBE's popular nightclub Area hosted a post-forum fundraising event attended by Obama and his supporters. SBE Vice President of Marketing Michael Doneff said the company is not endorsing any candidate but is interested in encouraging their patrons to become politically active. "We feel that it is paramount as socially responsible citizens to help our community, and by promoting events such as these at our properties we can become involved and engaged in the election," Doneff said. Nazarian's involvement in issues involving the gay and lesbian community is rare in the Iranian Jewish community, in which such issues that have long been considered taboo to discuss.
-- Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer
Jewish Community Foundation Picks 'Cutting Edge' Programs
The Jewish Community Foundation has identified 10 local nonprofits to receive a combined $1.5 million in Cutting Edge grants, awarded to innovative programs tackling social problems and improving Jewish life.
The two largest gifts, of $250,000 over three years, went to LimmudLA, which promotes Jewish learning and community building across religions, and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles for its Jewish Summer Overnight Camp Support Initiative.
"Jewish camping is one of the best ways to turn kids on to Judaism and have it last their lifetime," Julie Platt, chair of The Federation's Jewish camping steering committee, said in a statement. "The generosity of the Jewish Community Foundation grant enables us to engage more children in the joy and transformative experience of Jewish camping, allows us to better inform the community about the positive impact of Jewish camping, encourages a broader range of families to try Jewish camping and assists our local camps in enhancing their good work for years to come."
Also receiving grants between $120,000 and $200,000 were JQ International, which enhances Jewish identity and inclusion in the Los Angeles community for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jews; Camp Ramah in California Inc. for Camp Ohr Lanu, which serves families with special needs children; Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Los Angeles for its training of Jewish educators; Jews for Judaism for its program to counter the efforts of missionaries and cults to high school and college students; and American Jewish University (formerly University of Judaism) for the upcoming Celebration of Books.
Jewish Free Loan Association also received a $96,000 grant for a nursing fund to increase the availability of skilled nurses at Jewish Home for the Aging in Reseda. And Friends Around received $80,000 for Club Kung Fu, its martial-arts program for Jewish children with special needs.
- Brad A. Greenberg, Staff Writer
Annual Jewish Security Briefing
Last year, the Jewish community was on edge as the High Holy Days approached. Israel had spent the summer at war, and many Jewish leaders were worried about attacks against the community like the fire set in early July to Beith David Educational Center in Tarzana or the shooting at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle that killed one a few weeks later.
But this year, thankfully, there is no obvious cause for alarm. That's why the Anti-Defamation League's annual security briefing last week, in partnership with Los Angeles Councilman Jack Weiss' office, was more about long-term safety than fortifying synagogues and day schools against an impending attack.
"It is good that we get together every year; it is good that we focus on what we can do during High Holy Days.... But our institutions operate year-round, and our adversaries are working to attack us year-round," Weiss said in opening remarks at the Skirball Cultural Center to about 90 Jewish institutional leaders. "It is very important you make sure security is not a once a year item that you check off the list when you send your tickets out."
High Holy Days traditionally represent a greater risk for the Jewish community because of the large gatherings and the symbolic significance an attack would pose. But Los Angeles police officials, who led the security briefing, spent most of the morning talking about the threat of homegrown terrorism and the role the community plays in preventing it.
They advised leaders of synagogues, day schools and other Jewish institutions to establish relationships with the LAPD senior lead officer in their area, to have that person's cell phone and e-mail and, in case they aren't available, to get to know the area captain.Authorities also advised that institutions sharpen their security, whether with better lighting, video surveillance or a more visible presence, to discourage would-be attackers. And they said to report any suspicious behavior to (877) 284-7328, unless it posed an immediate threat, in which case people should call 911.
"Today in the city of Los Angeles, and for that matter this region, there is no specific threat concerning the High Holidays," Deputy Chief Michel Moore said. "Now, is there always a threat? Yes, we know that, and that is why we have to remain vigilant."
Jewish Communal Workers Lose Kaiser Healthcare
Employees of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and some of its agencies are negotiating a new contract after the previous one expired July 1, and one benefit has already been lost: Kaiser Permanente healthcare.
Under the previous three-year contract, The Federation was required to pay for the complete cost of an employee's HMO, whether Kaiser or Blue Shield. But in July Kaiser announced rate increases of 29.9 percent, which would increase individual premiums from $341 a month to $468. For the past month, Federation employees who didn't want to switch to the less-expensive Blue Shield, where rates also increased about $50 per month, were able to cover the increase out of their paychecks. But as of Aug. 31, Kaiser won't be available as part of a group plan.
"They require we offer the same portion of payment, so that employees don't pay any more," Federation spokeswoman Deborah Dragon said. "That would be insurmountable for all the employers, not just the federation but all the agencies. We just can't meet that requirement."
The other agencies involved in the 500-employee collective-bargaining agreement were Jewish Family Service (JFS), Jewish Vocational Service (JVS), Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters and Jewish Community Centers Association. But this year, JFS and JVS have asked to negotiate separately. Talks just began, but union officials said healthcare already has arisen as a sticking point.
"For those who take care of the aged and infirmed and housebound, these employers should take care of their own," said Mark Siegel, spokesman for the local council of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.