The problems at the Westside Jewish Community Center (WJCC) have been a recurring theme over the past few years ("In the Center of Controversy," Sept. 22). It is very unfortunate that this prime resource in our community continues to be underutilized. These problems are endemic throughout the JCC system in Los Angeles. We certainly experience our share of similar challenges at Valley Cities JCC.
At this point, the board of Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles (JCCGLA) and the interim director feels the best method to begin this healing process is to eliminate all local boards throughout the system. This may have a streamlining effect for decision-making but does not address the basic malaise in the system: a lack of leadership and long-term planning. The corporate structure instituted over the last few years has looked to members for leadership. In our most successful years we were led by strong staff leadership that knew how to work the halls.
I am certain The Federation as well as JCCGLA would be much more comfortable with our centers if members and staff were moving forward, achieving shared goals. The enumeration of these goals, particularly in the areas of programming, short-term financial needs and long-term capital improvements, will yield much more positive results than the continued strategy of instituting a rigid top-down corporate structure.
Bill Kabaker, Sherman Oaks
Tamar Andrews cannot seem to get her story straight ("Preschool Packs a Rock Solid Rep," Sept. 22). In one breath she claims she was "fired" from the WJCC nursery school for "complaining too much," and in the next she says that parents only told her she was doing a good job after she "resigned." Which is it? The truth is that she resigned with no warning and was asked repeatedly to reconsider. She was asked to leave only after it was learned that she was slamming the school and the WJCC to parents.
Andrews' misrepresentations and the carping of one or two malcontents to the contrary, the WJCC nursery school continues to be a vibrant and thriving preschool that is strongly supported by its students' families. Our daughter attended both the nursery school and kindergarten and our son is in his third year at the nursery school; both have had outstanding preschool experiences. The teachers are nothing shorts of amazing: dedicated, warm, loving, knowledgeable and incredibly patient. The developmental program allows children to master preschool skills through play and directed activities. And they get free swimming lessons as part of the curriculum to boot.
The high esteem in which the WJCC nursery school is held by other educators around the city is demonstrated by the high acceptance rates of WJCC graduates in the top private schools - both Jewish and secular - on the Westside. Last year, every WJCC graduate who applied to private school got in.Any parent who is looking for a nurturing, educational and well-rounded environment for their child would do well to consider the WJCC nursery school.
Judy and Mark Landry, Los Angeles
I resigned from my position as preschool director of the WJCC preschool at the end of May 2000. Due to the commotion that my resignation caused, I was told to leave on June 29 without finishing out the summer program. Although I left earlier than anticipated, my resignation was my own decision.
However, your article made the WJCC and its preschool appear to be much worse off than it is. The preschool has a magnificent staff of both Jewish and non-Jewish teachers who still come to my home for Shabbat and holiday meals. The facility, while old and in need of some repairs, still stands above many, many facilities in this city.
You quoted one parent who called the preschool facilities "junk," when in fact she is a returning parent. Why would a parent knowingly send her child to this preschool when there are so many in this city? I would hope that your readers do not take the article too seriously, otherwise they would miss out on the opportunity to send their children to a wonderful preschool. It just wasn't the right place for me. However, during my tenure, I helped the preschool achieve national and Bureau of Jewish Education accreditation, implemented the High/Scope curriculum and increased enrollment by 30 children. Many of the needed changes were implemented during my tenure and to this day there are still changes being made to improve the center and the preschool. Could this really be "junk"?
Before Yom Kippur, I can easily say that I am not perfect. The WJCC is not perfect. The Jewish Journal should admit the same. For while we are all not perfect, we all are after the same goal - to help and serve the Jewish community. There are better ways to achieve this than speaking badly about one another.
Tamar Andrews, Los Angeles
In spite of the run-down facilities and inefficiencies, many of us continue to send our children to the preschool because the teachers are very good and the location is convenient.
However, this does not excuse the lack of accountability and responsibility that WJCC Director Michelle Labgold and Preschool Director Ellen Green must have towards the preschool program. Green is the fifth director in the last five years.
We pay premium tuition for the preschool program. We are promised weekly music, art and dance/movement specialists. We have still not received these items.
The program was to include computers in all classrooms. We were told that the numerous computers donated by a parent last year are in some closet. We have also heard that the computers are missing, stolen or too old to be used.
Parents expect that tuition money paid to the preschool go directly to the school, not to be used for other purposes. We are stonewalled and given the runaround when we ask why we don't have a complete program with specialists. We are told that it's expensive. The tuition and membership fees more than covers what the program should be and if this is what we are promised, then they must honor it and follow through immediately.
It is truly sad and unfortunate that this has to be discussed in a public forum.
Name withheld by request
I am going to miss Gene Lichtenstein. While I did not always agree with him, I will miss the contribution he has made to The Journal.
In his years as editor, he took a publication which at best I glanced at to one I looked forward to reading each week.
I urge you to maintain the diversity that has been established. Please don't play it safe and retreat into being a house organ or you'll lose many of your readers.
Joshua Gross,Beverly Hills
I never spoke to or met Gene Lichtenstein; wouldn't know him if I passed him in the street. Yet he came to my house and visited each week for 15 years. We talked, we discussed, we agreed sometimes and sometimes not. Even thought the contents were not always cover-to-cover magic, it was still far, far superior to the dull, drab, insipid writings the local press had to offer.
All the more remarkable considering that pleasing 50,000 Jewish readers probably makes the head position at The New York Times or The Washington Post feel like a walk in the park. For all the above, Gene Lichtenstein, my appreciation, my thanks.
Maurice Kornberg, Los Angeles
Rosh Hashanah Cover
Your Sept. 29 cover was lovely, but I hope you're not going to make it permanent. Neither the glossy paper nor the metal staples can be recycled. We owe it to ourselves to be kind to our Mother Earth.
Joan F. Kaufman, Los Angeles
Dennis Prager said that the only reason he will vote for George W. Bush is because he is not a Democrat ("Jewish Republicans Assess Bush," Sept. 15). It is utterly disgraceful, disgusting and insulting to every thinking American.
Barbara Rona, Culver City
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