OU Reaches Out to Deaf Community
The Orthodox Union's deaf outreach came to Long Beach for a Shabbaton gathering of the deaf and their families, a small event that meant a lot to the often-isolated Orthodox deaf community.
"There wasn't a big turnout, but I think that it's really necessary; when you have a deaf child who's Jewish, there's a smaller population," said Jo Cooperman, who drove up from San Diego County with her 3-year-old deaf son, Jadyn Avram. "He always comes back really, really happy from these things. It has a wonderful effect on his self-esteem and his identification with Jews, with deaf Jews."
Long Beach's Congregation Lubavitch hosted about 30 deaf adults and children and their families at the OU's Jan. 7-8 "Our Way" Shabbaton. Long Beach attorney Allen Sragow, who put up about 10 "Our Way" attendees at his house, sponsored the small Orthodox Union agency's fourth annual Southern California gathering. Organizers said last weekend's heavy rain cut into the attendance level.
"It's always a fresh perspective for me to see the Jewish deaf, how they've come to understand their interaction with Jewish life," said Jan Moore, a North Hollywood optometrist who has two deaf sons. His teenage daughter, who can hear, came to Long Beach with two of her Valley Torah High School classmates so the trio could support deaf children and their hearing siblings.
Flying into Los Angeles to lead the "Our Way" Shabbaton was Rabbi Eliezer Lederfeind, who is not deaf, but is the son of deaf parents and lives in Brooklyn with his own six children – including deaf daughters Lida, 13, and Toby, 18. Both have cochlear implants allowing them to hear.
Lida Lederfeind told The Journal in a telephone interview, "I feel like I'm part of everything."
Every two months, Lida's father travels to Orthodox deaf enclaves around the country to conduct an "Our Way" Shabbaton.
"More and more deaf youth are Orthodox. They should be able to mainstream in a shul," said Lederfeind, who oversaw the "Our Way" group's spirited – and at times humorous – deaf dialogue about Israel in the Lubavitch shul's small study.
When Lederfeind asked what was the sign language gesture to describe the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, someone jokingly responded: "It's a sign that you can't use in public." – David Finnigan, Contributing Writer
Israel 'Line of Fire' Program Comes to UJ
An armed Israeli attack helicopter spots a Palestinian ambulance on the road below. Aware that such ambulances have been used to transport terrorists and weapons, the pilot checks with his ground controller whether to strafe and destroy the vehicle. Pilot and controller talk back and forth, weighing whether the ambulance is more likely to carry weapons or sick people. When the vehicle finally pulls up to a hospital, they decide to give it the benefit of the doubt and call off the attack.
The dramatic, real-life incident, with actual footage of the chase taken from the cockpit, will be a highlight of the Jan. 20 event, titled "Air Force in the Line of Fire."
Israeli and American helicopter fighter pilots will discuss the moral choices facing them during combat missions in the airspace above Israel and Iraq.
Panelists will also speak about the dangers and fears of combat, new weaponry, Israeli-American military cooperation and the future of the Israeli air force. A Q-and-A period will follow.
Speakers will include reserve Maj. Gen. Nehemia Dagan, founder of Israel's attack helicopter strike forces; two other veteran Israeli combat pilots; and Col. Bill Morris of the Pentagon, former assault helicopter commander in the 101st Airborne Division.
The event, in English, will start at 7:30 p.m. at the University of Judaism, sponsored by the Council of the Israeli Community (CIC) and 12 other local organizations. The CIC is a support organization for the State of Israel and the estimated 100,000 Israelis living in the Los Angeles area, said Chaim Linder, the group's first vice president.
General tickets for the Jan. 20 event are $10 (CIC members) and $12 (general); reserved seats, $25; reception with the pilots and one reserved seat, $50.
For reservations and information, call (818) 342-7241. – Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Court: NVJCC Familes Can Sue Gun Companies
Three families, whose children were shot in the 1999 attack on the North Valley Jewish Community Center (NVJCC), can pursue their lawsuit against the companies that made the weapons used in the shooting spree.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 10 let stand a ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that the suit could go to trial and declined to hear an appeal for dismissal by two gun manufacturers and two distributors.
The suit grew out of the Aug. 10, 1999, attack by Buford O. Furrow, Jr., a self-avowed anti-Semite and white supremacist on the NVJCC in Granada Hills, which left three teenagers, one adult and three children wounded.
Lead plaintiff in the suit is the mother of Joseph S. Ileto, a Filipino-American postal carrier, who was killed by Furrow the same day in a separate attack.
Last May in San Francisco, the full 26-member appeals court, in a split decision, confirmed that the case could be tried. At the time, Donna Finkelstein, whose then 16-year-old daughter Mindy suffered two gunshot wounds to her leg, told The Journal, "I am so elated that we are finally moving forward."
Similar sentiments were expressed by Alan Stepakoff and Loren Lieb, whose then 6-year-old son, Joshua Stepakoff, was also shot in the leg.
Also participating in the suit are Eleanor and Charles Kadish, whose son Benjamin, then 5, was the most seriously injured, with gunshots to his stomach and legs.
Among the large cache of weapons found in Furrow's car were an Austrian-made Glock 9-mm handgun and a 9-mm rifle, made by North China Industries, both manufacturers are defendants in the suit.
In filing the original suit more than four years ago, attorney Joshua Horwitz of the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence said that Furrow, a convicted felon with a history of mental instability, should not have been allowed to build an arsenal of assault-style weapons.
"It is not enough to let guns go out of your factory door and say, 'Sorry, we don't know where they're headed,'"Horwitz said.
The case will now return to the U.S. district court in Los Angeles for trial.
Congressional legislation which would have barred lawsuits targeting the gun industry failed last spring. – TT