March 17, 2005
Eat for Israel
Anyone who likes to eat and likes to support Israel can do both on Monday, March 21 at "America Eats for Israel." Students from more than 50 high schools across the country – including Yeshiva University of Los Angeles – have solicited local kosher restaurants to contribute 10 percent of the day's revenues to the Israel Terror Victims Association. Students at Yeshiva Rambam in Baltimore spearheaded the venture and, to date, more than 130 restaurants in 18 states have signed on. For a listing of participating restaurants in Los Angeles, go to www.americaeatsforisrael.org. –Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor
ADL Hosts Anti-Hate Contest
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is accepting submissions for the fifth-annual human relations essay contest for college-bound high school seniors attending a public, parochial or private high school in Los Angeles County. Essays on the theme of "No Place for Hate" should be 500 words or less on the topic of how students can best recognize and combat racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry among peers. The awards – one first prize of $1,000 and three honorable mentions of $100 each – will be applied toward the student's college tuition.
The essay contest deadline is Friday, April 1, and essays can be sent to: Tessa Hicks, ADL, 10495 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90025, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, call (310) 446-8000, ext. 230. –JGF
A Place for Us
Whether they're at wit's end or just looking to sharpen their skills, parents in the West Valley have a new place to turn to for information and guidance. The Parent Place, a collaboration between The New JCC at Milken and Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, provides a variety of classes and support groups for parents with children of all ages.
The program evolved as a response to questions and concerns expressed by parents to Dr. Amy Gross, a clinical psychologist and director of the San Fernando Valley Counseling Center, and Sherrie Zadok, the JCC's director of early childhood education.
"We realized we needed to offer classes rather than put out fires," said Gross, who serves as program director. "Classes are preventive and a healthier and better way" to address these concerns.
The Parent Place, modeled after a similar program developed by Jewish Family and Children's Services of San Francisco, launched in January. Offerings include Jewish Lamaze; Mommy & Me for Parents Over Age 40; Meeting the Challenges of Parenting Children Ages 7 to 12; and For Teens and Parents. Support groups address parents of children with special needs, single parents and families of separation and divorce. In the future, Gross hopes to add more classes aimed at parents of children with issues such as autism and drug use.
"We assume there are lots of pressures and stressers on families," Gross said. "Fortunately, there are lessons that can be taught to help parents be all that they can be as parents. That's what the Parent Place is for." Spring classes begin April 1 at The New JCC at Milken in West Hills. For more information or a brochure, call (818) 464-3333. – Nancy Sokoler Steiner, Contributing Writer
All in the Family
They may be, respectively, a dinosaur, a Muppet and a marine creature, but Barney, Elmo and SpongeBob SquarePants assert that they are family. The trio appear together in "We Are Family," a music DVD promoting tolerance and diversity produced by the We Are Family Foundation. Featuring more than 100 well-known children's television characters (and a few humans) singing the 1979 Sister Sledge hit, the video is a sort of "We Are the World" for today's kids.
Copies of the DVD arrived in more than 61,000 elementary schools nationwide this month, along with an accompanying teacher's guide with lessons for preschool through sixth grade. The guide was developed by the Anti-Defamation League's (ADL) A World of Difference Institute, which provides anti-bias and diversity education programs to schools, universities and corporations worldwide.
ADL Regional Director Amanda Susskind said that the agency has expanded its outreach to include preschoolers because research has shown that children begin to show bias as early as 3 to 5 years of age.
"Our view is that no child is born hating. And if we can reach them before they learn [to hate] and promote messages like this ... we can prevent a whole generation of hatred," she said.
At the video's West Coast debut, kindergarten students at Fairburn Avenue Elementary School in Westwood were joined by Susskind, principal Elizabeth Abramowitz and L.A. Unified School District board member Marlene Canter.
The multicultural audience of children danced and clapped to the music, and at least some seemed to get the message.
As 5-year-old Cynthia put it, "Even though we're not the same color, we are still friends and family." For more information, visit www.wearefamilyfoundation.org – NSS
Past Inspires Rabbi's Future
Rabbi Stacia Deutsch leads a congregation of 7- to 10-year-old American kids.
A Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion graduate who led a Dayton, Ohio, congregation for seven years, Deutsch writes children's books about American heroes with fellow author Rhody Cohon (who is married to a rabbi).
Deutsch's words speak volumes
about Jewish values. In her newest book from the Simon & Schuster's Blast To The Past children's series, she brings to life the historical struggles of Abraham
Lincoln in light of the struggles of her own people.
"When we sit at the seder, we imagine that we are the ones making the Exodus from Egypt," Deutsch explained. At many points in Jewish history, if someone in our families hadn't persevered, there would be no Jews. If these leaders I write about hadn't persevered, things would be radically different in America today."
Already the Washington Post has highlighted the just-released "Lincoln's Legacy" as a pick of the week, and Deutsch has been featured on C-SPAN. Sacramento is using the book for a citywide after-school literacy program and, recently, Deutsch presented the book to 1,000 teachers at the California Teachers Association.
As a rabbi, Deutsch has a passion for infusing old texts with new meaning.
"It's not like I've left the rabbinate," she said with a laugh.
Deutsch started writing children's books after Sept. 11, when American pride surged across the country, and reminded her that Jews have always been proud of their identity "but as Americans we haven't always had that," she said. "So I thought, what can we as Americans do to encourage such pride?"
Deutsch and Cohon have two more books in the works: "Disney's Dream" is due out in June, and "Bell's Breakthrough" in October.
Deutsch will be at the L.A. Book Expo April 23-24. For more information go to www.blasttothepastbooks.com. – Julie Woldow, Contributing Writer