Jewish Journal

Community Briefs

Posted on Jul. 8, 2004 at 8:00 pm

Burbank Police Handcuffed Father, Girfriend of Shooting Victim

Disturbing new details began to emerge surrounding the death of a 25-year-old Israeli man at the hands of Burbank police June 25.

According to friends of the victim, after Burbank police shot Assaf Deri in a North Hollywood alley at 10:30 p.m. that Friday night, police went to Deri's apartment and handcuffed his girlfriend and his father, rousing them at midnight and telling them that Assaf was dead. Police allegedly held them there overnight without allowing them to make any phone calls. At around 7 a.m. on Saturday, Pinchas Deri, who was visiting his son from Israel and speaks almost no English, was allowed to call his wife in Israel to inform her of their son's death.

The Burbank Police Department would not confirm this account, saying it could not comment on the subject of an ongoing administrative investigation. The Los Angeles Police Department, in whose jurisdiction the shooting occurred, would likewise not comment, since it is conducting a criminal investigation into the case.

According to police accounts, when two Burbank police officers approached Deri's car on foot while conducting a narcotics investigation in an alley near Coldwater Canyon Avenue and Oxnard Street, Deri accelerated, hitting and slightly injuring one of the officers. Officers began shooting, and Deri was declared dead at the scene when Los Angeles City Fire Department Paramedics responded.

Lt. David Gabriel of the Burbank Police Department said that there are no written policies about how to approach a suspect's car, but officers have available to them several supportable scenarios, depending on the particulars of a situation and the officer's preference.

Details about the shooting will be forthcoming only after the Los Angeles and Burbank police departments submit their reports to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, which is conducting a parallel investigation. While the district attorney said its investigation may be completed in as soon as six weeks, both police departments declined to offer an estimated timeline.

Deri, who worked in the diamond district downtown, had been in Los Angeles for about nine months and had developed a close circle of friends who were shocked and saddened to learn of his violent death, calling him a warmhearted, giving person who did not seem to be involved in anything illicit. Deri's parents and his three younger brothers and sister sat shiva for him in Beit Shemesh after burying him last Tuesday.

Nati Goldman, a close family friend, said he is in the process of hiring an attorney on behalf of the family. -- Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Religion Editor

Anti-Semetic Allegations Shock Conejo Head

The Conejo Valley Unified School District superintendent said this week that he was surprised that the family of a Jewish high student filed a lawsuit against the district as it was trying to address their complaints about anti-Semitism.

"We were in the middle of discussions that we felt centered around the parental concerns," school district superintendent Robert Fraisse told The Journal. "We were surprised at the fact that it went from good discussions to a lawsuit."

The parents of former Newbury Park High School student Sam Goldstein filed a federal lawsuit on May 26 in Los Angeles against the district, alleging that for the past two years the district was indifferent as Sam's teammates and coach taunted him with anti-Semitic remarks. Goldstein family attorney Yury Kapgan said the family met with school officials in early April but that alleged harassment continued.

The coach no longer works for the district. Fraisse said school officials and the Ventura County Sheriff's Department investigated off-campus incidents including one referenced in the lawsuit; a January 2003 birthday party where Sam Goldstein allegedly endured a "concentration camp" game with teammates pressing up him against a fence and telling Holocaust jokes.

"There were clearly anti-Semitic remarks made at that birthday party, which had no affiliation with the school whatsoever other than that students who attended the birthday party also attended the school," Fraisse said. "What we have proven are things that have happened off campus."

The district has not responded to the lawsuit. As for anti-Semitism at Newbury Park High, Fraisse said the alleged behavior was not witnessed by students or faculty. Regarding the lawsuit's charge that school officials were indifferent to Anti-Defamation League (ADL) suggestions, Fraisse said, "We trained our entire staff in areas recommended by the ADL; they cited the things that we couldn't do because of scheduling." -- David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

Camp Scholarships Jump-Start Judaism

It was only the second day of camp, but the youngsters at Camp Alonim at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute held hands, clapped, sang and followed the Israeli folk dance steps like old pros. In between a rousing number, eight lucky Camp Alonim campers took a quick break from the festivities to meet the folks responsible for their summertime experience. On Thursday, June 29, the enthusiastic 9 to 12 year old campers, met -- board members from the Foundation for Jewish Education, the nonprofit organization that gave them full scholarships to attend the Jewish overnight camp for the first time.

"We are giving children a Jewish education through a Jewish experience," said Marlene Kreitenberg, president and founder of the Los Angeles-based organization.

The foundation partnered with Camp Alonim in offering 10 scholarships to local needy children who are not affiliated with a synagogue, do not attend Jewish day school and have had limited Jewish experiences. The chosen recipients were awarded full tuition to attend a two-week session at the Camp Alonim. Eight of the 10 campers are attending the first session and the remaining two will attend a later summer session.

"We've always tried to connect unaffiliated kids with their identity at Camp Alonim and studies show that camping is the best way to ensure a positive Jewish identity," said Ed Gelb, the camp's director, citing a 1995-1997 study by the Jewish Foundation for Camping which found that attending Jewish camp significantly increases Jewish identity, affiliation and practice, and decreases the likelihood of intermarriage.

Both Camp Alonim and the Foundation for Jewish Education plan to continue the scholarship program for summers to come and hope to expand their efforts.

Kreitenberg felt that the campers' newfound connection to Judaism was already underway.

"They were in a hurry to leave us and get back to their folk-dancing," said Kreitenberg. "Seeing their faces glow with happiness was so touching."

For more information on the Foundation for Jewish Education, call (310) 273-8612. To contact the Brandeis-Bardin Institute and Camp Alonim, call (805) 582-4450 or visit www.thebbi.org . -- Sharon Schatz Rosenthal, Education Writer

Community Mourns Rabbi

Hundreds of people attended a memorial at Etz Jacob Congregation to remember Rabbi Jacob Levine, the former president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California who helped lay the foundations for today's Los Angeles Orthodox community. Levine, who died on June 18 at the age of 90, was recognized at the service by many community rabbis, who praised his role in building both synagogues and schools after his arrival in Los Angeles from Chicago in 1941.

Levine's death marks the end of an era, as he was among the last surviving rabbis from a group of Orthodox leaders who collaborated in the 1940s and '50s to transform Los Angeles from an Orthodox backwater to a flourishing community as it moved from Boyle Heights and West Adams to the Fairfax and West Los Angeles areas.

Levine was the spiritual leader of Agudat Achim in West Adams, Judea Congregation in the Fairfax district (which merged to become B'nai David-Judea Congregation) and, in his later years was rabbi emeritus of Etz Jacob Congregation near Fairfax.

He served as president of the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of California for 12 years and served several terms as president of the transdenominational Board of Rabbis of Southern California.

Levine co-founded the Westside Jewish Community Hebrew School, now known as Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy, and the Rambam Torah Institute, an Orthodox high school.

He was instrumental in establishing a Los Angeles campus for Yeshiva University and assisted Rabbi Reuven Hutler in founding the Etz Jacob Hebrew Academy, an elementary school for immigrant children unable to afford the tuition of most private schools.

He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Rose Lee; sons, Dr. David, Dr. Barton and Joel; eight grandchildren; and six great -grandchildren.

Donations in his memory can be sent to the Perutz Etz Jacob Academy, 7951 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048 or to Amit Women, 5700 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 2505, Los Angeles, CA 90036 -- Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Religion Editor

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