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Community Briefs

August 19, 2004 | 8:00 pm

Historic Shul Reopens

The historic Breed Street Shul will be holding an open house this Sunday, Aug. 22 at 247 Breed St. in Boyle Heights from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The shul is one of the oldest synagogue buildings in Los Angeles but was abandoned by its last congregants in 1996. Since then, more than 40 different businesses and communal and historical preservation organizations, such as the Los Angeles Jewish Historical Society and Save America's Treasures, worked to restore the building to its former glory. It recently underwent a $1.1 million renovation that helped refurbish its stained glass windows. Organizers of the Breed Street Shul Project say they need $3 million-$5 million more to finish the renovations.

However, the newly renovated Breed Street Shul will no longer operate as a "shul."

"The building is now intended to principally serve the neighborhood in which it is located," said Robert Chattle, an architect who has been involved with the project for 19 years. "It will eventually be a multipurpose community facility."

For more information visit www.breedstreetshul.org. -- Gaby Wenig, Staff Writer

Madonna to Start 5765 in Israel

Madonna and her husband, filmmaker Guy Ritchie, will spend Rosh Hashanah in Israel, it was confirmed by Rabbi Yehuda Berg, co-director of the Kabbalah Centre in Los Angeles. The couple will spend two days, primarily at the associated Kabbalah Centre in Tel Aviv, Berg said.

However, he denied Israeli press reports that Madonna and Ritchie would meet with Kabbalah sage Rabbi Yitzhak Kadouri while in Israel, to seek spiritual guidance.

Madonna has been a frequent visitor at the Los Angeles Kabbalah Centre, and has taken courses there.

Madonna's spokeswoman in New York did not respond to requests for additional information. -- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Union Protests Federation Health Care Policy

With negotiations at a standstill, about 50 union members marched in front of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles on July 28 to protest what they characterize as management's ungenerous contract offer.

"The Federation's well-paid executives have shown a profound disrespect for the workers that provide the front-line services to the community," said Mark Siegel, spokesman for the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, Local 800.

Federation spokeswoman Deborah Dragon said the organization has negotiated in good faith and treats its employees with the respect and dignity they deserve.

"The Federation and its agencies have always been committed and continue to be committed to providing fair and competitive wages and benefits to our employees," she said. "Our priority is protecting the critical services provided by our agencies, and we recognize the role of our hundreds of dedicated employees in making that work possible."

Dragon added that The Federation would prefer negotiating in private rather than through the media. She declined to comment on specific bargaining issues.

Under The Federation's proposal, workers would have to work 30 hours a week to qualify for health care instead of the current 18.75. Such a move, Siegel said, could encourage the Jewish philanthropic group to eliminate full-time positions to save money. Siegel also criticized the proposal for failing to offer health coverage for workers' spouses, partners and children. Given The Federation's relative low wages, that puts a tremendous strain on many communal workers, he said.

The union, which represents 450 employees at The Federation and six beneficiary agencies, including Jewish Family Service and Jewish Vocational Service, also objects to the introduction of a two-tiered retirement plan. Under the proposal, new union workers would no longer be guaranteed a certain percentage of their income upon retirement. Instead, The Federation would pay employees a fixed-amount annually that they could invest of stocks and bonds of their choosing. However, some experts said a so-called "defined-contribution" plan puts workers at risk because they would lose out if the market faltered.

Despite the impasse, The Federation and union continue to talk. -- Marc Ballon, Senior Writer

ADL Research Leads to Rewards

Twenty-five summer associates from 14 Los Angeles law firms were honored Aug. 3 at the downtown offices of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. The associates, from the Summer Associate Research Program, spent the past few months at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) researching the legal aspects of such issues as extremist groups, gay marriage and taking the bar exam on Tisha B'Av.

UCLA law school student Jed Lowenthal, a Loeb & Loeb summer associate, researched whether the California State Bar's administrators must accommodate people who want to take the bar exam at another time if it is on a religious holiday such as Tisha B'Av. Lowenthal said he learned that, "the protections for religion are fairly minimal. Smaller religions have a harder time getting their protections under the Constitution."

Participating law firms this year in the Summer Associate Research Program, which was created in 1999 by local attorney Tom Leanse, included O'Melveny & Meyers and Latham & Watkins. Since its inception, the Los Angeles-based program has spread to other regional ADL offices; 90 law students participated last summer and the program also acts as a long-range fundraising tool.

"Pro bono work introduces more people to the ADL," said Lauren Sudar, a Skadden Arps attorney who supervised two summer associates this year, and who had worked on the program in the summer of 2000.

Bruce Einhorn, ADL Pacific Southwest Region chair and a federal immigration judge, said the nonprofit group was "very much dependant" on volunteer legal work and that this year the ADL is creating a new "community partnership to fight hate," which will need legal research. -- David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

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