L.A. Teens Join International March of the Living
On Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Memorial Day, which falls on May 5 this year, 53 Los Angeles-area teenagers, along with seven chaperones, will join a record 18,000 people on a 3-kilometer march from Auschwitz to Birkenau, following concentration camp inmates' footsteps to the gas chambers. The march, led by Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Poland's President Aleksander Kwasniewski, marks the 60th anniversary of the Nazis' defeat.
The students, who depart on May 2, are participating in the 2005 March of the Living, a two-week Holocaust education program that brings together Jewish and non-Jewish teenagers from more than 45 countries, along with other adults and survivors, to tour Poland and Israel.
The Los Angeles delegation, sponsored by the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE), is comprised of 52 seniors and one junior, with 33 students from Shalhevet High School, 16 from Milken Community High School and four from other high schools. The group is headed by Stacey Barrett, BJE's director of youth education services, along with other educators, rabbis and a social worker. Additionally, Holocaust survivor Nandor "Marko" Markovic will accompany the group. The BJE is also sponsoring a group of 28 adults, led by Associate Director Phil Liff-Grieff.
The student group will also visit the Majdanek and Treblinka concentration camps, as well as Jewish sites in Lublin, Crakow and Warsaw. On May 8 they depart for Israel, where they will observe Yom HaZikaron, Remembrance Day for Israel's fallen soldiers, and Yom HaAtzma'ut, Israel's Independence Day.
"This experience turns history into personal memory," BJE's Barrett said. "These students will take on the task of becoming witnesses to the Shoah for the next generation."
Jane Ulman will accompany the group and post frequent travel logs and photos at www.jewishjournal.com. -- Jane Ulman, Contributing Writer
Terror Victim Receives Medical Gift
A 12-year-old Los Angeles girl decided to forego her bat mitzvah and donate the money to bring an Israeli terror victim to Los Angeles for ear surgery.
The girl, who prefers to remain anonymous, donated to OneFamily Fund -- an Israeli-based organization that assists terror victims -- and helped L.A. native Rivka Pam have her ear reconstructed after she was injured in a terrorist bombing in June 2003.
Pam 18, had moved to Israel with her mother and three older siblings in 2000 from the Pico-Roberston area. She was one of 100 people injured in the bombing -- in which 17 people were killed. Pam had second-degree burns on her hands, legs and face and suffered a lung contusion, burst eardrums, wounds to her eyes.
This month Pam returned to Los Angeles with her mother and sister to have an ear bone replaced with titanium.
"It's unbelievable that a 12-year-old would make this kind of sacrifice and give up all her money for me," said Pam, who met the girl and her family.
Faigi Pam, Rivka's mother, was also overwhelmed with the support provided by both OneFamily and all her friends in Los Angeles, including those from their old shul, The Happy Minyan, who gathered together to play music the night before her surgery.
"The magnitude of the chesed [lovingkindness] of everyone at OneFamily and all our amazing friends made it possible for us to come out here, I don't think we could have made the trip otherwise," she said.
At this stage Pam can only hear out of her right ear. The doctors say it will take three to four months for everything to heal, but she remains optimistic and unswerving in her faith.
"I'm very thankful," she said. "Things could have been a lot worse."
After the operation, the Pams will return to Israel, where Rivka will finish her national army service this year. She plans to spend next year studying in yeshiva.
Despite her ordeal, Rivka said that while it's wonderful being back in Los Angeles and reconnecting with friends, Israel is still home.
"I don't think there's anything that could make me want to leave," she said. "Everything hard that happens just makes me feel more connected to Israel. It's where I'm supposed to be."
To learn more about the OneFamily Fund visit www.onefamilyfund.org or contact the LA office at firstname.lastname@example.org. -- Kelly Hartog, Staff Writer
Boxer Lectures at USC
When Bracha Shulamis Levy was growing up in Brooklyn, her mother told her, "Stand up for what you believe, even if nobody else does."
Now better known by her English, rather than Hebrew, given names, Barbara (Sue) Boxer connects the lessons she learned growing up in a Jewish home directly to her principles as a United States senator.
A string of high-level officials, from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and lately John Bolton, nominee for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, can testify ruefully to Boxer's willingness to confront them, alone, if necessary.
Those who have been targets of the gloves-off interrogations by the California Democrat, may even question the aptness of Boxer's Hebrew names, which she translated as "blessing of peace."
Boxer spoke at USC, where she delivered the April 17 Carmen and Louis Warschaw Distinguished Lecture, presented by the Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life.
Last year, Boxer was re-elected with more than 6.9 million votes, the highest total ever for a Senate candidate.
Young Barbara developed many of her values and political views around the parental dinner table, where she learned about the Holocaust, civil rights struggle, widespread poverty and getting involved when a neighbor is trouble.
The table debates often waxed hot and heavy, and Boxer, in an allusion to current Senate maneuverings, observed, "My mom would never allow anyone to cut off a filibuster."
Boxer recalled one childhood incident, which explains much about the woman and politician she is today. Once, when she and her mother were riding a segregated bus in Florida, where they were on vacation in the 1950s, an elderly black woman got on the bus, and the young Barbara stood up to offer the woman her seat. The startled woman muttered "no" and passed by, while Barbara's mother tried to explain to her daughter the rules of segregation. Moments later, mother and daughter got up, turned around and took their places at the rear of the bus.
Levy taught her daughter an invaluable lesson, saying, "Stand up, even if nobody else does." -- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor