Last month, for our seventh-annual mensch list, we again invited all of you to submit your nominations of extraordinary volunteers, and again the outpouring of suggestions of amazing people was overwhelming.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was sentenced to six months of community service for a breach of trust conviction.
A Northridge mother pleaded no contest Wednesday to a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor for helping her teenage daughter and two friends deface homes with maple syrup swastikas, human feces and toilet paper, according to the L.A. city attorney’s office.
Each year, we profile a group of outstanding high school seniors, culled from the many nominations sent in by you, our readers. And each year, we find it almost impossible to choose among the many extraordinary leaders, givers and enormously talented graduating teens.
Spending spring break is a tradition of sorts for college students, but rather than partying, 57 Hillel members from seven campuses headed to Miami last week to volunteer at a youth center in the downtrodden Overtown district.
Instead of swimming and sunning on the beach or getting soused in bars, they spent a week engaged in community service projects working with underprivileged communities.
The Overtown Youth center, built by former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning, is located downtown in one of the city’s worst neighborhoods. The 20-block area, which was founded as a segregated, black neighborhood because of Jim Crow laws, once was the center of black culture in Miami. Now it is overridden with drugs and has the highest rate of violent crimes rate in the southern Florida city.
Walking through the doors of the Los Angeles Free Clinic was much easier for Cheryl Saban last week than it was 25 years ago. Back then, she was a newly divorced mother of two young girls with little child support and a poor paying job as an office administrator. With an apartment, groceries, gas, clothes and all those other necessities, health insurance seemed a luxury she couldn't afford.
Who would have guessed that a 15-year-old boy born and raised in West Los Angeles would befriend a 49-year-old elephant named Yom who lives in a conservation reserve hidden deep in the jungles of Lampang in Northern Thailand?
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles had long been led by a mammoth and, some would say, symbolic board of directors. But last week the 133-member board voted nearly unanimously to dissolve itself and reconstitute about 65 percent lighter.
One of the Jewish calendar's most widespread and public observances, the Chanukah holiday has traditionally emphasized two miracles: the military victory of Jewish rebels over Greek invaders and the one vial of oil that lasted for eight nights. However, just as other holidays have seen their historic purpose shaped to contemporary narratives, Chanukah is increasingly being used as a vehicle for other Jewish agendas that seem to stray far from the holiday's original meaning.
There are not enough hours in the day for Zane Buzby.
Brian had just finished lunch when he popped the question: "Do we get dinner too?" He was almost holding his breath. I smiled, nodded and watched his eyes widen in elated disbelief. Lunch and dinner! I felt both shocked and sheltered by his question. I had never met anyone who couldn't afford food before.
Helping others and bettering the community -- "healing the world," as tikkun olam translates from Hebrew -- are ancient themes in Judaism. This has most commonly been done through social action -- planned events like feeding the homeless, visiting the elderly and cleaning up a neighborhood. But in the past few years, there has been an explosion among American Jewry, particularly within the Reform movement, to do more than just treat a symptom.
I just have to read what I wrote one week after Katrina, or during that first year when I was living in exile in Baltimore, to churn up the emotion and passion that is life in New Orleans these days. It is precisely this intensity that keeps me here.
Parents of Jewish high school students spend an enormous amount of their time and energy wondering whether their children are being properly "prepared" for the rigors of college. However, the discussion I rarely hear is whether these students will continue to be committed to ethical work as they become more independent.
Survivor. No, not the television show, as I wish were the case. A young Jewish woman and personal friend, Amy Farber, is a real survivor who was diagnosed with LAM (short for the fatal lung disease lymphangioleiomyomatosis) a few years ago, when she was 35.
As part of Sulam Summer Service Corps, the teens, who come from Jewish day schools and public schools throughout Los Angeles, have been spending their days with local kids who attend the center's day camp. The emphasis for the day camp's elementary school kids is on sports, teamwork and friendship; for the mentors, on giving back.
What Monty Hall understands is that doctors need money for research and treatment, and the way to get it is to twist some donors' arms, to placate others, to lure still more with images of prancing bunnies, and to provide everyone with fun, good food and a mention in the tribute journal. Leave the noble aims to Maimonides -- this is Jewish philanthropy, circa 2007.
As part of her participation in the Community Youth Foundation -- a program of the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles where teens allocate $10,000 in grants -- Teller and her friends visited Shane's Inspiration, a West L.A. playground for the disabled.
Indeed, immigrant communities often struggle with loyalties to the social mores of their old country and their new one. In the world of philanthropy and volunteerism, many Jewish leaders have learned that immigrant Jewish communities also have attitudes different from their American-born Jewish brothers and sisters. Those attitudes stem from the political systems and types of communities from which they came and what was expected of them in their native lands.
Giant baskets overflowed with volleyballs, playground balls, baseballs, basketballs and soccer balls. The fabulous decorations were the beginning of a mitzvah project that would live on long after the bar mitzvah boy had read his haftorah, celebrated his milestone, opened his gifts and written all those thank-you notes.
Diana Tehrani has been busy at UCLA, and the 22-year-old biology graduate now has the awards to prove it.
Shortly after Janet Halbert completed treatment for breast cancer in 2005, a friend was diagnosed with the disease. The friend asked Halbert if she had any tips for easing the chemotherapy experience. "I told her I had some products and some ideas and things that might be helpful," Halbert said.
Every year when I send out that first e-mail asking educators and leaders from around the city to nominate high school seniors for this "Outstanding Seniors" article, the angst begins. I get the names of dozens of nominees, and through a one-paragraph description I'm supposed to figure out who belongs in this feature. It's an impossible task, and inevitably I resign myself to the ultimate randomness of this selection -- for every teen I pick, 10 others could have filled that spot.
When I first arrived at the homeless shelter, I was scared. I didn't know what to expect, and I had to admit to myself that I had never really been out of my element. But I was open to the new experience -- and completely unaware of how the day would turn out.
When Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa held a news conference on Friday, May 18, to announce his decision to end a yearlong legal battle to take control of Los Angeles schools, Board of Education President Marlene Canter was standing by his side.
Michele Prince had an epiphany while sitting at a conference table nine years ago. At the time she was an account manager at a prestigious Westside advertising agency with a health insurance company as a client.
It's a typical Wednesday afternoon on the bimah at West Los Angeles' Vista Del Mar, a onetime Jewish orphanage that evolved into one of the nation's largest, most comprehensive child services centers. Cantor Steve Puzarne and Neal Katz are in the campus' aging sanctuary as part of Nes Gadol, an effort launched by Vista Del Mar last February in conjunction with The Miracle Project to help children with varying degrees of learning challenges become sons and daughters of the commandment.
When I was 10 years old, my older sister, Kaley, got sick. At first we didn't know what was going on and what was wrong. She woke up one morning with a bunch of weird
symptoms. Her feet were "tingling" and her eyes were moving rapidly from right to left, making her feel like the room was constantly spinning.
This is Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's dream: On one weekend a year -- known as Big Sunday -- 50,000 volunteers of all colors and creeds from neighborhoods throughout the region, all donning T- shirts preprinted with the Big Sunday logo, will fan out throughout Los Angeles and as far as Ventura, Anaheim and even Fontana to paint murals on classroom walls, plant trees, refurbish recreation rooms, clean homeless shelters, give blood, teach literacy, make cards for the sick and engage in hundreds of other do-good projects.
Kirk Douglas, having survived 87 movies, countless one-night stands with Hollywood's most beautiful women, a helicopter crash, a stroke and two bar mitzvahs is beginning to hit his stride at age 90. His latest endeavor, coinciding with the publication of his ninth book, is a clarion call for tikkun olam to rouse Generation Y to repair the world through social action and respect for human rights.
For some of us, a "problem" is getting seven presents for Chanukah, not eight. However, 70 years ago, these so-called "problems" would have been luxuries for the millions of Jews and other minorities living, and dying, during the Holocaust.
We are 17-year-old identical twin brothers, living a comfortable life in suburban Los Angeles.
"We have slaves to help," Jerry Rabinowitz, the Friday co-captain of the North Hollywood Interfaith Food Pantry, announces. "We Jews know something about slaves."