✡️🏕️ And The Processing Continues … But #KramerNeverStops and #HilltopNeverStops

It has now been a week (but it seems much longer) since we learned that Camp Hess Kramer and Gindling Hilltop Camp were essentially destroyed in the Woolsey Fire (together with a number of other camps, including Camp JCA Shalom, Camp Bloomfield, the Salvation Army Camps, and I’m sure many others, including former BSA, GSA, and other camp facilities). At CHK, all that I know remains are one or two cabins that were cinder-block, the Arts and Crafts area, the new dining hall (although it sustained some damage), the conference center/infirmary/office complex, and of course, Inspiration Point. At Hilltop, all that remains are some cinder-block cabins, the Arts & Crafts center / Pool / Roth Room, and of course, the menorah at the top of the hill.

We know, of course, that camp will rebuild. The facilities were insured, the congregation has both means and motivation, and the alumni are an active group. The camping may be away from Malibu this summer while construction occurs; there is no formal announcement of the 2019 location yet, but camp will happen for the kids. My hope, for 2019, is that the kids can return to the Pioneer spirit: returning to the grounds to recover artifacts and material, and creating new art out of the old memories to ensure that what was camp is remembered in what camp becomes.

For those of us who are alumni of the camps — from the old-timers who were there in the very beginning going back to the Presbyterian Conference Ground days to the first days in Malibu, to the folks there when only CHK existed in the 1960s, to the pioneers and kids of the 1970s (my generation), to the generations since in the 1980s and beyond — for all of us this has been an interesting week. Memories that were in the background are resurfacing. Facebook groups are providing an avenue of reconnection within camp generations, and establishing new connections between the generations. We’re sharing pictures, stories, artifacts. Most importantly, there’s a sense that we’re here, camp lives within us, and we will be there with boots on (and walkers, as necessary 🙂 ) to rebuild however and whenever we can. Camp was a safe spot for many, a formative spot for all, and it made us who we are today. From a group that was created last Sunday morning, we are now over 1,500 strong. Unified and voice in spirit. We’re ready to take the values of Al Slosha D’varim and use them to bring camp back through Torah values, our hard work (avodah), and donating funds (g’melut chasadim).

For me, the destruction has reopened the good memories of the period from 1969 to 1979, the good people, the good times. It reminded me why I go to Malibu whenever I can afford to (either in terms of time or funds). Camp is where I had great joy, but it is also where I had sadness. It was at camp that I learned that my brother had died, cutting the session I went to in 1970 short (and I will always be grateful for the caring from my counselors — Sandy Strauss, Scott Shershow, and Joel Saltzman). But it was also at camp  that I acquired self confidence  and grew into who I am today. The place and the beauty will return; the scars will heal. Out of the ashes something stronger will form; there will be a new generation of pioneers rebuilding camp.

And it will be good. Very very good.

My first year at camp – 1969

P.S.: If you want to donate to the camps, visit here.

P.P.S.: If you want to see what happened, here are some good news reports from ABC 7 and NBC 4; an exploration right after the fire; an article from the LA Times; and an article from the Huffington Post.


C-H-U-C-K Chuck

He always used to seemingly dislike when people would add “C-H-U-C-K Chuck” into “Justice, Justice“.

Yesterday, word came out that Charles Feldman, long-time Director of Music (in the days before Reform had Cantors) at Wilshire Blvd Temple, and long-time camp director of Gindling Hilltop Camp, and long time maestro of Jewish music, passed away. It wasn’t a surprise; I had heard he was in a board-and-care home up in the Antelope Valley. But still, the news was sad. And the world wept.

I attended the Wilshire Blvd Temple Camps for 10 years, between 1969 and 1979; I was at Hilltop starting in 1972. For all but that first (and possibly second) year at Hilltop, Chuck was my camp director. So many memories: his voice, his kindness, his friendly nature, his leadership, playing anagrams after-hours.

Others from my era at camp have posted on Facebook with their memories. If the measure of a person and a life well lived are the lives that you have impacted for the good, then Chuck will be remembered well. Tradition teaches that we live on in the memories of others. In that respect, Chuck will continue to live on through the music he has left behind, through the people he has influence and how they have passed on that influence down the generations, and through the memories of the man at his piano, leading songs and completely happy.

You can hear his beautiful voice on the camp album Cherish The Torah, in the songs “Sim Shalom” and “Sanctification“. Here is a short summary of Chuck’s career at Wilshire from the time he stepped down.

According to a post from Liz Biderman Gertz on Facebook, those who wish to honor Chuck Feldman’s memory may donate to the following scholarship fund:

Academy of Music Performance and Education scholarship fund
854 West Lancaster Blvd
Lancaster CA 93534



Camp Family

Last night, there was terrible news out of Santa Rosa for anyone that loves Jewish summer camps: “As many of you may have heard, since 10pm last night, forest fires have been burning in Sonoma and Napa counties. It is with tremendous shock and sadness that we share that the majority of the buildings at our beloved Camp Newman home have been destroyed.” (URJ Blog Entry)

I never attended URJ Camp Newman. I spent 10 years of my youth at their competitor and sibling: the Wilshire Blvd Temple Camps (Camp Hess Kramer and Gindling Hilltop Camp) in Malibu. All I knew was that there were two other Jewish camps in California, the Conservative’s Camp Ramah in Ojai, and UAHC’s Camp Saratoga (later Camp Swig) in Northern California. I never knew, for example, that UAHC had purchased land for a new camp, Camp Newman in Santa Rosa, in 1997; nor that they had closed Camp Swig in 2004 moving camp operations to Camp Newman. The reason for the closure of the Saratoga facility was economic: the land was in an earthquake red zone, and the cost of updating and retrofitting the buildings was prohibitive. They moved what camp art they could to the Newman site, and closed the camp and attempted to sell the land (which upset a lot of people). The sale fell through, and I could find no clear information on what happened to that land other than a paywalled reference that it was sold in 2010.‡

But Jewish summer camp is special, and I know the hours I’ve spent worrying anytime there is a fire near Malibu. I remember helping at camp after a fire, and I remember how close fire has come to destroying buildings at camp. I can only imagine the spiritual pain that Saratoga / Swig / Newman campers, staff, and alumni are feeling,

Buildings will be rebuilt. The ground will be scoured for artifacts and art that survived (ceramics and concrete are wonderful that way). There will be a re-sanctification and new energy, and the spirit will return. This summer will see the camp return to pioneer roots for sure, with temporary rougher facilities and a spirit of re-creation for the future generations. Art will show a rebirth through fire, just as the literal fires of the Holocaust were followed by a rebirth of Jewish spirit.

What has surprised me through this, however, is how I have been touched by destruction at a camp I’ve never attended. The larger Jewish Camp family is truly a family: whether CHK or GHC, Ramah, Kutz or Newman, or Alonim, or any of the myriad of camp options, we are all in pain when “camp” is hurt.

I wish the URJ Camp Newman community a refluah shleimah — a speedy recovery. Those financially able to help could visit the camp’s donation page. #NewmanStrong

[‡ ETA: It looks like it was sold to a group called Valley International Academy, but their current webpage puts them in Campbell. That may be an administrative office, because other pages still show them in Saratoga. There is also an Environmental Impact Report and architectural documents for a rehab into some new center by a group called Valley Inception, LLC (which would destroy many of the original cabins) in 2015. They are a technology firm, and as for use, all the EIR says is “rehabilitate an existing camp / retreat facility, Camp Saratoga, through obtaining Architecture and Site Approval (ASA) and Grading. Proposed project scope includes demolishing (9) existing cabins, consolidating and building four (4) new camper / staff cabins, one (1) facility storage building, reconstructing the existing Norris House for administration functions and various site improvements such as installing new parking lot, internal access serving the new buildings, ADA and utility upgrades. […] A similar rehabilitation was proposed by the previous organization, Camp Swig, and approved in 2002. Upon completion of the rehabilitation, subject facility will resume operation hosting a variety of programs in varying durations year-round. Summer programs may be as minimal as days or weeks, while school year programs will be longer. ” Thus, it appears this is now a boarding school.]


News Chum Stew: Onesies and Twosies

Observation StewLast night, we had a Shabbabaque at Temple (“Shabbat” + “Barbeque”). There was a bunch of food leftover, and so I brought some home — the sliced tomatoes and roasted zucchini — and threw it into a crockpot. That’s a great thing to do with leftovers: make a stew (and I intend to suggest formalizing that next year*). Just like at the Shabbabaque, I’ve got loads of leftovers — onsies and twosies of news articles — that don’t make a coherent dish. Perhaps they’ll make a good stew. What do you think?

Jewish Summer Camp

Food and Eating

Local Returns and Departures

The Body


What’s Left



Saturday Stew: A Little Bit of Everything

Observation StewNote: In case you missed my posts earlier this week, I had one with a collection of articles related to why I decided to support Hillary Clinton; a collection of articles related to food and diet; and a summary of the shows that I’m planning to see at the upcoming Hollywood Fringe Festival. But now it is Saturday, and I’m staring at the list of links I’ve accumulated over the week… and realizing there’s not a coherent theme buried in there.  You know what that means — it is time to make News Chum Stew!



News Chum Stew: This and That

Observation StewIt’s been a couple of weeks since we’ve made some news chum stew, and I’m hungry for a nice heaping bowl. Please join me, and let’s discuss some of these:

  • Inclusion and Integration. Let’s start with an article I chose just for the graphic, which is appropriate for the Oscars tonight and #OscarsSoWhite . I had seen others use this graphic before with respect to diversity discussions, and I realized that it is also wonderful to explain security system engineering, and how security truly needs to be included in the engineering discussion, not just considered in a separate area.
  • Food and Health. Here are two articles related to food and health.The first explores how the proton-pump inhibator heartburn meds (such as omeprazole, which I take) may be associated with a higher dementia risk. This is of concern to me; it is why I’m trying to wean down on the meds (I’m at every other day). Specifically, a new study links the widely used PPIs — which include Nexium, Prevacid and Prilosec — to an increased risk for cognitive decline, though researchers caution the study has limitations, and does not show a definite cause. PPIs have recently been linked to kidney disease, heart disease, and deficiencies of B12 and other vitamins. While patients have reported side effects of the drugs, not taking them often results in stomach pains and worse heartburn as the drug leaves their systems.

    The second highlights a fascinating finding about pasta: Reheating your pasta makes it healthier for you. When pasta is cooled down, your body digests it differently, causing fewer calories to be absorbed and a smaller blood glucose peak. And reheating it is even better – it reduces the rise in blood glucose levels by a whopping 50 percent.

  • Cruz and Gluten Free. It seems society just wants to hate and bully. We’ve all seen various people, shapes, and trends become scapegoats for society’s extended mockery. Recently, Ted Cruz marched into the frey by declaring the military shouldn’t provide gluten-free meals. This promped a lovely editorial in HuffPost asking people to stop making fun of the gluten-free diet (which was the real article that prompted this item). Yes, I know there are many folks doing it because the diet is trendy and they believe it will help them. The problem is that if people start feeling that folks only do it for trendy reasons, then they won’t be careful in making things truly gluten free. That can create significant health problems for those that are Celiac and truly must eat gluten free.
  • Kitchens and Shopping. If you’re a cook, you’ve probably gone shopping at those high end kitchen supply stores. Have you gone to a restaurant supply store. It’s quite fun. We’ve gotten a few things there that we use every day. Here’s a good article on what you should be buying at a restaurant supply store. I particularly recommend the cutting board advice: get a really large one you can sit over your sink. You can then rinse and cut without the water going over your counters, and scrape the cuttings right into the disposal. They also have colored boards, so you can segregate vegetable from meat boards.
  • Humor and Jews. This article got an incredible amount of shares when I posted it on FB: Mad’s Al Jaffe explaining how Mad helped make American Humor Jewish, bringing in Yiddish along the way.
  • Calculators and Caller ID. Recently, an app on my Android Phone informed me it was using Caller ID, and I needed to go into its settings if I didn’t want that. The app, PowerCalc, and yes — it is integrating CallerID to make money for its authors. Needless to say, I want to find a different calculator app now.
  • Cars and Satellites. Here’s a real interesting one. I work in El Segundo, and regularly drive now Nash Street. I’ve never thought about why it was named what it was. However, a posting in an LA History group on Facebook provided some fascinating history. Evidently, what is now the Boeing Satellite Facility at Imperial Highways and Hughes Way used to be the Nash-Kelvinator Assembly Plant. Thus: Nash Street.
  • Names and Processors. A number of years ago, picking a processor was easy. You went for the latest x86 and clock speed. Then came Pentium and Celeron and Atom, and now there are Cores and iX and more. Here’s the first cogent explanation I’ve found of Intel Processor naming. This will be a big help next time I go processor shopping. I wonder how they differ architecture-wise, in particular in memory mapping and privilege rings — things us cybersecurity folks care about.
  • Tuna and Pianos. Get it? Piano Tuna? Nevermind, I’m here all week. You may have seen the recent Android commercial where they play one song on a regular piano, and one song on a piano where every key makes the same note. You might have wondered whether they made a square piano to do it, in order to have all the strings the same length (remember: a piano has the same number of strings as a harp; it is just that they are buried in a box and hit with a hammer). Here’s a Scientific American article on what they did, and exploring if you could make all strings sound the same just through tuning.
  • A, B, C, D, E, and F. If you are old enough, you remember the days before “forever” stamps, when postage changed so frequently they issued lettered stamps worth make up postage between the old rate and the new rate. One wonders if they would issue negative postage stamps now, given that stamp prices are set to go down 2c in April. That’s right. Down. From 49c to 47c. I’d wait to buy that “forever” postage.
  • Maps and Places. We’ve all heard about it, but is it really done? Atlas Obscura explores the legend of fictitious place names on maps. Can they really be used to copyright a map?
  • Restaurants and the San Fernando Valley. A couple of articles on restaurants and the valley. The first explores 118 Degrees, a new raw vegan GF restaurant. The second is supposedly the essential valley restaurants, although I find some a bit trendy for my taste (and as usual, then tend to think only of the Boulevard, instead of the Northern valley). This becomes clear when they mention Lum Ka Naad’s outpost on the boulevard, instead of mentioning the original location near CSUN (which is about a mile from where I live). PS. While we’re talking about the valley, here’s an obit of interest: Rabbi Gordon of Chabad in the Valley has passed away. Z”L.
  • Malls and ShoppingTowns . In the news recently was an article noting how the Beverly Center mall near Cedars Sinai is getting a makeover. I remember this area well: I remember when the mall was built in the 1970s (drove by it on the way to WBT). It replaced the beloved Beverly Playland. The redevelopment is part of a trend of mall redesign, where developers take what were indoor malls and make them outdoor strolling areas. Think “the Grove” or “Americana at Brand”. What goes around, comes around, I guess. I remember when this was done at places like Fallbrook; I also remember when outdoor malls were turned into indoor malls (Panorama Mall; Sherman Oaks Fashion Center). They are about to do a similar transformation on the Westside Pavillion (which folks remember used to be a little lovely outdoor shopping center with a Vons and May Company). Should be interesting to watch.

Lastly, I’d like to highlight a few “GoFundMe”s of interest, related to folks I know. Orlando de la Paz was the scenic painter at the Colony; he recently had a stroke and is raising support funds. Jolie Mason worked with me at SDC; she’s now running the LA Radio Reading Service, a group that is raising funds for studio upgrades. Bruce Kimmel, a producer out here in LA, is raising money for an LA Themed Musical, which will premiere at LACC around May 13 for two weeks.  The family of one of my counselors from camp days is raising funds for his care; he’s dealing with a brain tumor and the prognosis isn’t good. The LA Theatre Community is raising funds for its legal fight against Actors Equity; they’ve already raised 75K. Lastly, the Men of TAS are raising funds to improve the Social Hall Kitchen; we’d love it if you could help.


Weekend Chum Stew: Food, Fiddler, Fonts, &c

Observation StewYesterday was a crazy day, and I didn’t get the news chum stew on the stove. Today is chilly and rainy, so I’ve made an extra big pot:


Southern California Stew

Observation StewThis has been a busy week — lots of stuff to do at work combined with a migraine flare (thank you, Santa Ana winds) and a dearth of compelling news items led to no posts during the week. I have a few items backed up, some of which actually theme. The themed ones all have to do with Southern California:

  • Plant a Radish, Get a Radish. Here’s a really neat article about something the camps did over the summer: they planted camp gardens. What’s more interesting here is what they did with the gardens: they not only grew their own food, but they grew food for charity. It’s nice to see a program like this at camp; it is an extension of the old “Nature” → “Ecology” → “Avodah” programs.
  • A Bird Flies Away. The iconic Proud Bird restaurant just S of LAX is closing. Proud Bird is one of those old airport-near restaurants that celebrated airplanes and airplane history (think 94th Aero Squadron). There have been many business meetings, retirement parties, and “grey-beard” get-togethers at the Proud Bird. It will be sad to see it go.
  • Aluminum City. Here’s an interesting article that links to a longer story on the history of Century City. It’s a story of a silver screen cowboy, a studio desiring to monetize its historic back lot, a lot of aluminum, and the development of a modern office park and shopping center.
  • A Dying Sea. From the modern Century City, eyes turn to the decaying Salton Sea. Here’s a look at the dying Salton Sea, and the human and infrastructural debris is it leaving behind as its footprint shrinks. A lake made by man, leaving ghostly echoes.