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.

Changing… and Staying the Same

userpic=campSummer camp, for those of you that have experienced it, is often a life-changing experience. It is so pivotal for some children that Ira Glass has mused on it for This American Life. It certainly was for me — it defined my relationship to Judaism for me much more than any synagogue; it shaped my character and my concern about people; it led me to be the type of person that just jumps in and does what needs to be done. Camp was “just do it” long before there was a Nike.

In my case, the camps were the Wilshire Blvd Temple Camps: Camp Hess Kramer (FB) and Gindling Hilltop Camp (FB). I started attending CHK in 1969, and added GHC in 1971, and continued at both camps until 1979. I tended to prefer GHC — it was the smaller camp, it was more informal, it was more individualistic. In those early years (Hilltop started in 1968, vs. Kramer’s 1952 start), Hilltop had that “pioneer” nature — you were not only at camp, you were making camp and establishing tradition. Studies have shown that Jewish summer camps such as these (and there are many many such camps) are much more effective in keeping kids Jewish than any religious school can ever be.

Bimah at GHC 2013A side effect of this is that whenever there is a chance for me to get to camp (at least one that I can afford), I go. This can be various alumni events at camp that have happened over the years; more recently, it has been the alumni shabbat events that are offered. On these Shabbat, a small number of alumni have the opportunity to go up to camp to join the session in progress for Shabbat. I’ve been going every year since they started in 2006 (you can read about all my camp posts here). This year comes on the heels of what could have been a disastrous fire: the Springs fire in May came one canyon away from camp. Luckily, camp survived and (according to Andrea, the director), they only evidence of the fire is at Sycamore Canyon where they go on beach day, and what is seen on hikes.

One reason camp is special is that it is one of the few places I feel spiritual. Normally, I have a more distanced relationship to Judaism. I love the traditions and the history, but a connection to G-d? Can you feel that in the concrete, marble, and steel chambers that most congregations erect? But at camp, it is totally different. When you are sitting out at the top of a hill in Malibu, it is impossible not to feel the connection. The view above of the ark should give you one example; just below is another view of the menorah on the hill at Hilltop.

Menorah at Hilltop 2013During the service, the fellow leading the service (I didn’t get his name) had some interesting observations. He noted that things have changed over the years — using the Birkat (prayer at the end of the meal), it has grown longer from just the last sentence to the much longer version they use today. Yet with all the change, things have stayed the same. The sprituality, the connection, the magic that the place conveys remains. The “safe”-ness that camp brings is still there, even over 40 years after my first visits. This was reemphasized during closing: the stars are the same, the sunsets are still beautiful (see the picture below). These don’t change.

But some things do change. Last night I found myself noting some of the changes as I stood back a bit and watched:

  • I was struck by the growing diversity of the camp community. When I attended camp, for lack of a better word, it was mono-color (and often, mono-cultured). You had the white middle-to-upper income Jewish children. This year, I was pleased to see the spectrum was changing, with children from a greater spectrum of ethnicities. This is a good thing; it reflects how society is melting together, as well as the fact that although Judaism is a religion and a culture, it is nether a race nor an ethnicity.
  • Sunset at Hilltop 2013Did I ever have that much energy? I was watching the campers and the counselors during the song sessions, dancing, and throughout the evening. Running, jumping, being completely open and out there. I don’t remember being that way — I have this image of me as the quiet kid off to the side. If I was that way, where did the energy go? Is this something being an adult saps away?
  • During the song session, they did the 59th Street Bridge Song, otherwise known as “Feeling Groovy”. I was struck by the realization that most of the kids probably have no idea who Simon and Garfunkel were.
  • My step is still there, but not for long. I heard rumors that they may finally start work on rehabbing the ampitheatre (I think they call it the teatron (תאטרון) now). This is good — the concrete steps are starting to break apart, and the stage has seen much better days.
  • I was surprised to see that Cabin 12 was empty this session. Evidently, they didn’t have enough boy campers. I have no idea whether this is a reflecting on camp declining in popularity, shifts in the ratio of boys to girls in Jewish youth, or a reflection of the cost of camp. I remember that when Erin went to camp, they had an excess of girls. I have a vague recollection of them having so many girls they had to coopt staff cabins for girl campers.
  • Pavillion at Hilltop 2013I noticed much more how Hilltop is blending into the background of the hills. In the past, driving up Pacific Coast Highway, as one crossed the Ventura County line, one would see the pavilion at the top of the mountain. Nowadays, it blends in so well and the trees have grown so much that you don’t notice it. Instead you notice the Menorah at both camps.
  • I looked for any evidence of the Springs fire, even going so far as to drive up Yerba Buena Road for a mile or two. I didn’t see anything, although I might have seen more had I gone as far as Boney Ridge. As I noted earlier, there evidently is evidence of the fire over in Sycamore Canyon. Yet again the camp lucked out with respect to the local brush fires — there seems to be something special protecting that place.

So that’s it for this year’s alumni shabbat.

Music: Hair – Actors Fund of America Benefit Recording (Laura Benanti): “Initials”