Return of the Natives: OU Highlights Home Grown Talent at LATorah Convention, Dec 20-25

December 5, 2007


Bursting with pride that in the past quarter century Los Angeles has become a major center of Torah life, the Orthodox Union West Coast Region will present its 17th Annual West Coast Torah Convention with the dual themes of “Highlighting Our Home Grown Talent,” and – with an eye on the future – “Guaranteeing Continuity: Keeping Our Children Jewish and Orthodox.”

The Convention will be held over six days from Thursday, December 20 to Tuesday, December 25 in a variety of locations in Los Angeles. These include 16 OU member congregations which will present Convention faculty speakers over Shabbat; sessions at the Crowne Plaza Beverly Hills; and at the Museum of Tolerance.

Given the emphasis on highlighting home grown talent, it is no surprise that the keynote address, to be delivered at the opening dinner on Thursday, December 20 at Beth Jacob Congregation-Beverly Hills, will be given by Dr. Karen Bacon, a native Angelino, who is the Dr. Monique C. Katz Dean at Stern College for Women at Yeshiva University in New York. The dinner will honor executive directors, administrators, and office managers of OU synagogues throughout the West Coast Region.

The Convention will also feature a symposium Crisis: The High Cost of Jewish Education, at its closing session on Tuesday, December 25, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon at Young Israel of Century City. The symposium will feature OU Executive Vice President, Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, who together with OU National President, Stephen J. Savitsky, will be flying to the conference from OU headquarters in New York.

“Yom Iyun: A Day of Learning,” a program certain to be filled with enormous emotion, will be held Monday, December 24, from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Museum of Tolerance in memory of Dr. Beth Samuels, a”h, on the occasion of her first yarzheit. The brilliant young mathematician and mother of two, as well as a professor at the University of California at Berkley, will be remembered by Rabbi Marvin Hier, who will be speaking on Jewish Continuity and Destiny, and Mrs. Geri Wiener, speaking on L’Chaim: Life-Giving Actions and Their Rewards. Dr. Samuels herself will appear via DVD: Serach Bat Asher, the Unsung Heroine.

The noted author, talk show host and celebrity, Michael Medved, a native of Los Angeles who now lives in Seattle – a major location of the OU West Coast Region – will speak at a sponsors’ reception on Media Messages vs. Jewish Messages.

Throughout the proceedings, the theme of home grown talent will be apparent to all. The whole concept is based on Los Angeles “nurturing a generation of young people who are in Jewish leadership positions coast-to-coast,” explained Rabbi Alan Kalinsky, Director of the Region, who in his 22 years of leading OU West Coast, has played a major role in the growth of the Los Angeles Orthodox community and its many synagogues and institutions. “Young people are educated in Los Angles through the Jewish educational system who went off to Israel to learn and to receive semicha, will be with us at the Convention, either coming from Los Angeles or returning from their new communities.”

For example, Los Angeles natives, Rabbi Moshe Shulman, now spiritual leader at the Young Israel of St. Louis and his brother, Rabbi Eliayhu Shulman of the Young Israel of Midwood in Brooklyn, NY will be on the Convention faculty. They are the sons of Rabbi Nissan Shulman, who was rabbi of Congregation Sharei Tefila in Los Angeles years ago. Likewise, Rabbi Yosef Kalinsky, Rabbi Alan Kalinsky’s son, is returning from Yeshiva University in New York to lead a session.

Other LA alumni will return from San Diego; New York; Denver; Austin, Texas; and Baltimore, among other locations. Michael Medved will be speaking on Shabbat at Beth Jacob-Beverly Hills, because that is the congregation where he took his first steps toward becoming baal teshuva. In fact, according to Rabbi Kalinsky, many of the faculty members will be returning to their former neighborhoods to lead their sessions.

Rabbi Daniel Korobkin, who grew up in Los Angeles and is now the Director of Community Services for the West Coast Region and rabbi of Kehillat Yavneh in LA, was educated in Baltimore, served congregations in Allentown, PA and San Diego, and after a 15-year absence returned to Los Angeles. It goes without saying that he played a substantial role in planning the Convention.

In a statement, Convention Chairs Gregory and Andrea Smith; Mark and Stacee Hess; and Sandy Kalinsky, as well as Akiva and Rachel Greenfield, Young Leadership Chairs, declared, “The theme of this year’s OU West Coast Convention is ‘Home Grown Talent.’ This is truly a milestone event, because it is only now, after the maturation of a new generation of West Coast Jewry, that we have the talent and are not dependent on the East Coast to supply us with ideas and energy. We, the Chairs of this year’s Convention, are proud to be members of a community of Orthodox Jews who naturally identify Los Angeles and the West Coast as a lively center of Torah learning and living, and not as an outpost.”

“This evolution of the West Coast is due to the many individuals who settled here after World War II with very little but energy and faith in Hashem that they could rebuild their lives and a Torah community,” the Chairs continued. “They worked hard to establish communities filled with synagogues, mikvehs, yeshivas, kollels and a multitude of Jewish organizations. Now their children and their children’s children are reaping the harvest from the seeds of Torah those pioneers sowed, and this Convention is a celebration of their foresight and effort. We are deeply grateful to them and ‘shep nachas’ (draw much pride) from them as we gather together to learn from our Home Grown Talent.”

Parents and grandparents in attendance at the Convention will be certain to be interested in the symposium on the tuition crisis in Jewish education. Rabbi Weinreb will lay out a seven-step proposal for solving the tuition crisis. The second session will be a panel discussion exploring the merits and demerits in working with the government and governmental agencies in procuring funding for private schools and tax credits/vouchers. The panelists are Dr. Gil Graff, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Board of Jewish Education; Dr. Ron Reynolds, Executive Director of CAPSO, the California Association of Private School Organizations; and John Fishel, President of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

For further information and to register for meal sessions and hotel lodgings at the Crowne Plaza, contact, or 310-229-9000 ext. 200.