Mid-December at WVRC - the 12th, that is.

Are you with us on RI President Bhichai's visit on the 23rd? We have reserved the Grand Ballroom at Riviera Country Club for this special event, which means we have space for all WVRC members - but this premier event is also open to a number of Rotary dignitaries, plus Mayor Hahn, the Consul General of Thailand, Police Chief William Bratton, UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale, a number of present and past District Governors - you get the idea, it is BIG! This will replace our regular noon meeting that day, and thus your luncheon cost of $27.00 will be deducted from the dinner price of $75.00 per person - and, as with Club Assemblies and Demotions, you will be charged for one dinner whether you attend or not. This is, literally, a once-in-a-lifetime event for Westwood Rotary, so please don't miss it. It will be One For The Book, OK?

We did begin our meeting with the Pledge, led by DENNIS CORNWELL. LENNY FRIEDMAN and JACK HARRIS led and accompanied us on America, and except for a somewhat deeper tone than sometimes, it went well. There were no Visiting Rotarians, or guests today. President TED IHNEN announced the passing of our beloved DOUG DESCH, who slipped away peacefully about noon yesterday. TED remarked that DOUG was indeed a special friend of Westwood Rotary. He inspired each of us by exemplifying the true meaning of Rotary - service, fellowship and community. SHARON RHODES-WICKETT came forward to announce a Service for DOUG - it will be this Monday at 1:30 at Westwood United Methodist Church, followed by a reception, and everyone is invited. DOUG'S daughter Martha and her husband, Bob Brumbaugh, were with DOUG, having arrived from their home in Virginia. They are most appreciative of all the love and concern we have shown during his illness. SHARON concluded with a lovely prayer, which served as our Invocation.

Two more medical reports should be noted. PP HOWARD SISKEL had a bad fall at his home on Tuesday, after he and Eloise had hosted the annual Auxiliary Holiday Party. He broke two ribs, one of which punctured his lung, so they have inserted a tube to drain the wound. He is resting comfortably at St. Johns. PP JOHN SINGLETON was hit by an infection, and has slowly responded to antibiotics. He is at Century City Hospital, and should be coming home soon. Cards or calls are welcome.

MIKE YOUSEM reminded his shoppers to be on time tonight, and he has received a donation toward the Shopping Project from new member BRIAN BUMPAS - thanks, BRIAN. Tomorrow is the Braille Holiday Luncheon, and PP HOWIE HENKES will be overseeing our members who are hosting. PP HOMER NEWMAN, who chairs the election of Officers and Board Members as the fifth year PP, announced the following recommendations: President, PETER MORE. President Elect, RUDY ALVAREZ. Vice President, KEN LEVER. Secretary-Treasurer, KEVIN KOMATSU. JIM BECHTEL will chair International Service, and RALPH SMITH, Community Service. At this point, YOE moved the unanimous election of the group, which was agreed. The results were greeted with applause. We are in good hands, and we thank PP HOMER and his cohorts for their wise selections.

PDG BILL GOODWYN spoke eloquently on the forthcoming dinner and visit of Rotary International President Bhichai on January 23rd. BILL pointed out that a RI President has about three hundred working days during his term, and meets an average of twenty-eight Heads of State. There are thirty thousand Rotary Clubs worldwide - so you can see that his being with Westwood Village Rotary for TWO days is indeed special. Besides our dinner on the 23rd, he will visit our Parkinson's PLLUS project at the Westside YMCA - again, a signal honor. This is a really historic event for our club, and every member should attend. Let's support President TED on this - it's important.

Newly elected president-elect RUDY ALVAREZ came forward to tell us about the last lap in our very successful campaign to eradicate polio from the entire world. We began our worldwide efforts in 1979, and WVRC raised $120,000 in a campaign chaired by PP HOWIE HENKES. The final goal of complete eradication by 2005 will cost five hundred million dollars, and Rotary has pledged eighty million as our share of that amount. Bill Gates has offered to match, dollar for dollar, what we raise. We at WVRC are now being asked to each contribute $100 toward that goal - and there isn't a better value for money anywhere, as you know from seeing the video of our surgeries in India and Africa. RUDY, thanks for your report - Rotary can continue to make a difference here. And another note about RUDY - he has been selected as the Group Leader for the Group Study Exchange going to Italy in 2003. As Prexy TED pointed out, this is a real hardship post, having to spend over fou! r weeks in Rome and Sardinia as the guest of local Rotarians - but we know you can handle it, RUDY. He was fined 99.17 Euros (close enough to a hundred bucks) - and that seems fair, considering all his travel expenses coming up. Seriously, Congratulations, RUDY - and it's another honor for WVRC.

Our speaker, URI HERSCHER (capitalized since he is an Honorary Member of WVRC), was introduced by PP STEVE DAY, a long-time friend. Rabbi Herscher earned his doctorate at Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion, where he is currently a Professor and Executive Vice President. The Skirball Cultural Center was his dream, and as an indication of its success, they have had more than three million visitors since it opened in 1996. It is dedicated to exploring the connections between ancient Jewish heritage and American democracy. Uri was born in Israel, moved to the US as a teenager, and first had contact with Rotary when he won a Rotary essay contest - I speak for Democracy. Welcome back to WVRC, Rabbi Herscher.

Uri began by commenting on our loss of DOUG DESCH. He pointed out that memory is the only thing that defies death - and we are blessed with many memories of DOUG. Uri didn't take credit for creating the Skirball Center - he feels it has been in play for the four thousand years of human existence on the planet. He was able to commemorate the memory of those many who came before. Eighteen months ago he attended an investment meeting for the Center, and he admits knowing very little about investments. However, when it was reported that their investments had grown by 33%, he rose to point out that they were thus in terrible shape. He used the example of Joseph when he was advising Pharaoh. He warned Pharaoh that the seven years of bounty they were then enjoying had to be tempered by the need to put something aside for the lean years which would surely follow. Coming back to the present, Rabbi Herscher recognized that the Committee members were upset, and probably sorry that he had come to the meeting. But he did prevail upon them to cash out - and over time, he became a hero, considering the state of the market today. Skirball is based on debt free operation- they have raised over six hundred million dollars, and only begin a project when all the funding is in hand.

Their new project is the Children's Heritage Hall. Scheduled to be completed in Sept 2003, it is already crowded with kids and their parents - who are there to overcome fear. This venue gives them a 2nd chance, and his phrase is that he wants them to be "Prisoners of Hope". Among their speakers are the almost seventy Nobel laureates who live in this area. He asks each of them to use their brainpower to help us to live together.

This led him into his current feelings about the Middle East - he claims he has no clue as to what should be done there. The masses of extremists have no reason to live, so they can do anything they want. Unless we support those who are willing to talk, those who will come to the table, he sees disaster. Israel must preserve its options, and defend itself. One of his sons serves in the Israeli army, so he has more than a passing interest in what goes on there.

Albert Einstein came to the US for the first time in 1921. He spoke no English, but after thirty days here he granted an interview. This is the greatest country in the world - because we put more weight on WE rather than I. Einstein then continued, Europe will self-destruct, but the US must remain powerful.

Speaking of the current intifada, if the positions were reversed, and the Palestinians had military superiority, he believes they would kill ALL the Jews in three days! He supports the Palestinian Reform Movement, and raises money for them - they are willing to come to the table, and he feels that is the only hope for the Mideast.

Rabbi Herscher, your thoughts are sobering, and probably more realistic than some of us might be. Thank you for sharing your observations with us.

And before I sign off, I must remind one and all of next week's program - the annual Holiday Songfest. It will be delightful, and your spouse will love it. Be there!

YOE, Ernie Wolfe