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Wandering Jew: Rabbi Aaron Cunin will set up a menorah in a new location Dec. 5 because the old spot was run over by a Winter Wonderland train.

Public Eye

Jewish Near the Park

It's the season to get bad jingles stuck in your head when you shop for groceries--a.k.a. Christmastime. Oh, yeah, and Chanukah and Kwanzaa and so forth. After all, San Jose is proudly multicultural. Naturally, Dec. 6 is the annual tree-lighting celebration--a two-hour public party and an event that Mayor Ron Gonzales has on his calendar. But in the spirit of variety, the day before the Christmas-in-the-park fest, comes the 3-year-old annual menorah-sparking celebration. The lighting represents the all-inclusive notion "freedom of religion," says Rabbi Aaron Cunin. For the last two years, his group, Chabad of S. Jose, has erected the menorah (which signifies miracle oil that burned extra long and helped Jews out one time) across from the Plaza de Cesar Chavez by the Circle of Palms. This year, things didn't go so smoothly for Cunin and the candelabra at first. Cunin didn't get the permit application in to the city on time. Then, Chris Esparza, local Redevelopment Agency-supported Populus Presents and Giant Creative Services activities guy, intercepted that spot for his Winter Wonderland display, an extended version of last year's mini-amusement park, which will feature a train, a Ferris wheel and other rides, music and caroling. Esparza offered to let the menorah share the spot. He says he even offered to keep an eye on it to ward off any vandalism. But Rabbi Cunin didn't go for it. "We thought the menorah could hold its own," says Cunin. Lucky for Chanukah fans, Cunin averted getting the boot altogether by grabbing a spot on the other side of the Fairmont Hotel in the Paseo de San Antonio alley. "It's becoming a known annual event. It's gained some nice attention, so people have complained about having it move from one location to another location," Cunin says. But he added, "We're very happy about how it ended up." The menorah will stay up for the eight days of Chanukah plus some, from Nov. 29 through Dec. 7. Perhaps that'll give Gonzales enough time to add visiting the menorah to his to-do list. (Or maybe he'll just check out the additional menorah that participating community member Rob Gelphman is donating to the Christmas in the Park display.)

Kids Love Vaudeville

After financial difficulties that resulted in an outpouring of community support in January, the Gaslighter Theater is in jeopardy again. Neighboring businesses on quaint East Campbell Avenue complained last month when close to 400 people showed up for the Silicon Valley Metal Fest II, an early afternoon raaaawk show held in memoriam for the late Rob Lumbre (a multitalented local musician known for his work in Osmium, Severed Savior, Psypheria and Mucous Membrane who was killed in a car accident in January). Apparently, it was noisy, and there was loitering, littering and, worst of all, suspected vandalism. Nevertheless, the Gaslighter is one of a mere handful of all-ages live-music venues left in the South Bay. The reports from Eye's levelheaded sources are in: Bands support it. Kids and teenagers love it. Parents approve of it. Even the neighboring businesses are usually cool with it. In an attempt to quell the brewing storm, the Gaslighter's Mark and Susan Gaetano quickly took steps to solve the problems by hiring extra security, nixing ins-and-outs, cleaning up the sidewalks and starting all shows after 6pm. Things should be copacetic now. Except for one thing. The city of Campbell investigated the complaint and discovered that the Gaslighter's permit for live vaudeville theater performances doesn't cover live band performances. Susan Gaetano says they were told they needed a live-entertainment permit to continue hosting live music and a late-night hour permit to stay open past 11pm. The Gaetanos hustled to turn in their permit requests last week. They'll be reviewed by the City Council, and a decision should be made in a few weeks. "They have concerts at the Gaslighter and there have been some problems in the past with the kids hanging out outside the theater," says Kirk Heinrichs, redevelopment manager for Campbell's Redevelopment Agency. But, Heinrichs adds, Gaslighter owners have been "very, very cooperative," and the venue is "an asset to the community."

Teen Fix

Eye watched on Wednesday (Nov. 13) as San Jose played host to a so-hyped "revolution" in teen druggie intervention. It was the launching of Teen Getgoing, the annoyingly named, first Internet-based counseling program for substance-abusing teens. Parent company CRC Health Corp. promises, for about $4,000, to give teen drug and alcohol users a one-on-one or group connection to a counselor--virtually. CRC head Barry Karlin, former U.S. drug czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey and Foothill High School Principal Jacklyn Guevara joined forces to sing the web fix's praises at a San Jose press conference last week. "Teens love the Internet," they said. "School counselors cost too much--$72,000 apiece." They spewed out a bunch of statistics about how lots of kids do drugs and most parents don't want them to. Then they conducted a Teen Getgoing demo with a real live teenager: 15-year-old Anna (no last name given). Anna wore headphones and spoke to a computer icon of Dr. John Falcone, a 20-year-veteran psychotherapist who used to work with teens in person and now sits on their computer desktops. Anna pretended to dump her drinking problems on the table. After a few seconds' delay, Falcone responded, pretending to make suggestions and offer encouragement. (In real life, Anna's clean and sober, but she did go through the Teen Getgoing pilot program.) The philosophy behind the Internet teen counselor is that adolescents don't open up when adults are right in their faces, so a little distance is supposed to help them run their mouths. Also, with Teen Getgoing, the adults can collect data about the teens and keep track of their progress. It's kind of like a pet microchip that stores data, except no chip is actually installed in the teen's head. That's clearly the next step. Eye'll be looking out for the teen microchip.

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From the November 21-27, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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