Jewish Home Girls

Jewish Home for the Aging (JHA) held its fifth annual Reflections: Celebration of Life gala at the Hollywood and Highland ballroom on Sept. 8, exactly seven months after breaking ground for its new Residential Medical Center at the Grancell Village campus. More than 800 supporters attended the event, which honored Joyce Eisenberg-Keefer with JHA’s Lifetime Achievement Award and recognized Adele Morse Platt as the Reflections honoree. Both women are major donors helping JHA grow to meet its pervasive need for more beds.

Eisenberg-Keefer’s award, presented by last year’s recipient Paul Goldenberg, follows her decades-long commitment to JHA. In 1990, JHA’s former Victory Village campus was renamed the Eisenberg Village in recognition of Eisenberg-Keefer and her late husband, Ben Eisenberg. Recently, Eisenberg-Keefer purchased private homes for JHA’s Neighborhood Homes program for independent senior living.

“I just love going out to visit the gals at the Home. I might be there soon,” she joked.

A donation from Platt and her husband, Conrad, helped JHA to begin construction on its Residential Medical Center on the Grancell Village campus. An entire floor of the center will bear the couple’s name.

Platt has been a supporter of JHA for 25 years, but got more involved when she attended a luncheon five years ago and heard former JHA Chair Earl Greinetz talk about the growing need for elder care.

“The statistics caught me,” Platt told The Journal. “They have less beds per capita than any other major city. There’s a very urgent need as the population gets older.”

JHA is the only Jewish long-term care facility in Los Angeles, and its current wait list for a bed is at 350 people, averaging a two- to three-year wait, JHA CEO Molly Forrest said.

Hamotzi was led by Eisenberg Village resident David Feldman, who said that when researching where he wanted to retire with his wife “it turned out to be a no-brainer.”

The evening’s entertainment was provided by Calabasas-based comedian Howie Mandel, who entertained the crowd with stand-up and a sneak peek at hidden-camera clips from his upcoming Bravo series “Hidden Howie.” – Adam Wills, Associate Editor

Mending Broken Hearts

Dr. Eli Milgalter is hoping to win over the Palestinians, one heart at a time.

Milgalter leads a mixed Israeli-Arab team of heart surgeons at Hadassah Hospital who provide long-term treatment to Palestinian babies with congenital heart defects. With his partner, Dr. Bishar Marzooka, Milgalter has given hope – and his cellphone number – to hundreds of families who would otherwise be unable to afford such services.

Hadassah Southern California hosted Milgalter, who met with members at private receptions in Encino on Aug. 30 and in Beverly Hills on Aug. 31 to provide a firsthand account of the lifesaving program.

Milgalter said that congenital heart defect problems are a decreasing phenomenon in Israel due to intrauterine screenings, but they’re still prevalent in Israel’s Arab communities and in the West Bank and Gaza.

“The Palestinian Authority neglected children for a long time,” he said. “There was no organized effort to identify the children with [heart] problems and get them treatment.”

And while the West Bank-based Marzooka has difficulty getting to work sometimes due to the army checkpoint, the work they do together is harmonious.

“From the first day, we didn’t have to say one unnecessary word. We think alike, and we act alike … it’s like we’ve been working together for 20 years,” Milgalter said in a “60 Minutes” interview.

And while the Palestinian Authority hasn’t shown any interest in the project, Milgalter is proud that his team embodies the hospital’s philosophy of equal treatment for all patients, Jews and Arabs alike.

“Everyone deserves treatment, no matter where they come from,” he said. – AW

Sugarman Says Goodbye

Rabbi Marvin Sugarman, who was rabbi emeritus at Congregation Shaarey Zedek in the Valley, retired to Israel last month after 44 years of rabbinical service.

Sugarman started at Shaarey Zedek in 1967. He and his wife, Avis, are credited with creating the family-like atmosphere at Shaarey Zedek, the largest Orthodox congregation in the Valley.

Sugarman’s motto in life is, “I am a servant of the Almighty,” and all of his sermons related to the moral duties and responsibilities of man to his fellow man and to God.

President Dorff

Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFS) installed Rabbi Elliot Dorff as its new president on Aug. 9. Dorff will serve a two-year term as the head of the agency’s board of directors. Dorff, who is rector and distinguished professor of philosophy at the University of Judaism, has been a longtime board member who chaired the board’s ethics committee for seven years.

“My father was president of Jewish Family and Children’s Services in Milwaukee,” Dorff said. “I feel the sense of m’dor l’dor, from generation to generation, in taking on this new role in the community.”

The new board members at JFS are Debi Graboff, Marc Graboff, Fern Heyman, Dr. Morgan Hakimi, Abby Leibman and Laurie Nussbaum. The new vice presidents are Phyllis Cohen, Paul Nussbaum, Shana Passman Mark Tobin and Marcie Zelikow. Randolph A. Magnin is the new treasurer.

JFS’ programs counsel troubled families and individuals, support the elderly, house the homeless and abused and feed the hungry. It is the oldest and largest social service agency in Los Angeles.

Mission to Israel

StandWithUs hosted its third mission to Israel in August, where mission members met with government officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Minister Natan Sharansky. They also met with the head of Palestinian Media Watch Itamar Marcus, Jerusalem Post editor Caroline Glick and Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, and they visited the injured at Schneider Hospital, Hadassah Hospital, and Tel Hashomer Rehabilitation Center.

StandWithUs reports: “The best news is that the streets, markets, hotels and theaters [in Israel] are bristling with people – tourism is at an all-time high!”

Screenwriter’s Solace

In August screenwriter Robert Avrech and his wife, Karen, opened their house to a developmentally disabled teen, Coby Van Houter, his teenage peer David Kleid and their counselors, Jason Lieberman and Aaron Brody during a four-week Yachad tour. Yachad is an organization helps Jewish individuals with disabilities from all over America integrate into the Jewish community by organizing tours, social groups and Shabbatons for them.

Robert and Karen wrote about their experience of hosting the teens in their blog, Seraphic Secret, and told how they momentarily found some solace from the grief they suffer after losing their 22-year-old son, Ariel, to pulmonary fibrosis in July 2003.

“Coby and David [two of the teens] shyly asked if it would be OK if I took their picture with the Emmy I won a few years ago for ‘The Devil’s Arithmetic,'” Avrech wrote. “They grinned and chuckled as I took the picture and instructed them to thank the academy…. After the Yachad group left for their Shabbos program, Karen and I felt hollowed out. Ariel’s absence was more pronounced than ever before…. At the end of the weekend, after our guests went home, we experienced the emptiness of the house in a new and raw way.”

For more information about Yachad go to To read Seraphic Secret, visit

University Synagogue’s Home

University Synagogue, a Reconstructionist congregation, recently moved into a new 52,000-square-foot building at Michelson Drive and Harvard Avenue in Irvine. Before that, the congregation had been sharing space with the United Church of Christ on Alton Parkway.

The new building was purchased in 2000. It was originally an ice skating rink, but then its design was modified by the architectural firm of Carter and Burgess, Costa Mesa. Now it has a 486-seat sanctuary, a social hall that can accommodate 700 seats, a large kitchen, eight classrooms for the religious school, children’s play yard, office space, a gift shop, lounges and more.

Construction on the building began last year. The new synagogue opened on Aug. 22 with a three-mile Torah procession involving 500 congregants.

“Our dream of a home of our own has finally come true, and we owe heartfelt thanks to the many individuals whose efforts and financial support have made this possible,” said University Synagogue’s Rabbi Arnold Rachlis. “People are attracted to University Synagogue because it is a warm and welcoming community that focuses on inclusiveness and accepts intermarried couples. Our views about God are diverse, but the emphasis is that God is the spirit within us.”

For more information visit