October 16, 2018

Moving and Shaking: ADL’s Entertainment Industry Awards, Bend the Arc gala

Actress, producer and philanthropist Roma Downey, who was born in Northern Ireland, speculated that Jesus must have been Irish, too.

“Many wonder if Jesus was Irish. He never got married, he lived at home until he was 30, and his mother thought he was God,” she said, speaking to a crowd of approximately 500 people who gathered at the Beverly Hilton May 8, where Downey and her husband, Mark Burnett, received the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) 2014 Entertainment Industry Award.

“That’s how you know he was Jewish,” came the muttered response of someone in the audience.

The ADL Entertainment Industry Award, an annual honor given out by the ADL, is awarded “to individuals based on leadership and extraordinary innovation in the entertainment industry,” an ADL statement said.

“It’s an acknowledgement of the commitment that Mark and I share with the ADL, a commitment to help people and build bridges,” Downey said as she accepted the award.

The evening spotlighted the religiously themed work of Downey and Burnett. Together, the Hollywood power couple produced the 2013 cable miniseries “The Bible.” This year, they released the film “Son of God.”

Burnett is the producer of some of reality television’s biggest shows, including “Survivor,” “The Voice,” “Celebrity Apprentice” and “Shark Tank.” Downey is known for a decade of work on the television series, “Touched by an Angel.” Her production company, LightWorkers Media, creates children’s programming.

In a statement, the ADL praised the honorees, saying their productions “support the organization’s work … fighting hatred of all kinds.”

The evening netted more than $1 million for the ADL’s Pacific Southwest chapter, which serves Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Kern counties.

ADL National President Abraham Foxman presented the award to Downey and Burnett.

In an interview, Foxman told the Journal the entertainment industry promotes ADL-cherished values.

“People look and watch and respond to entertainment in ways they don’t respond to anything else,” he said.

Indeed, the evening highlighted the coming together of two worlds. Foxman; ADL regional director Amanda Susskind and ADL regional board chair Seth Gerber joined DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg; “Survivor” host Jeff Probst; model-actress-television personality Brooke Burke; Gary Barber, the chairman and CEO of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; and Israeli film producer Avi Lerner.

Neither of the honorees is Jewish, but Burnett said his upbringing taught him to embrace other faiths. He said he’d never heard the notion that Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus — it was not until later in life that he discovered that some people actually thought that way. He credited the ADL with not just improving his work, but with making him a better person.

Previous winners include Katzenberg and filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

David Nahai; his sister, Linda Nahai (left); and his wife, Journal columnist Gina Nahai; attended Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice’s gala, at which David Nahai was an honoree. Photo by Cheryl Stern

Social justice organization Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice held its annual Pursuit of Justice gala on May 18 at the George C. Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits, where it honored environmental activist and community leader David Nahai and Rock the Vote and its co-founder Jody Uttal.

Nahai is the husband of Journal columnist Gina Nahai.

Rock the Vote and Uttal received the inaugural Andrew Goodman Award, a joint honor between Bend the Arc and the Andrew Goodman Foundation, named for the Jewish activist who was murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan in 1964 for registering black voters in Mississippi.

“We’re so proud to honor Jody Uttal and Rock the Vote with the Andrew Goodman Award — their tireless work to expand the electorate and engage young voters keeps alive the legacy of volunteers like Andrew Goodman, and is critical to upholding our basic right to vote,” Bend the Arc CEO Stosh Cotler said in a press release. 

“My brother Andrew lost his life in the Voting Rights Movement,” David Goodman, president of the Andrew Goodman Foundation, said in a statement. “Fifty years later, the right to vote is under attack again, and it’s inspiring to join with Rock the Vote, Bend the Arc and others who are working to ensure that all American citizens have access to the ballot.”

The Pursuit of Justice gala raised more than $100,000 for Bend the Arc, a Jewish organization that conducts advocacy, leadership training and philanthropy around domestic political issues. Voting rights is currently one of the organization’s key issues. Joellyn Weingourt, senior development officer at Bend the Arc, said in a phone interview that the funds will be put toward the organization’s “overall work and vision on a national and local level.” 

More than 200 people attended, including State Assemblymember Richard Bloom, City Attorney Mike Feuer, City Controller Ron Galperin, City Councilmember Mike Bonin, and former city controller and current congressional candidate Wendy Greuel

From left: Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFS) board president Terry Friedman; Luis Lainer and his wife, Lee Lainer — she received the 2014 Anita and Stanley Hirsch Award; JFS COO Susie Forer-Dehrey; and JFS CEO Paul Castro. Photo by Jonah Light

Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFS) honored Lee Lainer during its 21st annual awards dinner May 12 and celebrated the social service agency’s 160th anniversary. The event took place at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Lainer received the Anita and Stanley Hirsh Award, in recognition of her “decades-long leadership, dedication and generous support,” according to a JFS statement. 

She is a practicing psychoanalyst who treats individuals and couples, with an emphasis on adult adoptees. A longtime member of the JFS board of directors, Lainer developed the first JFS public relations committee and has contributed to the advancement of JFS counseling programs, the statement said.

Additional honorees included Dorothy and Ozzie Goren and their close friend Lillian Raphael for their longstanding commitment to JFS, including leadership and generosity that has helped the agency support others in need.

The dinner raised more than $1.1 million. Community member Shana Passman chaired the event.

JFS, which began as the Hebrew Benevolent Society, has locations throughout the region. It serves 100,000 people each year, supporting the elderly, homeless, hungry, disabled and others. 

— Brett Warner, Contributing Writer 

From left: Hillel 818 Vice President Mark Lainer; former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle and Hillel 818 President Earl Greinetz. Photo by Judith Alban 

Former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle met with Hillel 818, a collaborative that covers programming at California State University, Northridge (CSUN), Pierce College in Woodland Hills and Los Angeles Valley College (LAVC) in Valley Glen, on April 2.

Lingle served as the Republican governor of Hawaii from 2002 until 2010 and was the first Jew to hold the position. She graduated with a degree in journalism from CSUN in 1975. During the spring semester, she returned to teach a senior seminar on public policy at the university.

During her talk with Hillel students and leadership, Lingle focused on how CSUN has changed since she was a student there, specifically noting the increase in diversity on campus and the development of new facilities, including the Valley Performing Arts Center. 

Hillel 818 Director Judith Alban told the Journal that “learning about Gov. Lingle’s connection to CSUN, her Jewish connection, her community connection and her experiences as the first Jewish and female governor [of Hawaii]” made the experience a memorable one.

Additional speakers included CSUN Students for Israel President Avital Marzini

Hillel 818 President Earl Greinetz hosted the event, which was attended by approximately 30 students, leaders and campus professors. Hillel 818 Vice President Mark Lainer was among those who turned out for the event.

— Jordan Novack, Contributing Writer

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com.