October 18, 2018

Moving and shaking

Stephen S. Wise Temple’s Freedom School has, in part, the Los Angeles Dodgers to thank for $30,000 it received from businessman Howard Sherwood on June 29.

“For Thirty Home Runs in May,” read a giant replica of a check from Sherwood, awarded during the Dodgers’ Jewish Community Day pregame ceremony.

Every month, Sherwood’s company, Daniel Jewelers, a Southern California-based chain, awards $1,000 to a charity of its choosing for every home run hit by the Dodgers. 

The team hit 30 home runs in May, Sherwood said.

“[It is important to] make your Judaism mean something in terms of what it means to the community,” Sherwood told the Journal during last month’s game at Dodger Stadium. 

Wise’s Freedom School — a partnership between Stephen S. Wise Temple and the Children’s Defense Fund — provides afterschool and summer education to disadvantaged youth, according to childrensdefense.org.

The June ceremony was attended by Wise Freedom School project director Andrea Sonnenberg and Wise social justice coordinator Jennifer Smith at the Dodger Stadium field.

Laurie Bahar, Sherwood’s daughter; Bahar’s husband, Ron; and their son, Sherwood’s grandson, Matthew, a current counselor at Wise Freedom School, also turned out.

Freedom Schools started in the 1960s in Mississippi to educate and empower disenfranchised minority communities.

Community members Barbara Motz, Donna Shapiro, Lauren Schlau, Randi Fett, Terri Grossblatt and Manny Aftergut have been named the presidents of Temple Beth Hillel, University Synagogue, Beth Chayim Chadashim, Leo Baeck Temple, Temple Judea and Adat Ari El, respectively.

Synagogue presidents and presidents-elect, including several leaders from the Los Angeles area, learned about challenges facing shuls today at the 16th annual Scheidt Seminar in Atlanta. Photo courtesy of Union for Reform Judaism 

By all accounts, they’re ready for the challenges ahead. Last April, Motz, Shapiro, Schlau, Fett and Grossblatt participated in the 16th annual Scheidt Seminar in Atlanta, where they received training in how to grapple with the difficult issues facing synagogues today.

“Each year, the Scheidt Seminar [a Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) initiative] provides congregational presidents with the opportunity to learn together and connect with one another,” URJ president Rabbi Rick Jacobs said in a statement.

Adat Ari El, a Conservative shul, recently hired Michal Lesner as its executive director. Lesner previously served as associate executive director at Wilshire Boulevard Temple and as director of information technology at Stephen S. Wise Temple. 

Individuals from several Jewish organizations and communities have been selected for  Future50, a new Los Angeles-based cohort of emerging faith leaders.

Temple Emanuel Assistant Rabbi Sarah Bassin; Miller Introduction to Judaism Project at American Jewish University director Adam Greenwald; NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change interim executive director Aziza Hasan; Jewish World Watch assistant director Naama Haviv; Yiddishkayt director of development David Levitus; USC Hillel Foundation executive director Bailey London; and Jewish Journal blogger Lia Mandelbaum (“Sacred Intentions”) were among those named to the program, a partnership between the USC Center for Religious Culture and the Interreligious Council of Southern California (IRC).

According to the USC website, Future50 recognizes “just a small sample of the talented individuals [ages 24-35] working in Los Angeles at the intersection of faith, pluralism and social change.” 

IKAR’s Rabbi Sharon Brous and other faith leaders serve on the honorary advisory board of the project, which was created to mark the nearly 50-year history of the IRC, which was founded in 1969.

Jewish World Watch (JWW) continues to fulfill its promise to bear witness to the world’s suffering. On May 25, in its staff’s fifth annual visit to Africa, six representatives from JWW traveled to Congo on a 10-day trip to further develop JWW projects providing assistance to the country’s people.

From left: In Kigali, Rwanda, Terri Smooke, Ada Horwich and JWW president Janice Kamenir-Reznik interview a survivor of the Rwandan genocide and a Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre employee. Photo courtesy of Jewish World Watch

Led by JWW co-founder and president Janice Kamenir-Reznik, the group focused on a wide array of projects to help the most vulnerable members of the population, such as rape victims and former child soldiers.

Of the six people traveling in the group, four had never been before. Ada Horwich, Terri Smooke, Ben Breslauer and Irvin Kintaudi, community members interested in getting involved, joined Kamenir-Reznik and JWW assistant director Naama Haviv on the trip.

“After so many trips there, I had gotten used to the chaos and disease and poverty. But having people who had never gone before, I saw everything again through them experiencing it for the first time,” said Kamenir-Reznik, who has been on all of the JWW trips.

The group also visited Rwanda, meeting with survivors of the 1994 genocide and hearing their harrowing tales.

“The first day and a half we spent in Rwanda exploring the Rwandan genocide; it’s the 20th anniversary year. So much of what’s happening in Congo is connected to Rwanda — the same ethnic divides, the same sense of conflict,” Kamenir-Reznik said.

They spent much of their trip working on projects throughout Congo. “We make sure money is being properly spent and that people we think we’re helping, we’re actually helping,” Kamenir-Reznik said.

JWW works on health, education and leadership projects, including one at Panzi Hospital of Bukavu, Congo, where the JWW group made a stop to view the program that helps rape survivors learn a trade and support themselves. The group also visited the village of Momoshu, where they met 50 high-school students who have lost one or both parents in a conflict. JWW pays their high-school tuitions and hopes to help send some of them to college. It also supports leadership programs that “help kids learn English and critical-thinking skills and gives them confidence,” Kamenir-Reznik said.

Another JWW project, Sons of Congo, works on raising consciousness among men about how to treat women respectfully. “We expected about 5,000 men, but now 30,000 men have been part of the project, part of which is to then teach the curriculum in their village,” Kamenir-Reznik said.

In her many visits to Congo, “There have been tremendous changes in the projects we’ve started, and we’ve seen results in them,” she said. “Kids that were 12 years old five years ago are now fully evolved young adults. These are liberated child soldiers and sex slaves. When they first come out of their experience, they are extremely withdrawn, barely able to smile. Now you see really evolved situations where people have created a new life and picked up the pieces.”

The most important thing, Kamenir-Reznik said, is to continue making a difference. “People say it’s just a Band-Aid, but we have been able to stop a lot of bleeding and save a lot of lives,” she said. “Each thing puts a building block in place that will save a lot of lives in the future. It makes you feel very hopeful, with renewed energy and renewed gratitude, instead of depressed. This is the response of conscience to the evil in the world. “

Cora Markowitz, Contributing Writer

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