September 25, 2018

Moving and shaking: From AmeriCorps to the One Wish Project

The Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater Los Angeles (VPC) honored Union Bank; ABC Family’s “The Fosters”; and Patti Giggans, executive director of nonprofit Peace Over Violence; during its Angel of Peace Awards on Sept. 30.

The event, which took place at the LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, was attended by the likes of philanthropists Gerald and Lorraine Factor; Sheila Kuehl, L.A. county supervisor candidate and former state assemblywoman; and L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer.

Presenters included Billie Weiss, associate director of the Southern California Injury Prevention Research Center at the UCLA School of Public Health; Pastor Kevin Sauls of the Holman United Methodist Church; Bob Ross, president and CEO of the California Endowment; and VPC director Kaile Shilling. Bradley Bredeweg, executive producer and co-creator of “The Fosters,” appeared in person.

VPC comprises numerous organizations that share a commitment toward ending violence.

West Coast NCSY, formerly known as the National Conference of Synagogue Youth, celebrated its 60th anniversary at the Continental Club downtown on Sept. 14.

Lee Samson, founder of West Coast NCSY; West Coast NCSY executive director Rabbi Effie Goldberg; and West Coast NCSY executive board member Dina Leeds were in attendance along with an estimated 200 people.

From left: Marc Rohatiner and Lee Samson, founder of West Coast NCSY, attended the NCSY West Coast 60th anniversary celebration. Photo by David Statman

“Working with today’s teens and focusing on the future of the Jewish people, it can be easy to forget our rich legacy,” Goldberg wrote in an email to the Journal.

“This milestone event is a beautiful and humbling reminder of the leaders and trailblazers who came before us to pave the way for the incredible work we do in our communities.”

Established in 1954 by the Orthodox Union, NCSY engages Jewish teenagers and reconnects them with their heritage, according to the group’s website.

AmeriCorps, a national service program, celebrated its 20th anniversary on Sept. 12 at The Presidio Institute in San Francisco by honoring individuals who helped with its founding, including Los Angeles Jewish community member Donna Bojarsky.

CaliforniaVolunteers chief service officer Karen Baker and Service Trailblazer Donna Bojarsky. Photo by Justin Short/California Office of Emergency Services

“National community service has been my passion always,” Bojarsky said in a phone interview, adding that promoting service is key to “creating a more active and engaged citizenry.” Bojarsky is a public policy consultant and member of Temple Israel of Hollywood.

The event’s 20 honorees, dubbed Service Trailblazers, also included former first lady of California Maria Shriver.

The Rev. Robert Stearns has succeeded Pastor Jack W. Hayford as chairman of the Israel Christian Nexus, a nonprofit pro-Israel organization based in Sherman Oaks that brings together Jews and Christians in support of the Jewish state, according to a Sept. 29 announcement. 

“I have worked very closely with Robert for 15 years. He has an unusual ability to build bridges of respect and cooperation for the greater good,” Hayford, who will continue on as chairman emeritus, said in a press release. “The Nexus is in excellent care with him at the helm.”

Stearns, who formerly served as a special adviser at the organization and is the founder of the global, pro-Israel missional community Eagles’ Wings, will focus, in part, on college-campus advocacy.

He leads a team at the Israel Christian Nexus that includes Beth Jacob Congregation’s Rabbi Kalman Topp; Miri Shepher, co-founder of Life Alert and a board member of the Israeli American Council; Pastor Toure Roberts of One Church International and pro-Israel philanthropist Dina Leeds

“I am confident that with this dedicated team, we can do great work in the L.A. area and beyond,” Stearns said in a press release. 

Influential leaders outside of the organization are embracing Stearns’ appointment, including Sinai Temple’s Rabbi David Wolpe, Israel’s Consul General in Los Angeles David Siegel and the Rev. Sammy Rodriguez.

The new documentary short, “One Wish Skid Row,” by Jewish filmmakers Joseph Shamash, Andrew Lustig and Jeffrey Handel, screened at the Pico Union Project on Sept. 17.

The celebratory event served as the launch party for their organization, the One Wish Project, and drew approximately 70 attendees. Established in 2013, the organization produces films that focus on social change.

One Wish Project co-founders Joseph Shamash and Jeffrey Handel.  Photo by Shari Hoffman 

Set in Skid Row, the latest film marks a shift in focus for a soon-to-be nonprofit that has, until now, focused its attentions on Israel. The trio’s previous works, “One Wish for Iran, Love Israel” and “One Wish Jerusalem,” garnered attention upon their respective releases in 2013.

Shamash and Handel appeared at the event. Lustig was not in attendance.

Guest speakers included Ocean Park Community Center executive director and homelessness activist John Maceri, whose advice to the millennials — who made up the majority of the audience — was simple: “If everybody does a little, nobody has to do a lot.”

Speaking from the stage of the venue, Maceri said that millennials have the resources and social networks to solve homelessness. The most important thing, he said, is affordable housing.

The Santa Monica-based Ocean Park Community Center is a housing and social-services provider. The organization serves victims of “poverty, abuse, neglect and discrimination,” according to its website.

A cross-section of the community, including machers Lorin and Linda Fife and musician-producer Craig Taubman, attended the event. 

Musician Mikey Pauker performed.

The Pico Union Project was the home of Sinai Temple in the early 1900s before serving as the home of a Christian congregation for several decades. A few years ago, Taubman purchased it, which brought the building back under the aegis of the Jewish community as an events space.

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email