Ed Asner, the 87-year-old Hollywood actor and liberal activist, was the center of attention during the April 26 opening gala of the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival (LAJFF).The event honored Asner — known for “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Lou Grant” on television and, more recently, the films “Elf” and “Up” — with the Lifetime Achievement Award, in recognition of his “commitment to Jewish values and humanitarian causes.”
“I’m always pleased to show up somewhere where there’s popcorn,” Asner said in typical curmudgeonly fashion upon receiving the award, addressing a crowd assembled in the Ahrya Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills. His colleagues were more traditional in their praise. “There couldn’t be anyone in Los Angeles who is more deserving of this honor than my friend Ed Asner,” said actor Matthew Modine, who directed Asner in the 2016 short film “Super Sex.” That eight-minute comedy was shown along with the 2014 documentary about Asner, “My Friend Ed.”
A red carpet event kicked off the evening. Escorted by a small group of family and friends, Asner walked with a cane along the sidewalk of Wilshire Boulevard toward a group of eager photographers waiting in front of the theater. As they snapped photos of Asner, a man in a car passing shouted, “Ed!” The actor soaked it in, telling the Journal he was proud of being honored. Asked what Jewish historical figure he’d like to play onscreen one day, Asner said the late Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky or the late Israeli military leader and politician Moshe Dayan.
A cocktail reception in the lobby of the theater followed the red carpet arrivals, which also drew actor Ed Begley Jr.; director Aaron Wolf, whose documentary “Restoring Tomorrow” spotlights the restoration of Wilshire Boulevard Temple; Ruby Modine, Matthew Modine’s daughter and co-star of “Super Sex”; Shelley Fisher, who stars in the forthcoming theater production “The Hebrew Hillbilly”; Aimee Ginsburg Bikel, widow of the late stage actor Theodore Bikel; comedian Avi Liberman; and veteran actress and Hollywood blacklist victim Marsha Hunt. “Ed is a treasure because he cares so deeply about bringing the past into the present and keeping the values he absorbed throughout his life,” Ginsburg Bikel told the Journal.
Everyone gathered inside the theater for the award presentation, which included comments from Hilary Helstein, LAJFF director; actress Sharon Gless; Zane Buzby, actress and founder of the Survivor Mitzvah Project; director Sharon Baker; and Matthew Modine. Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz offered words of praise, as well. The speakers emphasized Asner’s longevity in an industry where staying power is a rare thing, his unique commitment to standing up for the marginalized, and his warmth — underneath all that curmudgeonliness.
“That’s quite a grope,” Matthew Modine said as Asner posed for a photo with him, the latter’s hand invisible to the audience. “I’ve just had my prostate checked.”
“He doesn’t have long,” Asner quipped.
Buzby, who works with Holocaust survivors, described Asner as a “champion of compassion.”
Skirball Cultural Center Chief Curator Erin Clancey has left the Skirball museum after 18
years, having accepted a position as the director of curatorial services at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. Her final day was March 24.
Clancey, with a back-ground in antiquities, joined the Skirball staff in 1999 after working at the California Science Center.
“Because of my studies and my previous background at museums, it was a good fit,” Clancey said in March, prior to her final day. “And I thought, ‘OK, I’ll do this while I’m in school for a couple of years and then I’ll move on.’ But it stuck and I’ve been here for 18 years.”
Her first temporary exhibition at the Skirball was “Jewish Life in Ancient Egypt,” in 2004.
“Our attendance was not what it is today, but that show was just phenomenal,” she said. “I still think it was one of my favorite shows.”
Her final Skirball exhibition was “Paul Simon: Words & Music,” a traveling exhibition that originated at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, which will run through Sept. 3.
The Skirball Center, which describes itself as “one of the world’s most dynamic Jewish cultural institutions,” is conducting an open search for a curator, Clancey said.
Los Angeles nonprofit Friends of Sheba Medical Center (FSMC), Tel HaShomer held its annual Women of Achievement Luncheon on April 20 at the Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, bringing together women dedicated to the welfare of patients at Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv.
The event raised more than $375,000 for the medical center, which is the largest hospital in the Middle East, serving 945,000 outpatient visitors annually.
During the luncheon, FSMC honored Jenji Kohan, creator of the television comedy-dramas “Weeds” and “Orange Is the New Black,” with the Women of Achievement Award; and DeeDee Sussman, a volunteer with the organization for 40 years, with the Marjorie Pressman Legacy Award.
Dr. Shani Paluch-Shimon, head of the hospital’s Breast Cancer Service for Young
Women, the only program of its kind in Israel, served as the keynote speaker.
The event also included a fashion show presented by Maskit, the Israeli luxury women’s brand.
Cantor Gary Shapiro — who later died suddenly on April 27 (see obituary on Page 52) — sang renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Hatikvah.”
In an interview, Adina Hepner, director of development at FSMC, said the gathering was a success.
“The event was absolutely beautiful and truly showcased the unique and extraordinary ability Sheba Medical Center has, not only to care for patients, but make them feel truly at home, like they are part of a greater human family,” she said.
— Kylie Ora Lobell, Contributing Writer
Louis Sneh, Holocaust survivor and subject of the documentary “Last Train to Seeshaupt,” and Rabbi Naomi Levy were among the attendees at the Naftali Sneh Memorial Yom HaShoah Observance at American Jewish University on April 24.
Sneh was 16 when the Nazis marched into his home country of Hungary, and he and the Jews of his village were deported to Dachau. In the final weeks of World War II, the Germans closed Sneh’s subcamp and put the thousands of surviving prisoners on a train to Bavaria. When U.S. Gen. George S. Patton’s tanks rolled in, the prisoners stepped out onto the platform at the Seeshaupt station — free.
— Jewish Journal staff
Dan Schnur has been named the new director of the American Jewish Committee Los Angeles, succeeding Janna Weinstein Smith, who held the position
since January 2016. She is moving to Washington, D.C., according to an AJCLA press release.
“Dan Schnur’s prominence in our community and his sustained history of leadership make him uniquely qualified to lead AJC in Los Angeles,” said AJCLA President Scott Edelman. “We are thrilled to welcome Dan to lead our extraordinary team of staff professionals, and grateful for the many accomplishments of his predecessor.”
Schnur, an expert in political strategy, campaign communication and government reform, has worked on four presidential campaigns and three campaigns for governor of California, according to the press release.
“I am honored to head the AJC Los Angeles office, to work with leaders in our community to build and strengthen relationships with those who share our core principles,” Schnur said in a statement. “I have spent years building support for the causes and issues that are most important to me, but nothing is more vital than the values that form the pillars of the Jewish community.”
In 2014, Schnur ran for California secretary of state, finishing fourth in the primary. He is a longtime advocate for reforming the California electoral system.
Schnur is an adjunct faculty member at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and the USC Marshall School of Business, and a lecturer at UC Berkeley. He has previously served as the director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.
He currently serves as the treasurer of the AJCLA executive committee.
A New York-based nonpartisan advocacy organization founded in 1906, AJC is focused on domestic issues and matters concerning Israel, operating 22 offices across the country.
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