Moving & Shaking: Garcetti inauguration, LAMOTH vigil, AFMDA gala
IKAR Senior Rabbi Sharon Brous delivered the invocation at the inauguration ceremony for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s second term.
“Holy One, protect and strengthen our mayor, who wears the clothes of a politician but has the heart of a prophet,” Brous said on July 1 at Los Angeles City Hall.
Garcetti, 46, the city’s first elected Jewish mayor, took office in 2013. He was re-elected in June. Because of a shift in the city’s election calendar, Garcetti’s second term will last 5 1/2 years instead of the standard four-year term.
Garcetti’s father, former L.A. County District Attorney Gil Garcetti, is Mexican American with Spanish, Native-American and Italian ancestry. His mother, Sukey Roth, is the granddaughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants.
Garcetti regularly studies Torah with Brous. The two co-starred in a comedy sketch titled “Clergy in Cars Getting Coffee” — a takeoff on a similar Jerry Seinfeld internet video series — for the 2016 IKAR Purim spiel.
The inauguration ceremony also featured the swearing-in of newly elected and re-elected L.A. City Councilmembers, including L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz, whose district includes the heavily Jewish Pico-Robertson neighborhood.
Brous highlighted how local elected officials have fostered religious unity during polarizing times:
“Our mayor and our city leaders have turned this city into a holy hot spot, an oasis of love and justice, a place where Jews and Christians and Muslims and Sikhs and Buddhists and Hindus and Catholics and atheists stand together against hate crimes, form holy alliances to fight homelessness and combat racism, work side-by-side to strengthen and support our immigrant communities, declare our commitment to protecting one another and our fragile planet.”
Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg and the Consulate General of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles Nasimi Aghayev commemorated 25 years of friendship between Israel and Azerbaijan on June 7 at Sinai Temple.
The event featured Grundwerg and Aghayev in a conversation moderated by Dan Schnur, director of the L.A. office of American Jewish Committee, a global advocacy organization.
Sinai Temple Rabbi David Wolpe opened the event by recalling his trip to Azerbaijan in 2015 with 50 members of his congregation, which sponsored and delivered a Torah to the mountain Jews of Baku.
Grundwerg and Aghayev discussed their backgrounds, their respect for each other and the friendship between their two countries. “Israel was one of the first countries that recognized Azerbaijan following its independence in 1991,” Grundwerg said. The two countries have been diplomatic partners ever since.
Aghayev highlighted his Muslim-majority country’s history with the Jewish people. “The Jewish people have been in Azerbaijan for more than 2,000 years,” he said, adding: “The Jewish people have been safer in Azerbaijan than anywhere else in the Middle East.”
Chinedu Nwogu, a Nigerian foreign exchange student at Cal State Northridge, attended the event and said he found the discussion encouraging. “It was inspirational to attend this event and see the strong friendship between Israel and Azerbaijan, despite the country’s Muslim majority, and it gives me hope that one day such a friendship will exist between Israel and Nigeria,” Nwogu said.
Additional attendees included philanthropists Naty and Debbie Saidoff; former Beverly Hills Mayor Jimmy Delshad; Consul General of Japan in Los Angeles Akira Chiba and Consul General of Germany in Los Angeles Hans Jörg Neumann.
The Shalhevet High School choir sang a rendition of “Jerusalem of Gold,” recognizing the 50-year anniversary of Jerusalem’s 1967 liberation in the Six-Day War.
— Mati Geula Cohen, Contributing Writer
CNN International anchor Isha Sesay spoke about her experiences reporting on women’s rights violations, particularly the terrorist group Boko Haram’s April 2014 kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from the Chibok region of Nigeria, when she addressed a group of about 50 people after the Beverly Hills Jewish Community’s June 24 Shabbat services at the Beverly Hills Hotel. She emphasized the moral imperative to mobilize against such global atrocities.
Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz, a member of the World Economic Forum’s Civil Society, introduced Sesay and described his own activism against the torture of Yazidi women and girls by ISIS in Iraq. Berkowitz has worked with Chaldean Christian groups to advocate for the Yazidi girls to the United Nations and the White House. He said he became passionate about the cause after he learned of it from the news and, as the father of four girls, felt he could not stand idly by.
“I recalled the phrase from Psalms: ‘Karati, v’ein oneh’ — ‘I called, and there was no answer,’ ” Berkowitz said. “It seemed that the world heard the Yazidi girls and did not answer. We as a Jewish community have an obligation not only to help our own, but wherever and whenever there’s injustice and suffering.”
Sesay related her passion for international women’s rights to her upbringing in Sierra Leone, where she said 90 percent of women are subject to genital mutilation. She said she hoped to balance journalistic objectivity in her news reports with her personal commitment to human rights activism.
“It is not enough as a journalist to sit at the desk and read a prompter,” Sesay said. “Some stories cannot be left at the studio door. You must use every tool at your disposal to keep the story alive.”
Sesay, who currently is writing a book about the Boko Haram kidnappings, urged congregants to be “upstanders” rather than bystanders, and to engage with nonprofit organizations already working to empower women in developing countries.
Sesay’s appearance was sponsored by the Jewish Journal and organized by the Jewish Platform for Advocacy and Community Engagement, and the Beverly Hills Jewish Community’s speaker initiative.
— Gabriella Kamran, Contributing Writer
The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (LAMOTH) held a community vigil to commemorate the refugees aboard the ocean liner St. Louis in 1939. The St. Louis was full of Jewish refugees when it was turned away by the United States after leaving Nazi Germany.
At the June 11 event, the 85 attendees remembered those who were killed after being sent back to Europe, while LAMOTH highlighted the importance of helping present-day refugees. Those who attended came from various synagogues and organizations, including University Synagogue, Cool Shul, Temple Sinai of Glendale, Kehillat Israel, Leo Baeck Temple, USC, HIAS (formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), IKAR, the Anti-Defamation League, Temple Beth Am and Temple Isaiah.
LAMOTH Director of Education Jordanna Gessler said it was important for the museum to hold the event because lessons of the Holocaust are relevant today, and important for members of the Jewish community to come together to “learn about the past, reflect on the present and change the future.”
LAMOTH was founded in 1961 by a group of Holocaust survivors whose narratives are at the core of the museum’s galleries and education.
Henry Slucki, a Holocaust survivor, was a participant at the commemoration who spoke about his experiences of being a refugee. Slucki said his family was assisted by HIAS, which for 130 years has protected refugees and helped them rebuild their lives.
L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz also spoke at the event about his father’s experiences as a Holocaust survivor and refugee.
Beth Kean, LAMOTH executive director and a grandchild of Holocaust survivors and refugees, discussed honoring the memory of those who died as a result of the events surrounding the St. Louis.
— Caitlin Cohen, Contributing Writer
American Friends of Magen David Adom (AFMDA) held a June 21 luncheon at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills to mark the launch of its Iron Dome Protectors of Israel Women’s Division for Magen David Adom (MDA) in L.A.
The event featured a discussion with actress and peace activist Sharon Stone and philanthropist and businessman Michael Milken.
Organized by AFMDA Western regional chair Dina Leeds, the Jewish National Fund and Israel Bonds, the event drew more than 200 women in support of the Eshkol region of Israel, which has been a target of terrorist groups’ rocket and mortar attacks in recent years, and is not protected by Israel’s Iron Dome.
“We want to offer love and resources to our brothers and sisters in Israel who need it most due to the high-risk parts of the country they live in,” Leeds said. “Where there is no literal Iron Dome anti-missile system, we will be their ‘Iron Dome’ of emotional and lifesaving support.”
The event also raised funds to purchase two ambulances for the emergency-response efforts MDA performs in Israel and around the world.
“We unite people of Israel, of all ethnicities, backgrounds and religions,” Leeds said. “We have paramedics who are Jewish, Christian and Muslim, all serving the singular task of saving lives.”
Beverly Hills Mayor Lili Bosse participated in the event via video.
“I commend each and every one of you for being such strong and determined women, each of you leading by example and making a difference,” Bosse told the attendees.
Carolyn Ben Natan, director of public affairs for the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles, also attended.
“We stand on the shoulders of those righteous and fearless biblical women of the Exodus,” Natan said, “and now we have modern Israeli women on the world stage, and there is a direct line from Golda Meir to Gal Gadot.”
Other attendees included Beny Alagem, owner of the recently opened Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills; David Suissa, president of TRIBE Media/Jewish Journal; philanthropist Gina Rafael; Susan Azizzadeh, president of the Iranian American Jewish Federation; Jodi Marcus, associate director of the Jewish National Fund in Los Angeles; Yossi Mentz, AFMDA Western region director of major gifts; and Gadi Yarkoni, mayor of the Eshkol region.
— Mati Geula Cohen, Contributing Writer
With this issue, the Jewish Journal is proud to announce our newest columnist, Ben Shapiro.
Shapiro, 33, was born and raised in Los Angeles, where he attended Yeshiva University of Los Angeles Boys High School. He went on to UCLA, where he graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa at age 20, with a bachelor of arts degree in political science.
He graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in 2007 and subsequently practiced law at Goodwin Procter LLP. Today, he runs a Los Angeles independent legal consultancy firm, Benjamin Shapiro Legal Consulting.
Shapiro, who lectures widely on college campuses across the United States, has written seven books, including 2004’s “Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth.” He currently writes a column for Creators Syndicate and is editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire. He is the co-founder and former editor-in-chief of the media watchdog group Truth Revolt and former editor-at-large of Breitbart News. He resigned from Breitbart after what he felt was the website’s insufficient support of its reporter Michelle Fields after she was allegedly assaulted by Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager.
In a March 1, 2016, cover story for the Jewish Journal, “Why the Republican Party Is Dying,” Shapiro decried the candidacy of now-President Trump.
Shapiro’s other books include “Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV” and “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences Americans,” which appeared on The New York Times’ best-seller list.
He married Mor Toledano, an Israeli citizen of Jewish-Moroccan descent, and lives in Los Angeles. They have two children and belong to an Orthodox congregation.
Shapiro’s column will appear in the Journal twice monthly, alternating with Marty Kaplan.
The Journal is devoted to presenting a pluralistic forum for the many strong, divergent voices in the community, and we are thrilled that Shapiro’s voice now will be among them.
We also want to thank Dennis Prager, who contributed loyally to this publication over the years. He will continue to contribute occasional columns as his time and schedule permit.
— Rob Eshman, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief
Moving & Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email email@example.com.