Jewish Journal

Moving & Shaking: Schoenberg Honored, NCSY and JFSLA Leadership Changes, Jewish Federation Event and Social Justice

From left: Attorney E. Randol Schoenberg; actress Jocelyn Towne; her husband, actor Simon Helberg (“The Big Bang Theory”); and Susan Loewenberg, founder and producing director of L.A. Theatre Works, a nonprofit media arts and theater organization, spend an evening in Beverly Hills at a L.A. Theatre Works fundraiser honoring Schoenberg. Photo by Matt Petit

An L.A. Theatre Works event honoring attorney E. Randol Schoenberg raised more than $225,000 for the nonprofit media arts organization.

The event, “L.A. Theatre Works Celebrates the Pursuit of Justice,” drew a crowd that filled the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills on Sept. 27.

Schoenberg is best known for successfully suing the Austrian government on behalf of Maria Altmann for the return of five paintings by Gustav Klimt that the Nazis stole from Altmann’s family. The case inspired the 2015 movie “Woman in Gold,” named after the most famous of the five paintings, “Adele Bloch-Bauer I.”

The evening featured a performance of L.A. Theatre Works’ national touring production of “Judgment at Nuremberg” by Abby Mann, followed by a conversation between Schoenberg and Geoffrey Cowan, director of the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy.

“At a time when our country finds it almost impossible to have a conversation with itself, L.A. Theatre Works reminds us that we must, because our humanity connects all of us,” said actor Hector Elizondo, the event’s host.

In a pre-recorded video, actress Helen Mirren, who played Altmann in “Woman in Gold,” lauded Schoenberg, whom she met during the making of the film. “I got to know a man whose sense of justice, whose persistence, whose courage is exemplary,” Mirren said. 

Beverly Hills Mayor Lili Bosse also praised Schoenberg’s work. 

“Although there can never be adequate justice for what occurred in Europe in the 1930s and ’40s, Randy understands that we must continue to pursue it,” Bosse said. “Recent events and headlines in our own country remind us how essential this is.”

In his discussion with Cowan, Schoenberg said, “I think it’s so important to study the Nazi period because it was the worst period in the history of mankind. It shows us exactly what can happen in advanced societies and even in democratic societies.”

— Kelly Hartog, Contributing Writer

Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFSLA) board members tour historic Jewish Los Angeles, led by the Jewish Historical Society of Southern California. The monument recognizes JFSLA, originally The Hebrew Benevolent Society of Los Angeles, as the first chartered charity in the city. Photo courtesy of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles

Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFSLA) board members on Sept. 24 visited the site of their organization’s first location, situated in Chavez Ravine, adjacent to Dodger Stadium.

The visit was part of a tour of historical Jewish sites facilitated by Stephen Sass, president of the Jewish Historical Society of Southern California.

The site holds special significance for JFSLA, as it was the first property acquired by the organization, originally the Hebrew Benevolent Society of Los Angeles, in 1855, a year after it was founded. The location served as the Jewish community’s cemetery until 1902, when the remains and monuments were transferred to the Home of Peace Cemetery in East Los Angeles.

A monument at the site, California State Historical Landmark No. 822, recognizes the organization as the first chartered charity in the city and dates the acquisition of the land as April 9, 1855.

“There were hardly even a dozen Jews in L.A. in 1854,” said Michael Sidman, JFSLA director of communications. “For JFSLA’s board members to see the very first act we spearheaded, it is amazing to see how far we have come.”

Among those who attended were JFSLA board chair Shana Passman and the organization’s president and CEO, Paul Castro.

“Providing Jewish burials was the first thing on the minds of the handful of Jewish pioneers who went west,” Passman said. “Seeing the place where our predecessors laid the foundation for our community made me proud of all that we have accomplished in the last 163 years and more determined than ever to continue the important work we do.

— Virginia Isaad, Contributing Writer

Michal Taviv-Margolese, executive director of NCSY West Coast region. Photo courtesy of Michal Taviv-Margolese

Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles Director of Communications Michael Sidman. Photo courtesy of Jewish Family Service of Los
Angeles

Two Los Angeles-based Jewish organizations have announced a change of leadership.

NCSY, formerly known as the National Conference of Synagogue Youth, appointed Michal Taviv-Margolese as executive director of its West Coast region; and Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFSLA) named Michael Sidman its new director of communications.

Taviv-Margolese previously was the Los Angeles regional director for the Israel-based education organization AMIT.

“I’m most excited about working with an incredibly talented, passionate group of professionals to continue the mission of connecting and inspiring Jewish teens,” she said.

NCSY was founded by the Orthodox Union in 1954 to help Jewish teens build leadership skills. Today, it runs extracurricular programs across the country in partnership with public schools, synagogues and Jewish day schools.

Taviv-Margolese will take over the group’s operation in a region that ranges from Seattle to the north, Phoenix to the east and San Diego to the south. She said she is committed to “empowering teens through leadership development to become committed, impassioned leaders of the community.”

Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles is a social services organization with multiple Southern California campuses whose programs range from providing psychosocial support for Holocaust survivors to sheltering domestic violence victims, Jewish and non-Jewish.

Sidman previously held the post of communications director for the New York City Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence. Before that position, he served in leadership and communications roles at Columbia University Medical Center, the New Israel Fund and the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan.

Regarding his new position at JFSLA, Sidman told the Journal he is excited “to communicate the amazing work it does for the both the Jewish community and the Greater Los Angeles community as a whole.”

Before Sidman’s appointment, the position of communications director had been vacant for several years.

— Eitan Arom, Senior Writer

Adeena Bleich (from far left), Adam Bierman, Nick Greif, L.A. City Councilmember David Ryu, LAUSD board member Nick Melvoin, Rabbi Jason Weiner, Rabbi Joshua Hoffman and Jewish Federation Director of Public Affairs and Government Relations Aubrey Farkas Harris celebrate Rosh Hashanah at Los Angeles City Hall. Photo courtesy of Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles

The sound of the shofar echoed off the vaulted ceilings of Los Angeles City Hall on Sept. 26 in observance of Rosh Hashanah.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles organized the event in partnership with Los Angeles City Councilmen Bob Blumenfield, Paul Koretz and Mitchell Englander. The council members gathered with Federation leaders, participants and alumni of the Rautenberg New Leaders Project (NLP), rabbis and community leaders to welcome the new year with apples and honey.

“It was an honor to partner with the city of Los Angeles and the Jewish community to recognize and celebrate Rosh Hashanah and usher in the New Year together,” said Alisa Finsten, Federation’s senior vice president for community engagement. “I would like to thank all of the elected officials who have been extremely supportive of the work of the Jewish Federation, not only today, but yesterday and tomorrow, as well.  We look forward to continuing to work with our city partners to address the most pressing needs of our great city.”

Additional attendees included L.A. City Councilman David Ryu; LAUSD School Board member Nick Melvoin; Rabbi Jason Weiner of the Cedars-Sinai Spiritual Care Department; Rabbi Joshua Hoffman of Valley Beth Shalom; NLP alumnus Adeena Bleich; and American Jewish Committee Assistant Director of Policy and Communications Siamak Kordestani.

“Every year during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we reflect on the past and we make commitments to be our best selves and to better serve our communities moving forward,” Kordestani told City Council members. “This year, let us work ever harder to pursue a more just and tolerant society where all races and religious groups live in peace and with dignity.”

— Ayala Or-El, Contributing Writer

From left: Israeli lacrosse player Noah Miller; former U.S. Soccer Federation president Alan Rothenberg; sports documentarian Erit Yellen; USC Casden Institute Director Steve Ross; swimmer Lenny Krayzelburg and L.A. Tri Club co-founder Larry Turkheimer participate in a discussion on “Jews, Sports and Social Justice.” Photo by Steve Cohn

About 100 people attended a Sept. 24 panel discussion with Jewish sports figures titled “Jews, Sports and Social Justice,” held at the Town and Gown ballroom on the USC campus.

The Casden Institute at USC, which is dedicated to the study of the Jewish role in American life, organized the event, the 12th edition of its annual lecture series.

The panel featured four-time Olympic gold medalist in swimming Lenny Krayzelburg; Noah Miller, a member of Israel’s national lacrosse team and an Israel Defense Forces veteran; Alan Rothenberg, former president of the United States Soccer Federation; and Erit Yellen, a producer and writer of documentaries dealing with sports and social issues.

Highlights included Krayzelburg recounting his path to Olympic glory, which included facing virulent anti-Semitism growing up in the Soviet Union, and Miller outlining his work coaching Arab-Jewish youth lacrosse teams in Israel to promote tolerance through sport. Yellen, the panel’s lone female, discussed how Title IX has improved gender equality in collegiate and youth sports, but professional sports “still have a ways to go,” she said.

Steve Ross, director of the Casden Institute and a USC history professor, had a simple answer when asked why he chose this year’s topic.

“Sports break barriers better than anything else in our society,” he said.

Ruth Weisberg, a USC art teacher in attendance, said she enjoyed the event.

“It had a good representation of different points of view, different experiences,” Weisberg said. “I liked how people responded passionately to the questions both about Jewish identity and their involvement in history and sport, and I felt I learned a great deal.”

After the discussion, guests joined the panelists for a gala dinner.

— Oren Peleg, Contributing Writer