Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles’ (JBBBSLA) annual Big Event 2018 on Feb. 7 at the UCLA Luskin Conference Center drew about 350 attendees and raised more than $400,000 for the organization.
The event honored Braden Pollock as Big Brother of the Year, Lauren Kurzweil as Big Sister of the Year and Marc Mostman with the Inspiration Award.
JBBBSLA staff member Alba Arzu received the inaugural Gail Silver Award for Exceptional Achievement.
“The honorees have collectively spent over 75 years supporting the agency in unique and transformative capacities,” a JBBBSLA statement said.
KTLA-TV entertainment reporter Sam Rubin emceed the event, which kicked off with dinner and cocktails and concluded with a dessert reception.
“Each year, we serve over 1,800 kids from different backgrounds, races, religions and socio-economic status,” said JBBBSLA CEO Randy Schwab. “They each face unique struggles but have one thing in common: They come to us to help give them hope. From age 6 to college and beyond, we help shape them to be thriving adults by providing dependable mentors, college scholarships, teen empowerment workshops, social justice camps and other life-changing experiences. This year, we want to do even more. We want to help more kids in Los Angeles get the chance at a different, better future.”
JBBBSLA runs a one-to-one mentoring program, offers scholarships, and owns and operates Camp Bob Waldorf on the Max Straus Campus.
The Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue (MJCS), a Reconstructionist community, has hired Rabbi Michael Schwartz as its new senior rabbi.
Schwartz, whose hiring became effective Feb. 9, succeeds MJCS Rabbi Emerita Judith HaLevy, who retired in 2017 and now lives in Santa Fe, N.M.
Schwartz previously served at Congregation Kol Emeth in Palo Alto, Calif., and the following international Jewish communities: United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong, the International Jewish Center in Brussels and the Hod Ve Hadar community in Kfar Saba, Israel.
“He is an interesting guy and lovely man,” MJCS President Steven Weinberg said.
Schwartz made aliyah in 1997. He and his wife, Tamar Forman, have four children.
He was ordained at the Schechter Institute for Jewish Studies, a Masorti institution, in 2001. According to a synagogue statement, Schwartz is “a strong believer in interreligious peacebuilding and social justice” and an educator who “guided high school and college Jewish groups through Israel for over a decade.”
With his hiring at MJCS, Schwartz joins a clergy team that includes long-serving Cantor Marcelo Gindlin.
With a membership that includes more than 170 families, MJCS promotes a modern and inclusive approach to Judaism and holds alternative programs that include Shabbat-on-the-beach summer services.
The American Society for Yad Vashem (ASYV) Western Region and Sinai Temple held their inaugural West Coast exhibition titled “SHOAH: How Was It Humanly Possible?” on Jan. 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The VIP reception and exhibition, held at Sinai Temple, included several sections, each recounting a major historical aspect of the Holocaust.
Guest speakers included Sinai Temple Rabbi Nicole Guzik, ASYV Executive Director Ron Meier, ASYV Director of Education Marlene Yahalom and former president of Samuel Goldwyn Films and ASYV advisory board member Meyer Gottlieb, a Holocaust survivor.
Maagalim Community Circles held a Feb. 3 Valentine’s Day dance party at the IAC Shepher Community Center in Woodland Hills for teenagers and young adults with autism and other special needs.
Nearly 200 people attended, including Rachel Weizman, who helped launch the organization, and families of special-needs children, caregivers and volunteers who enjoyed dancing, a photo booth, creating heart-shaped cookies and more.
“Somehow the word spread through social media and we saw many non-Jews who came to celebrate with us,” organization creator Ayelet Sason said.
Sason is the mother of four children, including a 21-year-old son, Yarin, who has autism. Raising Yarin, she said, has taught her that there is a need for social and inclusive opportunities for young people with special needs.
“Those young adults have no social lives, nobody pays attention to them,” Sason said. “People think that they lack social skills because it’s harder for them to communicate, but it’s not true.”
Sason said her events also help teach compassion and understanding to teenage volunteers who are interacting with special-needs people for the first time.
“The amount of phone calls I received after the event from volunteers — and the impact it had on them — was overwhelming,” Sason said. “Those barriers people often have when it comes to special people fell down. [The event] opened the hearts of our volunteers and it was beautiful to witness. That’s why I encourage teens to come and volunteer and interact with them. It makes them more compassionate to others in need.”
Sason said she has seen friendships develop between the event’s special-needs participants and their families.
“Often their parents find themselves isolated. They can’t take their children anywhere, either because they are not invited with them to social events, friends cut them off, or because of the constant need to watch over them,” Sason said. “Here, they can truly enjoy themselves and put their guard down. For the first time in a long time, they didn’t feel like outsiders.”
— Ayala Or-El, Contributing Writer
Musical America Worldwide, a magazine of classical music, has named two Jewish directors of Los Angeles organizations to its Top 30 Musical America Professionals of the Year awards for 2017.
The two are Noreen Green, artistic director for the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony, which celebrates both well-known and obscure Jewish orchestral works, and Yuval Sharon, founder and artistic director of the experimental opera company The Industry.
The publication announced the honorees in its December issue.
“Noreen Green has been the most energetic advocate for Jewish music and music-making in the Los Angeles area for more than a couple of decades now,” wrote Musical America’s Richard Ginell.
Under Green’s leadership, the L.A. Jewish Symphony has played host to such performers as Leonard Nimoy, Billy Crystal, Marvin Hamlisch and Theodore Bikel; performed music exploring Sephardic-Latino connections; and reached young listeners in Jewish day schools and low-income elementary schools, Ginell wrote.
Sharon, a recipient of a 2017 MacArthur Fellowship “genius” grant, has been shaking up the conventional wisdom of what opera is and where it can be performed since founding The Industry in 2012, Ginell wrote. Sharon’s innovative productions led to him being affectionately called a “disrupter in residence” by former Los Angeles Philharmonic President Deborah Borda, who hired him as an “artist-collaborator” for the orchestra in 2016.
The Haifa and Malka Boards of Hadassah of Southern California honored Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Rady Rahban with the Katherine Merage Humanitarian Award during a luncheon on Feb. 7 at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Rahban was presented with the award in recognition of his charitable efforts on behalf of the Jewish community and the Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem.
“Despite having a thriving practice, Dr. Rahban makes time for tikkun olam,” Hadassah of Southern California said in a statement. “He dedicates his talents to helping those less fortunate both here and abroad.”
About 450 people attended the event, which featured guest speaker Farhang Holakouee and raised $100,000 for Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem, event spokeswoman Arlene Howard said.
Two days after receiving the award, Rahban, a member of Ohr HaTorah Synagogue, traveled with Mercy Missions to Guatemala to perform cleft-lip and cleft-palate surgeries on children in need.