October 18, 2018

Movers & Shakers: NewGround Iftar, Impossible Burger

Edina Lekovic (left), communications strategist and media commentator, and Wilshire Boulevard Temple Rabbi Susan Goldberg speak at the annual NewGround Iftar.

More than 400 Jews, Muslims and others involved in interfaith efforts and civic life participated in a communal iftar dinner on May 31 at Wilshire Boulevard Temple.

Organized by NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change, the event featured L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer, who discussed his experience visiting Los Angeles International Airport at the time of President Donald Trump’s ban of Muslims entering this country from Muslim-majority countries. Feuer also discussed visiting a school of a Muslim student who had her hijab ripped off her head.

Additional speakers, including Aziza Hasan, executive director of NewGround; Wilshire Boulevard Temple Rabbi Susan Goldberg; Edina Lekovic, a communications strategist and media commentator; and Rabbi Zachary Zysman, the campus rabbi at Loyola Marymount University, highlighted the importance of strengthening Jewish-Muslim bonds.

Zysman was one of 23 individuals who participated in the 2017-18 NewGround professional fellowship, which brought together Jews and Muslims every other week at a mosque or synagogue to discuss anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other hot-button topics. 

Adnan Majid, also a member of the fellowship, took part in the event.

The iftar also marked the culmination of the seven-month professional fellowship.

After speakers delivered remarks, Muslims, who had been fasting all day, participated in evening prayer, while Jews took part in evening prayers of their own. Breaking their daylong fast, Muslims ate dates and drank water and a halal dinner was then served for all in the synagogue’s courtyard. 


Valley Beth Shalom Day School Head of School Rabbi Deborah Schuldenfrei

Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) Day School has hired Rabbi Deborah Schuldenfrei as its new head of school, effective July 1.

Schuldenfrei will succeed VBS’ current head of school, Sheva Locke, who announced in September that she would step down from her position at the end of the school year.

“We wish to thank Sheva Locke, our head of school, for all of her years of service and dedication to the students, families and entire VBS community,” VBS Day School Board President Shelley Margulies said in a statement. “The appointment of Rabbi Schuldenfrei marks the end of a thorough international search. The head of school search process gave us a chance to work closely with our community to gather input about our school that was shared and studied by our board of trustees.”

In a statement, Schuldenfrei said she was excited about joining the VBS community.

“I am honored to join the Valley Beth Shalom Harold M. Schulweis Day School as the new head of school,” she said. “VBS families describe it as their second home, and we look forward to creating new memories together and continuing the rich Jewish experiences that make VBS Day School a pillar of the community.”

Schuldenfrei joins the VBS community along with her husband, Congregation Ner Tamid Rabbi Brian Schuldenfrei of the South Bay, and their three sons.

Ginger Vick, Contributing Writer


Harriet Rossetto (left), founder of Beit T’Shuvah, and Circle of Majesty honoree Lynn Shapiro attended the 11th annual Circle of Majesty luncheon.

More than 150 women gathered at Hotel Casa del Mar in Santa Monica for the 11th annual Circle of Majesty luncheon on May 24.

The Circle of Majesty comprises a group of women who have pledged to support the work of Jewish rehabilitation center Beit T’Shuvah in preventing, educating and treating the disease of addiction for those in need.

The event, which raised more than $150,000, honored Lynn Shapiro with the Majesty Service Award for her volunteer work with Beit T’Shuvah’s alternative sentencing department, which works with the criminal justice system to advocate for individuals to receive alternative sentencing at Beit T’Shuvah, as opposed to serving time in jail or prison.

“Shapiro is an integral part of the alternative sentencing department, and a beloved member of the Beit T’Shuvah community,” a Beit T’Shuvah statement said.

About 25 percent of residents at Beit T’Shuvah come there as a result of crimes related to drug and alcohol abuse. 

Attendees at the luncheon included Beit T’Shuvah founder Harriet Rossetto.


IKAR Senior Rabbi Sharon Brous delivers a blessing over Impossible Burger’s kosher-certified burger.

Impossible Burger, which develops realistic-tasting, plant-based hamburger patties, celebrated receiving its kosher certification from the Orthodox Union on May 22 at the Crossroads Kitchen restaurant in Los Angeles. 

“Getting kosher certification is an important milestone,” Impossible Foods CEO and Founder Patrick Brown said in a statement. “We want the Impossible Burger to be ubiquitous, and that means it must be affordable and accessible to everyone, including people who have food restrictions for religious reasons.”

Production of the Impossible Burger, according
to a company statement, uses 75 percent less water, emits 87 percent fewer greenhouse gases and
requires 95 percent less land than conventional ground beef. 

IKAR Senior Rabbi Sharon Brous attended the celebration and gave a blessing for Impossible Burger. 

An eclectic mix of Angelenos and Jewish community foodies also attended, including IKAR Executive Director Melissa Balaban, rapper Kosha Dillz and Kitchen Crossroads’ founder and chef Tal Ronnen. 


Holding their certificates of appreciation, American volunteers who fought in Israel’s War of Independence, and subsequent wars, are (from left) Max Barchichat, Yehuda Bock, Mavis Manus, Lee Silverman, Tom Tugend, Sharona Benami, Israel Consul General Sam Grundwerg, Rabbi Daniel Bouskila and Phil Yankofsk.

To mark the 70th anniversary Israel’s independence, Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg invited a small group of surviving American volunteers, most of whom were World War II veterans who had clandestinely volunteered for the Israeli army, navy and air force during the 1948 War of Independence.

Joining the June 1 event at the Consulate General of Israel offices in West Los Angeles were younger men and women who had seen action in the Six-Day and Yom Kippur wars and the Lebanon campaigns, as well as families of deceased volunteers.

Grundwerg, who himself left his native Florida to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces, presented framed certificates of appreciation to the honored volunteers and noted that too often in life “we don’t extend recognition until it is too late.”

Each “Machalnik” was given a few minutes to recall the highlight of his or her war experiences, with some expressing gratitude to Israel for allowing them to participate in the historical events of the past century.

— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor