Moving and shaking: Atid, YRF Darca, Parviz Nazarian and more

Atid, the young professionals group of Sinai Temple, has named Becky Blitz the Atid Outstanding Leadership Honoree for 2016. The UC Santa Barbara alumna, Emmy Award winner, marathon runner and certified yoga instructor was honored during Atid’s “Second Annual Gala: A Casino Royale” on Aug. 6 at Sinai Temple.

Blitz, who teaches yoga classes regularly at Sinai Temple to Atid members and was introduced to the congregation through the Friday Night Live service, said Atid is an important part of her life.

“Right now is a very special time for Atid, and I’m very proud to be part of it,” Blitz, a supervising producer on the reality television series “Shark Tank,” said in a statement.

Dressed in cocktail attire, attendees who gathered in her honor mixed and mingled over drinks, craps tables and more. They included Sinai Temple Cantor Marcus Feldman, Atid Director Matt Baram, Sinai Temple Rabbi Jason Fruithandler, Atid Coordinator Emily Dusedau and Bryce Emily Megdal, the JCamp summer song leader at the Westside Jewish Community Center.

Sponsors were Sinai Temple Men’s Club, Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles, the American Jewish University Graduate School of Education and American Jewish Committee ACCESS.

More than 100 people filed into Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills on Aug. 13 to take part in a program titled “Tisha b’Av: Reimagined.”

An annual fast day in Judaism, Tisha b’Av commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. The Washington D.C.-based Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) and Reform CA, a network of Reform leaders pushing for social change, created the program.

As part of the evening, Temple Emanuel Cantor Lizzie Weiss and Senior Rabbi Jonathan Aaron joined Temple Israel of Hollywood’s Rabbi Jocee Hudson in leading an interactive discussion connecting the ancient destruction commemorated by Tisha b’Av to relevant modern tragedies. Discussion centered on study, prayer and action’s role in framing the issue of mass incarceration.

But the goal was to do more than start a conversation, Weiss said. “It’s one thing to just reflect on what mass incarceration has looked like, but it’s something else to look forward,” she said. “This was also about looking at how to take action.”

RAC representative Lee Winkelman was on hand to encourage voter participation this November to help pass Prop 57, a ballot measure aiming to allow for the early release of nonviolent offenders and transfer authority from prosecutors to judges on whether or not to try juveniles as adults. 

This was the second year Los Angeles’ congregations have come together to take part in “Tisha b’Av: Reimagined”; Leo Baeck Temple served as host last year, when gun violence was the main topic. The goal is to have a different synagogue host the program each year, Weiss said.

— Oren Peleg, Contributing Writer

Nearly 600 Iranian-Jewish community members attended the Aug. 7 release of local Iranian-Jewish businessman and philanthropist Parviz Nazarian’s Farsi-language memoirs at the Director’s Guild of America theater in Los Angeles. 

From left: Soraya Nazarian, Younes Nazarian, Parviz Nazarian and Pouran Nazarian. Photo by Karmel Melamed

The evening featured a brief documentary of Nazarian’s life, from his beginnings in the poverty-stricken Jewish ghetto of Tehran in the late 1920s to his emigration to Israel in 1947, where he fought in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. The film also highlighted Nazarian’s business career in the manufacturing sector in Iran and the United States, and as one of the founders of Qualcomm in the late 1980s.

Speakers shared highlights from Nazarian’s memoirs, “My Walk Toward the Horizon: A Memoir by Parviz Nazarian” (Ketab Corporation). Local Iranian-Jewish community activist Frank Nikbakht praised Nazarian’s work ethic and generosity toward Jewish causes in Los Angeles and Israel. “Nazarian’s memoirs are … the tale of a person possessing an indomitable pioneer spirit who overcame many obstacles,” Nikbakht said.

The evening included traditional Persian instrumental music performances and live Middle Eastern dance. Nazarian, who was born in 1929, was joined by his younger brother and business partner Younes Nazarian, as well as close friends and family members. His eldest daughter, Dora Nazarian Kadisha, spoke about her father’s role as an Iranian-Jewish community leader over many decades. “What stands out for me is what was most important to him throughout his life — love, forgiveness and generosity,” she said.

Nikbakht, who helped edit the Farsi memoirs and translated the book into English, said he expects the English version to be published in the coming year.

Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer

Youth Renewal Fund (YRF) Darca honored two of its Los Angeles leaders, Allison and Bennett Rosenthal, at its May 16 New York gala, held at Spring Studios. YRF Darca is the philanthropic funding partner of the Darca schools in Israel, a network of 25 schools and two learning centers that support low-income students in 16 Israeli cities. 

YRF Darca Board Member Bennett Rosenthal and his wife, Allison, were honored by YRF Darca. Photo by Jayd Jackson Photography

“Our success wouldn’t be possible without the exemplary leadership and vision of our dear friends Allison and Bennett. As longtime supporters, Allison and Bennett have dedicated over 25 years toward advancing the scholastic excellence of Israel’s underserved populations and have spearheaded the exponential growth in L.A.,” YRF Darca CEO Raphael Sutton said in a statement.

Bennett is on the board of directors of YRF Darca and is the co-founder of Ares, an asset management company. Allison is a retired attorney and is on the board of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ NuRoots, which engages Jewish young adults.

Approximately 450 people attended the event, including upward of 50 Los Angeles residents, and more than 250 Los Angeles-based YRF Darca supporters contributed to the fund-raiser, according to YRF. The event raised more than “$1.5 million to boost social mobility for lower-income students in Israel,” according to a YRF press release.

Singer-songwriter Rachel Platten, whose hit “Fight Song” was featured during the recent Democratic National Convention, performed at the gala.

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email

Eight events, three days, one love: it’s Tu b’Av

On the evening of July 30, 25 young professionals ran to the ocean at Dockweiler Beach and howled at the moon.

With a bonfire serving as their communal light source, they played a riveting game of “Never Have I Ever” while indulging in artisanal s’mores. Rabbi Lori Shapiro, spiritual leader of Open Temple, a progressive community in Venice of what she calls “peripheral Jews,” offered a sermon titled “From Temple to Tantra” (you can only imagine). 

Meanwhile, a night hike was taking place at Griffith Park and a garden cocktail party in Pico-Robertson. 

All of this was the perfect beginning for Love Fest 2015, a three-day celebration of Tu b’Av, the holiday of romance (also known as the Jewish Valentine’s Day). In past years, Love Fest was limited to one all-encompassing event, but this year, participating organizations (which include The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, ATID, Wilshire Boulevard Temple, NuRoots, Moishe House, East Side Jews and others) decided to break up the festivities and scatter them across the city. Over the span of the weekend, eight events stretched across the vast Los Angeles cityscape — from Venice to the San Fernando Valley.

The next day, three more events were held (two Shabbat potlucks and one sit-down dinner). 

Eight people attended an intimate dinner at The Six, a farm-to-table gastropub in Studio City. “We’re all about micro-community building,” said Marisa Kaplan, director of NuRoots Community Fellowship, adding that its community is built only by word of mouth. “We don’t have newsletters,” she said.

“Happy Friday, Shabbat Shalom!” Kaplan, 33, announced to the attendees. The Six proved the perfect setting, with lights spiraling down columns like ivy and sparkling behind the guests as they spoke to one another, an environment very conducive to the love-lust specter of Tu b’Av.

“I like these things because this is how you meet new people,” said Mara Weingarten, a 33-year-old nurse. Weingarten said this was her first time celebrating Tu b’Av. She lives in Sherman Oaks and attends NuRoots Valley events, which allow her to mingle with other young Jews in the Valley.

Among all the event’s attendees, none were active temple members (although Weingarten mentioned she attends Stephen Wise Temple during High Holy Days). For them, this was their Judaic outlet, a way to connect with fellow members of their tribe. A blessing over the challah before dinner (a three-course meal of salad, roasted brussel sprouts, risotto and pizza) sprinkled some tradition into the evening. 

North Hollywood resident Andrew Berezin, 28, dipped a torn-off wedge of challah into a mound of salt after reciting the blessing. “I didn’t know this was Tu b’Av until today,” he said. “Maybe I didn’t read the invitation carefully?” 

Berezin is a software engineer originally from Ukraine, who said he was looking for a way to spend Shabbat that felt more like family and less like ritual. “Being a Jew in Ukraine was tough,” he said, but after living in Los Angeles for the past six months, he’s now looking for a way to fill that void in his life, which is how he came across NuRoots. 

During the final day of festivities the following afternoon, Open Temple again hosted an event on the Love Fest lineup, a “How to Tell Your Love Story” instructional for young families that took place at Electric Lodge, a community space located just off of Abbot Kinney Boulevard. 

Open Temple is all about what Shapiro calls “disruptive ritual,” a break from tradition. During the storytelling event, Shapiro’s 2-year-old daughter, wearing a UCLA Bruins cheerleading outfit, was playing peek-a-boo behind curtains and having a rollicking good time. 

“V’ahavta is the love story that God has for the Israelites,” Shapiro said, alluding to the prayer recited during the Shema, and this day was dedicated to parents’ V’ahavta with their kids. 

“How do we tell our own love stories to our children?” Shapiro, 44, asked a room full of parents. Four tables were stocked with arts and crafts materials consisting of markers, glue sticks, construction paper, stickers and stamps, as parents and their children scrapbooked their stories together. 

Dana Resnick, 36, was scrapbooking the story of how her 1-year-old daughter, Avalon, came to be. It started with Resnick, a professor at Loyola Marymount, meeting her husband, followed by a cross-country road trip they took together, and ending with a baby girl: Avalon Simone Resnick. 

“She’s light, she’s just awesome,” Resnick said of her pony-tailed little girl.

Moving and shaking: Marriage equality rally, L.A. Press Club Awards, the Black Eyed Peas and more

Los Angeles clergy, city officials, same-sex couples and other supporters of gay marriage rejoiced in the Supreme Court’s decision to make same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states during a June 26 rally in West Hollywood Park.

“Marriage, that peculiar and particular joining of human hearts and souls, is high on the list of what serves some human needs,” Beth Chayim Chadashim (BCC) Rabbi Lisa Edwards said, addressing the large crowd assembled on the same day of the court’s ruling. “It is why it has become a cause worldwide, and it is why we are here tonight in such a variety of human experience — to celebrate this hard-won victory of the human heart.”

The crowd numbered approximately 1,000, this reporter estimated, and came waving American flags, gay pride flags, and carrying signs that read, “Love Wins.” The evening’s attendees were in good company: Similar events took place all over the country, according to

Among those who participated in the program were BCC Rabbi Heather Miller; L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz, a former mayor of West Hollywood; and City Controller Ron Galperin, who is married to Rabbi Zachary Shapiro of Temple Akiba in Culver City.

BCC member Bracha Yael was in attendance with her partner of 35 years, Davi Chang, a fellow member of the congregation founded in 1972 as the world’s first lesbian and gay synagogue.

“I just welled up and cried,” Yael said, describing her reaction to the court’s decision. 

Edwards, spotlighting the work of faith leaders who helped make the day’s ruling possible, mentioned Rabbi Denise Eger of Congregation Kol Ami, the other LGBT synagogue in L.A. Eger was in Israel and unable to attend.

“As religious leaders, we celebrate today how far we have come,” Edwards said, “but we don’t rest yet.”

The rally’s sponsors included BCC, the Anti-Defamation League and the Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The Daniel Pearl Award for Courage and Integrity in Journalism recognized the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo during the June 28 Los Angeles Press Club gala dinner at the downtown Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles. 

The target of a January terrorist attack in Paris by Islamic extremists that took the lives of 12 people, Charlie Hebdo skewers religion, politicians and current events. The murder of the magazine’s staff prompted expressions of solidarity around the world.

From left: Judea Pearl, co-founder of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, and Charlie Hebdo journalist Antonio Fischetti attended the June 28 Los Angeles Press Club gala. Photo by Kerstin Alm

 “We grieve and stand united with the French people, and with the families of all victims of the Paris massacre,” said Judea and Ruth Pearl, presenters of the award and parents of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, in a statement. “We are humbled by their sacrifice, which has reawakened the world to a deadly peril that must be confronted and eliminated.”

Hebdo joins the company of previous winners: NBC News’ Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel, the late Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya and ABC News’ Bob Woodruff.

The Journal won several awards in the “Print Over 50,000 Circulation” category. First-place winners were Danielle Berrin for her work as a columnist and Marty Kaplan in the commentary category. 

Simone Wilson won second place in the investigative/series category and third place in the individual online blog. Jared Sichel was honored for a news feature over 1,000 words (third place) and Rob Eshman for his work as a columnist (third place). 

Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller is retiring from his position as executive director at the Yitzhak Rabin Hillel Center for Jewish Life at UCLA after 40 years with the organization. As of July 1, he will transition into an emeritus role, which he will maintain “in the year ahead,” according to a press release. A May 27 event at the home of Jeanne and Anthony Pritzker spotlighted, among other things, Seidler-Feller’s upcoming transition to a new role.

Rabbi Aaron Lerner, current Hillel at UCLA Simha and Sara Lainer Senior Jewish Educator, will become the organization’s new leader.

Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller and Rabbi Aaron Lerner. Photos courtesy of Hillel at UCLA

Two events — a day of learning and a gala ceremony — will celebrate Seidler-Feller on Jan. 31, 2016. The former will feature keynote addresses from visiting scholars.

Seidler-Feller’s accomplishments during his tenure include overseeing the construction of the Yitzhak Rabin Hillel Center for Jewish Life, engaging Persian students by founding the UCLA Persian Community at Hillel and promoting Jewish-themed student arts on campus by creating the Streisand Center for Jewish Cultural Arts, the precursor to the Dortort Center for Creativity in the Arts at UCLA Hillel. He has been a staunch advocate of Israel, as well, helping to push back against the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement on campus.

Meanwhile, Lerner, who recently completed his third year at UCLA’s Hillel, is also involved with Israel advocacy and has worked with student leaders who, in turn, do outreach to other Jewish students on campus. A Wexner Graduate Fellow, he was ordained at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and worked in commercial real estate finance after graduating from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. He and his wife, Rachel Lerner, have three daughters.

With his interest in telling stories, Jeffrey Tambor had the childhood ambition of becoming a rabbi. But when his father told him he’d need to learn Hebrew, he opted to become another kind of storyteller — an actor. 

Beth Chayim Chadashim honoree and actor Jeffrey Tambor (“Transparent”) accepts an award from Amy Landecker (left)  and Judith Light, his “Transparent” co-stars. Photo by Ryan Torok

Tambor revealed this and more when he was feted June 28 at the Beth Chayim Chadashim 2015 Awards Brunch at the Skirball Cultural Center, where he was honored with the Rabbi Erwin and Agnes Herman Humanitarian Award for his work on the hit Amazon TV series “Transparent.”

“I think I should get the ‘Luckiest Guy in the Room Award’ or, more specifically, the ‘Luckiest Jew in the Room [Award],’ ” Tambor said upon accepting his award, which was presented by “Transparent” co-stars Amy Landecker and Judith Light. The award was a shofar that Tambor, caught up in the excitement of the moment, almost forgot to take with him as he left the stage at the conclusion of his remarks. 

Coming on the heels of the June 26 landmark Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage across the nation, BCC, the self-described world’s oldest LGBT synagogue, had added reason to celebrate. Many of the day’s speakers, including BCC Rabbi Lisa Edwards, highlighted the importance of the court decision. 

The synagogue also honored Sylvia Sukop and Bonnie Kaplan with the Harriet Perl Tzedek Award and Bruce Maxwell with the BCC Presidents Award.  

The event drew nearly 300 people, including  BCC Cantor Juval Porat, who performed; Elissa Barrett, a BCC congregant and vice president at Bet Tzedek and her partner, writer Joshua Gershick; and BCC President Lauren Schlau

The Jewish Free Loan Association (JFLA) celebrated its 111th anniversary and honored various community members during its June 10 gala at the Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel in Bel Air. 

Dr. Richard Shemin, a cardiac surgeon, received the Nathan Shapell Memorial Lifetime Commitment Award, and Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer was given the Ben and Anne Werber Communal Service Award. James and Sandra Kohn, who established the JFLA Kohn Family Fund for the Arts, a loan program, were honored with the Mitchell Family Foundation Philanthropy Award, and Betsy Berger, a former JFLA emergency loan recipient who now works for The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, received the Salter Family Foundation Client Recognition Award.

Comedian Monica Piper (“Not That Jewish”) served as emcee of the event, which drew JFLA CEO David Levy and 225 other attendees. 

Established in 1904, JFLA provides interest-free microloans to people of any faith facing financial challenges in the Los Angeles area.

Bet Tzedek’s 19th annual Justice Ball on June 20 drew 800 attendees and raised approximately $250,000 for the pro bono legal aid agency that assists low-income people with housing and other emergencies, Holocaust survivors applying for reparations and others in need. Founded as a storefront operation, the organization is currently headquartered in Koreatown.

Highlights of the Bet Tzedek Justice Ball included a live performance by rapper Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas. Photo by Ben Shani Photography

Every year, the Bet Tzedek New Leadership Council organizes this event for young professionals. This year, for the first time, the Justice Ball was held at the Conga Room at L.A. Live, a Cuban-themed nightclub with its own cigar-rolling station and salsa-dancing lessons studio offering panoramic views of Nokia Plaza and the Staples Center’s entrance.

The highlights of the evening included separate live performances by rappers Travie McCoy and Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas, their energetic tunes drawing hundreds of people — including folks otherwise blissfully cordoned off in the VIP area — to the Conga dance floor.

The Journal caught up with Bet Tzedek CEO/President Jessie Kornberg while she was in line at one of two cocktail bars. This was the first Justice Ball for Kornberg, who was hired last October. 

McCoy sported a white T-shirt, cargo shorts and a chain necklace. He played DJ for a while — leaving some in the crowd, including The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Jocelyn Orloff, to wonder if he was ever going to get behind the microphone — before finally singing his hit song, “Billionaire.” (“I want to be a billionaire, so freaking bad,” the chorus goes.) Performing before young and upcoming lawyers, he dedicated the song to the “future billionaires” in the crowd.

Atid, a young-professionals organization at Sinai Temple, held its first gala on June 6. More than 150 gathered at the temple to mingle, dance, enjoy dinner and present Barak Raviv with the Outstanding Leadership Award. 

From left: Bryce Megdal, Simone Nathanson and Andrea Paige attend Atid’s first gala. Photo courtesy of Atid 

As senior vice president and senior portfolio manager at Morgan Stanley in Beverly Hills, Raviv has donated 10 percent of his income to various charitable organizations through the Barak Raviv Foundation for more than a decade. Last year, he donated a substantial amount to Atid and sponsored numerous events. 

“It’s one of the most powerful organizations for reaching young professionals in the Jewish community,” Raviv, 39, told the Journal. “It creates a community, and people see it as a second Jewish home.”

Established by Rabbi David Wolpe almost 20 years ago, Atid serves 21- to 39-year-olds, holding around 10 programs each month. These include Wolpe’s lectures, holiday events and singles programming.

“We try and provide entry points for as many different types of Jews in L.A. as possible,” said Matt Baram, Sinai Temple’s Millennial Director and the man behind the event. 

“[Raviv] is a mensch who supports Atid both financially and with his attitude,” Baram said. “We give the award to someone who positively impacts the greater community with his words and actions, and he is just that.” 

The gala raised $7,000 and was a launching point for a new fundraising campaign called Chai 1,000. The goal of the campaign is to have 1,000 people donate $18 or more to the organization.

 —  Sarah Soroudi, Contributing Writer

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email 

Can Bibi’s wife Sara spoil Israel’s coalition?

Forging a coalition is, without a doubt, the most difficult part of the election process in Israel.

After a long, hard fought and often ugly election battle, it falls to the future prime minister to make deals with those who were, until recently, his nemesis all in order to obtain the required 60 Knesset seats necessary for his party to govern the country. Election planks and platforms are first weighed and then cast away in favor of the issues of power, control and of course, prestige.

Well before the final results were in, Benjamin Netanyahu placed calls to potential coalition partners. Immediate calls went out to the ultra orthodox Sephardi party Shas which then won 11 seats, the ultra orthodox Ashkenazi party United Torah which then won 7 seats and the anti ultra orthodox Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party which in the end won 19 seats.

The call Netanyahu did not immediately make was to the party that, to all appearances, is the natural partner to his own Likud/Yisrael Beitenu party. Netanyahu did not place a call to Ha Bayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home) party, a modern Zionist orthodox party which garnered 12 seats, until late Thursday. And there is a simple reason for that.

Netanyahu's wife Sara did not want him to make the call. There is bad blood between Naftali Bennett, the leader of The Jewish Home, and Mrs. Netanyahu. The feud goes back to the time before Bennett headed and then sold a multi-million dollar start-up it goes back to the time when Bennett was chief of staff in the office of the prime minister.

Imagine the pressure in the Netanyahu household. Netanyahu needed to weigh the sides to weigh the wrath of his wife against his need for a successful coalition that would insure his position as prime minister. Not an easy decision to make. Sara has a strong hold on her man, but the pull of the prime ministry may be even stronger. Despite the protestations and clash of personalities, Bennett can only help Netanyahu and the phone call was made.

Sara Netanyahu is known to have a long memory and to hold a grudge. Many an adviser who crossed paths with this first lady ended with crossed swords and was tossed out with the trash. She is probably no different than Barbara Bush or Nancy Reagan or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton. But she is definitely less subtle. In the end Sara will probably lose this battle, but she will come back later with a vengeance.

Israel is thought to be so easily understood by Western commentators and analysts. Pollsters think that it is an easy nut to crack. But unless you understand the nuance of the country, unless you can read the people, commentators, analysts and pollsters will get it wrong every time.

They think that because English is so readily and often eloquently spoken and because so many Israelis have been educated in the United States or other Western countries that Israel is a Western culture. But it is not. Israel is almost Western, but it is also very much a Middle Eastern country — albeit a modern Middle Eastern country, and that makes all the difference.

Many western commentators don't really take the time to analyze Israel. That is why for months now commentators and analysts have been talking about the radicalization of Israeli politics and bemoaning the fact that mainstream Israel was leaning more and more to the right.

If this election teaches us anything it teaches us that they were wrong. Why were they so wrong? They failed to do their own analysis and instead, these observers of Israeli politics swallowed hook, line and sinker the Palestinian line. That line is simply anti-Israel. And so anything that is not decisively pro-Palestinian is seen by commentators as rabidly right wing and as an extremist point of view.

By now the picture of true Israeli society should be perfectly clear. The centrist Atid party with nineteen seats is now the 2nd largest party in the Knesset only after Netanyahu's Likud. And it will almost certainly insist on playing a major role in the ruling coalition. The most important platform put forth by Atid is the universal draft – a requirement that every Israeli serve in the army. This general platform resonated with masses of Israelis and was also referred to as 'an equal burden' to be shared by all Israelis, including Arab Israelis. This issue catapulted Atid into a major position in the 19th Knesset.

Interestingly, the other new and newly huge party in the Knesset, Habayit HaYehudi or The Jewish Home, now the fourth largest party in the country, believes in the same principle. And both parties believe in the breakdown of the power of the ultra orthodox rabbinate.

These two new parties, both led by young new political leaders, obtained a combined thirty Knesset seats. That is exactly 25% of the Israeli parliament. They are not extremist. They are a real reflection of the new Israel.

With Netanyahu and his 31 seats, Yair Lapid and his Atid party with 19 seats and Naftali Bennett and his The Jewish Home party with 12 seats these three parties combined have 62 seats, a perfect number to form a ruling coalition. They make up just over half of the 120 seats needed to form a government.

Sara Netanyahu had better start getting used to it. I think that her husband will be spending a lot more time with Naftali and Yair than he will with her in the very near future. The rest of Israel made the decision for him.

Jews volunteering on Christmas

Whether it’s dressing up as Santa Claus and posing for photographs with low-income kids or serving turkey and ham to the homeless, many Jews volunteer to break out of their element at this time of year in order to bring Christmas joy to families in need.

Among them is Rabbi Mark Diamond, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Los Angeles chapter, who spends every Christmas serving hot meals.

“Jewish people volunteering on Christmas has been a family tradition for the Diamonds since I was a kid,” he said.

He won’t be the only one spending Dec. 25 volunteering. Synagogues across Los Angeles are taking part in Christmas dinners that feed the less fortunate. 

Members of Temple Israel of Hollywood, IKAR in West Los Angeles, Temple Ahavat Shalom in Northridge, Temple Adat Elohim in Thousand Oaks and Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills are all planning to serve Christmas meals to the needy. Members of the young professionals group ATID at Sinai Temple in Westwood will take part in a similar effort.

Organizing one of the larger events — a free Christmas dinner for the hungry and homeless at Hollywood United Methodist Church — Temple Israel of Hollywood feeds more than 1,000 people each year, said William Shpall, the synagogue’s executive director.

Leaders of the annual dinner, coming up on its 27th consecutive year, are prepping 160 turkeys and other traditional holiday dishes, including stuffing, sweet potatoes and pies. Attendees also will receive gift bags of toiletry items and other supplies; there will be presents of toys for the kids, and Santa will be on hand to pose in photographs with the little ones. Additionally, a live band will play holiday music. 

The goal is to create an experience that feels more like a restaurant than a soup kitchen, with volunteers serving as hosts and waiters, Shpall explained. 

Synagogue congregant and event chair Ken Ostrove spends the days leading up to the dinner hustling around the city to coordinate donations from vendors, and the operation is so grand that it requires a full day with hundreds of volunteers to set up on Dec. 24. When Christmas comes, hundreds more turn out to volunteer, Shpall said. 

Other Angelenos fan all out all over the city. 

Ever year, Diamond, along with his wife and two children, have made a family tradition of volunteering at a dinner-in-the-park in Pasadena that draws the homeless and hungry. Organized by Union Station Homeless Services, a San Gabriel Valley-based social services agency that assists the homeless and low-income, the event draws a large number of Jewish volunteers. 

The progressive congregation IKAR plans to hold a “Christmas Tikkun,” during which volunteers will serve breakfast and dinner to clients of  the nonprofit agency People Assisting the Homeless, and Temple Ahavat Shalom will provide meals for residents of transitional-living shelters in North Hollywood. 

Meanwhile, ATID’s young professionals are working with the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition to provide meals for the homeless, who will gather on Dec. 25 at CBS Television Studios.

Volunteering on Christmas enhances a day that is typically reserved for less meaningful fare for many Jews, such as Chinese food and a movie, Diamond said.

“I don’t want to disparage that tradition … I think it’s nice to combine those kinds of fun activities with a serious effort to help our community at large,” he said.