Jewish cross-country bike riders finishing food awareness trek in D.C.


Twenty-nine Jewish cyclists who rode across America to raise awareness about sustainable food systems will finish their trek in Washington.

After nearly two months on the Hazon Cross-USA Bike Ride, the participants are scheduled to arrive in the nation’s capital on Wednesday. They have raised more than $120,000 in support of sustainable food systems.

The cyclists have stopped in 13 states to meet farmers, policymakers, rabbis and others to discuss the food system in the United States and the upcoming Farm Bill in Congress.

The Cross-USA Ride is organized by Hazon, a leading faith-based environmental organization and a driving force behind the growth of the Jewish Food Movement.

“The Jewish community has always cared about social justice—and we’ve always loved food,” said Nigel Savage, Hazon’s founder and executive director in a statement. “In the summer in which the Farm Bill is being considered by Congress, people need to know how strongly many people in the Jewish community feel about sustainable food systems.”

In addition to the fundraising, the riders visited an ethanol plant, toured a grain elevator and windmill farm, and volunteered at bike shops and soup kitchens.

Milken family recognizes Jewish educators, YULA rides, ADL honors


The Best of L.A. — Milken Awards for Jewish Educators

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(From left) Lowell Milken, Milken Family Foundation chairman and co-founder; Richard Sandler, Milken Family Foundation executive vice president; honorees Dena Wolmark, Suri Nowosiolski, Malka Clement and Debra Schaffer; Dr. Julius Lesner, Milken Family Foundation senior vice president and senior adviser; and Gil Graf, executive director, Bureau of Jewish Education.Photo courtesy the Milken Family Foundation

When Dena Wolmark first found out that someone at Bais Yaakov School for Girls would receive one of four Milken Family Foundation Jewish Educator Awards earlier this fall, the general studies administrator at the Orthodox high school organized an assembly where the unnamed teacher would be surprised with a $15,000 check. Surprise indeed: the winner turned out to be Wolmark.

“All I could feel was complete disbelief,” Wolmark said at the Luxe Hotel Sunset Boulevard Dec. 11 before a luncheon celebrating the honorees. “I was prepared to stay behind the scenes. When they turned the spotlight on me, it was a shock.”

Shock was something all four winners said they felt — along with joy, gratitude and pride — when they were announced as award recipients in September during surprise assemblies at each educator’s school. Presented by the Milken Family Foundation and the Bureau of Jewish Education, the awards also honored Debra Schaffer, English teacher at Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School; Malka Clement, Hebrew/Judaic studies teacher at Stephen S. Wise Temple Elementary School; and Suri Nowosiolski, Judaic studies teacher at Yavneh Hebrew Academy.

The annual Jewish Educator Awards, now in their 19th year, aim to recognize four “often-underappreciated educators” working to further Jewish learning in L.A.’s day schools, said Richard Sandler, executive vice president of the Milken Family Foundation.

“Tradition tells us to revere the competent teacher,” Sandler told a room packed with Jewish community leaders, school administrators and teachers. He then thanked the four women for “choosing the noblest profession of all and imparting your wisdom to your students.”

Among the guests were Jewish Federation Chairman Stanley Gold and President John Fishel; Israel Consul General to Los Angeles Jacob Dayan, along with a delegation from the Israeli Embassy; and Milken Family Foundation Chairman Lowell Milken.

Clement, in an emotional acceptance speech, said sharing a classroom with her 4th to 6th grade students is her passion as well as her profession. “I have the conviction that teaching from the heart can truly transform,” she said.Wolmark dedicated her award to her students at Bais Yaakov.

“The girls were so excited when this was announced. To see that excitement on their faces was worth it,” she said. “It’s not just me winning the award — it’s like the whole school winning it.”

— Rachel Heller, Contributing Writer

YULA Boys on Bikes

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YULA’s ninth-grade boys stop for lunch at mile marker 23 along the 38 miles they biked to support JobKatif.

Call it exercise-for-a-cause: Thirty ninth-grade boys from Yeshiva University High School biked 38 miles to raise money for JobKatif, an Israeli organization that helps former Gaza residents find employment elsewhere in Israel. Rabbi Eliyahu Stewart has led this effort for the past seven years, which this year involved at least half the freshman class and took students on a route across the Los Angeles Basin, from Azusa to Seal Beach. “YULA teaches its students that what transpires in the State of Israel has a direct effect on the future of Judaism worldwide,” said Rabbi Heshy Glass. “Our students are instructed to see themselves as partners in this undertaking no matter where they might live and that their active support to ensure Israel’s viability is a requisite part of their Jewish obligations.”

ADL Takes the Stage

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UC President Mark Yudof; ADL Regional Director Amanda Susskind; Jurisprudence Award honoree Arthur N. Greenberg and his wife, Audrey; Humanitarian Award honorees Ardyth and Samuel Freshman; and ADL Regional Board Chair Nicole Mutchnik

This year, 700 guests helped the ADL raise $700,000 at its annual dinner celebration Dec. 10 at The Beverly Hilton.

(A formidable figure, but perhaps an ailing economy explains how they were left almost $300,000 short of last year’s $1 million tally.)

Samuel and Ardyth Freshman, community leaders who underwrite ADL’s “Bearing Witness” program for Catholic educators in Los Angeles, received the Humanitarian Award, and lawyer Arthur N. Greenberg received the Jurisprudence Award.

The content of the evening hinged on ADL’s “Protect, Investigate, Educate” theme, where various volunteers and participants highlighted their experiences working with and for the ADL.

One such account, related by John Torres, special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, revealed ADL’s assistance during an investigation of an alleged conspiracy by white supremacists to assassinate then-presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Mark Yudof, President of the University of California, called the ADL “a light of the Diaspora” and emphasized scholarships for higher education as fundamental to the Jewish tradition.

Spinning Wheels for a Good Cause


 

Some people kiss the soil of Israel when they come to the Holy Land. Last month, Audrey Adler didn’t so much kiss the dirt as inhale it.

Adler and a handful of other Angelenos participated in a charity bike ride for Alyn Children’s Hospital in Jerusalem through some of the toughest terrain Adler has ridden.

A mountain bike racer and triathelete who trains in the Santa Monica Mountains, Adler took the off-road leg of the bike ride from the Negev desert up to the Dead Sea and on to Jerusalem, where 250 yellow-clad riders from around the world swept into the parking lot of Alyn hospital on Oct. 28. This year’s ride raised nearly $1 million for the hospital, which has a new residential wing and rehab center for children with chronic respiratory disease. Christopher Reeve visited the hospital last year and was a supporter.

“When you see these kids you just say, ‘OK, I’ll do whatever you want,'” Adler said. “These are kids who were born with difficulties, kids who were victims of terrorist attacks, kids that just had fluke accidents.”

Adler, a self-described workout maniac who teaches spin classes for women at her home studio, and also leads classes at the Spectrum Club and Sports Club/LA, didn’t let a shattered wrist bone from a snowboarding accident last February stop her from training for the five-day, 240-mile ride (300 miles for the on-road riders). It started at the Ramon Crater in the Negev, traversing dusty desert mountains in 100-degree heat and stifling humidity.

Riders stayed overnight at kibbutz guest houses, and Adler was inspired by visions of men going to minyan at the crack of dawn with tallit and teffilin over their lycra shorts and yellow jerseys.

“It was like I died and went to heaven — that I could ride on a supportive ride that didn’t ride on Shabbos, that catered to my every need with three kosher meals a day, and I was out there with other maniacs like me that were Jewish and Israeli, but total fiends like myself,” Adler said.

This is Adler’s second year riding in the 5-year-old event, and this year she got corporate sponsorship from Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, whose Californian and Israeli divisions kicked in $5,000 for her ride. In addition, Coffee Bean donated a 200-gram souvenir canister of coffee to every rider.

Adler also got $5,000 sponsorship from one of her training clients, Richard Crane, a 61-year-old Jewish man who didn’t have much to do with Judaism or Israel until he met Adler.

“I go out with him on weekends on very long bike rides, and I talk to him about Judaism and I explain things,” she said.

Many of her students are shocked when they find out that Adler, a vivacious talker who doesn’t have an ounce of fat on her and has a fashion sense worthy of her other identity as an interior designer, is in fact a 45-year-old Orthodox mother-in-law.

Adler’s husband, Benny (the eponymous Benny of the minyan at Beth Jacob), secretly trained and surprised her by participating in the on-road bike ride for Alyn, in honor of their 25th wedding anniversary.

“A ride like this gives athletics a deeper meaning. It took everything I’ve worked on for years as an athlete and implanted into it a soul and made it whole,” she said. “This took it to a whole other level and I want to focus on turning other people on to it.”

For more information, visit www.alyn.org, or contact Audrey Adler at www.homebodiesworkout.com or homebodies789@sbcglobal.net.