The Circuit: Jewish Family Service, BJE, Lainer Distinguished Educator Award

From left: JFS CEO Paul S. Castro, JFS board member Abby Leibman, honoree Sheila J. Kuehl and JFS board president David O. Levine.

The Jewish Family Service (JFS) Family Violence Project raised funds and awareness on Jan. 27 during its second annual Empowerment Celebration, which honors the birthday of Abby J. Leibman, co-founder of the California Women’s Law Center and newly named CEO of MAZON, and the memory of Nina C. Leibman, who was murdered by her husband in 1995 just after a court order had gone into effect to force him to move out of her home. At the event, JFS recognized former state Sen. Sheila J. Kuehl for her decades of work to help victims of domestic violence.

From left: BJE Executive Director Gil Graff with Lainer honorees Andrea Leonard (Temple Adat Elohim), Simin Imanuel (Yeshivat Yavneh), Lois Bell (Adat Ari El) and BJE Early Childhood Education Services Director Esther Elfenbaum. Photo by David Miller Studios

From left: BJE Executive Director Gil Graff with Smotrich honorees Carolyn Rosenfeld (Temple Adat Elohim), Tara Farkash (Temple Adat Elohim), Vivian Belmont (Adat Ari El), Tali Soffer (Adat Ari El), BJE Early Childhood Education Services Director Esther Elfenbaum and honoree Orly Hershtik (Gan Israel, Tarzana). Photo by David Miller Studios

BJE, formerly the Bureau of Jewish Education, honored three teachers with the Lainer Distinguished Educator Awards in front of more than 300 educators at the 31st annual BJE Bebe Feuerstein Simon Early Childhood Institute on Jan. 10. BJE also presented Smotrich Educator Awards to preschool teachers who created innovative curricula.

The Circuit: Rahm Emanuel, Anti-Defamation League, John Lloyd Young, Hedva Amrani

American Friends of The Hebrew University’s (AFHU) Western Region hosted the Annual Leadership Education Forum (ALEF) at the Skirball Cultural Center on Jan.16, with former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel as the keynote speaker.

From left: Western Region President Mark Vidergauz, ALEF co-chair David A. Lehrer, Rahm Emanuel, ALEF co-chair Michael Cypers, Western Region Chairman Richard S. Ziman and AFHU National President Martin E. Karlinsky.

More than $1.1 million was raised to help the Anti-Defamation League in its fight against anti-Semitism and bigotry during the organization’s Dec. 7 Los Angeles Dinner Celebration at the Beverly Hilton. Actor Hal Linden served as emcee for the event, which drew nearly 800 people. ADL National Director Abraham Foxman presented the Humanitarian Award to Joyce Eisenberg-Keefer and Mel Keefer. The Jurisprudence Award was presented to Peter Schwartz, senior executive vice president and general counsel of Westfield, LLC. Keynote speaker Mara Liasson, national political correspondent for NPR, gave an insider’s briefing on “inside the beltway” politics including the midterm elections and the run-up to the 2012 election.

From left: ADL Regional Director Amanda Susskind, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman, and honorees Joyce Eisenberg-Keefer, Mel Keefer and Peter Schwartz.

From left: John Lloyd Young, Tony Award-winning actor for “Jersey Boys” on Broadway, Israeli pop icon Hedva Amrani, philanthropist Barbara Lazaroff and Beverly Hills Mayor Jimmy Delshad, who gave Hedva a proclamation at the end of her star-studded Dec. 14 concert, “My Israel,” at American Jewish University. Photo by Orly Halevy

Gathering: Matisyahu, Pamela Wank, Tu B’Shevat, Torah for the Ages

Matisyahu performed in front of nearly 1,000 people during a concert at Shomrei Torah Synagogue in West Hills on Jan. 16.

Matisyahu posed with Shomrei Torah’s Rabbi Erez Sherman, left, and Rabbi Richard Camras. 

Pamela Wank prepares to fill in a letter in the Torah with Sofer Moshe Druin during the Nov. 14 opening ceremony for Our Torah: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow at Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills. Photo by Jeremy Sunderland

The Shalom Institute in Malibu celebrated Tu B’Shevat, the Birthday of Trees, on Jan. 23 with a tree planting, an eco fair, live concerts and animal education with The Reptile Family. Photo by Steve Sherman  

Student leaders from New Community Jewish High School’s Tefillah Kehillah Institute recently led spirited Kabbalat Shabbat services for middle school students at Kadima Day School in West Hills and Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School in Northridge.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara’s Young Adult Division hosted a Havdalah Hike on Jan. 22. 

Los Angeles Jewish Home residents celebrate their new Torah with Rabbi Anthony Elman following completion of the Torah for the Ages project on Jan. 23. The Torah, written exclusively for the residents, will reside in the Home’s two synagogues.

The Circuit: USC Shoah Foundation Institute, AJC

Topping the marquee names at the gala for the USC Shoah Foundation Institute were founder Steven Spielberg, left, and Ambassador for Humanity honoree Jeffrey Katzenberg, flanking Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson. Some 650 guests attended the Dec. 9 event in the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland to support the foundation’s visual archives, which now hold 105,000 hours of testimony from 52,000 Holocaust survivors, witnesses and liberators. Photo courtesy of WireImage

From left: Joel McHale, Bruce Ramer, Marc Graboff and Chris Matthews

From left: AJC L.A. Regional Director Seth Brysk, AJC L.A. President Fredrick S. Levin, Debi Graboff, Marc Graboff and Rabbi Ron Stern

American Jewish Committee (AJC) honored Marc Graboff, co-chair of NBC Entertainment and NBC Universal Television Studio, with its 28th Dorothy and Sherrill C. Corwin Human Relations Award at a gala dinner on Nov. 30. Bruce Ramer, chair of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and former AJC national president, presented the Corwin award to Graboff. Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball” and the nationally syndicated “The Chris Matthews Show,” wowed the crowd as guest speaker, while emcee Joel McHale, star of NBC’s “Community” and E!’s “The Soup” kept the audience laughing. Other attendees included Howie Mandel and his wife, television executives Bruce Rosenblum and Peter Roth of Warner Bros., Fox’s Howard Kurtzman, ICM’s Chris Silbermann and Howard Klein of 3 Arts Entertainment, as well as Graboff’s friends and colleagues from NBC Universal, including Jeff Gaspin and Angela Bromstad.

The Circuit: CBS Executives, ‘Everybody Loves Raymond,’ Centennial birthday

CBS senior executives Nina Tassler, David Stapf and Deborah Barak co-hosted A Night of Hope with special guests Geena Davis and Jim Belushi at CBS Radford Studios in Studio City on Oct. 14. The celebration of strength and survival raised more than $220,000 to help the Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles’ (JFS) Family Violence Project provide shelter and counseling services to victims of domestic violence.

From left: David Stapf, president of CBS Television Studios; JFS Chief Operating Officer Susie Forer-Dehrey; Deborah Barak, executive vice president of business affairs, CBS Network Television Entertainment Group; Abby Leibman, co-founder of the California Women’s Law Center; Academy Award-winning actress Geena Davis; CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler; and JFS Chief Executive Officer Paul S. Castro. Photo by CBS/M. Davis

Inner-City Arts, an arts instruction campus for at-risk children in the heart of Skid Row, honored actress Doris Roberts (“Everybody Loves Raymond”) and Janet Lamkin, president of Bank of America California, during its Imagine Gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Nov. 4.

From left: Inner-City Arts President and CEO Cynthia Harnisch with honorees Doris Roberts and Janet Lamkin. Photo by Vince Bucci

From left: “Everybody Loves Raymond” creator Phil Rosenthal along with cast members Brad Garrett, Ray Romano, Patricia Heaton and Monica Horan surprised honoree Roberts, front, with a birthday cake. Photo by Vince Bucci

Shirley Jones and emcee Florence Henderson. Photo by Vince Bucci

Friends of Sheba Medical Center held its annual Women of Achievement luncheon at The Beverly Hills Hotel on Nov. 9. From left: Luncheon co-chair Sonya Waldow, honoree Maria Engracia Hernandez, emcee Joely Fisher, honoree Dr. Eve Kurtin Steinberg, honoree Anat Kristal and luncheon co-chair Laura Stein.

Monarch Village resident Meyer Bell celebrated his centennial birthday on Nov. 5. More than 100 guests, including family and friends, attended the milestone event. When asked what the secret of his longevity was, Bell responded, “I live one day at a time.”

‘Golda’s Girls’ inspire, Riva’s 100th birthday, Maimonides in Manhattan

‘Golda’ Girls

To honor the spirit of Israel’s most famous female, the Four Seasons Hotel rolled out the red carpet on May 3 for this year’s Golda Meir Luncheon, sponsored by the Women’s Division of State of Israel Bonds. Exemplifying the “Three Faces of Golda” were honorees Judy Felsenthal, Renee Firestone and Marilyn Golden, each recognized for her outstanding commitment to Jewish activism and the State of Israel.

In order to attend the swanky event — that boasts a $5.5 million dollar gift to the Israeli government — 175 people each purchased a minimum of $5,000 in Israel bonds (an investment with interest rates of 5 percent and higher).

Women’s Division Director Brigitte Medvin was quick to note that Israel bonds are not for military development, but rather intended for needs like building roads, public transportation and city sanitation.

Rabbi David Wolpe commended Felsenthal for her extensive involvement in the Jewish and Los Angeles communities, serving as board member and past president of the Amie Karen Cancer Fund for Children and on the Executive Council of Cedars-Sinai Hospital Board of Governors.

The resilient Firestone, who was born in Czechoslovakia and imprisoned at Auschwitz, was honored for her devotion to Jewish continuity. Upon immigration to the United States, she began a career in fashion design and soon became a preeminent Holocaust educator, participating in films, documentaries and most notably, Steven Spielberg’s Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation.

Golden not only shares a name but a history with the first-and-only female prime minister, having associated with Meir’s confidante and founder of Israel Bonds, Lou Boyer. She was inspired to become a charter member of the Golda Meir Club — and though I’m unfamiliar with their mission, I already like it better than The Jonathan Club.

Consul General Ehud Danoch greeted Los Angeles’ leading Jewish ladies, which reportedly delighted luncheon chairs Dalia Farkas and Yafa Hakim, as well as Women’s Division chairs Beverly Cohen and Iris Rothstein, one of whom is rumored to have a stake in the fancy Four Seasons.

And just what were the honorable honorees gifted with? Women’s Division director Brigitte Medvin described the prize as a “beautiful lucite triangular [memento] with a shadowy profile etching of Golda’s face.”

Now that’s certainly worth five grand.

Better With AgeRiva Rashkovskaya
WeHo-ho-ho for this West Hollywood woman on the occasion of her 100th birthday. Riva Rashkovskaya hit the triple digits on June 6 and Jewish Family Service sponsored a birthday bash for their local hero with pizza, salad, coffee and cake. Ms. Rashkovskaya hails from Odessa, Ukraine and moved to the United States in 1989.

“I am very happy that such a big crowd showed up for my birthday,” Rashkovskaya said. “I want to thank the staff here for being so nice and taking such good care of me. I wish that everyone will live to 120!”

That’s a lovely thought, Ms. Rashkovskaya, but 120 years in Tinseltown is one too many face-lifts for me. Lucky for you, you’re a natural Ukranian beauty; and I just love the birthday hat.

Maimonides on the Marcheighth graders from Maimonides Academy
A group of eighth-graders from Maimonides Academy proved that a six-hour plane ride was no obstacle to demonstrating their support for Israel.

Along with 100,000 others, they proudly marched through the streets of Manhattan, from 56th to 79th streets, waving the Israeli flag and singing “Hava Nagila.”

The Salute to Israel Parade commemorated the 1948 founding of the State of Israel and attracted New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski to a festive celebration with floats sponsored by El-Al Airlines, JDate and Hadassah.

New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and U.S. Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Anthony Weiner joined the crowd in chanting “Am Yisrael Chai.”

Not bad for the second-greatest city for Jewish life in America. Maimonides, way to represent!


A for Achievement

Supporters of the Friends of Sheba Medical Center filled the ballroom at the Four Seasons last week to honor three remarkable women — Rita and Sue Brucker and Dr. Elizabeth Morgan with their prestigious Women of Achievement Award.Morgan gained national attention in 1987 when she went to jail rather than allow her daughter to attend court-ordered visits with her ex-husband who, Morgan believed was abusing her daughter. As a result, Congress passed two acts to safeguard children.

Affectionately known as “Bubbe the Clown,” Rita Brucker has decorated the faces of countless children with cancer and was recognized as “Mother of the Year” and “Volunteer of the Year” by Bezalel Hadassah Chapter, among her other honors. Brucker praised the work Sheba Medical Center is doing to ensure the health of newborns, urging everyone to continue supporting their efforts.Daughter-in-law Sue, wife of Beverly Hills Councilman Barry Brucker, credited her parents with living a life of charity and service, setting an example she has embraced and passed on to her children.

“If my children, Lauren and Richard, and their peers are indicative of the next generation, I know we have nothing to worry about,” she told the attendees. Among her other honors and achievements, Sue Brucker has been feted by Hadassah of Southern California and is currently president of Temple Emanuel.Event Chair Ruth Steinberger and co-chairs Aviva Harari and Lynn Ziman called on writer/humorist extraordinaire and “Save Me a Seat” author Rhea Kohan to hostess the event. Kohan entertained the group with a humorous take on daughters, sons and living life in the middle-aged lane.

A boutique featuring a wide variety of items drew buyers before and after the luncheon — all designed to raise money for newborn screening at Sheba Medical Center. Seen wandering about checking out the boutiques were Beverly Hills School Board President Myra Lurie and her mother, Bess; Allison Levyn and her mother-in-law, Toni; Denise Avchen; Helene Harris; Marilyn Weiss; Lonnie Delshad, wife of Beverly Hills Vice Mayor Jimmy Delshad; Susie Wallach, Stacia and Larry Kopeikin; Amy and Noah Furie, and Nancy Krasne.

Aviva Brightens Bel Air

A misty day couldn’t dampen the spirits of Aviva Family and Children’s Services supporters last week when they gathered at the home of uber-philanthropist Robin Broidy for an elegant and successful benefit luncheon.

Broidy tented the yard in her Bel Air home for the delicious event, which was catered by Wolfgang Puck and featured a tempting Fendi boutique that contributed 15 percent of its sales to the charity — as well as the fabulous Fendi goodie bags.

The luncheon planned and executed by Broidy and underwritten by Susan Casden, raised more than $75,000 to support the worthwhile projects of Aviva. President Andrew Diamond updated the group and invited guests to tour the facility. The guest list was brimming with many of Los Angeles’ most charitable and giving women including: Linda May, Barbara Miller, Pamela Dennis, Lilly Tartikoff, Lola Levey, Diane Glazer, Jami Gertz and Annette Plotkin.

Founded in 1915, Aviva Family and Children’s Services provides care and treatment to abandoned, neglected, abused and at-risk youth in the greater Los Angeles community.

On the Avenue

Saks Fifth Avenue-Beverly Hills held its “I Want It” event last week to raise funds for the Tower Cancer Research Foundation. Attendees, including Judy Henning, Bonnie Webb and Lillian Raffels, sipped martinis and nibbled morsels while wandering through the store trying to decide what to purchase with their $50 gift cards. The Henri Mancini Trio provided live music as fabulous frocks and jewels by designers such as Tony Duquette kept everyone mesmerized. The night was a complete success for cancer research and a fun shopping experience for guests.

Liberty for All

The first Torah scroll written exclusively to honor and memorialize members of the U.S. military was inaugurated in a ceremony Sept. 10 at the Chabad of Oxnard Jewish Center.

Known as the first letters of the Liberty Torah, it was inscribed by a Jewish scribe, or sofer, at the ceremony timed to coincide with the eve of the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11 and marked by prayers for our military and peace in the world.

The Liberty Torah was initiated by Oxnard residents Dr. David and Edi Boxstein and their family to honor their son, Jonathan, who is currently serving in Iraq in the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division.

“The Liberty Torah gives everyone, regardless of their political or religious affiliation, the opportunity to honor all our soldiers who have served our great country throughout our history, and to pray for an end to all hostilities,” said Chabad of Oxnard director Rabbi Dov Muchnik.

The Torah was sent to Israel to be completed, and then will be returned to the Chabad of Oxnard Jewish Center for use in its holiday and Shabbat services.The event also featured live music, refreshments and a hands-on Torah writing workshop for children.

For more information, visit, or call (805) 382-4770.

Happenings I

Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels was honored with a Peace Award from the Wilshire Center Interfaith Council and the Interreligious Council of Southern California at the Islamic Center of Southern California. Comess-Daniels thanked the Beth Shir Sholom community for enabling him to “pray with his legs” in ways that result in this kind of recognition and he gratefully shared the award with Beth Shir Sholom.

Happenings II

Screenwriter author Nora Ephron (“Heartburn, “Silkwood” “Sleepless in Seattle,” “When Harry Met Sally”) spoke to an overflowing crowd last Thursday night at the Writer’s Guild Writer’s Bloc event. Hosting Ephron and serving as moderator was megaproducer mogul Linda Obst, who offered insights into her longtime friendship with Ephron. Ephron entertained the audience with stories about her years in Washington, her experiences as a journalist and the agony of aging as chronicled in her new book ” I Feel Bad About my Neck.”

For more information about upcoming events, call (310) 335-0917.

Reflecting on a Great Cause

The UCLA Marching Band escorts Jewish Home Lifetime Award recipient Sylvia and Sherman Grancell into the gala Celebration of Life: Reflections 2006 event held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

The beat of the UCLA Marching Band announced the opening of festivities last week when almost 600 people attended the Celebration of Life: Reflections 2006 dinner at the Beverly Hilton to benefit the Jewish Home for the Aging. A live auction hosted by Monty Hall raised $31,000 of the more than $500,000 total by offering blimp rides, a Wells Fargo box at Dodger Stadium, private screening with catering and Fox football studio viewing.


The Reagan Library was the setting when more than 500 Jewish Republicans gathered to pay tribute to U.S. and Israeli armed forces.RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman, and Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) set a powerful model of the necessity for firm resolve at this time of international crises.

Guests also heard from California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson, Jewish Republican statewide candidate for insurance commissioner, and Tony Strickland, statewide candidate for controller.

After touring the library and taking photos on the impressive Air Force One at the musuem, guests enjoyed a kosher cocktail party and dinner.

Larry Greenfield, Republican Jewish Coalition’s California regional director, says what is motivating their membership is the quality of the conversation.”RJC members and guests consistently value an honest appraisal of the international situation and a realistic approach to a dangerous world that the Jewish community respects,” he said. “Support for a beleaguered Israel, concern about a UN that has broken its promises, and moral clarity about Islamo-Fascism all resonate with American Jews today.”

According to Greenfield, under RJC CA Chairman Joel Geiderman, the RJC would continue to focus on supporting Jewish college students and the need for “fair play.” The RJC has been working with other Jewish groups to confront anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and anti-Americanism at universities.

“We have begun to mature as a Jewish political community. Those in attendance included current White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolton, past and present Federal Reserve Chairmen Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke; and former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

“Many thoughtful Jewish Republicans are making a strong contribution rooted in Jewish values, both as, and with senior access to, American policymakers,” Greenfield said.

The Great Statesmen

Van Nuys High School American government students enjoyed an informative Q-and-A with Stanley Sheinbaum and Mike Farrell on June 8. The event, titled “14th Amendment Equal Protection Under the Law,” was the first in a series of discussions produced by California Safe Schools.

The two celebrated statesmen in the social justice community have been recognized for their humanitarian efforts: Sheinbaum for the protection of constitutional rights, education, public justice, human rights and international peace efforts; Farrell for his opposition to the death penalty and children’s rights. Farrell is also well-known for his portrayals of B.J. Hunnicutt on the long-running series “M*A*S*H” and as veterinarian Dr. James Hansen on the NBC drama “Providence.”

“It was inspiring to see the students so well versed in national, international and environmental issues. We look forward to replicating these programs for other students throughout the State and Country,” said Robina Suwol, executive director of California Safe Schools.

Both men were honored at the event with the California Safe Schools Humanitarian Award for their decades of service. The office of Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys) and Assemblymember Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys) joined in the celebration presenting additional awards to each. The event as moderated by David Allgood, Southern California director of the state’s League of Conservation Voters.

Fond of the New Rabbi

Native Angeleno Rabbi Devora Fond became the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Torah in Arcadia in July, following her recent ordination by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism (UJ). Fond received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from UC Santa Cruz in 1991, and a master’s degree in rabbinic studies from the UJ in 2002. She has served in a variety of capacities, including hospital chaplain at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, rabbinic intern at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute in Simi Valley and educator and rabbinic intern at Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles.

Fond feels called to serve God by helping Jews connect with themselves, others, God and Torah, and through working with people of all faiths to make this world a better place. Fond says she is enthusiastic about having the opportunity to build relationships with the people in her community: to touch other people’s lives and be touched by others. She is committed to reaching out to new members, leading spiritually meaningful and innovative services, and making Judaism come alive through creative programming and thought-provoking teaching.

All About Ethics

Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo nominated Helen Zukin, a lawyer in private practice and an active member of the State Bar of California, to the City of Los Angeles Ethics Commission.

“Helen’s skill as a lawyer and commitment to the highest ethical standards will be tremendous assets to the Ethics Commission,” Delgadillo said. “Her counsel and insight will serve the Commission well as it takes up the challenge of interpreting and implementing changes to our campaign finance laws, as well as maintain its critical role as city watchdog.”

Zukin, who also serves as a temporary judge in the Los Angeles County Superior Court system, served on the State Bar’s Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation for nearly a decade. She has a long history of community and professional involvement, including membership on the Board of Governors for the Consumer Attorney’s Association of Los Angeles and as a trustee of the Jewish Community Foundation.

A civil litigator, Zukin’s practice has an emphasis on toxic torts, product liability and environmental property damage.

In addition to the city attorney, the mayor, controller, city council president and council president pro-tem each nominate one member to the five-member Ethics Commission. Commissioners serve staggered five-year terms, and are subject to review by the City Council’s Rules and Elections Committee, and to confirmation by the full L.A. City Council.

The commission was established in 1990 as part of a comprehensive package of local government ethics and campaign finance laws.


For the Children

Emunah of America held a West Coast fundraiser recently to raise money for the residential homes and after-school programs to help Israel’s needy children .One of those children, Dvora, attended the elegant buffet dinner and silent art auction at the Bel Age Hotel in West Hollywood.

Dvora, now a student of speech therapy at Tel Aviv University, grew up in Beit Elazraki in Netanya, a residential home for 180 children whose own parents couldn’t or didn’t want to care for them.

“I have broken the cycle of need,” Dvora told the crowd after a moving video that showed the children at the home and at Emunah’s other children’s programs. “I have managed to come out of this situation mature and successful, free of the terrible circle. My children will not have to suffer like me. They will not grow up in other people’s homes but in my own warm, loving home.”

Yehuda Kohn, director of Beit Elazraki, spoke of the baby brought in at 1 week old, with no name. He and his wife Ricky named him, and like they do with other children, will be surrogate parents, taking him to school, doctor appointments and birthday parties and tucking him in every night.

The Emunah benefit the first on the West Coast honored Celia Shire, who paid tribute to her late husband Harold.

The honorary chair of the event was Dr. Leila Bronner. Event chairs were: Dr. Gita Nagel, Marlene Einhorn, Sharon Katz, Rivki Mark, Mia Markoff, Fran Miller, Gittel Rubin and Elana Samuels. Emunah national president Heddy Klein attended.For more information or to volunteer, call (310) 837-1225 or visit

Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor

Music to Our Ears: A True Hacham

Roughly 1,000 members of the local Iranian Jewish community crowded the main sanctuary at the Nessah Cultural Center in Beverly Hills on June 11 for prayers marking the first anniversary of the passing of Hacham Yedidia Shofet, the late spiritual icon for Iranian Jews both in Iran and the United States. For nearly seven decades, Shofet, who died at 96, served both as a religious leader and as the liaison representing Iran’s Jewish community before the shah’s government in Iran. Shofet joined the thousands of Jews who left Iran following the 1979 Iranian revolution and in Southern California continued to serve as a religious leader for Iranian Jews living in America. Community leaders and close friends spoke of Shofet’s remarkable speaking ability and compassionate leadership style.

“Hacham Yedidia proved that he had the leadership ability to help maintain our sense of Judaism and the community warmly accepted him,” said Dr. H. Kermanshahchi, one of the founders of the Iranian American Jewish Federation.Last October, nearly 90 religious and social leaders from Southern California’s Iranian Jewish community formally recognized Shofet’s son, Rabbi David Shofet, as the community’s new spiritual leader.

Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer

Heroes Among Us

June 7 was a time to honor two community heroes as University Synagogue hosted its “Heroes Among Us” event honoring Susan Corwin with the inaugural Margaret Zaas Avodah Award for Community Service.

The award is named after Zaas, a local and beloved resident who dedicated her life to helping others and spent 16 years at New Directions, a residential rehabilitation program for homeless and addicted veterans.

Corwin initiated the Mitzvah Corps program at University Synagogue in 2002 and created programming that extends into the community, including a Shabbat shuttle and bikur cholim program. She has launched support groups for people with aging parents, a cancer survivors network, parents of special needs children and the gay and lesbian social outreach. Corwin is also the regional representative for the Los Angeles Area and Pacific Southwest Council of the Union for Reform Judaism.

The evening also honored Richard Weintraub as Educator of the Year for his long-standing history of working with and on behalf of youth at University Synagogue. Weintraub was the president of the California Council on Children and Youth and supervisor of the Dare Plus Program, an after-school program for at-risk youth.

The Sporting Life

One of the best things about the Cedars-Sinai Sports Spectacular event are the faces of the kids who attend the dinner. They can hardly contain their excitement at rubbing elbows with all their favorite athletes and more than 100 came to help.

Over the past 21 years, the event, which this year grossed more than $1.5 million, has raised more than $16 million in support of the Sports Spectacular Endowed Medical Genetics Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The VIP event before dinner allows the kids to meet their favorite sports heroes up close and personal and the goody bags, well they are indeed legendary. (Take it from someone who met Sandy Koufax there, I am still excited by the memory.)

This year’s honorees were Jerome Bettis of the Pittsburgh Steelers, tennis champion Jimmy Connors and professional surfer Kelly Slater. Al Michaels and John Salley were among the evening’s hosts. l

7 Days in the Arts


Polka gets dotty at the Getty this evening with the last installment of the center’s Summer Sessions series. “21st Century Roots” offers “roots music for the new millennium,” in the form of three groups: Brave Combo, a polka ensemble that mixes music from Mexico, Germany and Japan; Golem, an edgy klezmer rock band; and moira smiley & VOCO, a band that mixes the dance songs of Eastern Europe with Appalachian tunes. International folk dance lessons are also offered.

5:45 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. (dance lessons). 6:30 p.m. (first music set). Free. Getty Center South Courtyard, Courtyard Stage and Garden Terrace, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 440-7300.


Can’t get enough of the man in tights? Head to the Museum of Television and Radio to see Superman as he appeared — in his many forms — on the small screen. For one final week the museum presents a selection of TV shows, including the 1950s “Adventures of Superman”; the steamier 1990s Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher affair, “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”; today’s Superman for the teen and tween set, “Smallville”; the animated 1970s classic “Superfriends” and the newer “Justice League”; as well as the unaired 1961 pilot of “The Adventures of Superboy.”

Through July 30. Noon-5 p.m. (Wed.-Sun.). $5-$10 donations suggested. 465 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills. (310) 786-1025.


Beat the summer heat with a refreshingly star-free film festival. Dances With Films enters its ninth year with a host of talent-filled films, sans celebs. Why no familiar faces? Festival co-founder Leslee Scallon explains, “The other festivals are busy programming mostly celebrity oriented films. It’s not that we’re dissing celebrities, we’re just giving films a chance to be seen that are getting squeezed out of the circuit.” Offer your support July 21-27.
$10 (per ticket), $125 (festival pass). Laemmle Fairfax Theatre, 7907 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 850-2929.


Young Artists International alights on Los Angeles for its ninth annual International Laureates Festival. The week of classical music concerts features iPalpiti, their orchestral ensemble of 26 musical masters ages 19-30, representing 26 countries. Tonight, a smaller affair at the Ford Theatre features Bassiona Amorosa, a virtuosi sextet of double-bassists from Munich.
July 23-30. Prices and locations vary. (310) 205-0511.


Love a Gershwin tune? Karen Benjamin and Alan Chapman explore George’s music in tonight’s installment of the Parlor Performances @ Steinway Hall Presents… “Songwriters and Their Songs” series. Hear some of his best-loved pieces, as well as the stories behind them.
8 p.m. $25. Steinway Hall, 12121 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 471-3979.

Thursday 27

Judi Lee Brandwein can’t get no satisfaction, but discusses it this one last night, for your amusement. “Fornicationally Challenged” is the 40-something divorc’e’s one-woman mature-audiences-only comic show. It returns tonight only for a local send-off before its opening at the New York International Fringe Festival.
8 p.m. $20. Santa Monica Playhouse Main Stage, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica. R.S.V.P., (310) 394-9779, ext. 1.


Ponder the art of Bonita Helmer in George Billis Gallery’s exhibition of her latest works. The moody, thought-provoking abstract acrylics focus on the interplays of fundamental elements, forcing the viewer to reconsider basic notions such as space and time.
Through Sept. 2. 2716 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 838-3685.

The Circuit

Full House of Hope
It was a full house May 14 at the Regent Beverly Wilshire at the 30th annual Celebration of Life Faces of Hope Benefit gala, honoring the City of Hope’s bone marrow transplant (BMT) program, along with the program’s director, Dr. Stephen J. Forman. Watching the videos and pictures about the program’s 30 years and the more than 7,300 transplant procedures conducted, guests were visibly overcome with emotion.

City of Hope is one of the largest BMT programs in the world and patients everywhere benefit from the transplant expertise and research conducted at its campus in Duarte.

Philanthropist Laurie Konheim, a member of City of Hope’s board of regents and the organization’s Cancer Immunotherapy & Stem Cell Research Committee, co-chaired the event. Honorary Faces of Hope committee members include actor Brad Garrett, supermodel Cindy Crawford, Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Also at the event were Howard and Susan Gordon, owners of the Cheesecake Factory; Neil Portnow, CEO of the Recording Academy; Jordan Scott, daughter of director Ridley Scott; Val Zavala, KCET newscaster and member of the Faces of Hope honorary committee, and members of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

United in Charity
Spring was in the air on May 17 at the annual United Hostesses’ Charities (UHC) 64th annual Membership Luncheon and Fashion Show in the Crystal Ballroom of the Beverly Hills Hotel. Women dressed in spring colors and prints gave a festive air to the event and after lunch UHC President Marilyn Gilfenbain presented a check to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, bringing the group nearer their $1.5 million pledge to endow United Hostesses’ Charities Cardiac/Stroke Emergency Care and support the groundbreaking research of Dr. Prediman K. Shah, director of the division of cardiology. The group also provides funding for the UHC Center at Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center.

A fashion show featuring the extraordinary designs of Fe Zandi and the skinny models with legs up to their necks, (oh, why did I eat so much at lunch) rounded out the day.

Movies in Focus

Hollywood luminaries were honored at the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Entertainment Industry Awards, with Focus Features feted at the Beverly Hills Hotel event for distributing tolerance-themed films, such as the gay cowboy saga, “Brokeback Mountain.”

Thespians William H. Macy and his wife, Felicity Huffman, emceed the evening, with remarks from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and ADL Pacific Southwest Region Director Amanda Susskind.

“I can’t think of an industry that has more reach and power to make a difference than the entertainment industry,” Susskind said at the April 5 event. “When we see movies like ‘Brokeback Mountain’ and ‘The Pianist,’ we are reminded of this.”

Focus Features co-presidents David Linde and James Schamus received the ADL’s Distinguished Entertainment Industry Award. Schamus told the audience of more than 300 that given the number of films about oppressed minorities distributed by Universal Pictures-owned Focus, “If you’re hated for who you are, you probably have a first-look deal with us.”

“Lord of the Rings” executive producer Mark Ordesky, one of the dinner’s co-chairs, said that he was fortunate when he grew up because he “never had to experience anything that ADL has combated. The [charity] work I do for ADL truly is the most gratifying.” — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

The General Speaks
Nearly 100 mostly senior and Israeli members of Shaarey Zedek Congregation in North Hollywood gathered on May 29 to hear a speech given by former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon. The event, sponsored by Los Angeles chapter of the Americans for a Safe Israel, also welcomed their Christian supporters. After a career spanning more than 30 years in the IDF, Ya’alon retired in June 2005, prior to Israel’s controversial unilateral withdrawal from Gaza last year, because of his opposition to the policy supported by then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz. At the gathering, Ya’alon again voiced his strong opposition to Israel’s recent disengagement plan to leave certain parts of Judea and Samaria, warning that it was a failed policy of appeasement.

“Unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon was perceived by the Hezbollah as a victory and now it is perceived by Hamas as a victory as well,” Ya’alon said. “This encourages and entices Islamic radicalism and they feel like they are winning”.

Ya’alon also spoke about the threat Israel faces from Islamic fundamentalist regimes like Iran that have promoted and funded suicide bombings through out the Middle East. — Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer

Lauding the Literati
Norman Mailer and Judith Krantz were honored at the 11th annual Los Angeles Public Library Awards Dinner recently at the Central Library. The event honored Mailer, Library Foundation of Los Angeles Executive Director Evelyn Hoffman and Wells Fargo, represented by Regional President Shelley Freeman. The evening, hosted by Keith Carradine, raised $680,000 for the Library Foundation of Los Angeles, a nonprofit corporation dedicated to securing private contributions to support the Los Angeles Public Library.

Hoop Dreams
For 16-year-old former Encino resident Marisa Gobuty it’s all about basketball.

Throughout the summer, Gobuty, a 5-foot-7 high school junior point guard, who now lives in Israel and plays for Israel’s National Basketball Team, will be playing for the Southern California-based Finest Basketball Club (FBC), and compete in tournaments across the United States.

Six years ago, she and her family moved to Israel for a short two-year stint. They have lived there ever since. But like in Encino, Gobuty’s love and passion for basketball led her back on to the courts around Tel Aviv, eventually landing a spot on the Israel National team at age 15. She is now one of only 12 team members on Israel’s Segel Zahav, which means Gold Team. It is comprised of the top players in the 16-24 age bracket.

“Living in Israel has been a great learning experience culturally and emotionally,” Gobuty said. “By playing basketball there I’ve also gotten to compete against some of the best in the world playing in European FIBA Championships, as well as having the opportunity to learn about different cultures. But some of my most rewarding moments have been talking to other high school age-teenagers about what it’s like to grow up in a country that is constantly on alert in a war time like state and being able to share my experiences.”

Support Your Students
The West Coast Supporters of Yeshiva University (YU) recently held a dinner at the L.A. home of Esthi and Walter Feinblum. Forty YU supporters attended the event and raised $100,000 for the West Coast Scholarship Drive to ensure that all qualified undergraduate students who wish to attend YU can do so regardless of their financial circumstances.


The Circuit

A Song for Ken

The annual dinner of the International Visitors Council of Los Angeles reached its touching climax when Israeli-born European singing sensation, Liel, called veteran music manager (and her own U.S. manager) Ken Kragen on stage to perform with her “We Are the World.” The performance was only fitting since Kragen received the Robert D. Kleist International Citizen Award in part for his co-production of the 1985 hit video, “We Are the World,” for which he used his connections in the music world to bring together some of the leading entertainers to fight starvation in Africa.

Harry Belafonte, who worked closely with Kragen on “We Are the World” and several other humanitarian projects, presented Kragen with the award at an event attended by council supporters, city officials and consuls general from Bangladesh, Brazil, Germany, Hungary, Romania and the Slovak Republic. The International Visitors Council of Los Angeles is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase international understanding and cooperation. Actress/comedian Suzanne Whang served as emcee and ventriloquist Ronn Lucas performed in honor of Kragen, who is also their manager. — Orit Arfa, Contributing Writer

The Cole Thing

Helping Hand of Los Angeles celebrated its 77th anniversary by honoring entertainer Natalie Cole at its annual Mother’s Day luncheon at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel. The group, which is Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s oldest active fundraising support group, supports the department of obstetrics and gynecology by funding endowments, research projects and capital expenditures. Its legacy is a commitment to women and children and it has contributed more than $17 million to the hospital during its tenure. The event featured an exciting fashion show and gifts for volunteers.

Just Make A Wish

Ever wish you could be at a charity event with a red carpet featuring a “Desperate Housewife”; an auction filled with beautiful art, jewels and collectibles; endless wines, liquors and yummy foods? Well your wish would’ve come true when Make-a-Wish Foundation held its Uncork-a-Wish Wine Tasting and auction to fulfill wishes for children in L.A. County with life-threatening medical conditions.

More than 2,000 guests filled the Pacific Design Center, making the evening, which raised, $290,000, the biggest in the event’s history.

Upon arrival, guests were greeted with a glass of Veuve Clicquot Rosé Champagne and walked among row after row of silent auction packages, including an autographed Kobe Bryant jersey and shoes that sold for $2,950, a guitar signed by the band Chicago that sold for $1,500 and a plasma television from Norcent Technology that brought in $1,950.

For those desperate to get her photo, “Desperate Housewives” and “Burnt Toast” author Teri Hatcher posed with guests who made a $100 donation to the foundation — in 30 minutes, she had raised more than $3,000!

Lots for Lane

Northridge resident Shirley Lane of Shirim ha Emek group, Hadassah Southern California, has been named a recipient of the 20th annual Hadassah National Leadership Award. The prestigious award pays tribute to members whose leadership accomplishments within Hadassah and civic, education and cultural organizations reflect Hadassah’s dedication to the principles of the volunteer ethic. Recipients, who are selected by their peers, represent a wide range of accomplishments.

“Shirley’s past achievements have led to this well-deserved honor, and we look forward to her continued good work for Shirim ha Emek and Hadassah,” said Marcia Gould, president of Shirim ha Emek.


The Circuit

Doctor in the House

On Sunday, April 9, American Jewish Congress, StandWithUs and Beth Jacob Congregation welcomed Dr. Raanan Gissin, strategic analyst, international spokesman and senior adviser to Israel’s prime minister, to Los Angeles. More than 150 people learned about Israel’s next course of action regarding West Bank disengagement and consolidation; the move to create defined, defensible borders; the Hamas election; and subsequent prospects for peace. Gissin stressed the urgency of making aliyah and increasing Jewish population in Israel to keep it the majority. Gissin is a fifth generation Israeli, born on Kibbutz Hasollelim in 1949.

Wine and Wishes

The historic Beverly Hills Post Office, future home of the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, was the setting for a multivintage wine tasting hosted by Beaulieu Vineyard, the Peninsula Beverly Hills and Eunice and Hal David.

There to see a preview of the new architecture, guests sipped wine, schmoozed and nibbled goodies as they discussed the endless possibilities for the soon-to-be-a-reality long awaited project.

A dramatic multimedia preview of plans for the Performing Arts Center slated to break ground in 2007 was the evening’s highlight. Guests included Beverly Hills Mayor Stephen Webb and wife, Bonnie; Bram Goldsmith, and Vicki and Murray Pepper.

Kudos for Dr. Katz

Music, laughter and everyone dressed up and determined to have a great evening, sums up the recent Junior Philharmonic 69th anniversary Concert Spectacular.

Rainy weather couldn’t deter these die-hard fans that showed up en masse to celebrate the evening at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion that paid homage to Dr. Ernst Katz’s extraordinary accomplishments over seven decades.

In addition to the melodic strains of Mozart, John Williams and Tchaikovsky, the annual Celebrity Battle of Batons brought levity and some show business legends to the stage. A cocktail party in the founder’s circle began the festivities and Wink Martindale served as host for the evening while, Army Archerd led the Battle of the Batons.

Participants included Peter Graves, who also narrated “The Impossible Dream” with the orchestra; June Lockhart; Mark Kriski, and Linda Gray. But local KTLA morning newsman Carlos Amezcua took home the honors and received the golden baton from last year’s winner, Florence Henderson.

Amezcua won over the audience with his spirited dancing (in the style of Zero Mostel) as he led the talented musicians in the strains of “To Life” from “Fiddler on the Roof,” while a stirring violin solo by Smbat Atsilatsyan had everyone enraptured.

Henderson presented a rendition of the score from “The Sound of Music,” which actually had the audience singing along. (Hard to resist that “Do Re Mi.”)

The evening really was specia,l and Katz really deserves all the kudos for his tireless work keeping this amazing group of talented musicians playing.

Time for Tikvah

Camp Ramah’s Tikvah program will be have a new leader this summer.

The one-of-a-kind Tikvah program for special needs children will now have Elana Naftalin-Kelman, a Columbia University and Bank Street College trained social worker and educator at its helm. This follows the announcement of the resignation of previous director Tara Reisbaum, who led the program for eight years.

Camp Ramah’s Tikvah program is especially designed for Jewish adolescents, ages 11 to 18, with learning, emotional and developmental disabilities. The Ezra program, Tikvah’s counterpart for young adults, offers participants a summer vocational training course at cCamp.

Throughout its 34-year history, Tikvah has sought to create an environment of inclusiveness for special needs children, adults and their families both at Camp and in the greater Jewish community through education, exposure, socialization and fun.

For more information about Camp Ramah or the Tikvah program, call (310) 476-8571.

Yiddish Spoken Here

What could be better? An evening of Yiddish poetry, a nosh, interesting guests. It was all a wonderful evening of “tom” when Pen USA, a club for writers, recently presented one of its entertaining salons organized by Helen Kaufman.

It was like channeling Dorothy Parker, George S. Kaufman and the members of the Algonquin Roundtable as Miriam Koral delighted attendees with Yiddish poetry readings from such noteworthy poets as Fradel Shtok, Rosa Gutman and Avrum Reisen, among others.

Koral, an expert in all things Yiddish also read one of her own selections. And although we know it is always lost in translation, the essence, the tone and the wonderful reading had everyone mesmerized. Literary notables like Dr. John Menkes, author of “After the Tempest,” sat eyes closed as Koral read or played some of the pieces set to music.

Everyone’s presence seemed to say, Yiddishkayt is very much alive and well and appreciated in Los Angeles, and can we please have more?


The Circuit

A World of Food

World Ethnic Market/KosherWorld Show manager Phyllis Koegel presented a Buyer of the Year Award to Tamara Dorrell, Safeway manager, national categories, ethnic. The World Ethnic Market was held recently at the Anaheim Convention Center.

L.A. Helps the Gulf

Four members of Temple Beth El in San Pedro took a hands-on approach to charity when they went on a relief mission to Gulfport, Miss., last week. The four accompanied Rabbi Charles Briskin to help in rebuilding and reconstruction efforts for the coastal city devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Briskin, along with Alan Rowe of San Pedro, Vicki Hulbert of Palos Verdes Estates, Ben Pogorelsky of Rolling Hills Estates and David Burton of Rancho Santa Margarita, are part of a citywide delegation of Jews and Christians participating in this relief mission sponsored by the Southern California Board of Rabbis, the Jewish Community Relations Committee of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Grant A.M.E. Church and the Southern California A.M.E. Ministerial Alliance.

“Tikkun Olam, the ethical imperative to work to repair the world by responding to crisis and the needs of the larger community is one of Judaism’s central values,” Briskin said. “By going to Gulfport, we are doing our small part to repair, literally, one small corner of our world.”

Briskin said he hopes not only to contribute time, energy and labor, but also to return home with valuable lessons learned about the faith, hope and cooperation that prevails within this devastated region.

For more information, call (310) 833-2467 or e-mail;

Consulate’s “Israel 101”

The L.A. consulate general of Israel hosted a group of 40 sixth-graders from Pressman Academy for an “Israel 101” event before their class field trip to Israel next month. Students participated in Israeli dancing, word association games, videos and an educational skit highlighting Israel’s high-tech industry, performed by members of the consulate staff. Apart from the mouthwatering Israeli chocolates, the students got a special treat when Consul General Ehud Danoch greeted them and emphasized that while the scenery and holy sites would undoubtedly leave an impression on them, it will be the connections they make with their Israeli counterparts that will most affect them. During their 10-day tour of Israel the students will experience the action of Tel Aviv, the majesty of Jerusalem and Masada, and catch a glimpse of life on a kibbutz.

Just Smile

It was Lladro&tilde and African dishes recently on Rodeo Drive when Lladro&tilde, the renowned Spanish house of porcelain, joined forces with Operation Smile to raise money for free reconstructive facial surgery to children in developing countries worldwide. A special porcelain sculpture, “Let Me Help You,” was formally unveiled at a VIP reception at the Lladro&tilde Rodeo Drive Boutique.

To set the mood for the African trip, Lladro which will sponsor it with the funds raised, transformed the boutique into a visual homage to the Kenyan landscape in blues, reds, yellows and oranges to reflect a Kenyan sunset, while Barbuda trees recreated the greenery native to the region. Guests enjoyed African music, and cocktails and sampled unusual goodies, like groundnut soup garnished with tiny bananas, Nyama Choma (barbecued meat in the Kariokor style), M’Chuzi Wa Kuku (coconut chicken), Smaki Na Nazi (coconut fish), Samosa (meat-filled pastries) and Irio (a pea, corn and potato dish served as a minipancake, topped with East African salad relish).

OK, I am not certain if it was kosher, but I would have to pronounce it to ask, but I do know the food was yummy and the desserts amazing. Great stuff like, Mini Mount Kenya’s (minicoupe with peach ice cream topped with diced, rum-soaked pineapple; mango, and a dollop of whipped cream) and Mahamri (fried dough with powdered sugar). What could be bad about a doughnut with powdered sugar?

On hand were celebs like Operation Smile spokeswoman and angelic actress Roma Downey, who was with her husband, super- reality show guru Mark Burnett; Kathleen Magee, co-founder, Operation Smile; Bill Magee, son of co-founders Kathleen and William Magee; Safa Hummel, CEO, Lladro USA; Beverly Hills Mayor Stephen Webb; Vice Mayor Jimmy Delshad, and Lorraine Bradley, L.A. City human relations commissioner (and daughter of former Mayor Tom Bradley).

Lladro’s goal is to raise $150,000 by donating 10 percent of the retail price of all nationwide sales of the “Let Me Help You” sculpture between March and October 2006. For more information, visit

The Circuit

Supercause for Super bowl

Goodies abounded on Super Bowl Sunday as, for the 20th consecutive year, “Doctor to the Stars” and Fulfillment Fund founder Gary Gitnick, chief of the Division of Digestive Diseases at UCLA School of Medicine, and his gracious wife, Cherna, opened their home to more than 200 friends for their annual Super Bowl party. What started out as a social gathering has turned into a springboard for educational supporters to speak at halftime to the guests, cozying up in the Gitnicks’ living room where the dress is casual and so is the atmosphere.

Celebs like Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and wife, Corina, stopped by to chat and speak at half time with Police Chief William Bratton, Superintendent of Schools Roy Romer, state Sen. Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont), Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, Fulfillment Fund CEO Andrea Cockrum, producer Sandy Climan, UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale, Councilwoman Janice Hahn and Darrien Iacocca with Charlie Knapp.

Chasen’s former captain, Arli, served up its famous chili but it was the dessert table that really hit home with cream puff poppers, triffle, a selection of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream with assorted toppings, cakes, brownies and luscious candies. The full house was a testament to not only the Gitnick’s well-deserved popularity, but proof that, “if you feed them, they will come.”

Sparkle and Shine

The night was all aglitter when Harry Winston launched its new 6,000-square-foot Beverly Hills flagship salon. The event, filled with gawkers and gawkees was hosted by Harry Winston chairman Ronald Winston, son of the founder, and producer Jeffrey Katzenberg, chairman of the board of the Motion Picture and Television Fund Foundation. The evening was a tribute to the fund and a portion of the proceeds of sales went toward the charity.

Long known as the jeweler to the stars, Harry Winston jewels are always prominent on awards nights and adorn the biggest celebs.

The plush new salon was designed by world-renowned architect Thierry Despont, whose legion of credits include the Carlyle Hotel in New York and Claridges in London, as well as the interiors of the decorative art galleries at the Getty Museum. The grand chandelier was inspired by an over-size piece of jewelry originally created for an Indian maharaja by Harry Winston.

Guests were also treated to a glimpse of some legendary gems, including the Lesotho Diamond, weighing 71.73 carats.

Read On!

More than 120 enthusiastic students from Los Angeles Open Charter Elementary School received a special visit from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for the local celebration of Scholastic Read for 2006. Millions of children, parents and teachers worldwide joined together to read for 2,006 seconds (approximately 33 and a half minutes). With Villaraigosa at the helm, however, and a big book donation to celebrate, the event lingered well past the 33-minute mark. Paul Koplin, vice president of the board of directors of the Literacy Network of Greater Los Angeles, was on hand to thank Villaraigosa for a 500-book donation to help the organization’s literacy providers celebrate reading for years to come.

“We’re having a great time with the mayor during this celebration of reading and are grateful to him for choosing the Literacy Network to receive these books that will be distributed among several of our over 250 literacy providers,” Koplin said. “Actually, we’d love to have him read with us more often!”

The Literacy Network of Greater Los Angeles is dedicated to eradicating illiteracy, and links volunteers, learners, donors and teaching materials with approximately 1,100 adult, family, workplace and children’s literacy program sites in Southern California.

Kick It Up

Uber boxing manager Jackie (what’s a nice Jewish girl doing in a profession like this?) Kallen cut the ribbon as the doors opened at the new Lennox Boxing Club in South Los Angeles. L.A County Sheriff Lee Baca and Kallen held a ribbon-cutting press conference at the gym to celebrate the boxing program for innercity youth, which the Sheriff’s Department will oversee. For more information on the program, call (323) 242-8784.


The Circuit

Koufax Honored

The annual Professional Baseball Scouts Association Dinner in Beverly Hills is a fundraiser for baseball scouts. It honored Koufax, Barry Bonds and Tommy Lasorda, among others, with Willie Mays, Dennis Gilbert and Jerry Reinsdorf as the featured speakers.

Masorti Mensches

Conservative Jewish leaders attended the 10th annual dinner of the Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism recently at Sinai Temple. Honorees for the evening were chosen from the five principal supporting congregations for the significant roles they have played within the Los Angeles community.

Honorees were: Merrill and Gregg Alpert of Valley Beth Shalom; Abe and Annette Berman of Temple Beth Am; Rabbi Sherre Zwelling Hirsh of Sinai Temple; Sue Shrell Leon of Temple Aliyah; and Steve and Jill Namm of Adat Ari El.

Earl Greinetz, chair of the Masorti Foundation’s Los Angeles Committee and national co-chair of the foundation, received the Parnas Award for Community Leadership.

Peace Prize

Americans for Peace Now (APN) held its annual Yitzhak Rabin Peace Award Dinner recently at the Luxe Hotel in Bel Air. The event featured Rabbi Susan Laemmle, dean of religious life at USC and a member of the APN Southern California Rabbinic Council, and award recipient Elaine Hoffman, longtime APN national leader and former Southern California regional co-chair.

Gala for IDF

More than 850 people, including many of the most prominent leaders of the Jewish community, gathered at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills to honor the brave men and women who serve in the Israel Defense Forces. The Friends of the Israel Defense Forces Western Region held the event to raise funds for an auditorium, library and synagogue at the soon to be built new REIM Base in the Negev.

The gala dinner was co-chaired by Cheryl and Haim Saban and included a live satellite hook-up with soldiers stationed near Gaza. The evening’s special guest speaker was Avi Dicter, who recently retired as head of Shin Bet. By the end of the evening, the gala dinner had raised nearly $4 million with many additional pledges and commitments under discussion.

Even in Beverly Hills, it’s not every day that someone gets up to pledge $1 million to a good cause, to say nothing of two successive million-dollar donors.

Dichter, a rising star in Kadima, warned that the “terror states” of Iran, Syria and Lebanon had not given up on their hopes to destroy the Jewish state. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

JFS Rocks

Gene Black, lead guitarist for rocker Joe Cocker, has played in front of hundreds of thousands of fans at a time. Black, got a smaller but equally enthusiastic crowd dancing at the JFS/Valley Storefront Adult Day Health Care Center in North Hollywood recently. The center regularly presents live music from top performers such as Black and Craig Taubman.


The Circuit

Shining Lights

The Jewish Federation’s Young Leadership Division put a cool spin on Chanukah with “Latkes and Blackjack” at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood. The usually dark alternative music club had a cheery holiday makeover as dreidels and chocolate gelt were spread across tables in the main room, as well as in the neighboring Alterknit lounge.

The continuous shouts of “yes” from 20- and 30-somethings at the seven blackjack tables — who were wearing everything from jeans and sneakers to suits and “little black dresses” — added to the spirit of the event.

Young Leadership member Jeff Kay said events like “Latkes and Blackjack” are more likely to draw him than other types of events: “The more social, the better.”

That’s exactly what the division’s staff had in mind.

“We find that it is really important for us to have festive occasions for people to participate in,” said Sandy Levin, Young Leadership Division director, who added that recent reports about the disconnect of young people from the Jewish community are “troubling.”

“I think at this age there are so many people not affiliated to anything,” she said. “We’re trying to make an impact and help people connect in our own small way.”

Since Young Leadership is about giving back to the community, each candle on the enormous menorah, brought in for the event, represented a different group assisted by The Federation.

“We want them to enjoy Chanukah, but we also want them to understand more about what the Federation does,” said Heather Greenberg and Yael Irom, Young Leadership Division co-chairs.

Causes honored by the candles included Jewish Family Service (JFS), SOVA Food Pantry and the Bureau of Jewish Education. “Anybody at any stage of their life might need a service of The Jewish Federation,” Levin told the Circuit. “And if they don’t need it today, they may need it down the road.”

When all the blackjack chips were cashed and all the latkes were eaten, Young Leadership had raised more $81,000, to provide assistance to the elderly, children and others in need in Los Angeles, Israel and around the world. They also collected more than 50 toys for JFS Gramercy Place Shelter. — Shoshana Lewin, Contributing Writer

Fulfilling Dreams

It was truly the “children’s hour” when The Fulfillment Fund held its Annual Holiday Party for young children with disabilities. The well-attended event entertained several-hundred students, ages 3-9, from the Los Angeles Unified School District for a memorable day of festive fun.

The event is hosted by Fulfillment Fund students and their mentors, and college scholars from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The Lucky Brand Foundation provides a generous grant each year to help make this incredible event possible.

More than 30 years ago, the Fulfillment Fund began with a similar holiday party, and has since grown into one of the most effective college access organizations in Los Angeles, having served thousands of young people throughout the years.

FESTIVAL of Advocacy

Lighting up the night, more than 450 people filled the University of Judaism’s Gindi Auditorium for its “Festival of Lights” concert/fundraiser for the Israel advocacy and education group StandWithUs on Dec. 11.

“Giving is easy when it doesn’t cost us anything,” said Century City attorney and StandWithUs board vice president Marty Jannol, a festival honoree along with his wife and fellow board member Susan Jannol.

“Few of us here tonight have any fundamental material needs,” he said. “May our giving be doubly blessed by causing us to make the right choices about our material lives.”

Honors for Estrin

Israel’s high-tech industry, a mainstay of the country’s economic, military and scientific strength, honored its engineering “father” recently, when it bestowed the Israel Software Industry Pioneer Award on UCLA proffessor Gerald (Jerry) Estrin.

Estrin and his wife, Thelma, also a computer engineer, left Princeton in 1954. With a small team at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Estrin hand-built the WEIZAC, the first computer in the Middle East.

Additional honors were conferred on Estrin, a Santa Monica resident, by the Weizmann Institute and the worldwide Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers for his and Israel’s roles in the global information revolution.

An extensive story on Estrin’s work was published in the Jewish Journal on Dec. 3, 2004, and can be found on the Journal Web site. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor



Capturing Gazin

Shelley Gazin, artist and photojournalist, has been the recipient of four 2005 grants to further her photographic and video documentary study of California’s Persian Jewish community. A grant from the California Council for the Humanities, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, launched Gazin’s current project, “Work-in-Progress: Becoming Persian, a Photographic Inquiry Illuminating the Iranian Jewish Community” at USC. Her recent exhibitions include “Looking for a Rabbi” (Skirball Cultural Center, 2001) and “Reconstructing the West Bank” (UCLA Rabin Center for Jewish Life, 2003).

To the Dogs

Pampered pooches pondered a variety of fancy nibbles to nosh as the Peninsula Hotel’s own doggy-in-residence, Billy Bean, hosted a book signing for his friends and their masters. Author Tracie Hotchner was on hand to sign copies of her latest book, “The Dog Bible – Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know” (Gotham). Billy Bean, a.k.a. “The Pet Columnist” – along with his “person,” Donanne Kasikci, wife of Peninsula Managing Director Ali Kasikci– hosted the book signing at an informal tea in the hotel’s elegant Verandah Room. Among those attending were Jamie Lee Curtis, Nancy Daly Riordan, Danni Janssen and Yvette Mimieux.

No Place Like Home

Los Angeles Family Housing (LAFH), founded in 1983 to end homelessness and increase affordable housing, honored Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Santa Monica Councilman Bobby Shriver and developer Mark Weinstein at its sixth annual awards dinner at Universal Studios’ Globe Theater. The festive evening, where LAFH President David Grunwald and comedian Shayla Rivera welcomed guests, was aglitter with the excitement and lights of the studio as more than 400 attendees raised $600,000 for LAFH, an organization that has served 90,000 Angelenos.

Former LAFH client Dorcas Williams of Palmdale opened the dinner with her sons Deonte, 10, and Dennis, 12, thanking LAFH for her independence. LAFH board chair George Minter of La Canada presented the L.A. Family Housing Inspiration Award to Villaraigosa, who has announced an unprecedented $1 billion affordable housing bond for the city of Los Angeles. Villaraigosa told the audience, “Los Angeles is not working when mothers and children sleep on our streets.”

Hostess With the Mostess

Once again United Hostesses Charities (UHC), which supports the UHCs Cardiac/Stroke Emergency Care at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, outdid itself at its annual fundraiser at the Beverly Wilshire. Co-chairs Cindy Flagg and Roberta Weissman introduced the World Classic Rockers band, which had everyone grooving to the beat.

Honored this year with the 2005 Humanitarian Award were Drs. Julian Gold and Ronald H. Wender, co-chairs of Cedars-Sinai’s department of anesthesiology. Event chairs must be congratulated for their creativity, and special kudos to Marilyn Gilfanbain for surprising and delighting guests each year.

UHC also supports the work of Dr. P K Shah, director of Cedars-Sinai’s division of cardiology.

Big Brothers Rock

The room was filled with love as Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles and the Inland Empire celebrated its 50th anniversary at its Rising Stars Gala Dinner at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Sir Sidney Poitier presented former Paramount Pictures chair Sherry Lansing, co-founder of the Big Brothers Big Sisters Future Fund, with the legacy award. Steve Soberoff, former senior adviser to L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan, introduced his family and little brother as he spoke of his personal experiences as a big brother urging others to do the same.

Nick Cannon, Dakota Fanning and Renee Olstead all received the Rising Star award for their creative achievements. Richard Cook, chairman of Walt Disney Studios received the Walt Disney Award.

The evening really started rocked when Frankie Valli took the stage and wowed the audience with a selection of his hit songs and people jumped up from their seats and danced and sang along.

The event raised more than $1 million for the charity. For more information, visit

The Circuit

Life Is Beautiful

“Beautiful Music,” produced by the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Moriah Films division, was winner of the best documentary award at the Hollywood Film Festival for director Richard Trank. It tells the story of a blind, autistic Arab girl whose astonishing musical talents are discovered and nurtured by a caring Jewish piano teacher in Jerusalem. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Desperately Thrilled

Dancing and celebration was the order of the evening recently as the Maple Counseling Center honored former Beverly Hills Mayor Mark Egerman; his wife, Dr. Lynn Egerman; and “Desperate Housewife”-psychologist Marcia Cross at its annual fundraising dinner. The room was filled to capacity with attendees who dined, danced and celebrated the work of this organization that doesn’t turn away anyone in need, regardless of ability to pay.

For information, call (310) 271-9999.

Singer’s New Tune

Bringing attention to the groundbreaking research, technological innovation and vast educational resources of the world’s largest Jewish university is the mission defined by Ruth Singer for her tenure as Western region chairperson of the Tel Aviv University: American Council. Recently named to the position by Tel Aviv University President Itamar Rabinovich, Singer will be responsible for making people aware of the institution’s accomplishments and needs.

“People know about other universities in Israel, but they don’t know enough about Tel Aviv University,” Singer said. “Yet this is where much of the world’s most exciting work is being done — breakthrough research on cancer, diabetes and Parkinson’s … not to mention pioneering work in social and political change. Just as important is the daily work the university does to provide undergraduates and graduate students with the highest caliber education, preparing them to shape Israel’s future — and the world’s.”

Singer has led more than 30 mission trips to Israel as the missions chairperson of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. As a former national officer of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, she worked with members of Congress to ensure that U.S.-Israel relations remain a top priority.

“Ruth Singer leads by example,” said Sam Witkin, president of the Tel Aviv University: American Council. “Her national and international work on behalf of Israel is phenomenal, and we are fortunate to welcome her into the leadership ranks of our organization.”

That’s a WRRAP

The newly renovated Luxe Bel Air Hotel was the setting as the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, was awarded The Rose Award by the Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project (WRRAP).

The afternoon’s mistress of ceremonies was actress Christina Pickles who starred as Monica and Ross’ mother on the hit show “Friends.” The luncheon featured a stunning holiday boutique and silent auction with 95 percent of all money raised going to help low-income women exercise the full range of their reproductive rights.

Among the notable host committee members and sponsors were Elayne Boosler, Bettina Duval, Amy Everitt, Gloria Feldt, Katherine Forster, Debbie Goldberger, Billie Heller, Laura Kightlinger, Mary Leonard, Kathleen McDowell, Vanessa Poster, Marsha Rothpan, Julianne Scott, Cari Siestra, Heather Sourial, Gloria Steinem, Mary Jane Wagle, Faye Wattleton and Sarah Weddington.

WRRAP, which was started and nurtured at the Los Angeles section of the National Council of Jewish Women, raises money for low-income women of all ages, ethnicities and cultural backgrounds who are unable to pay for either emergency contraception or a safe and legal abortion. Its services are provided free of charge to clinics across the country.

For more information, call (323) 223-7727 or visit Exposed

Closer to a Cure

Dr. Patricia Ganz, a nationally renowned expert in the identification and management of quality-of-life issues related to breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, has received the prestigious Jill Rose Award, an honor given to top cancer scientists, by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Ganz, director of cancer prevention and control research at UCLA’s Jonsson Cancer Center, was honored in New York for her “extraordinary research accomplishments,” which have changed the way doctors and patients deal with the physical and psychological quality of life issues that follow breast cancer treatment, said Evelyn H. Lauder, founder and chair of the foundation.

“No other individual could match her research accomplishments in this area,” Lauder said. “The impact of her work is profound.”

Named after a late New York philanthropist and founding Breast Cancer Research Foundation advisory board member, the Jill Rose Award carries with it a $25,000 grant.

For more information on the Jonsson Cancer Center, visit at

The Circuit

Clothes That Care

The Family Violence Project of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFS) launched its first Clothesline Project exhibit in recognition of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The exhibit, on view at the Bell Family Gallery of The Jewish Federation at 6505 Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, is co-sponsored by JFS, The Jewish Federation and the Gabe Kapler Foundation.

Colorful T-shirts hanging on a clothesline, once a symbol of domesticity, have become an unusual but powerful call to join the fight to end domestic violence. This exhibit is a collection of T-shirts, each designed by a survivor or child-witness of domestic violence, that tell the artists’ stories through pictures and words.

The opening reception on Oct. 10, attended by more than 100 people, featured Lisa Kapler, wife of Boston Red Sox player and Los Angeles native Gabe Kapler, who was also in attendance. Lisa Kapler grew up in Southern California and was abused by a violent boyfriend when she was a teenager.

“One of the strongest messages of the Clothesline Project is that this kind of brutality can happen to anyone, anywhere,” she said.

The Clothesline Project originated when 31 shirts were displayed on a village green in Hyannis, Mass., in October 1990. Since then, more than 7,000 women and children have created artwork exhibitions worldwide, with exhibits in 41 states and five countries.

The Clothesline Project exhibit will be open to the public until Dec. 31. Admission is free. For more information, contact Sherri Kadovitz at (323) 761-8800, ext. 1250 or visit

The Circuit

Hope and Faith

Childrens Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) honored L.A. resident Doron Kochavi, for his participation in the Bristol-Myers Squibb Tour of Hope across America, headed by Lance Armstrong.

Patients in the Childrens Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases at CHLA sent off Kochavi with well wishes as he left to join a team of 24 cancer survivors, advocates, caregivers, physicians and researchers selected to ride 3,300 miles from San Diego to Washington, D.C.

The team of avid cyclists began their trip Sept. 29 — to share their experiences and inspire those they met along the way to learn more about cancer research.

Seven-time Tour de France winner Armstrong led the team at the kickoff in San Diego and into Washington, D.C., as well as during other points along the route.

Kochavi’s son, Ari, is alive today because of the treatment for a brain tumor he received at CHLA. When asked about the significance of the holidays and what is he reflecting on Kochavi said prior to leaving, “The Jewish holiday is for laymen. It is a message of hope. You hope that the new year will bring all the good you hope for … health, family, a good life…. This year I will spend the new year on the road. I have the opportunity to send a message of hope across the country. We will be riding everywhere … there will be no religious boundaries and touch everyone north to south … rich to poor….. I get the chance to talk to millions of people through television, newspapers, etc. and deliver a message of hope for tomorrow.”

For more information, visit

Simply Remarkable

The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles will award four new Jewish day school scholarships as a tribute to Mark Lainer, its chair from 2001 through 2004. The Mark Lainer Scholarships will provide assistance during the 2005 academic year to a deserving student with financial need at four local Jewish educational institutions where Lainer has played major leadership roles. These include Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School, Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School West and New Community Jewish High School, along with one recipient selected by the Bureau of Jewish Education.

The Foundation announced the scholarships at a gala dinner at the Regent Beverly Wilshire on Sept. 22 saluting Lainer’s dedication to The Foundation and the community.

“Mark’s energy and commitment are exemplary,” said foundation President and CEO Marvin I. Schotland. “We’re proud to honor him for both his outstanding guidance as immediate past chair of the foundation and for his passionate, dedicated service to the entire community.”

A leader in philanthropy and education, Lainer was also founding president of the Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School and has played important leadership roles in the Bureau of Jewish Education, The Jewish Federation, University of Judaism, Valley Beth Shalom, United Jewish Communities, Jewish Education Service of North America and The Jewish Journal.


Bust Bad Behavior on the Circuit

Ah, the thrill and abandon of early adolescence. Laughing with friends; smacking gum and blowing bubbles; sending your best buddy messages in sign language across a crowded room. And, if you’re lucky, the rabbi won’t shoot you a dirty look when your behavior interferes with the bar mitzvah boy’s Torah portion.

Our sages taught that a parent is responsible for a child until that child reaches the age of 13 years and one day, at which time he’s ready to assume full responsibility for observing the commandments and for all his deeds. Perhaps our sages should have specified that all deeds include stuffing up toilets with rolls of toilet paper, downing the remains of alcoholic beverages, running wild in hotel parking lots, having elevator races and destroying someone else’s furniture.

Currently, having a son on the bar/bat mitzvah circuit myself, I’ve been privy to many horrific tales of the disrespectful and downright out-of-control behavior that can take place at these meaningful celebrations. While some of the more extreme stories may simply be suburban legend, there’s no doubt that disorderly conduct at bar and bat mitzvahs is a recurring problem.

This unruly behavior is hurtful, if not heartbreaking, to the bar/bat mitzvah families who’ve invested many months — not to mention dollars — anticipating and preparing for this all-important day. It negatively impacts visitors to the synagogue and regular congregants, as well as rabbis forced to add policing to their list of Shabbat morning duties. Still, an unsettling ripple effect stemming from these young guests’ thoughtless actions may travel beyond the scope of our personal celebrations. Consider the non-Jewish friends who witness Jewish children audaciously misbehaving at such supposedly sacred events. And those that jostle hotel management and party planners into shying away from the bar/bat mitzvah “industry” for fear of property damage and risk of reputation.

Finally, there are jaded kids who have come to believe that their own traditions and prayer are unworthy of their reverence and respect. The overwhelming nature of the task of busting bad bar/bat mitzvah behavior feels somehow analogous to that of disinfecting the mountain of muddy laundry my son brought home from overnight camp.

“Start with the underwear and move out from there,” insisted a friend of mine. When confronted with a mess of such magnitude as a heap of filthy camp frocks — or an epidemic of poor bar mitzvah behavior — the underwear, the bare basics, no matter how skimpy and thong-like, is the place to begin.

Myrna Rubel, a middle school principal at an Atlanta Jewish school, heeds to this truth, working to foster a formidable foundation of bar/bat mitzvah etiquette in her 12- and 13-year-old charges. They talk about proper synagogue behavior, including keeping your siddur open during services whether or not you believe you know its content as well as your locker combination.

Unfortunately, Rubel also knows another truth — clean underwear doesn’t necessarily guarantee presentable clothing. And that while in the days of the sages, 13 and one day may have been old enough to take on full responsibility for observing all the commandments, in the days of Snoop Dogg and Puffy, 13-and-one-dayers tend to fall short in the personal responsibility department. Consequently, Rubel offers the following recommendations to parents:

At your own child’s bar/bat-mitzvah:


• Arrange for ushers to be present at services and prepared to manage any behavioral problems.


• Don’t be afraid to have a pre-party powwow with your young guests regarding your expectations and the consequences of misconduct.


• Feel comfortable calling parents of children who misbehave. (Wouldn’t you want to know?)


• Hire a party planner to keep an eye out for questionable activity.


• Plan a separate children’s party; kids will be less likely to act out due to boredom or be tempted by alcohol.

At the bar/bat mitzvah of others:


• Don’t assume that your child’s behavior is the responsibility of day school principals, religious school directors, rabbis or other parents. It’s yours.


• Accompany your child to services and model appropriate behavior.


• Don’t allow kids to dress improperly or promiscuously.


• Consistently, if not relentlessly, review the basics of bar mitzvah behavior with your children.


• If you know your kid tends to bore easily and subsequently seek out other means of having “fun,” pick him or her up early from the party.


• Organize a meeting with parents of other children in the same grade. Brainstorm ideas and join forces.

An invitation to a bar or bat mitzvah isn’t a glitter-clad proclamation that your kid will be out of your hair for the majority of Saturday. On the contrary, it is a summons to us to do our jobs as parents, role models and true Jewish adults.

The Circuit


SHoshanim Celebrates

Shoshanim, a magazine for Jewish teenage girls, is celebrating its fifth year in publication with a newly designed Web site, new features and an upgraded layout. Based in Los Angeles, the magazine geared for Orthodox teenagers has 5,000 subscribers. It is the Bais Yaakov girl’s answer to Seventeen Magazine, with advice columns on things like good baby-sitting techniques and “Ask Rebbetzin Rochel.” Along with columns on arts and crafts, a Jewish law corner, and personality profiles of pious people, the magazine gives readers a chance to have their own short stories, poetry, and art published.

Visit Shoshanim at (articles not available online) or call (800) 601-4238.

Don’t Stare — Just Talk

Students at Conejo Jewish Day School had a visit from the Kids on the Block, a troupe of puppets both able and disabled who teach children to appreciate differences.

This program, endorsed by the Bureau of Jewish Education, enables students to openly discuss the differences in others and the importance of caring for others and being aware of everyone’s feelings.

For more information about the Conejo Jewish Day School call Rabbi David Lamm (818) 879-8255. For information on Kids on the Block go to or call (800) 368-5437.

New News for New Jew

You may be hearing a lot more from the New Community Jewish High School (NCJHS) soon. The West Hills school, which was founded three years ago, was recently awarded an Avi Chai marketing grant for recruitment and publicity.

“New Jewish high schools often begin very small, without the necessary funding to successfully market themselves,” said Lauren Merken, a member of Avi Chai’s board of trustees. “It is the foundation’s goal to help schools like New Community Jewish High School, reach out to the community effectively.”

Of course, recruitment doesn’t seem to be a weak point at New Jew: It opened in 2002 with 40 kids in the ninth grade. Next year, as it welcomes its first 12th-grade class, NCJHS expects a total enrollment of 250 students.

For more information on NCJHS, call (818) 348-0048 or visit

Change the World

Seven students took home $500 prizes in Chapman University and the “1939” Club’s sixth annual Holocaust Art and Writing Contest in March. Students from 75 schools submitted essays, poetry and art on the topic of “To Change Our World: Legacy of Liberation,” which invited students to tie the history of the Holocaust to a current situation of injustice. The first-prize winners in the middle school categories were Art: Monique Becker, Lakeside Middle School (Irvine); Essay: Gabriella Duva, St. Anne School (Laguna Niguel), and Poetry: Kim Ngai, Fulton Middle School (Fountain Valley).

In the high school category, two entries tied for first place in Art: Steven Vander Sluis, El Toro High School (Lake Forest) and Marisa Moonilal, Mater Dei (Santa Ana); Essay: Irina Dykhne, University High School (Los Angeles), and Poetry: Matthew Adam White, University High School (Los Angeles).

For more information on the contest or Chapman University in Orange, call (714) 997-6620.

And More Winners

After a rigorous application process, four Californians are among the 26 youths from across the country selected to participate in the Bronfman Youth Fellowship in Israel this summer. Rachel Cohen of Goleta, Alexander Kaplan of Pacific Palisades, Alex Schatzberg of San Rafael and Juliana Spector of Piedmont will spend five weeks traveling throughout Israel to participate in seminars and dialogues with diverse rabbis and leaders. They will also spend a week with Israeli peers who are part of a parallel program for Israelis. The program was founded by Edgar M. Bronfman and is funded by the Samuel Bronfman Foundation.

For more information, call (518) 475-7202 or visit

Open Your Home

If international cooperation and understanding is best achieved through personal ties, then imagine having someone from a foreign country live in your home. AFS Intercultural Programs and Pacific Intercultural Exchange are looking for families in the L.A. area to host high school students who are studying in America for a year or a semester.

For more information contact AFS Intercultural Programs (formerly American Filed Service) at (800) 237-4630 or; or Pacific Intercultural Exchange at (800) 631-1818.


The Circuit

It’s ‘Theo’ Time

The 80th birthday of actor, singer, Soviet Jewry champion and Yiddish language true believer Theodore Bikel was marked by more than 1,300 well-wishers with the June 6 concert, “Theo! The First 80 Years,” at Brentwood’s Wadsworth Theater.

The fluid 90-minute show was directed by Milken Community High School middle school drama director Rachel Leah Cohen, who expertly included collages of Bikel from his 2,000 stage performances as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” plus memorable film roles in, “My Fair Lady,” “The African Queen” and his Academy Award-nominated Southern sheriff performance in “The Defiant Ones.”

With actors Leonard Nimoy, Larry Miller and Mare Winningham, plus the Stephen S. Wise Temple’s elementary school chorus, the $50-$350 tickets filled the Wadsworth seats as “Theo!” raised funds for Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center.

The VIP tent reception attracted Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles), concert sponsors Jona Goldrich and Trudy and Lou Kestenbaum, plus “Fiddler on the Roof” creator, Sholem Aleichem’s granddaughter, Bel Kaufman, who said the real-life shetl milkman who inspired Tevye “wasn’t at all like this handsome Theo.”

The evening had singing by Chicago cantor Alberto Mizrahi and folk legends The Limelighters and Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul & Mary.

“Thank you, Theo, for turning 80, and keeping your hair,” the balding Yarrow said of the white-bearded, full-head-of-hair octogenarian.

At the show’s end, Bikel came onstage to thunderous applause. As for what he would want on his gravestone, Bikel said, “I’m not there yet. I’m 80 years and four weeks old. I don’t aim to be there for a long time. If there is anything to be written there, I would like it to be at least partly in Yiddish, because Yiddish is the language of my people.” — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

Israel Bonds Aloha

Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle was greeted with a flower lei, hula dancers, orchid centerpieces and Hawaiian print tablecloths as she walked into the Beverly Hills Four Seasons banquet room for the State of Israel Bonds Golda Meir Club’ s annual spring luncheon on May 13.

The Jewish Republican was in town for a weeklong visit of her old mainland stomping grounds, before embarking on her first trip to Israel, courtesy of the Israel consulate.

Honored alongside Lingle as a “Woman of Power” at the luncheon was Jean Friedman, founding president of the Zimmer Children’s Museum, founding vice president of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony and vice president of the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, which sponsors the Jewish Image Awards. Friedman’s passion for the arts and education — she helped husband Jerry found Shalhevet High School — has enabled her to develop inspirational programming.

“I wanted to create inventive programs … to connect people to their Jewish background,” Friedman said.

After accepting the Golda Meir Award, Lingle drew parallels between Israel and Hawaii — “both are isolated: one by water, the other by their neighbors” — and took the election year opportunity to stump for her GOP colleague, President Bush.

“We don’t agree on everything, but he stands behind Israel,” Lingle said.

Lingle was born in St. Louis and moved to Los Angeles with her family when she was 12, splitting time between Encino and Brentwood after her parents divorced. The Birmingham High grad went on to study journalism at CSUN and then moved to Hawaii, where she started her own newspaper, the Molokai Free Press. In her 2002 campaign for governor, she promised voters a “new beginning” for Hawaii by taking on government corruption and reforming education.

“Jewish groups across the country have adopted me and don’t care what my politics are,” said Lingle, who meets with her rabbi on Monday mornings and receives challah from a Chabad rabbi every Friday.

The governor initially registered as independent in 1976, but switched to the Republican Party in 1980 to run for a Maui County Council seat.

“We as Jews identify with the poor and underprivileged,” said Lingle, who is pro-choice and favors domestic partnership. “Republican rhetoric has not been inclusive of all people historically, but we need to look beyond the old labels.”

She isn’t thinking about a higher office yet, focusing instead on a run for a second term in 2006.

The annual event is the largest that Israel Bonds’ Women’s Division puts on.

Music for the luncheon, co-chaired by Beverly Cohen and Iris Rothstein, was provided by Temple Aliyah’s Cantor Mike Stein and his family band, The Rolling Steins.

Notables in attendance included Marjorie Pressman, founding chair of Friends of Sheba; Marilyn Ziering, philanthropist and University of Judaism board member; Jewish Federation President John Fishel; Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance Executive Director Carol Koransky; and Noreen Green, conductor and artistic director of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony.

Also, Esther Netter, executive director of the Zimmer Children’s Museum; Barbara Yaroslavsky, former chair of the Jewish Public Affairs Committee; Meralee Goldman, former mayor of Beverly Hills; Janet Salter, former first lady of Beverly Hills; and Michele Kleinert, Jewish liaison to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Others were Israeli Ambassador Yuval Rotem and wife, Miri; Rabbi Marvin Heir, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center; Rabbi Steven Weil of Beth Jacob Congregation; game show host Monty Hall; and fashion critic Mr. Blackwell.

“I wasn’t expecting Mr. Blackwell,” Lingle said. “I would have taken more care in what I wore.” — Adam Wills, Associate Editor

The Circuit

A True Best Friend

A hero of last fall’s destructive brushfires in San Bernardino was 5-year-old Duke, a miniature spaniel trained since 2000 to serve as a “co-therapist.” At one evacuation center during the weeklong siege, without prompting, Duke snuggled up to a 10-year-old boy who refused to talk after losing his cat and home. Slowly, the boy began telling Duke his story.

Duke’s owner, Dr. Lois Abrams, a Los Alamitos psychiatrist uses her dog as a tool to work with kids who have been exposed to trauma. She was soon able to take the boy to the proper people for assistance.

Abrams and Duke, who volunteer with a group that offers emotional support during disasters, were honored in April by the O.C. Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Abrams is a member of Westminster’s Temple Beth David.

O.C. Honors Israel

Nearly 3,000 people attended the community Israel celebration in May. The turnout earned an estimated $2,500 profit, said Mali Leitner, of Villa Park, who organized the event for O.C.’s Jewish Federation. Her goal was seed money for next year’s affair.

Nearly 100 booths were filled by Jewish merchants of goods and ideas, a stronger than anticipated show of community cooperation and vitality.

Francie Rosen created a festive mood on stage with a balloon arch.

Leitner’s volunteers were helped by the Young Judea youth group and Tzofim, the local chapter of the Israeli scouts.

Landau Bon Voyage

Nearly 300 people packed a farewell party also on June 6 to give a heartfelt send off to Rabbi Joel Landau and his wife, Johni, leaving Irvine’s Beth Jacob Congregation for Israel after 11 years.

Nonagenarian nachas

Reuben Kershaw will celebrate his 90th birthday July 11 with a family reunion party at Mission Viejo’s city library. Kershaw was president of the foundation that was instrumental in replacing the cramped county branch facility with the modern, spacious one that opened in 1997. The gardens at the library are named in his honor.

Bar None

Stuart P. Jasper of Mission Viejo received the prestigious Harmon G. Scoville award from the O.C. Bar Association on May 14. The award is presented annually to honor a local member of the bar whose career exemplifies the highest standards of the legal profession and who has significantly contributed to the group. Jasper, who has a business litigation practice in Irvine, is president of the local chapter of the American Inns of Court. Its monthly programs help lawyers become more effective advocates with a keener ethical awareness.

Jasper’s son, Todd, graduated in June from Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School in Irvine and plans to attend George Washington University in the fall.

Bowling Over

Mert Isaacman, 57, of Irvine, the top lawn bowling player in the country for the last two years, was named to a five-man U.S. team that will compete July 23-Aug. 8 in Ayr, Scotland, for the lawn bowling world championship.

Held every four years and coinciding with the Olympics in Athens, the tournament draws competitors from 40 countries. Teams are selected based on cumulative scores of 21-point games over four years. Last November, Isaacman won a silver medal in the singles division of an international tournament in Brisbane, New Zealand. The year before in Australia — where 600,000 players play the sport and spectators scream like their at a Lakers game — Isaacman became the first American medal winner in singles, considered the premier event. Just 20,000 players compete in the United States.

Isaacman, a real estate developer, is one of Beth Jacob Congregation’s many South African expatriates. He took up the sport seriously in 1986 after an embarrassing beginning. His introduction had come 10 years earlier in a bet over a game with his late father, who spotted him a 15-point lead.

“I never scored a point,” he admitted, and also lost the $100 bet. =

The Champions

The fifth- and sixth-grade teams from Rancho Santa Margarita’s Morasha Jewish Day School earned first place finishes when they competed in the “National Current Events League” in May.

The competition consists of four “meets” where classes independently take tests that cover an array of topics in the news over the previous two months. Results are tabulated after the fourth test and overall winners announced.

Morasha’s fifth-graders went up against 115 schools,
outscoring their nearest competitor by 10 points. The sixth-graders had a bigger
field of 139 competitors, outscoring the nearest rival by 47 points. Student Ben
Cohen was the only individual who received a perfect score; classmates Dillon
Katz, Lauren Shapiro and Ari Mor were also top scorers.

The Circuit

Gonna Fly Now!

Zubin Mehta, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO)’s music director for life, announced that the orchestra’s first performance of its 2003 American tour will be a gala IPO fundraiser at the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles on Dec. 10.

“Intifada or no intifada, people are packing the concert halls,” Mehta said of the orchestra’s homeland success.

Joining Mehta and his wife, Nancy, at the Peninsula Hotel press conference in Beverly Hills were a clutch of IPO supporters, including gala co-chairs Margo and Irwin Winkler and Edye and Eli Broad; both couples will be honored at the concert banquet.

“The experience has been wonderful,” said Eli Broad of his years supporting the IPO. “It’s really enriched our lives. It’s a great way to not only support the orchestra, but the soul of Israel.”

“I’m a big fan,” said Irwin Winkler, the producer behind the “Rocky” series and Martin Scorcese classics such as “Raging Bull.” “It’s a great cultural ambassador for the State of Israel.”

Among those on hand for Mehta’s announcement: gala principal benefactors Vidal and Ronnie Sassoon; gala vice chairs Mel and Joyce Eisenberg Keefer and Annette and Peter O’Malley; and Denise Maynard, programming director at K-Mozart 105.1. Following the Dec. 10 event, the IPO will round out December with performances in Costa Mesa, Newark, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Welcome Back, Kosofsky

Congregation Shaarei Tefila of Los Angeles has welcomed its new spiritual leader, Rabbi Nachum Kosofsky, and his wife, Elana. Kosofsky, an L.A. native, returned to his home town from Columbus, Ohio, where he served three years as assistant rabbi for the Beth Jacob Congregation with Rabbi David Stavsky. The Kosofskys return to Los Angeles with their five children, Racheli, 7, Naami, 6, Meira, 4, Shmuel, 2, and Yechiel, 6 months.

A Dream Come True

Leo Baeck Temple organist Shiri Lee Pitesky was honored for her first 50 years as the Temple’s organist by helping her realizing her dream — to play “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch at Dodger Stadium at the June 19 game.

A Verizon Horizon

Verizon Foundation contributed $50,000 to become the first corporate sponsor of KOREH L.A, a program of The Jewish Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Committee (JCRC) that promotes childhood literacy. KOREH L.A. has more than 1,300 volunteers currently reading with students in more than 50 LAUSD elementary schools.

Dinner with Julia

America’s first lady of food, Julia Child, was the honorary chair and special guest at “Endangered Treasures: A Celebration of Cookbook Preservation,” a Four Seasons fundraiser that grossed $50,000 to preserve rare historic cookbooks.

Sponsored by the International Association of Culinary Professionals Foundation (IACPF), the event attracted 135 patrons in support of the project that food historians describe as “doing for old cookbooks what the American Film Institute does for classic films.”

Luminaries in attendance: cookbook author and Journal contributor Judy Zeidler, actress Faith Ford, TV personalities/event emcees Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken and keynote speaker Barbara Haber, author of “From Hardtack to Home Fries: An Uncommon History of American Cooks and Meals.”

“This was a truly magical evening that was made even more special with an appearance by the legendary Julia Child,” remarked food writer Amelia Saltsman, the event’s co-chair.

Child urged guests to support the cause and “do it with flair!”

For information, visit . — Staff Report

The Circuit

Film Fest Fun

The succession of subtitles onscreen was riveting and jarring: “The biggest singer in France is Israeli…. Mike Brant looked relaxed and beautiful, except his head was lying in a pool of blood.”

The text flashed across the screen during a teaser for “Mike Brant: Laisse Moi T’aimer,” an Israeli documentary exploring the stormy, short-lived starburst of Brant, an Israeli singer who didn’t even speak fluent French when he took France by storm with his pop hits in the early 1970s. By 1975, at age 28, he fell to his death from the sixth floor of his Paris apartment building in an apparent suicide.

“Mike Brant,” an Israeli 2003 Cannes entry, was one of more than two-dozen cinematic offerings at the 19th Israel Film Festival, a film anthology spotlighting the latest crop of feature-film fiction and documentaries coming out of Israel.

Erez Laufer, director of “Mike Brant,” was one of the honorees at the opening-night gala, held at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills. Laufer, during his acceptance speech for the Cinematic Award, told the audience that he was pleased to be at Cannes 33 years to the date of Brant’s first performance on a French TV show.

Israeli filmmakers were, naturally, the focus of the fete, but they weren’t the only ones being honored on opening night. The festival also saluted a couple of local yokels who are doing all right for themselves. Richard Riordan, former L.A. mayor and prospective newspaper publisher, introduced Humanitarian Award-recipient Larry King. Marvel Entertainment’s Avi Arad presented the Visionary Award to Laura Ziskin.

Ziskin, who previously had a hand in “Pretty Woman” and “Fight Club,” said, “I work under the motto that movies aren’t made. They’re forced into existence.”

Meir Fenigstein, festival founder and executive director, shared his incredulity over his event reaching the big 19. He spoke highly of the “challenge bringing the unique films and creativity of Israeli filmmakers to the U.S.A.”

“The festival allows us to see Israel without the politics,” said Kobi Oshrat, the Israel Consulate’s cultural attaché. “It shows what Israeli society is all about.”

This year’s festival, which runs through June 8, highlights films like “Slaves of the Lord,” another Cannes entry; and festival opener “All I’ve Got,” a macabre romantic comedy written and directed by Keren Margalit, which was screened at the gala opening and underscored the special “Reflections of Women” category.

Following the screening of “All I’ve Got,” The Circuit chatted with Ronit Reichman, a Tel Aviv University graduate and the producer of “Under Water,” who is in the process of relocating her Tamuz Productions to Los Angeles, where she will produce a three-part documentary on Islamic terrorism. The Circuit also caught up with Laufer, also a Tel Aviv University alum.

“In France, there’s a big ’70s revival right now, so people were ready for this film,” Laufer said of his Cannes reception. For Laufer, chronicling the life of the late Brant was “a journey to try and piece it together from what people say, from archive footage. You try to find the person.”

Also in attendance: L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky; “Wisdom of the Pretzel” producer Shai Werker-Option; “In the Ninth Month” writer-director Ali Nassar and star Nissrin Faour; “Return From India” producer Evgeny Afineevsky; “Local Hero in Jerusalem Beach” director Natali Eskinazim; David Lipkind, Israel Film Fund executive director; Meital Dohan, star of “God’s Sandbox,” and the film’s producer, Yoav Halevy; and Arthur Hiller, director of the original “The In-Laws,” who — with Arnon Milchan, Mike Medavoy, Michael Fuchs, Peter Chernin, Sumner Redstone, Sherry Lansing, Ron Meyer, Joe Roth, Terry Semel, Haim Saban, Steven Spielberg, Ted Turner and Jack Valenti — comprised the impressive roster of honorary chairs and co-chairs for 2003’s Festival.

For more information on the 19th Israel Film Festival, call (877) 966-5566 or visit .

Singer Packs Seniors With Old School Hits

Thousands of screaming girls. Packed nightclubs. Love-crazy
fans. Ron Gartner has seen it all.

That is, on television, of course.

In real life, Gartner is an up-and-coming singer who, while
not exactly drawing the sorts of crowds that come to Eminem shows, is packing
the social halls of senior centers across the nation singing the tunes of Frank
Sinatra, Tony Bennett and other big-band and Motown standards. His fans may be
closer in age to Bob Hope than Britney Spears, but Gartner is quickly becoming
the newest big thing in the senior-home entertainment circuit.

Originally a denizen of what he calls the shmatte business —
the garment industry — Gartner, 58, is building a second career by singing
big-band favorites in nursing homes, senior centers and gated retirement
communities all over the country. Now, on the eve of the release of his first
CD, “Someone Like You,” Gartner is bringing his show to Southern California for
two performances, on April 10 at Leisure World, a gated community in Laguna
Woods, and on April 13 at the Indian Ridge Country Club in Palm Desert, where
Gartner is playing the Desert Cancer Fund Dinner Dance.

“I am as close to Las Vegas as a lot of these seniors are
going to get,” said Gartner, who croons the oldies solo, along with backup
music recorded on a state-of-the-art, karaoke-style machine and sound system he
brings with him to performances. “I really give them a hell of a show for an

Gartner’s debonair performance includes the hip-swinging tunes
of the likes of Sinatra, Perry Como and Steve Lawrence. Though not all audience
members are actually able to swing their hips — real or plastic — seniors are
flocking to Gartner’s lounge-style act, if advance bookings are any indication.

Gartner launched his new career about two and a half years
ago, when his wife, Fran Heller, told him she was tired of following him to
piano bars late at night to hear him indulge a hobby she knew was close to his
heart but far from his livelihood. At the time, Gartner was working full time
in the textile business at a company he owned called BiCoastal Textiles. Until
then, the only time his garment-industry work enabled him to use his voice was
when he did a few radio spots for the Fabric Warehouse, a chain of retail stores
in Los Angeles owned by Gartner and his father.

“Ronnie’s been singing for a long time,” Heller said. “He
had his own band in college, and over the years he would go to karaoke bars and
piano bars.”

When his wife stopped going with him to the piano bars,
Gartner knew he had to find another outlet for his singing. He offered his
services free of charge to a ballroom dance class at a senior center in
Flushing, Queens, and within weeks he was getting inquiries from senior centers
all over the New York area. He began charging $50 to $75 for his gigs, and
within months, the combination of word-of-mouth promotion and his wife’s
advertising savvy — she’s an executive at the Young & Rubicam advertising
agency — propelled him into the top tier of the senior entertainment circuit.

“It was almost beshert,” Gartner said. “I offered to do the
ballroom dance class at the senior center in Flushing. I got a standing
ovation. Then they said they have monthly birthday parties, and I said I’d
perform for that.”

It wasn’t long before Gartner moved up from senior centers
to assisted-living and independent-living residences. Now he’s making his
entrée into gated communities, the holy grail of the Borscht Belt, as Gartner
sees it.

The son of a Holocaust survivor and Jewish boy from the
Bronx, Gartner got his start in synagogue choirs in his native Los Angeles. One
of his first paid gigs was at a Jewish cemetery, where he was part of a choir
singing at an annual memorial service.Â

“My Hebrew school teachers were foaming at the mouth for me
to be a cantor, but it just wasn’t for me,” he said. Gartner gave up synagogue
songs after his bar mitzvah, and by the time he graduated from Fairfax High in
1962, a singing career was looking less and less likely. “I was going to be the
first white recording artist for Motown, and when that didn’t happen, my dad
had always been in the fabric business, so I went with that.”

He moved to New York from Los Angeles about eight years ago,
met his wife through matchmaker-to-the-rich Janis Spindel, and grew
increasingly restive in textiles. Now that he’s playing two to three shows a
week at $1,500 a pop, fabrics have taken a back seat to Gartner’s singing
career. The Friars Club has taken an interest in Gartner, and the fledgling
musician is trying to break into easy-listening radio stations. But his
favorite audiences, he says, are Jewish ones.

“I really love performing for a Jewish crowd, because it
gives me a chance to be a little looser,” he said, peppering his conversation
with Henny Youngman-style one-liners. “I’ll throw Yiddishisms into my show. I
never want to forget my roots.”

For more information about the Desert Cancer Fund Dinner
Dance, call (760) 773-6554, 8 a.m.-12 p.m. Â

The Circuit

Bravo For SoCal’s Educators and Administrators!

You might call him the event’s “grand Marshall.”

Garry Marshall — director of “Pretty Woman” and “The Princess Diaries” and creator of TV shows such as “The Odd Couple” and “Happy Days” — hosted this year’s 20th annual Bravo Awards, as he had last year…and the year before…and every other year since the inception of the event that recognizes the achievements Southern California’s educators, school administrators and schools.

Goofing on the banquet’s expensive centerpieces, Marshall quipped, “Someone in the art classes, they should say, ‘We’ll do the centerpieces.'”

Marshall was all jokes, but his devotion to the cause, sponsored by the Music Center Education Division, is very serious.

This year, Arcadia High School was singled out from among 11 schools for top honors. Also honored were choral music teacher Mike Short of Orange High School; Laura Hamlett, second-grade teacher at Eagle Rock Elementary; Jennifer Fry, a fifth-grade teacher at Meadows Elementary in Thousand Oaks; and Jeff Lantos, fifth-grade teacher at Marquez Elementary in Pacific Palisades.

The Millennium Biltmore gala was sponsored by Club 100, a Music Center membership support organization headed by President Astrid Rottman. Club 100 member Janice Wallace chaired the event, while Sharon Reisz served as the Bravo endowment chair. Music Center CEO Andrea Van de Kamp, Music Center President Joanne Kozberg, and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin all graced the stage, as did the John Burroughs High School Chamber Choir and the Washington Preparatory High School Jazz Band, both of which performed at the event.

At The Circuit’s table sat Mark Slavkin. It was about this time last year that Slavkin assumed the post of Music Center Education Division director, taking over the position from Joan Boyett, who created the arts education branch in 1979. Slavkin oversees a staff of 30 and a budget of $4.8 million annually, which goes toward sending visual and performing artists to 1 million children in LAUSD and private schools throughout L.A. County.

Accompanying Slavkin at the banquet was his wife of 16 years, Debbie Slavkin. The Slavkins, USC sweethearts, belong to B’nai Tikvah in Westchester.

“Regardless of the work, he’s very much a people person, interested in the back story because that’s what makes everything tick,” said Debbie, an Arizona native.

The Circuit also kibbitzed with Los Angeles Board of Education President Caprice Young, five months pregnant with her third girl.

“It’s not just about self-esteem,” Young said, before taking to the dais for the program. “It’s about kids having the confidence to be courageous learners.”

“It’s not just exposing them to every culture but combining it with a twist on the art form,” Slavkin added, citing classes in everything from African drumming to jazz vocalists to mariachi music.

Slavkin, who has four children with Debbie, previously worked in similar capacities with the Annenberg Foundation and Getty Education Institute. He told The Circuit that there’s no better job than working with the nexus of the arts and children.

“It’s a joyous challenge,” he said, smiling.

For more information, visit or contact Lynda Jenner, director of special projects, at (213) 202-2286.

Come on Everybody, Let’s Do the Conga…

Call this a case of banging the conga drum for a good cause. The Presidents Club, which supports Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services, held a benefit event at the Conga Room. More than 150 guests enjoyed an evening that included a buffet dinner, Latin music and Salsa lessons. The event, chaired by Cheryl Paller, raised more than $20,000 for the nonprofit, which aids children in Southern California undergoing emotional distress, abuse or neglect. Stacie and Bruce Kirshbaum, Gisele and Steve Paul and Lucienne and David Soleymani were among the evening’s co-sponsors.

For more information on Vista Del Mar, visit

Freewheeling Freehling

University Synagogue will honor Rabbi Allen Freehling and his remarkable career at a Regent Beverly Wilshire banquet on April 23. After 30 years of service, Freehling will step down from his post as the synagogue’s spiritual leader at the end of June and become the shul’s first rabbi emeritus.

Come, Union!

Yoav Sarraf and a band of fellow UCLA students are creating a new organization, tentatively called the Persian Jewish Student Union. The goal is to develop a social, cultural, political and educational agenda. If you are a Persian student and you would like to get involved, contact Sarraf at (310) 749-9628.

A Lot of Shabbat

On March 8, nearly 70 synagogues across the continent participated in Shabbat Across America/Canada. Now in its sixth year, the project, sponsored by the National Jewish Outreach Program, hopes to increase and enhance synagogue life.

‘Celebration,’ a Community Invitation

Come April, Israel will turn 54. However, you don’t have to go to Israel to celebrate. The people behind “Celebration 54,” a free community celebration in honor of Israel’s 54th year as a recognized country, promise a festive family event highlighting Israeli music and dance performances, a children’s choir and a video show. The April 16 program, to be held at the Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus in West Hills, will include an outdoor picnic on the grounds, where guests can either bring their own picnic dinners or purchase kosher food from on-site vendors. Organizers are requesting that attendees wear blue and white in honor of the occasion. Israeli dancing also is planned.

The event — sponsored by a team of Valley Alliance synagogues, schools and Jewish organizations — will kick off with a tribute to Israel’s Memorial Day. For more information, call (818) 530-5001.

The Circuit

Shushan Revisited

Ghostbusters, Little Red Riding Hood and tigers were among the hundreds of guests at the Purim Extravaganza at The Century Club on the holiday eve. “MC Schwartzie” (Rabbi Shlomo Schwartz of the Happy Minyan) hosted the long evening’s festivities, which included hourly Megillah readings, drinking, dancing, and a bevy of entertainers: The Gregg Fisher Band, The Purim Pranskters, Peter Himmelman and comedian Elan Gold, among others, performed.

Fire and Ice

The Jewish Journal and JDate co-hosted a singles event in two suites directly behind the Kings’ goal at Staples Center on Feb. 13, ensuring that the action wasn’t confined exclusively to the ice as the Kings faced off against the Phoenix Coyotes. First-timers had no need for pick-up lines as they pressed the die-hard hockey fans amongst the crowd of more than 200 to explain the rules of the game. The JDate raffle’s top prize: a Caribbean cruise. — Staff Report

Hebrew’s Cool

Los Angeles Hebrew High School (LAHHS) held its annual Chesed Award Celebration at Sinai Temple. More than 380 people attended.

From Friedman to Freemans Bay Teshuvah

Coastal protection group Heal the Bay announced the election of a new leader. Adi Liberman, an executive with the public relations firm Winner and Associates, has been chosen to succeed Tony Pritzker.

Good Deeder

Dr. Arlo Gordin, a Los Angeles-based doctor of chiropractics and nutrition, presented 19-year-old Leslie Medina with a new computer at his Universal City offices. Gordin, in cooperation with, will award a $15,000 Master Deeder Scholarship to a qualifying student who does good deeds.

The Grass Is Greener at IHF

The Israel Humanitarian Foundation (IHF) will hold — or should we say “holed?” — its Third Annual Golf Classic to benefit autistic children. For more information, call (310) 556-8358.

Powell to the People

The Ballina Hills Chapter of Women’s American ORT honored Dr. Bruce Powell at its annual Have a Heart Luncheon at the Skirball Cultural Center. Powell is the head of the New Community High School scheduled to open in the West San Fernando Valley in September 2002.

Larry and his Trophy

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s C.O.A.C.H. (Community Outreach Assistance for Children’s Health) for Kids Mobile Medical Unit held its annual Valentine’s Ball.

Garry Marshall was the master of ceremonies at the event, which attracted California gubernatorial candidate and former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan, Mike and Irena Medavoy, Vanna White, Kelly Preston, Norman Lear, Christian Slater, “Sugar” Ray Leonard, Harry Hamlin, Jonathan Silverman and Jane Seymour. The Eagles’ Don Henley performed.

Calling All Doctors!

Amie Karen Cancer Fund for Children, the largest support group for the Pediatric Cancer Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, honored Nellie Seddigh and Dr. Bijan Pourat at The Knitting Factory in Hollywood.

Hochman Event Scores Gore

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles will honor the late Bruce Hochman at its Legal Services Division banquet scheduled for March 19 at the Regent Beverly Wilshire. Former Vice President Al Gore will deliver the keynote speaker address.