Matchmaker, Matchmaker Make Me a Donation Match


Call him a personal shopper, a matchmaker or a boutique investment adviser. However he is described, Joseph Hyman is trying to chart a new course in the world of Jewish philanthropy. A longtime Jewish organizational professional and fundraiser, Hyman last year launched the Center for Entrepreneurial Jewish Philanthropy (CEJP) to support and advise philanthropists who are considering major gifts to Jewish and Israel-related causes.

Hyman acts as the middle man between donors and organizations, working with philanthropists to understand their particular interests, then he hits the pavement to locate worthwhile organizations that meet their philanthropic requirements.

The center’s goal is simple: to attract dollars to Jewish groups that might otherwise have gone elsewhere.

“If successful, we believe that CEJP will help to create a new paradigm in Jewish giving,” said Hyman, who is going public about his organization for the first time. “One that empowers and inspires a new generation of philanthropists to participate because they want to, not because they have to.”

His endeavor comes at a time when wealthy American Jews make a disproportionately high number of large gifts in United States but overwhelmingly make them to non-Jewish institutions. It also comes as philanthropists are increasingly looking to have a say in exactly where their dollars go.

The approach seems to be working.

Since its launch 19 months ago, the center already has facilitated more than $10 million in philanthropic donations to Jewish and Israel-related causes. Recipients include some well-known projects, such as Birthright Israel, which provides free, 10-day trips to Israel for young Jewish adults. They also include some lesser-known ones, including Meshi, a center in Israel offering the parents of special-needs children a break from child care, and Project Kesher, a group devoted to Jewish education and advocacy for women in the former Soviet Union.
“CEJP is revolutionary,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president and founder of The Israel Project, which has received two six-figure, multiyear commitments from donors working with the center.

“What it is doing,” she said, “is taking the desires of the philanthropists to heart and saying, ‘What is the outcome that you want? What is the investment that you want to make so that you can make positive change? And what’s the most cost-effective, reliable way to achieve those goals?'”

“There are people out there who are not giving to the level that they’re capable of giving,” said Adam Frieman, a longtime investment banker on Wall Street and a financial sponsor of the new center, said, Some portion of that group would give meaningfully more if somebody were able to connect with them on a personal level and make the giving personal.”

Hyman hopes that his efforts to eliminate much of the work involved in finding worthy causes will attract new dollars to Jewish groups.

“Beginning with the creation of Birthright about 10 years ago, it has been a core group of committed Jewish philanthropists who have challenged the community to move forward,” said Hyman, who stresses that his work is meant to complement that of the federations and other more traditional fundraising arms, not replace them.

“We are now beginning to see a new generation of megadonors emerge whose support is crucial to our future.”

The center today is working with nine North American philanthropists, including real estate developers, senior management of Fortune 500 companies and hedge fund managers, according to Hyman. And while all have donated to Jewish causes before, some now are giving at a much higher level.

Hyman likens the philanthropists “to world-class athletes who, with the proper support and coaching, can become Olympic gold medalists.”

Donor-advised funds are not new, say philanthropy insiders, and in fact have become increasingly popular over the last number of years in Jewish philanthropic circles.

However, said Sue Dickman, executive vice president of The Jewish Communal Fund, which facilitates and promotes charitable giving through donor-advised funds, the center is doing something different.

“What we do and what other donor-advised funds do is simply facilitate people’s philanthropy,” she said. “We don’t provide advice and input into the direction of their philanthropy. What Joe does is help people think strategically about their philanthropy and maximize the input that they can have.”

Other Jewish groups, notably the Jewish Funders Network, offer some donor advice. And several organizations are doing similar work in the general philanthropic world – among them the Wealth and Giving Forum, Rockefeller Advisory Services and the Philanthropic Initiative in Boston.

The center is also seen as attractive because it is supported by investors and does not charge for its work. Donors say that for this reason, they feel the group’s advice is objective.

“We felt that he could offer us something that we needed” because Hyman is “not connected to any particular organization but very well connected in the greater Jewish community both here in the U.S. and in Israel,” said the administrator of a private family foundation in the Chicago area, who requested anonymity for reasons of privacy.

Nearly two years ago, shortly before the center was launched, Hyman sat down with a Chicago-based private investor Robert Sklare to chat about philanthropy. They spent about 10 hours talking, Sklare said, discussing the Jewish philanthropic interests he and his wife, Yadelle, shared, the areas that got them excited and the problems they hoped to help solve. Then Hyman got to work tracking down a series of organizations that fit their bill.

Several did. In fact, Sklare said, since then, he’s donated a “substantial” amount of money to Israel-related organizations – certainly more than he’d have given had he never met Hyman.

He has since funded, among other groups, Birthright Israel; Karev, an after-school enrichment program for inner-city youngsters in Ashkelon, and Meitarim, a group of pluralistic schools that attempt to bridge the gap between religious and secular students.

According to Jeffrey Solomon, president of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, general philanthropy has nearly doubled in the last decade, and the growth of Hyman’s center reflects that trend.

“I think we’re going to see more and more different kinds of approaches to specialize it, make it more strategic, capture it,” he said. “This is the first one that is specifically aimed at Jewish philanthropy.”

Still, asked if this sort of philanthropy is the wave of the future, Solomon demurred.

“It’s hard to know what would have happened had CEJP not been there,” he said. “Would that money have gone to different Jewish organizations? To general charities? Would it have been given at all? While helping to direct millions of dollars is very impressive, it’s hard to know what would have happened had it not been there.”

Rabbi Irving Greenberg, president of the Jewish Life Network/Steinhardt Foundation, said that Michael Steinhardt, a megadonor to Jewish causes, was not initially convinced about Hyman’s efforts, but after he demonstrated that “he had a little bit of a track record, Michael became a funder.”

“I think it’s very significant,” Greenberg said of Hyman’s approach. “My guess is that this has not only got legs, but that this is the wave of the future.”

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 www.tourofhope.org.

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.

 

Teen’s Loss of Sister Spurs Charity Efforts


Seventeen-year-old Megan Knofsky keeps alive her sibling’s memory by sustaining a teen support group that raises money for research to find a cure for cystic fibrosis, the genetic disorder that affects 30,000 people and claimed her sister, Sarah, in 1997.

Two years ago, Knofsky of Irvine proved the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s top fundraiser nationally. By writing to everyone she knew about her plan to compete in a Kona benefit marathon, Knofsky received pledges of $33,000.

"All in memory of my sister. It was an awesome thing," said Knofsky, whose parents, Carol and Myron, accompanied her to Hawaii for the event.

"She could have started high school and pushed this aside," said Helen M. Johnson, the foundation’s California field management director in Anaheim. Instead, at virtually every foundation charity event in the area, Knofsky assembles a team of ready helpers drawn from Shooting Stars, the group she started in 1997 with her friends and those who knew her sister. "They’re an amazing group of young people," Johnson said.

On March 21, Knofsky will share a bit of her passion and startup know-how in mitzvah making at the fourth annual Mitzvah Mania fair at Irvine’s Tarbut V’ Torah Community Day School. The Bureau of Jewish Education’s free, communitywide event provides helpful advice for parents and their sixth-grade children, who plan a bar or bat mitzvah. Most rabbis expect a self-directed mitzvah project.

Last year, 150 families, most from 15 local synagogues, participated. Activities include a Mitzvot R Us exhibit of poster-board illustrated mitzvah projects. Some of the mitzvah makers will be on hand to personally describe their charitable projects and explain their displays.

Participants also will visit four, 20-minute workshops, where speakers such as Knofsky will give students a firsthand look at suggested charitable work. These include animal therapy and assisting disabled children in sports.

Knofsky did a food drive for her own project as a bat mitzvah at Santa Ana’s Temple Beth Sholom. But she is more enthusiastic about Shooting Stars, so-named to "shoot for the cure." The group now has about 90 members that she contacts through an e-mail list.

"I’m lucky that my friends participate," said the Northwood High School senior and class president, who encourages participation in Cystic Fibrosis Foundation events by handing out brochures in class and at school clubs. She expects 20 to 30 Shooting Stars will collect pledges and walk as a team for Great Strides, a May 15 10-K walk in Huntington Beach.

"I’m very dedicated to the CF Foundation," Knofsky said, noting that life expectancy for those with the genetic disorder has increased from five to 33 years during her sister’s brief, 12-year lifetime.

"We could have planted a tree, but that’s not continuing," said Knofsky, born 22 months after her sibling. "I wanted her to still be a part of me."

Torch Song Trilogy


Linda Gach Ray has been carrying the torch for years.

This week, she made it official by running the Olympic flame down a stretch of Figueroa Street as the torch was relayed through Southern California on its way to the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, which begin Feb. 8.

Nominated by her business partner for her charitable work, her balance of family and a full-time job and her inspiration to others, Gach Ray is one of 11,500 Torchbearers to carry the flame more than 13,000 miles through 46 states.

"Even though [my portion is] two-tenths of a mile, I feel this amazing part of the fabric of international unity," said Gach Ray, adding that she was proud to represent the Jewish community.

As a lawyer she has volunteered for Bet Tzedek, and she now sits on the advisory board for youTHink, a program of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Los Angeles’ Zimmer Children’s Museum. Additionally, Gach Ray co-founded a branch of the California Special Olympics in honor of a dear friend who died at 33. She also volunteers for Stop Cancer and the Beverly Hills Education Foundation.

Growing up in the shadow of Rancho Park’s Little League diamonds, she said she always wanted to play baseball. "But in my day, no one would have ever thought of the possibility of a little girl playing on a Little League team." Instead of breaking into women’s baseball, Gach Ray broke into women’s baseball ownership. Today, she and her business partner co-own the Provo Angels, a Utah-based minor league team affiliated with the Anaheim Angels.

A woman owning a team used to be more unusual than it is now. "[That’s] been my pattern," she said. "When I became a lawyer in the 1970s, I was a lot more of a novelty than I am now."

To prepare for the run, the 5-foot-2 Gach Ray trained with her family’s 140-pound Rhodesian Ridgeback named Spike, "who pulls me a little faster than I should go," she said. The training regimen was essential to Gach Ray’s success as an official Torchbearer. "You don’t want to drop that flame," said the mother of teenagers. "You don’t want to run like a dork and embarrass your children."

Your Letters


Terror in America

It is incomprehensible that Joel Kotkin would use his article in The Jewish Journal (“A New World View,” Sept. 21) to blame former President Clinton for the World Trade Center tragedy. In using the conservative Republican line that Clinton is to blame, he conveniently forgets that it was former President Reagan who financed the current Afghan regime and that it was former President Bush who started and then did not finish off the war against Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Martin Brower, Corona del Mar


Teresa Strasser

Every Friday, my wife picks up two copies of The Journal for our Shabbat afternoon reading. It is one of many ways we keep abreast of what is happening in the community. Invariably, every few weeks, I find a letter from someone scolding The Jewish Journal for allowing Teresa Strasser to share her life with us and each time I ask myself, “What is the big deal?”

At a time when we as a nation are facing such virulent hatred and violence that has, unfortunately, resulted in many of us canceling visits to Israel, beating up on our own is worse than shameful. Personally, my wife and I find Strasser’s articles a refreshing break from the continuous barrage of bad news surrounding the events in our homeland. It’s nice that in the midst of all the violence, some of us can still find things to smile about.

Gary Hall, Los Angeles


Cantorial Music

I see great beauty and value in much of the contemporary, popular music being sung in synagogues throughout the country, but not all of it successfully sets our sacred texts to music of quality (“Sing a New Song,” Sept. 14).

While we seek out and utilize the more powerful of these modern works, we are also bound by our commitment to those who came before us to expose our congregants to the tremendous beauty of our cantorial heritage.

We all share the same goal — to bring the beauty of Judaism to as many Jews as possible. But we disagree, perhaps, on how to achieve this goal and what constitutes success.

Cantor Lisa Sharlin, Huntington Beach


Frank Gehry

In an issue that highlights the work of the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, The Journal’s cover features Frank Gehry, who is working to destroy natural spaces right here in Los Angeles (Aug. 31).

Gehry is currently designing the cornerstone buildings for the Playa Vista development (between Marina del Rey and Westchester), which will decimate 1,087 acres of wetlands. Wetlands are second only to rainforests in biodiversity and ability to extract man-made toxins from our environment. Only 5 percent of Southern California’s natural wetlands remain as open area available for restoration.

The story about boyhood Gehry playing with a carp in the bathtub is a sad forecast. As an adult, Frank Gehry (with Playa Capital) is slating the entire aquatic population of the Santa Monica Bay for eventual destruction, by destroying their breeding grounds, or the breeding grounds of their foodstock. This time, there’ll be far more than one fish killed.

Name withheld by request


Corrections

In the Sept. 14 Circuit’s “Spielberg’s Real Legacy,” the name of the synagogue to which Leah Adler belongs was incorrect. Adler is a member of Congregation Bais Bezalel.


In the Sept. 14 article “How Wexner Came Back to L.A.,” the Nathan Cummings Foundation was responsible for the contribution, not James Cummings. Also, Cummings is the Nathan Cummings Foundation’s board of trustees chair, not the president. The president of the Nathan Cummings Foundation is Lance Lindblom.


The cover photo for the Aug. 31 Orange County section was taken by Wendy Leberman at Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School in Irvine.

Fund for Survivors


A foundation to aid needy Holocaust survivors in California, funded through a $4.2-million check from three Dutch insurance companies, was formally established last week by state officials, Jewish organizations and survivors.

The California Humanitarian Foundation for Holocaust Survivors is believed to be the first of its kind funded by European insurers, who have generally dragged their feet in meeting their obligations to Jews who took out policies between the two world wars.

In presenting the check, representing contributions by Aegon USA, ING America Insurance Holdings and Fortis, Inc., California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said he hoped the action by the three Dutch affiliates "will unleash efforts all over the world by insurance companies to overcome interminable delays."

He urged other European insurance carriers to step forward in meeting their obligations to Jewish and other victims of the Holocaust "as a matter of conscience."

Arthur Stern described establishment of the new foundation, which he chairs, as "a significant milestone for all survivors." Stern, like eight of the foundation’s 12 board members, is himself a Holocaust survivor.

He estimated that 1,000 to 2,000 out of 22,000 survivors in California are indigent and should receive payments "equitably, speedily" and with a minimum of red tape. The primary California survivor communities are in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego.

Though appreciative of the Dutch gesture, survivor Jona Goldrich, who serves as Gov. Gray Davis’ liaison for Holocaust issues, commented that the $4.2 million represented "just a token of the money owed." He estimated that European insurers owe as much as $1 billion to survivors and their heirs.

The action by the Dutch companies is a humanitarian gesture and does not affect any insurance claims against them. Lockyer praised the three as "the best corporate citizens" among European insurers, in contrast to insurance giants Allianz of Germany and Assicurazioni Generali of Italy, which owe hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars to their former policyholders, he said.

Initial announcement of the companies’ $4.2-million offer was made as long ago as November 1999 by then-state Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush. However, he failed to collect the money, and some months afterward he became embroiled in corruption charges and eventually resigned.

Quackenbush’s interim successor, Harry Low, said he hoped to have all the money distributed to needy survivors by 2002, and Stern said he expected to send out the first checks this year by Labor Day.

The Jewish Community Foundation in Los Angeles will administer and distribute the funds without cost so that all the money will go directly to survivors in need.

Among those applauding the new humanitarian fund was survivor Fred Diament, 77, who lost his parents and three brothers in the Final Solution.

"After all the suffering, and now in the last years of their lives, [survivors] should live in a garage? That’s unacceptable and intolerable," he said.

Richard Mahan, the foundation’s executive director, advised those wishing further information to phone (888) 890-9911.

Staff Writer Michael Aushenker contributed to this article.

Cover Story


The expulsion of Jews from the IberianPeninsula 500 years ago brought a tragic end to a Jewish presencethat had thrived for centuries in Sepharad, the Hebrew word forSpain. It also set in motion the dispersion of Sephardicculture.

Strictly speaking, Sephardic Jewry includes thecommunities that fanned out across North Africa, Italy, Turkey, theMideast and Greece after the expulsion. But in today’s colloquialsense, the word Sephardic has come to include most non-Ashkenazim.Jews from countries such as Iraq, Iran and Yemen, whose communitiesoriginate with the First and Second Temple exiles, never sojourned inSpain or Portugal, but are generally included within the broaddefinition of Sephardim. In Israel, these Jews are known as Mizrachi,usually translated as Middle Eastern or Oriental.

Sephardic and Mizrachi Jews hold fast tocustoms, food, music, liturgical style and Hebrew pronunciation,which are distinct from the Ashkenazi community. Within Sephardicsubcommunities, traditions vary widely, depending on where theculture evolved. That diversity is reflected in Los Angeles, home toan estimated 100,000 Sephardic and Mizrachi Jews.

This listing is just a partial menu of theorganizations that constitute Los Angeles’ Sephardic communities.They will be featured and celebrated at the Skirball Cultural Center,beginning with a festival this Sunday (see article) and continuingthroughout the month. The array of synagogues, restaurants andschools listed here testify to the rich history and colorfultraditions that characterize Sephardic Judaism. — Julie GruenbaumFax, ReligionEditor

From left, sculpture by Claudie LaToussier Oliver,Oudist John Bilezikjian and Mezzo-soprano Isabelle Ganz will be atthe Sephardic Arts Festival . Below, Detail from “Purim” by NessimSibony, one of the Sephardic Festival artists.

Sephardic Guide to

Los Angeles

By Naomi Pfefferman,

Entertainment Writer

Organizations

Ivri-NASAWI (National Association of SephardicArtists, Writers and Intellectuals): Amulticultural group that emphasizes Sephardic and Mizrachi arts andhumanities, and produces a quarterly newsletter, salons, festivals,concerts, symposia and a National Sephardic Literary Contest. 1033 N.Orlando Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90069. (323) 650-3157.

The Society for Crypto-JudaicStudies: With an annual conference andquarterly newsletter, the society gathers and exchanges informationabout “Crypto-Jews,” those descended from Jews who were forced toconvert to Catholicism in 15th-century Spain and Portugal. 333Washington Blvd., No. 336, Marina del Rey, CA 90292. (310)821-5141.

Sephardic Educational Center: Founded as the first worldwide Sephardic center in 1979,the SEC has 16 active chapters from Buenos Aires to Los Angeles,where you’ll find Shabbatons, popular singles “Classes for theMasses” and more. Some 16,000 youths have attended the SEC’s programsin Jerusalem, where an accredited, one-year university program inSephardic studies will begin next year. SEC also publishes aquarterly newsletter, Hamerkaz. 10808 Santa Monica Blvd., LosAngeles, CA 90025. (310) 441-9361.

Sephardic Women’s Division of the United JewishFund: The some 40 active participantsraised $110,000 in 1997 for the UJF. 5700 Wilshire Blvd., No. 2815,Los Angeles, CA 90036. For information, call Florence Klatzko (323)761-8312.

Maurice Amado Foundation: Established in 1961 by a Sephardic Jew who emigrated fromTurkey to the United States in 1903, the foundation perpetuatesSephardic heritage and culture by financially supporting Sephardicactivities, institutions, educational programs and events — such asthis year’s Sephardic Arts Festival at the Skirball Cultural Center.1801 Avenue of the Stars, No. 942, Los Angeles, CA 90067. (800)295-4950.

The Hyman Jebb Levy Foundation: Supports a scholarship fund and a wide variety ofSephardic organizations in Los Angeles. (213) 623-6277.

The Los Angeles Sephardic Home for the Aging(LASHA): A support group of the JewishHome for the Aging, LASHA also has outreach programs that linkSephardic Jews to the Home’s some 35 Sephardic residents. Lashon isthe group’s bimonthly newspaper. 7150 Tampa Ave., Reseda, CA 91335.(818) 774-3330.

Synagogues

Sephardic Temple TiferethIsrael: Founded some 75 years ago byTurkish immigrants, Los Angeles’ largest full-service Sephardictemple and only Ladino-speaking congregation now serves 800 families.The shul also has a 110-student religious school, an upcomingSephardic museum and two Ladino-rich libraries. Rabbi DanielBouskila. 10500 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90024. (310)475-7311.

Kahal Joseph SephardicCongregation: Perhaps the only synagogueon the West Coast to worship in the ancient Baghdadi Minhag, KahalJoseph’s 400 families are primarily Iraqi but also include Jews fromSingapore, Indonesia, India and Myanmar. Fifty children attend theHebrew school. Rabbi Hillel Benchimol. 10505 Santa Monica Blvd., LosAngeles, CA 90025. (310) 474-0559.

Em Habanim SephardicCongregation: Moroccan immigrants foundedthis shul in a storefront in 1974; today, the near 400 participantsworship at headquarters in North Hollywood or at satellites inBeverly Hills, West Hills or Cal State Northridge Hillel. A $1.2million, 8,000-square-foot community center is under constructionnext door to the main shul, where Haim Louk, a renowned Andalusianmusic virtuoso, is the cantor and rabbi. 5850 Laurel Canyon Blvd.,North Hollywood, CA 91607. (818) 762-7779. Rabbi Moshe Benzaquenheads the West Coast Torah Center/Em Habanim of Beverly Hills, 415 N.Crescent Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90210. (310) 474-6508.

Torah Ohr:Specializing in outreach, this Sephardic Orthodox shul draws some 200participants with four daily Judaica classes and lectures on line.Rabbi Eliyahu Kin. 7200 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036. (213)939-6763 or (323) 933-3111.

Hashalom Congregation: A new Orthodox shul with a kabbalistic slant. Rabbi HagayBasri. 1010 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90035. (310)652-9014.

Beth Midrash Mishkan Israel: Some 100 families, led by a Moroccan-born rabbi,participate in weekly Torah classes, a Talmud-Torah and Shabbatservices. Rabbi Samuel Ohana. 13312 Burbank Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA91401. (818) 901-1598.

Magen David Congregation: Originally founded by Syrian Jews, the shul, which tracesits minhagim to Alepo, Syria, hosts daily minyans and some 150Shabbat worshippers. 322 N. Foothill Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90210.(310) 285-9957.

Adat Yeshurun Valley SephardicCongregation: Composed of Jews from NorthAfrica, the shul follows the Moroccan minhag; welcomes 100 Shabbatworshipers; offers mikvah services for men and women; and recentlybought property to create a day school. 12405 Sylvan St., NorthHollywood, CA 91606. (818) 766-4682.

Minyan Yaniv Moshe:Founded in the memory of two young Sephardic Jews, Yaniv Sidis andYosef Hami, the shul is now looking for a new place to congregate.(310) 273-5731.

Pinto Torah Center:An outreach center for Israelis, Persians, Sephardim and Ashkenazim,the center holds daily services, classes in several languages, andShabbat services for about 100 congregants. The center, one of 10around the world, is run by Rabbi Yaakov Pinto, grandson of thelegendary Rabbi Chaim Pinto, the great kabbalist of Morocco (seearticle). 8660 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 659-6700.

Yismach Moshe Congregation: 7675 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036. (213)939-2681.

Schools

Maimonides Academy:Founded in 1969, this coed Orthodox institution, one of the oldestSephardic schools in Los Angeles, offers secular and religiousstudies that emphasize Sephardic heritage and tradition. 310 N.Huntley Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90048. (310) 659-2456.

The Maurice Amado Chair in Sephardic Studies atUCLA: A professor who teaches andorganizes an annual colloquium (this year’s chair was renowned Ladinoexpert and author Dr. Moshe Lazar). UCLA also has a series of MauriceAmado distinguished lectures in Sephardic studies; a planned visitingchair in Judeo-Persian language and an impressive Sephardiccollection at the university research library.

Book & Record Stores

B’er Moshe: Operatedby the Pinto Torah Center, this Judaic shop offers a variety ofritual objects, music, jewelry and books at discounted prices. 8662W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA. (310) 659-6700.

Matilda Seror Sisterhood Gift Shop at SephardicTemple Tifereth Israel: Carries assortedSephardic and Ladino-language CDs and books, including Albert M.Passy’s unprecedented English-Ladino dictionary. 10500 WilshireBlvd., Los Angeles, CA 90024. (310) 470-2787.

Hatikvah Music:Sports perhaps the largest collection of Sephardic and Ladino CDs intown, including Jewish music from medieval Spain, Judeo-baroque musicfrom Italy and traditional Yemenite and Jewish Bukharan fare. 436 N.Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90036. (323) 655-7083.

Restaurants

Hadar Restaurant:Family-style glatt kosher Chinese, Moroccan and Middle Eastern food.A Chinese-born chef serves up the chow mein while owner-catererYvonne Ohana supervises the Sephardic chow. Sunday-Thursday, 11a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. until an hour before Shabbat. 12514Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91607. (818) 762-1155.

Golan: Glatt kosherChinese and Moroccan-Israeli-style dishes, including spinach andmushroom bourrekas, spicy fish with tomato-and-pepper sauce, andkubbeh (semolina stuffed with ground beef). 13075 Victory Blvd.,North Hollywood, CA 91606. (818) 763-5344 or 989-5423.

Magic Carpet: Glattkosher Yemenite and Middle Eastern specialties, including Moroccanroast chicken (with saffron, lemon and green olives), marguez(Moroccan spicy sausage) and more. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.;Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. 8566 W. Pico Blvd.,Los Angeles, CA 90035. (310) 652-8507.

Nessim’s:Specializes in Moroccan dishes and is the only kosher restaurant intown with a regular sushi bar. Sunday-Thursday, 12 p.m.-3 p.m. and 5p.m.-10 p.m.; Friday, 12-3 p.m. lunch, and Shabbat takeout, 8 a.m. to5 p.m.; Saturday, one hour after sundown until midnight. 8939 W. PicoBlvd., Los Angeles, CA (310) 859-9429.

Classic Restaurant:Glatt kosher Persian-Jewish and Chinese cuisine, from Kung Paochicken to kebabs to ghormeh savizi, a Persian stew. Also providescatering, a banquet center and live Persian music on Wednesday andSaturday evenings. Sunday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m.; Friday,11:30 a.m.-4 p.m.; Saturday, after dusk until 2 a.m. 1422 WestwoodBlvd., Los Angeles, CA 90024. (310) 234-9191

Beverly Hills Cuisine: Glatt kosher Chinese and Persian food, including exoticrices, chicken and shish kebab. 9025 Wilshire Blvd. Beverly Hills, CA90211. (310) 247-1239.

Sharon Restaurant:Glatt kosher Persian restaurant with six or seven eat-in tables, butmostly does catering or takeout. 18608 1/2 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana, CA91356. (818) 344-7473.

Kolah Farangi Kebob and ChineseFood: Glatt kosher kebabs and Chinesecuisine. 9180 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90035. (310)274-4007.

Persian Community

Eretz Cultural Center: One of the largest Iranian-Jewish community centers in LosAngeles, Eretz hosts concerts, films, acculturation programs, Englishclasses, Shabbat services for up to 1,000 people, and more. The EretzAlliance School, a preschool and kindergarten housed in the new $1.6million building next door, will expand to include first-graders anda total of 90 students this fall. The center’s address is 6170 WilburAve., Reseda, CA 91335. (818) 342-9303.

International Judea Foundation (aka SiamakOrganization): With 800 members, thenonprofit group is dedicated to bridging the old culture and the newwith activities such as singles events, a tikkun olam committee, HighHoliday services and a Paradise Judea teen group. A 110- to 140-pageEnglish- and Farsi-language magazine, Chashm Andaaz, published aboutnine times a year, covers everything from politics to parenting.Foundation: 520 S. Sepulveda Blvd., No. 201, Los Angeles, CA 90049.Magazine: P.O. Box 3074, Beverly Hills, CA 90212. (310)471-9427.

Iranian American JewishFederation: An umbrella group that nowincludes 16 California Iranian-Jewish organizations, the Federationalso publishes an 80- to 100-page English and Farsi monthly magazine,Shofar, and hosts Shabbat services at the Wilshire Theater (8440Wilshire Blvd.). 5700 Wilshire Blvd., No. 2510, Los Angeles, CA90036. (323) 761-8945.

Iranian Jewish Senior Center: A nonprofit group that provides Persian-Jewish staff,services, entertainment and food for 20 Iranian residents of theBeverly Hills Guest Home. 1019 S. Wooster St., No. 228, Los Angeles,CA 90035. (310) 289-1026.

The Magbit Foundation: A 3,000-member group that provides interest-free studentloans for Iranian and émigré college students inIsrael. 433 N. Camden Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90210. (310)273-2233.

Persian Hillel, UCLA: A social, cultural and religious outreach organizationthat helps Iranian students balance their Persian-Jewish and Americanidentities. Coordinator is Bahareh Rinsler. c/o UCLA Hillel, 900Hilgard Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90024. (310) 208-3081.

Iranian B’nei Torah MovementMagazine: Introduces Orthodox Jewry andPersian traditions to assimilated Iranian Jews in America. P.O. Box351476, Los Angeles, CA 90035. (310) 652-2115.

Nessah Educational and CulturalCenter: Provides programs such asimmigration counseling, an afternoon school, social activities andShabbat services for 500. 1537 Franklin St., Santa Monica, CA 90404.(310) 453-2218.

Ohr HaEmet Institute: Houses an Iranian synagogue, an Orthodox girls’ highschool (currently there are 52 students), and plans to open apart-time seminary and a women’s learning center. 1030 S. RobertsonBlvd., Los Angeles, CA 90035. (310) 854-3006.

Center for Iranian Jewish OralHistory: Dedicated to the history ofcontemporary Iranian Jewry, the center sponsors an annual conference,publishes a book a year and is in the process of interviewing some250 diverse Iranians for an audiotape oral history project. c/o HomaSarshar, P.O. Box 2543, Beverly Hills, CA 90213-2543. (310)472-3012.

Torat Hayim Hebrew Academy: The largest Persian-Jewish school in Los Angeles, thisOrthodox academy teaches 320 preschool-through-eighth-grade boys andgirls in English and Hebrew. 1210 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles,CA 90035. (310) 652-8349.

Ohel Moshe Congregation: 9820 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90035. (310)652-6593.

Cohen Synagogue:18547 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana, CA. (818) 705-4557.

Torat Hayim Synagogue: 1026 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90035.

Beth David Congregation: 5554 Reseda Blvd., Tarzana, CA 91356. (818)344-8523.

Orit Arfa and Shahram Siman contributed to thisguide.

Prominent Leaders

Jordan Elgrably, Ivri-NASAWI

The author/journalist, who is halfFrench-Moroccan, grew up in an “American, assimilated, Ashkenaziworld, with the idea that being Jewish was going to be defined byreading I.B. Singer and Saul Bellow…. By my early 20s, I felt Iwasn’t whole.”

Elgrably moved to France and then to his father’sancient family home of Granada, Spain, to “put the fragments backtogether.” In the early 1990s, when he realized that there was nonational organization to promote work by Sephardic artists andintellectuals, he decided to create Ivri-NASAWI. “Our goal is topromote a more universalist view of Judaism, with roots in the East,”he says.

Dr. Jose Nessim, Sephardic EducationalCenter

Two decadesago, the Paraguayan-born gynecologist couldn’t help but notice thatthere wasn’t a single Sephardic center in the Jewish world. Sephardicteen-agers were assimilating and knew little of their rich Jewishpast, he worried. Nessim responded by founding the SephardicEducational Center, which now has 16 active worldwide chapters and acelebrated youth program in Jerusalem. “We aim to educate theSephardic world about their Jewish roots,” he says.

Arthur Benveniste, Society for Crypto-JudaicStudies

A definingmoment for Benveniste came when he first read about the Crypto-Jews,the descendants of those forced to convert to Catholicism in15th-century Spain and Portugal, and who became the first settlers ofNew Spain after fleeing the Inquisition. Today, Benveniste, whosefamily comes from Rhodes, edits the society’s quarterly newsletter,Halapid, which focuses on the descendants of Crypto-Jews now livingfrom Peru to Portugal. “Half of Spanish Jewry was lost in theInquisition and Expulsion, and now we’re finding them again,” saysBenveniste, who is also co-chair of the Los Angeles Sephardic FilmFestival.

Albert M. Passy

An ex-Marine sergeant with Turkish-born parents,Passy grew up speaking Ladino. But when he searched for aLadino-to-English dictionary to help him decipher an old book in1986, he discovered that there wasn’t a single one. So Passy tookmatters into his own hands. He read hundreds of Ladino books; usedSephardic old-timers to help him with words he didn’t understand;perused a Ladino-French dictionary; and, in the early 1990s,published his unprecedented, approximately 300-page “Sephardic FolkDictionary,” which now sits in university libraries and will soon gointo its fourth edition.

Raquel Bensimon

“The moment I came to L.A. from Morocco in 1961, Ibecame involved with Sephardic Temple [Tifereth Israel]. But I foundthat women had little to do there,” says Bensimon, now a temple vicepresident who’s active in an array of Sephardic groups. On Bensimon’surging, in the 1970s, women earned the right to vote on templematters. Immediately thereafter, Bensimon became the first woman toserve on the synagogue board and, a year later, the first to serve onthe executive board. Over the years, fund raising to build thecurrent Westwood temple site has been her special passion. “I feelthere’s a little piece of me in every stone,” she says.

Dr. Lev Hakak, UCLA

Professor Hakak, coordinator of Jewish studies atUCLA’s department of Near Eastern languages and cultures, emigratedfrom Bagdad to Israel in 1951, where his once-wealthy family livedfor several years in tents and shacks. Hakak, who was 6 at the time,chronicles the difficult Iraqi aliyah through the eyes of ayoung protagonist in his first novel, “Strangers Among Brothers”(1977), which was a critical (and controversial) success inIsrael.

He further explores Iraqi and Sephardic life inthree more works of fiction and several scholarly books: For example,”The Image of Sephardic Jews in Modern Hebrew Literature,” whichraised more eyebrows in Israel, explores stereotypes about Sephardim.Hakak also organizes Iraqi cultural events in Los Angeles and edits asemi-annual newsletter, Yosef Hayim, for Iraqi Jews.

Rabbi Jacob Ott

Ott, a pioneering Sephardic leader in Los Angeles,happens to be Ashkenazi. That did not stop him from serving as rabbiof Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel for 34 years, where he guided,shaped and strengthened what is now one of the most vibrant SephardicJewish communities in the Southland.

Ralph Amado

In 1925, Amado’s Turkish émigrégrandfather, Rafael, was a founder of what would ultimately becomeSephardic Temple Tifereth Israel, perhaps Los Angeles’ largestfull-service Sephardic synagogue. Amado’s uncle, Maurice, created theMaurice Amado Foundation, a prominent benefactor of Sephardicendeavors. Ralph Amado, a commissioner on the Los Angeles MunicipalCourt, continues the family work as a director of the foundation anda past president of the temple. Among other activities andaccomplishments, he’s the recipient of the synagogue’s prestigiousSephardic Heritage Award.

Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, Sephardic TempleTifereth Israel

Bouskila, adescendant of the great Pinto kabbalist-rabbis of Morocco, was just31 when he became senior rabbi at Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel.Today, he has brought a significant number of young families back tothe shul, and apreschool is in the works. “My dream is to create a SephardicBeit Midrash atthe temple,” he says.

Rebecca Amato Levy

The matriarch and backbone of the Jewish communityfrom the Island of Rhodes, Levy preserves the Sephardic legacy bothscholarly and deliciously. She is famous for her recipes andpreparation of Jewish foods from Rhodes. And in her widely acclaimedbook, “I Remember Rhodes,” she has chronicled with astoundingaccuracy and detail the people, streets, names, places, customs,celebrations and culture of the Jewish community of Rhodes. Today,Levy is a sought-after source of information for culturalanthropologists and Sephardic Jews who want to know about theirhistory.

Songs and Stories at

the Skirball

The Skirball Cultural Center’s Sephardic ArtsFestival is back, bigger and better than ever. More than 4,000 peopleare expected to turn out on July 19 for the second annual festival,which will feature the music, art, food and storytelling of everynon-Ashkenazi group in Los Angeles.

The festival begins with a preview evening on July16, when visitors will experience medieval Judeo-Spanish music, aliterary reading and an exhibit of eight mostly local Sephardicartists.

On Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., park at theSkirball or take a shuttle bus from auxiliary sites; at the museum,you can participate in a Sephardic-object treasure hunt or peruseMoroccan inlay boxes and tapestries at the artisans’ exhibit.

Munch on spinach bourekkas or paella at Zeidler’s restaurant,and entertain the kids with storytelling and artists’ workshops thatfeature henna-handpainting, make-your-own-hamseh and more. In between,catch concerts by Ladino music expert Stephani Valadez; Judeo-Spanishsongs by mezzo-soprano Isabelle Ganz; or the eight-piece MiddleEastern ensemble, Za’atar.

The Sephardic event has become the largest annualfestival at the Skirball, says program director Dr. Robert Kirschner.”We aim to reach all the diverse communities of Los Angeles,” hesays, “and the place to begin a pluralistic vision [of L.A.] is witha pluralistic vision of the Jewish people.”

Admission is $8 for adults and free forchildren. Advance tickets are strongly recommended. Call (213)660-8587. –Naomi Pfefferman

Above, eight-piece Middle Eastern ensemble Za’atar, who willperform at the Sephardic Arts Festival July 19. Below, participantsin last year’s festival. The Sephardic event has become the largestannual festival at the Skirball. Included will be artwork, aboveleft. Photo below by Peter Halmagyi.

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