7 Days In Arts
The “Los Angeles International Short Film Festival” continues at the ArcLight with a screening of “Tel Aviv.” Filmmakers Richard Goldgewicht, Jeremy Goldscheider and The Journal’s Amy Klein explore what happens when an American Jewish businessman is picked up by a vanload of Arab Palestinians in the Jordan Valley desert.8 p.m., 6360 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 464-4226. www.lashortsfest.com.Commemorate Sept. 11 today at Beth Shir Shalom. This weekend only, the synagogue hosts the American Spirit Quilt Project, a series of 12 handmade quilts memorializing the 2001 attacks. This will be the national exhibit’s only Los Angeles stop.11 a.m.- 7 p.m. (Sat.), Noon-5 p.m. (Sunday), 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (Monday). 1827 California Ave., Santa Monica. (310) 453-3361.
Songstress Shalva Berti was an Israeli child star when she performed in the military choir during the Lebanon war. Many years and six CDs later, she’s all grown up and still performing for Israeli and international audiences. The Consulate General in Los Angeles, the Israeli Cultural Awareness Foundation and the Sinai Temple-Israel Action Committee sponsor her concert at Sinai Temple tonight.6:30 p.m. $35-$70. 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 273-8710.
Tonight, the Ford Amphitheatre offers chamber music less likely to make you sleepy. Los Angeles’ hot young Calder Quartet has been a foursome since their days at USC’s Thornton School of Music. More recently, they participated in Lincoln Center’s “Mostly Mozart Festival,” and this evening offer up Haydn’s Quartet Op. 76, No. 1 and the Bartók Quartet No. 4, reinvigorated.8 p.m. $12-$25. 2580 Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 461-3673.
Renowned political satirist and septuagenarian Mort Sahl shows the younguns how it’s done as he kicks off the first in the “Entertaining Politics” series at Magicopolis tonight. Six more Tuesdays of political humor follow, featuring Paul Krassner, Roy Zimmerman, Robbie Conal, Howard Rosenberg, Emily Levine and Darryl Henriques, among others.7:15 p.m. $35. 1418 Fourth St., Santa Monica. R.S.V.P., (310) 471-3979.
Get in the holiday spirit tonight with Manhattan’sCongregation B’nai Jeshurun’s new CD, “TekiYah: Echoes of the High Holy Days atBJ.” The recording features songs from the Days of Awe sung by Cantor AriPriven, Rabbis Marcelo Bronstein, Rolando Matalon and Felicia Sol, as well asLizzie Draiem and the B’nai Jeshurun Choir. www.hatikvahmusic.com
Unique events and services abound this Rosh Hashanah,many of which are highlighted in our calendar listings on page 63. One we foundintriguing: Rabbi Naomi Levy’s Nashuva service tonight at Venice Beach. Bringbread to throw, a picnic dinner and a percussion instrument — spoons, we’retold, will work — for Tashlich drumming and a shofar service on the sand, led bythe Nashuva Band. 5:15 p.m. Where Venice Boulevard meets the beach. www.nashuva.com
Drop some cool cash for a good cause this weekend asCedars-Sinai holds their 32nd annual Merchant of Tennis/Monty Hall/Cedars-SinaiDiabetes Tennis Tournament. Stanley Black is honored for his philanthropy attonight’s fab kick-off cocktail reception hosted by Monty Hall. The rest of theweekend is devoted to tennis and easy living. Tomorrow it’s mixed doubles andmen’s doubles at MountainGate. On Sunday, show up for the championship finalsor, you know, whatever at the Playboy Mansion, where casual gourmet cuisine willalso be served up. $175 (Friday reception), $200 (Sunday championship), $450(per person, men’s doubles), $800 (mixed doubles). (310) 996-1188. www.tennistournament.org
7 Days In Arts
Dinner Celebrates Families
Aphilanthropic couple and a young family with a preschooler are to be recognized at the 9th annual Jewish Family Service of Orange County (JFS) dinner celebrating family.
The contributions of Gerald and Eleanor Weinstein, of Tustin, are getting notice because Jewish tenets about giving and righting social ills are reflected in their chosen careers and volunteer commitments, said Mel Roth, director of the agency, a provider of psychological services.
Both former health professionals, the couple has known each other for 25 years but only married in September 2001, following the loss of their spouses.
JFS hopes to raise $60,000 from the event, supporting the agency’s $825,000 annual budget. JFS receives 30 percent of its funding from the O.C. Jewish Federation and is its largest beneficiary. The agency’s 11-person staff, including four full-time counselors, annually serve about 7,000 people in support groups, counseling, older adult services, volunteer opportunities, refugee resettlement, information and referral, a healing center and with interest-free loans.
Also under the spotlight are Stacy and Phil Kaplan, of Newport Beach, who met at a young Jewish leadership get-together. The couple, who have a 2-year-old daughter, remain involved in numerous O.C. Federation programs.
"It is a special privilege to honor the Weinsteins and the Kaplans, who set an example of model families enriching the Jewish and general community by teaching the values love, honesty, education, loving kindness and giving back to the community," Roth said.
The $100-per-person dinner is to be held at the Hyatt Newporter Hotel in Newport Beach May 20 at 6 p.m. For more information, call JFS at (714) 445-4950.
The Next Generation Adds Its Own Touch to Seder
Cruise Vacation Worth the Weight
Here’s a tip to non-Jewish travelers looking for a low-cost vacation cruise.
Pick your cruise dates to include the Jewish High Holidays in September or October, because then the ships offer their deepest discounts to fill the empty berths left by the noticeable absence of Jewish passengers.
On the other hand, Jewish vacationers might consider booking dates that include Passover or Chanukah when the ship’s chefs whip up elaborate — and strictly kosher — seder feasts or stir up batches of crisp potato latkes.
We gleaned this information during a gluttonous 11-day cruise in November aboard the $200 million Crystal Harmony. Our voyage started at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., stopped over at the Caribbean islands of St. John, St. Maarten/St. Martin, Antigua and Aruba, passed through the Panama Canal and terminated at the Costa Rican port of Caldera.
Hubert Buelacher, our ship’s food and beverage manager, recalled that two years ago, during another Caribbean cruise, his kitchen made latkes for 200 out of 900 passengers.
It is possible that some knowledgeable non-Jews might have tried to pass as members of the tribe to join the feasting. By way of illustration, we were tipped off that kosher chicken was a specialty of the house and we ordered a couple for ourselves and three other couples who were our traveling companions. The other couples, all old friends and none Jewish, gave the kosher chicken their highest rating.
Buelacher, a sturdy Austrian, conducted us through the separate kosher galley of the huge kitchen and proudly noted that he had become a kashrut maven while supervising Orthodox wedding banquets when he was working as a chef in France.
He reeled off his typical seder meal, consisting of chicken consommé with matzah balls, roasted chicken, carrots, green peas, almonds, roasted potatoes and kosher wine.
Any passenger, at any time, can order a kosher meal in advance, while some Orthodox groups have brought along their own mashgiach (kosher supervisor) said hotel director Herbert Doppler, another Austrian.
For cruises encompassing Passover or Chanukah, a full-time rabbi is on board the Crystal Harmony and the same goes for its sister ship, the Crystal Symphony.
On our November cruise, the ship’s bulletin called for volunteers to conduct Friday evening services, and Alan Iselin, an investment counselor from Albany, N.Y., led some 20 worshippers.
For the occasion, a small Torah and lectern were placed on the stage of the ship’s theater and a sidetable for yarmulkes and prayer books also offered challah, gefilte fish and kosher wine.
Admittedly, this report so far has been mainly about food, but as every cruise veteran knows, life on board ship is a freser’s (glutton’s) delight.
There were elaborate dinners, where the dress code alternated between formal, informal and casual, hefty breakfasts and lunches, specialty Japanese and Italian restaurants, and high teas and evening snacks in between.
The danger in all this, of course, is an expanded waistline, but there are remedies, consisting of a full-scale gym, a feng shui and aerobic spa, swimming pools, Jacuzzis and promenade decks for walking and jogging.
For the more dedicated, there is a golf driving range, a paddle tennis court — where we engaged in spirited matches — and for the really obsessed, a "personally developed cuisine program for the health conscious."
There are other opportunities to work off some fat in long walks and other physical activities during day-long shore excursions.
At a stop at St. Maarten, the Dutch-ruled part of the binational island, we were startled to pass a roadside restaurant proudly named Beth El and a large Star of David spouting from the roof.
We asked the black owner for an explanation and he responded, with considerable dignity, "I am a descendant of Abraham."
Crossing over to St. Martin, the French part of the island, we encountered another Star of David, this one atop an open market stand dubbed the Coconut House. We inquired again and were told, "Oh, it’s just for decoration."
A final chance to slim down before heading home came when our party decided to stay over a couple of days in Costa Rica and visit the Arenal National Park.
There, a four-hour hike through the dense rain forest to the foot of the active Arenal Volcano brought us almost back to our fighting weight.
Bologna, Italy — A Cut Above
BJE Celebrates Catskills Style
The Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE) is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a visit to the Borscht Belt, where a generation of Jewish immigrants escaped for celebrations and community, with "The Catskills of Orange County" on Oct. 6 at Temple Bat Yahm in Newport Beach.
Seating assignments mean checking in at one of the old bungalow hotels, such as Grossinger’s. The menu? Brisket, of course.
The event’s headliner is Noodles Levenstein, who is described as "a mix of Henney Youngman and Jerry Seinfeld." The Orange County Klezmer band will perform medleys.
Dinner honorees include six people who supported specific youth programs and two BJE directors, Ida Marks Meltzer and Joan S. Kaye.
Proceeds will help support a leadership program that reaches 500 teens, training for synagogue teachers and adult education classes.
For more information, please call (714) 755-4400.
Prez by Day, Punk by Night
HADASSAH LIEBERMAN’S PAREVE VEGETABLESOUP
1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
3 medium carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 bay leaf
dash of cayenne pepper
dash of cinnamon
Water or vegetable stock to cover (about 11Â¼2 quarts)
1 large sweet potato, chopped
1 parsnip, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes
13Â¼4 cups chickpeas, lima beans or lentils, cooked
olive oil for sautéing (about 2 tablespoons)
1 medium onion, sliced
In a soup kettle sauté onion, garlic, celery, carrots and seasonings for 10 minutes. Cover with water or stock. Bring to boil, lower flame and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Add remaining vegetables, peas or beans; simmer 1Â¼2 hour more or until vegetables are tender. Meanwhile, pour olive oil into a skillet; add the second onion. Saute until browned but not burnt. Add onion to the soup. Stir thoroughly; simmer 15 minutes more. Serves 12.
LILI DEUTSCH’S HUNGARIAN VEALGOULASH
When Mindy Weisel knows the Liebermans are coming for dinner, she fixes Joe’s favorite Veal Goulash, a recipe she inherited from her mother, Lili. If you prefer a lighter flavor, add more vegetables.
Olive oil for sautéing
2 large yellow onions, chopped (about 11Â¼2 cups)
4 cloves garlic, chopped, more, if desired
2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika
4 pounds veal, cut into 11Â¼2-inch cubes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1Â¼2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more, if desired
1Â¼2 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups sliced carrots, quartered
1 cup chopped potatoes
1Â¼ 2 cup sliced celery
2 cups good tomato sauce or 2 cups canned or fresh plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 cups good red wine, such as merlot
2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
Preheat oven to 400. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and garlic; sauté until lightly golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in paprika. Rinse veal with water; pat dry. Return Dutch oven to heat, add veal, salt and pepper, and sauté until meat is lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add parsley, marjoram, carrots, celery, tomato sauce, wine and stock. Place cover on pot, place in oven, lower temperature to 375. Bake for 2 hours or until meat is fork tender. If gravy seems too thick, add boiling water, a little at a time. Or you can bake it in a slow oven (250) overnight, which yields a moist, delicious flavor. According to Weisel, this tastes better when made in advance and reheated. Serve with noodles, rice, or cous cous, and Hadassah’s favorites, cabbage and baked sweet potatoes. Serves 10.
HADASSAH’S PISTACHIO RICE PILAF
Turkish apricots are wonderful in this dish.
1Â¼4 cup currants
1 cup long-grain brown rice, washed and drained
2 cups water or vegetable broth
kosher salt to taste
1Â¼4 cup dried apricots, cut into strips
1Â¼2 cup unsalted pistachio nuts
Soak currants for 15 minutes in warm water. Drain and set aside. Wash rice and drain. Toast rice by placing it in a skillet over medium heat; stirring it until dry and lightly browned. Be careful not to burn it. Place rice in a 11Â¼2 quart saucepan; cover with water or broth. Bring to boil; reduce heat to low; cover with a tight-fitting lid. Simmer for 25 minutes, take off cover; place currants, apricots and nuts on top of rice. Do not stir in. Return lid and continue simmering 20 minutes or until rice is tender and water absorbed. Remove from heat, let stand two minutes.
Using a spatula, turn into a serving dish, being careful to keep the fruit and nuts on top. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Serves 6.
HADASSAH’S STEAMED CABBAGE ANDONIONS
Steaming the cabbage to finish the dish is an Eastern European tradition. For a beautiful look and distinctive taste, use half purple and half green cabbage.
olive oil for sautéing
1 large onion, sliced in chunks
2 plump garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, sliced in rounds
pinch of paprika
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 green cabbage, sliced in thick chunks
1Â¼2 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)
In a heavy kettle, heat olive oil. Add onion, garlic, carrots, if desired, paprika, salt and pepper. Saute until vegetables are translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add cabbage, caraway seeds, if desired, sauté 5 minutes more. Place kettle in 350 oven to steam, about 15 minutes, or until tender. Serves 6 to 8.
MARCIA LIEBERMAN’S HONEY CAKE
This cake has been one of Joe’s favorites from the time he was a boy.
3 cups cake flour
11Â¼2 teaspoons baking powder
3Â¼4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
1Â¼4 teaspoon ground cloves
1Â¼4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup honey
3Â¼4 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
grated rind of 1 lemon
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon brandy
3Â¼4 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 10-inch tube pan. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cloves, allspice, and cinnamon. Place honey, eggs, water, lemon juice and rind, oil, and brandy into a bowl. Beat together until well blended. Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, mixing until combined thoroughly. Fold in walnuts. Pour batter into pan. Bake in oven for one hour or until toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. If desired, serve with the dried fruit topping. Serves 12.
DRIED FRUIT TOPPING
Hadassah likes dried fruit and nuts for dessert. When Mindy entertains the Liebermans, she piles fruits and nuts onto one of her painted ceramic platters. You can also turn them into a fruit and nut topping, which is delicious served with Marcia’s honey cake. If you have purchased very tender dried fruit (e.g., from a Farmer’s Market), you won’t need to cook it. Just marinate it in the liquid.
1 cup brown sugar or honey
3 cups cold water
3 cups dry white wine
1Â¼2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 pounds mixed dried fruit (apricots, apples, pineapple, figs, peaches, pears, prunes, nectarines, cherries, cherries, white raisins, preferably, unsulphured)
6 thin lemon slices
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1Â¼2 teaspoon dried lavender
6 lavender leaves
1Â¼4 cup fruit flavored brandy, whiskey or orange liqueur
1Â¼2 cup very fresh walnuts
Fresh lavender flowers for garnish (optional)
Bring all ingredients except brandy, walnuts and lavender flowers to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and gently poach until just tender, about 20 minutes. Remove fruit from pan and reserve.
Increase heat to high; boil cooking liquid until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add brandy and return to a boil for 30 seconds. Remove from heat; return the fruit. Spoon warmed fruit topping over honey cake. If desired, garnish with lavender flowers. Serves 6 to 8.
Like Grandmother,Like Granddaughter
The Four Menches
The haggadah speaks of the Four Sons: the wise, the wicked, the simple and the one who doesn’t know how to ask. And on a good night in Hollywood, you can pick up all four. The first Saturday in March is a girls’ night out (with the understanding we intend to pull men). Elizabeth, Sasha, Sarah and I throw on low-cut tops, low-rise pants and do the L.A. barhop thing.
The night kicks off with dinner at Jones. The Wise Son, Scott, sits at the booth next to ours. The waitress-in-training serves this bright young man my seared ahi salad and brings me his loaded pizza. A serendipitous mistake. After straightening out our leggo-my-Eggo sitch, Scott offers to buy me a beer. And we’re rolling.
A consultant, Scott spent four years in investment banking, grabbed an MBA and is now a three-piecer. He’s sharp, sexy and proves to not only be business savvy but flirt savvy. By the time we finish dinner, I know I’d have fun searching for his afikomen. The feeling is mutual, and Scott asks for my number.
He must have taken notes in his B-school communications class, because he phones me that Monday. The Wise Son understands that the rules of dating apply to him and that a timely phone call is key. We head out on a date that Thursday.
I meet the Wicked Son, Marc, at North. This player, armed with a Nokia cell and a helmet of gel, spends more time getting ready than I do. He says this signless Sunset bar is as yesterday as an apple martini, and he’s only here because he knows the hostess.
Despite his slick exterior, there’s something seductive about him. We continue to chat and swap things in common. We like the same films, read the same books and run the same Santa Monica stairs.
The conversation goes well, and next thing I know, I’ve been hit by a smooth criminal. I laugh when he calls the bartender “chief” and smile when he hands me a lemon drop. He invites my gang to an after-hours party, and I coyly accept directions and his cell phone code.
Everything about Marc shouts “buyer beware.” He’s a staple at the Hollywood Hills party circuit, someone who’s always looking for TNBT (the next big thing) and TNNG (the next new girl). And when he finds her, he’ll toss me like yesterday’s Variety. My girls vote no against Proposition After-Party, but I hold onto Marc’s number. This Wicked Son believes dating rules apply to other men, not him. But what can one date hurt?
We girls head west down the strip to Red Rock, where we meet the Simple Son, Josh. This cutie with the tousled hair teaches fifth grade, surfs before class and spends weekends at the beach. His surfer-boy charm and no-worries ‘tude make me want to ride his wave home.
But Josh is a little slow on the draw. I’m flirting my heart out, but nothing seems to penetrate that sea-salt head. Finally, I buy a round of tequila shots. He asks “What is this?” And Sasha explains that women have been freed from the chains of chivalry. An interested girl can now buy a guy a drink. And just when we think all flirting fell flat, Josh scribbles his number on a coaster. Seems Simple Simon just needs things spelled out.
The Fourth, Ryan, is a yummy actor with a cute shankbone. We meet him in the 2 a.m. line at Pink’s. As the girls and I chow cheese fries, the 22-year-old toddler tells us about his plans to make it big. Fresh off the plane, this L.A. newbie brims with wonder, dreams and an incredible smile.
Compared to the bitter herbs Sarah usually meets, Ryan is really refreshing. It’s clear he’s into his Mrs. Robinson, but is too nervous to ask for her number. So the girls and I unleash the wily ways of L.A. dating on this innocent Midwestern boy. We pass along our knowledge of the rules, the game and Sarah’s number to the wide-eyed boy.
Sometimes it seems you need a candle, a feather and a wooden spoon to search out an eligible L.A. man. But more often than not, bedikat-mensch only requires a fun ‘tude, an open mind and a little red tank. In this sprawling city, there’s a new guy around every bar stool, and each is as different as the place you found him.
Now, I’ll admit that not all nights are as successful as that Saturday. But they have the potential to be. And that’s the fun of being single in this city. You never know what an adventure holds. Why will this night be different than all other nights? On all other nights, you turn up as empty as Elijah’s cup, but on this night, you might meet a man. Or in our case — four.
Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner
Although it might seem a little early for Passover discussions, Jewish law does mandate that one should begin studying the Passover laws and details at least 30 days before the actual holiday. This is probably because no holiday requires more detailed preparation than Passover. Most of the preparations for this holiday tend to focus on koshering our homes, kitchens and utensils, and, of course, the menu for the big seder meal. What we often seem to forget is that the seder is not a meal, per se, nor a gathering to sing Hebrew folk songs, but it is an educational experience that requires no less preparation than koshering your oven or preparing your main dish.
The seder table is a classroom, with the haggadah serving as a curriculum outline, and the main educators being all those who consider themselves knowledgeable enough to conduct and lead a seder. The educational responsibility of the seder leader is to be prepared to teach the meaning of the Exodus and the Passover rituals to a wide variety of audiences.
Parashat Bo sets the stage for how we are to prepare for this great educational event known as a seder. Based on the rabbinic interpretation of three verses from this week’s parsha and one more verse from the Book of Deuteronomy, the rabbis of the Midrash Mekhilta, the Talmud Yerushalmi and the Passover haggadah all state that regarding the mitzvah of teaching the Passover story: "The Torah speaks in reference to four children." Following are the four key areas of focus:
1. "Your children may ask you what is this service to you? You must answer, it is the Passover service to God." (Exodus 12:26-27)
2. "On that day you must tell your child: all of this is because that which the Lord did for me when I came forth from Egypt." (Exodus 13:8)
3."Your child may later ask you what is this? You must answer him, with a show of power God brought us out of Egypt, the place of slavery." (Exodus 13:14)
4. "In the future your child may ask you what are these rituals rules and laws that God has commanded you? You must tell him, we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, but God brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand." (Deuteronomy 6:20-21)
The rabbis asked why the Torah could not consolidate all of these seemingly repetitive instructions (regarding teaching the Passover story to children) into one unified verse. Why is one mitzvah being repeated four separate times?
The answer is that although on the surface the verses seem thematically repetitive (children, Passover story), each verse actually addresses a different type of child, and, therefore, each verse is teaching its own separate mitzvah. Because of the importance and centrality of the Passover story, the rabbis teach us that each type of child requires a unique and different approach to the effective teaching of this story. When the Mishnah dealing with the Seder in Tractate Pesahim 10:4 states "According to the son’s intelligence, the father instructs him," it means that it is a commandment to address each child in his own appropriate, meaningful and relevant fashion. In other words, know your audience.
The fact that we have an entire year to prepare this Passover lecture implies the power and importance of its message. This annual lecture challenges us to link our past experiences to the present in a relevant, meaningful and updated fashion for every Jew.
So it really isn’t too early to start thinking about Passover. When you stop and think about how difficult and challenging it is to convey a meaningful message to such diverse Jewish audiences, the educational preparation for the seder should take a lot more than 30 days.
Daniel Bouskila is rabbi of Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel.
Chatting with Leo Spiwak, one gets the impression that there is no spirit stronger than that which binds members of The Guardians, the fundraising arm for Jewish Home for the Aging of Greater Los Angeles.
As Guardians president, Spiwak, with past President Brad Luster, will co-chair this year’s Above & Beyond Hall of Fame Dinner gala. The dinner will honor devoted Guardians supporters Joyce Eisenberg-Keefer, Harold Foonberg, Paul Goldenberg, Steven Good, Ronald Goodman, Ozzie Goren, Sherman Grancell, Paul Krasnow, Barry Lippman, Perry Silver, Billy Veprin and Allen Ziegler, who died in 1994. Two of the honorees — Eisenberg-Keefer and Grancell — have Jewish Home for the Aging campuses named after them.
"It was difficult to select 12 Guardians, but we were extremely happy that they represent who The Guardians really are," said Spiwak, 67. "It’s a deserving group of people."
Some say that Spiwak himself is earning a place as an esteemed Guardian.
"He brings a sincere dedication and warmth and caring not only to raise funds but to create a tight bond between the Guardians," said Guardians Director Karen Levin. "He’ll have lunches at his home. He fosters camaraderie."
Since he began his yearlong term, Spiwak has helped enact some structural reform within the organization. Among the changes on the executive level were the departure of Executive Director Michael Kaiserman and the installment of Levin in his place.
"I felt that the mission of The Guardians had gotten somewhat fragmented," Spiwak told The Journal. "I saw that one of my mandates was to bring it back to something specific. It was always a networking organization, but while fundraising was always one of its objectives, it was not its prime objective."
Not all of the factors for this fissure were internal. Spiwak noted that the world of nonprofit fundraising has turned into a cottage industry over the last decade and a half, making the playing field much more crowded and expensive.
"Ten years ago, we used to get a whole podium of interesting people," Spiwak said. "Today, you’re talking about $50,000 and $100,000 per speaker. As a nonprofit, it’s become more difficult to have affordable, interesting events. Even if we have 1,000 people, the cost of your average entertainer makes it very difficult to make the money back, and you can’t charge too much for the event."
Bigger stars, who may fetch a fee from $100,000 to $200,000, may still not guarantee a draw sizable enough to recoup expenses. Consequently, Comedy Night, another of the larger annual Guardians events, has seen its attendance shrink from a peak of 800 to about 450 last year. In previous years, Vegas-sized headliners Rodney Dangerfield and David Brenner performed. Last year, the event’s budget could only afford the likes of Robert Klein.
The amount of nonprofit solicitors has grown as well.
"There is a tremendous amount of competition for people’s time, efforts and donations," Spiwak continued. "A day doesn’t go by that I don’t get a request from a charity to donate funds.
"It means we have to work harder and be more creative," Spiwak said. "We have to find more interesting events before they get priced out of range."
Case in point: last year’s inaugural Above & Beyond gala saluted the 63-year-old organization’s past presidents.
"Not only was having all the past presidents a big draw," Spiwak noted, "but it brought 30 inactive presidents back to the fold in a participatory manner."
Spiwak acknowledges the growing role of its young division, Sixth Decade Leadership. The 150-member group, headed by Chairman Randy Banchik, found fundraising success this year with a golf tournament event and a poker night.
"They’re really nice young people," Spiwak said. "They’re raising families, they’re new in business. So, they have a lot of time pressures and a limited amount of money. But they still manage to be more active than the average Guardian. Several of them sit on our board."
Born in Boyle Heights in 1934, Spiwak grew up an only child in Monrovia, then moved to West Los Angeles, where he attended Hamilton High. After majoring in business at UCLA, Spiwak served in the U.S. Army during World War II, during which he was stationed at Ft. Louis, Washington. He returned to Los Angeles in 1958 and entered the auto wrecking business, devoting the next 37 years to manufacturing and distributing truck parts.
In 1960, Spiwak married. he and his wife, Marcia, had two children, Scott and Lisa — now in their 40s. Five years ago Marcia died, and Spiwak promptly sold his companies and retired. He has since married Dr. Susan Krevoy, a psychologist.
Over the years, tzedakah has never been far from Spiwak’s mind. He has actively supported causes such as City of Hope, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the United Jewish Fund.
But it is The Guardians that feels like home. The organization not only informs his philanthropic side, but his social life. The Spiwaks recently returned from a trip to France, where Leo Spiwak cycled through the Bordeaux region with fellow Guardians Norm and Jayne Simon.
"It’s a great cause," Spiwak said, "but what makes The Guardians special is the relationships. My wife is being honored, and I’d say probably 25 percent of the people there will be from The Guardians."
"Most of the other things I do," he continued, "you can’t see and touch what you’re doing. But at the Jewish Home, when you see the residents, you see the impact that we’re making."
In a recent installment of his Guardians newsletter column, "The President’s Podium," Spiwak challenged the reader, asking if he/she truly wants to make a difference:
"Would you like to? I’ll show you the way. Become passionate about something. Put some life in your life. Put some spring in your step. Gain a reason to get out of bed in the morning in addition to going to work."
Not merely words of advice, but the very philosophy that has navigated Spiwak through his 67 years.
The Guardians of the Jewish Home for the Aging will hold their Above & Beyond Hall of Fame Dinner on Nov. 8 at the Beverly Hilton, Beverly Hills. To RSVP, call (310) 479-2468.
"Give me the ‘A,’" my husband, Larry, says.
"There’s no ‘A,’" answers Danny, 10.
"Then give me the ‘R,’" Larry responds.
"No ‘R,’" says Danny, as he gleefully draws a circle for the body.
I’m sitting at Maria’s Italian Kitchen on a Sunday evening, eating and watching my husband and my four sons, ages 10, 12, 14 and 17, play multiple games of Hangman. Or, as my husband prefers to call it, "Stump the Dad."
This is a family dinner. This is what health-care professionals swear will protect my sons from a life of drug, alcohol and tobacco addiction.
This is what I swear will have me begging for an extended stay at UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric Institute.
"So," I interrupt, looking to start a conversation, "What do you think about carbon dioxide emissions?"
"Mom…" they moan in unison, rolling their eyes.
"What about salmonella in ground beef?" I ask, vowing to bring along some reading material next time.
But it could be worse. For one thing, I didn’t have to cook this dinner. For another, they’re not calling each other names ("Dirty Diaper" is this week’s epithet of choice) or making rude bodily noises (which usually involves some kind of competition).
According to Robert Putnam, author of "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community," family dinners occur 33 percent less frequently today than in 1970.
And for many good reasons.
First, let’s talk about the logistics. Let’s talk about the fact that my husband, who, thankfully, is not Jim Anderson or Ward Cleaver, generally returns home after 8 p.m.
Let’s talk about the fact that I generally spend my late afternoons and early evenings picking up carpool, schlepping some child to karate or piano or the orthodontist as well as watching — or feeling guilty about missing — a soccer or baseball game. And that’s before someone invariably pipes up with "Oh, I forgot to tell you that I need 24 kosher cupcakes (or car repair mesh wire and five 3-foot strips of balsa wood or one dozen large, live crickets) for school tomorrow."
Plus, let’s talk about the fact that, for me, cooking — from the preliminary trip to Ralphs to the postprandial cleanup — is about as enjoyable as pulling up weeds, having my gums scraped or standing in line to ride Pirates of the Caribbean.
There’s also the fact that there is not a single dinner menu that appeals to the two vegetarians, the one pescetarian and the three omnivores (one of whom eats only "white" foods) that comprise my family.
Growing up, of course, we were forced to eat whatever was served. Occasionally — and my mother will confirm this — this meant tongue with raisin sauce or pheasant with fresh buckshot or, the worst, wax beans, which even the dog, who sat vigilantly under the table, refused to touch.
In Judaism, the family is sacrosanct; it is the primal, civilizing building block of society. And our tradition mandates that the family, this cohesive and essential unit, engage in certain culinary celebrations — from the weekly Shabbat dinner to the annual seder, from the bar mitzvah banquet to the wedding feast — with certain requisite and ritualistic foods. But nowhere is there a commandment, not in any of the 613 mitzvot, requiring us to sit down together regularly for an evening meal.
No, the concept of family dinners is a modern myth, a psychological and sentimental hoax perpetrated on us already overextended and overburdened mothers by people who have forgotten the taste of tongue with raisin sauce. By people who don’t watch Woody Allen movies. And by people who also think that quality time and home schooling are viable — and valuable — ideas.
So just say no to family dinners that require more than 10 minutes to prepare or pick up and that require the skills of air traffic controllers to coordinate.
And forget that National Merit Scholars, those academically talented high-schoolers who excel on the PSAT test, share the one characteristic of eating dinner with their families at least three times a week.
Instead, remember that what’s truly important is to give our kids a sense of stability and solidarity. To make them feel loved and protected. To nourish them emotionally and physically.
This doesn’t happen at prescribed times with preplanned, multidish meals featuring the four food groups.
No, this happens serendipitously and unexpectedly.
It can happen over a dinner of Team Cheerios, at a table with mismatched bowls and disposal-chewed spoons. It can happen during a spur-of-the-moment midnight run to Krispy Kreme. It can even happen on a Sunday evening at Maria’s Italian Kitchen over pizza, chopped salad and uninterrupted games of Hangman.
Just Say No!