Property damage is seen at a mobile home park in Naples, Fla., on Sept. 11. Photo by Stephen Yang/Reuters

Hurricane Irma tears through Florida: Here’s how to help

Two weeks after Hurricane Harvey hit Houston with historic floods, Hurricane Irma tore through Florida, delivering devastating wind and rain and forcing millions to evacuate. Though flooding did not reach the same catastrophic proportions as in Houston, the storm nonetheless left much of Florida’s Jewish population of 655,000 without basic necessities such as food, power and fuel.

Rabbi Levik Dubov of Chabad of O’Town in downtown Orlando spoke with the Journal Sept. 11 as family and friends cooked a meal on a portable stove in his home. Without power, they had to use up as much perishable food as they could before it spoiled.

Dubov said he had spent the morning checking in on friends and community members to make sure they were safe. Across the state, Chabad houses have become de facto storm relief centers.

“If they need food, if they need shelter, if they need fuel, if they need resources, we’re there to help,” Dubov said. “It’s whatever people need, and right now it seems food is the biggest thing.”

Click here to learn more about Chabad’s efforts in Florida and donate.

Chabad was among the Jewish organizations rushing to help communities impacted by Hurricane Irma. 3 On Sept. 11, more than two dozen Chabad houses planned to open their doors to community members in need of a dinner meal.

“People right now, they just want to have a sense of morale, a sense of togetherness,” Dubov said. “Food provides that.”

After Hurricane Harvey, Jewish Federations across the country opened fundraising pages to help storm victims. But as the extent of the damage in Florida became clear, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles extended its fundraising effort to include victims of Hurricane Irma.

Alana Weiner, vice president of media relations and strategy at the Los Angeles Federation, said funds raised through the Federation’s website would go to victims of each hurricane as needed.

Click here to learn more about Federation’s efforts.

Jacob Solomon, CEO of Greater Miami Jewish Federation, said while Jewish communal structures escaped serious damage for the most part, the lack of a functioning power grid posed a serious challenge.

“It looks like there’s relatively little structural damage to communal institutions,” he told the Journal. “The big issue right now is it’s something like 80 percent of Miami-Dade County is without power.”

In Atlanta, home to the closest large Jewish community to Florida, nearly a dozen synagogues opened their doors to Jews fleeing the hurricane.

“We were starting to get inquiries about Irma — two, three, four people asking about coming for Shabbat. We realized this is going to be a real need, and instead of dealing with a one-off, let’s open our community,” Rabbi Adam Starr of Young Israel of Toco Hills, one of the participating synagogues, told JTA.

The synagogues’ efforts were supported by thousands of kosher meals from the Orthodox Union.

Click here to learn more about disaster relief from the Orthodox Union.

A number of Jewish disaster relief organizations in the United States and Israel quickly moved to expand efforts launched in the wake of Hurricane Harvey to include victims in Florida.

Less than two weeks after dispatching an emergency response team to Houston, the volunteer group Israel Rescue Coalition sent 15 medics to help in Florida. Meanwhile, NECHAMA: Jewish Response to Disaster prepared to deploy a team to Florida to help victims recover from storm damage.

Solomon, the CEO of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, said cash donations were preferable to other kinds of aid.

“Walmart and Target and JC Penny have a pretty good distribution system already,” he said. “What we need is the ability to go out and buy what we need when we need it.”

Solomon spoke on the phone Sept. 11 as he decided whether he was going to break a county curfew to go recite the Mourner’s Kaddish with a prayer quorum — he’s mourning the loss of three close relatives in the past year. But as the storm chugged northward towards Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama, he struck a note of confidence for Miami, a city that has seen its fair share of nasty storms.

“We’re going to be just fine,” he said. “We know this drill.”

Clinton campaign tally shows 5 top donors are Jewish

A tally of the fundraising for the campaign to elect Hillary Clinton president shows that the top five donors are Jewish.

The Washington Post analysis, posted Oct. 24, named the top donors, who are contributing $1 of every $17 of the over $1 billion amassed for the Democratic nominee’s presidential run.

They are Donald Sussman, a hedge fund manager; J.B. Pritzker, a venture capitalist, and his wife, M.K.; Haim Saban, the Israeli-American entertainment mogul, and his wife, Cheryl; George Soros, another hedge funder and a major backer of liberal causes, and Daniel Abraham, a backer of liberal pro-Israel causes and the founder of SlimFast.

The article reported on tensions within the Clinton campaign over “big money” in politics, as revealed in stolen emails posted recently by WikiLeaks. Clinton and other Democrats oppose recent court rulings allowing unlimited donations to political action committees, but many of her supporters also see giving and accepting large figures as inevitable, given the existing rules. (Direct donations to campaigns are still limited to $2,700 maximum; the vast majority of the money in the Washington Post article is given to super PACs, political action committees permitted to receive unlimited funds.)

Sussman told the Post that his top issue is rolling back the rulings allowing for unlimited giving.

“It’s very odd to be giving millions when your objective is to actually get the money out of politics,” he said. “I am a very strong supporter of publicly financed campaigns, and I think the only way to accomplish that is to get someone like Secretary Clinton, who is committed to cleaning up the unfortunate disaster created by the activist court in Citizens United.”

Citizens United refers to the 2010 decision allowing corporations to give unlimited money in support of a campaign.

$20 million gift to help revitalize US Holocaust museum

An exhibit over 20 years old against an iPhone: Docents at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum are increasingly noting the battle with hand-held devices to keep the interest of young people.

Now a $20 million gift to help revitalize the Washington, D.C., museum will aim to assist the docents while focusing on the challenges posed to democracies by rapid changes in technology.

Allan and Shelley Holt announced their grant for the Washington, D.C., museum on Monday in honor of Allan Holt’s parents, who are Holocaust survivors and about to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary. Holt, an investment manager at the Carlyle Group, an influential Washington consulting outfit, is also vice chairman of the museum’s governing board.

The gift, one of the largest in the museum’s history, will go toward a $540 million campaign aimed at revitalizing the museum, the museum said in a release.

In an interview, the museum’s director, Sara Bloomfield, and chief program officer, Sarah Ogilvie, outlined areas where the money will help realign the museum’s educational mission with the 21st century through a physical refurbishing and programmatic changes.

One emphasis is on new technologies and how they can be exploited for propaganda in an age when political messages spread rapidly through social media and other means, they told JTA.

“The new technology of the 1930s was the radio,” Ogilvie said. “The Nazis tried to make sure every German family had one. We will be talking about new technologies and how young people were targets for the Nazis.”

A central message of the museum since its 1993 opening — that democracies are more vulnerable than their citizens believe them to be — will become more pronounced, Bloomfield said.

“It’s so important for an audience to see the failure of democratic institutions,” she said.

“That lesson is in the exhibition, but we can make it more explicit,” Bloomfield said, saying it was a critical message at a time of racially charged political rhetoric in the United States and abroad. “What we read about in the paper every day makes this history ever more relevant and more of a cautionary tale.”

The changes and refurbishing, which will take place over five to seven years, also will address how audiences have been shaped by technology. Docents, among them Holocaust survivors, have reported in recent years that they have to compete with multiple distractions, including the hand-held devices.

“Some of them have expressed concern about keeping the attention of young people; they watch the distractions that can happen,” Ogilvie said.

The museum may open avenues to interact with the exhibit through the devices now preoccupying the young visitors.

“You may be able to interact with a Holocaust survivor on your phone instead of texting,” she said.

Ogilvie said attention spans have become shorter, another factor needing addressing.

“If you look back at TV shows from 1989,” when the museum designed some of its video presentations, “pacing seems incredibly slow,” she said.

Another “nuts and bolts” change,” Ogilvie said, would be to the “Tower of Faces,” a central structure featuring photographs of victims and survivors of the Holocaust. Some of them have faded, and the museum plans to return to the original negatives and digitize them.

Updates also would incorporate information made available since the museum’s opening. Access to Russian archives post-Soviet collapse has revealed much more about the “Holocaust by bullets,” the mass murders carried out by the Nazis in Soviet areas.

Bloomfield said Holt has been involved in the strategic planning.

His father is 96 and his mother is 93.

“This gift is an expression of our family’s gratitude to this remarkable country, and most especially it honors my parents, all of my grandparents who were killed, and my mother’s two sisters who survived with her,” Holt said in a statement released by the museum.

Zuckerberg commits 99 percent of shares to new ‘equality’ initiative

Mark Zuckerberg will put 99 percent of his Facebook Inc shares, currently worth about $45 billion, into a new philanthropy project focusing on human potential and equality, he and his wife said in a letter addressed to their newborn daughter.

The plan, which was posted on the Facebook founder and Chief Executive's page, and has attracted more than 360,000 'likes', follows other high-profile billionaires such as Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates, who have pledged and set up foundations to dedicate their massive fortunes to philanthropic endeavors.

Thirty-one year old Zuckerberg, who will control the new initiative and remain in charge of the world's largest online social network, said he would sell or give up to $1 billion in shares in each of the next three years. 

He will keep a controlling stake in Facebook, valued at $303 billion as of Tuesday's close, for what the company called the “foreseeable future.” Zuckerberg said he plans to remain CEO of Facebook for “many, many years to come.”

The move is not Zuckerberg's first in the world of philanthropy. When he was 26, he signed the Giving Pledge, which invites the world's wealthiest individuals and families to commit to giving more than half of their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes over their lifetime or in their will. 

“Mark and Priscilla are breaking the mold with this breathtaking commitment,” billionaire investor Warren Buffett said on Facebook. “A combination of brains, passion and resources on this scale will change the lives of millions. On behalf of future generations, I thank them.” 

Buffett himself pledged Berkshire Hathaway Inc stock worth $31 billion at the time to Gates' foundation in 2006, which was the largest single gift at the time.

Zuckerberg is relatively young to commit so much of his wealth. Microsoft Corp co-founder Gates was 45 in 2000, the year he and his wife founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Buffett was 76 in 2006, the year he committed to give away all of his Berkshire Hathaway stock to philanthropic organizations.

In welcoming the birth of his first child on his Facebook page, Zuckerberg posted a photo of himself, his wife, Priscilla Chan and their new daughter, Maxima, along with a post entitled 'A letter to our daughter.' 

In the 2,220-word letter, Zuckerberg and Chan touched on issues including health, education, Internet access and learning before announcing the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which aims to “advance human potential and promote equality.” 

They plan to give away 99 percent of their Facebook shares over their lifetimes to advance the initiative, which was formed as a limited liability company controlled by the two. It will begin by focusing on curing disease, Internet connectivity, community building and personalized learning – or the idea that technology can help students learn at different paces.

Max Chan Zuckerberg was born early last week – though Facebook did not specify her birth date – and weighed 7 lbs 8 ounces at birth. Last month, Zuckerberg announced he would take two months of paternity leave after the birth. 

Chan and Zuckerberg have so far committed $1.6 billion to their philanthropy. They have given several donations this year, including to public schools, initiatives to bring better wireless Internet access and to San Francisco General Hospital, where Chan works as a pediatrician. 

Zuckerberg and Chan said they will share more details when they return from their maternity and paternity leaves.

What’s a dollar a month worth?

People love the Jewish Journal. They love picking it up, at a shul or deli or cafe or market, and flipping through the stories of the Jewish world. There’s nothing quite like it in Los Angeles — a gathering place where all the voices of our community can be heard.

I can’t tell you how often I hear: “I love the paper. I’m hooked. It’s my weekly read.”

That kind of response gratifies me to no end, because I think good journalism is essential to the Jewish future. Where else would Jews regularly connect to their world and their community if not in a community paper? What other Jewish institution can claim to build as much Jewish connection, every week in print, and every day online — at no cost, and with access to all?

Some of you already know that in addition to my obsession with the Los Angeles Lakers, I’m obsessed with Jewish unity. Not Jewish uniformity, but unity within diversity — the idea of Jews of all colors and denominations coming together and uniting in a spirit of exchange, where we can learn and receive from one another.

I love being at the Shabbat table of a Persian friend and tasting a new cuisine, or seeing Sephardic Jews singing Chasidic nigguns at the Happy Minyan. This is a privilege my ancestors didn’t have. During the centuries that they lived in Morocco, how often did they get to meet Jews of different traditions?

I can walk down Pico Boulevard on a Shabbat afternoon and, in one block, encounter more Jewish diversity than my grandparents experienced in a lifetime. It’s true that sometimes that diversity can get on our nerves. Human beings prefer the familiar. I get that.

But it’s worth appreciating this grand family reunion that is now happening in the Jewish world.

After so many centuries of being mostly in our own bubbles, here we are in this great, amorphous city called Los Angeles, where we can discover each other. Persian Jews learning about Russian Jews, South African Jews learning about Tunisian Jews, Israeli Jews dancing with Latino Jews.

Our wish is that by Thanksgiving 2016, we will have tens of thousands of readers becoming patrons of the community paper they own and love, in whatever amount they’re comfortable with, even a dollar.

This is unity within diversity, and I think it’s a major reason why people so love the Journal. We cover it all. We inspire curiosity. We inspire connection.

Of course, none of this comes cheap. It costs a lot of money to hire reporters, to print and distribute thousands of papers each week, and to stay current on the Web. So, to use our CFO Adam Levine’s favorite question: “Are you sure we can afford all this?

Well, that depends on you — which is why I’m writing this Thanksgiving column.

As many of you know, the Journal is a nonprofit. It is distributed free because we don’t believe in charging for Jewish connection. We’re fortunate that we can cover a lot of our expenses through advertising —  but because advertising hardly covers it all, we’ve always depended on donations to help us continue to serve you.

This year, because we are a community paper that belongs to the community, we want to give everyone a chance to chip in. So, we are asking 100,000 readers and fans to join the Jewish Journal family and help keep us strong with a monthly donation of $1 or more. 

We have about 150,000 readers a week in print in Los Angeles, and another 3 million worldwide each month at If 100,000 of our readers each chip in $1 a month, that will cover our printing costs for the whole year — all 52 issues — and will enable us to continue growing and serving you. If 50,000 readers chip in $2 a month, or 10,000 readers chip in $10 a month, we also reach our goal, and so on.

We call it our “One dollar or more” campaign. Our wish is that by Thanksgiving 2016, we will have tens of thousands of readers giving back to the community paper they own and love, in whatever amount they’re comfortable with, even a dollar.  

To make your tax-deductible donation now, choose the amount below and then click on the “Donate” button below. Or, if you're old school, call Adam Levine at (213) 368-1661, ext. 131.

What will you get in return? The satisfaction of contributing to the Jewish institution  that keeps us all connected — week after week.

I think that’s worth being grateful for.

Happy Thanksgiving.

*Your tax-deductible donation to the Jewish Journal provides high-quality, independent journalism that connects, informs and inspires the community. We can't do it without you!

David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at

Kirk Douglas and wife donating $80 million in new gifts

Actor Kirk Douglas and his wife, Anne, announced plans to donate $80 million in new gifts to an array of charitable causes.

In a Hollywood Reporter interview published Monday, Douglas, 98, said major beneficiaries will include Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the Motion Picture & Television Fund. The two already have donated millions of dollars through their Douglas Charitable Foundation.

While most of the beneficiaries are secular organizations, the couple also is donating to the Sinai Temple of Los Angeles, which houses the Kirk and Anne Douglas Childhood Center.

Douglas is Jewish and the father of Hollywood actor Michael Douglas, who this year won the $1 million Genesis Prize, which is known informally as the “Jewish Nobel.”

In the interview, Douglas recalled his modest childhood as the son of Russian immigrants.

“Sometimes we didn’t have enough to eat, but very often there would be a knock at the door and it would be a hobo wanting food, and my mother always gave them something,” he recalled. “My mother said to me, ‘You must take care of other people.’ That stayed with me.”

In 2013, the most recent year for which tax information is available, the Douglas Foundation gave away more than $2 million in grants. Jewish beneficiaries included Jewish Family Service, Chabad’s Children of Chernobyl and the Anti-Defamation League.

Zuckerberg and wife make largest 2013 U.S. donation

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife are responsible for the largest on-record charitable donation in the United States in 2013.

For the second straight year, Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, gave away 18 million Facebook shares — a gift worth more than $970 million — to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation in December, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

The donation was the largest charitable gift on public record in 2013, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and marked the first time that donors under the age of 30 were responsible for the year’s largest donation.

Zuckerberg and Chan’s 2013 donation was equal in shares to the gift the couple gave the same foundation in December 2012. That gift was valued at just under $500 million at the time, but the success of Facebook’s stock over the past 12 months more than doubled the value of the 2013 donation, the news website Mashable reported.

The Silicon Valley Community Foundation serves as a gatekeeper to a number of charitable causes. In 2013, the foundation awarded more than 10,000 grants to over 29 different countries, according to its website.

Nike Chairman Phil Knight and his wife Penelope were responsible for the second-largest donation on public record in 2013: a $500 million pledge to the Oregon Health & Science University Foundation for cancer research.

Wilshire Boulevard Temple: How do you raise $120 million?

Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s newly renovated sanctuary has been cleaned and fully restored. An extended bimah is more accessible for the first time. Photo © Tom Bonner 2013

Ask Rabbi Steven Z. Leder what the mission of Wilshire Boulevard Temple is, and he’ll tell you, “We make Jews.” The temple started making Jews two centuries ago, in 1862, when the country stood divided, engaged in Civil War, with Abraham Lincoln as the president of the United States. Then known as Congregation B’nai B’rith, it was located first at Temple Street and Broadway downtown, and then moved to a larger space at Ninth and Hope streets. Eventually, in 1929, the synagogue — now the oldest in Los Angeles — moved into its third historic home, on Wilshire Boulevard between Harvard and Hobart boulevards, dominating its portion of the city’s spine. 

Since its grand opening, the congregation has played a central role among Los Angeles’ Reform Jewish community, but over the years, the building’s façade and interior eroded, becoming dilapidated and outdated. When a legally blind congregant, Bea Boyd, called Leder to tell him the sanctuary’s bathrooms were disgustingly dirty, and when a 10-pound chunk of plaster fell from the ceiling in the middle of the night, Leder knew he had to take action. The result is a $160 million project, to be done in three phases, to restore the sanctuary to its former glory and, along the way, to add all sorts of new attributes to an expanded campus. 

Before he got started, however, Leder visited three respected and highly successful Los Angeles leaders, asking for advice. First, he went to Steven Sample, president of USC from 1991 to 2010, during which time he raised $3 billion for a school located in an area of Los Angeles that, as Leder put it, “No one believed in.” Second, Leder talked to Richard Riordan, mayor of Los Angeles from 1993 to 2001, because, Leder said, “He truly understands where Los Angles is heading.” And finally, Leder visited Uri Herscher, a rabbi and founder of the Skirball Cultural Center, who, according to Leder, is “one of the best rabbi fundraisers I have ever known.”

Through the encouragement of these three men, Leder gained confidence to move ahead. He brought on the renowned architect and congregant Brenda Levin to repair and enhance the neglected architectural gem, with its Byzantine dome and beautiful history-telling murals by Hugo Ballin that were commissioned by Warner Bros. studio chief Jack Warner. One of the congregation’s concerns, however, was the future of the neighborhood: Were there enough Jews in the Eastside area to sustain such a substantial investment? Leder said the guidance from Sample, Riordan and Herscher reaffirmed his belief that a resurgence was already taking place in the area and, more importantly, that if the passion and relationships established by the temple are real, the temple will succeed. 

Leder admits he never would have raised the more than $118 million that he has so far without his already strong and longstanding relationships with congregants. At the 2005 High Holy Days services, Leder announced the plans for the project in his sermon. His main message was that the sanctuary of Wilshire Boulevard Temple is at “the center of the center of the center.” In other words, the sanctuary is the core of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, and it sits in a vital and diverse neighborhood essential to Los Angeles, which has the second-largest Jewish population in the United States. 

“We are the luckiest Jews to have ever lived,” Leder said. Yet he maintains this privilege and freedom comes with responsibility. He asks, “What will we do with this good fortune?” 

His answer: making Jews in various venues throughout the renovated Erika J. Glazer Family Campus of Wilshire Boulevard Temple. The newly refreshed and glowing sanctuary will be unveiled to the congregation at Erev Rosh Hashanah services on Sept. 4 and throughout the Days of Awe. The temple plans to finish the remaining two phases of the project by 2020. Phase two entails a large-scale Tikkun Olam Center, staffed by professionals and congregants, which will provide the surrounding communities with a variety of social services, rooftop gym facilities, new courtyards for celebrations and other gatherings, the renovation of the temple’s two school buildings and a large parking garage. Phase three includes an office building with conference rooms, administrative offices, meeting places, an events center, a mikveh, cafe deli on site and a kosher kitchen. 

The temple’s renovation and transformation of an entire city block wouldn’t have been possible without the temple’s approximately 7,500 congregants; to date, an estimated 520 people among them have donated to the project at various levels.

For this article, the Journal had space to profile only a small selection of those donors, and this selection, all of whom gave generously, also gave graciously of their time to talk about their philanthropy and motives. There is an extensive list of other congregants who contributed significant sums to the temple’s new effort. Perhaps foremost among them is Erika Glazer, daughter of shopping mall developer Guilford Glazer, who will give a total of $36 million, $6 million for the Early Childhood Center and $30 million over 15 years to help cover the debt payments on the tax-free bond financing the next phase of the project. She also gave her name: What was formerly known as the Wilshire Boulevard Temple campus is now officially renamed the Erika J. Glazer Family Campus of Wilshire Boulevard Temple in honor of her gift. (Glazer was traveling and unavailable to speak with the Journal at this time.) Among the other major donors are Larry and Allison Berg, Janet Crown, Stephen and Peggy Davis, Marshall Geller, Uri Herscher, Bruce and Lilly Karatz, Tom and Barbara Leanse, Yehuda and Liz Naftali, past president of the board Rich Pachulski and wife Dana, Ellen Pansky, Larry Powell and wife Joyce, Rick and Debbie Powell, Reagan Silber and many more. A particularly fervent donor is Sandy Post, who entered kindergarten at Wilshire Boulevard some 83 years ago and remains a temple member today. 

Leder’s fundraising total so far is believed to be the largest amount of money any rabbi has ever raised in the United States. Leder says his success is all due to the community, and he refers to the donors as the “finest, most generous, visionary human beings you will ever meet.”

Bram Goldsmith
Restoration of Sanctuary’s Ark

Bram Goldsmith, who served as chairman of the board and chief executive officer of City National Bank and City National Corp. from 1975 to 1995, was raised in a middle-class Orthodox home in Chicago. His father immigrated to the United States from Poland in 1916 and, soon after, brought over Goldsmith’s mother and two older sisters. Goldsmith himself was born in the United States in 1923, and he remembers from his childhood the family’s staple pushke box, a tin can for alms, in their home. Although not wealthy, the Goldsmiths always put a portion of what they had into the pushke to be picked up by the Jewish National Fund and sent to Israel.

With that box, young Bram was taught early the importance of giving back, and philanthropy became a guiding principle throughout his life. 

“My personal work ethic starts with the issue of integrity and includes taking personal responsibility, being helpful to others, by being charitable with your contributions and your personal involvement,” he said during an interview at his City National Bank office in Beverly Hills. 

In keeping with this mission, Goldsmith has donated $1 million for the restoration of the ark in the Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s sanctuary, which he sees as the heart of the temple. The donation was made through the Goldsmith Family Foundation, which was established in 1960.

For 25 years, Goldsmith served as president and chief executive officer of Buckeye Realty and Management Corp., the largest privately owned commercial real estate development company in Southern California at the time. He then took over City National Bank and guided the company’s growth, increasing assets from $600 million to $3.3 billion. Now, City National Corp. has assets of $27.4 billion and operates in more than 70 locations around the country.

Goldsmith’s first act of philanthropy occurred rather spontaneously, in 1942, when he was a young man in college at the University of Illinois at Chicago. At a dinner for the United Jewish Welfare Fund that he attended with his father-in-law, Goldsmith pledged $100, an amount so large  for him at the time, it took him six months to pay it off. But it was the beginning of a commitment, and, he said, since moving to California in 1953, he has been “involved with the major Jewish philanthropic organizations in the community” here. Among them, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the Wallis Annenberg Cultural Center Foundation, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, the Los Angeles United Jewish Fund Campaign, the United Jewish Appeal and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

As another Wilshire Boulevard Temple donor, Stanley Gold, put it, “Bram is the epitome of giving back to this community. In my opinion, he is the senior mensch in town.”

“I set a standard that all of us must encourage and respect every human being and do the right thing,” Goldsmith said.

A temple member since 1965, Goldsmith has been part of his five grandchildren’s bar and bat mitzvahs at Wilshire Boulevard and heard his granddaughter sing at Yom Kippur services. Goldsmith has seen the temple grow and change over almost 50 years, and has watched its role evolve in the Jewish world and Los Angeles at large. 

“I think that today, the temple has achieved a new level of respect and leadership in the community,” he said.

“The restoration of this facility to service the needs of Reform Judaism in greater L.A. is very critical,” he said. “A spiritual sanctuary, with thousands of members, represents a very strong foundation for the future education of kids, whom I consider to be most valuable.”

From putting a few cents in a pushke box to renovating Wilshire Boulevard’s sanctuary, Goldsmith continues to build upon his family’s tradition of giving.

Alan Berro
Bimah Accessibility Ramps

The lasting impact of a trip to Israel can be hard to measure, but for Alan Berro, Capital World Investors senior vice president and portfolio counselor, the experience went beyond connecting to the Jewish state. On a Wilshire Boulevard Temple trip there in 2007, Berro deepened his ties to his now-18-year-old son, Bailey, as well as to the synagogue’s Rabbi Steven Z. Leder and the 30 other congregants on the trip. In traveling the 7,000 miles to Israel, Berro discovered his community back home. 

The connection inspired Berro to become more involved in the congregation, which led to his underwriting the new ramps leading up to the bimah, enabling, for the first time, accessibility for all — young, old and the disabled. 

A member of Wilshire Boulevard Temple since 2000 and a current board trustee, Berro said, “Being Jewish is just part of who I am, and I’m proud of that. I really like being a member of a Reform congregation that’s more open and more inclusive.”

A Laguna Beach native, Berro moved back to Los Angeles in 1991 after living in Boston for seven years, arriving just in time for the Rodney King verdict riots in the spring of 1992. The chaos and destruction of neighborhoods during that time, which hit especially hard the Koreatown neighborhood surrounding the temple, made a deep impression on Berro. He has felt motivated ever since to play a part in community building.  

In 1998, Wilshire Boulevard Temple solidified the congregation with the addition of a new campus on the Westside, but Berro saw the importance of rehabilitating the historic location on Wilshire Boulevard and reinvesting in that neighborhood, as well. 

Berro said he especially supports the temple’s efforts to create the Tikkun Olam Center, which will serve people from the diverse surrounding neighborhood of all ages and denominations. 

“L.A. has been through some difficult times,” Berro said, adding, “I think the people who can afford to should try to help all parts of the city. We’re all here together; we’re not very far apart. This is just one more step in that direction.”

Berro attended UCLA as an undergraduate and earned an MBA from Harvard Business School. He worked at Fidelity Investments before joining the Capital Group.  

Berro has served on the board of Inner-City Arts since 1998 and as chairman of the board of that skid-row arts education project for three years. He also has donated money to the California Science Center and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and in 2012 he joined the board of directors of the Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation at UCLA. Berro said he tries to extend his giving over a wide variety of areas, focusing on health, arts, education, religion and community.

Berro also said he views his contribution to Wilshire Boulevard Temple from a businessman’s point of view: “I see Wilshire Boulevard Temple as a pillar of the Jewish community in Los Angeles,” he said. “We’re really investing in a good place. … The fact we’re making a community and educational center will give a big return to the community.” 

“I hope my son becomes a member,” Berro said, “and that for each generation, hopefully, the cycle continues. I think we have a rich a beautiful history, and I’d like to keep it going.”

Every part of the temple’s exterior was repaired, including bringing back the original color. Photo © Tom Bonner 2013

Fred Sands
Sanctuary’s Triple Lancet Window

Los Angeles real estate mogul Fred Sands hesitates, on the verge of tears, as he explains his emotional connection to the Jewish people and religion. “I’m not aware I lost any relatives in the Holocaust, but the Holocaust is right here,” he said pointing to his heart. “It doesn’t go away.”

For Sands, the spiritual tie he feels to Judaism often remains inexplicable. To him, the important thing is how he responds to this deep-rooted connection. 

The persecution of his Jewish ancestors and the survival of the Jewish people despite the odds spur him to give back, and inspired his donation of $500,000 to Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s renovation of the sanctuary’s triple lancet window. 

“Rabbi Leder says you have to be a good ancestor. You’re not doing this for yourself; you’re also doing this for your heirs, future generations,” Sands said. 

A temple member for 10 years, Sands often has lunch with Rabbi Steven Z. Leder, seeking his advice. In this instance however, it was the rabbi who came to Sands for guidance. According to Leder, Sands was the fourth person he consulted before starting the restoration project .

Sands has lived in Los Angeles since the age of 7, and in 1969 he created Fred Sands Realtors, now California’s second largest and the United States’ seventh largest independent real estate company. After selling the company to Coldwell Banker in 2000, he formed the investment firm Vintage Capital Group. He now serves as chairman of Vintage Real Estate, LLC, and Vintage Fund Management, LLC. 

Many people encouraged Leder to sell the temple building, citing the large move of the Jewish population to the Westside. Sands, however, advised against that. He cited the increase of Jewish families and young couples living in Hancock Park, Los Feliz, Silver Lake and, more recently, an increasingly gentrified Echo Park — all neighborhoods close to the temple. 

“In urban planning, you discover when you study cities, a city starts at the core and works its way out. Ultimately the core rots, and then it starts all over again,” Sands said.

This is the evolution that is occurring in Los Angeles today, Sands said. Where Wilshire Boulevard Temple was once at the city’s core, and then was not, now that core is being rebuilt again, and the temple can play an integral part in the revitalization. 

“There’s a saying, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ They’ll be there,” Sands said. “The place is beautiful; people gravitate toward places like that. That’s a very vibrant community. No question, there’s going to be a resurgence.”

Sands even compares the temple’s rebirth to his own work with Vintage Capital Group, which buys rundown or underperforming shopping centers to improve them, and also focuses on turning around distressed companies and bankruptcies.   

For him, the artistic component is important, too. Sands is a founder, vice chairman and trustee of Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art and also serves as chair of the museum’s Investment Committee. He also serves on several boards, including those of the Los Angeles Opera, the Los Angeles Police Foundation and Chrysalis, an organization that aims to rehabilitate the homeless.Sands said he believes any type of renovation, whether for a city, temple, commercial mall or company, requires a kind of generosity and kinship. 

“We’re all in this together, rich and poor. It’s the right thing to do,” Sands said. “We’re supposed to be good people, to help other people. It’s part of life, giving back.”

Stanley Gold
Preschool Play Yard for Future Generations

Stanley Gold sits relaxed and content in his Beverly Hills home as he explains his involvement in Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s renovation plan. The Shamrock Holdings president and CEO — and recent chair of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles — leans back, chewing on a cigar after finishing a summer salad for lunch, and describes his personal connection to the temple and his thoughts on its role in the greater Los Angeles community. Jocular and loquacious, Gold doesn’t hold back as he also describes his overall philosophy on philanthropy. 

He says Wilshire Boulevard Temple means so much more to him and his family than simply a historically and architecturally significant monument. For Gold, the 100-foot-by-100-foot sanctuary holds poignant memories of his son’s bar mitzvah and daughter’s bat mitzvah, and is the place where he’s established important friendships with the temple’s members, as well as its clergy. For the Gold family, Wilshire Boulevard is both a place of worship and a compassionate community. Gold and his wife, Ilene, have both served as members of the congregation’s board at various times during their four decades of membership. 

 “For the most part, we have given to places that have improved and bettered our lives. … Wilshire Boulevard fits that role perfectly,” Gold said. “They have helped us grow as a family, helped us raise our children and answered difficult questions.” To that end, the Golds have donated $2 million to help pay for and name a new play yard for the nursery school, which will be built later.

And while he acknowledges a strong personal connection, Gold said his reasons for donating also go far beyond that tie — he wants to support the temple’s role as a strong leader within the Jewish community as well as a gateway to the non-Jewish community. 

“I think we have a responsibility within the community. We need to be supportive of our neighbors and the non-Jewish world. I think the temple does that in a big way,” he said. 

Gold has seen the temple grow with changes in leadership, the building of the Audrey and Sidney Irmas Campus in West Los Angeles, and now the renovation of the new Erika J. Glazer Family Campus.

Gold said that with the expansion, he hopes the temple will continue to attract young, dynamic, growing and important families.

“We should never forget, as great as our buildings are, we are a People of the Book, not of the building, and that means we need to have new, interesting people to interpret that book and how it goes forward. I’m hoping the new facilities will attract such people,” Gold said. 

Gold added that he thinks all Jewish people have a responsibility to serve the rest of society, a viewpoint he himself tries to live by. 

Gold is a graduate of UCLA; he also has a degree from USC and completed postgraduate work at the University of Cambridge. He worked for the Gang, Tyre, Ramer & Brown law firm before becoming the president and CEO of Shamrock Holdings Inc., which is Roy E. Disney’s private investment company. He served on the Walt Disney Co.’s board of directors for more than 15 years, and donates money and gives his time to numerous Jewish and educational organizations. He served as chairman of the board at USC for six years, as chairman of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of religion for six years and chairman of Federation for two years.

 “I think the Jewish people have an important contribution to make to this society,” Gold said. “I think our values, our outlook on life, our goals are consonant with the American dream. … We improve the quality of society.” 

For Gold, this responsibility to contribute doesn’t only apply to Jews. 

 “I think it’s the job of everybody who’s on the earth to make the world a better place while you’re here,” he added. “Giving to organizations whose main focus is to enrich people and broaden people and show them opportunities is a way to make this place better. I give to those kinds of organizations,” he said. “I think I’m fulfilling what is my real duty for being here.”

The sanctuary’s ornate ceiling culminates in an oculus outlined by the words of the Shema. Photo © Tom Bonner 2013

Jonathan Mitchell
New Central Walkway

Jonathan Mitchell likes to crane his neck backward as he sits in the sanctuary of the historic Wilshire Boulevard Temple, taking time to look 100 feet upward at the omnipotent Byzantine dome, with its centerpiece oculus outlined by the words of the Shema. As the rest of the congregation closes their eyes in prayer, he likes to gaze above, in honor of the memory of his now-deceased mother, Beverly Mitchell.

When Mitchell was a boy, his mother would soothe him to sleep by chanting the Shema. That prayer evokes the memory of her comforting voice, especially, during the High Holy Days services in the resplendent sanctuary. Mitchell fixates on the words above, remembering as well how his mother would surreptitiously point at the dome when they went to services together. This clandestine moment between mother and son established a personal tradition amid the sea of fellow temple members whose eyes remained closed, unaware of what had transpired. 

This ritual, as well as the community he has found at Wilshire Boulevard Temple, inspired Mitchell to support the temple’s renovation and expansion project. Indeed, his family’s connection to the congregation reaches back generations: Both sets of his grandparents belonged to the temple, the temple confirmed both of his parents, the longtime stalwart Rabbi Edgar Magnin presided over the marriage of his parents and assisted in officiating Mitchell’s own bar mitzvah. Mitchell’s mother was also the first female member of the board.

Mitchell now heads the Edward D. and Anna Mitchell Family Foundation, named for his grandmother and for his grandfather, founder of the Beneficial Standard Life Insurance Co., and it was through the family foundation that he donated $1 million to build the campus’ new central walkway, which will be completed by summer 2016. The walkway will act as a main artery extending between the parking pavilion and sanctuary. 

“We had a tradition of going there on the High Holy Days,” Mitchell said during a conversation at his home in Beverly Hills “It was kind of a special time for the family to all be together; I always looked forward to it from that standpoint.”

Mitchell was born and raised in Los Angeles, and he now oversees his family’s investment portfolio and serves as president of the family foundation. He has also been a committed and generous supporter of organizations benefiting education and Israel. The Mitchell Family Foundation donated a major gift to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and established the Mitchell Academy of Science and Technology at the Milken Community High School. He has also given time and financial support to the Anti-Defamation League, Cedars-Sinai, the Music Center, Goodwill Industries, Sheba Medical Center and the Technion, to name a few. He also has served as a national officer and board member of AIPAC, ultimately becoming chairman of its Political Education Program, from 1995 to 1997, encouraging the building of relationships among government leaders and members of the Jewish community. 

“The keeper of the Jewish traditions is Israel. It’s the heart and soul of the Jewish people,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell first realized the importance of helping Jews in 1968, on a trip to Israel and Eastern Europe sponsored by the United Jewish Appeal (UJA). At the former Jewish ghetto in Eisenstadt, Austria, he met the only living Jew from among those who stayed there after World War II. When Mitchell asked why he hadn’t left the ghetto, the man explained that if he moved, Jewish life in Eisenstadt would come to an end. 

Mitchell especially remembers that moment, and how Rabbi Herbert Friedman, then the executive director of the UJA, sparked in him a drive to live by and support Jewish traditions: “Rabbi Friedman said it doesn’t matter how many Hitlers come and go. All of them put together cannot destroy the Jewish people. The only thing that can destroy the Jewish people is if we forget our traditions,” Mitchell recalled. 

This notion, Mitchell says, has governed his entire life and was the motivation behind donating to the synagogue. 

“I don’t want the end of the Jewish religion to ever happen in Los Angeles, and having an institution that’s substantial, financially strong, that makes a strong statement in the community, like Wilshire Boulevard Temple — that helps to keep the Jewish tradition alive in Los Angeles,” Mitchell said. “And I would like to see that continue forever.

“I believe that in the end people will look back and say we did the right thing.” 

And this year, with the dome fully restored and newly glowing up above, Mitchell might not be the only one craning his neck back to read the words of the Shema prayer.

Martha Karsh
Tikkun Olam Center

“Sharing just feels like the right thing to do.” Martha Karsh, a philanthropist and attorney, said as she reflected on why she chose to donate to Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s renovation and expansion plan. Karsh said she and her husband, Bruce Karsh, were particularly moved by the temple’s plan to reach out with social services for its surrounding neighborhood, practicing the Jewish tradition of tikkun olam — repairing the world. 

Karsh admits she didn’t need a lot of convincing to show her support. She said that along with the temple’s altruistic efforts, the preservation of the temple building “just spoke to us.”

Before the restoration began, Karsh toured the 1929 building and saw firsthand its neglected state, including portions of the ceiling in the main sanctuary that had fallen to the ground. Karsh described her emotional reaction to seeing the extraordinary structure eroding in front of her eyes.

“I’m really an architecture and preservationist buff,” she said. “I love that temple building.” 

Once the renovation of the sanctuary is completed, Wilshire Boulevard Temple plans to build the Tikkun Olam Center, which will provide a variety of free or low-cost services, including medical, dental, legal and food assistance, as well as mental health counseling and English classes, for anyone in need living in the greater Koreatown area — a multicultural neighborhood that includes many low-income residents. The Karsh family has given $5 million to fund the center in hopes of improving the quality of life for both Jewish and non-Jewish neighbors. 

Karsh said she and her husband felt most passionate about this particular outreach programming because of their ardent belief in helping others. Their three children have worked for the food pantry that the temple has operated for more than 25 years. 

“I feel like my Judaism is very much a part of me,” Karsh said. “Many of the things that guide the work I do are really governed by both democratic and Jewish principles. Tikkun olam, for example — you heal the world, you help others that are less fortunate than you,” Karsh said. “Those are things that are really a part of the fabric of our lives.”

Martha and Bruce Karsh met at University of Virginia School of Law in 1978. The couple moved to Sacramento in the early 1980s for Bruce to work as a clerk for now-Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Bruce later transitioned into money management, ultimately becoming president and co-founder of Oaktree Capital Management, in 1995, which as of December 2012 managed $77.1 billion. Martha practiced law as a business litigator and counseling attorney. She also lectured at UCLA and volunteered at the Office of the County Counsel’s Department of Children and Family Services, earning volunteer-of-the-year in 1987. In 2009, she formed an architecture and design firm, Clark & Karsh, with architect Brad Clark. 

Even as they were working and raising their three children, the Karshes also created the Karsh Family Foundation, which has donated more than $120 million to a variety of philanthropic organizations, mostly ones involving education. 

Their philanthropic focus has been primarily on education, including giving to Duke University, University of Virginia, University of Pennsylvania, Teach For America and the Knowledge Is Power Program, and Martha Karsh said she believes education is key to bringing people together. She sees the Tikkun Olam Center as working to promote that goal, as well. 

“When you reach out to your neighbors, you build bridges — bridges of understanding and bridges of sharing. Those are the kind of bridges we need to have more of in the world,” Karsh said.

 “Part of the Jewish values, and just our personal values, are that you help people who are not as well off,” Karsh said. “What you’re doing is paying it forward. That’s why we’re doing it. That’s why it resonates with us.”

Audrey Irmas
The Irmas Family Courtyard

Well-known as among Los Angeles’ most important art collectors and arts philanthropists, Audrey Irmas discovers beauty wherever she goes — whether it’s a Roy Lichtenstein painting in her apartment or the artwork that adorns the walls of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple sanctuary.

Indeed, the sanctuary, built in 1929, is a work of art unto itself, with its audacious dome, resounding organ, delicate stained glass and more. However, for Irmas, one attribute in particular stands out: the Hugo Ballin murals. 

Irmas said she loves to look at, in particular, a portrait of Ruth Dubin, the wife of past Rabbi Maxwell Dubin. Draped in blue, Ruth poses on her knees, as if offering up something, but it’s a mystery as to what she’s offering. “I always kind of say hello to [Ruth] when I go. I feel very much at home,” Irmas said. “There’s something so beautiful and welcoming about the temple. I love it very much.” 

Irmas and her late husband, Sydney Irmas, are the third generation of the Irmas family to be members of the temple, and Irmas’ grandchildren constitute the fifth generation to belong to the congregation; indeed Audrey’s name, along with that of her husband grace the temple’s Westside campus, which opened in 1998. Now she has donated $5 million to create the Irmas Family Courtyard, which will include benches designed by the American artist Jenny Holzer.

When Irmas — who was born and raised in Los Angeles and attended Fairfax High School — was just a 20-year-old newlywed, she said, she took her first steps into the Wilshire Boulevard synagogue with her in-laws, when Sydney was out of town. She embraced the temple, sending her children to Sunday school there and attending services with her family — always sneaking a glance at the image of Ruth Dubin. 

It was in 1948, while a student at UCLA, that she met Sydney, who went on to become an attorney and investor. By 1983, the couple had formed the Audrey and Sydney Irmas Charitable Foundation, and since her husband’s passing in 1996, Irmas said, she has tried to address local, national and global problems through the foundation, as well as focus on women’s and children’s issues. The foundation also has donated money to USC, created the Audrey and Sydney Irmas Los Angeles Youth Center and the Sydney M. Irmas Therapeutic Living Center. Audrey Irmas also has served as president and chair of the board of the Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art and as chair of the Los Angeles Family Housing Corp. 

“I just feel that I am so fortunate. It’s just part of my background to give back. That’s just part of the family tradition,” she said.

She recalls, as a young girl during the Depression, witnessing her parents give $15 to charity. That donation, from more than 70 years ago, still influences her today, as she remembers how difficult times were for her family financially. 

She said there was no question that she would be a donor to the temple’s rebirth. She reflects back on the times she spent at the temple with her in-laws and said she is comforted by her children’s continuation of the tradition.

“We’re a clan. Jews are a clan, [and] I’m a member of that clan,” Irmas said. “Everybody is so excited about the new temple and the campus. It has reinvigorated the congregation.”

Irmas said she believes the temple’s project will rejuvenate what is already a thriving and tight-knit community. The High Holy Days services, in particular, are a time when she is reminded of the support and kindness she has received from the people who make up the congregation.  

“Usually, once a year, I’m invited to sit on the bimah and participate in the holiday readings. I love looking out to see all my friends from high school and my early marriage. We’re all sitting there together and worshiping. And it’s the temple that brings them together, that brings us together,” she said.

An early model of the campus expansion shows a preliminary vision for a Tikkun Olam Center on Sixth Street, at rear.

Adelsons donate $40 million to Birthright

Casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, donated $40 million to the Birthright Israel Foundation.

Their latest gift brings the couple’s overall donations to the program to $180 million.

“Sheldon and I are committed to improving the world through cultural exchange and educational opportunity,” said Miriam Adelson in a statement released Wednesday by Birthright Israel, which offers Jews aged 18 to 26 a free 10-day trip to Israel. “Exposing young Jews to Israel helps broaden their awareness and deepen their cultural identity. We are committed to the goal of all young Jewish adults having the opportunity to be inspired by their ancestral homeland.”

In recent years, the Adelsons have given major donations to several Jewish institutions and organizations. In 2011, they donated $25 million to Yad Vashem, bringing their overall donations to the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem to $50 million. Other recipients of their largesse include the Shalem Center, a think tank in Jerusalem, and the Zionist Organization of America.

In addition to their philanthropy, the Adelsons have given tens of millions of dollars in support of Republican politicians and conservative causes.

Sheldon Adelson is the 15th richest person in the world with an estimated net worth of $26.5 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

Donors struggling to defray the rising costs of Jewish camp

Spending the summer at Jewish overnight camp once was a spartan affair, often little more than a collection of ramshackle buildings scattered in the woods by a placid lake.

Those were the days.

“Today it's all about the toys,” said Rabbi Allan Smith, the former head of the Reform movement’s camp network and a 46-year veteran of the summer camp business. “You have a go-kart track, a climbing wall, a swing, a Burma bridge.

“When I was a kid, 90 percent of the camps were by a lake. Today if you don't have a pool you're a loser. Kids don't like lakes, they're dirty.”

Such amenities may make camps more appealing, but they don’t come cheap.

Parents can expect to shell out anywhere from $800 per week per child at one of the less expensive nonprofit camps to $2,000 per week at some of the pricier options. For families already struggling to cover the costs of Jewish education during the school year, sending a child to camp might be one expense too many.

In a bid to help defray the cost, the Foundation for Jewish Camp has awarded more than 43,000 grants to attend a nonprofit summer camp. The grants can be up to $1,000 per family .

“We believe summers at Jewish camp are an important component in one's Jewish identity,” said Jeremy Fingerman, the foundation’s CEO. “Camp teaches a joyful Judaism and becomes an important building block for a Jewish future. We believe families challenged economically should not be penalized.”

The high tuition at Jewish camps, which directors at the camps agree is considerably costlier than at their Christian counterparts, is cause for concern among those who fear that a potent identity-building opportunity is slipping away from middle-income families.

For Debra Hollander of Shaker Heights, Ohio, sending her children to Jewish camp is a top priority, despite the costs.

“Our three kids go to secular education schools, so for us Jewish camping became even more important,” she said. 

A 2011 study commissioned by the Foundation for Jewish Camp lends credence to Hollander's view of Jewish camps as important shapers of Jewish identity. According to the study, Jewish camp alumni are 30 percent more likely to donate to a Jewish charity; 37 percent more likely to light Sabbath candles; and 45 percent more likely to attend synagogue.

“The analysis indicates that [camps] bring, first of all, an increased inclination to practice Jewish behaviors in their lives, from Shabbat lighting candles to using Jewish websites and to appreciate the value of Jewish charity,” the study concluded. “Secondly, they bring an inclination to value and seek out the experience of Jewish community, whether in the immediate sense of joining other Jews in prayer or in the more abstract sense of identifying with fellow Jews in Israel.”

The FJC, which has a mission to increase the number of Jewish campers, is working to identify ways for camps to slash costs. In recent years it has coordinated the sharing of resources, encouraged the development of alternative revenue sources and helped camp directors improve their managerial skills through a program the organization likens to “an MBA in camping.”

Ultimately, the foundation wants to see camps profitable enough to be self-sustaining.

“Camps that are full are profitable and reinvest back in scholarships,” Fingerman said. “So there is a power in numbers, and we're working hard to get them full.”

Other organizations also have taken steps to make camp more affordable, particularly for less-affiliated families and first-time campers who might be less sold on the value of the camp experience. The Avi Chai and Zell foundations jointly made a $600,000 donation to Ramah to help the Conservative movement’s camp network attract first-timers.

“We're calling it the Ramah Open Door Program, where we're opening up to less Jewish-affiliated families,” said Rabbi Mitchell Cohen, Ramah’s national director.

Paul Reichenbach, the director of camp and Israel programs at the Union for Reform Judaism, said a significant number of children attending his movement's summer programs also receive scholarships.

While camp directors agree that the costs of Jewish overnight camps are high, they offer varying explanations as to the reasons. Some say it’s the relative abundance of staff — a ratio of one supervisor for every two campers, according to Cohen. Others point to the salaries of directors, which average about $125,000 per year at nonprofit camps, according to public tax filings. Directors at Jewish for-profits can make even more.

Perhaps the biggest factor driving costs, however, is the Jewish community's relative affluence and the resulting expectations.

“What [Jewish camps] provide may be higher with regard to facility, to program options, with regard to staff structure,” Reichenbach said. “And we are dealing with a community that has a certain expectation for quality.”

Despite a growing recognition of the importance of making tuition affordable, Reichenbach predicted costs would continue to appreciate at a rate of 2 percent to 5 percent each year.

“We live in the real world,” he said. “In the last few years our practices have reflected the rise in the cost-of-living index, the cost of energy, of food, of transportation. Right now we are doing the best we can to stay even.”

Sandy stories: Destruction, recovery and human kindness

A week after Sandy swept into the New York area with fierce winds, driving rain and a high tide for the history books, the nation’s largest Jewish community was still picking up the pieces. JTA gathered stories from around the storm zone about Sandy’s destruction, the recovery and the remarkable tales of human kindness.

Houses of prayer as places of refuge

Some synagogues in the stricken area have seen more congregants this week than during the High Holidays. Many came for prayer, but others flocked to shuls for their offers of shelter, hot food, heat, recharging of electronics, wireless Internet and children's programming.

Congregation Keter Torah in Teaneck, N.J., hosted a free pizza night, but the real draw for area residents was the offer to charge electronics. In White Plains, N.Y., in suburban Westchester County, Jewish community members used an email listserv to trade information about which gas stations were open and where the lines were shortest.

In Mahwah, N.J., near the New York State border, locals packed into the social hall at Beth Haverim Shir Shalom to use tables set up with power strips so they could go online.

“I’ve been using my synagogue social hall as an office,” Joe Berkofsky, managing director of communications for the Jewish Federations of North America, told JTA. “I’ve been powering things up and have been able to get some work done.”

Russian-American Jews unite

Steve Asnes, an activist in the Russian Jewish community, was helping neighbors in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn on the night of the storm when a sudden surge brought water careening through the streets and up to his neck, according to Mordechai Tokarsky, director of the Russian American Jewish Experience. Asnes managed to hang onto a piece of scaffolding until he could reach safety.

At the nearby RAJE center, Michael Britan watched the center’s first floor turn into a swimming pool. The full extent of destruction became apparent only the next day. Cars lay on top of each other. The RAJE center was under 12 feet of water, its beit midrash study hall wrecked, and classrooms, offices, a boiler room and the elevator shaft all waterlogged.

Community activists who came to help clean up ended up spending much of the time at a high-rise apartment building across the street assisting elderly residents trapped in their homes without power or hot water, Tokarsky said. With the help of Esther Lamm, a RAJE alumna who heads the young leadership Russian division of UJA-Federation in New York, the volunteers quickly organized a command-and-control center that played a key role in relief efforts throughout the neighborhood.

Tokarsy said it would require plenty of work and help from private funders to get RAJE back up and running.

UJA-Federation providing $10 million

The lights were still out and the gas lines still miles long in parts of New York City when the UJA-Federation of New York announced Monday that it was making $10 million available immediately to synagogues, Jewish day schools and federation agencies providing direct care and support in storm-hit communities. The money will go toward cash assistance, temporary housing, food and “whatever else is needed,” federation CEO John Ruskay told JTA. The unanimous decision was made in an emergency board meeting on Sunday night.

The money will come from the federation’s endowment and reserves, and will be offset by any storm-related donations. “The point of having reserves and an endowment is to enable our agencies, our synagogues and our community to respond to people at times like these,” Ruskay said. It's the largest-ever commitment of UJA-Federation funds for a natural disaster, according to Alisa Doctoroff, chairwoman of UJA-Federation of New York.

Schools destroyed

Several schools, notably in beach areas, took a big hit from Sandy. Two of the three campuses of the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach on Long Island reportedly suffered major damage, including at the boys high school, which was flooded. Though the elementary school is situated on the boardwalk of the New York suburb, the building reportedly escaped structural damage but was left with a mess.

The 120-student Yeshiva of Belle Harbor in hard-hit Far Rockaway, Queens, was flooded beyond repair, The New York Jewish Week reported. Water flooded past the ceilings of the first-floor classrooms, and by last Friday the school had decided to merge with the Crown Heights Yeshiva in Brooklyn’s Mill Basin neighborhood, the paper reported. At the Mazel Academy in Brighton Beach, books, furniture, classrooms and Torah scrolls were destroyed in a building that was renovated just last year.

Away from the beach, at the SAR Academy in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, the school managed to reopen despite no electricity by relocating classes to neighborhood synagogues.

Help wanted

They came from Manhattan’s Upper West Side and went to buildings without power or heat on the Lower East Side. They baked challahs and distributed them throughout the city. They sent a bus to take residents of Far Rockaway to Kemp Mill, Md., for a “relief Shabbos.” They started a clothing drive in Berlin.

All over the world, volunteers mobilized to help with storm relief. Some offered spiritual succor: A rabbi in Berkeley, Calif., composed a Sandy-inspired prayer beginning “Elohei ha'ruchot,” “God of the winds.”

Chasidic singer loses recording studio

When the surge hit the community of Sea Gate in Brooklyn, four or five feet of water ran through the streets from the ocean to the bay, leaving behind houses now condemned, a dramatically altered shoreline and destruction everywhere. In a YouTube video, Chasidic singer Mordechai Ben David offers a tour of his deluged recording studio, where the water that submerged his equipment rose to the bottoms of pictures of rebbes hanging on his walls before stopping.

“Everyone that lives in Sea Gate got hit badly,” Ben David said. “But Baruch Hashem, we’re fine, we’re alive.”


To donate to storm relief, please visit

Elliot Caplow, real estate developer, philanthropist, 83

Elliot Caplow, a prominent real estate developer and Jewish philanthropist, died Aug. 16 at the age of 83.

Caplow graduated from UCLA in 1952 with a degree in business and began his career as a broker with Hollingsworth and Co. He is credited with brokering two landmark properties during the 1950s — the Simons Brickyard, which at the time was the largest industrial park in East Los Angeles; and Reston, Va., which was one of the first planned residential communities in America. In 1959, Caplow founded E.M. Caplow & Associates to develop commercial and residential properties throughout the Western United States. During the 1970s and ’80s, the company became one of the most prolific developers of Kmart shopping centers. Today, it owns and manages approximately 1 million square feet of property.

Caplow and his wife, Elaine, have been strong supporters of the local Jewish community and Israel. After he retired from his real estate business, Caplow served on the President’s Council of the American Jewish Committee’s Los Angeles chapter. In 2002, the couple opened a Donor Advised Fund at The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles.

Caplow is survived by his wife of 56 years, Elaine; sons Bradley (Mindy) and Mark (Sue); and five grandchildren.

Services will be held on Friday, Aug. 17, 1 p.m. at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary, 6001 W. Centinela Ave., Los Angeles. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in memory of Elliott Caplow be directed to The Memory Disorders Fund in the Department of Neurology at Cedars-Sinai, under the directions of Dr. Patrick Lyden. Gifts can be made online at

Rabbi’s use of discretionary funds spurs new policies

In response to the Haiti earthquake in January 2010 and the Carmel forest fires in Israel in December 2010, members of Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay, like so many others, wanted to donate money to help the victims. So, many of them directed donations through Rabbi Isaac Jeret’s discretionary fund.

But their money never made it to organizations working on the ground in Haiti and Haifa.

Jeret, who led the 500-member Conservative congregation in Rancho Palos Verdes for seven years, allegedly not only did not send the money where he was supposed to, but instead he is believed to have taken money from his discretionary fund to make political donations to congressional campaigns across the country, according to Timothy Weiner, the synagogue’s treasurer from September 2009 through June 2012, who participated in an internal investigation of the matter.

Discretionary funds, common in most synagogues and churches, typically empower clergy to discreetly assist the needy and to support other charitable endeavors. Jeret’s case, while an aberration, could prompt other synagogues to asses their own balance between, on the one hand, trusting their rabbi and keeping the confidentiality of recipients, and, on the other, providing greater oversight and accountability for how the funds are dispersed.

The board of Ner Tamid accepted Jeret’s resignation on May 24, following an investigation initiated by the board last February that uncovered evidence indicating that Jeret had used somewhere around $10,000 from his discretionary fund to support political candidates going back several years, according to attorneys leading the investigation. The investigation is not yet complete, so a final number is not available.

Use of synagogue funds for political purposes could have potentially threatened the synagogue’s tax-exempt status, an outcome Congregation Ner Tamid has worked to head off. The IRS has not contacted the synagogue, and attorneys do not expect the federal agency to get involved.

“Given the congregation’s swift and decisive action in investigating Rabbi Jeret’s conduct, accepting his resignation once that investigation was completed, and implementing more robust corporate governance and oversight procedures to prevent any similar issues from arising in the future, the congregation has best positioned itself to address any future IRS concerns,” said attorney Nathan Hochman, a partner with Bingham McCutchen in Santa Monica, who is assisting the synagogue pro bono. Hochman headed the tax division of the U.S. Department of Justice in 2008-2009.

Jeret declined to comment.

Jeret’s attorney, Nancy Kardon, said the rabbi left the synagogue on a medical leave of absence in February 2012.

“After that time, on behalf of Rabbi Jeret, we worked diligently to assist CNT in its effort to reconcile any purported misuse of the Rabbi’s Discretionary Fund. Rabbi Jeret has since paid back to CNT all monies for which it sought reimbursement, and, as of May 2012, formally resigned from CNT, due to his medical condition. The Rabbi offers his thanks and prayers to those who have stood by him in this trying time,” his attorney, Kardon, wrote in an e-mail to The Journal. Kardon declined to elaborate on Jeret’s medical condition, and attorneys for the synagogue also declined to elaborate.

Rabbi Joel Rembaum, rabbi emeritus of Temple Beth Am on the Westside, has agreed to lead the congregation on an interim basis; a search for a new rabbi will commence in the fall. Cantor Sam Radwine delayed his retirement and canceled a two-month sabbatical in Israel this summer to stay with the congregation.

Debra Schneiderman, president of the 51-year-old congregation, says Ner Tamid is well positioned to move forward.

“At Congregation Ner Tamid, we share in each other’s joys and comfort one another in our sorrows. Our community, always strong and vibrant, has rallied together in the last few months and is looking forward to building upon that strength in the coming year, when we will have the honor and privilege to be led by Rabbi Joel Rembaum and Cantor Sam Radwine.”

While Jeret was on medical leave in February 2012, board members received statements from his discretionary account, and that is what tipped them off that something was awry, Weiner said. Ner Tamid then placed Jeret on administrative leave and hired an accounting firm to begin an investigation. Board member and attorney Laura Abrahamson and Hochman headed the investigation, both offering their time pro-bono.

The investigation took a comprehensive look at all spending Jeret was involved in.  The political contributions from the discretionary fund were the most significant instances of wrongdoing, according to Abrahamson.

Weiner, who was involved in the investigation, said Jeret made the political donations privately and then used the discretionary fund to reimburse himself.

Public records indicate that Jeret made campaign contributions totaling $6,500 in 2008 and 2010. Another $6,000 came from a Rabbi Leslie Jeret; Jeret’s full name is Leslie Isaac Jeret. It is not clear which, if any, of these donations were reimbursed from the discretionary fund.

Jeret has supported both Republican and Democratic congressional candidates from a broad geographic range.

Hochman said the synagogue has already taken all the actions the IRS would require if it were to investigate. In addition to accepting Jeret’s resignation, the synagogue has revamped how it oversees the discretionary fund. Lay leaders have contacted donors who made directed gifts that were not fulfilled and offered to reimburse them or donate the funds to the intended recipients, Weiner said.

While many rabbis can tell stories of discretionary fund misuse — colleagues paying for their own child’s bar mitzvah, leasing a car or simply writing checks to oneself — it is believed that cases like Jeret’s are few and far between, said Rabbi Alan Henkin, director of rabbinic placement of the Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR).

“When you consider how much money goes through discretionary funds on an aggregate basis for several thousand synagogues, remarkably little of it is misused. The money is used for positive and productive purposes,” Henkin said.

The size of funds varies widely from synagogue to synagogue, ranging anywhere from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Donations to honor the rabbi, pushkes (collection boxes) and honorariums for lifecycle events typically fill the funds.

More often than outright abuse, the funds are the subject of misunderstanding, rabbis say.

“There is a lot of confusion on the part of rabbis and congregations about discretionary funds — what is appropriate use for them and what is not appropriate. We have tried over the years to provide some clarification for congregations and rabbis,” Henkin said.

A few years ago, the CCAR updated its discretionary fund guidelines. Ellen Aprill, a professor of tax law at Loyola Law School and a past president of Temple Israel of Hollywood, helped craft the guidelines.

Aprill cautions that if rabbis use the fund for personal benefit — even mixed personal-professional benefit, such as attending a conference — the IRS could consider the entire fund personal taxable income for the rabbi. (The Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly guidelines allow for conference fees).

In addition, for congregants to take a tax deduction on their donation, the money must go to charitable purposes.

Congregants also can’t earmark a donation for a specific family, because that would essentially be laundering a person-to-person gift through a tax-exempt body. A congregant can, however, suggest a recipient to the rabbi, as long as the gift is not conditional, Aprill said.

And, of course, the disbursement must comply with the synagogue’s nonprofit status.

Aprill said while the IRS could theoretically go after Ner Tamid for influencing a political campaign, it typically doesn’t pursue cases if the nonprofit is addressing the situation.

Before this incident at Ner Tamid, the rabbi’s and cantor’s contracts stipulated that they must administer their respective discretionary funds according to Rabbinic Assembly (RA) guidelines, but no one checked regularly to make sure that was happening, said Weiner, a deputy attorney general for the state of California.

The new policy requires the board’s financial secretary to review the ledgers quarterly, and the financial secretary will also be a signatory on the account with full access to records. In alternating years, an outside accountant will review the rabbi’s and cantor’s funds, and the clergy will present to the membership an annual general breakdown of the fund. Direct reimbursement from the fund to personal accounts will not be permitted, according to Weiner.

National Jewish Democratic Council removes Adelson petition

The National Jewish Democratic Council, citing peace among Jewish groups, has taken down a petition calling on Republicans not to accept money from Sheldon Adelson.

“Accusations against Mr. Adelson were made not by us, but by others, including Senator John McCain (R-AZ),” said a statement sent late Wednesday by NJDC President David Harris and Chairman Marc Stanley. “Nonetheless, we regret the concern that this campaign has caused. And in the interest of shalom bayit (peace in our home/community), we are going to take down our petition today. Moving forward, we’ll continue to work hard to fight against the unique threat posed by the outsized influence of certain individual megadonors, which rightly concerns most Americans and most American Jews.”

The petition based the call on allegations by a former employee suing Adelson for firing him that the billionaire casino magnate agreed to allow prostitution at his casinos in Macau, China; on the claim by McCain that Adelson, with the tens of millions of dollars he has infused into the Republican side of this year’s elections, was effectively introducing Chinese money into the campaign; and on federal investigations into allegations that Adelson has paid bribes in China.

A number of Jewish groups and figures, including the Jewish Federations of North America, the Anti-Defamation League, the Republican Jewish Coalition and Alan Dershowitz called the allegations unconscionable, noting that all had yet to be proven.

Harris and Stanley said in the statement that “we don’t believe we engaged in character assassination. We stand by everything we said, which was sourced from current, credible news accounts.”

Adelson and his wife, Miriam, have given tens of millions of dollars this year to political committees supporting Republicans in general and Romney, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, in particular, although it is not clear if he has directly given to Romney.

He is a major giver to Jewish causes, especially the Birthright Israel program bringing young people to Israel and Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, and has donated to causes associated with or favored by those who have defended him in this case.

Israeli seeking bone marrow dies on day of national donor campaign

An Israeli hoping to find a bone marrow match died Thursday—the same day that Israel was holding bone marrow drives throughout the country targeting non-Ashkenazi donors.

Yosef Krichli, of Georgian origin, had leukemia, The Jerusalem Post reported.

The bone marrow testing campaign, organized by Ezer Mizion, was intended to boost the number of non-Ashkenazi donors in the international donor registry—in particular Jews from the Iraqi, Persian, Georgian, Bukharian, Lebanese, Syrian, Yemeni and Ethiopian communities.

“The premature and tragic death of Yosef Krichli shows how critical it is to undergo screening,” Dr. Bracha Zisser, bone marrow registry director at Ezer Mizion, said, according to the Post.

Krichli, 54, had sought a match for eight months.

By 5 p.m. Thursday, thousands had been tested, the Post said.

Azrieli Foundation donates $10 million to Yeshiva University

The Azrieli Foundation made a $10 million donation to Yeshiva University in honor of foundation founder David Azrieli’s 90th birthday.

The donation, the largest in the foundation’s history, is earmarked for the university’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, David Azrieli announced Tuesday.

The $10 million will be used primarily to offer scholarships to the school and help attract more men and women to the field of Jewish education.

“My family and my father can think of no better way to celebrate a 90th birthday,” said his daughter, Dr. Naomi Azrieli, who chairs the foundation. “Seeing young people graduate from this school and move on to teach Judaism to the next generation has been one of my father’s greatest joys.”

Azrieli, who escaped the Nazis and landed in prestate Israel in 1942, has been a Yeshiva University trustee since 1987. He studied at YU for a year.

He is the father of the modern shopping mall in Israel; he owns 14 throughout the country.

For Murray Koppelman, a distasteful Tehran scene inspires a gift to New Israel Fund

Murray Koppelman saw women pushed onto the back of a bus in Tehran and had a nightmare about Israel’s future.

Koppelman, a well-known philanthropist in New York, is behind a New Israel Fund pledge drive to combat discrimination against women in Israel. He will match every new dollar donated to the New Israel Fund up to $500,000.

A full-page ad in The New York Times including a dramatic photo of a defaced poster featuring a woman’s portrait—one of many that have been vandalized in Jerusalem—announced the drive on April 18. The ad urges Americans to “Help keep Israel strong, free, and democratic.”

Koppelman, 80, said in an interview that the idea for the campaign came to him when he was touring Iran last autumn.

He had traveled much of the world and wanted to see Iran “while I still could make the trip,” he told JTA. His decision caused much family consternation, but he persisted.

Koppelman waited six months for a visa. He hired a guide when he arrived in Iran.

“It was a very arduous trip—I am over 80—I needed to sit down. I found a bench, I sat down,” he recalled.

It was a bus stop. “There were 20 to 30 women with chadors on, and when the bus came, they were pushed to the back,” Koppelman said.

The scene brought to mind an NIF-organized lecture he had attended just before leaving for his trip. Alice Shalvi, a veteran Israeli feminist, described encroachments on Israeli women’s rights, including buses where women were expected to sit in the back.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has pushed back against such measures, pledging to “preserve public space as open and safe.”

Seeing Iranian women shoved to the back of the bus unsettled Koppelman, who asked his guide whether such measures were introduced all at once after the 1979 revolution that brought Islamists to power.

No, the guide said, each change came incrementally.

“I thought, ‘What’s going to happen to Israel?’ ” Koppelman said.

He didn’t leave it at just thinking about it.

“I’m a person who likes to speak out,” said Koppelman, who then recited an Op-Ed he had submitted to The New York Times in 1995 weeks after an extremist Jew assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

“Like so many members of the American Jewish community, I have kept my opinions to myself for too long,” Koppelman read from the Op-Ed in stentorian, Brooklyn-inflected tones. “Hesitant to contribute to an image of the Jews as a divided people, I have refrained from taking a public stand on the issue of Israel exchanging occupied territory for peace. In unity, so I thought, there is strength. But it was words—words of venomous hatred—that led directly to the unthinkable outrage of the assassination of a prime minister of Israel by a Jew.”

In the Op-Ed, Koppelman describes the time he spent as a young man on a kibbutz in Israel.

“I spent years working in the fields by day and standing guard duty against terrorists at night,” he wrote. “It is a time in my life that I look back on with tremendous pride, a time when my personal ties to Israel were forged strongly and immutably in the exhilaration and promise of a Jewish homeland reborn.”

Koppelman is fiercely loyal to the institutions that shaped him as a youth. He is a major benefactor to Brooklyn College, and his resume lists the years there he spent earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting, 1954-1957.

“I was on welfare during the entire Depression,” he said. “That’s why I rewarded Brooklyn College—because of them I got my degree and became a CPA. Now I’m in the securities business.”

“In the securities business” is his understated way of a professional biography that includes founding Eastlake Securities, which was eventually folded into J.P. Morgan, where he is now a vice president.

Following his trip to Iran, Koppelman reviewed the Jewish organizations that have benefited from his largesse—among them ORT, the Anti-Defamation League and the UJA-Federation of New York. He settled on NIF, which focuses on funding programs that promote civil rights and democracy in Israel.

“I decided that was the most obvious,” said Koppelman, adding that his prior donations to the group had “not been consequential.”

New Israel Fund was happy to oblige. And not just for the cash: A past president of American ORT, Koppelman lends credibility to the organization, which has come under assault from right-wingers in recent years as not sufficiently pro-Israel.

“He’s a pillar of the American Jewish community,” said Daniel Sokatch, NIF’s CEO.

The defaced poster in the Times ad features Roni Hazon Weiss, an Orthodox woman who posed for the poster for an NIF-backed group called Yerushalmim (Jerusalemites). The group placed the billboards around the city in defiance of some in the Jerusalem haredi Orthodox community who have systematically defaced images of women.

Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director, says Koppelman is “a caring, loving, decent Zionist.”

And also a fundraiser’s dream: “He puts his money where his mouth is, without a lot of demands,” Foxman said.

The ADL leader bemoaned the ad as divisive, although he lauded its mission.

“The NIF is to help Israel maintain its democratic values,” he said. “This only gives another excuse to people we don’t like.”

Foxman especially was upset by the story behind the ad. Comparisons with Iran, he said, are “odious.”

Still, he could not fault what motivated Koppelman.

“I know where his heart is,” Foxman said. “I know how deeply he loves Israel.”

Adelson reportedly gives ‘substantial’ new donation to Gingrich PAC

Casino and hotel magnate Sheldon Adelson reportedly has given a “substantial” new donation to a group supporting Newt Gingrich for the Republican presidential nomination.

Adelson gave the donation to Winning Our Future, an independent committee, or Super PAC, that is run by former Gingrich associates, Politico reported Tuesday, one week ahead of the Super Tuesday primary vote in 10 states. Adelson and his wife already have given $11 million to the PAC.

The new contribution, which came in a few days ago, is comparable to previous ones, Reuters reported, citing a source familiar with the donation.

CNN and CBS reported last week that Adelson would give $10 million more to the group.

Gingrich has been slipping in the GOP race for the presidential nomination.

Super PACs can raise unlimited sums from corporations, unions and other groups, as well as individuals, and indirectly support a political candidate. They cannot by law coordinate with the candidate’s official campaign.

Adelson, chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., is worth more than $21 billion, according to Forbes magazine. He is a major giver to Birthright Israel, which provides free 10-day trips to Israel for Jews aged 18 to 26.

Germany donates $13 million to Yad Vashem

The German government will donate $13 million to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Israel over the next 10 years.

The agreement was signed Wednesday by visiting German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who met with Holocaust survivors at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

“The German government recognizes Yad Vashem as the world center for Holocaust documentation, research and education, and understands its special meaning for the Jewish people and the world at large,” said Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev in a statement. “This agreement strengthens the obligation of the German government and the German people regarding Holocaust remembrance.”

Also Wednesday, Westerwelle said that Germany has upgraded the Palestinian diplomatic delegation in Berlin to a mission, which will be led by an ambassador.

France, Spain, Portugal and Ireland have taken similar action in recent months.

Miriam Adelson gives $5 million to Gingrich Super PAC

Miriam Adelson, the wife of casino and hotel magnate Sheldon Adelson, has donated $5 million to a group supporting Newt Gingrich for the Republican presidential nomination.

The donation matches one given earlier this month by her husband to Winning Our Future, an independent committee, or Super PAC, that is run by former Gingrich associates, according to a report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal citing GOP sources. Major media outlets confirmed the report late Monday.

The funding comes just days after Gingrich scored an upset in the South Carolina primary and ahead of a key primary in Florida on Jan. 31.

Super PACs can raise unlimited sums from corporations, unions and other groups, as well as individuals, and indirectly support a political candidate. They cannot by law coordinate with the candidate’s official campaign.

Miriam Adelson, an Israeli by birth, is a doctor who runs two non-profit drug treatment and research centers in Nevada and Israel.

Sheldon Adelson, chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., is worth more than $21 billion, according to Forbes magazine. He is a major giver to Birthright Israel, which provides free 10-day trips to Israel for Jews aged 18 to 26.

$5 million gift renames Vista Del Mar campus

Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services got a new name on Jan. 12, to include the designation the Joyce and Stanley Black Family Campus, in light of a $5 million gift the Blacks recently pledged to the agency.

“Anything I could do for Vista Del Mar, I always wanted to do it,” Stanley Black, 78, a real estate businessman and philanthropist, told a crowd of about 100 assembled in the gymnasium to honor the couple.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz declared the day Joyce and Stanley Black Family Day in Los Angeles.

“We don’t do these days very often, but if there are two people in the community who have contributed more to it, I don’t know them,” said Koretz, who presides over the City Council’s 5th District, home to the social services agency, which for more than 100 years has helped children and families struggling with mental, developmental and emotional issues. In its early days, the agency helped Jews exclusively. While it remains connected to the Jewish community, the agency today serves mostly non-Jews.

Black’s parents also donated to Vista Del Mar — the Jack and Victoria Black Parkway is a part of the campus — and Black grew up in the neighborhood of the West Los Angeles agency.

“My father had a great feeling for Vista Del Mar, and he inbred it in me and my life,”  Black said.

Black has supported numerous organizations in Los Angeles, including Jewish Vocational Services and Los Angeles ORT College. His real estate portfolio of industrial and commercial properties stretches across 35 states and includes more than 18 million square feet of space.

The Blacks’ imprint on Vista is evident in numerous places. In 2000, the Blacks donated $1 million to launch the Joyce and Stanley Black Family Special Care Facility, a secure residential unit for severely disturbed children, and Stanley leads an annual fundraising sweepstakes at the agency.

Other speakers at the event included L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky; Elias Lefferman, CEO of Vista Del Mar; and Richard Wolf and Lyn Konheim, co-chairs of Vista Del Mar’s board of directors. Also in attendance were Rabbi Mark Borovitz of Beit T’Shuvah, which has also been a beneficiary of Black’s generosity.

Joyce Black told the crowd of her personal connection to Vista. Her mother placed Joyce’s two siblings in foster care at Vista during World War II, when her father was sent overseas to fight with the Air Force. She couldn’t afford to feed three children and sought out assistance from Vista.

“Vista was here to help my mother,” Joyce said.

The Blacks’ donation will go toward renovating the classrooms and equipping them with new technology, including Smart Boards and iPads, as well as repaving roads, repainting all the facilities and closing budget deficits, Lefferman said.

Adelsons give Birthright another $5 million

Sheldon and Miriam Adelson are contributing an additional $5 million to Birthright Israel, which the organization says will move 2,000 applicants from waitlisted to traveling this winter.

The contribution announced Wednesday, a day after the Adelsons were honored in Washington by the group, doubles their contribution for this year to $10 million.

“In light of this announcement, Taglit-Birthright Israel is now sending letters to 2,000 North American young adults who had applied for a trip this winter but were waitlisted, informing them that they will now be able to go on the free, 10-day educational trip in the coming months thanks to the new funding,” the group said. “Nearly 22,500 North Americans had registered for Taglit-Birthright Israel trips this winter and over 10,000 young adults had been waitlisted.”

The Adelsons’ foundation has given Birthright more than $100 million since 2007.

Adelson, a casino magnate, is a major giver to Jewish and conservative causes.

Heschel Day School receives $1.1 million in gifts

Two alumni families of Heschel Day School in Northridge gave major gifts to establish endowments at the school in honor of its 40th anniversary, one for $1 million, the other $100,000. Both families wish to remain anonymous.

Heschel’s anniversary celebration has created momentum for charitable giving among the school’s alumni, according to Betty Winn, head of school. “As we move into the next generation of Heschel Day School, they want to ensure that an endowment is in place to continue so that the school will be around for many more years to come,” Winn said.  “We just want to impart our appreciation of these families who stepped up to support” Heschel.

Heschel Day School has an enrollment of 405 students, from kindergarten to eighth grade.

The endowment funds will be invested in Jewish foundations to provide a “stable source of income,” said Miriam Prum Hess, director of the Center for Excellence in Day School Education at BJE. Use of the income from the $1 million gift is unrestricted, so the school’s board of directors will decide how it can be used. Income from the $100,000 gift has a specific purpose: to fund professional development for Heschel faculty.

In addition, the Generations L.A. Legacy and Endowment Program will match 25 cents on each dollar of the $1.1 million Heschel raised, giving the school an additional $52,000 over three years to be allocated for students’ financial aid.

The Generations match was developed through a collaboration between the BJE, the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE) and the AVI CHAI Foundation. The matching program will support seven day schools, including Adat Ari El, Valley Beth Shalom, Pressman Academy of Temple Beth Am, Sinai Akiba, Cheder Menachem and Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy.

Of note: One of the founders of Heschel, Mark Lainer, also helped provide a lead grant for the Generations matching program through the Simha and Sara Lainer Day School Endowment Fund, named for his deceased parents.

Robin Wallach, Heschel’s director of advancement, welcomed the establishment of the endowments. “To be able to know that you have sustainability over the future is a very important thing,” Wallach said, “especially in touch economic times.”

Volkswagen AG donating $1 million to ADL

Automotive giant Volkswagen AG said it will donate $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League.

The money will go toward ADL workshops addressing issues at schools and in the workforce, including diversity training, programs aimed at cyber bullying and maintaining respectful working conditions, and anti-bigotry efforts.

“ADL’s initiatives and programs align with Volkswagen AG’s commitment to diversity in our workforce and in countries all around the globe,” Volkswagen board member Christian Klingler said in a statement Tuesday.

ADL National Director Abraham Foxman in a response to the statement said, “We are extremely gratified to have Volkswagen’s generous support as a partner in the fight against anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry.”

The Volkswagen group is the largest car manufacturer in Europe. Their brands include Volkswagen, Audi, SEAT, Skoda, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Scania.

N.J. day school receives $17 million donation

The Golda Och Academy in West Orange, N.J., has received a $17.2 million donation from the estate of philanthropist Eric F. Ross.

The money will support grants for the Lore Ross Neshama program, which allows students at the Solomon Schechter day school to spend the second semester of their senior year in Israel following a week in Eastern Europe. Ross started the program, which is named for his wife, who died in 2009.

Joe Bier, chair of the school’s board of trustees, told the New Jersey Jewish News that the donation would be used for the travel program. The school also will form a committee to make recommendations for other uses of the bequest.

“Just as Eric was one of our most generous supporters during his lifetime, he continues to support us now,” said the academy’s head of school, Dr. Joyce Raynor, in a statement.

The upper school of the academy is named for Ross, a Holocaust survivor from Germany. His longtime support for the Conservative school included $4.5 million for renovations in 2007. Ross died last year at the age of 91.

The school was renamed last year for one of its co-founders after her son, Daniel Och, made a $15 million contribution—then the largest gift in the history of the school, which was founded in 1965.

Study: Giving to Israel down 16 percent between ‘06 and ‘09

Giving to Israel decreased by 16 percent between 2006 and 2009, exhibiting the same trends as overall American giving, a study found.

“American Friends: U.S. Philanthropic Support for Israeli Nonprofits,” a study published last week by the EHL Consulting Group, found that American giving to Israeli causes exhibits the same trends as American giving overall, but in a much more exaggerated way, with higher peaks and lower troughs.

The study examined the trends of philanthropic support from 2006 to 2009 for 80 U.S.-based nonprofit organizations that fundraise in the U.S. to support services in Israel, typically focused on a specific organization. While giving to the organizations decreased by 16 percent, U.S. giving overall to those four sectors—arts and culture, education, health, and human services – decreased by only 1.5 percent from 2006 to 2009. Giving overall bottomed out in 2008 and began to recover in 2009, but American Friends giving continued to decline, creating the large disparity in the figures.

Giving to American Friends organizations continued to grow in 2007 but plummeted in 2008, indicating that the recession was in fact a major cause of the decline, not a long-term decrease in interest in giving to American Friends organizations.

Giving to Israeli religious organizations such as synagogues and religious academies were not included because it is not as comparable to giving in the U.S., according to the study’s authors.

This was the second study published on this topic by EHL Consulting, which is based in suburban Philadelphia. The previous study, published in 2008, examined 80 American Friends organizations in four sectors, comparing their performance from 2001 and 2006 with that of U.S. organizations by sector. That study concluded that from 2001 to 2006, giving to American Friends organizations outperformed parallel giving to U.S.-based nonprofits.

Most of the organizations, 75 percent, were headquartered in New York State, with most in New York City. The rest were scattered in other states such as New Jersey, Maryland and California.

Britain giving $3.4 million to Auschwitz site preservation

Britain will contribute about $3.4 million to help preserve the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp memorial.

The donation to the foundation for the preservation of the former death camp site will be used for restoration and preservation.

“I am determined that the government should take an active approach to preserving the memory of the Holocaust,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Thursday. “Auschwitz-Birkenau is a searing reminder of the horrific consequences of intolerance and hatred. It should never be forgotten.

“I am proud that the UK is able to play a part in commemorating the millions of victims who died there, educating future generations of the evils of that period in history and ensuring its preservation for many years to come.”

More than 3,000 British students visit Auschwitz-Birkenau each year through the British Holocaust Educational Trust’s Lessons from Auschwitz project.

“Just as we collect and preserve the stories of eyewitnesses, it is our collective responsibility to ensure that Auschwitz-Birkenau stands as a perpetual reminder of the pain and destructive force of hate,” Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said Thursday at the Jewish Museum in London, which he toured with the Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks and the Polish ambassador, Barbara Tuge-Erecinska. “We must ensure that the lessons from the Holocaust are taught today and to future generations.”

More than 1 million people visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau site each year.

Give until it hurts

Two Jewish philanthropists were overheard disagreeing about how to give charity.

“I only support Jewish causes — the Jewish people need our help more than anyone else in the world,” Cohen said.

“But what about the tsunami in Japan, the earthquake in Haiti? What about all the worthy local charities that are fighting to cure cancer and support the arts?” Bernstein argued. “Aren’t we responsible to give our share to general society just as much as everyone else?”

“Those causes are important,” Cohen conceded. “But who will support Israel and all the Jewish institutions if not us?”

“Well, the United Way is doing great work for the entire community,” Bernstein said, “and I’m not willing to siphon my charity dollars from them and give to a parochial charity that only helps a small segment of the population.”

They went back and forth for some time and ended up in a stalemate, each one believing that his moral code was superior. Actually, recent patterns of large philanthropic gifts from wealthy Jews have been favoring the more universalist attitude of Bernstein over the Jewish particularlist Cohen for several years. Jewish charities have been hurting because many Jews no longer feel that their primary allegiance should be to the Jewish community, but rather to the world and humanity at large. Who’s right?

This thorny moral dilemma was voiced centuries ago by two sages of the Palestinian Talmud. Rabbi Akiva and his colleague Ben Azai once challenged each other to find the one sentence in the Torah that encapsulated the most important Jewish value. Rabbi Akiva found the verse in our parashah (Leviticus 19:18). “Love your neighbor as yourself,” said the rabbi, is the greatest principle of the Torah. Ben Azai disagreed. “This is the book of the chronicles of mankind … who was created in God’s form” (Genesis 5:1) is an even greater principle, he argued.

Why didn’t Rabbi Akiva subscribe to Ben Azai’s beautiful idea of viewing all mankind as being in God’s image? Was he simply too cynical to believe that this motive was sufficient? I think it’s more than that. The word “neighbor” (re’a), which appears in the verse, “Love your neighbor,” is a word that specifically refers to one’s fellow Jew. Rabbi Akiva believed that while it was important to respect every single human being because of his or her Divine stamp, it was more important to make one’s fellow Jew the primary object of one’s affections and kindnesses.

Ben Azai disagreed and felt that the Torah wanted the Jewish people to show compassion to all the people of the world. He focused on Genesis, which addressed mankind before there ever was a Chosen People, when all people were part of one big family of creatures with a Godly spark.

It would appear that while the Palestinian Talmud accepted both views, the more authoritative Babylonian Talmud rejected Ben Azai’s position and embraced Rabbi Akiva’s. There may be two reasons for this: Firstly, the Babylonian sages were more realistic about relations between Jews and non-Jews in the world of the fourth and fifth centuries, when these texts were being compiled. Jews were persecuted and tortured so often by non-Jews that it was virtually impossible to identify the “image of God” within our cruel tormentors. Ben Azai might be well and dandy for a perfect world, but not in a world where anti-Semitism has run amok.

Secondly, the Babylonian sages might have been more pragmatic, realizing that if we don’t support the Jewish community infrastructure and the Jewish Diaspora population, the Jewish people as we know it runs the risk of becoming extinct. Showing compassion to the world is very important, but not at the expense of feeding hungry Jews. If we don’t step up, no one else will.

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” Hillel said. But then he added, “But when I am for myself alone, what am I?”

The tension undeniably exists for every single Jew. The dilemma of how to triage our precious charity resources must weigh upon all of us. For us to see the horrors of recent natural disasters in Haiti and Japan and do nothing is surely inhuman and un-Jewish. But to make Japan and Haiti our primary focus and to forget about Israel’s needs and the needs of our brothers and sisters around the world is to say that my brother and sister are no different from the stranger, and that, too, is wrong.

If we lose sleep over these kinds of things, that’s good. It shows that we still have a conscience and a soul.

Rabbi Korobkin is rosh kehillah of Yavneh in Hancock Park and provides synagogue services for the Orthodox Union.

Japan earthquake relief: How you can help

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Japan, the organized Jewish world is lining up support for the rescue and relief effort in the region.

Here are ways you can help:

” title=”American Joint Distribution Committee” target=”_blank”>American Joint Distribution Committee
You may give by mail or phone:
Check payable to JDC, please specify the program name
Attn: JDC
P.O. Box 530
132 East 43rd Street
New York, NY 10017
(212) 687-6200

” title=”Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago” target=”_blank”>Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago

For more information on how you can help visit ” title=”Jewish groups mobilizing response to massive Japan earthquake and tsunami” target=”_blank”>Jewish groups mobilizing response to massive Japan earthquake and tsunami

Jewish organizations are mobilizing their responses to the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on Friday.

IsraAid, an Israel-based coordinating organization for 17 Israeli and Jewish humanitarian groups, said Friday that it has two teams of rescue personnel, emergency medical officers and water pollution specialists ready to deploy to Japan but was looking for ways to reach the affected area.

Luskin family donates $100 million to UCLA

Meyer Luskin and his wife, Renee, are donating $100 million to UCLA, the university’s second largest gift in its history, Chancellor Gene Block announced Jan. 26.

Half of the donation will pay for endowments, research and teaching at the UCLA School of Public Affairs, 40 percent will help finance construction of the new Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center on the Westwood campus, and the remaining 10 percent will fund the college’s Luskin Endowment for Thought Leadership, which will support academic conferences and an annual lecture.

Luskin, 85, who lives in Brentwood, praised the School of Public Affairs, which offers graduate-level degrees in public policy, urban planning and social welfare.

“The School of Public Affairs is something I strongly believe in,” Luskin said during a phone interview.

A UCLA alumnus, Luskin is president and chairman of Scope Industries, a Santa Monica-based firm that turns bakery waste into animal feed.

Luskin said he hopes his donation will help finance solutions to critical issues “regarding the education of our populace, problems in the field of energy sustainability, environmental sustainability, traffic [and] our water supply.”