Betting on winners at benefit for autism
Within Ed Asner’s family, you don’t just play the hand you are dealt; sometimes you take risks.
Asked his customary maneuver when dealt a hand of 15 in blackjack, Will Asner, the actor’s 14-year-old grandson, answers without hesitation: “Hit” — even though drawing a card higher than a six will result in an automatic loss.
“He’s aggressive,” said Will’s father, Matt.
Ed Asner, the family patriarch, likes the game of poker. Inspired by his close relationship with his grandson, who is on the autism spectrum, Ed Asner has gone all-in supporting a celebrity poker tournament and casino night that bears the Emmy-winning actor’s name. Proceeds from the fourth annual Ed Asner & Friends Poker Tournament — to be held Aug. 6 at USC Tower at South Park Center — benefit the Southern California chapter of the nonprofit advocacy group Autism Speaks.
Ed Asner has long been an advocate for and contributor to many autism-related events and organizations — one of his sons, Charlie, also is on the spectrum. Five years ago, when Matt gave up his career as a TV producer to become the executive director for the Southern California chapter of Autism Speaks, he dreamed up a creative way for his famous father to lend a hand.
Matt Asner, director of corporate development for Autism Speaks, dreamed up a poker tournament fundraiser as a way for his father, Ed, to help the cause.
“I thought about what does my dad like to do? He likes to play poker,” said Matt Asner, who is now the director of corporate development for Autism Speaks. “What better way of kind of celebrating him and making a contribution than a poker tournament?”
The tournament, now in its fourth year, started out small but has grown in number of players and dollars raised, with the 2015 event bringing in more than $50,000. For the Aug. 6 event, which also will feature silent and live auctions, Autism Speaks is hoping to break the $100,000 mark. Actors Dylan McDermott, Ed Begley Jr., Michael McKean and Rosie O’Donnell are among those confirmed to attend.
Actor Don Cheadle playing in the Ed Asner & Friends Poker Tournament.
Ed Asner, who grew up in an Orthodox Jewish household in Kansas City, Kan., fully expects a certain amount of this year’s proceeds to come out of his losings.
“Probably by the third hand, I’m looking at about half of what I came in with,” he said. “People get so enchanted by the clumsy way that I lose.”
Because this is for a cause close to his heart, perhaps he might be losing not only creatively but maybe even deliberately? The 86-year old actor shot his interviewer a deathly stare at the suggestion.
“I’m not that stupid,” he said. “I’m stupid, but I’m not that stupid.”
There is a certain amount of his TV character Lou Grant’s gruffness, bluster and salty language in a chat with Ed Asner. Non-family members might be intimidated, but, according to Matt Asner, young Will has long been able to negotiate the crankiness of the man he calls zayde.
“Will doesn’t take his [nonsense]. He hands it right back to him,” Matt Asner said. “He has this uncanny ability to know when my dad is joking and when he’s not. Will has a way of completely transforming him from that gruff, angry person to this soft teddy bear, and it’s a wonderful thing to behold.”
When the subject turns to autism, Ed Asner is both philosophical and humorous. Charlie — Matt’s half-brother — was diagnosed 21 years ago at age 8. At the time, Asner knew nothing about the autism, and battled to understand unusual elements of Charlie’s personality as he tried to find the right school environment and help for his son. Charlie eventually earned a college degree. He lives in Connecticut and is trying to find a steady job.
“There are hang-ups and there are piss-offs, but he’s a refreshing individual,” the actor says of Charlie. “And a frustrating individual. Refreshing and frustrating, the two ‘fr’ words.”
Where Charlie has found some educational success and can function in a work environment, Will — who is less high-functioning than his uncle — may face greater challenges. Ed Asner observes the boy interacting with his siblings and cousins and notices Will’s isolation.
“While his cousins are roaring through the house creating mayhem, Will keeps his piety,” Ed Asner said. “He creates his own mayhem, too, but it’s not communal, and he’s alone. You see the alone. The alone is the state of the autistic, and that’s what kicks the [stuff] out of your heart.”
Matt Asner says that a long-term goal is for Will to get vocational training, and he is hopeful that Will eventually finds a partner to share his life. He frequently likens autism to an unending quest to find a key to a locked door. Once that door is opened, another locked door is revealed, and you have to try new keys. Will, who was diagnosed at age 4, is part of a blended family that includes two stepsiblings who also are on the autism spectrum.
“The great thing about Will is that he has this incredible attitude about life,” Matt Asner said. “Most of the time, he’s the wisest man in the room. He’s not an angry person. He’s just a sweet, gentle soul who is really kind of trapped behind some locked doors.”
After nearly 30 years of watching the outside world relate to people with autism, Ed Asner counsels patience and understanding.
“The world is filled with people with quirks,” he said. “Most of them find a way to finally live with society, but many autistic people don’t know how to perfect it. Our job — I guess anybody’s job — is to make people realize how many quirks there are out there. We try to preach tolerance, and tolerance of autism and quirkiness is certainly one of the leading areas that can be improved upon.”
Players have hoop dream to win money for Jerusalem hospital
Former USC basketball standout and Maccabi Tel Aviv star David Blu is headlining a team competing on behalf of Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center in a $2 million, single-elimination, winner-take-all basketball tournament that kicks off on Saturday.
“Israel is like a second home for me, so, for me, once again, I am playing for Israel,” the Los Angeles native told the Journal in April, while seated on bleachers and applying ice packs to his knees after a team practice at Animo Venice Charter High School gymnasium. Sweat was covering the face of the 36-year-old, who wore a USC T-shirt and swapped his basketball sneakers for flip-flops.
The 6-foot-7 Blu made aliyah after not being selected in the 2002 NBA draft and joined Maccabi Tel Aviv, where he went on to win two European championships. Now, he is captain of team Shaare Zedek in the TBT (The Basketball Tournament) five-on-five hoops event featuring 64 teams.
Shaare Zedek’s first-round game is slated for July 9 at the Eagles Nest arena at Cal State Los Angeles (tickets are available at thetournament.com). The championship game will take place Aug. 2 in New York City.
Blu’s team was convened by Adam King, community campaign director for the western region of American Committee for Shaare Zedek Medical Center (ACSZ), the U.S.-based fundraising arm of the Jerusalem-based hospital.
King, a Pico-Robertson resident with a flair for the bold and ambitious — he ran an unsuccessful campaign to unseat Congresswoman Karen Bass in 2014 because he believed Bass wasn’t pro-Israel enough — attempted to turn the team’s practices themselves into community-building events that increase awareness about the work of Shaare Zedek Medical Center. He invited supporters and potential supporters of the hospital to the practices to watch the team play from the sidelines, and he spoke about the work of the hospital to the team’s members, many of whom were unfamiliar with the hospital before joining the team.
“The whole thing circles around the hospital,” King said. “It’s about giving back to the hospital.”
Shaare Zedek is a hospital in Jerusalem that operates the country’s largest maternity ward, treats 70 percent of the country’s victims of terrorist attacks and maintains a partnership focused on emergency preparedness with the Israel Defense Forces.
Paul Jeser, national director of major gifts at ACSZ, is excited about the potential of this tournament to increase exposure of the work of the Israeli hospital, especially since ESPN will broadcast the championship game.
“If we make it to the round that’s televised, it’s a way to tell our story we couldn’t tell otherwise,” he said.
The team’s players include Cory Reader, a 7-foot center originally from Australia who played collegiately at Brigham Young University and who appeared in NBA preseason games for the Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers (he is currently a financial adviser at Morgan Stanley); Nigeria-native Chidi Ajufo, a power forward who played at UC Santa Barbara and in the British Basketball League, and who now works as an actor and stuntman; and shooting guard Bracin Skywalker, who played for American River College in Sacramento.
“Basically, it’s a bunch of athletic basketball players all across the U.S. competing for $2 million … the idea for us, anyway, is to win $2 million for Adam’s charity,” Ajufo said.
For Skywalker, competing for charity was an easy decision: He “met the guys, the vibe was cool” and decided it was for a “good cause,” he said — after taking his driver’s license out of his wallet to prove to this reporter that his legal name is, in fact, Bracin Skywalker.
Not only are the players not playing for any money, members of the team contributed to the cost of renting the gym, King said. But, for Blu, having a place to play every week, in a city where it is difficult to find a good game of pickup basketball, is worth it.
“It’s just a lot of fun to play pickup basketball,” he said.
Taking the Super Sunday pledge plunge with Federation
One week after the Super Bowl, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles was celebrating its own Super Sunday — its major fundraising event of the year where volunteers sit at banquet-style tables and make cold calls to potential donors.
I attended with one goal in mind: to be the best caller Federation has ever seen.
This was my chance to live out my lifelong dream of being a call center representative. (We all have our dreams; don’t judge!) Monies raised — in this case, more than $1.2 million — help fund Federation initiatives such as the Nu Roots program for young professionals, the launching of the Los Angeles Jewish Abilities Center for adults with special needs, and Israel advocacy programs.
Upon arrival at the Skirball Cultural Center Feb. 8, I immediately was handed a phone and a “placemat,” which was basically a rundown for callers, equipped with a calling script and resolutions to potential snafus — should they arise.
Attempting to shmooze with my fellow phone-calling counterparts, I immediately struck up a conversation with a guy sitting alone at a table. “What brought you out here today?” I asked. He ended up being Federation vice president of planned giving and endowments, Joshua Karlin, and my mentor for the next couple of hours.
At the center of each table were two baskets: one for “yes” pledges and one for its more popular counterpart, “no” pledges. Karlin said if I got a yes pledge, I should ring the bell (like one you’d see at a concierge desk in a hotel lobby) stationed at the center of the table. Every so often, a melody of bell chimes would sing at once. People would hoot and holler, some would clap, and in some instances, the person who sealed the pledge would rise from his or her seat triumphantly.
I had visions of being Super Sunday’s star caller, bringing in pledges left and right. In reality, most calls went straight to voicemail. The time I did finally get a person, the woman immediately regretted picking up the phone and said she was in the middle of something.
“Remember,” Karlin said, “there are half a million Jews living in Los Angeles and the Federation has about 15,000 donors.”
Basically, he was sending me to the battlefield with a reality check, advising me not to be disheartened by the odds. Regardless, I felt like I was letting everyone down. Why didn’t I get a pledge and experience the exhilaration of ringing that bell?
I decided to cruise the crowd and pick up some pointers. Sitting just two tables down was a mother-daughter duo, first-timer Miriam Watenmaker and her daughter, Michelle, a fourth-year Super Sunday veteran who attends Pierce College. Miriam experienced what her daughter called beginner’s luck — she got a yes pledge ($136) after her first phone call, but didn’t get any after that. Michelle said she’s accustomed to getting a thousand no’s, “but that one yes makes it all worth it.”
“It takes time and a bit of luck,” she continued, adding that what keeps her coming back is the welcoming environment.
Meanwhile, her mother kept making calls: “Hello Matthew, my name is Miriam,” she said in a pleasant, sing-songy voice. Then she went into her shtick, saying she’s calling on behalf of the Federation and that all monies pledged are helpful “so we can continue to support the community …”
Then her voice trailed off. “Hello? Hello?” she asked. Matthew had hung up. Unfazed, she went on to the next pledge.
Before sending me on my way, the Watenmakers shared some trade secrets, advising me to ask for people by their first names, to make the conversation personable and to not read the script verbatim — “less machine-like and more personality.”
Another mother and daughter pair was Emma and Alla Doner. Only 10 years old, Emma was too young to make phone calls, so she was stuffing envelopes. As someone who attends Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles’ Camp Max Straus, she wanted to give back to Federation, which provides grants to campers.
“My favorite part of the day is that I’m helping out kids who don’t really have the money to go to camp or have supplies that they need. I think that’s the coolest part about being here,” Emma said.
“Are you coming back next year?” I asked them. Without a moment’s hesitation, Emma responded with an enthusiastic, “Yes!”
The day started at 9 a.m. with a campaign launch and a community rally to pump up the volunteers, and the day stretched out until 6 pm. Singer-songwriter Lisa Loeb was there, too, sporting her trademark cat-eye glasses as she serenaded a mosh pit of nearly a hundred toddlers dressed in their best superhero duds, not to mention a handful of Disney princesses. (That was to support Federation and its educational outreach program, PJ Library.)
Andrew Cushnir, who started as a volunteer at Federation and is now the executive vice president, said the morning’s events “really got the room going, and the people who were making the calls felt in their guts what the Federation is doing.”
It must have worked for Megan Kanofsky, Federation’s program director for Jewish campus life who had a bin packed with yes pledges.
“Although not everyone is answering their phones — which is to be expected, you’re not going to get all of them — but we’re getting a lot of young adults giving for their first time, which is cool,” she said.
Her secret to success is simple, so simple it’s written at the top of each caller’s placemat: “Remember to smile.”
Nice Jewish guys finish first
Adam Cohen is in the business of nice Jewish guys.
Back in 2009, Cohen (who considers himself a nice Jewish guy) was sick of seeing bulging pecs gracing calendar covers and finally asked, “Why does it always have to be chiseled firemen?”
The Santa Monica man addressed his frustration by creating a 12-month pin-up calendar featuring a dozen “nice” Jewish bachelors. That first year, he sold around 1,000 calendars. Now, the calendar is a best-selling sensation, available at trendy chains Urban Outfitters and Kitson. This year’s version features a guy on the cover wearing a plaid shirt and quirky glasses, snuggled up on a couch.
Cohen unveiled his 2015 calendar on Dec. 4 at Kitson’s North Robertson Boulevard location as part of a fundraiser that would do Sadie Hawkins proud: Three guys from the calendar were auctioned off for dates to the highest female bidders.
“For the first time in my life, the woman is buying me a first date,” gloated Mr. November, Rhyan Schwartz, 25.
By the end of the night, the auction raised more than $600 for Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles.
“We auctioned off three guys — all nice, young Jewish guys ready and willing to go on a dinner date with any of the ladies who were bidding,” explained auctioneer Jason Pickar, a 2015 Nice Jewish Guy and rapper who goes by the stage name Chozinn.
“I’m February, the most romantic month of the year,” Pickar told the Journal. “It’s also the shortest month of the year, which I try not to dwell on.”
Pickar said he opted to be the auctioneer because he’s currently in a committed relationship.
Out of all the guys auctioned, the most expensive bachelor was Jason Lockhart (Mr. May, fondly referred to as “Jason the Indie Film Director” throughout the night), who went for $325. Schwartz, an actor/musician/comedian, was auctioned off for $275, and baby-faced Ryan Lefton (Mr. March), who was the first guy up for auction, went for $175.
“They [the bidders] were just warming up,” explained his mother, Sally Lefton-Wolfe. (Living up to nice Jewish guy expectations, Lefton brought his mother to the event.)
“This is every Jewish mother’s dream,” Lefton-Wolfe continued while holding a Kitson shopping bag. “And you have to see this. I went into Kitson and bought him this: It’s a shirt that says, ‘Nice Jewish Boy.’ ”
In the calendar, Lefton posed with a yarmulke while reclining against a pew. In another picture, he held an open siddur and smiled at the camera — “like they just caught me studying for my bar mitzvah,” he told the Journal.
As part of his strategy during the auction, he said, “I tried to pose a little bit just to hike it up. I unbuttoned one of my shirt buttons just to show a little bit of my chest — despite the lack of hair.”
Lefton and his date will dine at RivaBella in West Hollywood.
“Now I want him to meet a nice Jewish girl,” his mother said in typical Jewish mother fashion.
During the evening, Cohen, a married TV producer with children, scouted potential Nice Jewish Guys for his 2016 calendar, conducting quick interviews with 15 hopefuls. He said he’s definitely picking at least one, if not more, of the prospective nice guys; casting decisions will be made in February or March.
Already, Cohen has sold approximately 10,000 2015 calendars. He’s confident in his formula — putting personality first.
“When it comes to Nice Jewish Guys, physicality comes second,” he said.
In fact, every nice guy’s headshot is accompanied by a short biography, whether it boasts an accomplished violin player who can perform the national anthem via “hand farts” (“Joel,” aka Mr. January), a medical professional who loves water polo (“Sam,” aka Mr. June) or a pilot who’s afraid of heights (“Max,” aka Mr. September). It’s about the story, more than the face.
“It’s really taking on a life of its own,” Cohen said, “and I should really be capitalizing on that more.”
Cohen gets lots of requests, specifically from people asking him to start a dating website (to which he responded, “I’m working on it!”) or throwing nice Jewish girls into the mix.
“A couple of years ago, we tested it out and had a couple of months for nice Jewish girls, and people were just lukewarm about it,” Cohen said. “I don’t know why it didn’t really catch people’s attention as much as the guys.”
But regardless, he’s found a goldmine with this particular niche.
“Plus,” Cohen added, “it’s making a lot of Jewish moms happy.”
Super Sunday raises $1.3 million
More than 400 volunteers, including 300 phone bankers, helped The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles raise an excess of $1.3 million this month on Super Sunday, the phone-a-thon that marks the beginning of its annual fundraising campaign.
That figure represents a dip from last year, when the Federation brought in more than $1.9 million. Jay Sanderson, Federation president and CEO, said that’s no reason to worry, however, because of the event’s focus on reaching out to new donors this year.
“For the old model for Super Sunday, we would be calling anybody and everybody no matter what size the gift they had given us. … We don’t do that anymore,” he said. “Super Sunday for us is calling new donors and new donors who have maybe stopped giving. The total amount raised was from new donors, and it’s actually the most money from new donors ever, so it’s a huge success.”
Volunteers, working out of the Skirball Cultural Center on Feb. 9, solicited 1,568 donors during the event that lasted from 10 a.m. until 8:30 p.m., according to Federation Senior Vice President of Marketing Mitch Hamerman.
This was the first time that Super Sunday was held at a central location. In past years, simultaneous phone-a-thons took place on the Westside and in the Valley.
This year, to emphasize that the Federation is about bringing the Jewish community together, the organization opted to consolidate the sessions into a single setting that would be geographically convenient to all.
“The Skirball Cultural Center has established itself as a center of Jewish life in Los Angeles,” Sanderson said.
Participants included community members, clergy, Federation staff, members of the Federation group YALA (Young Adults of Los Angeles) and even elected officials, such as Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz.
“I always come out to Super Sunday because the Jewish Federation does so many important things — particularly for the Jewish community both here and in Israel, and for the greater community, and I want to do everything that I can to help every year,” Koretz said as he made his way to the entrance of Skirball’s Herscher Hall, where the Super Sunday phone-a-thon was held.
Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin; L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer; and former L.A. City Controller Wendy Greuel, who has announced that she will run to replace Rep. Henry Waxman, were among those making phone calls and filling out pledge cards.
Meanwhile, Rabbi Elliot Dorff, rector and professor of philosophy at American Jewish University, said he loves Super Sunday because it is an opportunity to explain the mission of the Federation, which includes ensuring the Jewish future, engaging the community and serving Jews in need.
“I must say when I call people, and I share some of those reasons … they enjoy hearing about what their money is going for, all the really important things that the Federation does, and why someone who has never given money for the Federation should give,” he said in an interview.
Super Sunday entails outreach to two groups: donors who have previously provided sums to Federation, and people who haven’t donated to Federation before. Therefore, volunteers do more than ask for contributions. They take time to educate about the Federation mission.
“Super Sunday is an opportunity for the [already-engaged] community to come together and reach out to the broader community, to engage them in the work of the Federation and ask for their support. … For us, because I believe the job of the Jewish Federation is to build the Jewish community, this is a community-building day,” Sanderson said.
Appropriately enough, the day was about more than just phone calls. Approximately one-fourth of the day’s participants — 100 volunteers — participated in a diverse selection of community service projects across the city. This element of tikkun olam was incorporated into Super Sunday several years ago.
At the Westside headquarters of Friendship Circle Los Angeles, dozens of volunteers excitedy participated in activities that serve the Chabad-sponsored organization’s clientele: special needs children. They stocked mishloach manot gift baskets that the kids will receive on Purim, made decorations for the organization’s upcoming Purim carnival and hung bulletin boards in the center’s hallway.
There, Shelly Brami, 35, colored in a banner that read “Happy Purim” with her two daughters, Shani, 6, and Daniella, 7. Brami, who is of Israeli descent, said that the Federation’s commitment to helping non-Jews appeals to her.
“I understand that they just don’t help Jewish people, but they also help others,” she said.
In Agoura Hills, volunteers joined the anti-hunger organization Food Forward in harvesting oranges from fruit trees, according to the Federation. The group was one of several non-profits that partnered with Federation in hosting service projects. Heal the Bay took volunteers to a beach cleanup effort in Santa Monica, and Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles led individuals in assembling care packages for the needy at the Zimmer Children’s Museum. P.J. Library and the Shalom Institute also offered programming.
What do Bush and Pew have in common?
I am often asked if Jews for Jesus missionaries are still a problem. Since most people don’t see them handing out religious tracts on street corners and college campuses, the way they did in the 70’s and 80’s, they assume that they are no longer a concern.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Missionaries like Jews for Jesus and “Messianic Jews” have migrated to the web where they reach our children in the comfort of their home and dormitory room.
Additionally, these missionaries regularly launch crusades in major Jewish populations worldwide and are growing in Israel, with dozen of missionaries canvassing the country and placing ads in newspapers like Ha’aretz and on the side of Egged buses.
Two recent news items dramatize this phenomenon.
The Pew study claims 34% of Jews think you can be Jewish and believe Jesus is the messiah. Additionally an article in Mother Jones reported that President George W. Bush will be the keynote fundraiser for the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute, a group that trains evangelical Christians from the United States, Israel, and around the world to convince Jews to accept Jesus as the Messiah.
Jews for Jesus and the “Messianic Jews” have fought for 35 years to achieve acceptance in society. These news items prove that they have been successful. Today, most Christians don’t think twice about the oxymoron of being Jewish and Christian simultaneously. Additionally, the messianic Jews have gained acceptance by riding on the coattails of evangelicals who support Israel financially and politically.
A number of years ago I was asked to attend a Jewish Federation meeting to hear a well-known evangelical pastor. During the Q&A I expressed my concern about the deception of “Messianic Jews” who wear Yarmulkas and light Shabbat candles. The pastor did not see the hypocrisy of Jews who have accepted Christianity using rabbinic traditions to masquerade as traditional Jews.
This misconception is rampant among the Christian community and George Bush is just another victim of the ploy of thinking it is all right to be Jewish and Christian at the same time.
I believe the Pew study also missed the point. If it had asked if you can be Jewish and believe Jesus is God I think the response would have been dramatically lower than 34%. Simply believing Jesus is a human messiah is often a convenient compromise for many intermarried Jews. It would be more uncomfortable for them to accept the Christian belief that Jesus is divine.
As we approach Chanukah, we must take to heart the message of not losing our precious Jewish identity through assimilation and apathy. Let’s commit to continue the battle of the Maccabees and say no to being a Jew for Jesus.
Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz founded Jews for Judaism International and celebrating 28 years at their December 10th Gala. For information visit www.JewsforJudaism.org/Gala.
George W. Bush to headline fundraiser for Texas proselytizing group
Former President George W. Bush will headline a fundraiser in Texas for a group that seeks to convert Jews to Christianity.
Bush is scheduled to appear Nov. 15 in suburban Dallas to raise funds for the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute, a Texas-based group that says its mission “is to bring Jewish people into a personal relationship of faith with Yeshua the Messiah, knowing their acceptance will eventually mean life from the dead.”
Tickets for the event at the Irving Convention Center start at $250 and rise to as high as $100,000.
According to Mother Jones, which first reported the fundraiser, the $100,000 tickets include a VIP reception with Bush and a tour of Israel guided by the institute’s president, Wayne Wilks.
Moving and Shaking: AJC gives 2013 Community Service Award, Taste of Summer raises $87,000
Rabbinic Leadership Institute graduates include Rabbis Denise Eger (second row, third from left), Ken Chasen (third row, third from right) and Stewart Vogel (front row, fourth from left). Rabbi Joshua Aaronson not pictured. Photo by Yonit Schiller
Rabbis Joshua Aaronson of Temple Judea in Tarzana, Ken Chasen of Leo Baeck Temple in Bel Air, Denise Eger of Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood and Stewart Vogel of Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills were recently named senior rabbinic fellows at the Shalom Hartman Institute (SHI), following the rabbis’ completion of the institute’s Rabbinic Leadership Initiative.
The elite three-year program of study, reflection and professional development at SHI trains rabbis to transform Jewish life in North America. Participants spent a month each summer and a week each winter studying at the institute’s Jerusalem campus.
During a ceremony in Jerusalem on July 7, Yehuda Kurtzer, president of SHI of North America, praised the rabbis, calling them “teachers, students [and] visionaries.” Other speakers at the July gathering included MK Rabbi Dov Lipman of Israel’s Yesh Atid Party.
Eger, who was among those in attendance, acknowledged the program’s rigorousness. “It wasn’t always so comfortable; we had to stretch,” she said.
Fred Stern. Photo by Michael Aurit
American Jewish Committee of Los Angeles (AJC) awarded Fred Stern its 2013 Community Service Award in June. Stern is on AJC’s national board of governors and the L.A. board of directors.
The June 18 reception in honor of Stern, who works as a financial adviser to Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, took place at the Beverly Hills home of Debbie and Naty Saidoff. David Harris, executive director of AJC’s national office, delivered the evening’s keynote speech. More than 125 guests and AJC leaders attended.
AJC backers Madeline and Bruce Ramer co-hosted the event.
The American Jewish Press Association has awarded Tom Tugend, Journal contributing editor, a first-place Simon Rockower Award for Excellence in Jewish Journalism for his feature story “A Legacy in Harmony,” published by Hadassah Magazine, and a first-place Rockower to Steve Greenberg, Journal editorial cartoonist, for “Greenberg’s View.”
Tugend’s article described how Ruth and Judea Pearl have turned their private grief into public good in the decade since their son, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, was kidnapped and murdered by Islamic extremists in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, Greenberg’s winning cartoons skewered 2012 former presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s desire to win the Jewish vote, former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s anti-Israel rhetoric and the international community’s response to Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip.
Fulfillment Fund Leadership Council member Todd Hawkins with chef Eric Greenspan, honorary event co-chair. Photo by Matt Sayles, Invision Agency by The Associated Press.
The second annual Taste of Summer, a food, wine and beer festival held at the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica on July 13, raised $87,000 for the Fulfillment Fund.
The college-access organization makes college “a reality for students growing up in educationally and economically under-resourced communities,” according to the Fulfillment Fund Web site.
Chef and Fulfillment Fund honorary chair Eric Greenspan co-hosted the gathering. Known for his cooking at The Foundry on Melrose and The Roof on Wilshire, Greenspan expressed support for the Fulfillment Fund in a statement: “I’ve always viewed my most cherished and important role as a chef is to be a teacher, so education is very important to me.”
Vendors included The Roof on Wilshire, Wolfgang Puck Catering, Whole Foods, Stone Brewing and others.
During the event, more than 400 attendees enjoyed bites, drink, music and silent auction – all just footsteps away from the beach.
From left: Floyd Glen-Lambert, president of Jewish Labor Committee's western region; Assembly Speaker Emeritus and honoree Bob Hertzberg and former City Controller Wendy Greuel. Photo by Beth Dubber.
The Jewish Labor Committee (JLC) Western Region’s annual awards brunch held last month marked the 79th anniversary of the organization, as the national group’s New York headquarters and Los Angeles office were established in 1934.
The event also honored Laphonza Butler, president of the Service Employees International Union-United Long Term Care Workers; Tom Walsh, president of Unite Here Local 11; and Assembly Speaker Emeritus Robert Hertzberg.
The July 14 ceremony in honor of JLC — which describes itself as the “Jewish voice in the labor movement, and the voice of the labor movement in the Jewish community” — took place at Loews Hollywood Hotel.
Butler, Walsh and Hertzberg received the Elinor Glenn Leadership Award, the Henry Fiering Union Advocacy Award and the Abe Levy Chaver Award, respectively.
Moving and Shaking acknowledges accomplishments by members of the local Jewish community, including people who start new jobs, leave jobs, win awards and more, as well as local events that featured leaders from the Jewish and Israeli communities. Got a tip? E-mail it to email@example.com.
Romney’s peace pessimism draws muted response from Jewish groups
Mitt Romney’s pessimistic take on Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects drew some headlines in the press but not much noise from centrist Jewish groups.
The revelation this week of Romney’s remarks, in which he suggested that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be solved at present and that the best that could be done was to “kick the ball down the field,” was greeted quietly by centrist Jewish organizations. Only groups on the right and the left ends of the communal spectrum issued statements in response, respectively praising and strongly condemning Romney's comments.
But in interviews with JTA, some centrist Jewish communal leaders stressed that the pursuit of peace should not be postponed, although they were not inclined to criticize Romney.
“To let it fester is not in the best interests of Israel,” said Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, adding that he believed the Republican candidate for president “meant well” in his remarks at a May 17 fund-raiser in Boca Raton, Fla.
Israel’s government “wants to pursue peace and they want to believe there is a partner,” Foxman said, citing the little noticed but successful ongoing security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. “It's not in Israel's interest to kick it down the road, not only in terms of self-interest but in terms of its relationship to the civilized world.”
Without directly criticizing Romney, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the Union of Reform Judaism’s new president, said that U.S. leadership required action in the short term, not just the long term.
“We need to do concrete things every day, not naively and not with sacrificing the safety and security of Israel — although safety and security for Israel means two states,” Jacobs said. “Our tradition requires us to do difficult things in the world. There is no benefit to delaying.”
Jacobs said that even when peacemaking was stalled, there were incremental actions the parties could undertake.
“When it is not the right time, you can put things in place to move it to the right time,” he said.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the American Jewish Committee declined to comment on Romney's remarks.
Some have noted that the Republican nominee did not rule out the possibility of achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace in the future. The initial portions of Romney’s remarks that were released by Mother Jones magazine, which had obtained the secretly recorded video from the Florida fundraiser, were truncated. The full video was released shortly thereafter and included what could be seen as Romney’s vision of how the U.S. can foster the conditions for an eventual peace by being a resolute ally of Israel.
“I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say, 'There's just no way,'” Romney said in the remarks as first released at the $50,000 a plate dinner.
“And so what you do is you say, 'You move things along the best way you can,'” Romney continued. “You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem. We live with that in China and Taiwan. All right, we have a potentially volatile situation but we sort of live with it, and we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it.”
Left out of the original reporting was his conclusion to the thought: “So the only answer is show them strength. American strength, American resolve, and the Palestinians will some day reach the point where they want peace more than we’re trying to force peace on them. Then it’s worth having the discussion. So until then, it’s just wistful thinking.”
While opponents to a two-state solution within the Republican Party have grown louder, Romney is not considered to be among their ranks. Romney’s surrogates worked successfully to prevent language calling for two states from being pulled out of the Republican Party platform.
Daniel Mariaschin, B’nai B’rith International’s executive vice president, said that he understood Romney not to mean that he was abandoning peacemaking but that he was acknowledging that other crises had superseded its importance in the Middle East.
“Events have pushed the issue to the outside,” said Mariaschin, citing Iran’s acceleration of its nuclear program and the unrest in much of the Arab world, particularly Syria. He noted renewed Palestinian plans to push for statehood recognition at the United Nations that have frustrated the Obama administration as well as Democrats and Republicans in Congress.
“As long as the Palestinians are not fighting to get back into the circle” of peacemaking “the prospect for intensifying the process is not there right now,” Mariaschin said.
Romney's remarks on the peace process, however, were criticized by Democrats.
“This guy wants to be president of the United States?” Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives Middle East subcommittee, told JTA.
“There are problems between Jews and Muslims and this Mormon throws a Hail Mary?” said Ackerman, who is retiring this year and has excoriated all sides — the U.S., Israel and the Palestinians — for not seizing opportunities for peace.
In a series of interviews with media outlets, Dennis Ross, the former Middle East adviser to President Obama and the administration’s most frequent interlocutor with Israel, seemed to suggest that Romney’s remarks were not helpful.
“I'm a big believer in not creating a false set of expectations, but I'm also a believer in that if you think something is stuck, you come up with an approach and try to change the dynamic,” Ross, counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told The Huffington Post. “If you basically just say it's all hopeless, you just make hopelessness a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
But a fellow veteran U.S. Middle East negotiator, Aaron David Miller, struck a more sympathetic chord.
“To me, the idea that an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement may not be possible is simply an acknowledgement of reality,” Miller, a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, told The Huffington Post. “In my view, the emperor has been seen to have no clothes on this issue for quite a number of years.”
Miller said that he thought Romney, if elected, would tend toward the low end in the spectrum of U.S. engagement with the issue, “what I would call benign neglect” — but that “even Romney would have to find some way of management.”
While centrist Jewish groups have not issued statements in response to Romney’s remarks, groups on the left and right were not so reticent. Americans for Peace Now and J Street, which have pushed for aggressive U.S. action to advance a two-state solution, were strongly critical of Romney’s remarks.
“In dismissing the possibility of achieving peace and expressing readiness to simply sit back and wait for the conflict to resolve itself, Romney has articulated a view that is fundamentally anti-Israel,” APN’s president, Debra DeLee, said in a statement. “‘Pro-Israel’ means being committed to the achievement of peace for Israel, no matter how difficult it may be to achieve or how distant a solution may appear.”
She called on him to “repudiate” his remarks.
But the Zionist Organization of America said that it agreed with Romney’s premise.
“Governor Romney's remarks indicate that, were he to be elected president, he might be willing to do what President Obama and his predecessors, Republican and Democratic, have not done — to act on the realities of the Palestinian situation and apply real, sustained pressure on the Palestinian Authority to change its ways,” the ZOA’s national president, Morton Klein, said in a statement.
Palestinians insulted by Mitt Romney’s comments
Just eight weeks before the American presidential elections, Palestinians are furious over comments by Republican candidate Mitt Romney. The private remarks were made in May to wealthy donors but released only now.
Palestinians are “committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel,” Romney said, adding that prospects for a two-state solution of an independent Palestinian state next to Israel were dim.
“You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this going to remain an unsolved problem, and we kick the ball down the field and hope that, ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it.”
According to Mother Jones magazine, which posted the video clip of Romney’s comments on its website, the former Massachusetts governor made the remarks at a $50,000-per-plate fundraiser at Boca Raton, Florida. Boca Raton has a wealthy Jewish community, although it was not clear how many Jews were at the Romney fundraiser.
“It’s political illiteracy – has he even ever read a book about Palestine?” Mahdi Abdul Hadi, the president of the PASSIA think tank in east Jerusalem fumed to The Media Line. “On one level Palestinians are laughing at this, but on another level it will be very serious if this man has any say in our future.”
The comments come as the latest polls show a close race between Romney and President Obama. Although American Jews account for only two percent of the population, they represent significant voting blocs in important swing states like Florida. Polls show that more than two-thirds of Jews who plan to vote will cast their ballot for President Obama, although many believe he is not as supportive of Israel as were some of his predecessors.
In the West Bank city of Ramallah, the putative seat of Palestinian government, Palestinians reacted angrily to Romney’s comments.
“He’s buying votes,” 27-year old Morad Al-Siory told The Media Line. “How can you judge Palestine if you haven’t seen both sides? I’m right here and I see it with my own eyes.”
Al-Siory said he had come to Ramallah to visit his family. His father, Mohammed, who owns a falafel stand, agreed with his son’s comments.
“How can you swim if you don’t get wet?” he asked. “I’d love to see American policy in the Middle East change.”
He also said, however, that he was frustrated with President Obama’s policy and that there was only a slight chance that he might do something different than Romney if re-elected.
“In the last four years he’s done nothing” Al-Siory said. “He fooled the Arabs and the Muslims with his speech in Cairo.”
He was referring to the speech that President Obama made in Egypt soon after taking office in which he called for “a new beginning” in relations between the US and the Arab world. It was seen at the time as an effort to reach out to the Arab world.
Palestinian officials also responded angrily to Romney’s comments.
“No one stands to gain more from peace with Israel than Palestinians and no one stands to lose more in the absence of peace than Palestinians,” chief negotiator Sa’ib Ariqat told the Reuters news agency. “Only those who want to maintain the Israeli occupation will claim the Palestinians are not interested in peace.”
But other Palestinian analysts said the statements had to be seen in context — as part of the election campaign, where Jewish donors and voters play an important role.
“Palestinians have learned through experience not to take statements made during election campaigns seriously,” Ghassan Al-Khatib, a professor of contemporary Arab studies at Bir Zeit University told The Media Line. “When you compare what we hear during the campaign and what presidents do in the future, you don’t see the connections.”
At the same time, Khatib said the statements further reinforced previous Palestinian attitudes toward the Republican candidate, who is perceived to have little foreign policy experience.
“This is not a surprise for the Palestinians,” Khatib said. “The impression is that Romney has been extraordinarily hostile and negative towards Palestinians all along.”
Romney: Israeli-Palestinian conflict ‘unsolvable’ [VIDEO]
[JTA] Mitt Romney told fundraisers in a private meeting that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was “unsolvable” and that his strategy would be to “kick the ball down the field.”
“I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say, 'There's just no way',” Romney said at a May 17 fundraiser in Boca Raton hosted by Marc Leder, a private equity manager.
A video of the private $50,000 a plate event was released this week by Mother Jones.
“And so what you do is you say, 'You move things along the best way you can',” Romney continued. “You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem. We live with that in China and Taiwan. All right, we have a potentially volatile situation but we sort of live with it, and we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it.”
Romney and his surrogates have otherwise striven to defend the two-state outcome within the Republican Party, and rebuffed an effort in August to have it removed from the party platform.
Another passage in the fundraising video, in which Romney says 47 percent of voters would vote for President Obama because they feel “entitled” to health care, food and housing, and that these voters do not pay income tax, has dominated headlines, and has led Romney to stand by the comments, while acknowledging they were not “elegantly stated.”
In the video, Romney also says that his team of political consultants includes some who have worked for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
[REUTERS] On the West Bank, Palestinians said Romney was wrong to accuse them of not seeking peace.
“No one stands to gain more from peace with Israel than Palestinians and no one stands to lose more in the absence of peace than Palestinians,” chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Reuters. “Only those who want to maintain the Israeli occupation will claim the Palestinians are not interested in peace.”
Romney plans Jerusalem fundraiser
The Romney campaign has invited donors to a fundraiser in Israel.
The Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday that the fundraiser would take place on July 29 in Jerusalem and would cost $60,000 a plate.
A donor who has been invited confirmed the fundraiser to JTA, although the Romney campaign formally had no comment. The donor was not aware of the $60,000 minimum.
The July 29 date is the first indication of when Romney would be in Israel. His plan to visit was announced earlier this month.
Ethan Bortnick: Child prodigy, entertainer, mega-fundraiser
Ethan Bortnick was just 6 when he first appeared on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” playing snippets of piano works by Bach, Mozart and Scott Joplin. He even performed his own composition, “The Tiger Ran Away at the Zoo.” By that age, he had already raised $12 million for Miami Children’s Hospital. Since then, he has performed for the Chabad Telethon and the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces, among other charities.
Now 10 and having just embarked on his longest tour to date, the accomplished entertainer is, naturally, excited. The 20-city tour of “Ethan Bortnick and His Musical Time Machine” began Jan. 20 in Nashville, Tenn., and stops at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts on Feb. 5, before continuing on until March, when Ethan returns home to Hollywood, Fla.
Speaking by phone from Florida, Ethan recalled his debut on “Leno.”
“That was very long ago, like four years ago,” Ethan said, noting that he’s been on the show three times since, most recently in 2009. He’s also appeared on “Oprah.”
He said his interests are wide. “I love all kinds of music — classical, jazz, rock ’n’ roll, the Beatles. I love Jewish folk songs. I’m not working on one kind of music. I do everything at the same time.”
Even over the phone, Ethan’s irrepressible energy and impressive focus come through. He displayed a disarming candor about a potentially painful subject.
“My brother, Nathan, is 5 years old, but when he was born, we were told he was missing two out of the four chambers from his heart,” Ethan said. “He had half a heart. But at Miami Children’s Hospital, they saved his life. I really wanted to help the hospital, which I did. At the last event, we got Beyoncé, Smokey Robinson and Gloria Gaynor to come. It was amazing.”
Ethan explained how he and his management team arranged a Children’s Miracle Network fundraising event in Orlando, Fla., so they would be at Disney World for his brother’s birthday. “They’re an amazing team that raises money for children’s hospitals. I wrote [the song] ‘It’s a Miracle’ for them.”
Story continues after the jump.
Rutgers student group holds Gaza fundraiser
A student group at Rutgers University is holding a fund raiser in support of a blockade-busting flotilla to Gaza.
Thursday night’s event, which features a halal buffet, is being held by the campus organization BAKA: Students United for Middle Eastern Justice. The dinner and speakers are advertised as in support of U.S. to Gaza, which plans to sponsor a boat in a flotilla to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza, the New Jersey newspaper The Record reported. BAKA is using student activity fees to sponsor the event, according to The Record.
The New Jersey regional office of the Anti-Defamation League reportedly has contacted the university to protest of the event. The Rutgers Hillel has also opposed the event, according to the newspaper.
The university will allow the event to take place, but it has not been determined where the proceeds will be donated, the report said, with Rutgers looking into whether the groups that make up U.S. to Gaza are eligible to receive tax-deductible donations.
Calendar Girls picks and clicks for April 26-May 2
SAT | APRIL 26
Winner of the Camera d’Or prize at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, “Jellyfish” is another example of the remarkable cinematic explosion of Israeli films garnering ” target=”_blank”>http://www.zeitgeistfilms.com.
Saddle up your horses and head to Burbank for a lively Western-themed benefit, Wells Fargo’s “Hollywood Charity Horse Show,” headed up by one of the most iconic starship captains of our time, William Shatner, a.k.a. Capt. James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise. Let loose your yeehaws and yipees as the knife- and whip-wielding troupe Rancho Indalo Riders wow the crowd with their daring riding tricks. Then croon along with country music superstar Randy Travis as he serenades the crowd during a good ol’-fashioned country dinner party. Don’t forget to tip your cowboy hat to Ahead With Horses and the Camp Max Strauss Foundation, two incredible organizations that focus on the needs of children in Los Angeles that will be receiving the proceeds of this event. Sat. 4 p.m. (silent auction), 5:30 p.m. (arena show), 7 p.m. (dinner and concert). $250 (individual tickets), $2,500 (per table). Various sponsorships available. Los Angeles Equestrian Center, 480 Riverside Drive, Burbank. (818) 840-9066. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.sholem.org.
SUN | APRIL 27
Drape yourself and your children in white robes and flowing gowns mimicking the Israelites who fled from Pharoah in ancient Egypt during the “Interactive Family firstname.lastname@example.org.
Love, deceit, betrayal and political corruption are all themes coursing through the veins of the heart-racing play, “The Spark of Reason.” A sister’s revenge can be brutal. Throw in a lover’s deception and a teacher’s betrayal to the historic 24-year-old Baruch Spinoza’s trial for heresy in 1656 — carried out by the Jewish community in Amsterdam — and you’ve got one blisteringly dramatic play. An eclectic cast will rile your deepest emotions in a staged reading written and directed by Michael Halperin, inspired by a true story. Sun. 3 p.m. Through May 18. $10 (suggested donation). Promenade Playhouse, 1404 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica. R.S.V.P to email@example.com.
MON | APRIL 28
Have you ever been curious as to why so many Jews in America have latched on to the ideals of the left? Join historian and professor Tony Michel as he paints a detailed, lively portrait of the Yiddish socialist movement, along with the American Jewish experience, during a conversation about his newly released book, “A Fire in Their Hearts: Yiddish Socialists in New York.” Examining the movement through in-depth research, Michel will share insights on Yiddish secular culture and Jewish left-wing activism emerging from social conditions on New York’s Lower East Side. Strike up a conversation with Michel as he signs a copy of your book during an event co-sponsored by Yiddishkayt Los Angeles, Reboot and the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies. Mon. 7 p.m. $5 (suggested donation). Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica. (213) 389-8880.
Have you always wished you could jump in and do the hora flawlessly at weddings? Have you wanted to join the merry circle of dancers after Shabbat services but been too embarrassed to try? Has your girlfriend been begging you to come with her to one of Los Angeles’ big dance sessions? The new beginner’s folk dance class at Temple Kol Tikvah is your chance to learn how to folk dance — from step one! Learn the basics at your own pace with the charming Cecilia of Keshet Chaim Dance Ensemble. Before you know it, you’ll be swaying and side-stepping, laughing, making friends and burning some calories, too! Mon. 7-9 p.m. $10. Temple Kol Tikvah, 20400 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills. (818) 784-0344.
Honoring Hatzolah, Anjelica Huston, Sheba
All Hail Hatzolah
Ambulances, LAPD squad cars and fire trucks filled the parking spaces outside Beth Jacob Congregation the evening of March 16 — but there was no emergency going on inside.
Rather, it was an “Evening of Appreciation” for the Los Angeles Fire Department, presented by the Hatzolah Los Angeles emergency rescue team.
“We are here to salute you for a job well done,” said Hatzolah chairman Zvika Brenner to the 200 guests who packed the congregation’s ballroom.
Hatzolah, Hebrew for rescue, has dozens of round-the-clock trained volunteer emergency medical technicians and dispatchers who act as a bridge in the critical first minutes of an emergency before paramedics arrive. The group works in the Pico-Roberston, Fairfax, North Hollywood and Hancock Park neighborhoods. No other community in Los Angeles has its equivalent, LAFD Chief Douglas Barry, who was honored at the event, told The Circuit.
“What we have here tonight is a collection of the most selfless individuals in the city of L.A.,” Rabbi Avrohom Teichman said.
He was speaking both of the Haztolah volunteers and the many police and fire personnel in attendance.
The event was sponsored by Beth Jacob caterer Edmond Guenoun and honored Chief Timothy J. Scranton of the Beverly Hills Fire Department, Deputy Chief Terry Hara of the LAPD and Fire Commissioner Andrew Friedman. Also in attendance to honor what master of ceremonies Alan Stern termed “the life-saving and holy work of Hatzolah” were L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca, EMS Commissioner Rabbi Chaim Kolodny, Hatzolah coordinator Michoel Bloom, LAPD Counterterrorism head Michael Downing and LAPD Det. Yehuda Packer.
The evening turned even more emotional when Hatzolah unveiled a new emergency supply truck dedicated in honor of Devorah and Aliza Levenberg, a young Hancock Park-area mother and daughter killed 10 days earlier in a traffic accident in Israel. Dvora’s mother, Rivi Adelman, a volunteer Hatzolah dispatcher, clad in black mourning clothes, expressed her appreciation to the assembly.
Burmese Rights Take Center Stage
Damien Rice. Photos by Mary Bell
Hollywood elite joined L.A. Buddhist monks and Burmese-born citizens in the penthouse Sunset Room of West Hollywood’s Hyatt Hotel on March 1.
The Human Rights Action Center and U.S. Campaign for Burma raised $30,000 to increase awareness and advocate on behalf of human rights in Burma. The organization is also boycotting the Beijing Olympics and the Chinese government for their involvement with the Burmese military junta, which has held Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest in Rangoon for the past 20 years. Jewish World Watch is also rallying support to protest the Chinese government before the Olympics, holding monthly vigils in front of the Chinese Consulate in downtown Los Angeles.
Actress Anjelica Huston (photo, right) co-hosted the event and emerged on stage wearing a professional business suit, looking radiant as ever while reading an excerpt from one of Kyi’s essays, “Freedom From Fear.”
A bright-eyed Khin Phyu Htway, who left Burma in 1999, expressed her gratitude to the 200 guests in attendance. “Burmese people will be in high spirits knowing Americans support them,” she said.
Irish musician Damien Rice delivered a heartfelt performance and lamented the status of 70,000 child soldiers who are forced to fight in the Burmese military.Throughout the night speakers repeated a popular, powerful phrase coined by the detained Kyi, which reflected the sentiment of the event’s cause: “Please use your liberty to promote ours.”
— Celia Soudry, Contributing Writer
Sing a Song for Sheba
(From left) Honoree professor Arnon Nagler, honoree Cathy Schulman, co-chair Lynn Ziman, and co-chairs Sheldon and Annie Lehrer.
The Friends of Sheba Medical Center Awards Gala on March 16 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel drew 400 enthusiastic supporters who raised their voices in singing “Yom Uledet Sameach,” or “Happy Birthday” in Hebrew, to congratulate both the State of Israel and a prominent Israeli charity on their 60th birthdays.
Cathy Schulman, Academy Award-winning producer of “Crash” and the recently released documentary “Darfur Now,” received the Sheba Humanitarian Award.In accepting the award Schulman, the president of Mandalay Pictures, described “Crash,” which deals with issues of race and diversity, as “the most rejected film in history,” but stressed her belief in producing films that can “make a change for the better.”
Also honored was Tel Aviv University professor Arnon Nagler, while Marjorie Pressman paid special tribute to the memory of former Sheba Board member J. Paul Levine.
The gala also raised funds to benefit the Sigi & Marilyn Ziering National Center for Newborn Screening, which tests Israeli newborns for 20 treatable genetic diseases at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, a leading healthcare facility throughout Israel and the Middle East.
— Peter Rothholz, Contributing Writer
Demi Moore, Tony Blair, Mr. Mayor
Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher wonder, “Will we be billed for this?” when they attend Bet Tzedek’s Annual Dinner Gala at the Hyatt Regency in Century City on Jan. 22. The Bet Tzedek supporter to their right is lawyer Bruce Ramer.
Looks like the feud is over, as Israeli Consul General Jacob Dayan (a.k.a. “Yaki”) embraces former competitors, director Joseph Cedar of “Beaufort” and Israeli actor Uri Gavriel of “The Band’s Visit” at the 2008 Palm Springs International Film Festival, which honored Israel’s 60th on Jan. 6. The two aforementioned films were vying to represent Israel at the Oscars, but only “Beaufort” has been nominated for Best Foreign-Language Film.
“American Idol,” watch out for “Junior Jewish American Ideal,” a competition where 11 young voices (ages 7-12) gathered at the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles to belt out some Hebrew and Jewish tunes for their proud parents. In the back row (from left) Joseph Schnitzer, Adam Rokah, Maya Rosenman, Rose Lipner, Maya Sherer; front row (from left) Gaby Lazo, Miriam Berman, Batya Lazo, Nathaniel Sawdayi, Amitai Mandel and Hannah Urman.
American Friends of the Israel Museum hit the Beverly Hills Hotel’s Rodeo Room on Jan. 28 for the Annual West Coast Gala, which raised $500,000 for the art and archaeology museum in Israel. In attendance are (from left) Adi Nes, Rosette Varda Delug, Stephen S. Lash, Patricia Finkel, Maureen Cogan and James Snyder. Photo by Silvia Mautner
Richard, Rochelle and Amanda Maize proved philanthropy isn’t far from flipping burgers: the family served In-N-Out’s famous “double-double” burgers to the students at Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services to kick off the new year in January.
Tony Blair indicates his expectation for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at American Jewish University’s 2008 Public Lecture Series on Jan. 14 at the Gibson Amphitheatre at Universal CityWalk.Photo by Peter Halmagyi
StandWithUs and American Jewish Committee kicked off their “Israel at 60” festivities on Jan.31 with a screening of “Golda’s Balcony,” a portrait of the nation’s esteemed female prime minister, played by Valerie Harper, at the Writer’s Guild Theatre. Standing on the balcony are (from left) Seth Brysk, Tony Cacciotti, Jerry Rothstein, Debbie and Naty Saidoff, Valerie Harper, Roz Rothstein, Mireille and Barry Wolfe and Esther Renzer. Photo by Daryl Temkin
Music brought together supporters of The Foundation for Jewish Education on Feb. 3 for a fundraiser to send needy Jewish children to a two-week Jewish summer camp. Angels of music are (from left) Marina Waks, Marlene Kreitenberg, Lior Kaminetsky and his ensemble, Dr. Sheila Solar and Barbara Drotow. Photo by Orly Halevy
Joel Neustaedter is smiling wide because he just landed at Ben-Gurion Airport to make aliyah. A Nefesh B’Nefesh chartered flight transported Joel from Irvine to his new home in Jerusalem. Photo by Sasson Tiram
It was a super Super Sunday, indeed! Bettina Kurowski, L. A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Ryan Yatman are a “super” good-lookin’ trio who hit the phones and helped raise $4,501,207 for Jewish causes worldwide. Mazal Tov and Todah Rabah!
Though the times have a-changed, love for the icon remains the same: Myna Herscher, Dennis Holt, Uri Herscher and Skirball architect Moshe Safdie attended the opening of “Bob Dylan’s American Journey, 1956-1966,” organized by the Experience Music Project, at the Skirball Cultural Center on Feb. 5.
Briefs: Federation’s Super Sunday garners $4.5 million; Sports luminaries honored
Super Sunday Donations Surpass 2007
The Jewish community’s biggest annual fundraiser garnered $4.5 million in support for The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. The success of the Super Sunday telethon Feb. 10 edged out the total of $4.4 million raised last year.
L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, L.A. City Councilman Jack Weiss and other politicians joined about 2,000 volunteers stationed at three locations in Mid-Wilshire, the San Fernando Valley and the South Bay. The fundraiser is seen as an important kickoff for The Federation’s annual campaign, which officials hope this year will raise about $55 million — money all the more in demand with state funding of social services decreasing.
“Super Sunday to me indicates the way the community is seeing the need and their obligation to step up and contribute to those needs,” said Paul Castro, executive director and CEO of Jewish Family Service. “The good news is in this community there has always been a really strong showing on Super Sunday.”
Event co-chair Ryan Yatman said: “Super Sunday exemplifies the Jewish community’s long-standing commitment to helping those in need: in Los Angeles, in Israel and around the globe.”
— Brad A. Greenberg, Senior Writer
Hall of Fame Inducts Sports Luminaries
Scandals have touched baseball, football, cycling and track and field in the last year, calling into question the integrity of American athletics. Returned medals, use and abuse of performance-enhancing drugs and an illegal dog-fighting ring have given the larger sports world a black eye, said Rabbi Edward Tenenbaum of Temple Beth Zion, who helped kick off the 13th Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame (SCJSHF) Dinner.
In contrast, the Jan. 27 event at the Skirball Cultural Center paid tribute to So Cal sports legends with a squeaky-clean rep. “Tonight we honor athletes that bring glory to our name,” Rabbi Tenenbaum said during the invocation.
Inductees for 2008 include Jonathan Bornstein (soccer, defender and midfielder for local MLS team Chivas USA), Glenn Cowan (top table tennis champ), Jerry Feldman (baseball, Angels 1963 draft pick and AAA Pacific Coast League MVP), Shaney Fink (vollyeball, Women’s Pro Beach Volleyball 1996-97, U.S. Maccabiah and Kiriat Haim teams), Perry Klein (football, Atlanta Falcons quarterback and Parade Magazine High School All-American), Kathy Kohner-Zuckerman (surfing, the real-life inspiration for the “Gidget” novels and films, written by her father, Frederick Kohner), Ron Price (high school football coach, 1990 L.A. Times Westside Coach of the Year with two conference and five league championship wins), Craig Steinberg (golf, four-time Southern California Gold Association Amateur champion), Arn Tellem (sports agent, named most influential agent by Sports Business Journal and The Sporting News in 2006), Wallace Wolf (U.S. Olympic swimmer and water polo player) and the 1960-1965 Westside JCC Volleyball Team.
Pillar of Achievement awards went to Rose Bowl general manager Darryl Dunn and Bob Marks, JCC Maccabi coach and former president of West Hills Baseball; and students Alix Klineman (volleyball) and Jordan Sigman (baseball) took female and male athlete of the year for their enviable high school records.
In addition to inducting the new slate of sports luminaries, the evening also paid tribute to the memory of Eli Sherman, a name synonymous with the L.A. Jewish sports world since the 1950s and founder of the Hall of Fame, which is located in West Hills at the Milken JCC. The SCJSHF dinner was the first held since Sherman died at 74 of natural causes at a Palm Desert rehabilitation center on Nov. 14, 2006.
XTRA and CBS 2 commentator Steve Hartman emceed the evening, which drew 240 people and had sports fans bidding on dozens of collectibles that included an autographed Sandy Koufax Dodgers jersey from his Cy Young and World Series MVP Award-winning 1963 season.
During her awards speech Kohner-Zuckerman, who first paddled out at 15 and was ranked seventh among the 25 most influential people in surfing by Surfer Magazine, said she’s recently been going back to surf the baby waves in Malibu.
“‘Gidget’ brought girls into the water, and I’m proud to have paved the way,” said the 60-something, who ended up marrying Yiddish professor Marvin Zuckerman rather than Moondoggie.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Klein decried the lack of Jews in football saying “the chances of [a Jew] owning a football team are better than playing for one,” while during his speech agent Tellen held up the book his grandparents gave him at 12 that helped reinforce his love of sports — “Jews in American Sports.” “It’s thicker than ‘WASPs in Comedy,'” he joked.
— Adam Wills, Senior Editor
ADL Presents Law Enforcement Award
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) presented its Helene & Joseph Sherwood Prize for Combating Hate to five men and three agencies at an event at the Skirball Cultural Center on Feb. 5.
The Sherwood Prize, which recognizes outstanding law enforcement personnel combating bias and extremism in Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties, was awarded to Sgt. Anthony Campbell of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department for working to reduce racially motivated crimes; Costa Mesa police Lt. Clay Epperson and Orange County Deputy Probation Officer Lowell Smith for suppressing racist gangs; Anaheim police Officer Omar Adham and the late Garden Grove police Officer Steve LaFond for building relationships with the Muslim community.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also were honored for the investigation and prosecution of the Aryan Brotherhood. And the Ventura Police Department’s special enforcement team was recognized for pursuing skinhead gangs.
Million-dollar night for ADL
Awash in diamonds, dresses and lapels, wealthy and fashionable philanthropists worked their weight in gold: in just one night, $1 million was raised for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which inspired 850 guests with the creed, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Although the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel ballroom glittered with the promise of the American dream during the Dec. 1 celebration, Erwin Chemerinsky, newly appointed dean of UC Irvine’s Donald Bren School of Law, sobered the crowd with the message that fundamentalism crumbles freedom, and if we want to sustain the concept of liberty, we need the ADL “now more than ever.”
“I was told a speech should be funny and uplifting. I have failed at that tonight,” Chemerinsky said. “I have no doubt that when historians look back at the last quarter century, they will say the most important development has been the worldwide rise of fundamentalism,” which he acknowledged in Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
He warned that the wall separating church and state is becoming too porous, that evangelical Christians are talking about “the rapture” in mainstream circles and said, “When government becomes enmeshed with religion, this country could become inhospitable to Jews.”
Leave it to the ADL to inspire the inspired to rally to the cause once again. You already give big? Give more. Like board members George and Ruth Moss or the evening’s honorees, Fred and Lenore Kayne, who set ADL records with their annual gifts and received the Humanitarian Award.
There’s also Allen and Suzanne Lawrence and Jurisprudence and Justice Award honorees Marshall and Marlene Grossman, who clock in with assets and activism. All these people contribute significantly because they believe that the work ADL does is always relevant, always necessary.
And the strength of this crowd showed: ADL National Director Abraham Foxman shared a table with new-to-L.A. Israeli Consul General Jacob Dayan. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) made the rounds and met Argentine Consul General Jorge Lapsenson and his wife, Rosa Matzkin.
Not that the evening lacked humor: Emcee Elon Gold did an Al Gore impersonation, and when Marshall Grossman took the podium to accept his honor, he cracked, “This is much more organized than the chaos you see at the Chabad telethon” — of which he is also a staunch supporter.
With ADL’s focus securing fair treatment for all citizens of the world, Grossman brought it home with an anecdote about the once racially exclusive Jonathan Club, a private social retreat in downtown Los Angeles, where Jews, blacks and Latinos were prohibited membership until the 1970s. Following the ADL’s involvement, including drawn-out negotiations and a court battle, the club no longer considers race, creed or color as conditions for membership.
For an organization like the ADL, there are always triumphs, as Grossman reminded everyone, and always more work to be done, as Chemerinsky urged. Parties like this one may be reason to dust off gowns and don locked-up jewels, dine among friends and feel darned grateful that you can give, give, give, but it’s also a moment to reflect: The problem is big, the consequences are real and every million raised has a million people that need it. It’s nice to be part of a community that cares.
(From left) Former UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale, Robin Gerber Carnesale, event co-chairs Ges and Seth Gerber.
New kind of mikveh washes off ritual’s negative image
“I’m pretty much your classic disaffected Gen-X kind of gal. I have too many shoes, I work too hard, I’m cynical, I’m broke. So when it came time for me to immerse before my wedding, I figured I’d bring some friends, we’d hang out, I’d get wet, we’d go eat, and that would be the end of it.”
That’s hardly the end of it for “the bride,” a character in “The Mikveh Monologues,” a play about the experience of immersing in the Jewish ritual bath that will be performed Dec. 17 at the Wadsworth Theatre as a fundraiser for the establishment of a new, nondenominational mikveh in Los Angeles.
The bride, along with the bat mitzvah girl, the convert, the father and son and the recovering cancer patient, among others, all tell their stories on stage in a show that follows the format created by Eve Ensler for her play “The Vagina Monologues.” But this time, instead of rhapsodizing about a once-shameful and hidden part of women’s bodies, they enthuse about an experience little-known among most Jews today, save the very observant — the mikveh.
For the last two centuries the ritual bath has been used most commonly by women for purification, so they can resume marital relations following their menstrual flow. A mikveh, which requires a body of natural water that often has been channeled into a man-made structure to serve a religious community, is also used by brides, for conversion rituals and, occasionally, by men before major holidays. But it is the association with women’s menstrual cycle and the perceived antiquated laws of niddah (marital purity) that have given the mikveh a bad rap in modern times.
“For a lot of people, the mikveh’s been associated with a lot of negatives — the second-class status of women, the denigration of women’s bodies,” says the play’s co-author, Anita Diamant. Premiering in 2005, the play was created as a means of fundraising for Mayyim Hayyim, a state-of-the-art nondenominational mikveh opened in 2004 in the largely Jewish community of Newton, Mass., near Boston. Diamant, best known as the author of “The Red Tent,” founded that mikveh, which has spawned a movement for alternative ritual baths nationwide, including one that is planned to open in 2010 in Los Angeles.
Not to mention that many mikvehs, which are generally supported by small communities and private donations, tend to be small, dingy places with dank reception rooms and stern supervisors (known as “the mikveh lady”) who oversee the correctness of the immersion and proclaim it kosher. In other words, the entire experience can be somewhat unpleasant — especially for converts, for whom this is a mandatory part of their entry into Judaism.
In the last decade, however, the notion of what a mikveh might represent has begun to change. Along with many other ritual practices that involve strict rulings on women’s participation — such as reading from the Torah or the megillah — many feminist-minded people have been rethinking how they might reclaim their practice in new ways. This includes a wide swath of non-Orthodox Jews who have begun to observe the laws of ritual purity and many others who are using immersion for non-traditional uses: to mark personal transitions, much like the myriad characters in “The Mikveh Monologues.”
The play tells the stories of real-life people, some of the 3,800 who have immersed at Mayyim Hayyim.
With the renaissance of interest in the mikveh, it was only a matter of time before someone would want to rethink the physical structure of the bath itself. And like many revolutions, this one started with one dreamer: Diamant, whose best-selling novel about Jacob’s daughter, Dina, popularized the genre of Jewish historical fiction.
While Diamant was writing her novel, she was also working on “Choosing a Jewish Life,” a book about converting to Judaism. In the process, she went to the only mikveh in the Boston area open to non-Orthodox Jews — and which was only available to them on Mondays from 9-11 a.m.
“It was not built to welcome people to Judaism,” Diamant said. “I felt increasingly that we were not performing the warm welcome we owed people coming to Judaism.”
She imagined a mikveh that would be warm and welcoming and open to the entire community for different uses.
“I want a mikveh. Not my own, personal mikveh in the backyard, but a community mikveh that I can call my own,” Diamant wrote in “Living Waters,” a column that was later reprinted in her book, “Pitching My Tent”:
“I want a mikveh where converts will linger at the mirror, before and after the blessings of immersions that symbolically transform them from not-Jewish to Jewish. In my mikveh, there will be gracious room for song and blessings, for hugs and champagne, for gifts of books and candles. My mikveh will provide liberal time and space for savoring beginnings. Brides and grooms (gay and straight) will come, separately, in preparation for marriage. Setting aside the lists, and plans, and the rush, each will read a poem or a psalm …”
She describes a holy place for use on holidays and celebrations, to mark sad times and transitions, where women could “find new ways to celebrate all the unheralded passages of their bodies as they see fit,” and men could also make use of it. An educator would replace the mikveh lady, and tours would be given to b’nai mitzvah students and prospective converts and delegations from around the world. “
I want a mikveh that is as nourishing as the rain, inspiring as the ocean, sweet as childhood swims in the pond…. And when you surface, the one word on your wet lips is Ahh. Or perhaps Ahh-men.”
The mikveh she describes was eventually realized in the Mayyim Hayyim facility she set in motion. To get it built, though, Diamant talked about her idea to anyone who would listen, and Barry Schrage, president of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies, essentially told her, “You’re going to have it to it yourself,” Diamant recalled.
My sister Sarah
I live in Israel, seven hours ahead of New York. Last week, when my sister Sarah Silverman performed in Manhattan at Carnegie Hall, I opened my eyes every hour or two, and counted backwards. The last time I woke it was 2 a.m. Hmmm… 7 p.m. in New York. She must be doing a sound check. Or maybe getting dressed. I could picture her outfit, because before I went to bed we spoke on the phone, and she e-mailed me a picture. Did I think it was too casual?
My husband and I live with our five children on Kibbutz Ketura in the Arava Desert — where biblical prophets spoke out against the sins and hypocrisies of the time. As I lay in my little house under the expansive black sky dotted with bright stars, Sarah prepared to stand under bright lights in front of thousands of people at Carnegie Hall. As I slept in the desert, my baby sister was on a stage. Such distance. Such contrast. Yet our connection to one another runs deep. For me, these are moments of God. Two seemingly opposing realities — separation and intimacy — co-existing, each fully.
There are many times each week that I think about what my three sisters are doing. I count backwards and imagine where they are at the moment. I’m on kitchen duty — pulling clean plates off the dishwasher belt after dinner in the dining hall, stacking them as quickly as I can. Counting backwards 10 hours to Los Angeles. Maybe all three are having breakfast at Kings Road Cafe? Maybe Laura, an actress, and Sarah are on the set. Maybe Jodyne, a writer and producer, is at Starbucks, writing on her Mac laptop. I’m watching my preschoolers learning Israeli dances, my heart filled to bursting. Count back 10 hours … 11 p.m. Maybe they’re going to sleep. Maybe out with friends.
When our daily lives somehow intersect — phone, e-mail, Skype — I am happy. Lately, I’ve heard my sisters’ names spoken in my workplace here, on Ketura. Sarah and Laura are hosting a fundraiser for The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies — which is on our kibbutz — and where my office is located. The institute brings together Palestinian, Jordanian, Israeli, North American and other students for a
A gefilte fish story, Art of Brain
“Among all of you, I’m a gefilte fish out of water,” said Dick Cook, referring to his non-Jewish-sounding name. The Walt Disney Studios chair joked that Disney is the synagogue he most often attends, and instead of an eight-pronged menorah, there’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves greeting him at the entrance.
The creme de la creme of Hollywood executives spent a Thursday evening honoring Cook when he was presented with the Dorothy and Sherrill C. Corwin Human Relations Award at the American Jewish Committee’s “A Celebration of Imagination” dinner Oct. 18. More than touting Cook’s accomplishments though, the evening also became a celebration of moviemaking.
“People are probably more familiar with American movie stars than American politicians – and today that’s probably a good thing,” cracked Dan Glickman, Motion Picture Association of America chair, during the evening’s keynote address. “Movies fill a yearning within each of us to change the world,” he added, recounting a story that Nelson Mandela shared with Will Smith about how the imagery of Sidney Poitier slapping a white man in the film, “In the Heat of the Night,” kept his spirit alive while in prison.
Glickman’s words were moving but not scintillating enough for Jerry Bruckheimer, who only smiled (between yawns) when Disney Studios President Robert Iger quoted his film, “National Treasure.” Iger then surprised Cook with a visit from an effervescent Mickey Mouse.
Also on hand were producers Joe Roth and Robert Zemeckis.
Citizens Curing Cancer
October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which saw special tributes to the many philanthropic and medical efforts channeled toward cancer prevention and cures.
Remarkable Dr. Patricia Ganz, director of cancer prevention and control research at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, was recognized by the American Cancer Society as the nation’s foremost expert on breast cancer survivorship. Ganz’s groundbreaking research in quality of life post-cancer treatment earned her the honor of being elected to the National Academy’s Institute of Medicine. Ganz, who grew up in Beverly Hills and attended Harvard University, was one of only three women in her UCLA medical school class of 120.
Another intimate and emotional evening took place at the Art of the Brain’s eighth annual gala at UCLA. News reporter Jason Barry — son of the late actor-comedian Dave Barry (no relation to the Miami-based humorist), who died of brain cancer — emceed the event, while String Theory entertained guests, creating music out of architectural installations of instruments.
Brain cancer survivor and event founder Judi Kaufman shared personal stories of her battle with brain cancer while presenting an award to Marlene and David Capell. “Marlene is a breast cancer survivor, and when I was diagnosed in 1997, my husband, Roy, and I asked the Capells how to get through the journey of brain cancer as lovers and friends,” Kaufman told the crowd.
Dr. Richard M. Green, director of neuro-oncology at Kaiser Permanente of SoCal, was also honored with an award.
Smiles, golden oldies, happy days
Smiles ‘Round the World
Operation Smile held another star-studded fundraiser, raking in $2.5 million for November’s World Journey of Smiles, which conducts 40 simultaneous medical missions in 25 countries to help 5,000 children. Wallis Annenberg and Sy Goldberg were lauded for their humanitarian efforts, alongside the pretty Molly Sims, Clippers player Corey Maggette, as well as Angeles Lladro, from the famed Spanish house of porcelain. Bakersfield’s Paige Atkinson, 9, astonished attendees by raising $17,000 independently. Her feat was so impressive, singer Jessica Simpson rewarded her with a congratulatory hug.
The invitation to Los Angeles Jewish Home’s seventh annual Reflections Gala was, in a word, adorable. Four panels featured brightly colored, full-page photographs of vivacious elderly people whose faces give them away — one look at their wide grins and smiling eyes and you can tell the folks living there are enjoying their “golden years.” To spice up a community awards dinner and fundraiser, host Jerry Springer took the stage at the Beverly Hilton Hotel and bestowed Earl Greinetz with the “Mr. Jewish Home” award for his longtime support of the home. If the invitation is any indication, I already know where I want to retire….
C’mon, Get Happy
“Happy Days” are here again, thanks to Henry Winkler — a.k.a. “the Fonz” — who was honored at Los Angeles BBYO’s inaugural gala at the Skirball Cultural Center. Among the 150 attendees were BBYO big shots: past International President Rabbi Dan Moskovitz, Executive Director Matthew Grossman and board Chair Howard Wohl.
“Pretty Woman” director Garry Marshall presented Winkler with an award commemorating 30 years of successful work in the entertainment industry while strengthening and embracing his Jewish identity.
Winkler, the son of Holocaust survivors, studied acting at Yale School of Drama before achieving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Winkler and his wife, Stacey Weitzman, co-founded Children’s Action Network, which feeds more than 8,000 Los Angeles children each year.
Also present were Pulitzer Prize-winning L.A. Times journalist Abigail Goldman, Jeremy Garelick, writer and co-producer of “The Break-Up,” and state Assemblyman Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys).
Sukkot Down on the Farm
Sunday in the Sukkah brought a historical Jewish re-creation to the Pierce College Farm Center in Woodland Hills on Sept. 30. This time, the children of Israel were really families from all over the San Fernando Valley, and the autumn weather of Southern California was a pleasant substitute for the Sinai Desert.
The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance, along with the West Valley Rabbinic Task Force, invited a host of synagogues, including Congregation Or Ami, Shomrei Torah Synagogue, Temple Ahavat Shalom, Temple Aliyah, Temple Judea, Temple Kol Tikvah and Valley Beth Shalom, to build their own sukkahs to celebrate a communitywide harvest festival.
Pierce’s own harvest festival, including a pumpkin patch and its famous corn maze, enhanced the Sukkot joy alongside arts and crafts activities.
Many felt the venue was ideal.
“We brought the sukkah out of the synagogue parking lot and onto the farm … an important step toward taking festive Jewish holidays and bringing them out into the public, where everyone can enjoy them,” said Rabbi Joshua Hoffman of Valley Beth Shalom.
Party like it’s 5768 — Persian style, JCafeLA, Billy Crystal
Party Like It’s 5768!
OK, I admit it: I partied during the High Holy Days. It wasn’t all fun and games of course — I spent a great deal of time considering my deeds and misdeeds of the past year, and that kind of repenting is exhausting. After intense reflection and days upon days of sitting in synagogue, I needed a little space, a little spice — a little honey for my challah. Not to mention New Year’s Eve is notoriously overrated, so what better way to ensure the seal of life than by celebrating a new year of living?
The first fiesta was the opulent fundraiser of a new young leadership organization that happened upon the scene. Mostly Persian and purportedly progressive, Generation 26 endeavors to unite all ethnicities of young Jews. On Sept. 8, they enticed a formidable crowd of 500 to West Hollywood for the Gypsy Kings For Hunger benefit concert. A bustling ballroom contained two sumptuous sushi bars, white-leather ottomans flanking the dance floor and the rumba-flamenco sound of the Gypsy Kings. But the centerpiece of the evening was not the musical headliners, nor the ravenously consumed raw fish. Instead, the posh Persian Jewish crowd was the star on this stage.
As an outsider, it would be easy to deride the fluff from the periphery. In part, it looked like any Saturday night in West Hollywood — luxury cars, fancy clothes and wads of cash. The ethnic flair solidified the fashion statement — ebony tresses and smoldering eyes filled the scene like a sea. Glittering jewels hung in plunging necklines, and dapper young fellows tended to their ladies.
But beneath the veil of privilege, there was social responsibility. This young, wealthy and attractive set could have indulged at any Paris Hilton haunt, but they were at Neman Hall, adjacent to the Iranian American Jewish Federation. And those double-zero bills being thrown like confetti? Charity. The $25,000 raised that night will benefit Meir Panim, an organization that feeds 160,000 hungry children in Israel. On a Saturday night when they could have been anywhere, they chose to be together — a close-knit coterie of Jewish value smack in the middle of West Hollywood’s indiscriminate debauchery. Call it glamorous generosity.
Next up, a holy mitzvah followed the holiest day. Subscribing to the ancient Jewish tradition of men and women seeking mates during the holidays, JcafeLA — another yuppie newcomer — invited hipsters to “break the party fast” and schmooze and booze their way through The Camden House in Beverly Hills.
Though organizer Aaron Kemp took pains to line up a compelling list of entertainers, the ample crowd was interested in only one thing: one another. Not the soulful vocals of Shir Ba’ir nor the magical “mind reading” of Seth Grabel could distract the pretty people from scoping out potential suitors. Kemp, a business rep for the Screen Actors Guild and a fixture on the Jewish social scene, encouraged “networking” in the e-mail invitation sent through his listserv Aaron’s Tent, which disseminates monthly happenings on the L.A. Jewish calendar to nearly 1,000 inboxes.
As they say, the proof is in the pudding.
The good news is that JcafeLA has tapped into a local niche for matchmaking, and it may well become a recurring treat. The unfortunate bit was the waning crowd lingering around a stage of disgruntled performers, who took a clue and began touting their sex appeal to elicit audience attention. The entertainment descended into a farcical camp talent show when host Richard Rubin (“Beauty and the Geek”) improvised a strip-tease-in-reverse (walking onto the stage in boxers and proceeding to dress in front of the crowd). Comedian Eric Schwartz, aka Smooth E, disparaged the audience for ignoring his act.
“What am I doing up here? I’m supposed to be the big headliner, and there’s four people left,” he uttered to the meager leftovers hanging around by the night’s end. Next time, Mr. Kemp, be sure to put your headliner on first.
Scene and Heard
Billy Crystal entertained a glittering gala of celebrities at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Women’s Guild 50th Anniversary dinner. Marcia Cross, Christina Ricci, Anne and Kirk Douglas and other philanthropic A-listers pooled their funds and raised $1.7 million for women’s healthcare projects at Cedars. Lynda and Stewart Resnick, Harry and Florence Sloan and Anita May Rosenstein also attended the event, underwritten by Gelson’s Market, Neiman Marcus and more.More marvelous medical news comes on the heels of a life-threatening experience for Edie Baskin Bronson (photo) of Beverly Hills. UCLA’s Division of Neurosurgery saved her life by repairing tangled blood vessels resulting from two aneurysms. Bronson, a photographer best known for documenting 25 years behind-the-scenes of “Saturday Night Live,” and her husband, real-estate developer Richard “Skip” Bronson, will partner with the neurosurgery team for the next decade of fundraising. The 2007 Visionary Ball Fundraiser takes place Oct. 4 at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel.
Sculpture? It’s a Klapper! Ballet in Bel Air
On the Town
Dr. Robert Klapper is one amazing guy. He’s a world-renowned orthopedic surgeon whose patients include Dustin Hoffman, Sasha Baron Cohen and Brett Ratner. He holds numerous patents for surgical tools. He is an avid surfer. He sculpts pietas out of imported Italian marble from the same quarry that Michelangelo used. And, at the opening of his exhibit at his own art gallery this past Saturday night, we overheard someone saying that he is always upbeat and cheerful. Always.True to form, Klapper was charming the socks off of his patients (Elliot Gould was the only recognizable face), friends and supporters at the Klapper Gallery on Beverly Boulevard in the shadow of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he is the Clinical Chief of Orthopedic Surgery. Raised in New York, educated at Columbia and Cornell and now living in several homes in the southland, the good doctor is a Jewish mother’s dream come true.
Sadly, Klapper’s own mother was not there to bear witness to what he appears to consider his greatest accomplishment: a gallery full of gleaming white half-finished Michelangelo-inspired marble statues. His mother-in-law was there and she’s a huge fan of The Jewish Journal.
The exhibit, titled “Michelangelo’s Slaves,” pays homage to the great artist’s unfinished slaves lining the walkway leading up to the monumental David. Klapper was particularly taken by the slaves’ struggle to break free from the stone surrounding them and has mimicked that style in every one of his sculptures.
The subjects he decided to chisel out of the incredibly heavy slabs of stone shipped to Los Angeles from Carrara in large boxes, called coffins, reflect the doctor’s scattered interests: Abraham, “The Sixth Sense,” The Surfer, “Ghost,” Noah, Mary, Pieta…
It seemed odd that a Jewish man would be moved to lovingly recreate a pivotal moment in Christian iconography, but then the artist explained that a mother losing her son is a universally touching subject.
And Klapper is all about touching: touching people’s lives as a healer and touching people’s hearts with his art. This man may not be the next Michelangelo, but he sure is enjoying life a great deal more than the notoriously melancholy and dissatisfied Renaissance man.
— Dikla Kadosh, from The Calendar Girls blog
Scene and Heard …
When Daniel Pearl visited Mumbai, India for the first time, he was elated to discover a local jazz club, where he was invited to share his musical talent by playing alongside the regulars. The late journalist’s father, Judea Pearl, shared this anecdote at a sumptuous Indian feast of sag paneer and curry at the home of Dr. B.K. and Mrs. Veena Mod in Beverly Hills, where Judea and his wife, Ruth Pearl, were honored. Indian dignitaries, the Hon. Vilasrao Deshmukh, chief minister of Maharashtra, and the Hon. Ashok Chavan, cabinet minister of industries and culture paid tribute to the Pearls’ work through the Daniel Pearl Foundation, which promotes cross-cultural understanding through journalism and music-Daniel Pearl’s favorite pursuits.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles) was honored with the California Distinguished Advocacy Award for his public policy work on behalf of cancer prevention. Allan and Dorothy Jonas and Helene Brown hosted the American Cancer Society benefit Aug. 8 at the Regency Club. Waxman is known, among other things, for sponsoring a controversial bill banning federal funding for the Red Line subway in response to a methane gas explosion in the Fairfax district in 1985. When underground tunneling was deemed safe again, he introduced a bill lifting the ban, which passed unanimously in September 2006. He is also widely recognized for his hard-hitting approach to fighting the tobacco industry.
After my fellow Calendar Girl Dikla Kadosh wrote a critical review of a June 28 Sababa party in Hollywood, the disgruntled organizer bombarded her with angry e-mails disputing her report that attendance was low. An acquaintance of ours attended the most recent Sababa bash on Aug. 9 and informed us that once again the party suffered from slim attendance. Coincidence, or catastrophe?
Bel Air met the ballet, Chanel and Wolfgang Puck on July 24 when Robin and Elliott Broidy hosted 360 guests at an American Ballet Theatre (ABT) fundraiser dinner. Co-chaired by Avery and Andy Barth, Lori and Michael Milken and Laura and Jamie Rosenwald, the event raised eyebrows and $325 grand. Four-thousand red and white roses bloomed toward the stars while lilies and gardenias floated in the pool. ABT’s principal dancers performed scenes from “Sleeping Beauty,” “Gopak” and “Don Quixote” atop a stage covered in cascading ivy and flanked by phalaenopsis orchids. Wolfgang Puck Catering nourished guests Sheriff Lee Baca, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Florence and Harry Sloan and designer Monique Lhuillier with sweet corn risotto and miso-glazed salmon, while ladies in designer drapery were careful not to spill.
From left, hosts Elliott and Robin Broidy with co-chairs Lori and Michael Milken
Briefs: Winning essays, scholarships, tikkun olam, kosher winners, saving singers
A $5,000 Essay Contest
A citywide essay contest will offer students in first through 12th grade a chance to win prizes for themselves, their teachers and their schools, and see their winning work published in The Jewish Journal.
The contest is being held in conjunction with American Jewish University’s Celebration of Jewish Books Festival, which will take place Nov. 5-11, 2007.
Students must write brief essays of no more than 450 words on the theme, “Jews are the People of the Book. What does this mean to you today?”
A panel of judges, arranged by The Journal, will select four winning entries in each grade category. The winners will receive a $250 Borders bookstore gift card, a $250 Borders card for their teachers and a $750 Borders card for their school library.
The Journal will publish the winning essays in print and at jewishjournal.com. All L.A.-area students are eligible. The deadline for entries is Oct. 17.
Visit www.jewishjournal.com for entry form and rules or call (310) 440-1246.
Scholarships Help Create New Lives
The Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) celebrated the accomplishments of the 2007-2008 JVS Scholarship Fund awardees in a ceremony at UCLA Hillel on July 12.
The recipients shared their personal stories to highlight the unique challenges the scholarships helped them overcome.
Alice Feldman was raised by a single mother with a lifelong struggle against severe depression. She moved in with her grandparents at the age of 16 and worked her way through Valley College and then UCLA, where she received her bachelor’s degree in 2004. Feldman is now a second-year doctoral student at Western University of Health Sciences-College of Pharmacy.
With the help of JVS scholarships, Jonathan Franks completed his undergraduate work at UCLA. His father is disabled by chronic back pain, and his mother was supporting a family of five as a preschool teacher. Also with the help of JVS, Franks is entering his second year at the UCLA School of Medicine, where he hopes to study surgery.
Jamie Zimmerman, a three-time recipient, is completing her final year at UCLA. Zimmerman grew up in an abusive single-parent home and even endured homelessness. At 15, she was the sole supporter of her family, while achieving As in school. She eventually became independent and in her years at UCLA, became a leader of the Jewish community there and worked in Peru and Zambia on humanitarian missions. She was accepted for early admission to the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
In addition to financial aid, JVS offers job search assistance to the recipients’ parents, an internship program for students interested in Jewish community service and other career-focused and mentorship programs.
Jewish residents of Los Angeles who plan to attend full-time programs are eligible for the scholarships, which are entirely need based.
For information, visit http://www.jvsla.org/.
— Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor
Tikkun Olam Pays Off
Two Los Angeles teens are among the five recipients of the first annual Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards. Erich Sorger, a 17-year-old Beverly Hills resident, and Shira Shane, a 19-year-old Encino native, each a won a $36,000 grant to use for college or to further implement their tikkun olam visions.
Beginning this year, up to five Jewish teens from California will be selected annually to receive a Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award funded by the Helen Diller Family Foundation through the Jewish Community Endowment Fund of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties.
Sorger, a student at Beverly Hills High School, founded a program called Dollars for Dwayne, named after a homeless man he befriended. He and a group of volunteers collected items that UCLA students left on the sidewalks of Westwood at the end of the semester, including furniture, clothes and appliances, and donated them to the National Council for Jewish Women’s thrift shop.
The store sells the items and donates the proceeds to charity. Sorger estimated that his items have raised about $16,700 so far.
While a student at New Community Jewish High School, Shane, who now attends Stanford University, formed Teens Against Genocide, a coalition of 25 high schools throughout Los Angeles. Led by Shane, Teens Against Genocide organized a rally and raised $10,000 that will be used to build wells and medical clinics in the Sudan.
— Derek Schlom, Contributing Writer
Two sisters from Torrance, Abby and Sarah Sanfield, are among the winners of the first annual Orthodox Union Kosher Essay Contest.
Students in grades four through 12 nationwide were asked to write either a short fictional story featuring characters that face obstacles in their observance of kashrut or an essay about the importance of a kosher diet in their own lives.
Sarah, a fifth-grader, wrote “The Pot,” a story about a young girl named Anya who obeys her mother’s dying wish by taking a pot with her when she is forced to live in an orphanage, where she struggles to maintain a kosher lifestyle.
Abby, who is in the seventh grade, wrote “Kamp Kosher,” about a girl who decides to follow the laws of kashrut after attending a Jewish summer camp and subsequently convinces her father to transform his restaurant into a kosher eatery.
For more information visit http://www.oukosher.org/.
Singing to Save
A group of students at New Community Jewish High School raised $4,000 at a benefit concert, “Singing to Save,” on June 14 to support Jewish World Watch’s mission to end the genocide in Darfur. The members of two of the school’s clubs, United Students With a Cause and Club Kodesh, planned the event, which was held at the school’s campus in West Hills. The concert featured performances by Eleventh Hour Ash and Todd Herzog.
For more information, go to http://www.ncjhs.org.
Briefs: The Milken JCC pool; Valley Cities JCC fundraiser; Iran divestment bill moving forward
Federation Asks Milken JCC to Relinquish Property Rights
With little notice, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles closed the Olympic-sized swimming pool at The New JCC at Milken on April 25, citing possible mold damage but having already been issued a permit on April 11 by the City of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety to demolish and fill in the pool.
Now The Federation appears to have more extensive plans for the financially troubled JCC, offering them a one-time supplemental allocation of $350,000 in return for signing a quitclaim deed relinquishing their historic right to be the major tenant on the Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus in West Hills.
After June 30, 2008, the JCC’s space and budget could be greatly diminished as The Federation intends to rent the space to former tenant New Community Jewish High School, giving them a substantial portion of the Milken campus.
In response to that proposal, which was faxed to the JCC on May 22, the JCC board of directors has scheduled a membership meeting on Sunday, June 10, 2 p.m., to present and vote on The Federation’s rescue plan. Prior to that meeting, however, JCC officials are hoping to raise $500,000, giving them the ability to consider other options.
“We have a lot of financial problems and some mismanagement. Nobody’s denying that,” former JCC president Bonnie Rosenthal said. “But we do serve people and it seems that Federation is not interested in the people we serve.”
Those people include 125 preschoolers, many from single-parent, working-parent and immigrant families who depend on the extended daycare hours. Additionally, the JCC serves more than 700 seniors who come for classes, cultural events and fitness programs.
Federation spokeswoman Deborah Dragon said that it is a coincidence that the pool closure happend at the same time as the JCC’s financial distress. She added that The Federation wants to see the best communal use of the property and intends to work with the JCC to continue a downsized version of its early childhood and senior programs.
Dragon and Andrew Cushnir, Federation vice president of planning, said that without signing the quitclaim deed, the JCC will not receive supplemental funding and, like all Federation agencies, must apply for a 2008 allocation, with no guarantee.
“The JCC is losing members in droves because of the pool closure and the lack of information that Federation is giving out,” said Marty Rosenthal, JCC treasurer and past president.
Meanwhile, the pool remains closed with no set demolition date.
— Jane Ulman, Contributing Editor
Valley Cities JCC Holds Fundraiser
In what could be a last hurrah, the Valley Cities Jewish Community Center (JCC) will hold a BBQ social on Sunday, June 10, 2-7 p.m., complete with a bounce house for children, face painting, bands and silent auction. The entrance fee is $10.
The center, which uses property owned by the Jewish Community Centers Development Corp., is facing closure as soon as June 15. The development corporation had agreed in principle to a Burbank philanthropist’s $2.7 million offer to buy the property and turn it over to Valley Cities JCC. But in April everything fell apart.
“We keep making them offers, and they just keep turning their backs on us,” said Michael Brezner, the center’s board chair. “They are not nice people.”
The BBQ is part fundraiser, part public relations initiative.
“We want people to know we are here. We want to stay,” said Lori Brockman, a concerned parent who helped organize the event.
Valley Cities JCC is in Sherman Oaks at 13164 Burbank Blvd. For more information, call (818) 786-6310.
— Brad A. Greenberg, Staff Writer
Iran Divestment Bill Passes Assembly Appropriation Committee
[SACRAMENTO] — A proposed California State Assembly bill that would require state pension funds to divest an estimated $24 billion from more than 280 companies doing business with Iran, took one step closer to become law on May 31 after being approved by the Assembly’s Appropriation Committee.
The bill, also known as AB 221, was first introduced by freshman Assemblyman Joel Anderson (R-El Cajon) and unanimously approved by the Judiciary Committee on April 24. Anderson has said the primary goal of the legislation is to secure the California Public Employees Retirement and the State Teachers Retirement pensions with wise investment strategies, since both are valued at nearly $400 billion and funded by taxpayers.
AB 221 has received wide support from 14 national and state Jewish organizations and dozens of Los Angeles-based Iranian Muslim groups opposed to Iran’s regime, as an economic means to bring down the already crippled Iranian economy. The National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a Washington D.C.-based pro-Iran lobby as well as the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers have been the only groups opposing AB 221. The Assembly will have a final vote on the bill in the first week of June and supporters said they expect it to become law by January 2008.
— Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer
Briefs: Sheriff wants to prosecute YULA girls after soccer brawl; Graffiti targets Jews in Beverlywo
Sheriff wants to prosecute Yeshiva Girls soccer players for brawling after lost game
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is planning to ask the district attorney to prosecute a YULA student and the girls soccer team coach.
The request stems from a brawl that occurred on Feb. 5 after the Yeshiva University Girls High School of Los Angeles lost to Avalon High in a girls’ soccer game on Catalina Island, according to Avalon Mayor Robert Kennedy.
A team member and spectator from Avalon High are also being referred to the DA’s office, said Kennedy, who conferred with Avalon Sheriff’s station commander Lt. Pat Hunter.
According to YULA principal Rabbi Yosef Furman, as the YULA girls were leaving the field, student spectators from Avalon attacked the girls, knocking one in the head, putting another in a headlock and pulling her hair and punching her in the stomachFurman called the possible actions against the YULA player and coach “complete nonsense.” He said the assaults against the YULA girls, which were unprovoked. “We have witnesses who say that our students acted appropriately and our coach acted professionally.”
No one was seriously injured in the melee, and no accounts of racial or religious taunting have been confirmed.
Both sides agree that the game got ugly and physical, with the crowd of about 100 spectators riling the Avalon team for even more aggressive play.
Mayor Kennedy, who was not at the game, says his understanding is that both teams engaged in name-calling and rough play, but YULA counters that the taunting was one-sided.
After the post-game fracas, the YULA team sequestered itself in the visitors’ locker room with the help of Avalon school officials, and called the sheriff’s department. Officers arrived and escorted the team to the ferry landing, where sheriffs spent several hours interviewing team members, chaperones and YULA Coach Kat Gude, before the team traveled back to the mainland.
Five Avalon students were disciplined after the event, according to a spokesman for the Long Beach Unified School District. One ninth-grade team member was suspended for pushing and shoving; two 12th-grade girls, who were spectators at the event, were suspended for fighting; and an eighth-grade boy and a tenth-grade boy were barred from attending future soccer games.
YULA has canceled all further games with Avalon teams. In addition, YULA circulated a letter asking parents to send a message to Avalon that such conduct is reprehensible. It included phone numbers for city officials.
“The city of Avalon will more likely take action if they get the message that there could be negative repercussions to future tourism,” the letter stated.
Kennedy has received more than 30 phone calls — on his cell phone — from irate YULA parents. He said he is offended and upset by YULA’s sweeping condemnation of the city, especially before an investigation has been completed.
“The worst part of this whole thing is it takes two to tango — there are always two sides to a story. But it seems that the visiting team’s parents have already tried and convicted the Avalon kids that were involved,” the mayor said.
— Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor
Graffiti targets Jews in Beverlywood
Children and their parents walking to the West L.A. Castle Heights Elementary School on Tuesday morning saw a BMW spray-painted with the word “JEW” on its side. The car was parked on Castle Heights Place, just three houses down from the school.
The vehicle’s owners had learned about the damage at 2 a.m., when a neighborhood patrol officer informed them of the incident. Three other cars on nearby streets in the Beverlywood Homes Association neighborhood were reportedly also vandalized. Although his was the only vehicle to bear a reference to religion, the owner, who is Persian and asked that his name not be used, said another of the defaced vehicles’ owners belongs to his synagogue, Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel.
An officer from the Los Angeles Police Department took a report documenting the incident, and said it will be filed as a hate crime. He said the chances of catching the perpetrator were slim. Nevertheless, the officer called a supervisor, who also visited the scene.
“We take these things pretty seriously,” he said.
— Nancy Steiner, Contributing Writer
Super Sunday fundraising beats 2006 total
On Feb. 11, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ largest annual fundraiser known as Super Sunday raised $4.4 million, up from $4.2 million last year, according to Federation spokeswoman Deborah Dragon, Nearly 2,000 volunteers worked the phones at three locations, which received visits during the day from L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, City Controller Laura Chick, City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and City Councilmember Jack Weiss.
About one-third of the money raised from the annual campaign goes for overseas allocations, with the bulk earmarked for Israel.
This year’s Super Sunday took place against the backdrop of Federation turmoil. Less than one month before the event, the Federation relieved its chief fundraiser, Craig Prizant, of his job.
No reason has been given for the departure of Prizant, who had worked closely with major donors.
Federation spokeswoman Dragon said that the mega-fundraiser is but the beginning of the organization’s annual campaign.
“The community still has great needs,” she said.
— Marc Ballon, Senior Writer
Super Sunday volunteers hope to ring up big bucks
Betty Hamburger’s impressive record of having attended nearly every Super Sunday since the megafundraiser’s inception in 1979 looked as though it would come to an end four years ago.
Sporting a broken wrist and a sprained ankle from a slip-and-fall accident at home, the Westwood resident seemed a better candidate for bed rest than making calls at Super Sunday, the L.A. Jewish Federation’s largest annual single-day fundraiser. But Hamburger, now in her 70s, refused to let aches and pains stand in her way. She attended the 2003 Super Sunday, but had her daughter, Faith Gershbock, fill out the pledge cards as she made the calls.
“I just [couldn’t] write anything at all with my left hand,” said Hamburger, a Federation board member.
On Feb. 11, Hamburger plans to arrive at The Federation’s 6505 Wilshire Blvd. headquarters at about 9 a.m., accompanied by her daughter and other family members. After grabbing a cup of coffee, she said she will spend more than five hours working the phones, coaxing local Jews to open their wallets to help The Federation reach its 2007 Super Sunday goal of $4.5 million.
Hamburger said she can’t wait.
“Even more important than the money it brings in, Super Sunday brings us all together,” Hamburger said. “Russians are making calls in Russian. Persians are making calls in Farsi. Israelis are making calls in Hebrew. But all of us are there together as the voice of the American Jewish community.”
However, this year’s megafundraiser will take place against a backdrop of organizational turmoil and possible subsidy reductions to Federation beneficiary agencies.
With government funding shrinking and demand for social services growing across the board, The Federation and its 22 beneficiary agencies know that a successful Super Sunday could go a long way toward funding an array of programs that feed the hungry, teach the illiterate to read and extend interest-free loans to college students and to Jewish couples seeking fertility treatments, among other services.
Last year, beneficiary agencies received $16 million in subsidies and $3 million worth of services from The Federation.
“Super Sunday is critical for us,” said Claudia Finkel, chief operating officer of Jewish Vocational Service, which receives an estimated $800,000 from The Federation to support job training and many other programs. “It absolutely addresses our core needs in the Jewish community.”
Super Sunday tallies account for roughly 10 percent of The Federation’s annual budget. In 2006, Super Sunday raised $4.4 million, down $200,000 from 2005’s $4.6 million total.
The success of this year’s Super Sunday might take on even greater import for beneficiary agencies if The Federation enacts across-the-board funding cuts. Several agency heads, who requested anonymity, said Federation executives have warned of 5 percent to 10 percent reductions in this year’s agency allocations.
Those cutbacks could, theoretically, be reduced or staved off if The Federation could increase Super Sunday and other fundraising, insiders said.
Federation spokeswoman Deborah Dragon dismissed such speculation as “rumors” and said no cuts are planned, noting that The Federation budget has yet to be approved.
On Jan. 12, less than one month before Super Sunday, The Federation relieved chief fundraiser Craig Prizant of his job. Federation executives have declined to give a reason for his sudden departure. Prizant had served as executive vice president of financial resource development since 2004 and had worked closely with major donors.
Dragon said she thought volunteers and the organization’s professional staff would help make Super Sunday “a very successful day,” despite Prizant’s absence.
Many volunteers, in their phone solicitations, will highlight Federation support for and programming in Israel, Dragon said. The Jewish state, she said, continues to have “a lot of human and social services needs” as a result of the Lebanon War and needs much more help. Last year, The Federation’s special Israel in Crisis campaign raised about $20 million.
About one-third of the money raised in The Federation’s annual campaign goes for overseas allocations, with the bulk earmarked for Israel. In 2006, The Federation’s annual campaign raised $48 million, including $2.6 million in endowment funding, up from $47.5 million the year before, which included $2.3 million in endowment funding.
At this year’s Super Sunday, an expected 1,800 volunteers will gather from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. to staff the phones at Federation headquarters, as well as the Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus in West Hills and the Crowne Plaza in Redondo Beach. Between pitches for donations, participants will share food, laughter and perhaps even a little gossip. Several local politicians, including L.A. City Councilman Jack Weiss and L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, plan to attend.
Super Sunday mainstay Hamburger said she learned the importance of volunteerism from her Grandmother Frieda, who “indoctrinated me growing up” about the need to help the less fortunate. Hamburger, who, along with her mother, moved in with her grandmother after her father died when she was 6, remembers a placard that hung from her grandmother’s wall: “It Is Not Thy Duty to Complete the Task, but Neither Art Thou Free From Doing Your Share” (Pirke Avot.)
Hamburger has taken that message to heart, volunteering or serving on myriad organizational boards, including the Bureau of Jewish Education, the University of Judaism and Hadassah. Over the years, she has attended hundreds of fundraisers for Jewish organizations, but none resonates with her quite like Super Sunday.
“You go home with a great big feeling,” Hamburger said.
Good to be the Chief; Get Your Challah On
Good to be the Chief
Health care veteran Tim McGlew has been named chief operating officer and vice president of operations for the Los Angeles Jewish Home for the Aging. The Jewish Home is the largest single-source provider of senior housing in Los Angeles.
“With the recent dedication of the Joyce Eisenberg-Keefer Medical Center and many other exciting plans in development, the role of chief operating officer is more important than ever,” said Molly Forrest, Jewish Home CEO-president. “We’re committed to meeting the increasing demands for quality senior care, and we see Tim as a major contributor as we fulfill that mission.”
McGlew has 20 years of experience in acute hospital administration and most recently served as vice president and chief operating officer of San Gabriel Valley Medical Center for more than six years. He has extensive skills in operations, information systems, facility construction, and cost management.
“I’m extremely energized to be joining the Jewish Home at such a pivotal time in its history,” McGlew said. “Throughout the health care industry, the Jewish Home is a respected organization, and it’s easy to understand why, given its commitment to serve seniors at all stages of need. The home’s innovative combination of physical, mental and spiritual programs truly makes it a remarkable organization.”
Battle Against Bigotry
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reaffirmed its commitment to fighting anti-Semitism, bigotry and prejudice when it recently celebrated with 600 supporters at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel and raised more than $800,000.
Ambassador Rockwell A. Schnabel, chairman of the Sage Group, LLC, and former U.S. ambassador to the European Union and Finland, was presented with the Humanitarian Award by Richard Riordan, former mayor of Los Angeles.
International lawyer E. Randol Schoenberg was presented with the jurisprudence Award by federal Judge Stephen Reinhardt. Schoenberg recently recovered Nazi-looted Klimt paintings from Austria in a case that commanded international attention and acclaim.
Keynote speaker Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, addressed the evening’s theme — the ADL vision of “One World” — a world of peaceful co-existence and harmony and the many threats facing that vision, including militant Islam, neo-Nazis, extremists and racists around the world and in our community.
Foxman confers regularly with elected officials and community leaders here and abroad. In October, he was presented the French Legion of Honor for his lifelong service in the fight against anti-Semitism and prejudice and for working to build bridges of understanding among nations and people.
Seen celebrating at the dinner were Lynn and Laurie Konheim; Los Angeles Councilwoman Wendy Gruehl and husband, Dean Schramm; Faith and Jonathan Cookler; Harriet and Steven Nichols; Anita Green; Michael and Stacey Garfinkel; George and Ruth Moss, and Don Pharaoh, ADL director of major gifts and planned Giving.
For more information visit AJ Congress wowed; Shaare Zedek gets record donation; Koufax in the house