Lauding Leiweke; Charitable home run; Friedman reappointed


Lauding Leiweke

AEG President and CEO Tim Leiweke recently received the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Humanitarian Award at the ADL Entertainment Industry Awards. Los Angeles Police Department Chief William J. Bratton presented the award at Staples Center.

More than 600 people — including many entertainment industry luminaries, — attended the sold-out event, which raised more than $1 million to help ADL fight bigotry, prejudice and anti-Semitism. American Idol judge Randy Jackson hosted while a laughter slam dunk was handily delivered by comedian Bill Engvall.

Leiweke referred to “our obligation to give our kids a better world,” saying “hopefully ADL will help us do this.”

AEG is a leading presenter of global sports and entertainment programming. As president, Leiweke has formed alliances with more than 40 divisions and companies to produce global live sports and music events in AEG-owned facilities and other venues. He is also president of Staples Center and of the Los Angeles Kings and serves on the Los Angeles Lakers board of directors.

Leiweke formed and directs the Kings Care Foundation, which was awarded the 1999 Pro Team Community Award. Specially designed T-shirts were given in goody bags to stress the importance of ADL’s commitment to battle hatred.

Also attending were Leah Mendelsohn, who with Nancy Parris Moskowitz will co-chair the upcoming ADL Deborah Awards dinner on June 5.

Charitable Home Run

More than 350 charity-minded women gathered recently at the Beverly Hills Hotel for the Sports Spectacular Women’s Luncheon. The luncheon is the annual kick-off event for the upcoming 22nd annual Sports Spectacular dinner gala, which raises funds for the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Genetics Institute.

Luncheon sponsor, De Beers, treated guests to a stunning fashion show, featuring the fashions of Monique Lhuillier. One lucky winner went home with a pair of ‘wildflower’ diamond earrings, valued at more than $10,000, courtesy of De Beers.

Friedman reappointed

Attorney Andrew Friedman has been reappointed as Judicial Procedures Commissioner for the County of Los Angeles. Friedman has been in private law practice for the past 35 years and is currently serving as Fire Commissioner for the City of Los Angeles and Hearing Officer for the Civil Service Commission. He is President of Congregation Bais Naftoli and lives in Los Angeles with his wife and four children.

Justice advocate

Winners of the inagural Larry Schulner International Social Justice Award, created by the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPS) in memory of Lawrence M. Schulner, were feted recently.

Schulner was a resident of the Los “Angeles area and a longtime advocate for Reform Judaism, Reform Zionism, social justice, religious pluralism, philanthropic vision and tikkun olam. The award honors his memory by recognizing individuals or congregations for activities or programs that raise awareness of and support social justice, religious pluralism, or tikkun olam outside of North America.

The 2007 winners are: Wilshire Boulevard Temple of Los Angeles and Rabbi Haim Asa, rabbi emeritus of Temple Beth Tikvah in Fullerton.

The awards were presented at the Union for Reform Judaism’s Regional Biennial in Costa Mesa by Mandy Eisner, regional director of the WUPS, and Rabbi Joel Oseran, WUPS vice president.

The WUPS is the umbrella organization of the worldwide Reform movement.

Rothsteins honored

Chabad of Bel Air used the occasion of its 22nd Anniversary “spreading Judaism with a smile” in the Bel Air area to honor Roz and Jerry Rothstein for their impressive legacy of dedication and service to the Jewish community. During their Black Tie/Masquerade Party at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Chabad of Bel Air honored the Rothsteins for their tremendous work for Israel through StandWithUs. Rabbi Chaim Mentz applauded their dedication and commitment to the Jewish Community and its needs.

Chabad of Bel Air is well known for their energetic Friday Night Services and Torah Entertainment for Shabbat Morning.

For more information, go to StandWithUs.com or ChabadofBelAir.org.

Hirsh hailed

A stellar cast of luminaries delivered an evening of humor at the expense of the legal profession when the Beverly Hills Bar Association (BHBA) Entertainment Law Section honored Barry L. Hirsch, of Hirsch Wallerstein Hayum Matlof and Fishman, as their Entertainment Lawyer of the Year at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Comedian Rob Schneider led a hilarious — albeit brutal — attack on such icons as Steven Bochco, Bernie Mac and Richard Gere, but there was no humor in the praise heaped on Hirsh as an attorney, friend and advocate for his impressive client list.

Hirsh, feted for ardently serving his clients as both friend and legal adviser, has been a mainstay in entertainment law for many years. He said his love of cinema led him to his calling, and recounted how proud he was as a young lawyer to represent Bette Davis, after growing up in awe of her talent.

Surrounded by family members, Hirsh greeted friends with his grandson, (who he obviously dotes upon) by his side. Uber-tax attorney Robert Jason said he has always been impressed by Hirsh’s consideration and effective advocacy for his clients. Proceeds from the event benefit the BHBA’s education and community outreach programs.

The Circuit


Terrorist Expert Feted
Noted terrorism expert Steve Emerson was presented with a special proclamation from Beverly Hills by former Mayor Steve Webb.

Emerson, one of the foremost experts on terrorism, works closely with law enforcement agencies and the intelligence community. He has participated in substantial undercover work to expose the threat from within to the security of the United States.

He heads the Investigative Project on Terrorism and is the author of “American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us.”

According to Emerson, “….This zealous strain of Islam will settle for nothing less than our total subjugation or destruction. It couples its zealotry in pursuit of its goals with patience as to achieving them. An informed American public can confront this threat — not with anxiety and dread, but with intelligence, honesty and courage.”

Women of Vision
The vision was beautiful from every angle at the 2007 Women of Vision Luncheon, honoring Ruth Abramson, Elyssa Kupferberg, Barbara “Bobby” Deane, and Marion Silberberg at the Four Seasons Resort in Palm Beach. Almost 250 women and men attended the luncheon, third in a series of bi-annual affairs in which the Palm Beach Region of the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science recognizes women in the community who have made a difference. Guests viewed a video presentation narrated by the four honorees that discussed the influences that propelled them to become community leaders, their passions and the reason why the work of the Weizmann Institute of Science was important to each of them.

Dr. Margaret McKenna, president of Lesley University in Boston, was the keynote speaker and addressed the impact of women in leadership positions. She commented that Weizmann has been selected by scientists at biomedical research institutions as the most outstanding place to work, and that the percentage of women in its graduate degree program, about 50 percent, is almost unheard of in the world of science.

To learn more about the Weizmann Institute, go to

ORT Ovation; Law and Laughter; Stand and Deliver


ORT Ovation

Education and life were celebrated at the Beverly Hilton’s Rodeo Gallery on Dec. 3 for the L.A. Chapter of American ORT’s 26th annual Chanukah Brunch honoring JDate and Sparks Networks founder Joe Shapira. A 1972 graduate of ORT Singalovski Institute of Technology in Tel Aviv, Shapira used his success to benefit ORT by sponsoring fundraising events as a part of ORT’s elite international donor group, 1880 Society. Emceed by KNX 1070 reporter Laura Ornest, the event honored supporters’ efforts over the past year and raised funds for the local technical school and elementary-, high school- and college-level institutions in 60 countries. Regional director Paul T. Owens applauded the L.A. chapter as the only one in 50 years to singlehandedly raise more than $650,000.

— Sara Bakhshian, Contributing Writer

Stand and Deliver

If anything points up the need for StandWithUs’ (SWU) efforts to spread the truth about Israel, it was a short comedy skit presented at its annual Festival of Lights dinner Dec. 3. In the skit, random people on Hollywood Boulevard were asked questions about Israel like, “What is Ramallah?” Most people answered it was cocktail food. Although presented in the “Jewish Way” through humor, it drives home the point like a sledgehammer. Committed to fighting ignorance and hatred through the dissemination of knowledge, the event honored Consul General of Israel Ehud Danoch, and Eshet Chayil Educational Award recipients Wendy Lewis, Roberta Seid and Shannon Shibata.

The dinner was chaired by Siona and Elie Alyeshmerni and Lonnie and Jimmy Delshad.
Roz Rothstein, SWU national director, said “it takes a village to create an organization that is able to accomplish the work of StandWithUs. We are thrilled at the outpouring of support we’ve received and the worldwide growth we’ve experienced in just five years. This is a clear indication that StandWithUs fills a need within the community.”

“We treasure our sponsors, activists and volunteers,” said Esther Renzer, SWU national president. “We were honored to be able to acknowledge Consul General Ehud Danoch and our three women of valor and pay tribute to their invaluable contributions to Israel advocacy.”

Kids Win by a KO

It was a knockout punch at the Beverly Hilton when the Oscar de La Hoya Foundation honored entrepreneur producer Sam Nazarian, actor Antonio Banderas and California Controller Steve Westly at the ninth annual “Evening of Champions” Dec. 6. The evening’s emcee, funnyman George Lopez brought the laughs and Macy Gray delivered a one-two punch with a crowd-pleasing performance.

As a surprise for Banderas, uber-producer Jeffrey Katzenberg presented the Spanish hunk with his award. A spirited live auction raised $80,000 to bring the evening’s total to more than $750,000 raised. The money provides athletic and educational opportunities to the children of East Los Angeles.

Law and Laughter

The Beverly Hills Bar As
sociation celebrated it 75th diamond anniversary in grand style with a black-tie gala Dec. 6, raising the bar with awards and laughter. Comedian Garry Shandling, who served as master of ceremonies, had the crowd roaring with his hysterical quips. The evening featured an elegant four-course gourmet dinner and dancing to the music of Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, Patti Austin and Motown legend singer/songwriter Lamont Dozier, whose numerous hits include “How Sweet It Is (to Be Loved by You)” and “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch,” entertained the appreciative crowd.

Special tributes — both humorous and moving — saluted all 32 of the association’s living past presidents, 25 of whom attended and were honored and presented with medallions. The event raised $175,000 to benefit the organization’s community outreach, pro bono and educational programs.

John Fishel


On Feb. 26, more than 150 volunteers gathered early at the headquarters of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles for the annual Super Sunday megafundraiser. Having filled up on conversation, coffee and bagels, the enthusiastic, well-dressed men and women sat side-by-side at tables holding banks of telephones.

In 12 hours, 1,700 volunteers at three locations knew they had to raise almost 10 percent of The Federation’s entire annual campaign. Super Sunday can set the tone for the year. And with government funding shrinking, The Federation’s 22 aid agencies counted on this day as never before to help them meet the growing demand for their services. The Federation is a like a Jewish United Way; it acts as a single central source for donations, which it then distributes to various worthy causes. More specifically, The Federation supports Jews in need and programs that reflect on Jews here in Los Angeles, as well as around the world.

Before things kicked off, with so much at stake, the assembled got a final pep talk, but Federation President John Fishel, the man who holds possibly the single most important Jewish job in Los Angeles, didn’t deliver it. On this, the most important money-raising day for The L.A. Federation, where was Fishel?

Over the past 14 years, Fishel, a young-looking 57, has quietly, firmly and steadily led the Jewish philanthropic organization, determined to somehow unify the Southland’s geographically dispersed and largely unaffiliated Jewish community. In a city that prizes glitz and glamour, Fishel has shunned the spotlight, the backslapping and the glad-handing, preferring a low-key, almost professorial approach that places a premium on methodical problem solving. Whether attending the 50th anniversary party for the Westside Jewish Community Center, lobbying politicians to loosen the purse strings for Jewish nonprofits or taking a potential donor on a tour of Beit T’Shuvah, a Federation beneficiary agency that treats addiction partly through Jewish spirituality, Fishel routinely works six- or seven-day, 70-hour weeks.

“He’s the James Brown of the Jewish community, the hardest-working man in L.A. Jewry,” Los Angeles City Councilman Jack Weiss said. “I see him everywhere.”

Although in some ways, Fishel is everywhere but nowhere. A bearded, slender man with a direct gaze, the shy Fishel seems to prefer keeping his own counsel. He sometimes materializes at events in his well-tailored suits and then slips away after talking to but a handful of folks.

Like Howard Hughes, The Federation president keeps his private self private. It is unlikely that many in the community know that the buttoned-down Fishel once sported long hair and promoted blues festivals in the early ’70s, or that he has never had a bar mitzvah.

Still, Fishel has left a notable mark in the Jewish world. He holds a bachelor’s in anthropology from the University of Michigan and once considered becoming an academic, and he has earned praise for his efforts on behalf of Jews abroad, especially in Israel. An internationalist in a largely domestic job, Fishel helped create the successful Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Partnership and has put the plight of Ethiopian Jews on the North American Jewish agenda.

Closer to home, his calm, analytical demeanor has allowed him to react effectively during crises, from the 1994 Northridge Earthquake to Hurricane Katrina. When others might panic, he coolly devises a plan of action for bringing far-flung members of the community together.

Fishel has fared less well on some of The Federation’s bread-and-butter everyday challenges. On his watch, several Jewish community centers have shut down and the Jewish Community Relations Committee (JCRC) has lost influence and standing (see stories on page 17). Most important, The Federation’s annual campaign, has grown sluggishly at a time when community needs have exploded.

So where was Fishel?

On this year’s Super Sunday, he was just where you’d expect: at The Federation’s Wilshire Boulevard headquarters. In keeping with his low-key persona, though, Fishel stayed in the background, while others delivered inspiration to the volunteers.

Arriving at 7:30 a.m. — a full hour and a half before the fundraiser officially began — he greeted participants with a smile and expressions of thanks. Fishel spoke with Federation staff members to ensure that everything was under control. Then, he called potential donors and gave an interview to a KTLA reporter: “It’s wonderful to see people who live in different parts of the community, with different backgrounds and different ideologies, come together in a unified manner,” and chatted with bigwigs, including Councilman Weiss.

Fishel was just getting started. Around 11 a.m., he and a couple of Federation lay leaders left headquarters for the phone banks in the Valley. Later, he made his way to the Super Sunday fundraiser in the South Bay. That night, The Federation president returned to Wilshire Boulevard to mingle with the last shift of volunteers, mostly college students. He finally left The Federation to return to his Cheviot Hills home sometime after 10 p.m. — logging more than a 14-hour day.

This year’s Super Sunday raised about $4.4 million, about $100,000 less than last year, but still a solid financial foundation. And those involved included young and old, the religious and nonreligious, Israelis, Persians and Russians — an unprecedented rainbow of Southland Jews.

FEDERATION MATTERS

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles is the central address for the local Jewish community, from helping to underwrite the cost of Jewish burials to subsidizing free groceries for the poor, The Federation is involved in myriad vital facets, big and small, of Los Angeles Jewish life.

“If we didn’t have The [L.A.] Federation, we would have to create it,” said Steven Windmueller, director of the School of Jewish Communal Service at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in Los Angeles. “Ultimately, a community needs an infrastructure for prioritizing, organizing, programming and crisis management.”

Federation initiatives include literacy programs for elementary and preschool students, a venture philanthropy fund that invests in fledgling businesses that benefit the Jewish community and, most recently, a program that coordinates services to Jewish children with developmental or severe learning disabilities.

The Federation most often makes its presence felt through 22 beneficiary agencies. Federation dollars help subsidize the SOVA Food Pantry Program for the hungry, pay for job training offered by Jewish Vocational Service and support the Jewish Free Loan Association, which offers Jewish couples interest-free loans of up to $10,000 for fertility treatments, among other programs.

“There are old people, children, homeless people, the disenfranchised and other people who constantly need help,” said Terry Bell, a former Federation chair who headed the search committee that recommended hiring Fishel. “We do extremely important things that people aren’t even aware of that wouldn’t get done without The Federation.”

The Federation’s reach goes well beyond Southern California. In times of crisis, The Federation has raised millions to help struggling communities around the world, most recently in Argentina. Federation allocations support everything from sending local college students to Israel to subsidizing Jewish day schools. Overseas, Federation dollars have helped support the renaissance of Jewish life in the Baltic nations of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

In some ways, The L.A. Federation is flourishing as never before. The charity’s international programs are stronger than ever. Under Fishel, the organization has repeatedly demonstrated an ability to respond to emergencies both at home and abroad, despite the bureaucratic nature of the federation system. The Federation has raised millions for special campaigns for Israel, Soviet Jews and other causes, and has an endowment of $67 million.

Locally, KOREH L.A., a literacy program that is reaching more students than ever, has burnished the Jewish philanthropy’s reputation, introducing scores of volunteers and clients in need to The Federation and its mission. Moreover, at Fishel’s prodding, The Federation increased its annual allocations to the Bureau of Jewish Education by $1 million, funding scores of scholarships for Jewish day school students and capital improvement projects at their schools.

But The Federation’s annual campaign, its lifeblood, has grown anemically during the Fishel era. In particular, The Federation has been largely unable to reach Hollywood money or attract huge donations from affluent Jews not already involved. A shrinking and aging donor base poses a real threat to future giving. And there’s the looming challenge of appealing to younger Jews, a group more attracted to non-Jewish causes than past generations.

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WHO ARE YOU?

Federation supporters know surprisingly little about the person most responsible for The Federation’s current and future prospects.

Ask board members, even those who consider Fishel a friend, and a steady stream of generic adjectives tumbles out: “Kind,” “brilliant,” “committed,” “thoughtful” and “hard-working,” come up most frequently. A JDate profile would provide more than that.

What about anecdotes?

Bell, the former Federation chair, said she and her husband hosted Fishel; his wife, Karen, and their daughter, Jessica, for one week at their home, back when Fishel was undergoing a second round of interviews for his current job. The Fishels, Bell said, were “easy to feed, easy to be around,” she said. “They didn’t demand anything.”

And what about John Fishel? What’s he like?

He’s well-read and interested in “everything under the sun,” conversant about art, politics, food, music and wine, Bell said.

Another Federation board member said he once saw Fishel materialize late one Saturday night at a jazz club clad in a leather jacket. They exchanged pleasantries.

Who is John Fishel?

He’s someone who wants to reveal the answer to that question on only a need-to-know basis. Through The Federation’s spokeswoman, Fishel turned down a request to trail him for the day during Super Sunday or to spend a large block of time watching him in action. Nor would he agree to a lunch or dinner appointment. Near the end of a second recent formal interview — and after years of contact — Fishel opened up, a little.

He was born in Cleveland in 1948. His late father, Richard, owned a company that manufactured sweaters. His late mother, Adelee, stayed home to care for John and younger brother Jim. His family belonged to a local Reform synagogue, where Fishel was confirmed but never bar mitzvahed.

At a young age, Fishel decided that he wanted to venture into the larger world. Even then, other cultures fascinated him. He majored in anthropology at the University of Michigan and later began, but never completed, an anthropology master’s program there.

Leaving the university, Fishel parlayed his interest in blues and jazz into a turn as a music promoter in the early 1970s, partnering with his brother, Jim. John Fishel promoted shows featuring B.B. King, Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf and went on to produce the famed Ann Arbor Blues Festival. He developed enough of a reputation that Rolling Stone once quoted him.

Tiring of the hectic life of a promoter, Fishel decided to become a social worker. Graduating from the University of Michigan in 1972 with a master’s in social work, he soon landed back in Cleveland as a caseworker in the Welfare Department. A year later, he headed to Africa for an extended backpacking adventure.

His Jewish journey began a few years later, when Fishel took a position doing community work for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. There, he began to consider issues of Jewish identity and, on his own, studied Judaism and Jewish history. In effect, he began applying his anthropological training to his own roots. Fishel soon became an activist in the Soviet Jewry movement.

Two years after arriving in Philadelphia, he moved on to became director of the New York-based Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, or HIAS, which has helped Jewish and other immigrants coming to the United States for more than 100 years. Through his new job, Fishel developed a deepening appreciation for the plight of Jews around the world, especially those fleeing post-revolutionary Iran and the Soviet Union.

Years later, after becoming executive vice president of the Jewish Federation in Montreal, Fishel finally made his first trip behind the Iron Curtain. In 1986, he visited Moscow and Lithuania. He came armed with hard-to-obtain Judaica and blue jeans that he gave to local Jews. He also secretly met with Refuseniks, Jews denied permission to emigrate.

In Lithuania, Fishel joined a group of Refuseniks who, in a park near the capital city of Vilnius, placed homemade Jewish Stars, fashioned from cardboard, where Nazis had executed Jews.

“I was really scared,” Fishel said. “But you want to know something? I figured, what’s the worst thing that’s going to happen? They’ll detain me and then let me go. I’m an American citizen. Those guys were stuck there. They were truly courageous.”

THE GOOD; THE NOT SO GOOD

Fishel never visited Israel until after he turned 40, but he has since traveled to the Holy Land more than 50 times, spending time with prime ministers, Russian and Ethiopian immigrants and fellow leaders in the Jewish communal world.

“I happen to believe that Israel is our Jewish state,” he said. “I think that the centrality of Israel as a focal point of Judaism and Jewish life historically and in contemporary times is very unique and very special.”

Fishel has played a major role in the successful Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Partnership, a 9-year-old program that fosters cooperation and connections between local Jews and Jews in Tel Aviv in education, health, culture and economics.

Under the multifaceted partnership, 18 Tel Aviv and 18 local schools have been “twinned,” sharing programming and lesson plans and frequently interacting via video conferencing and e-mail. In addition, curators from museums in Tel Aviv and Los Angeles, including the Getty and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, have participated in institutional exchanges. Federation and other community leaders also successfully lobbied Israeli politicians to allow Tel Aviv to become the first Israeli city to issue municipal bonds (the proceeds funded a parking garage). The list goes on.

The Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Partnership is “a jewel and an unusually creative and innovative approach to relating to Israel in a new way,” said Gerald Bubis, a former Federation vice president and the founding director of Hebrew Union College. “That is, as a partnership rather than the old liberal, colonial way of sending money to a benighted people.”

More than that, participating local residents have gained a greater appreciation of the larger Jewish world, their own Jewish identity and the importance of The Federation, experts said. The Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Partnership later spawned the successful Federation-sponsored Los Angeles-Baltics Partnership.

The Tel Aviv program might never have been birthed without Fishel’s dedication. Originally, the Jewish Agency, which called on federations across the United States to fund regional development in Israel, wanted The L.A. Federation to link with either Galilee in the north or the Negev in the south. Fishel, with the support of the lay leadership, rejected those options. Instead, he chose Tel Aviv, a large metropolis more appealing to local Jews because of its accessibility, sophistication, cultural life and large pool of potential individual and institutional partners.

Fishel’s willingness to defy the Jewish Agency, the bedrock of the Jewish communal establishment, reflects his ability to think, in his words, “out of the box,” especially on international issues. The Federation president would again employ that out-of-the-box thinking for the Jews of Ethiopia (see sidebar) and for Argentina’s Jewish community.

In December 2001, Argentina’s economy crashed. Almost overnight, the country’s middle class was plunged into penury; families lost their life savings. The crisis hit the Jewish community hard, with an estimated one-third of Argentina’s Jews falling into poverty.

Diana Fiedotin, a member of The Federation’s Israel and Overseas Committee, viewed the economic collapse firsthand while visiting the country in February 2002, to attend a wedding.

After Fiedotin returned to the United States, she started the Lifeline to Argentina with local Rabbi Sherre Z. Hirsch of Sinai Temple. Fishel suggested that Fiedotin expand her fundraising to synagogues across the city. The Federation president put Fiedotin in touch with Rabbi Mark S. Diamond, executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California.

Fishel later made an unsolicited gesture that floored Fiedotin: The Federation would offer a matching grant of up to $1 million to Lifeline to Argentina. The campaign eventually reached that target and, thanks to Fishel and The Federation’s generosity, Lifeline contributed $2 million to alleviate the suffering.

“He’s always open to new ways of raising money and creative ways of bringing different elements of this community together,” Fiedotin said. “I never could have done this without John. I and the Jewish community of Argentina owe him.”

Fishel’s international efforts, dating back to his work on behalf of Soviet Jewry, have won him widespread respect from colleagues, said Bob Aronson, chief executive of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. “We turn to him for advice and guidance,” he said.

Still, some in the community think Fishel focuses on overseas issues at the expense of a domestic agenda. Carmen H. Warschaw, a longtime Federation board member and former Southern California chair of the Democratic Party, said Fishel’s international emphasis meant less money for such important beneficiary agencies as Jewish Family Service and Jewish Vocational Service.

“There has to be more of a balance, with more of an emphasis on things in our front and backyards,” Warschaw said.

Fishel said he believes The Federation allocates its resources well to ensure that the nonprofit meets both local and international needs. He makes no apologies about helping Jews in need wherever they are.

“I’m very committed to the concept of Jewish people-hood,” Fishel said.

About 70 percent of every dollar the local Federation raises in its annual campaign supports domestic programs. Thirty percent goes for overseas programming and relief.

COOL IN A CRISIS

Fishel receives consistently high marks, even from detractors, for his ability to bring the community together in times of crisis.

Within 48 hours of the devastating Northridge Earthquake, The Federation president had overseen the production of a manual containing names and numbers of the agencies victims could call for counseling, health care, shelter and other services, said Irwin Field, a Federation Executive Committee member and past Federation chair.

“He was the one who really got everything rolling, made things happen and saw them through to the end,” said Field, who also chairs the board of L.A. Jewish Publications, publisher of The Jewish Journal. (The Journal is not affiliated with The Federation.)

At the same time, Fishel had to ascertain whether The Federation staff would have to leave the 6505 Wilshire headquarters because of earthquake damage. After experts concluded the structure had become unsafe, Fishel oversaw the evacuation and move into temporary quarters. He later helped raise $22 million to renovate and retrofit 6505, said Herb Gelfand, former Federation board chair.

After the 1999 shooting spree by a white supremicist at the North Valley Jewish Community Center, Fishel quickly showed up on the scene. The Federation helped arrange counseling for traumatized victims and took measures to improve the center’s security.

Fishel recently again displayed his knack for quick response. After Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, Fishel contacted Jewish federations and other agencies in Baton Rouge, La.; Jackson, Miss., and Houston to find out what evacuees fleeing to those cities needed. In just a few days, the L.A. Federation had raised $600,000 to help the Jewish and non-Jewish refugees.

The philanthropic group also brought local Jewish agencies together to provide therapy, job training and other services to homeless Katrina victims who made their way to the Southland. In addition, The Federation rented about a dozen trucks that transported clothing, canned food and other supplies collected by area synagogues to the Gulf Coast.

The Federation, at Fishel’s behest, also gave Hillel $20,000 to help underwrite the costs of sending students from USC and Cal State Northridge to the Gulf Coast to help with rebuilding efforts, said David Levy, executive director of the Los Angeles Hillel Council. The Federation’s generosity, he said, has improved its image among many Jewish college students, a demographic the philanthropic organization desperately wants to reach.

“John may be at his best when things are at their worst,” said Gelfand, the former Federation chair.

But some community leaders offer a more mixed assessment when it comes to issues not so clear-cut as providing emergency aid. One such complicated task is community building, which embodies the challenge of raising and distributing money, while simultaneously fostering Jewish identity.

The Boston Federation oversees two innovative adult Jewish education programs that have touched the lives of more than 2,700 area Jews and, in the process, strengthened ties to The Federation.

Me’ah (which means “100” in Hebrew) is a two-year, 100-hour intensive learning program that includes immersion in core Jewish texts, including the Hebrew Bible and rabbinics. More than 1,800 Bostonians have graduated from the course, which is heavily subsidized to maintain the low tuition price of $500 per person. The Boston Federation and Hebrew College also offer Ikkarim (“essence” in Hebrew), which provides Jewish education (and free child care during classes) for the parents of preschoolers.

“We want people to think it’s just as important to know Maimonides and love the Torah as it is to love Plato, Homer or Shakespeare,” said Barry Shrage, a leader of the effort and president of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston.

The Boston Federation’s investment has probably already paid off. From 1995 to 2006, the annual campaign of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies increased by 57 percent to $34.2 million in a city of 200,000 Jews, growing at a significantly higher rate than the nation’s federations as a whole.

In contrast, a high-profile community-building effort in Los Angeles proved a bust.

In 2001, Fishel’s Federation lured Rabbi David Woznica to come West from New York City’s prestigious 92nd Street Y. In New York, Woznica oversaw thousands of hours of adult Jewish education and 35 high-profile lectures per year. More than 1,200 Jews regularly attended his High Holiday services. His travels and lectures around the world enhanced both his and the Y’s reputation.

In Los Angeles, Woznica was hired at a six-figure salary on the eve of Federation layoffs.

Then, critics said, The Federation never maximized Woznica’s talents by establishing forums for him to reach large numbers of Jews. So adrift was The Federation that it formed a special committee months after hiring Woznica to figure out how to best use him. The respected rabbi ended up becoming The Federation’s best-kept secret; he spent much of his time offering private tutorials to well-heeled donors and Federation executives. He left The Federation in 2004 for a rabbi’s position at Stephen S. Wise Temple.

“Fishel never really followed through,” said Pini Herman, a demographer and former Federation research coordinator who was laid off. “You would have thought that he would have paved the way for the success of a high-value personnel acquisition like Woznica, but he didn’t. Fishel left him kind of twisting in the wind.”

Woznica could not be reached for comment for this article. In the past, he has said he worked tirelessly at The Federation to help elevate the role of Judaism there and throughout the community.

Fishel responded that, in time, The Federation would have figured a better way to expand Woznica’s community visibility and impact.

SHOW ME THE MONEY

Fishel has the challenge of raising money in a wealthy but difficult market. Failing in this task literally would mean fewer free meals for the hungry, the elimination of job-training programs or even the shuttering of homeless shelters.

On a macro level, federations, including Los Angeles, are “very healthy institutions, when you include all their assets, including endowments,” said Gary Tobin, president of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research in San Francisco.

But there’s reason for concern. The nation’s federations raised a total of $859.5 million in their 2004 annual campaigns, the most recent year for which statistics are available. That’s up only 4 percent from 2000.

Time was, federations received the lion’s share of Jewish charitable giving. In a world with virulent anti-Semitism and constant threats to Israel, federations were seen as the protector and exemplar of Jewish values and interests.

That began to change, though, as Jews became more assimilated. Hospitals, symphonies and universities that once shunned Jews not only began to accept their money but appointed them to their boards. That mainstream acceptance led Jews to give less to federations and more to secular institutions. Suddenly, the federations’ pull on Jewish giving began to wane.

“If you used to ask somebody about their Jewish giving, they would tell you about a nonprofit that had the word Jewish or Israel in its title,” said Mark Charendoff, president of the Jewish Funders Network, which represents more than 1,000 Jewish family foundations. “Now, especially with younger donors, they talk about charities that reflect their Jewish values, which could be a gift to a local food pantry or an environmental organization, rather than to a Jewish organization.”

Over the past eight years, the number of Jewish family foundations has exploded, jumping from about 2,500 to 8,000. Those foundations, Charendoff said, control an estimated $30 billion in assets and give to a variety of causes, ranging from AIDS research to education. They have undoubtedly siphoned money away from federations, which some megadonors see as distant, unresponsive bureaucracies.

Another problem is that L.A.’s Jewish community is geographically dispersed, lacking the traditional powerful machers who enforce community giving elsewhere. Recently, competing Jewish institutions such as the Wiesenthal Center and the Skirball Cultural Center have appeared on the scene, further complicating things.

And surveys show that Californians, including Angelenos, give less per capita than Americans in many other places. They also volunteer less, said Donna Bojarsky, a Jewish Community Relations Committee board member and a Democratic Party public policy consultant who advises such celebrities as Richard Dreyfuss.

“L.A. is a particularly hard nut to crack,” she said.

Fishel’s Federation has made some noteworthy attempts at trying.

In response to donor demands for more control, The Federation helped create the Jewish Venture Philanthropy Fund of Los Angeles. Over the past four years, this self-funded group of youngish entrepreneurs and professionals has raised and awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars to start-up and existing nonprofits that benefit Jews, including the teen magazine, JVibe, and a Jewish Vocational Service program that targets Jewish Russian and Iranian immigrants for training as certified nurses.

Several Venture Philanthropy participants, each of whom has contributed at least $10,000, were first-time L.A. Federation donors, said Andrew Cushnir, vice president of planning for The Federation and staff head of the Venture Philanthropy Fund.

“John has been a major champion of the fund,” Cushnir said. “He has been more than willing to let the fund experiment, learn and grow.”

The Federation has also greatly improved outreach to young Jews — tomorrow’s big givers. The Federation replaced a money-losing leadership program with the apparently more successful Young Leadership Division, which, unlike its predecessor, places more emphasis on Jewish education and spirituality, although a social component still exists. The Federation also funds Taglit-birthright israel, the New Leaders Project and young leadership groups within its women’s, real estate and entertainment campaign divisions.

Federation-supported programs have touched the lives of thousands of young Jews, said Craig Prizant, The Federation’s executive vice president for financial resource development. That outreach has more than paid off, he added. “On a yearly basis, our young leadership initiatives are now raising about $5 million, or nearly 5 percent of our annual campaign.”

Not good enough, say critics. In 2005, The Federation’s annual campaign raised $47.3 million. (Overall, The Federation raised $55 million, when one-time gifts, special campaigns and other targeted giving are included.) Although last year’s annual campaign total represented a 6 percent increase over 2004, that’s only 2 percent more than the $46.4 million raised in 1990.

“I think at this point we ought to be around $60 million or $65 million,” said Leo Dozoretz, an ex-Federation board member and former president of the Valley Alliance, The Federation’s San Fernando Valley operation. “We’re the second largest community in the world behind New York. Los Angeles even has more Jews than Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.”

Dozoretz doesn’t hold Fishel responsible for The Federation’s middling performance. A weak lay leadership, among other factors, has contributed, he said.

Others are less understanding. They point to Fishel’s lack of charisma, The Federation’s alleged indifferent treatment of donors who are not megarich and Fishel’s inability to entice Hollywood Jews and other potential megadonors.

Former President Bill Clinton meets John Fishel
Former President Bill Clinton meets John Fishel.

In Southern California, charisma counts. An actor, director or producer with a megawatt smile and engaging personality can get farther than an equally talented but bland counterpart. What’s true for Hollywood can also hold for the corporate and nonprofit worlds. That partly explains why a gregarious charmer like Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal center can so easily coax big donations out of supporters, said a former high-ranking L.A. Federation fundraising executive.

Fishel, by contrast, often fades into the background, appearing ill at ease at social gatherings. He lacks “star power,” said the fundraiser, who asked not to be identified.

Fishel’s low-key, no-nonsense manner might serve him well in a down-to-earth place such as Minneapolis or Milwaukee but is no asset in Southern California, the land of Botox and BMWs. “Look, people live next door to movie stars here. They want entertainment value,” the fundraiser said.

Fishel responded that he’d prefer being perceived as honest, ethical and committed, rather than as Mr. Personality.

Another former Federation fundraising executive said he thought the organization treated donors giving less than $25,000 with indifference. Sure, a $10,000 donor might get invited to a special dinner or to participate on a mission to Israel, but Federation officials, he said, make little effort to make that person feel special. That absence of a personal touch has turned off some givers, leading them to give elsewhere, the ex-fundraiser said.

“The attitude some donors have is that you come to me once a year, you get my money and you come back when you want more,” he said. “And, in between, I’m not really thought of a great deal.”

Fishel said The Federation tries to be accessible and engaged with the broadest base of donors, although, given the number of contributors, that can sometimes prove a challenge. Still, Fishel said, he personally calls or has the appropriate staff member phone all donors — and non-donors — who contact him for assistance.

BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY

Critics say that one of Fishel’s greatest failings has been his inability to tap into Hollywood. Imagine, they ask, how much bigger the annual campaign would be if such Jewish entertainment royalty as Barbra Streisand, David Geffen and Michael Eisner began writing million-dollar checks? Supporters counter that Hollywood is a narcissistic world unto itself, virtually deaf to appeals by anyone outside its small circle of players.

Some of the industry’s Jewish titans are “self-hating Jews,” said Lynn Pollock, a Federation board member and a former vice president at Paramount Pictures. Others have long identified more with “American Protestant” traditions, she said, rather than Jewish ones in their films and in their lives.

“How in the world is John supposed to accommodate these types of whimsical people, who are used to getting whatever they want and living in a kind of la-la land?” Pollock said.

Former Federation Chair Gelfand remembers his own brush with Jewish Hollywood and its unhappy ending. In the late 1980s, he persuaded two powerful entertainment executives to co-chair a major fundraising campaign for Soviet Jewry. The co-chairs — one a former studio head, the other a former talent agency bigwig — hoped to attract $10 million from their Jewish colleagues. After just three weeks, the pair resigned, having raised a grand total of zero dollars, Gelfand said.

Not everyone gives Fishel a pass. Movie producer Scott Einbinder said The Federation missed an opportunity to engage young, Jewish Hollywood when it unexpectedly pulled its sponsorship from Vodka Latka, a party/fundraiser he co-founded, which raised money for Jewish nonprofits. Vodka Latka also increased young Hollywood’s awareness about The Federation and funneled dozens of new members to the Jewish philanthropic organization, he said.

“Vodka Latka was definitely meant to be a bridge to The Federation, to show young Jews in the entertainment industry that The Federation could be more than an organization that just asks for money,” Einbinder said. “We wanted to help The Federation compete with sexier philanthropic organizations around L.A., organizations that are considered cooler and have more celebrities involved.”

After the 2002 event, which attracted more than 1,000 revelers to the Hollywood Palladium, The Federation bowed out. At the time, Federation executives said Vodka Latka demanded too much staff time. Fishel suggested the event was terrific but on the verge of becoming stale. The Progressive Jewish Alliance now holds the Vodka Latka soiree.

In the entertainment business, as in some other industries in town, Fishel said, “there’s no clarity in terms of what makes them want to be engaged Jewishly.”

The same apparently goes for potential new donors among the megarich, said Bubis, the former Federation vice president who has such praise for Fishel’s international work. The Federation president, Bubis said, has failed to provide an overarching vision that would inspire those givers.

Last year, The Federation received no million-dollar gifts for its annual campaign. The organization has made going after large donors a bigger priority going forward, Federation executives said.

And there’s some good news on that front. Earlier this year, an anonymous donor made a $3 million unrestricted gift, sources confirmed.

So has Fishel done a good enough job making The Federation attractive to donors?

Fishel himself believes more needs to be done.

“When need outdistances the means to do all of the good things brought to The Federation for support, you always want to raise more,” he said.

Fishel took the helm of the L.A. Federation in 1992, during a period of great uncertainty. The Southland’s recession had taken a bite out of the annual campaign; the institution was in turmoil. Fishel righted The Federation’s finances through spending cuts and layoffs.

Besides restoring stability, he also worked on inclusiveness, several Federation leaders said. Over the years, Fishel reached out to Persian, Israeli and Russian Jews, said attorney David Nahai, a Federation board member.

Fishel has received mostly positive marks from Federation watchers, despite much dissatisfaction over the handling of the Jewish community centers and the Jewish Community Relations Committee. Tobin of the Institute for Jewish Community Research called him “one of the most thoughtful and really analytical executives in The Federation field.” UJC President and Chief Executive Howard M. Rieger called Fishel “one of the best we’ve got.”

The pressures of running The L.A. Federation have sometimes gotten to Fishel. A few years back, he briefly considered leaving The Federation after other Jewish organizations expressed an interest in him, including the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. These days, though, Fishel insisted that he couldn’t be happier.

“I’ve had 30-plus years working in Jewish communal life. I’ve had a lot of really amazing experiences meeting some extraordinary people here in this country and around the world, ” he said. “I love what I do.”

 

The Circuit


QUEENS OF SHEBA

Boutiques lined the halls leading to the dining room at the Four Seasons recently, where a crowd shopped before the Women of Achievement Awards event at the Friends of Sheba luncheon. This year’s awards honored two distinguished community leaders: Dr. Ellen Klapper and Janice Kamenir-Reznik.

Klapper is a physician and co-director of transfusion medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. She is also an associate clinical professor of pathology at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine.

Kamenir-Reznik is an attorney specializing in environmental real estate law for the firm of Reznik & Reznik. She serves in a variety of Jewish community leadership roles.

Serving as mistress of ceremonies was the Rhea Kohan, comedy writer, raconteur and author of everyone’s favorite girlfriend tome, “Save Me a Seat.” A special tribute, the Queen of Sheba Award, was presented to Beverly Cohen for her devoted service as president of the Women of Sheba for five years. Making the presentation in song were luncheon co-chairs Judy Shapiro and DeeDee Sussman.

Event proceeds will help fund the Center for Newborn Screening at Sheba Medical Center, which will test every baby born in Israel (approximately 150,000 annually) for more than 20 genetic diseases. Major gifts for the project come from special donors to the Sponsor-a-Child Campaign.

Professor Mordechai Shani, director general emeritus of Sheba Medical Center, the largest, most comprehensive hospital in the Middle East., reported on the progress of the newborn screening fundraising at the hospital.

For information about Friends of Sheba, call associate director Pam Blattner at (310) 843-0100.

PRO-CHOICE BACKERS

The Bel Air home of Bronya and Andrew Galef was filled with NARAL Pro Choice America supporters and stars recently, when the group held a fundraiser and awareness evening to support efforts to retain women’s right to choose.

Reacting to the appointment of John Roberts to the Supreme Court, Christine Lahti, Diane English, Amy Madigan and Ed Harris joined community activists to solicit funding and spread the word about protecting women’s rights.

Award-winning journalist and best-selling author of “The Price of Motherhood,” Anne Crittenden, addressed the small but involved group. She vowed to continue the battle to keep pro-choice an option for women.

Amy Everitt, state director of NARAL Pro Choice California, urged the attendees to vote against Proposition 73, which, if passed, would require a physician to notify a parent or guardian 48 hours before performing an abortion on a female younger than 18. It exempts young women who obtain a judicial waiver or face a medical emergency.

“This is an end run to abolish an existing law, which will greatly weaken Roe v. Wade,” Everitt said.

A PLACE CALLED HOME

Philanthropist Dawn Ostroff, Grammy Award-winning recording artist LL Cool J and private investor Bruce Newberg were honored by A Place Called Home (APCH), the groundbreaking youth enrichment center for at-risk kids in South Central Los Angeles, at its 12th annual Gala for the Children on Oct. 25, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Ostroff, the president of UPN, was honored with the Humanitarian Award presented by supermodel and television talk-show host, Tyra Banks.

Newberg received the Angel of the Children Award, and LL Cool J was presented with the Children’s Inspiration Award.

“These are three individuals whose generosity has really helped make a difference in the lives of at-risk youth,” said Robert Israel, gala chair and head of the board of APCH, which was founded by Debrah Constance in 1993. “LL Cool J, Dawn Ostroff and Bruce Newberg continually strive to impact the community and its children.”

Ostroff is responsible for all creative aspects of UPN’s operations and has been listed among the 100 most powerful women in entertainment by The Hollywood Reporter for two consecutive years. Prior to her position at UPN, Ostroff served as president of development for 20th Century Fox, and under her leadership, she raised Lifetime, the sixth-highest-rated cable television network, to No. 1 in primetime.

In addition, she has devoted herself to numerous philanthropic organizations, such as the American Jewish Committee, which brings international relief to victims of hate and bias.

Newberg and his wife, Nancy, established the Bruce and Nancy Newberg Fund, administered by the Jewish Community Foundation for charitable giving. He serves on the boards of the Independent School Alliance for Minority Affairs, Phase One, and A Place Called Home.

A MUSICAL SEASON

“Seasons of Songs” celebrated Cantor Ilan Davidson’s 10th anniversary at Temple Beth El in San Pedro. The evening featured Jewish music, opera and Broadway tunes.

Participating were the cantor and his friends. Dr. Noreen Green, musical director of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony, led the Kohelet Choir and Orchestra in the anniversary celebration. Joining them were Cantor Sam Radwine of Ner Tamid, Palos Verdes; Cantor Patti Linsky of Temple Ahavat Shalom, Northridge; and Cantor Jonathan Grant of Temple Bat Yahm, Newport Beach.

 

The Circuit


Help: A Laughing Matter

Laughter and love marked the occasion of the annual Laughing Matters luncheon at the Beverly Hills Hotel to benefit the L.A. Free Clinic. Celebrities and civic notables coifed and dressed to the nines were on hand to lend their humor and presence to the lustrous event that helps the clinic serve those in need of medical attention. West Hollywood Mayor Abbe Land, who announced her candidacy for Paul Koretz’s (D-Los Angeles) assembly seat next year, opened the festivities and introduced Laughing Matters co-founder Greta Furst.

The packed crystal ballroom was treated to personal antidotes from such glitterati as Jamie Lee Curtis who publicly and humorously thanked fellow panel member Jack Klugman for her first acting role on his “Quincy” series. Klugman joined other notables including Theodore Bikel, Barbara Minkus, Charlotte Rae, Ed Asner and Yuppie and “Preppie Handbook” author/writer Lisa Birnbach, as mistress of ceremonies Renee Taylor, introduced as the “love of his life” by husband Joe Bologna, led the panel members in an enjoyable diatribe of personal reminiscences and humorous antidotes.

Other notables including civic leader Soraya Melamed, Annabelle Wasserstein Award honoree Barbara Fox and Gay Parish attended the luncheon. Also on hand to honor Fox and join in the laughter were her son-in-law, Beverly Hills School Board member John Millan; Fox’s daughter, Gail; and her husband, Judge Elden Fox; school board president Alissa Roston; and Bonnie Webb, wife of Beverly Hills Vice Mayor Steve Webb. Guests bid on the silent auction items before a delicious lunch and afternoon of laughter.

For information about the L.A. Free Clinic, call ( 323) 330-1670.

Mink’s New Hope

Tanya Mink was recently named vice president of development for City of Hope. The center for biomedical research and treatment center for cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, appointed Mink, an accomplished professional with 25 years of experience in academic fundraising, to oversee responsibility for advancing City of Hope’s relationships with private foundations and supporting the fundraising and volunteer development efforts of City of Hope’s Beckman Research Institute.

Mink is the former vice president for college advancement at Harvey Mudd College, where she was chief development officer. Previous to this, she held a variety of fundraising positions at Caltech, including director of corporate relations, director of the Campaign for Caltech, director of principal and major gifts and director of the Biological Sciences Initiative.

“I am excited and honored to join City of Hope,” Mink said. “With a history of scientific distinction and compassionate care, the institution is an important and positive force for biomedical advancement. I am eager to do my part in supporting this tradition of accomplishment.”

For more information, visit ” target=”_blank”>www.sholem.org or call (818) 760-6625.

A Full Nelson

The Women’s Alliance for Israel Political Action Committee (WAIPAC) held an afternoon tea and briefing with Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) on May 4 at the Skirball Cultural Center.

Vice president and event coordinator Nancy Klemens introduced Nelson, who spoke on U.S.-Israel relations and his experiences in the Senate. After Nelson gave his speech, he opened the floor for questions and several WAIPAC members asked about the situation in Israel including the senator’s feelings on disarmament and airspace over Israel.

Nelson made his position clear that he does not believe in giving monetary aid to the Palestinians until they disarm.

“We need help the people with computers, jobs, skills and economy, ” he said.

Nelson described the women’s group as “a very warm group with a lot of good ideas. We may have the same ideals but different ideas about how to carry them out,” he said.

 

Rabbis Call for Day of Fasting for Darfur


Because the quintessential Jewish celebration — of life, of survival, of victory — always involves food, it only makes sense that a Jewish response to tragedy involves fasting.

Rabbis from all denominations are calling upon Jews in Los Angeles to participate in a day of fasting, prayer and political activism to raise alarm about the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Roving militias, backed by the Muslim Sudanese government, have killed an estimated 300,000 black Africans and displaced, raped or maimed another 2 million in the last year and a half.

“We are appealing to people’s conscience to invoke traditional responses to calamity, and to think beyond the immediate bodily welfare of the Jewish people as entering our perception of what constitutes a calamity,” said Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California and rabbi of B’nai David-Judea Congregation. The Board of Rabbis responded to a call to action issued by Rabbi Harold Schulweis of Valley Beth Shalom, who founded Jewish World Watch (JWW) in September 2004. The coalition of 14 synagogues works to combat genocide and human rights violations around the world through education and by building political will to confront genocide.

In the last eight months, JWW speakers have addressed students at 40 schools and dozens of clubs and synagogue groups. It advocated for the Darfur Accountability Act currently in Congress, has sent thousands of letters to politicians and raised $150,000 to build wells and medical clinics in Darfur.

The May 26 fast, sponsored by JWW and the Board of Rabbis, brings the Darfur atrocities to a wider swath of the Jewish community.

An almost unprecedented coalition of 17 Orthodox, Reform and Conservative schools and shuls on the Westside joined to sponsor a mincha (afternoon prayer) service and break fast at B’nai David-Judea on Pico Boulevard, one of three venues that evening.

While the Orthodox community has traditionally been more concerned with issues that directly impact Jews, rabbis’ readiness to sponsor this event indicates an acknowledgment that genocide anywhere is a Jewish issue, said Kanefsky, who is Orthodox.

“Our claim that the world stood by while the Holocaust unfolded is now pointed at us, and we have this opportunity to demonstrate that we understand the accusation we have leveled at others over the last 50 years,” Kanefsky said.

All three May 26 events will highlight action items such as fundraising or pressuring politicians.

“It is critical that this not be some sort of guilt-assuaging event, but a touchstone for a pattern of activity,” Kanefsky said.

Stephen S. Wise Temple: Service and break the fast, followed by lecture from John Prendergast, former director of African affairs for the National Security Council and currently director of the International Crisis Group. 6:45 p.m. (service/break the fast), 7:30 p.m. (speech). 15500 Stephen S. Wise Drive, off of Mulholland Drive near Sepulveda Boulevard; (310) 889-2274; e-mail dkabat@sswt.org.

Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center: Interfaith service with the All-Saints Church and musician Craig Taubman with break the fast and a short film on Darfur. 7 p.m. 1434 N. Altadena Drive, Pasadena. (626) 798-1161.

B’nai David-Judea: Mincha service, Torah study, short film on Darfur and break fast, 6:45 p.m., 8906 Pico Blvd. west of Robertson Boulevard; (310) 276-9269; e-mail bdj@bnaidavid.com.

For information on Jewish World Watch, visit www.jewishworldwatch.org; e-mail pre-k-koreh@jewishla.org; or call (818) 530-4088.

Millions More for Shoah Museum


The fundraiser in Bel Air featured yellow rose centerpieces on every table. The DJ played big-band tunes, including Bing Crosby’s “San Fernando Valley.” A gay couple cooed over their infant and Ginna Carter, the 30ish daughter of “Designing Women” star Dixie Carter, traipsed through the party barefoot, wearing a white chapeau that gave the Sunday affair a touch of “The Great Gatsby.”

With well-polished Westsiders, relaxed politicians and dressed-down studio executives, anyone catching a glimpse of the event while driving on Beverly Glen would have been surprised to discover that it was a Holocaust museum fundraiser.

“I’m not part of this sort of chicken-dinner-at-a-hotel fundraising mentality,” said Rachel Jagoda, the 31-year-old director of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. “I am young and I do have new ideas.”

The event symbolized a small sea change in local Jewish philanthropy; older donors who built Holocaust museums are learning to work with a younger, less Jewishly oriented generation of donors — people in their 30s and early 40s who are respectful of history yet hip to modern issues.

Central to this generational change will be the Holocaust museum’s planned $5 million new building in the Fairfax District’s Pan Pacific Park. With groundbreaking planned for early 2005, the $5 million capital campaign started nine months ago, with most of that money now raised.

“We’re way over halfway there,” Jagoda said while giving a tour of the 43-year-old museum, which is currently set up on the ground floor of ORT Technical Institute’s building on Wilshire Boulevard. “This is rented space; it’s not a permanent building. It wasn’t meant to be.”

The plan for the glass-rich, semi-submerged museum was designed by architect Hagy Belzberg, who envisions it being built on a grassy hill west of the current Los Angeles Holocaust Memorial Monument. Visitors would enter the building from a downward-angled walkway into a 15,000-square-foot space dedicated to the entire 12 million victims of the Shoah. However, its walls will have 6 million stones to commemorate the Jewish victims.

Holocaust survivor and philanthropist Jona Goldrich, who championed the Holocaust Memorial in Pan Pacific Park, supports Jagoda’s vision. “In another 10 and 15 years, there won’t be any more Holocaust survivors left in the world,” he said.

One of her museum’s board members had a heart attack in October and another, also a survivor, was diagnosed with cancer. “They’re dying so quickly, I’m afraid to answer the telephone,” Jagoda said. “How do you teach the Holocaust in a world that doesn’t have survivors in it?”

The survivors’ ranks are thinning. But the extensive testimonials collected by Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Visual History Foundation have taken the edge off the Jewish communal urgency to record every survivor’s account in the 1990s.

Nationwide, Holocaust museums are traditionally driven by survivors and their adult children, who feel obligated to keep the museums intensely Shoah-focused and emphasizing their parents’ unbelievable stories.

“It’s a big idea that they have down at Pan Pacific Park,” said John Fishel, president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, which funds the museum. Fishel and Jagoda are in ongoing talks about the museum’s planned independence from The Federation.

Fishel said that for decades the survivors and their children wanted “to be fairly narrow cast” in defining what a Holocaust museum should be.

Museum of Tolerance dean Rabbi Marvin Hier said the Tolerance Museum always has focused on telling the Shoah story to non-Jewish audiences. “I’m happy to see that they [Pan Pacific museum promoters] want to follow in our footsteps,” he said. “We have 350,000 visitors a year; more than 80 percent of the visitors are non-Jews.”

Jagoda’s supporters believe the Pan Pacific building will be an L.A. architectural touchstone and evidence of a younger donor generation voicing support for future museum culture.

“As a gay couple, we embrace a museum that is promoting tolerance,” said Sony Executive Vice President Peter Iacono, whose life partner Manfred Kuhnert spent his undergraduate days at Harvard with Jagoda’s husband Ian. (Another Crimson alumnus backing the museum is actor John Lithgow, Jagoda’s father-in-law.)

Kuhnert and Iacono opened their home for the Bel Air fundraiser, co-hosted by Sony Pictures Chair Amy Pascal. “I’m Jewish,” Pascal told The Journal. “Given the mood of the world, I think the Holocaust is something we better not forget about.”

Russian Community Fundraises for Israel


When obstetrician-gynecologist Ludmila Bess and her husband, a civil engineer, immigrated to the United States from Russia in 1977, they came with only $600 in their pockets. Like many others who arrived from the former Soviet Union with few or no financial resources “our goal was to survive,” Bess said.
Now established with a successful Los Angeles medical practice, Bess’ goals — like those of many of her contemporaries — have turned outward. She is chairing the Saving Lives gala on Oct. 17 to raise funds for the pediatric trauma unit of Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center.
The event is a collaboration among the Russian-speaking community, the American Russian Medical and Dental Association, the business community and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. Taking place at the Hilton at Universal City, the gala will feature singer and actor Theodore Bikel, opera star Susana Poretsky and singer and cantor Svetlana Portnyansky.
While the event boasts the trappings of long-established philanthropic groups (hors d’oeuvres have been donated by Wolfgang Puck and his associate Bella Lantzman, for example), these efforts mark a relatively new direction for the Russian Jewish community.
“Originally, Russian immigrants, when they came to the United States, were mostly takers, not givers,” said event co-chair Eugene Levin, founder of the Russian-language Panorama Media Group. “There was no such tradition of giving in the former Soviet Union. Mostly, people depended on the state.”
While numerous agencies such as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles continue to help newly arrived Russian immigrants with resettlement, many in the community have lived in the United States close to two decades or longer. They have overcome cultural and language barriers, and attained professional and financial security. So their attention has turned to fundraising and outreach efforts for their community. Such entities include the Association of Soviet Jewish Immigrants, a Federation affiliate and the umbrella organization for agencies serving the Russian Jewish community, and the West Hollywood Russian Community Center, which aids new immigrants with practical necessities, information, referral and advocacy.
Now, efforts reach beyond their own community to others in need. It started slowly, with participation in the United Jewish Fund’s Super Sunday and two parlor meetings that generated funds for causes in Israel.
In 2002, Bess and her colleague, Dr. Yelena Vaynerov, decided that, as physicians, they wanted to generate support for medical care in Israel. Bess and others met with Federation President John Fishel about their idea. Initially, he suggested more parlor meetings. “We told him, ‘We want to have a big gala. We want people to feel together,'” Bess recalled. “And he told us, ‘I will do my best to make this event happen and be an A-plus.'”
With Federation support, the group held its first gala in January of last year, raising more than $250,000 toward the purchase of equipment for the trauma unit of Sourasky Medical Center. The hospital has provided front-line care for victims of terror attacks, including the 2001 Dolphinarium bombing that claimed the lives of more than a dozen Soviet-born teens outside a Tel Aviv disco.
Bess says that raising funds for a worthy cause was only one of her goals. She also wanted to increase community cohesiveness and change attitudes about giving.
“We wanted to show our community that it’s [a greater] pleasure to donate than to be a recipient,” she said.
Last year’s gala seemed to accomplish those goals. Besides attracting more than 650 attendees, the event generated support from across the community, with donations as small as $5 and as large as $10,000. Bess remembered being touched when a 75-year-old patient, living on government pension, presented her with a $300 check despite the patient’s limited income.
This year, organizers hope to accommodate more attendees and raise $300,000. The event honors Sourasky Medical Center’s Director General, Dr. Gabriel I. Barbash; Dr. Leonid and Natalie Glosman, one of the first couples to mobilize the Los Angeles Russian Jewish community in support of Israeli and American causes; Anita Hirsh, former co-chair of the Commission on Soviet Jewry and, with her late husband, Stanley, a supporter of major projects in the United States and abroad; Dr. Gabriel Rubanenko, supporter of numerous Israeli philanthropies; and Barbara Yaroslavsky, who along with her husband, L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, has been an advocate of Soviet Jewry for more than 30 years.
Event co-chair Helen Levin, wife of Eugene, and director of the West Hollywood Russian Community Center, notes that the community at large — and, indeed, the nation — has begun to reap the benefits of supporting Soviet Jewry.
“You haven’t been fighting for us for nothing,” she said. “Now we are paying back to the United States.”
She added, “I always say to my clients [at the West Hollywood Russian Community Center], ‘Yes, there are problems here, as everywhere. But there is no better place…. So we better do something useful and positive for this country.'”
The Saving Lives gala begins at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 17 at the Hilton Universal in Universal City. For more information, call (323) 761-8345 or visit www.savinglives2004.com. n

The Circuit


The Justice Beat

More than 3,000 young professionals gathered on Saturday, July 10, for the eighth annual Justice Ball. The fundraising event has earned a reputation as one of the “it” events of the summer among Jews and non-Jews alike. Hip singles, summer law interns, and L.A.-based attorneys came together for a night of music and dancing. The Hollywood Palladium on Sunset was transformed into a giant nightclub, complete with spotlighting and state-of-the art sound system. The ball featured live performances by Sugar Ray (Mark McGrath, Rodney Sheppard, Murphy Kargas, Stan Frazier and DJ Homicide) and a solo act by Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind.

A packed dance floor rocked to hit singles while other partygoers mingled on plush white couches or sat at tall bar tables eating food sold by California Pizza Kitchen. High donors mixed in the Smirnoff-sponsored VIP lounge. Several bars lined the dance hall and a free dessert and coffee table was donated by Starbucks.

The night’s honorary co-chairs included Timothy Busfield, Greg Germann, Allison Janney, Joshua Malina, Camryn Manheim and Kelli Williams. All proceeds from the hot summer night benefited Bet Tzedek, (House of Justice), a nonprofit public interest law firm that annually provides free legal services to more than 10,000 low-income residents of Los Angeles County regardless of race, religion or ethnicity. — Carin Davis, Contributing Writer

Spectacular Sports

The stars came out to play on June 27, when more than 1,800 sports figures, entertainers and business, civic and community leaders gathered at the Century Plaza Hotel’s Los Angeles Room for the 19th annual Sports Spectacular. Sponsored by the Board of Governors of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the night raised a record-setting $1.5 million for The Medical Genetics-Birth Defects Center. The center provides diagnosis, prevention and management of all forms of birth defects and hereditary disorders affecting newborns, children, adolescents, adults and their families.

The evening started with a silent auction featuring more than 900 items, including Los Angeles activity packs like private beach volleyball lessons with Olympian Stein Metzger and golf for two at the Riviera Country Club; autographed sports paraphernalia like a Kobe Bryant jersey, Sandy Koufax baseball and Tiger Woods pin flag; and vacation packages to Hawaii, Jackson Hole, Pebble Beach and more. As parents bid on priceless items, their children played foosball, air hockey and raced electric cars in the kids carnival.

Following a sit-down dinner, honorary chairpersons John Salley, Tom Arnold and Jim Hill; presenters Will Ferrell and George Gervin; and guest speaker Rex Hudler, honored Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Eric Gagné, legendary sportscaster Al Michaels and Los Angeles Lakers guard Gary Payton. San Francisco Giants’ Barry Bonds, San Antonio Spurs’ Robert Horry and Dodgers manager Jim Tracy also spoke about the honorees. Attendees included director Penny Marshall, Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax, Derek Fisher, Olympic swimmer Lenny Krayzelburg, former Dodger Steve Garvey, choreographer Chris Judd, Nuggets GM Kiki Vandeweghe and hall of famer Dave Winfield. After the banquet, a VIP party was held in the courtyard. — CD

Hillel Honors Mandel

Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life presented Bea Mandel of the Los Angeles Hillel Council with its Exemplars of Excellence award at the national organization’s May Lay Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. She was one of seven lay leaders to receive the 2004 award, which honors their commitment to Jewish students.

Mandel was president of Los Angeles Hillel Council from 1994 to 1997. She continues to serve as vice president of personnel, and is known for her ability to identify and cultivate new Hillel professionals. Mandel has also served on Hillel’s international board for many years, chairing the International Lay Leadership Conference and serving as a vice chair of the national organization’s board. She also serves on the board of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. — Adam Wills, Associate Editor

7 Days In Arts


Saturday

Tonight, West Coast Jewish Theatre launches Clifford Odets’ “Rocket to the Moon” at the Pacific Resident Theatre. Set in the 1930s, the love triangle centers on an unhappily married dentist, the secretary he falls in love with and the older man who has everything but youth on his side. A special fund-raising performance hosted by Monty Hall and honoring Arthur Hiller, Rocky Kalish and Leslie Martinson will be held June 6.

8 p.m. (Thurs.-Sat.), 3 p.m. (Sun.) $20-$23.50. 703 Venice Blvd., Venice. (310) 822-8392. June 6 Fund raiser, 2:30 p.m. $100. (310) 828-1296.

Sunday

Amid the weekend’s barbecues, take time out this evening
to remember. KCET airs the “National Memorial Day Concert,” hosted by actor and
veteran Ossie Davis. Musical performances will feature bluegrass singer Alison
Krauss, Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas and country star Brad Paisley.
Violinist Joshua Bell and Tony Award-winner Brian Stokes Mitchell will perform
with the National Symphony Orchestra. A documentary about the building of the
new World War II Memorial follows the broadcast. 8 p.m. KCET. “>www.milkenarchive.org

.

Tuesday

Architecturally inspired music is the thematic centerpiece for the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s and the Getty’s collaborative project, “Building Music.” A two-day symposium on the subject is flanked by individual lectures, as well as a concert series of music informed by the architecture of the Getty and Walt Disney Concert Hall, and older works motivated by architecture of the past. Today, the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group presents Green Umbrella Concert, featuring four pieces, including Morton Feldman’s “Rothko Chapel.”

8 p.m. $15-$40. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 850-2000.

Wednesday

The Los Angeles Conservancy revives Old Hollywood again this year with their “Last Remaining Seats” film series. First in their lineup is the classic cross-dressing comedy, “Some Like It Hot,” screening at the historic Los Angeles Theatre this evening. Barring scheduling conflicts, Tony Curtis will reminisce about the movie and his career with Turner Classic Movies host Ben Makiewicz.

8 p.m. $16-$18. 615 S. Broadway, Los Angeles. (213) 430-4219.

Thursday

Literary flavor of the moment, “The Sleeping Father” by Matthew Sharpe, (please, Dan Brown is so five-minutes-ago) gets the full book tour treatment, stopping in our fair city this evening. The novel people are “very excited” about centers on an American Jewish family in crises: the titular paterfamilias has fallen into a coma after unknowingly mixing two kinds of antidepressants. He awakens to find his daughter considering conversion to Catholicism and suicide alternately, and his son lost in his own way. Book Soup hosts a signing with the author.

7 p.m. 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. (310) 659-3110.

Friday

P.C. (and worthy) event of the week: “Perspectives 2004”
at the ArcLight runs today through June 6. Subtitled, “When You Look at Me, What
Do You See?” the series presents films that depict the lives of the
developmentally disabled. Among the movies being screened will be Ira Wohl’s
“Best Man: ‘Best Boy’ and All of Us Twenty Years Later,” which revisits Philly,
Wohl’s cousin and the subject of his Oscar-winning documentary “Best Boy.”
$10-$15. 6360 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 464-4226. Or, for something on
the spiritual side, attend a new monthly Friday night service led by Rabbi Naomi
Levy. Nashuva, which means “we will return,” combines new Shabbat melodies, a
live band, meditation and joyful singing. 6:45 p.m. Westwood Hills
Congregational Church, 1989 Westwood Blvd.

Walking the Walk for Heritage Pointe


Setting a contemporary example for the ancient value of "l’dor v’dor" (from generation to generation), supporters of Heritage Pointe will walk through Irvine May 31 in a communitywide 5K walk to raise money for the county’s only Jewish retirement home.

"My goal is to help keep this worthy residence in great shape so that senior members of our community won’t go uncared for in their time of need," said Samantha Markowitz, 12, of Villa Park. Three of her great-grandparents, all now deceased, were among the earliest residents of the 14-year-old facility in Mission Viejo.

Markowitz, among 40 or so early registrants, is organizing a team to participate in the walk, called "Generation Celebration," as her mitzvah project. She set an ambitious $10,000 goal and asked for help in a letter to congregants of Santa Ana’s Temple Beth Sholom. Her grandfather promised to match every dollar she raises.

"It’s the community involvement that makes [Heritage Pointe] different from a for-profit," said Meryl Schrimmer, of Laguna Beach, the home’s co-founder and the walk’s organizer. "If you don’t have a resident there or aren’t a volunteer, you wouldn’t know about it," she said. But throughout the year, hundreds of children and adults volunteer at Heritage Pointe, enlivening the environment of more than 120 residents, many of them housebound, with programs and visits.

"Some people think it’s enough to pay the rent, but we want them to be involved," Schrimmer said. For example, Markowitz’s grandparents, Jacquee and Mel Lipson, of Newport Beach, will assist with event registration. Ten years ago, their entire family hit the streets during the first Heritage Pointe walk, including baby Samantha in a stroller.

Proceeds from the walk will go toward $700,000 expended annually for residential scholarships, providing varying levels of financial aid for about a quarter of residents. Funds will also help re-equip an underused recreation room into a planned wellness center. About $30,000 in specialized exercise equipment is needed. "It’s designed for people trying to regain strength as well as equipment that would meet the needs of those maintaining fitness," Schrimmer pointed out.

Some Heritage Pointe residents will participate, such as the 100-year-old grand marshal Rose Horvitz, who lived in Laguna Woods for 20 years before relocating in 2000. She and her caregiver will ride in a convertible, leading the procession from Irvine’s Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School. Schrimmer is hoping for 500 people.

Warm-up events begin at 8 a.m. Walkers, strollers and wheelchairs will complete a circuitous five kilometers after setting out down Federation Way toward Shady Canyon Road and then reversing the route.

"It’s not a timed race," said Schrimmer, who has set suggested fundraising minimums of $200 for families, $1,000 for 10-person teams and $50 for a senior and a child. Teams could be organized by a school, a family, a synagogue or a havurah.

To aid supporters in soliciting funds and involve younger adults, Schrimmer is relying on a Web site to ease registration and encourage competition (www.generationcelebration.kintera.org). The site allows entrants to seek donations through e-mail, create a personalized Web page and permits online contributions by credit card. Donors receive an instant "thank you" and a tax-deductible receipt.

"It makes it easy for busy people who don’t have hours to spend on the phone," Schrimmer said.

Virtual walkers who seek donations are welcome, too, she said.

While the walk may lack a timekeeper, the Web site keeps score nonetheless with a dollar tally of pledge leaders. Individuals and teams can post both fundraising goals and results. Checks, too, eventually are reflected in results, Schrimmer said.

Early on, Markovitz’ team, "Juniors for Seniors" was trailing among four rival teams, and Victor Klein was leading as the top individual solicitor.

Teams or event volunteers are still welcome and should contact Bonnie Gillman at (714) 838-9797.

Purim Celebrations to Kick It Up a Notch


The calendar is doing for Purim this year what Emeril suggests is good for any recipe: Kick it up a notch.

The celebrations over the deliverance of the Jews of Persia will get an adult rating at one synagogue’s annual reading of the scroll of Esther. Virgins cavort alongside the “Jews Brothers” at another temple, renamed for the evening The Apollo . And another haven known for scholarly discourse will give way to a drinking-age-only Shushan party-cum-bazaar for the costumed and bejeweled.

By virtue of its falling on a weekend this year, the amusements planned in honor of Purim at some synagogues around the county are going beyond kiddie moon bounce and costume contests by adding adult entertainment, albeit Jewish style. For the easy-to-blush, these won’t come close to an X-rating. Plays that send up the traditional telling of Esther’s triumph figure prominently in the weekend’s festivities.

The theme of the Purim play remains a mystery up until the last minute at Fountain Valley’s Congregation B’nai Tzedek. So intent is the director on maintaining secrecy that rehearsals come to a dead standstill when someone inadvertently wanders into the sanctuary. Keeping the secret instills anticipation for a Purimspiel that annually draws a standing-room-only crowd and overfills the parking lot. Some people arrive 90 minutes before the service starts to ensure they get a seat.

One element of surprise is easy to guess. Congregants can predict with certainty who will be cast as the buffoonish King Ahasuerus: their rabbi, Steve Einstein.

Einstein, who sets a good example by practicing his lines in rehearsals that began in December, also “is the king of ad lib,” said the play’s director, B’nai Tzedek’s cantor, Linda Eckert. Once on stage, “he tried to have someone else win the beauty pageant,” she said, referring to a dramatic point in the story’s exposition. “Just kidding,” the erstwhile king said sheepishly.

“In synagogue life, people get bogged down with politics and fundraising,” Eckert said. In a Purimspiel, “everyone has their moment to shine,” she noted.

The March 6 play will begin after the reading of the traditional megillah and the twirling of groggers. “You don’t want to miss the lines,” explained Eckert, who is anxious to reclaim her prop-filled office that remains off limits until after Purim.

On Sunday, the synagogue also will host a carnival, hamantaschen judging and 1 p.m. concert with singer composer Doug Cotler.

In south county, also on Saturday, the social hall at Congregation B’nai Israel in Tustin will get a makeover fit for Tehran. The new look will be created by borrowing props recreating the ancient Persian capital of Shushan, used for a gala at Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School.

Recreation at the adults-only masquerade carnival will feature a martini bar, karaoke booth and fortune teller, said Francine Morrison, who co-chairs the event with Marsha Gleit. Although belly dancers were nixed as too risqué, patrons can sample other authentic arts, like henna tattoos, tarot card readings and a tea ceremony, Gleit said.

On Sunday, visiting cantorial soloist Cindy Paley will try her hand at a Congregation B’nai Israel Purimspiel.

At Aliso Viejo’s Temple Beth El, the 6:30 p.m. Saturday Purimspiel will get a comedy-pumped downbeat as the Motown Megillah. The director is Lois Wilson, a congregant who works professionally as a stand-up comic and is a self-described Motown fanatic. Fast-talking and high-energy, she promises to put a side-splitting stamp on the show, which was originated by spielmeister Norman Roth.

The New York accountant is a satirical wit at retelling Purim and each year delivers a new script, using a different musical theme and rewritten lyrics. Over the past 15 years, his plays have parodied the Beatles, Broadway, Elvis and surfing and are among the most widely performed around the country.

Beth El’s congregants should know who will be cast as Vashti, the impudent, spurned queen. “I like it because I’m in and out,” explained Shula Kalir Merton, the synagogue’s cantor, who portrayed the rejected Vashti last year as sashaying Dolly Parton. This year’s character makeover may take more than a push-up bra: The script calls for Vashti as Tina Turner.

Other characters, too, will get an original look, like Mordecai/Bob Marley in dreadlocks and kippah.

Last year was Wilson’s first as Purim play director. She was drafted by Kalir Merton at the last minute, when another director pulled out. Wilson, though, turned up her nose at Roth’s script, because it included topical references that were dated.

“It’s not funny,” Wilson recalled complaining.

“It’s a Bible story,” the cantor replied.

“I can’t do it unless it’s funny,” Wilson said, proceeding to rewrite the script. She won the rabbi’s approval by overwhelming him with her energy.

She’s taken a few liberties with the Motown version, too. Barry Gordy was not consulted.

At Santa Ana’s Temple Beth Sholom, activities for adults and youngsters will take place on Purim day, March 7. The 6:30 p.m. megillah reading is for listeners 21 and older and will be followed by a BYOB Persian Nights party. “We are commanded to get crazy,” Rabbi Heidi Cohen said. Last year, Beth Sholom’s Purim party was Megillah in Margaritaville.

“If you read the entire megillah, it actually is adult material. It is very specific about how the queen is chosen and is gory at the end,” Cohen said. “The text itself is not appropriate to read to a Sunday school kid.”

Earlier in the day, kids will be treated to a Magic Kingdom of Purim carnival.

At Irvine’s Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’alot, not far from the old Lion Country animal park, the Purim theme is Shushan Safari and is open to the community.

Adults masked as animals will stalk the synagogue’s Saturday night masquerade ball and silent auction. The following day, four-legged zoo animals will amuse children at the annual carnival, which will include new homemade game booths created by a congregant, Rabbi Richard Steinberg said.

Stacia Deutsch writes and produces the staff-acted Purimspiel, which for several years running cast her husband, the rabbi, in the lead. Last year’s Spider-man costume proved problematic, though. Steinberg’s glasses steamed up under the tight-fitting mask and he couldn’t see.

Who rescued Spider-man? A congregant who offered lasik eye surgery, of course.

Although spilling no secrets, the rabbi did reveal that his appearance will undergo an even more unusual change this year.

Elsewhere, the Hebrew Academy of Huntington Beach will host its annual masquerade and Purim lunch on Sunday. The highlight will feature a stage show by entertainer Scotty Cavanaugh.

Also Sunday, Fullerton’s Temple Beth Tikvah plans a family carnival with a fire truck, bounce house and giant slide.

The Circuit


GO GRETCHEN GO!

A movie about the “big 3-0” and a good cause drew the famous and the wannabe famous to Club Ivar in Hollywood as “Gretchen Brettschneider Skirts Thirty” had its L.A. premiere on Sept. 28. The screening of the San Diego Film Festival Jury Prize-winner, written, produced and starring Annie Oelschlager, included a silent auction as a benefit for Sabrina, an 11-year-old Make-A-Wish child who wants to go to Hawaii. (The average cost of fulfilling a wish is $4,000.)

Among those who enjoyed the zany musical-comedy: “Less Than Perfect’s” Eric Roberts and Zachary Levi; “Babylon 5’s”Claudia Christian; “Gretchen” producer, director and co-star Corey Blake; and Mark Thompson of KLOS radio’s “Mark and Brian,” who emceed the event.

“Everyone at the Make-A-Wish Foundation is thrilled with the success that Elevation 9000 Films, Annie Oelschlager and 1421 Productions have achieved with their film,” said Bart Verry, vice president and development director of Make-A-Wish Foundation of Greater Los Angeles. “Their hard work and dedication to their craft will now have the additional benefit of turning a wish into reality for a child with a life-threatening medical condition.”

The evening took in $6,000 for Make-A-Wish. — Shoshana Lewin, Contributing Writer

TEA TIME FOR JASON

“Seinfeld” alumnus and current star of “The Producers” Jason Alexander drank only tea when he joined Westside Jewish Community Center (WJCC) supporters on Sept. 13 at the Hancock Park home of WJCC advisory board member Helene Seifer and her husband, producer Gary Grossman. The fundraising party for the center was a pretheater reception for “Evening at ‘The Producers'” and drew over 170 people.

The Westside JCC is still going strong, and despite recent financial difficulties is working on a $14 million capital campaign to finance a major renovation of its facilities. The center has 117 students enrolled in its nursery school and kindergarten, is entering into the fifth season of its “Celebrity Staged Play Readings” and is continuing its senior day care, in addition to keeping its sporting facilities open.

SUPER COOPER

Attorney Jay L. Cooper, chairman of the Greenberg-Traurig West Coast Entertainment Law Division, was named “Entertainment Lawyer of the Year” by the Beverly Hills Bar Association Entertainment Law Section at an dinner-dance celebration at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Sept. 18.

CHAMPIONS OF MIRAMAX

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society honored Miramax Films co-chairmen Bob and Harvey Weinstein on Sept. 25 at the 29th annual Dinner of Champions, held at the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City. This year, the society will invest more than $30 million to support MS research, and more than $5 million is currently in place locally at UCLA, USC and the VA Medical Center.

BALLS AND BUCKS

Supporters of Cedars-Sinai Hospital took out their tennis whites and dusted off their rackets so they could participate in The Merchant of Tennis/Monty Hall/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center 31st Annual Diabetes Tennis Tournament on Sept. 12-14.

Jeff and Marie Green sponsored the tournament, which benefited diabetes patient care and research at Cedars. Hosted by Monty Hall, led by honorary chair Harold Foonberg and co-chaired by Elaine and Larry Baum, the tournament had matches played at the Mountain Gate Country Club and at the Playboy Mansion.

But Cedars cannot live on tennis tournaments alone. On Sept. 10, entrepreneur and philanthropist David Saperstein, CEO of Five S Capital, Ltd., and his wife Suzanne, made the largest donation to Cedars-Sinai in the medical center’s history. Cedars is not saying how much the donation was, but they did announce construction of the Suzanne and David Saperstein Critical Care Tower, which will combine the latest monitoring technology with staffing to provide fragile patients with the most sophisticated care available. Construction on the tower is expected to begin this fall and will be completed in 2005.

“Our commitment to Cedars-Sinai is an important example of our philanthropic mission to nurture world-class organizations locally, nationally and internationally,” said David Saperstein at a private celebration at Cedars hosted by the medical center’s board of directors.

Cedars-Sinai board Chair Barbara Factor Bentley said that the Saperstein’s donation “set a new standard for visionary philanthropy here at Cedars.”

CULTURE VULTURES

The Los Angeles chapter of America Israel Cultural Foundation (AICF) held a concert and high tea event Sept. 21 at The Wilshire. The AICF is a privately funded organization that provides financial support for talented young Israelis and cultural institutions in Israel. At the event, cellist Dennis Karmazyn and pianist Beth Sussman presented a musical program of both chamber music and Broadway tunes.

SHALOM, STANLEY!

Best-selling author Stanley Pottinger was the special guest on Oct. 1 at Temple Shalom for the Arts’s get-together for sustaining members at Morton’s Restaurant. The Temple is a nondenominational congregation that is famous for its star-studded High Holiday services, which have featured the likes of Jason Alexander, Larry King and Leonard Maltin reading the prayers.

The sustaining members are congregants who pay a larger membership fee so that the congregation can, among other things, give free High Holiday tickets to people who can’t afford them. For the past two years, Rabbi David Baron has been broadcasting a half-hour version of the services on television so that people who are ill or who can’t make it to services will be able to still have some kind of a High Holiday experience.

“Entertainment Tonight” anchor Mary Hart was at the party as Baron introduced Pottinger to the crowd as one of his friends. Pottinger is not Jewish, but he is from New York, which he said makes him “partly Jewish by association.” Pottinger signed copies of his newest book, “The Last Nazi,” a thriller about Joseph Mengele’s lab assistant who wants to unleash a deadly virus on the world that will kill all the Jews. Scary stuff indeed.

Pottinger told The Journal that while most of the actual Nazis from World War II were “dead, or gone, or toothless,” the spirit of Nazism is unfortunately still around.

“In a direct way, the anti-Semitic sense of what propelled Nazism, is not a dead issue,” Pottinger said. “Whether it is with the ignorant, pathetic skinheads who create small problems — or big enough problems for us to notice — or whether it is with a morphing of the spirit of anti-Semitism that comes in the form of haters of Jewish culture, or Jewish people, whether it is in the Middle East or here. It pre-existed the Nazis and it continues today.”

KNOW YOUR FD

If your rabbi veers from his sermon this month to talk about genetics and diseases, it is probably because he is aware that October has been proclaimed Familial Dysautonomia (FD) Awareness Month. On the advice of the Cure FD Foundation, L.A. Mayor James Hahn teamed with leaders of the Jewish community, such as Federation President John Fishel; Rabbi Mark Diamond, vice president of the Board of Rabbis; and Rabbi Alan Henkin, director of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Southwest Region, to get the Los Angeles community to start thinking about FD.

FD is a Jewish genetic disease Jewish present from birth that is carried by one in 27 persons of Central or Eastern European Jewish descent; it is neurological, degenerative and fatal.

During FD Awareness Month, rabbis throughout the community will be presenting programs and materials to inform the community about FD, how to help fund the cure and how prospective parents can get tested for FD.

For more information about FD, call (310) 459-1056.

Canter’s at 55

After 55 years in business on Fairfax Avenue, what better way for Canter’s Deli to celebrate than offer a 55-cent corned beef sandwich?

Normally a whopping $8.25, the sandwich was served on rye with a scoop of potato salad and a chocolate chip rougala. The deli, still a family-run business, prepped for the event with 6,000 pounds of corned beef and extra staff. With lines out the door as early as 10 a.m. and no sign of it dwindling, Canter’s had their hands full said Jacqueline Canter, granddaughter to the owners of the deli, Ben and Jenny Canter.

Earlier in the day, City Councilman Jack Weiss made an appearance to congratulate Canter’s for being for 55 years in business on Fairfax. — Leora Alhadeff, Contributing Writer.

Serious Fun


For weeks now, Merrill Alpert has been searching for the
perfect inflatable slide, the largest Ferris wheel and the flashiest ice cream
cart — all for her synagogue. Like event organizers at other temples in the
Southland, Alpert, Valley Beth Shalom’s (VBS) youth director and carnival
planner extraordinaire, feels that the joyous holiday of Purim is serious
business.

Like many temple Purim carnivals, VBS’ annual event is both
a fundraiser and a community activity. On the fundraising side, $2,500 of the
proceeds will go directly to the youth group’s Tikkun Olam fund and any
remainder will go toward scholarships. While the VBS carnival is a grass-roots
effort, other local organizations, such as Temple Beth Am and Stephen S. Wise Temple,
expect their larger-scale carnivals to generate more revenue. Temple Beth Am
expects to rake in approximately $15,000, which will benefit its schools and
youth department.

No matter what the profit, most synagogue administrators
agree that the yearly celebrations are helpful morale boosters.

“People love [the Purim carnival] and the kids look forward
to it all year long,” said Susan Leider, principal of Pressman Academy Religious
School at Temple Beth Am.

Rabbi Marc Dworkin of Leo Baeck Temple believes that his
shul’s event reinforces a certain closeness within the congregation.

“It’s a community builder and it brings different
generations together,” Dworkin said.

While many synagogues elect carnival committees, the
teenagers in VBS’ United Synagogue Youth (USY) chapter traditionally put
together this annual event. As the organization’s administrator, Alpert has
organized the annual carnival for the last 18 years.

“The struggle is getting the manpower,” admitted Alpert, who
expects 150 USY volunteers at the carnival on Sunday, March 16.

In order to accommodate the expected 1,000 carnivalgoers,
Alpert needs all the USYers she can get.

Oraneet Orevi, 17, the USY chapter’s co-president, is one of
this year’s committed volunteers.

“Despite the fact that we’re teens, we have things very
well-organized,” said the Calabasas High School senior. Orevi, who dressed as a
cowgirl at last year’s carnival, said she hopes to work at the dunk booth again
this year.

“The water is freezing,” the teen said with a laugh, “but
it’s a lot of fun.”

In the meantime, Orevi and her friends are currently
creating posters and flyers in hopes of attracting more potential attendees.

Come Sunday, Orevi and the other volunteers are prepared to
sacrifice their weekend sleep to begin decorating the booths and setting up at
7:30 a.m., a good three and a half hours before the carnival begins.

Alpert will coordinate with food vendors like Subway, which
has been contracted out to make kosher hero sandwiches in the synagogue’s
kitchen. Another vendor will mass-produce slices of pizza.

While volunteering is hard work, Orevi said that investing
time in the carnival is a bonding experience for the students and helps VBS
become a close-knit community.

As the Purim countdown begins, Alpert still has a few
concerns. The carnival will be held in the synagogue parking lot, rain or
shine.

“If it’s raining, not as many people show up,” she said.

Luckily, generous congregants offer donations to underwrite
costs. But even a large sum of money could not replace the crown jewel of Purim
carnivals: an inflatable moon bounce. Unfortunately, the rental company from
which Alpert rented the coveted attraction last year went out of business.
Lucky for moon bounce fans, Alpert is determined to find another one.

As she prepares for a new shipment of carnival prizes, like
whoopee cushions, key chains, stuffed animals or whatever the game company
deems “trendy” this year, Alpert anticipates a successful and profitable carnival.

“It’s pretty much down to a science,” she said.

And if there is any doubt that her teen volunteers will come
through for her, Alpert’s got a plan. 

“At the end of the day, if we help clean up, Merrill treats
us to dinner,” Orevi confided.

In addition to the carnival, which runs from 11 a.m-3 p.m., there will be a Red Cross blood drive from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. 15739 Ventura
Blvd., Encino. For more information, call the VBS youth office at (818)
530-4025, or the temple office at (818) 788-6000. 

Collaborating on Education


“It may be on the smaller side, and we do have a long way to
go, but we definitely have a day school movement,” said Rabbi Josh Elkin,
executive director of Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE).

The audience of 600-plus day school advocates responded with
thunderous applause during the joint luncheon, which brought together attendees
from both the PEJE’s Donor Assembly and the Leadership Assembly at the Park
Hyatt Hotel in Century City on Feb. 3.

Elkin touched on some of the problematic issues facing day
schools: affordability, teacher retention, donor and student recruitment. The
way to overcome these difficulties, he said, is through collaboration.

Like college graduates looking to make career contacts, many
of the professional and lay day school leaders, major philanthropists, Jewish
Federation leaders and Jewish endowment fund representatives attending the PEJE
Leadership Assembly portion, the first of its kind in the United States, took
time out to network.

The cross-denominational Leadership Assembly brought
together people from various aspects of the national day school community to
promote cooperation between religious movements and address universal
challenges. While much of the conference consisted of lectures and workshops,
many participants admitted that networking was a key reason for their
attendance.

“For the most part, the conference has confirmed things I
know,” admitted Carl Mandell, head of school for Solomon Schechter Day School
in West Hartford, Conn., who attended the leadership portion. “The most
valuable components came after the workshops because I had opportunities to
meet people from other schools.”

Dana Gibson, president of the Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy
board of trustees in Overland Park, Kan., said he often feels alone in his
quest to improve and maintain day school education.

“Kansas is isolating,” he said. “We need this contact with
other [advocates] because we’re facing the same issues.”

Like those who share his passion in big and small cities
alike, Gibson said that the Reform movement’s lack of interest in developing
day schools is a key challenge. Conference workshops offered suggestions on how
to make a case for day schools, techniques the educator hopes use in his
hometown. Meeting experts like Richard Lewis from the Schusterman Foundation’s
Small Communities Program from Vestal, N.Y., also provided him with a sense of
support.

Marcy Goldberg, the development chair of a new day school
opening in Chicago next fall, came to the conference to learn about the
fundraising her school will need to embrace during its first year and beyond.
Goldberg says that the sessions gave her the opportunity to learn about some
innovative fundraising techniques — and meet others who have found them
successful.

Ilene Reinfeld, principal of Adat Ari El Day School in Valley
Village, sat in the hotel lobby, relaxing after a day of intense workshops
amid the hustle and bustle of cross-country attendees rushing to the airport.

“It’s been a long time coming for an event like this,” said
the educator, commenting that the encouragement for collaboration is greatly
needed.

In addition to hopefully coming up with viable solutions,
Elkin feels the conference sends out a message.

“The way that this meeting is cross-denominational makes a
statement that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” he said.
“Working together with their federations and endowment funds, day schools can
have a deep interaction and confront the greater challenges on the day school
agenda.”

Uniting to Find a Cure


Bob Dole. General Norman Schwarzkopf. Harry Belafonte. Robert Goulet. The willingness of such well-known figures to make public their battle with prostate cancer has brought visibility to an issue that until the last few years, lacked the attention, funding and research interest befitting a disease that will strike more than 180,000 men in the United States this year.

Michael Milken, diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1993, waged perhaps one of the most public battles against the disease, founding CaP CURE to accelerate the progress of prostate cancer research and treatment. Milken appointed his physician, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center urologist Stuart Holden, as medical director of CaP CURE, and the organization has distributed more than $120 million in research grants over the past eight years.

Milken was not Holden’s only high-profile patient. Last year, L.A. business leader Louis Warschaw was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Warschaw and his wife, Carmen, longtime supporters of Cedars-Sinai, decided, along with their family, to endow a chair for prostate cancer at the hospital. The couple founded a fundraising group and planned a black-tie gala to launch the project. Tragically, Louis’ prostate cancer accelerated so quickly that he died before he could see the dinner come to fruition. But Carmen, a force in Democratic politics, a former chair of The Jewish Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Committee and a patron of the arts, pursued the dream.

At a March 10 Skirball Cultural Center event underwritten by Metropolitan West Financial, Warschaw announced that the group had raised $3.1 million in two-and-a-half short months.

Since the event, more commitments have been received, bringing the total to almost $7 million, according to Warschaw. "It’s really been booming, and I’m just thrilled," she said. "We’ll continue to work with Cedars to raise money and awareness."

The funds will support Cedars-Sinai’s new Prostate Cancer Center, which opened last October with Holden as its medical director. Holden recruited as research director Dr. David B. Agus, who had attracted the attention of CaP CURE for his work analyzing the molecular changes that accelerate prostate tumor growth.

The Prostate Cancer Center aims not only to provide cutting-edge treatment for the disease, but to spur the development of new therapies for prostate cancer.

In the Prostate Cancer Center’s state-of-the-art laboratory, researchers perform translational research by testing experimental treatments on rats that have been injected or implanted with human prostate cancer tumors. The hospital will also conduct clinical trials of therapies that have already shown promise in the laboratory.

The Prostate Cancer Center’s model breaks with traditional research in that it encourages collaboration and sharing of data with other institutions, rather than the hoarding of information sometimes characteristic of the scientific community. With sophisticated equipment, doctors and researchers at Cedars-Sinai are hooked up to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, and the University of California at San Francisco, enabling teleconferencing and even the transmission of X-rays and slides from one location to another.

"We are not trying to recreate a UCLA or a Sloan-Kettering. We are trying to serve as a facilitator, to allow rapid development of therapeutics, wherever they are developed," says Agus.

In addition, the Prostate Cancer Center cooperates with pharmaceutical companies to test the effectiveness of potential new cancer therapies. Some frown on the approach of embracing this industry, but Holden sees it as an asset. "When we started inviting the biotechnology people to our conferences, people would say, ‘Oh my God.’ It has kind of a taint of commercialism. We didn’t see it [that way]. What happened was, the people that were working in industry started meeting the people who were working in academics, and they developed relationships."

The Skirball fundraising event certainly demonstrated an approach based on relationships. Entertainment was provided by Tracey Ullman, whose husband received care from Holden. And emcees Connie Chung and Maury Povich credited their involvement to their admiration for Agus, who happens to be their son-in-law.

Agus says an "explosion of data and technology" has made this an exciting time in cancer research. The sequencing of the human genome, together with the technology to use this data, he says, are "comparable to the significance of creation of the microprocessor for the computer science industry."

One promising direction, called gene chip analysis, enables doctors to genetically examine tumor tissue to see which genes are active, giving them what Holden calls "a molecular signature of an individual’s cancer."

"Cancer is not the same every time. One person’s cancer is dramatically different from another person’s cancer. Yet we can only treat them all the same," he says. Because most men will get prostate cancer if they live long enough, he says, the challenge is to determine whether an individual’s cancer is aggressive or slow-growing.

Certain hormones, like testosterone, fuel the growth of prostate cancer tumors, so treatments may involve measures designed to halt hormone production. But at critical stages in the disease’s progress, the tumor changes, so that it grows even in the absence of hormones. The goal, Holden explains, is to understand how this change occurs so that it can eventually be reversed or prevented.

He sees prevention as an exciting direction in prostate cancer research. "There’s a lot of evidence based on diet, nutrition and all of these areas that [indicates] these are tremendously important factors…. One of the beauties of these models [is that] we can take animals and feed them [a promising substance, such as] Vitamin E and see what happens to the tumors, and what things we can do to prevent them from occurring."

In the meantime, new treatments give patients more options than ever before. For example, Cedars now offers laparoscopic surgery for prostate cancer, although, Holden cautions, the still-experimental procedure is too new for doctors to know whether it truly yields fewer long-term side effects than conventional surgery. He suspects that, with time and technical advances, it will eventually prove to be a viable alternative. Another novel procedure now in clinical trials, ablation therapy, uses heat to destroy prostate tumors. Still other procedures utilize cryogenics (freezing) and microwave technology.

Fittingly, as someone committed to collaborative endeavors, Holden uses baseball rather than battle as an analogy to describe currently available prostate cancer treatments. "I don’t think any of them is a home run at this point, but there’s lots of singles. I just say we’ve got a lot of men on base. And that’s good. Because in the beginning, we didn’t have anyone in the batter’s box."