Tuesday, May 23
It’s a CBS kind of night, over at the JFS gala. The Jewish Family Service annual fundraising dinner honors three community leaders this year, among them, CBS exec Deborah Barak. And keeping the evening all in the CBS family, this year’s masters of ceremonies are actors Rob Morrow and David Krumholtz, of the series “Numb3rs.”
5:30 p.m. Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Beverly Hills. R.S.V.P., (323) 761-8800, ext. 1220.
Wednesday, May 24
Opening this week is another exhibit that challenges us not only to never forget, but also to act. “Rwanda/After, Darfur/Now: Photographs by Michal Ronnen Safdie” presents some 40 black and white and color images taken in 2002 post-genocide Rwanda and in a 2004 Chadian Bahai refugee camp, where exiles of the Darfurian genocide take shelter. The exhibition is presented by the Skirball Cultural Center, with a number of related programs scheduled during its run.
$6-$8 (general), Free (members, students and children under 12). 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500.
Thursday, May 25
We’d hoped “paloozas” would die with the ’90s, but here’s one worth checking out, despite the hackneyed name. “Identi-palooza” is a five-week comedy series at the Skirball, in which top comedians and writers present their unique points of view. It begins tonight with Beth Lapides, Kevin Rooney, Cindy Chupack, Rob Cohen and Stephen Glass commenting on “The Ish Factor.”
Ages 21+. 8 p.m. $8-$15. 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (866) 468-3399.
Friday, May 26
When Mark Goffman’s grandfather’s wife of 50 years passed away, he suffered a heart attack, a stroke and then fell into a coma. As he lay in the hospital bed, he was visited by the cellist in his quartet, who came to say a private goodbye, and confessed her love for him, which she had kept secret all the years he’d been married. He awoke within minutes of her visit, and married her soon after. The story inspired Goffman, a television writer and producer, to write a play incorporating his grandfather’s story, as well as his own stories of dating and falling in love. “Me Too” runs through June 25.
8 p.m. (Thurs-Sat.), 7 p.m. (Sun.). $23-$28. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. R.S.V.P., (323) 960-7745. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>
‘Wagging’: My Story as Gay Jewish Male
Choirs Rock the House
Temple Emanuel was rockin’ recently when it hosted the Temple Bryant A.M.E. Church Choir that performed with Emanuel’s choir at a Shabbat Shira Service. The entire congregation and guests were on their feet singing and clapping in joyous rapture.
Behind the Camera
The Peninsula Beverly Hills was filled with aspiring future filmmakers at the Multicultural Motion Picture Association’s (MMPA) 13th annual Student Filmmakers Pre-Oscar Scholarship Luncheon. Actors, cinematographers, writers, and directors came together for the annual luncheon, to show support for the next Spielbergs and Hillers.
Seven students selected for their outstanding achievements, creative vision and technical talent received financial awards toward their tuition, certificates of merit and grants from film providers like FUJIFILMS and Eastman Kodak.
MMPA President Jarvee Hutcherson, said it was “an honor to pay recognition and award scholarships to a particularly fine group of up-and-coming filmmakers this year.”
The scholarship recipients include Vineet Dewan, Dwjuan F. Fox, Margaret C. Kerrison, Nathan D.T. Kitada, Anthony Sclafani Jr., Phyllis Toben and Ashley York.
Readers and Leaders
Third-graders from Maimonides Academy, Los Angeles, recently donated 48 Jester books and 24 Jester dolls to the Pediatric Hematology Oncology Unit of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The philanthropic youngsters read more than 19,000 pages for a penny a page during the one month Jester & Pharley’s Reading to Give campaign and collected additional funds, as well.
“I’m delighted by the incredible efforts of Maimonides Academy students to help ill children at Cedars-Sinai Hospital,” said Barbara Saltzman, executive director of The Jester & Pharley Phund. “Many people talk about how important it is to help others, but Maimonides students and their families have demonstrated what it really means to actually do something to help others, something that will make a difference for many years to come.”
A Big Step
Beit T’Shuvah held its annual “Steps to Recovery” gala dinner at the Beverly Hilton Hotel recently.
Young and In Charge
A new generation of Jewish leaders is taking the reins of philanthropy and making a difference through its efforts. Young WIZO, an organization dedicated to helping battered women and children in Israel, has brought together young Jewish professionals and business leaders across the L.A. area.
Bernard Hoffman, Lisa Gild, Joyce Azria-Nasir, Sabrina Wizman and many others have found that focusing their energy on Jewish community leadership brings profound meaning and unequivocal fulfillment to their day-to-day lives.
Through participation in organizations like The Jewish Federation, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and Young WIZO, they are realizing their goals of helping to build a vibrant, thriving Jewish state.
If you are between the ages of 21-40 and would like to know more about upcoming events, contact Sabrina at Sabrina@mdpropertiesla.com or call (310) 278-8287.
Philanthropist Suzanne Gottlieb, and her company, Greenview Inc., gave the Greater Los Angeles Zoo $2 million for expansion and renovation of zoo. Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Zoo officially christened the zoo’s veterinary facility the Gottlieb Animal Health and Conservation Center, in honor of Gottlieb and her late husband, attorney Robert J. Gottlieb. With Gottlieb, is GLAZA trustee and animal activist Betty White.
Friends in Israel
Women’s Alliance for Israel (WAIPAC) welcomed Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) and Consul-General of Israel Ehud Danoch at a reception hosted by Michal and Danny Alpert and Barbara and Jeff Scapa. WAIPAC is a bipartisan pro-Israel political action committee that supports candidates for and members of Congress who believe that Israel, an important ally and friend, deserves American friendship and support.
I shared a ballroom last Saturday night with a group of people whose lives could easily inspire nothing more than pity. Like me, they were attending the annual gala of Etta Israel Center, a Los Angeles-based organization that provides outreach and services to developmentally disabled Jews and their families.
Etta Israel is one of those rare organizations that attracts support — and offers support — across denominational boundaries. So the lobby of the California Science Center, decked out for a private evening affair, was host to bearded, black-hatted rabbis and smooth-shaven, kippah-less types. There were women in cocktail dresses and women in fashionable shaidels. UCLA Hillel Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, whose politics veer left, ran into an old acquaintance, Rabbi Baruch Kupfer, executive director of Maimonides Academy of Los Angeles, and the two men joked about who was going to swing whom over to his side.
Also among these Jewish leaders and financial supporters of Etta Israel were dozens of the young adults and children whose named and unnamed challenges — cerebral palsy, autism, Down’s syndrome and others — are often used as reasons to exclude them from many things that society has to offer, like an education.
The Etta Israel Center runs programs to teach Judaism to developmentally challenged children and young adults, as well as group homes for adults (its third home will open in the Valley in June) and a popular summer day camp. It helps Jewish day schools meet the learning needs of all its students, and has trained thousands of teachers in how to help all children learn through its Schools Attuned programs.
One of the young women in its girls yeshiva program saw me taking notes and approached me.
“She wants to show you her writing,” said the educator I was speaking with. The young woman couldn’t form words, but offered me her notepad, on which she had written several rows of wavy lines. It was just lines — no words, no letters — but it was her writing. She beamed and blushed at once.
In another context, the moment could have inspired pity. But pity is cheap. Like guilt, it’s only useful as a tool to pick the locks on our hearts, to compel us to change, to act.
Surrounded by friends from her class, helped along by the educator and the people at Etta Israel — as well as by parents, like the dozens of committed ones in the room — the young woman struck me as confident and fortunate. She found herself embraced by people who wouldn’t settle for mere pity.
One of the evening’s honorees was Valerie Vanaman, an attorney whose relentless advocacy on behalf of special-needs education has improved the lives of thousands of children and their families.
“Every child is entitled to receive an appropriate educational program,” Vanaman said during her award acceptance speech. It is such a simple idea, but like most simple ideas, it takes people of great intellect to conceive it and men and women of iron will to implement it.
Conversely, the idea that people with mental, emotional or physical disabilities might be barred from partaking in a public or Jewish education is, no matter how cool and rational it may seem, the fruit of simple minds, and it takes no more ability than the slack acceptance of the status quo to realize it. Vanaman railed against challenges to opportunity and funding of special-needs students at the state level, and urged parents to contact their representatives and State Board of Education Superintendent Jack O’Connell to protest the decrease in services. “Lawyers can’t save the day,” she said. “Only parents can save the day.”
The other honoree was David Suissa, the founder of Suissa/Miller Advertising and publisher of Olam magazine. During his speech, Suissa recounted the story of Etta Israel, a teacher who, after retirement, took it upon herself to teach developmentally disabled children at Beth Jacob Congregation for 20 years. Her experiences led Dr. Michael Held to create a center in her name. Again, it was a simple idea: instead of offering pity, offer parity. Extend the beauty and benefits of Jewish learning to those most likely to be left behind. Focus teachers on the students’ abilities, working through — and around — their deficits.
The organization, which has largely focused on the Orthodox community, is looking to be of service to non-Orthodox day schools, as well. Held wants more schools to emulate the model of schools like the CSUN-affiliated CHIME Charter schools in Woodland Hills, where enrollment is 80 percent “typical” children and 20 percent special-needs children. Why can’t the Jewish community, he asked, support a Jewish high school following that model?
A simple, brilliant idea — waiting for people of iron will to make it a reality.
For more information, go to www.etta.org
Hope and Faith
Childrens Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) honored L.A. resident Doron Kochavi, for his participation in the Bristol-Myers Squibb Tour of Hope across America, headed by Lance Armstrong.
Patients in the Childrens Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases at CHLA sent off Kochavi with well wishes as he left to join a team of 24 cancer survivors, advocates, caregivers, physicians and researchers selected to ride 3,300 miles from San Diego to Washington, D.C.
The team of avid cyclists began their trip Sept. 29 — to share their experiences and inspire those they met along the way to learn more about cancer research.
Seven-time Tour de France winner Armstrong led the team at the kickoff in San Diego and into Washington, D.C., as well as during other points along the route.
Kochavi’s son, Ari, is alive today because of the treatment for a brain tumor he received at CHLA. When asked about the significance of the holidays and what is he reflecting on Kochavi said prior to leaving, “The Jewish holiday is for laymen. It is a message of hope. You hope that the new year will bring all the good you hope for … health, family, a good life…. This year I will spend the new year on the road. I have the opportunity to send a message of hope across the country. We will be riding everywhere … there will be no religious boundaries and touch everyone north to south … rich to poor….. I get the chance to talk to millions of people through television, newspapers, etc. and deliver a message of hope for tomorrow.”
For more information, visit www.tourofhope.org.
The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles will award four new Jewish day school scholarships as a tribute to Mark Lainer, its chair from 2001 through 2004. The Mark Lainer Scholarships will provide assistance during the 2005 academic year to a deserving student with financial need at four local Jewish educational institutions where Lainer has played major leadership roles. These include Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School, Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School West and New Community Jewish High School, along with one recipient selected by the Bureau of Jewish Education.
The Foundation announced the scholarships at a gala dinner at the Regent Beverly Wilshire on Sept. 22 saluting Lainer’s dedication to The Foundation and the community.
“Mark’s energy and commitment are exemplary,” said foundation President and CEO Marvin I. Schotland. “We’re proud to honor him for both his outstanding guidance as immediate past chair of the foundation and for his passionate, dedicated service to the entire community.”
A leader in philanthropy and education, Lainer was also founding president of the Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School and has played important leadership roles in the Bureau of Jewish Education, The Jewish Federation, University of Judaism, Valley Beth Shalom, United Jewish Communities, Jewish Education Service of North America and The Jewish Journal.
It was a busy few days for attorney Andrew Friedman. L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa appointed him fire commissioner and the L.A. County Board of Supervisors nominated Friedman to serve as commissioner of the L.A. County Judicial Procedures Commission.
In introducing the new commissioner, Villaraigosa said, “I am pleased to appoint attorney Andrew Friedman, a good friend of mine, to the Fire Commission.” Villaraigosa then noted that Friedman served the city of Los Angeles for many years, including as a member of the Los Angeles Charter Commission and has been active in numerous community organizations, including being president of Congregation Bais Naftoli.
Friedman, whose 85-year-old father is a Holocaust survivor and escaped from Hungarian communism in 1956, told the crowd, “During these times of international terrorism and natural disasters it is important that we have a strong Fire Department. I will work on the commission to make sure that all Angelenos are properly served.”
His other board, the L.A. County Judicial Procedures Commission is in charge of recommending changes in the judicial system that will result in a more efficient judicial administration. It works in cooperation with the courts and the California Judicial Council on issues of mutual interest.
Rina Bar-Tal, Israel Women’s Network (IWN) chair, and Avital Shachar, executive director of IWN, were back in Los Angeles recently sharing IWN accomplishments during the past year and discussing the challenges still ahead. Participants attended a reception and movie screening of “Two States of Mind.”
For more information on Israel Women’s Network, contact Rivka Dori at (818) 535-0533.
ACLU GARDEN PARTY
The weather cooperated Sunday afternoon, delivering a magnificent day for the ACLU’s annual garden party at the home of Betty and Stanley Sheinbaum in Brentwood. Almost 700 people turned out to participate in the festivities as the ACLU honored Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.); actress Alexandra Paul; Maria Elena Durazo; Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union, Local 11, president, and, in memoriam, her husband, Miguel Contreras, for their work in social activism and preserving civil liberties.
Supporters and celebrities including Edward Asner and Mike Farrell turned out to nibble on stuffed grape leaves and other assorted goodies as they watched L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa present the award to Durazo and reaffirm his commitment to the ACLU.
“I am proud to have been a part of the ACLU; and I call upon all of you and your friends to be willing to stand up and continue the fight no matter what the consequences,” Villaraigosa said.
West Hollywood Mayor Abbe Land and husband, Martin, noted, “There has never been a more important time to support the ACLU and fight to protect civil liberties with a president and Congress trying to take them away from us.”
In her introduction of Villraigosa, Ramona Ripston, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California (ACLU/SC), said. “It is a true privilege to honor this year’s recipients. The ACLU/SC has always fought for the freedom to express one’s beliefs and bring issues of social disparity to the forefront of our awareness. Sen. Boxer, Alexandra Paul, Maria Elena Durazo and Miguel Contreras have all demonstrated an enormous commitment to stand up for what is right and we are proud to honor them.”
The ACLU/SC presented Birdie Reed with the Chapter Activist of the Year Award. Reed has been an ACLU/SC member since the 1960s and is currently the president of the Orange County chapter.
For information on the ACLU, call (213) 977-9500.
A Golden Volunteer
Nearly 400 community leaders, family members and friends attended a gala dinner on Sunday, Sept. 18, at the Beverly Hills Hotel honoring Ruth Shuken for her more than 50 years of volunteer service with Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services, one of the nation’s leading child welfare agencies.
Shuken, who celebrated her 95th birthday this past July 4, serves as chair of Vista’s Board of Ambassadors, and has been a member of the agency’s board of directors for more than 35 years — she is currently a vice chair of the board. She also serves on Vista’s Legislative Advocacy Committee and is a 40-plus year member of the Associates, the organization’s oldest support group, which sponsored the event.
The Look of Langer
Architect Naomi Langer was recently feted for her work on the new look of B’nai David-Judea Congregation. The award, which was given by Faith and Forum magazine and the Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architecture, honors design achievements for new, renovated and restored religious buildings. B’nai David-Judea is unique in that it is housed in the building that was originally the art deco Stadium Theater built in 1931. A planned renovation was to provide equal access and safety for children in an inspirational ambience.
“The challenge entailed infusing life and spirituality into the sanctuary while respecting the historical building,” Langer said.
Renovations included: linking the spaces to a hydraulic elevator, adding accessible bathrooms to the lobby, which was extended, existing bathrooms, offices, banquet hall and lobby were refurbished.
The exterior was repainted a five-color palette and lined in Jerusalem stone. Exterior doors were retrofitted with translucent glass and windows were replaced. Original Art Deco details were maintained to maximize natural light. Langer said the design of the sanctuary involved three main components: introducing natural light, dividing the space into two equal parts according to Orthodox tradition and adding handicapped accessibility.
Geiderman Gives Back
Dr. Joel M. Geiderman, co-chair of the emergency department at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, has been appointed by President Bush as vice chairman of the Holocaust Memorial Council, the governing body of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Geiderman has served as a council member since 2002, and was appointed to the museum’s executive committee in 2003.
“Dr. Geiderman’s appointment as vice chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council reflects his deep commitment as both a physician and son of a Holocaust survivor to the art and science of healing — a mission that both Cedars-Sinai and the Holocaust Memorial Museum share,” said Thomas M. Priselac, president and CEO of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
As the child of a Holocaust survivor, Geiderman decided early in life that he wanted to go into a profession where he could help people, and chose a career in medicine.
“I have said that the most formative experience in my life occurred during a period that spanned six to 12 years before I was born,” Geiderman said. “Ever since I became aware of and understood what happened during the Holocaust, I resolved that I needed to do something meaningful with my life.”
Book on Nimmer
David Nimmer, lawyer and long time Bureau of Jewish Education board member, was appointed the new chair of the the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles Sept. 15.
Serving of counsel to Irell & Manella LLP in Los Angeles, he was a visiting professor at UCLA Law School and distinguished scholar at the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology. He has published a series of articles on the subject of U.S. and international copyright.
Joshua Holo was recently appointed to the faculty of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) as the director of the Louchheim School of Judaic studies, collaborating with USC to coordinate the undergraduate Jewish Studies curriculum. He has also been appointed as associate professor of Jewish history and is currently working on his first book, “Byzantine Jewry in the Mediterranean Economy,” forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.
Sharon Gillerman is newly appointed director of Edgar F. Magnin School of Graduate Studies at HUC-JIR, where she also serves as associate professor of Jewish history. She received her doctorate in history from UCLA and wrote her dissertation on the crisis of the Jewish family during the Weimar Republic.
Her other research interests include gender and Jewish history, the history of the family, and the history of Berlin. She has published articles on the German Jewish family, German Jewish history, the History of Holocaust education, and Holocaust memorialization. She is currently completing a book titled, “Germans Into Jews: Remaking the Jewish Social Body in the Weimar Republic.” The professor has also taught at Brandeis University, UCLA, Harvard and the University of Hamburg.
Matt Albert was recently appointed regional director of admissions and recruitment at HUC-JIR. Albert received his doctorate from UCLA, a master’s in political science from Columbia University and a bachelor of arts in political science from UCSD. He spent nine years at Milken Community High School in, where he most recently served as assistant principal.
7 Days in the Arts
Our most beloved alien alights on planet Earth once again as Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.: The Extraterrestrial” screens under the stars tonight in Pasadena. It’s part of Old Pasadena Management District’s free “Cinema in the Park” series, which benefits the cancer relief fund, “Cinema Fighting Cancer.” Picnicking is encouraged, although no alcohol is permitted. Bring the kids.
7 p.m. Free (but tickets are required). Tickets distributed through Heritage Wine Company, 155 N. Raymond Ave. Screening at Levitt Pavilion, Memorial Park, corner of Walnut and Raymond, Old Pasadena. ” target=”_blank”>www.amazon.com. $18.18.
7 Days in The Arts
Jewish Home Girls
Jewish Home for the Aging (JHA) held its fifth annual Reflections: Celebration of Life gala at the Hollywood and Highland ballroom on Sept. 8, exactly seven months after breaking ground for its new Residential Medical Center at the Grancell Village campus. More than 800 supporters attended the event, which honored Joyce Eisenberg-Keefer with JHA’s Lifetime Achievement Award and recognized Adele Morse Platt as the Reflections honoree. Both women are major donors helping JHA grow to meet its pervasive need for more beds.
Eisenberg-Keefer’s award, presented by last year’s recipient Paul Goldenberg, follows her decades-long commitment to JHA. In 1990, JHA’s former Victory Village campus was renamed the Eisenberg Village in recognition of Eisenberg-Keefer and her late husband, Ben Eisenberg. Recently, Eisenberg-Keefer purchased private homes for JHA’s Neighborhood Homes program for independent senior living.
“I just love going out to visit the gals at the Home. I might be there soon,” she joked.
A donation from Platt and her husband, Conrad, helped JHA to begin construction on its Residential Medical Center on the Grancell Village campus. An entire floor of the center will bear the couple’s name.
Platt has been a supporter of JHA for 25 years, but got more involved when she attended a luncheon five years ago and heard former JHA Chair Earl Greinetz talk about the growing need for elder care.
“The statistics caught me,” Platt told The Journal. “They have less beds per capita than any other major city. There’s a very urgent need as the population gets older.”
JHA is the only Jewish long-term care facility in Los Angeles, and its current wait list for a bed is at 350 people, averaging a two- to three-year wait, JHA CEO Molly Forrest said.
Hamotzi was led by Eisenberg Village resident David Feldman, who said that when researching where he wanted to retire with his wife “it turned out to be a no-brainer.”
The evening’s entertainment was provided by Calabasas-based comedian Howie Mandel, who entertained the crowd with stand-up and a sneak peek at hidden-camera clips from his upcoming Bravo series “Hidden Howie.” – Adam Wills, Associate Editor
Mending Broken Hearts
Dr. Eli Milgalter is hoping to win over the Palestinians, one heart at a time.
Milgalter leads a mixed Israeli-Arab team of heart surgeons at Hadassah Hospital who provide long-term treatment to Palestinian babies with congenital heart defects. With his partner, Dr. Bishar Marzooka, Milgalter has given hope – and his cellphone number – to hundreds of families who would otherwise be unable to afford such services.
Hadassah Southern California hosted Milgalter, who met with members at private receptions in Encino on Aug. 30 and in Beverly Hills on Aug. 31 to provide a firsthand account of the lifesaving program.
Milgalter said that congenital heart defect problems are a decreasing phenomenon in Israel due to intrauterine screenings, but they’re still prevalent in Israel’s Arab communities and in the West Bank and Gaza.
“The Palestinian Authority neglected children for a long time,” he said. “There was no organized effort to identify the children with [heart] problems and get them treatment.”
And while the West Bank-based Marzooka has difficulty getting to work sometimes due to the army checkpoint, the work they do together is harmonious.
“From the first day, we didn’t have to say one unnecessary word. We think alike, and we act alike … it’s like we’ve been working together for 20 years,” Milgalter said in a “60 Minutes” interview.
And while the Palestinian Authority hasn’t shown any interest in the project, Milgalter is proud that his team embodies the hospital’s philosophy of equal treatment for all patients, Jews and Arabs alike.
“Everyone deserves treatment, no matter where they come from,” he said. – AW
Sugarman Says Goodbye
Rabbi Marvin Sugarman, who was rabbi emeritus at Congregation Shaarey Zedek in the Valley, retired to Israel last month after 44 years of rabbinical service.
Sugarman started at Shaarey Zedek in 1967. He and his wife, Avis, are credited with creating the family-like atmosphere at Shaarey Zedek, the largest Orthodox congregation in the Valley.
Sugarman’s motto in life is, “I am a servant of the Almighty,” and all of his sermons related to the moral duties and responsibilities of man to his fellow man and to God.
Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFS) installed Rabbi Elliot Dorff as its new president on Aug. 9. Dorff will serve a two-year term as the head of the agency’s board of directors. Dorff, who is rector and distinguished professor of philosophy at the University of Judaism, has been a longtime board member who chaired the board’s ethics committee for seven years.
“My father was president of Jewish Family and Children’s Services in Milwaukee,” Dorff said. “I feel the sense of m’dor l’dor, from generation to generation, in taking on this new role in the community.”
The new board members at JFS are Debi Graboff, Marc Graboff, Fern Heyman, Dr. Morgan Hakimi, Abby Leibman and Laurie Nussbaum. The new vice presidents are Phyllis Cohen, Paul Nussbaum, Shana Passman Mark Tobin and Marcie Zelikow. Randolph A. Magnin is the new treasurer.
JFS’ programs counsel troubled families and individuals, support the elderly, house the homeless and abused and feed the hungry. It is the oldest and largest social service agency in Los Angeles.
Mission to Israel
StandWithUs hosted its third mission to Israel in August, where mission members met with government officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Minister Natan Sharansky. They also met with the head of Palestinian Media Watch Itamar Marcus, Jerusalem Post editor Caroline Glick and Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, and they visited the injured at Schneider Hospital, Hadassah Hospital, and Tel Hashomer Rehabilitation Center.
StandWithUs reports: “The best news is that the streets, markets, hotels and theaters [in Israel] are bristling with people – tourism is at an all-time high!”
In August screenwriter Robert Avrech and his wife, Karen, opened their house to a developmentally disabled teen, Coby Van Houter, his teenage peer David Kleid and their counselors, Jason Lieberman and Aaron Brody during a four-week Yachad tour. Yachad is an organization helps Jewish individuals with disabilities from all over America integrate into the Jewish community by organizing tours, social groups and Shabbatons for them.
Robert and Karen wrote about their experience of hosting the teens in their blog, Seraphic Secret, and told how they momentarily found some solace from the grief they suffer after losing their 22-year-old son, Ariel, to pulmonary fibrosis in July 2003.
“Coby and David [two of the teens] shyly asked if it would be OK if I took their picture with the Emmy I won a few years ago for ‘The Devil’s Arithmetic,'” Avrech wrote. “They grinned and chuckled as I took the picture and instructed them to thank the academy…. After the Yachad group left for their Shabbos program, Karen and I felt hollowed out. Ariel’s absence was more pronounced than ever before…. At the end of the weekend, after our guests went home, we experienced the emptiness of the house in a new and raw way.”
For more information about Yachad go to www.njcd.org/yachad. To read Seraphic Secret, visit www.seraphicpress.blogspot.com.
University Synagogue’s Home
University Synagogue, a Reconstructionist congregation, recently moved into a new 52,000-square-foot building at Michelson Drive and Harvard Avenue in Irvine. Before that, the congregation had been sharing space with the United Church of Christ on Alton Parkway.
The new building was purchased in 2000. It was originally an ice skating rink, but then its design was modified by the architectural firm of Carter and Burgess, Costa Mesa. Now it has a 486-seat sanctuary, a social hall that can accommodate 700 seats, a large kitchen, eight classrooms for the religious school, children’s play yard, office space, a gift shop, lounges and more.
Construction on the building began last year. The new synagogue opened on Aug. 22 with a three-mile Torah procession involving 500 congregants.
“Our dream of a home of our own has finally come true, and we owe heartfelt thanks to the many individuals whose efforts and financial support have made this possible,” said University Synagogue’s Rabbi Arnold Rachlis. “People are attracted to University Synagogue because it is a warm and welcoming community that focuses on inclusiveness and accepts intermarried couples. Our views about God are diverse, but the emphasis is that God is the spirit within us.”
For more information visit www.universitysynagogue.org.
Barbara Balser, national chair of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the first woman to lead the organization in its 91-year history, was the special guest speaker at its 10th annual Deborah Awards Gala on May 20 at the Beverly Hills Hotel. The dinner honored Christina Sanchez Camino, director of public affairs KMEX34/Univision; LaVerne Davis, vice president external affairs, Verizon; Sarita Hasson Fields, president of Star Staffing Services, Inc; and Kim Ng, vice president and assistant general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Deborah Award is named for the prophetess Deborah, who in the Book of Judges was known for her courage, wisdom and leadership. The awards are presented to women whose leadership in their professions and philanthropic and civic contributions exemplify the qualities of Deborah and the ideals of the ADL.
Before the dinner, guests were invited to look at “Faces of L.A.,” a beautiful collection of photographs of daily life in Los Angeles, which were taken by students of the ADL’s Dream Dialogue youth program, which brings together a diverse group of young people from different ethnic groups to develop teen leadership skills in monthly meetings. Two Dream Dialogue ambassadors, Shirley Eshaghian and Sina Grace, spoke to the crowd about how much the program meant to them.
Summing up the sentiments of the evening and the organization was singer-songwriter Daniel Nahmod, who played guitar and sang his original composition, “No Place for Hate.”
A Gala for Graboffs
Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFS) celebrated its 150th anniversary on May 23 with a gala at the Regent Beverly Wilshire. At the dinner, Marc Graboff, the executive vice president, NBC West Coast, and Debi Graboff, a family attorney at the Law Offices of Rosaline L. Zuckerman, received the Spirit of Humanity Award, and Wells Fargo received the first Anita and Stanley Hirsch Award. All the awardees have been significant supporters of JFS. Marc Graboff is working to marshal the resources of Hollywood in support of JFS’ vital community services, and Debi has worked with JFS’ Divorce Mediation Project, where she helped mediate divorce cases in conjunction with a JFS family therapist. Wells Fargo has underwritten JFS dinners since 2001, and they also underwrote JFS’ “Still Listening: 150 years of Jewish Family Service” — an exhibition of art and historical artifacts that was presented at the Skirball Center earlier this year.
“Access Hollywood’s” Pat O’Brien was the emcee, while singer Barry Manilow serenaded the crowd. Jeff Zucker, president of NBC Entertainment, Nancy Tellem, president of CBS Entertainment and Lloyd Braun were honorary event co-chairs. The event chairs were Paul and Laurie Nussbaum.
Dr. Myron F. Goodman, the head of molecular and computational biology in the Departments of Biological Sciences and Chemistry at USC, and Dr. Michael Teitell, the head of the division of pediatric and developmental pathology at the UCLA School of Medicine received the Elliot Osserman Award for Distinguished Service in Support of Cancer Research from the Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) in May. The ICRF underwrites promising cancer research.
Also in May, at Cal State Los Angeles, education professor Martin G. Brodwin and history professor Stanley M. Burstein received the $20,000 systemwide CSU Wang Family Excellence Award, which honors members of the CSU faculty who have distinguished themselves by exemplary contributions and achievements.
96 and Still Kicking
In May, Rebecca Matloff, 96, was inducted as a founding fellow of the One-Hundred-Twenty Society of the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT). The honor was conferred by professor Joseph S. Bodenheimer JCT president, in a ceremony chaired by Frances and Dr. Stephen Schloss, who are also co-chairs of the Western States Region of the Friends of JCT. The JCT is a world-class center for the training of Israeli engineers in high tech fields, as well as managerial accounting and management.
A Resonant Voice
The first thing one notices about Theodore Bikel is the voice.
As he settles on a divan in his book-filled West Hollywood apartment, chatting about his upcoming 80th birthday gala, it’s not so much his strapping frame, white beard or sharp blue eyes that make an impression as his voice.
This is the resonant baritone that has sung countless folk music concerts, recorded 27 albums in 21 languages and performed in approximately 35 films. This is the actor who has appeared more than 2,000 times as the milkman Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” besides playing Captain Von Trapp in Broadway’s “The Sound of Music” and opposite Bogie in the film, “The African Queen.”
Bikel has also used that commanding voice to speak out for diverse causes, serving on the boards of Amnesty International and the American Jewish Congress and as a proponent of Yiddish, among other activities.
“I bridge worlds,” he says. It’s an appropriate endeavor for an artist who was born in Vienna, raised in Palestine, educated at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and has summer performances scheduled from Connecticut to Krakow.
On June 6, his destination will be the Wadsworth Theater in Brentwood, where celebrities will fete him in a tribute, “Theo!!! The First 80 Years,” to benefit Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center. Performers such as Leonard Nimoy, Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary and comedian Larry Miller will laud Bikel’s distinctive Jewish voice and his status as perhaps the last of a unique breed of Jewish entertainer. &’9;
They point out that Bikel performs in Yiddish and Hebrew as well as English; that he is as comfortable in the Jewish theater as on the non-Jewish stage; and that he declined to change his name or downplay his heritage to land movie roles, although many others of his generation did so.
“Theo is iconic in that he broke through in Hollywood while remaining a visible Jew,” Miller says. “He’s done very mainstream things as the exact person he is: an active, committed Jew.”
Actor-director Nimoy, a Yiddishist whose parents were raised in the shtetl, has been a fan since discovering Bikel’s recordings in the 1950s.
“I listened to them over and over again, because his music just struck a chord,” he says. “His voice captured a flavor that meant something to me; it made me feel like I knew who he was, because he presents himself in a way that evokes such credibility and authenticity. He’s always been that kind of performer; he’s filled that niche for us, connecting us to tradition, to roots.”
Bikel says that he is connected to roots in a direct fashion. As a boy, he visited the Ukrainian town where his grandfather kept an inn, battled anti-Semitism and conducted Tevye-like tiffs with God.
“He read forbidden books,” the artist says, his voice now a whisper. “There was a whole period when he refused to go to synagogue because he felt that God did not treat his people right. More than a year later, his family was stunned to find him with his prayer shawl on, davening; without breaking stride he shrugged and said, ‘Maybe this will help.'”
It’s no wonder Bikel commands such authority when his Tevye proclaims: “Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof.”
Yet when asked if his 80th makes him think of words like “legacy,” he initially replies with a joke.
“This milestone makes you instantly wise,” he says. But then he reflects that he has, in fact, “spent a lifetime guarding a legacy, the Jewish legacy specifically. And because I am a universalist, I’ve also tried to encourage others to guard and cultivate their legacy. I call this my ‘anti-Phoenix’ crusade; many people these days seem to feel their birth was like the birth of the mythological Phoenix, that suddenly one day they sprang up without memory or parentage. But I feel you must explore your roots in the past in order to pinpoint your place in the present, and to ensure that you have a future.”
“Fiddler” has helped do just that for diverse viewers — among them the Asian Amerians who surrounded Bikel after a Hawaii performance.
“Many of them had tears in their eyes,” he says, quietly. “I asked what the play meant to them. And they said, ‘Tradition.'”
If preserving Jewish legacy has been one of his missions, Bikel was born for the role. He shares a May 2 birthday with his namesake, Theodor Herzl; throughout his childhood, a picture of the Zionist leader hung over his bed.
Bikel’s own father was a Hebraist and Yiddishist who taught him Jewish songs and “insisted that a Hebrew teacher come to the house, even before I was sent to grade school.”
When his family fled the Nazis to Palestine in 1938, the idealistic Bikel dutifully set off to study agriculture, although he says, “I was lousy. I would stand around on heaps of manure and sing songs about the beauty of the work I wasn’t doing.”
When kibbutz leaders sent him to a theater seminar, hoping he would return to stage pageants, he instead fell so in love with the stage that he left to join Israel’s Habimah Theater. After he finished polishing his craft in London, Sir Laurence Olivier hired him to star opposite Vivien Leigh in a 1949 production of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
Over the years, he says, he was not so much a leading man as a character actor: “I’m able to change walks, gaits, faces, accents,” he explains. “I find that stimulating, because it’s the same attitude I have toward music: You don’t just sing one song, you sing many songs, in many different languages.”
Certainly he has been typecast, although “That is Hollywood’s fault,” he says, his baritone rumbling. People would say, ‘To play the Russian, get Bikel…. the Jew — get Bikel.’ It’s been an uphill fight, but it was their problem, not mine. Of course my agents had a problem. They had to fight with producers who said, ‘No, he’s not right for this role.'”
Bikel was thrilled when director Stanley Kramer cast him in his 1958 film, “The Defiant Ones”: “I played an American Southerner, with no ethnicity attached, and for that I received an Academy Award nomination,” he says. “That puts the lie to anyone who says an actor can only do one thing.”
Despite the casting issues, Bikel never downplayed his Jewishness; for example, during the Soviet Jewry movement, he was among the most vocal of advocates, demonstrating at rallies and recording an album of underground refusenik songs.
Of course, he understands why actors might choose to remain in the Jewish “closet”: “But why should the Italian American let me know of his background, in the food that he eats and in the rhythms that he speaks, and I shouldn’t let people know who I am?” he asks. “Even if I assume that I am going to be discriminated against, I sleep better at night. I’m the man who sang Hebrew and Yiddish songs at Buckingham Palace,” he adds.
For his work onstage and off, Bikel has earned accolades. Artist-activist Yarrow, for one, considers Bikel a role model: “His commitment to tikkun olam, to repairing the world, is impressive, whether or not he’s doing it under the banner of being Jewish or as a citizen of the world,” Yarrow says.
Actor Edward Asner, who will also appear at the tribute, agrees: “Theo’s just had such an unbelievable history of good works and good causes.”
As for his advice to young performers who happen to be Jewish, Bikel emphasizes, “You don’t necessarily have to do the Jewish ‘thing’ in your work at all times, although you do it when it’s called for.”
He pauses, then raises his voice for the first time during the interview. “But you certainly have to do it in life — at least in my book. You have to be who you are.”
“Theo!!! The First 80 Years” will be held June 6, 5:30 p.m. at the Wadsworth Theater, 11310 Wilshire Blvd., Brentwood. $50-$250. For tickets, call (310) 229-0915.
Theodore Bikel Career Highlights:
1943: Joins Israel’s famed Habimah Theater as an apprentice actor; a year later, co-founds the Israeli Chamber Theatre, the “Cameri.”
1948: Graduates with honors from London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
1949: Stars as the second male lead, Mitch, opposite Vivien Leigh, in Sir Laurence Olivier’s landmark London production of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
1951: Plays a German officer in his first film, “The African Queen,” with Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn.
1956: Makes his concert debut in a folk song program at Carnegie Hall; helps found the Newport Folk Festival several years later.
1959: Receives an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Southern sheriff Max Muller in Stanley Kramer’s “The Defiant Ones,” about two escaped convicts, one white (Tony Curtis) and one black (Sidney Poitier).
1959: Creates the role of Captain Von Trapp opposite Mary Martin’s Maria in the original Broadway production of “The Sound of Music.”
1967: Debuts as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof” at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
1988: Wins a Los Angeles Emmy Award for his titular role in PBS’ “Harris Newmark’s Los Angeles,” about the 19th-century pioneer Jew. (Other Bikel TV roles over the years have included Lt. Worf’s adoptive father on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Henry Kissinger in “The Final Days,” a Holocaust survivor battling memories on “L.A. Law” and a space rabbi on “Babylon 5.”)
1994: Publishes “Theo: The Autobiography of Theodore Bikel,” (rereleased in 2002 by Universtiy of Wisconsin Press) recounting his life as an actor, activist, singer, guitarist, writer, lecturer and raconteur.
2002: Completes his 2,000th turn as Tevye on yet another national tour, which earns kudos for his restrained but poignant portrayal of Sholom Aleichem’s besieged shtetl Jew.
2004: Records two major works for the Milken Archive of American Jewish music, including narration for Ernst Toch’s “Cantata of the Bitter Herbs,” a concert work based on the Passover Hagaddah, and David Diamond’s “AHAVA — Brotherhood,” which celebrates the first Jews to arrive in America 350 years ago.
The Attack on Secularism
Who Wrote the bible?
At a luncheon recently sponsored by the Foundation for Jewish Education, Inc., which provides scholarships for unaffiliated needy children ages 5-13 to attend a Jewish day school, Rabbi Brian Schuldenfrei from Sinai Temple spoke on the topic “Who Wrote the Bible?” (From left) Myrtle G. Sitowitz, Rena Brooks, Schuldenfrei, Marlene Kreitenberg (founder) and Ester Spektor.
JEWISH HOME’S Addition
Jewish Home for the Aging (JHA) drew more than 300 dignitaries, contributors, board members and staff to a Feb. 8 groundbreaking ceremony in Reseda to launch the largest facility expansion in its 100-year history.
The Residential Medical Center, which will serve 249 frail elderly when completed, is part of a $72 million project to address the growing needs of the city’s graying Jewish population.
Designed by Perkins & Will, the medical center will anchor JHA’s Grancell Village campus with three interconnected buildings — the Brandman Research Institute, the Hazan Pavillion and the LaKretz-Black Tower. The center’s design will offer specialized medical and psychiatric care within a residential setting, which will include indoor and outdoor recreation areas, kosher kitchen and dining room facilities, as well as a computer center, library, deli, salon and spa.
“Our mothers and fathers will have a new place to call home,” said Earl Greinetz, JHA board chairman. “It is now our turn to provide for them.”
The Keeping the Promise capital campaign, chaired by Richard Ziman, has raised $51 million since 1999 to build new facilities, upgrade and replace existing buildings and expand JHA’s ability to serve the elderly.
Dr. Sol Hazan, who was introduced by Los Angeles Sephardic Home for the Aging President Rae Cohen, said that his contribution of the Hazan Pavillion was done in honor of his parents.
“You don’t have to be Sephardic to support the home,” Hazan said. “This is a community effort to raise the level of care for your family.”
Molly Forrest, the home’s CEO, introduced Brandman Research Institute sponsors Joyce and Saul Brandman; she alluded to the day’s Tu B’Shevat holiday in her remarks, saying, “Today, with your gifts and support, you have planted a tree of life.”
Saul Brandman, who named the institute in honor of his parents, recounted memories of the original Jewish Home, which he said he could see from his childhood home in Boyle Heights.
“Our association with the home is old and long,” Brandman said, “and I hope it goes on for a very long time.”
Just prior to the groundbreaking, Mort LaKretz, who co-sponsored the LaKretz-Black Tower with Stanley and Joyce Black, said, “I hope it makes a difference in the lives of your loved ones.”
Other participants included Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn, Councilman Dennis Zine, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Marilyn and Monty Hall and Janis Black Goldman. — Adam Wills, Associate Editor
TERROR AND IRAN
On Feb. 11, the 25th anniversary of the 1979 revolution in Iran, 700 Iranian Jews filled the ballroom of the Beverly Hills Hotel for Together Forever, an event that focused on the situation in Iran.
The event started with a film that traced the history of Iran from ancient times to the present. It was followed by a number of speeches by such personalities as author Kenneth Timmerman, talk show host Larry Elder and Shaul Bakhash, a visiting fellow from the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C.
Timmerman, a conservative reporter turned best-selling author, was part of a 1995 commission to assess the ballistic missile threat to the United States. The commission subsequently alerted the United States that Iran and Iraq were capable of producing weapons of mass destruction.
“In 1995, I set up a foundation for democracy in Iran, with half Iranians, half Americans on board, with the goal of bringing Congress more information about human rights abuses inside Iran,” Timmerman said.
“During the student uprising in 1999, within minutes we had the first photos out on the Internet of kids being thrown out from balconies and murdered,” he told The Journal. “That changed the way people reported on unrest inside Iran.”
In his speech, Timmerman said that Iranian Americans can play a role in bringing freedom to Iran, and that doing so will also bring an end to war and terror.
While Timmerman rejected any ideas of negotiation with Iran, Bakhash rejected the idea of military intervention in Iran.
“I think even Iranians who are not happy with their government will not welcome American military intervention in Iran,” he said.
Timmerman, whose approach was more hard line, said, “There is only one solution for terrorists, and that is to kill them. We can not allow terrorists to think that we are weak and we will not retaliate.” — Mojdeh Sionit, Contributing Writer
HARRISON FORD HONORED
Harrison Ford received B’nai B’rith International’s Distinguished Humanitarian Award Feb. 4 at a Beverly Hills Hotel dinner.
Ford was honored for his lifelong activism to educate the world about environmental conservation and his ongoing support of organizations that work to protect the environment and conserve resources around the globe.
“I am very proud to be a part of the efforts of B’nai B’rith, and am very grateful for this honor,” Ford said. “I am motivated to add my resources and capabilities to an aid organization that is strategically addressing the issues at hand.”
B’nai B’rith International President Joel S. Kaplan presented the award to Ford after a concert by Grammy-winning entertainer Judy Collins.
Funds from the event went to support B’nai B’rith International programs in California and around the world, including the Disaster Relief program, a global initiative that provides financial assistance to restore areas that have been affected by natural devastation, and the Environmental Awareness Program, which implements educational programs to enlighten communities about environmental protection.
AND THE AWARD GOES TO…
The real hospital, Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, honored a fictional one on Jan. 31 at the Director’s Guild of America.
Shaare Zedek honored the cast and crew of “ER” for raising the awareness of the importance of emergency medicine throughout the world.
The hospital ‘s world-famous dean of emergency medicine, Dr. Peter Rosen, presented the producers and cast with the award.
Waiters at the event wore hospital scrubs, and “ER” cast members Alex Kingston, Mekhi Phifer, Ming-Na and Maura Tierney were in attendance. Also there were Debra Appelbaum, widow of Dr. David Appelbaum, Shaare Zedek’s director of emergency medicine, who was murdered along with his daughter, Naava, in a Jerusalem terrorist attack.
Monica Rosenthal Horan, who plays Amy Barone on “Everybody Loves Raymond” paid tribute to Appelbaum, who had visited her in Los Angeles not long before his death.
“I was initially intimidated to meet this person, who was a famous doctor and a rabbi,” Horan said. “But he immediately put me at ease. He was an uncommon individual with a common touch.”
Honorary chairman of the event was Steven Spielberg, and the emcee was well known Israeli actor Mark Burstyn.
The evening finished with a concert by Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary fame. Yarrow had the “ER” cast members on stage to accompany him as he sang “Puff the Magic Dragon,” while the audience sang along.
Proceeds went to benefit the new Weinstock Family Department of Emergency Medicine at Shaare Zede, which is now under construction.
Meet the Parents
Tom Rothman, Fox Filmed Entertainment co-chair, honors his folks at Jewish Home for the Aging’s Anniversary Gala.
Fox Filmed Entertainment Chairman Tom Rothman is beaming. The fact that his studio recently ruled the weekend box office with its Steven Spielberg-Tom Cruise collaboration “Minority Report” might have been enough to put some spring in his step. But at the moment, he’s happy because he’s talking about his parents, Donald Rothman and Bette Davidson, both of whom will be honored alongside Marilyn and Monty Hall at Jewish Home for the Aging’s 90th Anniversary Gala celebration on July 9 at Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre.
“They were very socially conscious certainly before it became fashionable,” Rothman says. “Charity was a given in our home.”
Rothman’s father, Donald Rothman, was born the son of a traveling salesman in Baltimore in 1923. He entered Harvard Law School’s class of 1948 and became a trial lawyer who was named to the American College of Trial Lawyers. He fought racist real estate practices, founded the repertory theater Center Stage in Baltimore, which celebrates its 40th anniversary next year, and created a foundation to support the city’s public School for the Arts.
Rothman’s mother, Bette Davidson, earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology the same year that Tom Rothman was born. She later worked as a teacher at an inner-city Jesuit school while getting her master’s degree in education, started a cooperative nursery school, taught a middle-aged friend to read, helped a baby sitter attend nursing school and assisted students in getting scholarships.
“It never came in the sectarian way,” Rothman, 47, says of his parents’ Jewishness. “It was a question of humanity. My parents didn’t distinguish between Jewish causes and non-Jewish causes.”
Nevertheless, Tom Rothman’s Jewish upbringing propelled him far. He left Baltimore to attend Brown University, then taught English in Connecticut before going to Columbia Law School. He was headed for a career in his father’s footsteps as a trial lawyer when he got sidetracked into entertainment law.
“It was fascinating and fun,” Rothman recalls of his participation in the mid-1980s thriving independent film scene that included directors Spike Lee and Jim Jarmusch. Rothman produced some movies, then headed West in 1986 to work for Columbia and Samuel Goldwyn before arriving at 20th Century Fox in 1994.
Rothman rapidly ascended the ladder at Fox, rising from president of production to president of 20th Century Fox Film Group to co-chair of Fox Filmed Entertainment with Jim Gianopulos, as of July 2000.
During Rothman’s tenure, Fox delivered the mother of all gross-out comedies (“There’s Something About Mary”), spawned films that became international phenomena (“Titanic,” “Independence Day”), ushered in the recent big-budget superhero wave (“X-Men” and the upcoming “Daredevil”), released a slam-dunk remake of “Planet of the Apes” and distributed re-releases and new installments of a little franchise called “Star Wars.”
“We lived through the worst and the best,” Rothman says, referring to the $200 million co-production of “Titanic.” “It was the hardest production experience ever and the most satisfying.”
Rothman says he has mixed feelings about Hollywood’s Jews vocalizing their support for Israel. “Whether it’s vocal or not,” Rothman says, “I think it’s an individual decision, but I think that the public as a whole really doesn’t realize how strongly philanthropic the community is.”
The best part of his job is “being part of history. The privilege of working at a major studio, you’re a small part of film history. That’s a great experience and it’s exciting. It’s full of ups and downs. You get knocked to the canvas. But you also get to work with the level of creative people.”
Rothman, who with wife, Jessica Harper, has daughters, Elizabeth, 13, and Nora, 11, admits that he still looks back at his rise from law clerk to studio head with wonder “every day when I drive on the lot. I’m a lucky guy.”
For information on “Reflections: The 90th Anniversary of Jewish Home for the Aging,” with special guest appearances by Ray Romano and Harry Connick Jr., call (818) 774-3334.
Festival Welcomes Amigos, Haverim
University Synagogue paid tribute to the 30-year career of Rabbi Allen Freehling, on the occasion of the socially active rabbi’s retirement, with a gala at the Regent Beverly Wilshire.
“I will miss very much the way he pays attention to detail and to the needs of congregants. He knows everybody’s names,” said Cantor Jay Frailich, who has sung by Freehling’s side since 1974.
Janice Tytell, principal of University Synagogue’s religious school, said of the tireless Freehling, “He’s been a phenomenal supporter of everything. I’ve tried to do a lot in the religious school, and he’s been very supportive of a lot of innovations. I’m going to miss him.”
Rabbi Allen Freehling with “Friends” star David Schwimmer, who came with parents Paul and Arlene Schwimmer. The Schwimmers are among University Synagogue’s prominent congregants, who have also included real estate mogul Eli Broad and CBS Entertainment President Nancy Tellem. Photos by Todd Wawrychuk/Long.Photography Inc.
Calabasas High School freshman and Congregation Or Ami member Alex Student, left, joined Dr. Theodore G. Krontiris, executive vice president of medical and scientific affairs at City of Hope, at City of Hope’s 26th annual Bone Marrow Transplantation Reunion on April 19. Student celebrated the ongoing recovery of family friend and cancer survivor Andrea Klapova, for whom he raised $10,000 for his bar mitzvah project. Student’s gift, which will help fund cancer research, inspired his parents, Teri and Gene Student, and the Klapova family to become philanthropically involved with City of Hope. In recognition of his gift, Student’s name will be inscribed on a plaque at the City of Hope’s Duarte campus.
Julia Ruxin, who wrote about Elie Wiesel for her Brentwood School fourth-grade class, met the subject of her report at the gala. “Are you relieved to be a [Holocaust] survivor?” Ruxin asked Wiesel. “I’m relieved because I survived,” responded the Nobel Prize winner.
Marina del Rey and Venice residents Sari Eshman, Leslie Askanas, Carol Berk and Helene Feuerstein join Gerald Zaslaw, president/CEO of Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services at the annual luncheon recognizing Vista’s volunteer corps.
Lights, Camera, Israel
Los Angeles will welcome the 18th Annual Israel Film Festival this month, with 31 Israeli feature films, documentaries, TV dramas and student shorts to be screened at Laemmle’s Music Hall Theater in Beverly Hills and at Laemmle’s Town Center 5 in Encino. The festival continues in Chicago, Miami and New York.
During the April 10 opening night gala at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, actress/director Penny Marshall, producer Mike Medavoy and Israeli director Eli Cohen will be honored for their contributions to the film industry.
A symposium on April 11 on "How Do Current Events in Israel Affect Film and Television Production?" will feature a panel of Israeli and American experts, including Israel’s Minister of Science, Culture and Sports Matan Vilnai.
Among the feature selections, the light and lightweight "Desperado Square" takes us to a hardscrabble development town. Its predominantly Sephardi immigrants desperately miss the town’s only movie theater, which was closed down nearly three decades earlier, despite the immense popularity of its films from India, with their star-crossed lovers and extravagant song-and-dance production numbers.
Morris, the deceased owner of the theater, shuttered the place in despondency when he learned that his beautiful wife, Siniora (Yona Elian), really loved his brother, Avram (played by Muhammad Bakri, Israel’s leading Arab actor).
As the film opens, the estranged Avram has returned after a 25-year absence and begins a low-key pursuit of Siniora. Meanwhile Morris’ sons, with the help of the town’s quaint residents, try to resurrect the movie palace for a showing of the love-triangle themed "Sangam," the neighborhood’s favorite film, much to the agitation of Siniora because Avram owns the only copy.
Nobody will mistake this variation on the eternal triangle, directed by Benny Torati, as high art, but the film, by its setting in a development town, focuses on one aspect of Israeli life rarely seen in feature movies.
"It’s About Time" is an hour-long documentary, which in a humorous and unassuming way tells us a great deal about today’s Israelis by probing their attitudes toward the concept of time.
Talking to a cross section of Israelis, the film contrasts the nostalgic past, when "we had time and seasons," to the obsessive listening of newscasts every half hour in today’s "microwave generation — we want it cooked right now."
Directors Ayelet Menahemi and Elona Ariel trace their country’s frantic pace back to the beginning, when "the state was born in a hurry, we rushed through the process."
"More happens here in a week than in Switzerland in a year," notes one respondent, and another skewers the infamous "Israeli time" by noting that "we set an event for 2:00, come at 2:30 and think we’ve arrived early."
For more information, see Calendar.
Man of Action
Bravo For SoCal’s Educators and Administrators!
You might call him the event’s “grand Marshall.”
Garry Marshall — director of “Pretty Woman” and “The Princess Diaries” and creator of TV shows such as “The Odd Couple” and “Happy Days” — hosted this year’s 20th annual Bravo Awards, as he had last year…and the year before…and every other year since the inception of the event that recognizes the achievements Southern California’s educators, school administrators and schools.
Goofing on the banquet’s expensive centerpieces, Marshall quipped, “Someone in the art classes, they should say, ‘We’ll do the centerpieces.'”
Marshall was all jokes, but his devotion to the cause, sponsored by the Music Center Education Division, is very serious.
This year, Arcadia High School was singled out from among 11 schools for top honors. Also honored were choral music teacher Mike Short of Orange High School; Laura Hamlett, second-grade teacher at Eagle Rock Elementary; Jennifer Fry, a fifth-grade teacher at Meadows Elementary in Thousand Oaks; and Jeff Lantos, fifth-grade teacher at Marquez Elementary in Pacific Palisades.
The Millennium Biltmore gala was sponsored by Club 100, a Music Center membership support organization headed by President Astrid Rottman. Club 100 member Janice Wallace chaired the event, while Sharon Reisz served as the Bravo endowment chair. Music Center CEO Andrea Van de Kamp, Music Center President Joanne Kozberg, and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin all graced the stage, as did the John Burroughs High School Chamber Choir and the Washington Preparatory High School Jazz Band, both of which performed at the event.
At The Circuit’s table sat Mark Slavkin. It was about this time last year that Slavkin assumed the post of Music Center Education Division director, taking over the position from Joan Boyett, who created the arts education branch in 1979. Slavkin oversees a staff of 30 and a budget of $4.8 million annually, which goes toward sending visual and performing artists to 1 million children in LAUSD and private schools throughout L.A. County.
Accompanying Slavkin at the banquet was his wife of 16 years, Debbie Slavkin. The Slavkins, USC sweethearts, belong to B’nai Tikvah in Westchester.
“Regardless of the work, he’s very much a people person, interested in the back story because that’s what makes everything tick,” said Debbie, an Arizona native.
The Circuit also kibbitzed with Los Angeles Board of Education President Caprice Young, five months pregnant with her third girl.
“It’s not just about self-esteem,” Young said, before taking to the dais for the program. “It’s about kids having the confidence to be courageous learners.”
“It’s not just exposing them to every culture but combining it with a twist on the art form,” Slavkin added, citing classes in everything from African drumming to jazz vocalists to mariachi music.
Slavkin, who has four children with Debbie, previously worked in similar capacities with the Annenberg Foundation and Getty Education Institute. He told The Circuit that there’s no better job than working with the nexus of the arts and children.
“It’s a joyous challenge,” he said, smiling.
For more information, visit www.musiccenter.org/BRAVO.html or contact Lynda Jenner, director of special projects, at (213) 202-2286.
Come on Everybody, Let’s Do the Conga…
Call this a case of banging the conga drum for a good cause. The Presidents Club, which supports Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services, held a benefit event at the Conga Room. More than 150 guests enjoyed an evening that included a buffet dinner, Latin music and Salsa lessons. The event, chaired by Cheryl Paller, raised more than $20,000 for the nonprofit, which aids children in Southern California undergoing emotional distress, abuse or neglect. Stacie and Bruce Kirshbaum, Gisele and Steve Paul and Lucienne and David Soleymani were among the evening’s co-sponsors.
For more information on Vista Del Mar, visit www.vistadelmar.org.
University Synagogue will honor Rabbi Allen Freehling and his remarkable career at a Regent Beverly Wilshire banquet on April 23. After 30 years of service, Freehling will step down from his post as the synagogue’s spiritual leader at the end of June and become the shul’s first rabbi emeritus.
Yoav Sarraf and a band of fellow UCLA students are creating a new organization, tentatively called the Persian Jewish Student Union. The goal is to develop a social, cultural, political and educational agenda. If you are a Persian student and you would like to get involved, contact Sarraf at (310) 749-9628.
A Lot of Shabbat
On March 8, nearly 70 synagogues across the continent participated in Shabbat Across America/Canada. Now in its sixth year, the project, sponsored by the National Jewish Outreach Program, hopes to increase and enhance synagogue life.
‘Celebration,’ a Community Invitation
Come April, Israel will turn 54. However, you don’t have to go to Israel to celebrate. The people behind “Celebration 54,” a free community celebration in honor of Israel’s 54th year as a recognized country, promise a festive family event highlighting Israeli music and dance performances, a children’s choir and a video show. The April 16 program, to be held at the Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus in West Hills, will include an outdoor picnic on the grounds, where guests can either bring their own picnic dinners or purchase kosher food from on-site vendors. Organizers are requesting that attendees wear blue and white in honor of the occasion. Israeli dancing also is planned.
The event — sponsored by a team of Valley Alliance synagogues, schools and Jewish organizations — will kick off with a tribute to Israel’s Memorial Day. For more information, call (818) 530-5001.
By Michael Aushenker
“Mr. Rickles, I’m with the Jewish Journal.”
“That’s your problem.”
So went my exchange with “Mr. Warmth” — comedianDon Rickles — at the Century Plaza Hotel.
With wife Barbara by his side, the legendaryRickles was on hand to pay tribute to an icon in another field –longtime friend and Loeb & Loeb attorney Harvey L. Silbert. Alongwith California Supreme Court Justice Stanley Mosk, Silbert was theguest of honor of the 50th Annual Legal Services Dinner.
Sponsored by the Jewish Federation’s LegalServices Division, the gala banquet attracted many of the city’spracticing elite. But anyone expecting a roomful of rowdy, rivallegal eagles pounding drinks like gavels may have been disappointedat the level of camaraderie and respect circulating the pre-banquetcocktail reception. As Chair Bradley Pizer put it, the benefit dinneris “a crucial part of our campaign to broaden participation among thelegal community, especially the next generation of Jewishleaders.”
Chair Andrew Caine echoed Pizer’s sentiments,labeling the event a bridge between the young and old guard, an ideathat wasn’t lost on the thirtysomething advocates inattendance.
“The Legal Services Division creates an instantunderstanding and familiarity with other young lawyers,” saidattorney Barak Lurie, of Danning, Gill, Diamond & Kollitz. “I cantalk shop. I feel so strongly connected to the Jewishcommunity…while at the same time enjoying my profession. Itenriches my Jewish background.”
“I work six days a week. I would not have theopportunity to meet other attorneys in the community [were it not forfunctions like these],” said fellow UCLA law grad David B.Felsenthal.
Jeffrey A. Kaye, who practices corporate law withSheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, declared the dinner “aworthy, important event, drawing from the incredible pool the Jewishcommunity has to offer.” Intellectual-property specialist DavidBen-Meir agreed. This evening was a rare chance for the Lyon &Lyon attorney to catch up with peers such as Kaye.
The opinion from the senior set seemed inaccordance with their youthful protégés. Donald Etra,prominent criminal defense attorney and former Legal ServicesDivision chair, praised the wonderful turnout, deeming the annualevent “always a wonderful night for the Jewish and legal communityalike.”
Following the reception, guests packed the banquethall, where a roast beef brisket buffet and a night of networkingawaited those in attendance.
Onstage, Justice Mosk exacted wry comic commentaryas he traced back the history of Jews in the United States judiciary.And former Legal Services Division chair Stanley Gage brought themeaning of tzedakah home with vivid examples of disadvantaged peoplebenefited by the Federation’s work: the “bubbe from Moscow” who foundherself stripped of her job and home; the young barrister who losthis license because of drug addiction, and turned to the UnitedJewish Fund to help him find rehabilitation through Torah teachings;the large numbers living well below poverty level all over the world.Gage urged his audience to contribute generously and help theorganization reach its $50 million goal.
Poignant pleas notwithstanding, it was Don Rickleswho shined the brightest, working the room like it was the Sands.Nothing was sacred, as Rickles opened with a deadpan “Shalom…thisis the highlight of my career.” The veteran comedian went on to roastthe honorees and comically assault every institution in sight.
Regarding the evening:
“What a great night. I could have been in amillion other places.”
Regarding the roomful of lawyers:
“I look around, and I see no one here who’s biggerthan I am!”
On the topic of Israel:
“The last time we [visited], we played a gamecalled “Duck!”
In reference to Mount Sinai:
“My mom’s name is up there. My name’s up therewith pride. And Alan King’s name is up there, which really upsetsme.”
On his Orthodox upbringing in Jackson Heights,Long Island:
“We used to hang out in front of White Castle andbelch at the cantor as he sang, ‘Yom Kipuuuuuur!'”
Despite all the jesting, Rickles revealed asincere side, articulating his pride to be a Jew and a supporter ofthe Federation. And he demonstrated his respect for Silbert, who hashelped Rickles and his wife immeasurably over the years. Ricklesproved a tough act to follow for the satirical political quartet TheForeman, who closed the event with their topical ditties.
Los Angeles 5758Making the Tough Sell