Jay Sanderson Named New Federation President

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles has named as its next president Jay Sanderson, CEO and executive producer of Jewish Television Network (JTN), a nonprofit producer and distributor of Jewish-themed television programming.

Sanderson, 52, replaces John Fishel, who served 17 years as Federation president and resigned last January, effective next Dec. 31.

“I’m extremely excited and feel deeply privileged,” Sanderson said in an interview Tuesday morning at the home of Stanley Gold, The Federation’s board chair. “I’m surprised. It’s such a big, important job I wasn’t sure I was going to be the person that they chose, especially given the quality of the other candidates.”

In the final week of a three-month process, the selection committee had narrowed an initial field of some 20 candidates down to four: Sanderson, former City Councilman Jack Weiss, former William Morris COO Irv Weintraub and Joshua Fogelson, executive director of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation.

Gold and Richard Sandler, The Federation’s incoming chair, informed Sanderson of the decision on Tuesday at around 9 a.m.

“All of our candidates were very, very qualified, and in that regard it’s a good decision to have to make, because we have good people,” said Sandler, an attorney who works closely with Michael Milken and the Milken Family Foundation. “Jay has the knowledge of the community, he has the skill set, and he has certainly accomplished a tremendous amount as head of JTN.”

Sanderson has been professionally active in the Jewish community for two decades, primarily in Jewish media. Since 1989, he has led JTN, during which time, among other accomplishments, he created and served as executive producer of the PBS series, “The Jewish Americans,” and the upcoming PBS documentary on modern genocide, “Worse Than War.”

Along with JTN board member Michael Lynton, chair and CEO of Sony Pictures, and News Corp. Executive Vice President Gary Ginsberg, Sanderson also created Newsweek’s annual list of “America’s Top Rabbis,” published by the magazine for the past three years.

Prior to joining JTN, Sanderson, a graduate of Syracuse University, was an independent producer of films and documentaries.

Sanderson says he will leverage his experience in communication to help The Federation expand its membership and fundraising base, and build the Jewish community.

“My No. 1 goal is to really return to being central in the community, and in doing that we have to reach out to the whole community,” Sanderson said. “It has to be a convener and a collaborator. There are thousands and thousands of Jews who want to be involved in Jewish life who need to be engaged in The Federation.

“The community is so diverse, and there are so many more organizations than there have been in the past, we have to assert ourselves in terms of outreach,” he said.

Sanderson pointed to the kinds of grass-roots organizing efforts that helped make Barack Obama president — Internet technology, e-mail, networking — as tools that could help The Federation reach and inspire a new generation of Jews.

“There’s a lot of Jews out there who are not engaged but not disinterested,” he said.

Sandler agreed. “Federation has been around a long time,” he said. “But people under 50 years old really don’t know what Federation does.”

The Federation has traditionally raised funds and distributed them across a variety of social service, educational and advocacy agencies, in Los Angeles, Israel and elsewhere. It has also created and run its own programs and activities.

“A lot of people see Federation as this big organization, but they don’t see the small, important things it does,” said Sanderson, pointing to the KOREH LA literacy program as one example. “It does amazing things on the ground to help people.”

Sandler, who will take over as board chair on Jan. 1, joined Sanderson in saying that engagement also means more outreach and collaboration with existing Jewish organizations and synagogues. Sanderson promised “a whole other level of engagement” with synagogues and major locally-based Jewish organizations like the Skirball Cultural Center, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and American Jewish University.

This Rosh Hashanah, The Federation will launch one such collaboration — a communitywide effort to raise money to fight local hunger and to distribute the funds through a variety of organizations and synagogues.

“Every synagogue has participated,” Gold said.

Sanderson takes the reins of the nonprofit, headquartered at 6505 Wilshire Blvd., at a difficult economic time, when donations to federations around the country are down. Gold said The Federation’s annual campaign will be down between 10 percent and 12 percent from the $50 million it raised in 2008.

“I’m not one of those people who recognizes this as a more challenging time,” Sanderson said. “Every period in philanthropy has its ebbs and flows. If The Federation is successful in reaching out and really telling its story in a way that’s powerful, new donors will come in.”

To assist in the search for Fishel’s replacement, The Federation hired Development Resource Group, a nonprofit headhunting firm based in New York. Estimates put the cost of the search at around $250,000.

“It was as thorough and fair and democratic a process as I’ve seen,” Gold said.

Sanderson, who lives in Encino with his wife Laura Lampert Sanderson, a psychologist, son, Jonah, and daughter, Isabelle, said he is looking forward to working with his new Federation co-workers, the lay volunteers and the larger Jewish community.

“I can’t do this alone,” he said. “Stanley Gold did a fabulous job, as did John Fishel, leading Federation to this point, and my job is to take what they’ve done and build on it. We’re all really excited about the future.”

Picks and Clicks Jan. 3 – 9: Einstein’s letters and interfaith Shabbat


It’s the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, but the island nation is also focused on recovering from recent hurricanes. Join other concerned Angelenos as they provide much-needed disaster relief through a “Potluck Dinner: Hurricane Relief Party for Cuba,” organized by Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring. Music, dancing, food, raffle and art auction will all be part of the festivities. All funds raised will be channeled to Cuba through Jewish Solidarity, an organization founded in support of the Jewish community in Cuba. Sat. 7:30 p.m. $5-$10, plus a potluck contribution for 8-10 people. Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring, 1525 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 552-2007. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.jgscv.org.


Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity is universally known. Not as well known is the Nobel-winner’s passion for humanitarianism, especially toward his fellow Jews. Before and during World War II, Einstein ran what he termed his own “immigration office” where he wrote affidavits recommending United States visas ” target=”_blank”>http://www.beverlyhills.org/services/library.


Rabbi David Wolpe, who recently took on sharp-tongued atheist Christopher Hitchens in a debate on the existence of God, is often featured as an expert on biblical subjects for the History Channel and as a commentator for CNN and CBS news. Wolpe, it’s safe to say, has excelled in the craft of public speaking. Is it a natural ability or a learned skill? Hear directly from the master in “The Art of Public Speaking, With Rabbi David Wolpe,” where Newsweek’s No. 1 pulpit rabbi in America will offer insight into what makes a person a compelling orator and how proficiency in speech can be an invaluable tool. This event, though fascinating for people of all ages, is sponsored by ATID and Dor Chadash and is therefore exclusively for those between the ages of 21 and 39. Wed. 7 p.m. (dinner), 7:30 p.m. (program). $8 (members), $12 (guests with advance R.S.V.P.), $15 (at the door). Prices include dinner. Sinai Temple is located at 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 481-3244. ” target=”_blank”>http://wcce.ajula.edu (click on Making Marriage Work on the left-hand sidebar).

How will the new president and Congress affect the United States’ relationship with Israel? That’s the million-dollar question Murray Tenenbaum is asking (and attempting to answer) at American Jewish University’s class series, “The Changing Dynamics of U.S.-Israel Relations.” Tenenbaum is the former national director of government relations for the Zionist Organization of America. He also once served as foreign policy consultant to former U.S. Sen. Pete Wilson. And he was the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington. In short, Tenenbaum is someone well worth listening to on this crucial topic. Continuing education credit units are available. Wed. 8:30.-10 p.m. $146 (all eight Wed. sessions). Through Feb. 25. American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel-Air. (310) 440-1246. ” border = 0 vspace = ‘8’ hspace = ‘8’ align = ‘left’>public a chance to find out more about this unsung hero of the conservative world at a signing of his latest book, “The War Against the West.” A former ghostwriter for Richard Nixon, a law professor at Chapman University, host of the nationally syndicated radio program, “The Hugh Hewitt Show,” and executive editor of Townhall.com, there is a lot to learn about this respected evangelical Christian who has been making waves in certain circles for years. Thu. 11:30 a.m. $50. Fairmont Hotel Newport Beach, 4500 MacArthur Blvd., Newport Beach. R.S.V.P. at (818) 849-3470 ext. 209 or 213, or e-mail stephanie@horowitzfreedomcenter.org. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.artsandleisureweekend.com.

Who better to teach a Jewish music history class than a cantor who has been immersed in Jewish music since the age of 8? Nathan Lam, who has led the Stephen S. Wise congregation in holy song for 32 years and has a long list of accomplishments in the cantorial field, will be teaching a six-part series of classes titled, “Jews & Poland: 1,000 Years of History, Music and Culture,” at American Jewish University. Using a variety of materials, including rare film footage, the series will present the musical legacy of Polish Jewry through the ages, as well as the modern development of a new Polish Israeli alliance. A unique opportunity to briefly return to the days of riveting college courses, this continuing education seminar was organized by University Women, a volunteer organization that supports and supplements AJU’s programs. Thursdays, Jan. 8-Feb. 12. 10:30 a.m.-Noon. $75 (members) $90 (non-members), $18 (single class). AJU, small Berg Dining Room, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. (310) 440-1283. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.vbs.org/sisterhood.


Join Rabbi Mike Comins, founder of TorahTrek Spiritual Wilderness Adventures, for an inspiring weekend getaway dubbed, “Judaism on the Wild Side: Explore the ” target=”_blank”>http://www.templebethdavid.org.

Paying homage to the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and demonstrating the still existent bond between the Jewish and black communities, Friday Night Live is going Interfaith for the fourth year. Rabbi David Wolpe and Craig Taubman will be joined by the Rev. Mark Whitlock, pastor of Christ Our Redeemer A.M.E. Church, and the church’s award winning gospel choir. The music-filled once-a-month Shabbat service is invariably uplifting, but the annual Interfaith Friday Night Live is particularly raucous and packs the pews of Sinai Temple every year. The Jewish Television Network will be shooting the event for broadcast on the Network’s Web site later this month. Fri. 7:30 p.m. Free. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 481-3244. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.secretrose.com.

If you stream Kol Nidre, they will watch


When Rabbi Naomi Levy conducted Kol Nidre services this year, her congregation numbered 200,000, stretching from Canada to Colombia and from Japan to Norway.

Watching online on their computers were a student group at a Dartmouth College dormitory, Jews and non-Jews in small isolated communities across the United States, the bedridden and terminally ill, disaffected young Jews who never go to shul and single mothers who couldn’t afford the cost of High Holy Days tickets.

The Kol Nidre service was transmitted from the Brentwood Presbyterian Church via the broadband channel of the Jewish Television Network , and the response stunned Jay Sanderson, CEO and executive producer of JTN Productions.

“This must have been the single-largest Jewish religious service ever,” Sanderson said, and he is still sorting through the more than 400 enthusiastic, at times ecstatic, e-mails he has received from all over the world.

Among the most involved viewers was Ruth Levy, the rabbi’s mother, who was bed-bound in a Boston hospital.

The service itself was as unusual as the global online outreach, and as Nashuva, the live congregation that overflowed the seats and courtyard of the Brentwood church.

Levy founded Nashuva, which translates as “We Will Return,” four years ago after a successful career as a Conservative congregational rabbi and author, not to mention wife of Jewish Journal editor-in-chief and mother of two.

“While I was on my book tours, I kept meeting these incredible people, deeply spiritual Jews, who had turned away from communal Judaism,” she said. “They weren’t atheists, as I had expected, but they just couldn’t fit in. They would come to a bookstore to hear me, but not to a synagogue.”

With eight people sitting around her kitchen table, Levy founded the “post-denominational” Nashuva as a community that would mesh spirituality with social action.

“Every Shabbat service is followed by an action day, for adults and kids, be it working with at-risk people in the inner city, planting trees, participating in an AIDS walk, visiting a home for the aging or holding a candlelight vigil for Darfur,” Levy said.

The services themselves are characterized by the same energy as the social action, with a heavy infusion of musical styles, from reggae to klezmer, performed by a four-piece band.

Prayers are traditional, but with new translations by Levy, who also delivers all the sermons with lots of soul and a leavening of humor.

Nashuva has grown, purely by word of mouth, to some 300 at Shabbat services and 500 at holiday services, with a database of more than 1,000 names. The demographics are predominantly on the young side, with a fair number of intermarried couples, complemented by baby boomers and seniors.

Nashuva has no membership dues or charges for holiday tickets and carries on through voluntary donations and some foundation grants.

Sanderson was an early member of Nashuva and, combining prayer with business, started recording and transmitting an occasional Shabbat service.

The response by viewers across the country and the continents was encouraging, and this year he broached the idea of transmitting the Kol Nidre service.

“We’ve created a virtual congregation of 200,000 people who weren’t attending synagogues,” he said. “In my 20 years on the job, this has been my greatest contribution.”

That’s quite a statement for Sanderson, who was a key producer of the three-part PBS miniseries “The Jewish Americans” and is completing a two-hour film on global genocides for PBS, based on Daniel Goldhagen’s forthcoming book “Worse Than War.”

Also on his agenda for next year is a global online Passover service.

Levy is now getting calls from various parts of the United States, asking for advice on replicating Nashuva-type congregations in other cities.

Her general answer is that basically you need 10 dedicated people to get started, and she is ready to share her prayer book, music and business model with interested persons.

Levy also advises would-be founders to follow her example and talk extensively with rabbis in their area before going public.

“I called the rabbis in the Los Angeles area and assured them that I was seeking out the unaffiliated and would not try to poach members from their congregations,” she said. “All the rabbis I talked to gave me their blessings.”

With enough dedication and energy by volunteers, the Nashuva prototype can be emulated in any other city, Levy said, adding, “If you build it, they will come.”

Will new Jewish TV Channel (TJC) click with viewers?

From JTC’s YouTube site:
Get the inside scoop on The Jewish Channel’s award-winning features and documentaries. The Forward newspaper’s Arts and Culture Editor Alana Newhouse is your guide, offering incisive interviews with writers, directors and cultural critics.Here’s an excerpt from an interview with Abigail Pogrebin, author of “Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish.” Newhouse and Pogrebin discuss the legacy of MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer, the subject of Louis B. Mayer: King of Hollywood, on contemporary Hollywood’s Jewish celebrities — like Natalie Portman and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Bandwidth in Los Angeles recently took an upward leap of faith.

In addition to the usual news, drama and sports, viewers of cable’s Verizon FiOS TV (Fiber-Optic Television) can now also watch a panel of rabbis discussing Barack Obama’s minister, hear actor Alec Baldwin rave about New York delis or listen to a converted Orthodox comedian rant about his three ritual circumcisions.

It’s all on The Jewish Channel (TJC), an ambitious enterprise that, depending on who’s talking, is either the new Jewish HBO or the latest tawdry entry in a long series of failed attempts to create one. At the very least, the new channel’s arrival in this media-savvy town has heated up a simmering debate over whether true national Jewish television is possible and, if so, whose is most likely to succeed.

“There have easily been 25 or 30 significant efforts that have failed in the last 20 years and all for the same reason,” said Jay Sanderson, CEO of the Sherman Oaks-based Jewish Television Network, which, though still producing content for PBS, long ago abandoned cable television in favor of Web TV.

“The problem,” Sanderson said, “is that none of them have made money.”

Professional media critics tend to agree.

“Any niche-oriented station divided by religion, gender, age range, etc., is starting from a place where it’s limiting its potential audience,” said Brian Lowry, a media columnist and chief TV critic for Variety Magazine. “The issue is capacity; cable operators don’t generally want to give up space to a channel unless they think it will make money.”

While inexpensive programming in any niche is potentially viable, Lowry said, “I don’t see a huge demand for it. The Jewish audience falls into the same category as any other; a portion will reach out for ethnic-based programs, but the lion’s share will watch what everybody else is watching. It comes down to how narrowly you can keep slicing up that pie and still be economically viable.”

Steven Weiss, an executive and spokesman for TJC, is hoping that his slice of the pie will be large. Launched on the East Coast last year with private funding from venture capitalists, the station a video-on-demand compendium of Jewish movies, commentary and public affairs programming billing itself as “America’s first national Jewish cable network” now boasts about 20,000 viewers. Though it’s still too early to tell, Weiss hastened to add, how many of them live in Los Angeles.

His secret, he said, is quality programming provided by a staff of seasoned industry executives with backgrounds at major cable networks and media companies, including Showtime, The Food Network, Rainbow and Time Warner.

“We’re getting an overwhelming response from people who really appreciate that they can connect with their culture and community from the comfort of their living rooms,” he said.

Weiss believes it’s the rising phenomenon of behind-closed-doors Judaism that will allow the station to succeed.

“We’re in an era where there are many people looking for Jewish experiences but not willing to do it in a confined Jewish space,” he said. “It’s a cultural shift; people increasingly want a Jewish identity that’s in flow with everything else in their lives rather than in marked contrast. The idea that you can actually bring it into your living room is a very attractive proposition for a great many unaffiliated Jews.”

Others who would appear to have less impressive television credentials than TJC’s producers have similar ideas. Among them is Phil Blazer, the Encino-based publisher of a newspaper that is distributed irregularly called The National Jewish News, president of a company called Blazer Communications and producer of a half-hour Sunday morning program that airs on the small cable station KSCI-TV, Channel 18. Now he said he plans to go national with what he calls Jewish Life TV, set to debut in Los Angeles this fall. The debut has been promised for a long period of time but has not yet produced results.

“L.A. will have its own full-time channel,” Blazer promises of the programming he said can already be seen by basic cable subscribers in a smattering of U.S. cities nationwide, including Burlington, Vt., and San Antonio, Texas. “We are a regular full-time network, not just video-on-demand.”

Blazer said that one of his goals with the new channel is “to go to small communities, like Bakersfield, where there isn’t much Jewish life.”

It’s an ambition shared by Rabbi Mark S. Golub, president of Fort Lee, N.J.-based Shalom TV, a nonprofit video-on-demand network that tested the waters for 18 months before going national earlier this year.

“What we’re doing,” Golub said of the network, available to Time Warner subscribers in Los Angeles, “is providing Jews outside the major urban centers with a greater sense of Jewish identity and Jewish security. Jewish is in the air in New York and, in some ways, in Los Angeles. But you go out of the major urban areas of this country and Jews are starving for Jewish content.”

Golub also serves as the spiritual leader of congregation Chavurat Aytz Chayim in Stamford, Conn., president of the Russian Television Network of America and producer of a weekly cable television show called, L’Chayim,

Some potential viewers in Los Angeles are already signaling whose station they prefer even while the jury’s still out. Shelley Salamensky, a professor at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and TV who also teaches at the university’s Center for Jewish Studies, hasn’t yet seen TJC but she’s heard all about it.

“I think it will enrich the lives of those who are connected to the Jewish community,” she said. “It will enrich the lives of those who are Jewish but unaffiliated, and for non-Jewish viewers it should also be fascinating.”

Salamensky sees the emergence of Jewish television, in general, as part of a larger trend.

“Los Angeles is a city in which many different cultures have had a presence on TV for years,” she said, “but I think this is quite new for Jews. There is evidence of renewed Jewish life in the 21st century; a strong movement of people who have been disenfranchised returning to their roots.”

The professor attributes the phenomenon, in part, to the “feeling of spiritual emptiness and disconnection” engendered by the post-modern world.

“My grandparents’ generation from Eastern Europe is passing away,” she said, “and we’re feeling the loss.”

The view from the bottom line, however, is that such sentiment may engender more desire than actual accomplishment. The reality, Variety media critic Lowry said, “is that most people, when they sit down to watch TV, don’t run through a litany of their personal attributes before choosing what to watch. They’re going to turn on ‘Desperate Housewives’ or ‘Lost’ or a movie or whatever.”

In fact, he concludes, the whisperings of personal religion and ethnicity “is just not something most people go through before deciding what to view.”