From left: The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles Board Chair Julie Platt; Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman; Jewish Federation Valley Alliance Chair Jill Namm; and Federation CEO and President Jay Sanderson come together at “It Takes a Woman,” an event for Federation supporters.

Moving & Shaking: JQ and Kadima galas; LAMOTH student film showcase


JQ International, an organization serving Los Angeles’ LGBTQ Jews, held its annual JQ Awards Garden Brunch May 7 at the Beverly Hills home of Angela and Jamshid Maddahi.

“It was a gorgeous day honoring three amazing role models who inspire each of us with their work advocating for the LGBTQ Jewish community,” JQ International founder and Executive Director Asher Gellis said in an interview.

The outdoor event honored community leader Courtney Mizel with the Community Leadership Award, Hollywood producer Zvi Howard Rosenman (“Father of the Bride,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) with the Trailblazer Award and image therapist Liana Chaouli with the Inspiration Award.

Presenting Mizel with her award, Esther Netter, CEO of the Zimmer Children’s Museum, called Mizel “a human in tune and a LinkedIn site all her own … she is fluid in her thinking and intensely present.”

Jewish Journal Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman and Jewish Journal President David Suissa presented Rosenman with the Trailblazer Award.

“I was a gay Jew before there were Jewish queers,” Rosenman said, sharing his story of what it was like growing up gay and Orthodox and how he made a name for himself in Hollywood.

From left: JQ International Assistant Director Arya Marvazy; JQ International honorees Courtney Mizel, Zvi Howard Rosenman and Liana Chaouli; and JQ International Executive Director Asher Gellis supported the LGBTQ community at the JQ Awards Garden Brunch. Photo courtesy of JQ International

Amanda Maddahi, JQ’s director of operations, presented the Inspiration Award to Chaouli, her aunt, after sharing moving remarks about growing up in the very house where the event was held.

JQ provides programs, services and education to Los Angeles’ LGBTQ Jews and allies. Its social programming and support services include the JQ Helpline, JQ Speakers Bureau, Inclusion Consulting and support groups.

“Together,” Gellis said, “we are changing hearts and minds, and making our Jewish community more inclusive for all.”

— Esther D. Kustanowitz, Contributing Writer


From left: Kadima Day School honorees Avi Kobi, Ami Fridman, Michaela Fridman and Sivan Kobi attend the day school’s annual gala fundraising event.

West Hills-based Kadima Day School’s April 2 gala at the Hyatt Regency Westlake in Westlake Village honored school supporters Michaela and Ami Fridman, and Sivan and Avi Kobi, and recognized longtime educator Sara Goren with the Excellence in Education Award.

Michaela Fridman and Sivan Kobi serve on the executive committee of Kadima Day School as Parent Teacher Organization co-presidents.

Goren is the Hebrew coordinator and a Hebrew and Judaic studies teacher at Kadima.

Attendees included businessman and philanthropist Naty Saidoff, who pledged $50,000 to the school; Shawn Evenhaim, namesake of the school’s Evenhaim Family Campus; and Scott Abrams, district director for U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), in whose district the school is located.

Kadima Day School operates a preschool, elementary school and middle school.


From left: Remember Us Director Samara Hutman; survivor Eva Nathanson; filmmaker Naja Butler and LAMOTH’s Rachel Fidler attended the “Voices of Hope” student film showcase. Photo by Ryan Torok

The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (LAMOTH) partnered with the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival and Jewish World Watch in holding the April 30 student film showcase “Voices of Hope” at the LAMOTH campus at Pan Pacific Park.

The event featured the screening of 12 student films and immediately followed the Jewish World Watch Walk to End Genocide in Pan Pacific Park.

Attendees included LAMOTH Creative Programs Director Rachel Fidler, who led a panel with the student filmmakers after the screening; Naja Butler, director and star of one of the films, “An American Girl”; Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival Director Hilary Helstein; singer-songwriter, activist and educator Jaclyn Riva Beck; Samrina Vasani, an alumnus of a NewGround program bringing high school-age Jews and Muslims together; and Samara Hutman, director of Remember Us and The Righteous Conversations Project.

The museum received about 500 film submissions from students in sixth through 12th grades around the nation.

The screened films tackled “social justice issues and human stories that matter,” Fidler said in an email. The films addressed issues such as bullying in schools, challenges facing young American Muslims, the subverting of gender stereotypes, and the importance of storytelling in carrying on the memory of the Holocaust.

The gathering, attended by about 30 people, was held in the museum’s upstairs library.


From left: PJTC Rabbi Noam Raucher, U.S. Rep. Judy Chu; Rabbi Marvin Grossman and USC lecturer Peter Braun attended a presentation by Chu at PJTC. Photo courtesy of Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center.

The newly formed social justice committee of the Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center (PJTC) kicked off its programming with an April 20 appearance at the synagogue by U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park), whose district includes Pasadena.

PJTC Rabbi Noam Raucher introduced the congresswoman to the approximately 300 temple members in attendance.

After Chu’s opening remarks, Peter Braun, a synagogue member and University of Southern California lecturer in leadership and management, moderated a Q-and-A session with the audience. Discussion topics ranged from Israel to tax policy and health care.

As the event concluded, Rabbi Marvin Gross, a former nonprofit director and chair of PJTC’s social justice committee, presented Chu with a sign reading “Immigrants & Refugees Welcome, We Must Not Stand Idly By … ”

The sign was part of a campaign launched by members of the social justice committee, who distributed 250 signs in Pasadena and the surrounding area.

— Eitan Arom, Staff Writer


At The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ annual “It Takes a Woman” (ITAW) event on May 10, Olympic gold-medal gymnast Alexandra “Aly” Raisman discussed what it meant to represent the United States and the Jewish people in the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics.

Federation’s Sylvia Weisz Women’s Philanthropy group at the Jewish Federation Valley Alliance organized the event at the Skirball Cultural Center, which drew more than 400 female attendees.

In an onstage interview with Federation President and CEO Jay Sanderson, Raisman discussed her experiences at the two Olympics, the challenges of being a female athlete and how she is now using that experience to teach younger generations about confidence, kindness and positive body image.

Raisman, 22, is a two-time captain of the Olympic gold-medal-winning U.S. women’s gymnastics team and the second most-decorated American female gymnast in the history of the sport. She has earned six Olympic medals, including three gold.

ITAW is focused on introducing women to the work of Federation. Women are the fastest-growing segment of donors within Federation, with gifts made by women in their own names comprising 25 percent of its annual fundraising campaign, according to Federation’s website.

— Esther D. Kustanowitz, Contributing Writer


Moving & Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com.  

Netanyahu, with team of rivals, puts together a government


He’s had to bite a few bullets to get there, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will lead Israel’s next government.

Barring a last-minute surprise, Israel’s new governing coalition will be sworn in this week: a center-right grouping of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud-Beiteinu faction, the centrist Yesh Atid party, the religious nationalist Jewish Home party, the center-left Hatnua led by Tzipi Livni and the tiny, centrist Kadima.

In total, the coalition will include 70 of the Knesset’s 120 members.

The government’s priorities will be to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, enact budget reform, expand Israel’s mandatory military conscription and lower the cost of living, according to Netanyahu.

“Above all,” Netanyahu said at his weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday, the next government must address “the major security challenges that are piling up around us.”

The coalition deal is a bittersweet victory for the prime minister. He won a disappointing 31 seats at the ballot box in January. Now that divided vote has turned into a divided government that he’ll have to lead with ambitious rivals by his side.

Those divisions have grown more intense since the election, as Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid and Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett formed an alliance after the vote.

“He’s a much weaker prime minister,” said Hebrew University political science professor Shlomo Avineri. “We see the emergence of two popular leaders who are not constrained by internal party institutions and can dictate to their own parties whatever policies they wish.”

By forming the coalition days before his final deadline of March 16, Netanyahu gets another term as prime minister. And because his party will control the Foreign and Defense ministries — Likud’s Moshe Ya’alon slated to be the next defense minister – Netanyahu will be able to preserve the status quo regarding security issues and Iran.

And Israelis shouldn’t expect a renewed peace process with the Palestinians. Hatnua supports a two-state solution, while Jewish Home resolutely opposes a Palestinian state, as do many in Likud.

“I don’t think there is any chance of a final-status agreement with the Palestinians,” Avineri said, but “partial agreements” could be possible.

Netanyahu will serve as foreign minister while former Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Netanyahu’s No. 2, fights corruption charges. Should he be acquitted, he will return to the post. Lapid, who has said he wants to be prime minister, had fought hard in negotiations for the foreign minister post.

In managing his coalition, Netanyahu’s biggest challenge will be including haredi Orthodox men in Israel’s mandatory draft – one of Israel’s burning political issues. Yesh Atid campaigned on a platform of drafting almost all haredi men, who currently receive exemptions if they stay in yeshiva. Along with Bennett, a pro-settler Zionist who strongly favors haredi conscription, Lapid has been pushing for a strict draft law.

Not wanting to alienate the haredim – a traditional support base for Netanyahu – the prime minister has pushed for a more lenient version. The compromise, according to the latest Israeli reports, will be that haredim will be subject to the draft at age 22, not 18, like the rest of Israelis. And up to 2,000 haredim will continue to receive exemptions, far higher than the limit of 400 that Lapid had sought.

“The new political leaders are capable of reaching an agreement that will gradually change the rules of the game,” Bar-Ilan University political science professor Eytan Gilboa said.
Avineri says he’s skeptical the haredim will obey any draft law reached without the imprimatur of the haredi parties.

“The only way of seriously extending the haredi draft is to do it with negotiations with at least one of the haredi parties, and getting a wishy-washy compromise,” Avineri said. “You’re not going get it by drafting thousands of haredim against their will.”

Draft reform is one of Lapid’s signature issues, but his harder task may be succeeding as finance minister. For this a media personality who decided to enter politics a little more than a year ago with a campaign that promised commonsense policies and “new politics,” it will be a challenge to maintain his appeal while actually being a politician.

Lapid’s campaign slogan was “Where’s the money?” and he promised not to raise taxes on the middle class. Facing a budget deficit of $10 billion, Lapid may become the face of some unpopular spending cuts or tax hikes.

That could condemn the fate of Lapid’s Yesh Atid to that of other Israeli centrist parties that flared and then burned out. Kadima, for example, dominated Israeli politics after Ariel Sharon founded it in 2005, and it won 28 seats in the previous elections, in 2009. But this year it squeaked into the Knesset with just two.

“Lapid is in danger,” said Hebrew University professor Gideon Rahat. “What happened to the rest of the centrist parties is they disappeared in two or three years. But if he does things differently, he may be able to hold on.”

For his part, the ambitious Bennett, formerly Netanyahu’s chief of staff, reportedly does not get along with the prime minister. Personal rivalries could cause rifts in the government should Bennett, Lapid and Netanyahu disagree on sensitive issues.

“There are too many internal coalitions inside this coalition,” Gilboa said. “The prime minister is not good at resolving coalition disagreements.”

Netanyahu’s main threat, however, may come from outside of the coalition. Usually part of the government, the Knesset’s haredi parties – Shas and United Torah Judaism – have been excluded this term because they oppose drafting haredim. They have vowed to fight the coalition tooth and nail. The opposition leader will be Labor, with whom the haredi parties share support for progressive economic policies.

Gilboa said that Israeli public support of draft reform will drown out haredi protest.

“I think the haredim will fight the government on economic issues, but I think the Israeli public in general will support reforms,” he said. “But I would advise the new politicians to go slowly and cautiously.”

Final Israeli vote: Jewish Home gains a seat to give right wing a majority


The Jewish Home party gained one seat in the final results of Israeli voting, pushing the right-wing bloc to a majority in the 19th Knesset.

Israel's Central Elections Committee released the final tally on Thursday for the elections held two days earlier after counting 217,000 ballots collected at remote polling stations. Among others, the votes were cast by soldiers, hospital patients and government employees working overseas.

With the additional votes, Jewish Home finished with 12 seats, giving the right wing 61 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.

Also, the United Arab List-Ta'al party lost a seat and now has four, and Kadima crossed the required 2 percent threshold to gain two seats.

There were no other changes to the number of seats garnered by other parties. The Likud-Beiteinu list, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had 31 seats to finish first, as expected. The new center-left party Yesh Atid was a surprising second at 19.

Other parties entering the parliament are Labor with 15 seats; Shas with 11 seats; United Torah Judaism with seven seats; Hatnua and Meretz, each with 6 seats; Hadash with four seats; and Balad with three seats.

Two-thirds, or 3.77 million, of Israel's 5,656,705 eligible voters turned out, according to the elections committee. The number of voters was the highest since 1999, though turnout was down significantly among Arab voters.

The elections committee must submit the results to President Shimon Peres by Jan. 30. Peres then will ask party leaders who they would recommend to form the next government before choosing the one most likely to be able to form a successful coalition government — it is expected to be Netanyahu. The chosen party leader has up to 42 days to present his government for a vote of confidence.

On Election Day, Israel’s undecided voters face moment of truth


Israelis are almost never shy about offering their opinions, especially when it comes to politics.

The problem is that this year, many of them aren’t sure what their opinions are.

As Election Day approached, a large proportion of voters – 15 percent – remained undecided, according to polls. Some of them still were unsure even as they headed for the polls on Jan. 22.

But vote they did: By 4 p.m. Israel time, turnout at the polls stood at 46.6 percent – an increase of 5 percent over the last election, in February 2009.

Israel’s multiplicity of parties presented Israelis with a dizzying array of choices: 32 were in the running, and up to a dozen were expected to land seats in the Knesset. But with so many parties running on similar platforms, and after what many considered a lackluster campaign, many voters said they were disillusioned with their choices.

“No one seems good,” Stephanie Daniel, 28, told JTA. A women’s studies student in Tel Aviv, Daniel said she had vacillated between Hatnua, a party focused on negotiations with the Palestinians and led by former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni, and the left-wing Meretz party. In the end, Daniel said, she chose Hatnua because it advocates for environmental issues.

Her dilemma was not uncommon among young Tel Avivis. As they entered or exited their polling locations, many said they felt torn between the three center-left parties: Hatnua, Labor and Yesh Atid.

“I did a questionnaire on the internet” about who to vote for, said Elian, 27, a political science student at Tel Aviv University. She said that because she was a “social democrat from birth,” she chose the traditionally socialist Labor. But Elian said she saw the appeal of both Livni and Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid, a political newcomer.

“Tzipi [Livni] can lead a state better than Shelly” Yachimovich, the Labor chairwoman, Elian said.  “Yair Lapid is new, and he talks a lot, but Shelly is more my ideology.”

Uri, 31, a Tel Aviv event planner, also found ideology guiding him as he deliberated between Labor, Hatnua, Yesh Atid and Meretz. “There was social pressure,” he said. “One friend feels this way, another that way. But everyone knows on the inside” whom they support.

He ended up voting for Meretz, he said.

Uncertainty lingered on the right, too. Gilad Konforty, 30, an MBA who recently became Orthodox and now studies in a yeshiva, was trying to decide between two Orthodox parties, the Sephardic Shas and the Ashkenazi United Torah Judaism. He went with UTJ.

“They better represent Jewish values and Jewish character,” he said. While Shas has, at times, cooperated with left-wing governments, UTJ “doesn’t move around, they don’t capitulate, they don’t compromise,” he said.

With the right-wing Likud-Beiteinu list widely expected to beat its center-left competitors, some right-leaning voters chose pragmatism over ideology and voted for the party they figured would best be able to influence a Likud-led coalition.

Guy, 33, a Jerusalemite who works in the technology industry, said he chose the pro-settler Jewish Home Party and its Modern Orthodox chairman, Naftali Bennett, over Likud because he wants “to put another kippah in the Knesset.”

“They’ll work together anyway” Guy said. Bennett will “push the government a little to the right. I think he has more concern for the religious sector.”

With so many new parties, voters faced the prospect of a large number of first-timers making it into the Knesset.

“There are a lot of new parties that have talked but have not done anything,” said Yaakov, 47, a banker from Tel Aviv also vacillating between Shas and UTJ. “The old parties didn’t prove themselves.”

Dor Midler, 21, a first-time voter, said she was voting for Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid and his list of political neophytes.

“I just left the army, and he’s the best for young people,” she said. “He’s something new. I’m optimistic. At some point, it has to be OK.”

Uri, the Tel Aviv event planner, said the flood of information available to voters today rendered decisions more difficult.

“You open Facebook, you can see everything that happens,” he said. “Before, it would be that my father votes Likud, so I vote Likud. Now you can see the party platform, what they’ve done, what they haven’t done.”

This year Likud failed to produce a formal party platform.

Dina, 76, a Tel Aviv resident who lost a husband and son in Israel’s wars, said she’s disappointed with Israel’s entire political system.

“Wherever there are Jews, there are never just two parties,” she said. “There are too many parties.”

Dina said she was a faithful Labor voter for decades until 2006, when she felt that the party wasn’t effective and cast a protest vote for the Pensioners’ Party. She said she’s voting cautiously for Livni after flirting with a return to Labor.

Neither party excited her, though there would have been one politician she said would raise her spirits – Shimon Peres, the 89-year-old former Labor prime minister who is Israel’s current president.

“He loves the state,” Dalia said. “There’s not one job he did where he didn’t succeed. He’s the lighthouse of the state.”

Who is Yair Lapid? [VIDEO]


Shmuel Rosner, Senior Political Editor of the Jewish Journal, speaks with Jewish Journal Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman about the results of the Jan. 23 Israeli election.