Kitchen Stadium meets the Skirball, Miri Ben-Ari glows downtown, Jona Goldrich tells his story

Iron Chef In the HouseIron Chef Masaharu Morimoto paid a visit to the Skirball Cultural Center on Sept. 30, entertaining the crowd with a colorful cooking demonstration featuring menu items from his restaurants. The charismatic and world-class chef from Japan recently released his first cookbook, “The New Art of Japanese Cooking,” which exemplifies his self-styled “global cuisine,” a combination of French technique, Italian simplicity and Japanese flavor. The audience watched him sauté shaved daikon radish in marinara sauce and grill Trader Joe’s fajita bread brushed with eel sauce for his raw tuna pizza.

In conversation with Evan Kleiman, host of KCRW’s “Good Food” and owner of Angeli Caffe on Melrose, Morimoto recalled fond childhood memories of dining in sushi restaurants with his family. From then on, he had two dreams: to become a professional baseball player and a sushi chef. He realized the latter ambition, although he plays baseball as a regular hobby. The audience was enamored with Morimoto’s adroit use of the custom-designed knives he carries with him wherever he travels. While in Los Angeles, he dined at fellow celebrity chefs’ haunts: Mario Batali’s Osteria Mozza and the Wolfgang Puck steakhouse Cut. When asked who his favorite chef is, Morimoto said, “my wife.”

Fiddling Around for Magbitmagbit
City views abounded from the 54th floor of the Wells Fargo Building downtown, where Magbit transformed the City Club into a bona fide nightclub on Sept. 29. Draped in a silky orange gown, the Grammy-winning “hip hop violinist” Miri Ben-Ari mesmerized several hundred attendees, including Israeli Consul Ehud Danoch and Beverly Hills Mayor Jimmy Delshad, pairing a classic string instrument with scratching records and, of course, those tousled blonde locks. The Israeli-born beauty strummed the violin with the force of lighting alongside D.J. Total Eclipse, whose high-volume beats moved the crowd to dance.

Ben-Ari got personal when praising Magbit’s work providing interest-free loans and scholarships to students attending Israeli universities. She was forced to drop out of college after a few semesters when she couldn’t afford tuition payments, “But don’t pity me. I won a Grammy with Kanye West. Things worked out for me.”

Apple and Family Get New Big Apple Digs

Super-starlet of half-Jewish lineage Gwyneth Paltrow recently purchased a $5.5 million penthouse in Manhattan’s Tribeca from Israeli real-estate/diamond tycoon Lev Leviev, reported. Leviev, ranked No. 278 on Forbes’ “World’s Richest People” list, is reportedly worth $2.6 billion. As chair of the Africa Israel Investments Group, Leviev, an Uzbekistan-born Lubavitcher Jew, built the River Lofts project, which attracted actors Meryl Streep and Harvey Keitel. He also managed the recent acquisition of a $426 million historical building in Manhattan that will convert to luxury housing. Paltrow and husband, Coldplay singer Chris Martin, will live in the nearly 5,000-square-foot pad with their children, Apple and Moses. Now that’s the suite life!

LAPD Supporters HonoredBrian Grazer, Rochelle and Richard Maize
Could this kind of philanthropy guilt an officer out of issuing a speeding ticket? Uber-producer Brian Grazer was honored alongside Rochelle and Richard Maize of Beverly Hills for their ardent support of the Los Angeles Police Foundation. The True Blue Fundraiser at Paramount Studios saluted the contributions of the aforementioned and awarded select members of the LAPD for their community service.

Gordis and Scheindlin Join Shalem Center

Since he departed Los Angeles to make aliyah with his family in 1998, Rabbi Daniel Gordis continues to establish himself as a major leadership force in Israel. He recently joined The Shalem Center as senior vice president and as a senior fellow in its Institute for Zionist History and Thought. Shalem was established in Jerusalem in 1994 with the “goal of developing the ideas needed to guide and sustain the Jewish people in the decades to come,” according to its Web site. The educational institution supports research, teaching and publication in the areas of Jewish morality and politics, Zionism, biblical archaeology, democratic theory, and economic and social policy. Ahavia Scheindlin, former vice president of European operations for the Shoah Foundation, is Shalem’s new vice president for development.

L.A. Phil — Under and With the Starsl.a. phil gala
The Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Opening Night Gala was a starry night, indeed. Celebrities Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Laurence Fishburne and Michael Eisner danced under an open sky while listening to the operatic sounds of soprano Renee Fleming. A special thanks was delivered to avid Philharmonic supporter Anita Hirsh for her contributions that allowed music educators and young musicians to attend the concert. The evening, themed “Music is Timeless,” kicked off the orchestra’s fifth season at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

‘Jona’s’ Tale of SurvivalAish LA
Aish LA hosted Holocaust survivor Jona Goldrich (center, back row) for an evening called “Jona’s Story,” where the philanthropist shared his fascinating life history with students who traveled to Poland this past summer on Aish LA Leadership Missions.

A Bright Idea

JFS children's shelter
Now there’s a place for homeless children that’s as colorful and fulfilling as a Dr. Seuss book, thanks to the support of Bright Horizons Foundation for Children, Paramount Pictures and Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles. Located at the JFS/Gramercy Place transitional shelter in mid-Wilshire, “Bright Spaces” is designed to provide an enriching environment in which children can play and learn. The goal of the shelter is to provide a space that helps young children develop motor, cognitive, social and language skills that will enhance success in later life. Photo by Alexis Hunt

Avni Films Abound

Handsome Israeli actor Aki Avni, who splits his time between the Pacific and Mediterranean coasts, is heading to the Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema next week (Oct. 18-28) to bask in the limelight of his newest film, “Salt of the Earth” (“Melah Ha’aretz”), which screened in Los Angeles during the Israeli Film Festival in March 2007. Avni recently completed filming “My Mom’s New Boyfriend,” starring Antonio Banderas and Meg Ryan.

Following the Leaders

More than 260 community leaders and friends gathered on Sunday, Sept. 9 to salute Annette and Dr. Reuben Beezy and Adina and Ilan Bender with the 2007 Distinguished Community Leader Award. The San Fernando Valley Council of NA’AMAT USA sponsored the luncheon held at the Olympic Collection. Rabbi Ed Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom delivered the keynote address and Phil Blazer emceed. NA’AMAT USA National President Alice Howard congratulated the honorees.

Dancing to a Different Magbit

When my friend first mentioned the word Magbit to me, I knew she was thinking of getting married. For us Persian Jewish girls, Magbit (pronounced Magbeet) comes to mind when you’re all partied out, ready to settle down and attend the 11-year-old organization’s elaborate singles events.

"So, um, do you remember when you said that your cousin took you to some event where there were older guys, and it was some sort of marriage thing, Magbit or something?" she stammered.

After a half an hour of debating with her on why we should maintain our party lives just a little bit longer, I finally relented. I mean, it could mean the end of brainstorming ways to attract men and mulling over just what my crush of the week meant by "you’re in my way." When we presented the idea to our other friends, they acted as if we’d just said we want to buy chadors and move back to Iran.

"So you guys know you have to wear the right gear, right?" sneered our incredulous friend. Suddenly we realized there is a sort of "gear" attached to attending for-marriage events.

It was no longer the leather jacket that was fit for a night out in Westwood, but a pashmina draped over our shoulders. No more platform shoes that were OK for a friend’s keg party, but pumps, pointy ones at that.

We’d have to do a little shopping — no more Forever 21 or Rampage, but more like Ann Taylor and the misses’ department at Macy’s. This getting married thing was getting to be too much already, and we hadn’t even started yet.

With these thoughts in mind, I attended my first Magbit event. I didn’t know what to expect.

Pretty soon, I began to forget where I was and started to enjoy it. I soon realized I was missing out. Not because marriage opportunities were passing me by, but because being involved with Magbit meant more than finding a husband. It meant getting immersed in issues concerning my own culture and learning about others.

Many others told me that this event was different from other singles functions in that it was a learning — and valuable — cultural experience, rather than just a venue for singles 18 to 35 to mingle. According to Doran Adhami, the organization’s president, Magbit aims to reach beyond the Iranian Jewish community and embrace Jewish youth from all groups. "We’re hoping our future events will be filled with non-Persian as well as Persian Jews," Adhami said.

"[Magbit] is a forum for young people to come and express concerns about society in a friendly atmosphere," Vice President Neda Perry-Nikkhoo said. Concerns are many for us Persian Jews in our 20s and 30s, especially when it comes to dating and marriage.

Originally, the nonprofit group was founded for the purpose of offering interest-free loans to college students in the United States and Israel. Many students are potential doctors, lawyers and engineers who just need a little monetary help to succeed, Perry-Nikkhoo said. All proceeds from events go toward the loans, which are repaid within five years by 98 percent of the students.

This past New Year’s Eve, my friends and I neglected to make plans ahead of time and were left with little choices for ringing in the new year. It was either joining the khastegar (for marriage) environment a little earlier than we’d anticipated or going to Hollywood and Highland and watching a bunch of drugged-out ravers.

So the three of us headed for the Magbit party at the former location of the Grammy’s. Lo and behold, it turned out better than expected. The food was scrumptious; the Persian and Euro dance music kept us on the dance floor. The countdown to 2002, with champagne and just plain warmth and cheer, was one to remember.

The funny thing is, we ran into a bunch of our friends who had also decided to make this New Year’s Eve a Magbit one. And as we were still huddled after the countdown, a quick glance around the room proved that the open-toed shoes, leather jackets and Forever 21 getups had not become extinct after all.

For more information on Magbit, call (310) 273-2233.