From left: Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Regional Director Amanda Susskind, film director Judd Apatow and comedians Natasha Leggero, Wayne Federman and Neal Brennan appeared Aug. 24 at Largo at the Coronet in support of the ADL. Apatow organized the event, titled “Judd Apatow and Friends.” Photo by Tyler Ross

Moving & Shaking: ‘Judd Apatow and Friends’ support the ADL, Honeymoon Israel receives grant and more

Hollywood writer, producer and director Judd Apatow organized an evening of comedy called “Judd Apatow and Friends” in support of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Aug. 24 at Largo at the Coronet in Beverly Grove.

Apatow (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up”) was joined by comedians Natasha Leggero (“Chelsea Lately”), Wayne Federman (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Neal Brennan (“Chappelle’s Show”) and Jerrod Carmichael (“The Carmichael Show”).

Apatow said he was inspired to organize the performance in response to the Aug. 11-12 white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Va., that included anti-Semitic chants, acts of intimidation against local Jews, neo-Nazi demonstrations and the death of woman who was a counterprotester.

Apatow, who is Jewish, publicized the event on Twitter, where he has been active in criticizing the administration of President Donald Trump.

During the event, Apatow “touched on several ADL areas of concern, including anti-Semitism, women’s rights, racism and immigration reform,” the ADL said in a statement.

ADL Regional Director Amanda Susskind also spoke at the event and discussed “ADL’s role in monitoring and exposing extremist and hate groups, and protecting civil rights in America,” the ADL said.

The sold-out event raised $8,700 in support of the ADL, which fights anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in the United States.

In addition, in a current online campaign, Apatow has pledged to match contributions of up to $10,000 to the ADL’s national office.

Whitney Kirk and Lindsey Arnold were participants on the September 2016 Honeymoon Israel Los Angeles trip. Photo courtesy of Honeymoon Israel


Honeymoon Israel, a national Jewish organization that subsidizes newly married couples with at least one Jewish partner to take part in group trips to Israel, recently received a $1.5 million grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation. Some of the grant money will help pay for Honeymoon Israel’s overall operations, while part will go toward the $600,000 invested in its local branch, said Michael D. Wise, co-CEO of Honeymoon Israel.

The 2-year-old organization works to help new couples build connections to local Jewish communities and encourages them to experience a deeper sense of Judaism by visiting Israel with other local couples.

“Seeing, touching and feeling Israel together as a newly married interfaith couple was a profound experience,” Diana and Karen Lovati, a couple from Los Angeles, said in a statement.

Whitney Kirk and her wife, Lindsey Arnold, of Playa del Rey, took Honeymoon Israel’s third trip, which left from Los Angeles in September 2016.

“Honeymoon Israel allowed my wife and me the opportunity to visit and experience the wonders of Israel as a couple, without the fear of being judged as a married, interfaith, lesbian couple,” Kirk said. “Before Honeymoon Israel, we were looking for a local Jewish community, and a year later, not only do we still stay in touch and spend time with the couples and staff we met on the trip, but our community continues to grow through couple-hosted events.”

In a statement, Barry Finestone, president and CEO of the Jim Joseph Foundation, said the future looks bright for Honeymoon Israel, which continues to grow and expand to more cities.

“The foundation is excited,” Finestone said, “to engage even more couples from a range of backgrounds in this powerful experience.”

— Julie Bien, Contributing Writer

The Valley Jewish Community Center boys 16-and-under soccer team won the gold medal at the 2017 JCC Maccabi Games. Photo courtesy of Lori Larcara


The Valley Jewish Community Center’s boys soccer team for players age 16 and under took the gold medal at the 2017 JCC Maccabi Games in Albany, N.Y., which were held Aug. 6-11.

The team dedicated its victory to the memory of Dr. David Fett, whose son played on the team eight years ago. Fett, an ophthalmologist who also was a supporter of the Valley JCC, died a few days before the tournament began.

Lori Larcara, mother of Jake Larcara, one of the Valley JCC players, said the team was proud to be playing in Fett’s honor.

“They never lost sight of their goal and the task at hand,” she said. “More importantly, they never forgot that this tournament was for them and Dr. Fett.”

The other team members were Amit Bitton, Ori Bitton, Tal Bitton, Yoav Cohen, Evan Davila, Edan Klier, Mikey Levy, David Luner, Dor Moskowitz, Benjamin Newman and Harel Spivak. The team was coached by Oren Diamant.

Larcara credited the support that all of the Valley JCC’s soccer teams have received from Shay Diamant, Philip Benditson and Kobi Koren, who has been coaching local JCC Maccabi teams for 25 years.

“These gentlemen volunteer their time, compassion and commitment and bring in donations of approximately $20,000 to help cover costs and offer financial aid,” Larcara said in an email.

The JCC Maccabi Games, held each summer in North America, also had competitions in Birmingham, Ala., from July 30 to Aug. 4, and Miami, from Aug. 6-11.

Pesach (Paul) Nisenbaum and his wife, Lida Baker, were among several people from Los Angeles who made aliyah to Israel in August thanks to the nonprofit Nefesh B’Nefesh organization. Photo courtesy of Pesach (Paul) Nisenbaum


Several people from Los Angeles made aliyah to Israel in August thanks to the nonprofit Nefesh B’Nefesh (NBN) organization.

Founded in 2001, NBN works with numerous agencies — including the Jewish Agency for Israel, Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Immigration Absorption, and the Jewish National Fund-USA — to facilitate emigration from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. In 2016, the organization surpassed bringing its 50,000th oleh (immigrant) to Israel.

Los Angeles-area residents who made aliyah in August included Pesach (Paul) Nisenbaum and his wife, Lida Baker; Carey Fried, Sara Chana Morrow, Rivka Grob, Yehuda Frischman and Robin Silver-Zwiren.

Nisenbaum, 66, a retired special education teacher, said the recent death of his mother, Faye Franks Nisenbaum Gelb, led him to decide it was the right time to fulfill a longtime dream of immigrating to Israel.

“We have been to Israel many times, over decades,” he said in an email. “I have been waiting to make aliyah for decades.”

Marty Adelstein, CEO of Tomorrow Studios and an advisory board member of Creative Community for Peace Photo courtesy of Creative Community for Peace

Marty Adelstein, CEO of Tomorrow Studios, has joined the advisory board of the Creative Community for Peace (CCFP), the organization announced on Aug. 21.

CCFP is composed of prominent members of the entertainment industry who promote the arts as a means to achieve peace, support artistic freedom and counter the cultural boycott of Israel. In August, the organization supported British rock band Radiohead’s decision to perform in Israel, despite the protests of some musicians, including former Pink Floyd member Roger Waters, who called on Radiohead to cancel its performance.

Adelstein’s career spans 25 years as an agent, manager and feature film and television producer. Other entertainment industry professionals involved in CCFP include Adam Berkowitz, co-head of the television department at Creative Artists Agency; Jody Gerson, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group; and Rick Krim, West Coast president of Sony/ATV Music Publishing.

“[Their] success and wide-ranging relationships will help us in our mission to promote the arts as a means to peace, defend artistic freedom, and counter the attempted cultural boycott of Israel,” CCFP said in a statement.

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A homecoming for Olim

Elissa Einhorn first wanted to make aliyah (emigrate to Israel) 30 years ago, but her late father, a Holocaust survivor who was convinced America was the best place in the world, didn’t support her dream. 

So, the 56-year-old writer from Sacramento stifled the urge to relocate to the Jewish homeland until last summer when, on a mission to Israel with Honest Reporting, a media watchdog that monitors coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, her desire to make aliyah was rekindled.

“I was surprised that all those emotions came back after 30 years, so I just decided to really think about whether I can really do this. I’m not a young person anymore, and, uh,” she said, beginning to cry as she spoke onboard an Aug. 17 chartered Nefesh B’Nefesh flight, “it’s just unbelievable I’m on this plane.”

Founded in 2001, Nefesh B’Nefesh (NBN) facilitates aliyah for people from North America and the United Kingdom. The organization works with numerous agencies, including the Jewish Agency for Israel, Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Immigration Absorption, and the Jewish National Fund-USA in making the aliyah process as smooth as possible. The organization crossed the threshold of bringing its 50,000th oleh (immigrant) on last week’s charter flight.

From left: San Fernando Valley residents Lidor Asulin, Natalie Rubinstein and Tamir Marom were among those onboard the Nefesh B’Nefesh flight. Photo by Ryan Torok 

The plane, which departed New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) on Aug. 16, carried 223 olim (people making aliyah) who, incuding Einhorn, have followed through with their wish of moving to Israel. The plane landed in Israel at Ben Gurion International Airport on the morning of Aug. 17. Those on board included 75 young adults who are making aliyah with the intention of joining the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), with women outnumbering men, 41 to 34. 

There were 13 people from California on board, including three 18-year-olds from the San Fernando Valley who are from Israeli families and are joining the IDF.

“I don’t want to do an office job; I can do that here,” Natalie Rubinstein, 18, of West Hills, who wants to be an artillery instructor in the IDF, told the Journal in a restaurant at LAX before the departure of a red-eye flight to New York. “I want to do physical stuff.” 

She was joined by Tamir Marom, 18, and Lidor Asulin, 18, both from Woodland Hills. The three met through their membership in Tzofim, an organization offering programs that develop and maintain the connection between Tzofim (Israeli Scouts) in Israel and Jews in North America. After completing their preparation for the IDF through Tzofim’s Garin Tzabar program, the youth are enlisted into an IDF unit, becoming “lone soldiers” — members of the IDF who are living in Israel without the support of immediate family members. More than  6,300 lone soldiers are currently serving in the IDF, according to, an organization that offers social and practical support to lone soldiers and their families.

“I don’t think we’re really alone, to be honest,” said Asulin, who is joining the IDF after deciding he wasn’t yet ready for college. “Eventually we all become family, one way or another.”

That’s the hope of NBN. Tani Kramer, the organization’s associate manager of public relations and communications, was among those staffing the flight. Originally from Sacramento, Kramer made aliyah to Israel with his family after he completed ninth grade. The family had been living in Israel for two years at the time, for what they believed would be a temporary stay. His father, a professor from the University of California, Davis, was ready to take the family back to California, but Kramer wasn’t interested. When he told his parents he’d found a family friend who would take him in, Kramer’s father decided the entire family would stay.

In an interview with the Journal on board the El Al airplane, Kramer spoke about what he called his “Nefesh moment,” which he had several years ago, after having joined the organization. Kramer interacted with a young adult who’d been contemplating aliyah but who had decided he wasn’t ready. Later, he ran into this man’s father. The man hugged Kramer, told him his son had made aliyah and that he was thankful to Kramer for facilitating the son’s decision.

Shortly before the plane landed in Tel Aviv, Kramer was wrapping tefillin with many of the observant olim. Meanwhile, the less observant were mingling. The excitement was palpable as the airplane neared its destination. Soon the flight attendants told everyone to be seated, and as the airplane descended into Israel, people on board broke out singing “Am Yisrael Chai.”

The plane was filled with a variety of passengers, and families with small children constituted a considerable number of those on board. Among them were the Eisens, a family of six from Los Angeles with plans to settle in a home they’ve purchased in Beit Shemesh.

“We’re excited,” said Ethan Eisen, a father of four who with his family most recently lived in the Pico-Robertson area, “[though] it was a little tough saying goodbye to some friends.” 

The youngest person on the flight was 3 1/2 weeks old. The oldest was 85. 

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and NBN co-founders Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Tony Gelbart were among those who addressed the olim during a welcoming ceremony in an airplane hangar at Ben Gurion airport. 

“You are no longer Jews in exile,” Rivlin said, speaking to a crowd of hundreds, including current Israeli soldiers who came to greet the olim. “You are Israelis.”

Angelenos Make Aliyah Dream Reality


It’s 4 p.m. “Erev Christmas,” and 21-year-old Adam Bodenstein is still rushing around his home in the Pico-Robertson area. He has yet to take a shower before Shabbat comes. In four days time, the Modern Orthodox UC Berkley graduate, who grew up in a Conservative household, will board a flight at New York’s JFK Airport that will take him to his new home — Israel.

But this is no ordinary El Al flight. This is Nefesh B’Nefesh’s (NBN) eighth flight (and first-ever winter flight) in three years.

NBN — co-founded by Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, a dynamic, vibrant redhead from Florida who made aliyah, and fellow Floridian Tony Gelbart, president and CEO of CPM Worldwide Group investment company — started out as a blip on American Jewry’s radar screens back in 2002. The two set out to boost North American and Canadian emigration by providing financial support and helping alleviate the obstacles and burdens inherent in making aliyah. To date, the organization has brought almost 4,000 new immigrants to the country; more than 100 have been from the Los Angeles area.

Bodenstein will have to wade through ulpan and the Israeli army but will have the additional support of his Israeli wife (whom he incidentally met in Los Angeles) when they marry this summer.

Four days later, at JFK, 45-year-old Modern Orthodox convert Howard Posner, from the Beverly-Fairfax area, is wandering around slightly dazed, having taken a red-eye the night before. Orlie Dekel a 26-year-old from Culver City has spent the last five days with cousins in New York, but is still one of the last to arrive at the airport and hasn’t finished packing. Two other Southern Californians are also taking the aliyah plunge: 62-year-old Modern Orthodox divorcée Danielle Schonbrunn of Valley Village and 22-year-old newly religious Dvora Nir.

The very fact that there are five Angelenos on this flight is a sharp change from previous flights, in which the majority of the new immigrants tended to hail from the East Coast. And unlike NBN’s previous seven flights, this particular planeload boasts a significantly high proportion of singles.

At 62, Schonbrunn is retired and is finally realizing her aliyah dream by following in the footsteps of her sons and daughter-in-law who made aliyah with NBN in 2002. She’ll live out her retirement near them and their six children in Ramat Beit Shemesh, just outside Jerusalem.

All the Angelenos speak of how much easier they feel it is to be taking the plunge without the burden of having to support and raise a family, and all believe that as singles they have the opportunity to reinvent themselves. Schonbrunn said she is looking forward to “going to ulpan and becoming a schoolgirl again.”

Posner, who underwent an Orthodox conversion in 2002, made his way out to Los Angeles in 1997, clutching a feature film he had written, directed and produced, in search of the elusive Hollywood dream. But that quickly turned into “a Hollywood nightmare” and Posner became a mild-mannered paralegal. He said NBN has afforded him the opportunity to rekindle his artistic dreams.

Converted, married and divorced within the last three years, Posner made his first ever trip to Israel in April 2004, and after only two weeks was hooked on the country. When he returned to Los Angeles he worked feverishly every night to produce a book complete with photographs documenting his extraordinary experiences in Israel, which he hopes to publish.

“I want to use the tools Hashem gave me as a writer and a filmmaker to show how our people are living and doing good things in Israel,” he said.

Oddly enough, during Posner’s 13 months of marriage, aliyah became a major topic between him and his then wife. Financial constraints, including the couples’ attempts to have a child, put those dreams on hold. The marriage didn’t last — but Posner’s dream did. He is the first to admit that it’s his newly single status that has allowed him to follow his heart to Israel, where he said his first job is to try and master Hebrew.

Dekel and Nir do not face such language barriers. Nir is a k’tina hozeret — a returning minor, born in Israel who moved to Sherman Oaks with her Israeli father and American mother at age 8. And Dekel, although born and raised in Los Angeles, grew up in a Hebrew-speaking household, the child of Israeli parents, both of whom, along with her married sister, now live in Israel.

For Dekel, her life in Los Angeles has been anything but easy. Her entire family returned to Israel six years ago, and Dekel has been living in her own apartment, paying her own bills as a preschool teacher at Conservative Temple Isaiah and putting herself through college. Still, her independent spirit has prevailed. Instead of moving in with her mother in Neve Zedek or her sister in Givatayim, Dekel, who dreams of getting married and starting her life anew, has chosen to live at Kibbutz Be’erot Yitzhak near Ben-Gurion Airport.

She’s also thinking of changing careers. She’s interested in gourmet cooking and is considering studying culinary arts. The move, Dekel said, is an opportunity for “an extreme makeover,” starting with an appointment at her sister’s hair dressing salon the day after she lands, where she will bid farewell to her jet-black curls and become a brunette. She also loves Israeli clothes and can’t wait to buy a new wardrobe.

At 22, Nir, who grew up in a secular household, became newly religious two years ago — six years after her parents did.

“I just couldn’t give up my secular lifestyle back then,” she said.

Now, Nir is making her way to a Lubavitch seminary in Tsfat with a religious fervor that seeps out of her every pore.

“Tsfat is the place where you can hear your soul,” she said, without a trace of irony.

A Birthright graduate who spent a year at the Neve seminary in Jerusalem, Nir said the catalyst for her took place two years ago when she put a note into the Kotel stating, “‘God, I want to be with you.’ And he said, ‘OK,'” she said with a smile.

Yet despite her rose-colored visions, Nir said she has also been practical in her decision. For her, now is the time to leave Los Angeles, while she can still do all the things she wants to do and experience Israel before she is married with a family — which she expects to be sometime in the near future.

“Jews in America talk about wanting to have their bodies shipped to Israel when they die,” she said. “I say, why come to Israel just to be buried when you can live here?”

It is perhaps the most eloquent summation of the energy, fervor and commitment that all of these former Angelenos have to their new home in Israel. They all acknowledge the financial and economic hardships that await them, but refuse to let that dampen their spirits. They all have a philosophical attitude toward terrorism — citing incidents of drive-by shootings in Los Angeles and the Western media’s over hyping of the “matzav” or situation — and said they need to just “live their lives” and hope they will be safe in Israel.

But most of all they acknowledge they couldn’t have done it without NBN. Posner didn’t tell anyone that he was leaving until his NBN grant came through six weeks before his departure. Schonbrunn becomes overwhelmed with emotion as she talks of the organization’s generosity. Nir said NBN is “heaven sent”; Dekel is thrilled that after attempting the aliyah paperwork in Israel two years ago, NBN was there to help her through the difficult steps. Bodenstein — who has a degree in religious studies — pays the organization the ultimate compliment, hoping to eventually work for NBN or a similar organization “to do Zionist educational work for the Diaspora.”

And that is why, in spite of jet lag and sheer exhaustion, when Fass ascends the podium at the hangar Ben-Gurion and tells everyone to phone home immediately and tell their friends, family and loved ones that it is “a precious gift to live in artzenu [our homeland], and you should all consider coming, because we’ll have the planes ready,” a deafening roar goes up from the latest group of “Jewish souls” who now call Israel home.

For information on Nefesh B’Nefesh, visit