Moving and shaking: Honoring Max Steinberg, The Concern Foundation and more

Marking the second anniversary of lone soldier Max Steinberg’s July 20, 2014 death while serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Steinberg’s parents, locals Stuart and Evie Steinberg, and Jewish National Fund (JNF) Ammunition Hill Liaison Yoel Rosby visited the Wall of Honor at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem on July 20.

Thanks to an anonymous donor, the Wall of Honor features a plaque bearing Max Steinberg’s name. He served in the IDF from 2012 to 2014 and died in battle in Gaza. The Woodland Hills native was 24.Erected by the JNF, the Wall of Honor is a tribute to Jews who “served or serve in the military in any country,” according to the JNF website.

Ammunition Hill, a site where the British stored ammunition during the 1930s, was the scene of a deadly battle between Israel and Jordan during the Six-Day War in 1967.

Lone soldiers are IDF soldiers whose immediate families live outside of Israel.

A year after launching her fashion line that promotes modesty and is aimed at Orthodox women, local designer Rachelle Yadegar joined an eight-day trip to Israel’s fashion and tourism sites led by the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP).

Local designer Rachelle Yadegar. Photo courtesy of Not Without My Heels

The trip brought together 35 Jewish designers and industry professionals from across the U.S., as well as Greece, South Africa and Panama to visit bread-and-butter itinerary stops such as the Dead Sea and Jerusalem’s Old City, but also fashion destinations such as Shenkin Street boutiques in Tel Aviv.

JWRP is a Maryland-based nonprofit that seeks to empower Jewish women by connecting them with their heritage. It frequently conducts trips to Israel, but the fashionista trip, which came to a close Aug. 3, is the first of its kind.

A year ago, Yadegar, 23, started a fashion line with her cousin Judith Iloulian called RaJu. The pair introduced their brand because they saw a need for “a high-end, modest clothing line” — a way for Orthodox women to look elegant but still “cover knees and elbows,” Yadegar said. 

“HaShem wants us to feel beautiful,” she said in an interview.

Yadegar also runs a fashion blog, Not Without My Heels, where she frequently posts pictures of her newest designs.

“Modesty can be trendy and fun and sexy,” she said. “You can be modest but still look hot.”

Eitan Arom, Staff Writer

On July 13, Rabbi Noam Raucher joined Pasadena Jewish Temple & Center’s (PJTC) clergy. Raucher succeeds Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater, who had served as the congregation’s rabbi since 2003. 

New Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center Rabbi Noam Raucher. Photo courtesy of Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center

Raucher was born and raised in Hamden, Conn. After receiving his bachelor’s degree from Hofstra University, Raucher worked as a counselor at Yale Psychiatric Hospital. In 2011, he received his master’s degree in education from American Jewish University’s (AJU) Fingerhut School of Education and was ordained at AJU’s Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, both in Los Angeles. Before his position at PJTC, Raucher was associate rabbi and religious school education director at Temple Israel in Charlotte, N.C. He and his wife, Tamar, have two boys, Judah and Eli.

PJTC is a Conservative synagogue, and at 94 years old is one of the oldest Jewish synagogues in the San Gabriel Valley. The temple’s executive director, Beryl Strauss, believes Raucher will “be able to embrace [the community’s] multigenerational families … and [its] young” new members. “His style, his friendliness, his openness [make him] a good match for our organization,” she added.

Kayla Cohen, Contributing Writer

On July 9, Concern Foundation held its 42nd annual Block Party on the backlot of Paramount Studios. This year’s event, “Field of Dreams for a Cancer-Free World,” was attended by approximately 4,000 people and raised more than $1.7 million for cancer and immunology research. 

Dr. Peter and Rebecca Grossman were honored as “Humanitarians and Community Leaders” for their innovative treatment of and charitable efforts toward burn victims.

Former Beverly Hills Mayor Barry Brucker and his wife, Sue, were honored with the inaugural Beth  Hersh Goldsmith Conquer Cancer Now Heroes Award, commemorating friend and former Concern Foundation Executive Director Beth Goldsmith, who died of cancer last November.

Barry and Sue Brucker hold the first-ever Beth Hersh Goldsmith Conquer Cancer Now Heroes Award. Photo by Jackson Prince

“We are touched that this award ties Beth, her family and us together,” Brucker said. “Beth was a giant of a person and an inspiration.”

Concern Foundation President Derek Alpert said that honoring Goldsmith this year was “bittersweet” for him, as “her fingerprints will be all over Concern forever.”

Alpert hopes to “continue to build Concern’s family of supporters.”

“We know that our friends, family members, loved ones or even each of us will be personally touched by cancer in our lifetime,” he said. “We are in the business to someday be out of business, but that dream is still today just a dream.”

Jackson Prince, Contributing Writer

Four days after her July 13 birthday, Dorothy Steinberg celebrated turning 100 at Just Dance Los Angeles on July 17. Steinberg is a member of Temple Beth Ohr in La Mirada and works with ORT America, an educational and training organization that prepares members of impoverished communities for competitive jobs. 

From left: Sue Nevens, Dorothy Steinberg and Lonnie Wagman celebrate Steinberg’s 100th birthday. Wagman and Nevens are Steinberg’s daughters. Photo by Rebecca Bernstein

— Kayla Cohen, Contributing Writer

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email

Moving and Shaking: University Synagogue hires new cantor, Rabbi Michy Rav-Noy’s half marathon

University Synagogue recently hired Cantor Kerith Spencer-Shapiro as its new cantor. 

Spencer-Shapiro, who succeeds Cantor Jay Frailich, has big shoes to fill. Frailich served 40 years at the Brentwood Reform synagogue before retiring in June.

Spencer-Shapiro, 44, said she has fallen in love with the job, which she began on July 1. “It just feels like I’m home here,” she said. 

Spencer-Shapiro holds a master’s degree in Sacred Music and received her cantorial ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She previously served at Temple Sholom in Broomall, Penn., and Congregation Adas Emuno in Leonia, N.J 

“From the first time I set foot into [University] synagogue, it was obvious that there are wonderful people who really care about the things I care about … [such as] social justice through prayer, through gemilut hasadim, [through] active compassion. It’s a very special place, and I feel incredibly lucky to have been chosen as their cantor,” Spencer-Shapiro said. 

She joins a clergy team that includes Rabbi Morley Feinstein and Rabbi Joel Simonds. The synagogue serves approximately 500 families.

Spencer-Shapiro was officially welcomed to her new community during a special Shabbat service on Aug. 1. Visit for more information.

Ryan Torok, Staff Writer

Mark Kligman. Photo courtesy of Mark Kligman

Mark Kligman was recently appointed the inaugural holder of the Mickey Katz Endowed Chair in Jewish Music at UCLA.

“Let me put it to you this way: In the academic world, this is historic,” Kligman said. “I get to be the champion for Jewish music.”

Kligman said his interest in Jewish music was piqued when he was an undergraduate at California State University, Northridge, where he read a textbook on the history of Western music that changed the course of his life.

“I kept thinking to myself, ‘What’s the music of my heritage?’ ” said Kligman, who recently moved to California with his wife, Jessica

There was one feeble paragraph on the history of Jewish music in that textbook. Kligman knew there had to be more to explore, so he pursued a doctorate at New York University, with a focus on the ethnomusicology of Syrian Jews in Brooklyn. 

Although not Syrian — “I’m 100 percent Eastern European,” he said — it was close enough. He had found his niche. 

Ron and Madelyn Katz donated $1 million to help launch the program, which helps preserve and expand the study of Jewish music at UCLA. 

On behalf of his family, Ron Katz — son of Yiddish entertainer Mickey Katz — issued a statement, saying they were “thrilled” about Kligman’s appointment. 

“I am sure Dad [Mickey Katz] would be pleased.” 

Tess Cutler, Contributing Writer

Friendship Circle of Los Angeles Executive Director Rabbi Michy Rav-Noy runs for a good cause.  Photo courtesy of Friendship Circle Los Angeles

When Rabbi Michy Rav-Noy completed his first half marathon on July 27, it was far more than a personal achievement — it was a reminder that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. 

Rav-Noy is the executive director of the L.A. chapter of the Friendship Circle, an international nonprofit that builds relationships between special-needs children and teen volunteers. Rav-Noy’s chapter currently serves 120 Jewish children and has 341 volunteers. 

Several months ago, Rav-Noy discovered that a group of men was planning to run in the San Francisco 1st Half Marathon to raise money for the Friendship Circle. Moved, Rav-Noy decided to join them on their mission. 

“I was very, very touched,” he said. 

To prepare for the half marathon, Rav-Noy trained with his team members, Mazyar K. Shamshoni, Alon Asefovitz, Levi Benjaminson, Estee Yusevitch, Shainy Benjaminson, Yossi Goldberger, Sruly Yusevitch and Mushka Lowenstein. He started training with 2-mile runs and increased his distance in the weeks leading up to the event. 

Collectively, the team raised about $49,000 for the Friendship Circle, and Rav-Noy alone raised nearly $11,000.

For Rav-Noy, fitness is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. He swam regularly prior to adding distance running to his exercise regimen. 

“I think in the same way we need to do all [sorts of] other things, we need to take care of our body,” he said. 

The half marathon’s scenic, 13.1-mile route is the first half of the San Francisco Marathon route, which runs through Fisherman’s Wharf, across the roadbed of the Golden Gate Bridge and ends in Golden Gate Park. Beyond the picturesque scenery, what Rav-Noy found especially inspiring was the support and encouragement the runners gave one another. Their generosity and altruism, he said, created a “microcosm” of how the world should ideally be. 

“When people want to, and they work on a common goal, suddenly a lot of the issues we have as a society fall away,” he said.

— Nuria Mathog, Contributing Writer

Rabbi Becky Silverstein. Photo by Jordyn Rozensky

Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center’s (PJTC) decision to hire Rabbi Becky Silverstein, who began approximately three weeks ago as the shul’s education director, represents a milestone for the Conservative shul. 

“It’s hard to quantify these things,” Silverstein said, but, he added, he believes he is one of the first trans-identified rabbis affiliated with the Conservative movement. 

“I’m really excited about being open and out, and being a role model,” Silverstein said. 

When he was being pursued for the position at PJTC’s Louis B. Silver Religious School, Silverstein said, “They listened and made an issue of it [only] in the right ways.” 

Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater and executive director Eitan Trabin were especially proactive in welcoming Silverstein into the PJTC family. 

“I want to sing their praises,” Silverstein said. 

“This is a shifting and interesting time in the Jewish community, and I think Rabbi Silverstein is going to help us transition in ways that are forward-thinking,” Grater, head rabbi at PJTC and a longtime advocate for LGBT issues, said. 

Grater called Silverstein “a dynamic young rabbi.” 

Silverstein feels fortunate to be inheriting what he considers an especially solid program, established by previous director Debby Singer

“She did a really great job,” Silverstein said.

Prior to taking the position at PJTC, Silverstein lived in Boston for eight years, except for a nine-month stint in Israel. Silverstein said he is looking forward to being a role model and developing a creative space for his students. 

— Tess Cutler, Contributing Writer

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email

Memoir highlights unlikely role in Gilad Shalit saga

Less than one year before Gilad Shalit’s 2006 abduction-heard-round-the-world, another, less infamous tragedy set events in motion that ultimately aided in the Israeli soldier’s release.

In September 2005, a relative of Gershon Baskin, founder and then-co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI), was kidnapped during a business trip in the West Bank. Despite Baskin’s efforts to track him down using his Palestinian contacts, the family member turned up dead six days later. 

On the day of the funeral, Baskin vowed that he would save the next person who was kidnapped. 

“I stood over his grave not only feeling terrible because my wife’s first cousin had been murdered, but because the family asked me to do something. I’d been working with Palestinians for two decades, and I couldn’t save his life,” Baskin told a small crowd at the Pasadena Jewish Temple & Center (PJTC) on Nov. 21. “And I swore to myself that night if ever again I was in a situation where someone approached me and asked me to help save a human life, I would do everything humanly possible.” 

Since 1988, Baskin has been working to bring peace to the Israelis and Palestinians through the IPCRI, a joint Israeli-Palestinian public policy think tank. In summer 2006, contacts from his profession came in handy — and he got his chance to live up to the promise he made to himself — when then-19-year-old Shalit was kidnapped by militants from the Gaza Strip.

Baskin had been attempting to organize dialogues between academics from Israeli universities and academics from Islamic University of Gaza, with which Hamas leaders were affiliated, and found himself in a position to try and help Shalit.

From successfully obtaining a sign of life of Shalit in the form of a personal handwritten letter, to convincing the soldier’s parents to contact the head of Hamas in Damascus, to venturing precariously into the Gaza Strip to meet with Hamas leaders in person, Baskin described his quest to save Shalit as all-in. 

As explained in his recently released book recounting his efforts, “The Negotiator,” Baskin, acting in an unofficial capacity — after years of trying to convince the Israeli government to let him do so — established secret, back-channel negotiations with Shalit’s kidnappers in the Islamist group Hamas. This helped pave the way for the deal that won the soldier his freedom, Baskin said. After five years of captivity, Shalit was released in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinians who were being held in Israeli jails for carrying out attacks against Israelis.

That’s not to say he didn’t irritate many along the way, even in Israel. Several investigators, including official appointees of the Israeli prime minister’s office, were grateful for Baskin’s commitment but asked him to stay out of the case. Still, his dissatisfaction with how long it was taking to rescue the young boy in captivity kept him motivated, he said.

While Baskin’s presentation left out some of the juicer details — he was there to move copies of his new book, after all — there was another reason for his appearance, according to PJTC Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater, who extended the invitation to Baskin.

“It was one person who established a relationship and who built trust and who was not willing to give up, and that to me is kind of a metaphor for how we are going to bring peace in the world … one person at a time.”

A Case for Pasadena

Most people are surprised, even flabbergasted, to learn that there is a sizeable Jewish community in Pasadena, one that has been here for well over a century.

I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, and I had never been to Pasadena. I knew little about it — mostly that the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl were there; I had no idea how close it was to Woodland Hills, where I lived. And I certainly didn’t think about if there were Jews there.

Pasadena is located in the San Gabriel Valley — or what locals call the “Other Valley” — and it’s surrounded by the San Gabriel Mountains. It sits at the foot of Mount Wilson, home to the observatory where Albert Einstein worked during his stay at Cal Tech. It’s also home to Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the leading U.S. center for robotic exploration of the solar system, which offers us a connection to space, science and some of the best minds in the world.

Jews first came to Pasadena at the turn of the 20th century, not long after the city was founded. Jewish women formed an aid society, and the men formed a congregation. Meetings first took place in congregants’ homes, and High Holiday services were held in the Union Labor Temple. In 1920, Temple B’nai Israel incorporated and established a presence on Hudson and Walnut streets, and from 1925 to 1932 the congregation grew from 60 families to 207 families. In 1940, the congregation moved to its present location on North Altadena Drive.

When Rabbi Max Vorspan arrived to head the congregation 1947, he encouraged the Pasadena Jewish community to reconstitute itself as the Jewish Community of Pasadena, with Temple B’nai Israel, B’nai B’rith Men and Women, Hadassah and ORT as constituent organizations. The congregation adopted the name “Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center” (PJTC). Vorspan went on to become the University of Judaism’s dean in 1952.

When I took over the rabbinic leadership of PJTC two years ago, I learned not only about the amazing cultural, social and natural wonders of Pasadena, but also about the awesome Jewish community here: It’s one that has a solid base and an incredible potential for dynamic growth.

In addition to PJTC, there is also a Chabad of Pasadena. All different kinds of Jews live here — and are moving here in large numbers.

The area features a wonderful preschool, B’nai Simcha Jewish Community Preschool, which cares for 70 children ages 2-6, and is located a short drive down the road in Arcadia. On the PJTC campus is an accredited day school, the Chaim Weizmann Community Day School, which has recently been awarded a science and arts grant for its work with Eaton Canyon Reserve, as well as a city of Pasadena Unity Award, for its Daniel Pearl program bringing together Jewish, Christian and Muslim children.

PJTC is currently home to almost 400 families, with many young families joining every month. We have a vibrant and nationally recognized religious school, the Louis B. Silver Religious School, with more than 175 kids.

I am using my experiences from my time at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Manhattan to bring innovative prayer experiences to PJTC. We have “Shabbat B’lev,” Shabbat of the Heart, featuring musicians who create an incredibly deep and passionate Shabbat evening service. PJTC is also engaged in social justice programs, including acting as one of three host synagogues for a May 26 program focusing on the Sudan, partnering with Longfellow Elementary in an extensive tutoring and mentoring program, serving monthly meals at our local homeless shelter and raising money to build a reservoir in Israel.

I constantly hear from people who are interested in moving to a more open and expansive part of town. Given how crowded the San Fernando Valley and the Westside are — Pasadena is set to explode to become the next major Jewish community in Los Angeles.

With a greater number of committed Jews moving here, we will have the chance to open kosher restaurants and markets, which are currently not available. The saying promises, “build it, and they shall come,” but in this case, I think we need to build it together.

I can see a time in the next 10 to 15 years when Pasadena will take its rightful place as the newest — yet oldest — addition to Jewish Los Angeles. I foresee a future when people will mention Pasadena’s Jewish community alongside Jewish neighborhoods like Pico-Robertson, Fairfax and Valley Village. Of course, given how often Pasadena is compared to the San Fernando Valley, our Jewish community may be known as the “other Jewish neighborhood.”

For more information on PJTC, visit