Moving and shaking

Five years after merging with Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center (PJTC), former members of Congregation Shaarei Torah in Arcadia were among those who took part June 22 in a symbolic Torah scroll procession from their old building to their new home.

Since merging in 2009, PJTC has housed all of Shaarei Torah’s 11 scrolls. Still, the Torah walk (and drive) was attended by about 70 people and prompted by the fact that the former property, transferred to PJTC with the merger, was sold. 

“The new owner took possession of the property on July 1 and demolition may already be underway,” said Jeff Landau, PJTC executive vice president of programs.

Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater, spiritual leader of PJTC, said, “I hope it felt like some sense of closure — respect, kavod, for that space.”

On June 22, a final Sunday minyan took place at the Shaarei Torah building on Second Avenue in Arcadia. This was followed by the community Torah walk, during which people passed the holy scroll from one to another for a short distance. The majority of the 6 1/2 miles between the two sites was covered by car. 

Many of those who returned together to PJTC did so without dry eyes, according to Grater.

“We wanted to have this commemoration to honor the memory and allow folks to say goodbye to the space,” Grater told the Journal. “It was a very moving, emotional and touching morning.”

Los Angeles Dodgers’ baseball hats — emblazoned with the team’s name in Hebrew — dotted Dodgers Stadium stands on June 29 during the 15th annual Jewish Community Day.

On the scorching, summer afternoon, a group sales representative estimated Jewish community groups purchased 800 tickets. The day’s strong turnout was due, in part, to the tireless efforts of people like Jason Stern, brotherhood/men’s club president of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino. He sold 300 tickets and was one of several people honored on the field prior to the game.

From left: Hazzan Mimi Haselkorn of Temple Aliyah, Valley Beth Shalom’s men’s club president Jason Stern, and Shaarey Zedek congregant Michael Halpern and his children, Benjamin and Emma, participated in a pregame recognition ceremony at Dodgers Jewish Community Day on June 29. Photo by Ryan Torok

“I’m feeling just kind of excited about how successfully the community came together for this event,” Stern said walking down to the field for the ceremony. “Anytime you can get this much of the community together for anything it’s always a challenge — but to have people turn out in [these] kind of numbers and all be excited and having this much fun, you can’t ask for more than this.”

Hazzan Mimi Haselkorn of Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills; Michael Halpern of Shaarey Zedek in Valley Village; Neil Wedge of Chabad of the Beach Cities and Beverly Hills Little League’s Eric Weissman were also honored during the pregame event, which recognized those who sold tickets in bulk.

The Dodgers beat the St. Louis Cardinals 6-0, but they weren’t the only winners. Jeff Rohatiner, owner of Jeff’s Gourmet Kosher Sausage Factory in Pico-Robertson, said he was thrilled to take part in the day’s event. Invited by the Dodgers, Rohatiner brought in a portable stand, complete with steam cookers capable of heating dozens of dogs simultaneously. A Kehilla Kosher rabbi supervised.

 “There’s nothing more American than baseball, apple pie and kosher hot dogs,” said Jay Falk of Shomrei Torah Synagogue in West Hills. 

Fans enjoyed a seventh-inning stretch that featured more than the customary rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Israeli singer Elliott Yamin sang “God Bless America.”

The seventh KindredSPIRITS benefit concert for Israeli humanitarian project Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) took place at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills on June 14.

KindredSPIRITS is a Jewish charity organization that produces an annual world-class concert that, according to its website, has raised nearly $1 million for six charities and drawn more than 5,000 people to its concerts. SACH is an international group that works to bring quality care to children suffering from heart disease in developing countries.

Performers at the concert included KindredSPIRITS founder Cantor Ilan Davidson of Temple Beth El in San Pedro; Cantor Ilysia Pierce of Temple of the Arts in Beverly Hills; and the L. A. Jewish Symphony, with founder and conductor Noreen Green. Singer-songwriter Bea Miller from the TV music competition “The X-Factor,” the Agape International Choir and singer Freda Payne were also part of the annual gala.

Performers included Cantor Ilan Davidson, the founder, president and artistic director of KindredSPIRITS, and “The X-Factor” singer Bea Miller. Photo courtesy of KindredSPIRITS

Michael Beckwith and his wife, Rickie Byars Beckwith, were honored with the KindredSPIRITS Humanitarian Award. Michael Beckwith is the founder and spiritual director of the Agape International Spiritual Center in Culver City, and Rickie Byars Beckwith is a recording artist of religious music.

Additional supporters of the June event included Congresswoman Janice Hahn; L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe; L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino, and restaurateur and interior designer Barbara Lazaroff.

Misfits of Jewish Outreach (MOJO) held its first event in grand fashion — on a quadruple-decker yacht, “Noah’s Ark,” that left dock from Marina del Rey.

The June 15 evening masquerade party drew 250 Jewish young adults and featured everything from casino games to an exhibit with live animals. There were open bars, live music and a rooftop cabana, too.

MOJO’s mission is to create programs that “unravel the purpose and meaning of life” and highlight “the responsibility of the Jewish people” to the rest of the world to be a “light unto the nations,” explained Joubin Hanaie, one of the organization’s founder.

Guests at Misfits of Jewish Outreach’s “Noah’s Ark” event try their hand at blackjack. Photo by Jared Sichel

Hana titled the event after the biblical story of Noah because he wants his organization to help young Jews be leaders to their generation. The Biblical figure Noah, after the flood, was the leader of a new generation of humanity.

Friends and strangers dressed for a night on the town as they socialized and mingled, many with a drink in hand. Lauren Schwartz, 23, said one reason she came was to find a potential date.

One floor below, Rami Kayvar, Jonathan Jay and Aaron Kahen were enjoying their beverages and having a few laughs. Kayvar, who said he had not been to any Jewish events for a while, came in order to be “reintroduced into the Jewish scene.”

Hana added: “There are not many Jewish events that are unique, and I think this one really captured that.” 

— Jared Sichel, Staff Writer

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

Heart-to-heart effort boosts Israel’s image

There are nearly 50 million people in the East African nation of Tanzania and only one pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon. That would be Dr. Godwin Godfrey, who owes his training to an Israel-based nonprofit, Save a Child’s Heart (SACH). 

The doctor was in the Los Angeles area in October, speaking about the international organization that trains doctors from across the globe to perform delicate, life-saving surgeries on children from developing countries with congenital heart problems. It’s also devoted to offering free open-heart surgery in Israel for children from developing nations.

Godfrey is a surgeon who learned about SACH from a German pediatrician at his hospital in Mwanza, Tanzania, according to an interview posted at As part of his five-year training process with the organization, he spent time studying pediatric cardiology, pediatric intensive care and cardiac anesthesiology at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel. 

David Litwack, SACH’s U.S. executive director, explained that the organization began in 1995, founded by the late Dr. Ami Cohen, an American who made aliyah. Its goal is to work on many levels, Litwack said: “saving lives around the world, training the doctors and building bridges of understanding [between various cultures and Israel].”

The organization’s West Coast arm came together serendipitously after Judy Shore and her husband, David, creator of the TV medical drama “House,” stumbled upon it while abroad.

“We were invited to Israel along with the cast of ‘House’ a few years ago, and we stopped at SACH,” said Judy Shore, now the organization’s West Coast chair. “David and I go to Israel very often, but we knew very little about SACH. Wow! We were so moved.”

On Oct. 6, the Shores opened up their Pacific Palisades home to host a meet-and-greet for about 25 people that raised awareness and donations. Without an official office in Los Angeles, Judy Shore and Jack Mayer, SACH Western regional director, both work out of their homes to help the operation.

“SACH has been active on the East Coast for a while, but we would like to have more of a presence here,” Judy Shore said. “It’s an amazing nonprofit. They have saved the lives of over 3,000 children from over 40 countries. Not only do they bring children to Israel for surgery, but they also train doctors from other countries to perform heart surgery [in their respective countries].”  

David Shore said: “There’s a lot of good charities out there who do a lot of good, but usually what they do is make a crappy situation slightly less crappy. This organization, for these kids, takes a crappy situation and makes it go away, gives them life.”

For the Shores, becoming actively involved with SACH came easily. Not so for some of the children it tries to assist.

 “[The organization] recently performed successful surgery on two children from Syria. This was no easy trip. They ended up traveling via Europe to Israel to avoid people in their country knowing that they were going to the Jewish state,” Judy Shore said. “A third child was supposed to come, but the parents decided not to make the trip. That child has died.”

Many of the children who receive operations are Palestinian, she said. 

“They also have to be careful about people within their community knowing that they are being treated in Israel,” Judy Shore said.

Nancy Pardo, a Calabasas mom, began volunteering for SACH more than a year ago and can relate to its mission of helping kids. She meets with Los Angeles-area rabbis to spread the word and enlist young volunteers. She has another goal, too — bettering Israel’s image in the world’s eyes by raising awareness of SACH. 

“It’s so important politically,” Pardo said. “Even the Israelis don’t even know. I have cousins in Holon in the hospitals that don’t even know about it. Anything we can do here will help.”

At Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School in Northridge, where Pardo’s two children attend classes, Godfrey spoke with middle-schoolers in October, and Pardo facilitated a Mitzvah Day event on Nov. 3 where kids constructed rainbow loom bracelets to send to SACH children in Israel. 

“It was unbelievable,” she said. “The kids were so interested [in Godfrey]!”

Looking ahead, SACH plans to open clinics in Ethiopia and Romania. 

“They are working with physicians in both countries,” Judy Shore said. “An Ethiopian doctor is training in Israel right now.”

Locally, there is talk of putting together a gala in 2014 after the High Holy Days, she said. 

Meanwhile, back in Tanzania, the need is great, and Godfrey’s journey has only begun, Judy Shore noted.

“He has his work cut out for him.”