September 25, 2018

Moving & Shaking: Shul Merger, ADL Entertainment Dinner

From left: ETTA president Kambiz Babaoff, ETTA co-chairman Jaime Sohacheski, ETTA Executive Director Michael Held, state Sen. Robert Hertzberg, and Irina Schaeffer and George Schaeffer celebrate the opening of ETTA’s headquarters in North Hollywood. Photo by Steve Cohn Photography.

More than 200 supporters of ETTA, a provider of social services in Los Angeles for Jewish adults with special needs, gathered for the April 15 grand opening of ETTA’s new headquarters in North Hollywood, at 13034 Saticoy St.

While still retaining a presence in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood with its community-based adult day programs, which help clients feel more confident and independent in their communities, ETTA has consolidated its office operations in the North Hollywood location to better serve its clients and the greater community, said ETTA spokesman Harvey Farr.

The celebratory event, which coincided with ETTA’s 25th anniversary, paid tribute to husband-and-wife George and Irina Schaeffer, longtime ETTA supporters whose financial support made the new headquarters a reality.

Attendees included state Sen. Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin, ETTA President Kambiz Babaoff, ETTA Co-Chairman Jaime Sohacheski and ETTA Executive Director Michael Held.

Founded in 1993, ETTA serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families by providing residential housing, case management, employment training and placement, educational services and training.

The organization is an affiliate of OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services.

From left: Rabbi Richard Flom and Rabbi/Hazzan Jason Van Leeuwen appeared at the Temple B’nai Hayim in association with Congregation Beth Meir installation ceremony. Courtesy of Temple B’nai Hayim in association with Congregation Beth Meir.

San Fernando Valley congregations Temple B’nai Hayim and Congregation Beth Meir have made their merger official, signaling a new chapter for the two congregations that have struggled financially and experienced declining memberships over the past several years.

The merger, effective Aug. 29, followed the nearly $1 million sale of the Beth Meir campus in Studio City in February 2017. On April 15, the merged temples celebrated the installation of Rabbi Richard Flom and Rabbi/Hazzan Jason Van Leeuwen. The ceremony drew 75 people to the community’s new home, Temple B’nai Hayim in Sherman Oaks.

“We’re off to a great start, with wonderful High Holiday services and continued Shabbat services Friday night and Saturday morning, well-attended,” Lenny Adelson, chair of the transitional board of Temple B’nai Hayim in association with Congregation Beth Meir, said in an email.

“It was hard to move out of our building in Studio City,” said Martin Lee, a longtime Beth Meir member who has been serving on the transitional board during the merger. “The building is iconic and its dome was built to resemble Rachel’s Tomb. It was established in 1957 and we had concerns about who was going to purchase it and what would be done with the place. In the end, once we put the building up for sale, our neighbor, who had a good relationship with our rabbi, offered to purchase it over the asking price because he wanted to extend his shopping mall. So it all worked out well.”

Adelson, originally of Temple B’nai Hayim, said the merger has proven beneficial for both congregations.

“We had known for years that we would need to merge with another temple,” he said. “I think that everyone in both congregations was satisfied. It was clear that neither congregation had the capital to sustain payments and go on. It was either merge or close the doors, and it worked out beautifully.”

With the combined membership, Temple B’nai Hayim in association with Congregation Beth Meir has about 100 members.

—  Ayala Or-El, contributing writer

From left: American Friends of Hebrew University honorees Gayle and Edward Roski, Patricia Glaser, Hebrew University President Asher Cohen and Richard Ziman attend the AFHU Scopus Award gala. Photo by Howard Pasamanick Photography.

The American Friends of Hebrew University (AFHU) Scopus Award gala, which honored wife-and-husband Gayle and Edward Roski Jr., was held at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on April 19.

During the event, Roski, chairman and president of Majestic Realty Co., called Hebrew University a “shining example of the world’s best minds and research.”

With Gayle at his side, the real estate developer and philanthropist described the moving experience he had ascending Masada in Israel. Meanwhile, he expressed his support for the Jewish state.

“With all the changes happening around the world, it is more important than ever to support Israel,” Roski said.

He called the recent decision by President Donald Trump to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem a “powerful form of recognition.”

The event drew 425 attendees and raised more than $1.6 million for AFHU, a national nonprofit that raises funds and awareness for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

“We exist to connect the passions of Americans to the talent at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, one of the world’s most distinguished academic and research institutions,” the AFHU website says.

The Scopus Award, named for Mount Scopus, where Hebrew University’s first cornerstones were laid in 1918, is the highest honor AFHU bestows — “awarded to individuals who demonstrate humanitarian concerns throughout their careers.”

Speakers included emcee Jonathan Anschell; attorney Patricia Glaser, vice chair of AFHU’s Western region; Richard Ziman, chairman of AFHU’s Western region; Mark Genender, president of AFHU’s Western region; and Hebrew University President Asher Cohen.

The Rev. Gregory Goethals delivered the benediction, and Rabbi Naomi Levy led the invocation.

A marching band from USC — Roski’s alma mater — kicked off the event by performing instrumental versions of songs including  “Uptown Funk.”

At the evening’s conclusion, Grammy winner Michael Bolton performed.

From left: Political scientist Fred Balitzer; Sri Sri Ravi Shankar; Holocaust survivor Sol Teichman; and Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper participate in a dialogue at the Museum of Tolerance. Photo by Bart Bartholomew/Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) has honored Sri Sri Ravi Shankar with its International Leadership Award, which it said marked the first time the Indian spiritual leader has been honored by a Jewish organization.

The SWC recognized Shankhar, founder of The Art of Living Foundation, an international nonprofit dedicated to fostering stress-free minds and violence-free societies, on April 16 at the Museum of Tolerance.

Shankar has partnered with SWC’s mission throughout Asia, including bringing “Courage to Remember,” the SWC traveling Holocaust exhibit, to cities including Delhi and Bangalore, India.

“Despite the obvious cultural and religious difference, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s global agenda is closely aligned to the goals the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance pursue every day,” said SWC Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper. “We are honored to have worked with the founder of Art of the Living in Israel, Indonesia, India and the U.S.”

Following the award presentation, Shankar, Cooper, political scientist Fred Balitzer and Holocaust survivor Sol Teichman participated in a discussion about the nexus between religion, terrorism and tolerance.

From left: ADL Entertainment Industry Dinner Co-Chair Jill Ratner; ADL Regional Director Amanda Susskind; actor Rob Morrow; ADL honoree Nancy Dubuc; Regional Board Chair Ivy Kagan Bierman; and Entertainment Industry Dinner Co-Chair Michael Garfinkel attend the ADL 2018 Entertainment Industry Dinner. Photo by Michael Kovac.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) honored Nancy Dubuc, chief executive officer of Vice Media, at the ADL 2018 Entertainment Industry Dinner on April 17 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Upon accepting her award, Dubuc, who previously was president of A+E Networks and whose hiring at Vice was announced in March, spoke of the importance of entertainment industry leaders using their pulpit to influence positive change.

“Entertainment is an incredibly powerful platform in our country’s culture,” she said, before asking her industry colleagues to use storytelling to “keep educating and elevating our understanding of one another.”

The event raised more than $500,000 for ADL efforts to combat anti-Semitism and bigotry of all kinds.

Event emcee, actor Rob Morrow, said the ADL’s work was more important than ever at a time when anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred are increasing in the United States.

“Never before in my life has truth been under such assault,” Morrow said. “Never before has the venom of defamation had so many means to spread.”

Additional speakers included entertainment committee co-chairs Jill Ratner and Michael Garfinkel; Kern Oduro, assistant superintendent at the Chaffey Joint Union High School District in San Bernardino County; ADL Regional Director Amanda Susskind; entertainment industry attorney and ADL Regional Board Chair Ivy Kagan Bierman; entertainment executive and ADL’s National Entertainment Advisory Council Chair Ben Silverman, and actress and director Shiri Appleby, who presented the honoree with her award.

“Nancy has used the power of media to advocate for some of the most pressing social justice issues of our time,” Appleby said. “She has used her influence, power and platform to bring out the best in us.”