‘Son of Hamas,’ MDA, Survivors and Teens

December 5, 2018
Husband-and-wife philanthropists Fred and Dina Leeds chaired the American Friends of Magen David Adom gala. Photo by Michelle Mivzari

The sixth annual Red Star Ball held by American Friends of Magen David Adom (AFMDA) honored Magen David Adom’s paramedic heroes along with Steven Mizel, who was named Humanitarian of the Year; Jacqueline Goldman, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award; and Ruthi and Elliot Kahn, who were honored with the Next Generation Leadership Award.

The Oct. 30 evening event at the Beverly Hilton featured performances by singer Gladys Knight, comedian Andrew “Dice” Clay and Israeli musician Ninet Tayeb.

Local philanthropists Dina and Fred Leeds chaired the star-studded gathering.

AFMDA raises funds and awareness for Magen David Adom, Israel’s national emergency medical, disaster, ambulance and blood bank service. The organization describes itself as “the largest supporter of MDA worldwide.”

Magen David Adom is not a government agency but is the only group mandated by the Israeli government to provide first-responder, life-saving services. The organization relies on the support of groups like AFMDA.

“Son of Hamas” Mosab Hassan Yousef (center) with Jewish National Fund supporters Judy and Bud Levin. Photo courtesy of Jewish National Fund

Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of a senior Hamas leader, headlined the annual Jewish National Fund (JNF) breakfast on Nov. 27 at the Beverly Hilton. Yousef spoke about the dramatic trajectory of his life — from the rejection of his father, Hassan Yousef, to helping Shin Bet, Israel’s security agency, fight terrorism.

“Being here is not a choice I made yesterday,” Yousef, 40, said onstage in the hotel ballroom, surrounded by posters of David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, Menachem Begin and Theodor Herzl. “It is the collective choices of my journey.”

Hamas supports the creation of a Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel. 

“They don’t care about Palestinian people,” said Yousef, author of the 2010 autobiography “Son of Hamas.” “They have a cause — a Palestinian state.”

He added: “They call it Palestinian resistance. I have a better word for it: anti-Semitism.” 

As a result of leaving Hamas behind, Yousef said he no longer is in touch with his family. 

Also speaking at the breakfast was Louis Rosenberg, executive director of the JNF, Los Angeles chapter, who said the organization had raised $548 million of the $1 billion goal of its decadelong initiative, the “One Billion Dollar Roadmap.”

JNF National Campaign Director Sharon Freedman said the organization’s Los Angeles chapter was one of its fastest-growing communities in the United States. 

JNF operates a number of initiatives in Israel, including serving people with special needs; planting trees and creating green spaces; and developing Galilee and the Negev into centers of agriculture, tourism and technology.

From left: ETTA Board President Kam Babaoff, honorees Bill Prady, Dena and Joel Bess and Jacob Katz and ETTA Executive Director Michael Held. Photo by John Solano

ETTA, a provider of services for Southern California adults with special needs, held its 25th-anniversary gala on Nov. 28 at the Beverly Hilton.

About 750 supporters, guests, clients and friends attended the event hosted by actress, writer and activist Mayim Bialik.

Honorees included Bill Prady, co-creator and executive producer of “The Big Bang Theory,” with the Visionary Award; Dena and Joel Bess with the Community Champions Award; and Jacob Katz, who has been involved with ETTA since its founding, with the Hendeles Youth Leadership 

Attendees included ETTA Board President Kam Babaoff and ETTA Executive Director Michael Held. 

Holocaust survivors and MOTivating Teen Volunteers shared their love of music at a Nov. 11 event. Photo by Seyeon Kim

The Green Room at the Museum of Tolerance (MOT) was filled to capacity on Nov. 11, when 18 Holocaust survivors, including their family members and caregivers, shared an afternoon of memory, music and refreshments with 15 MOTivating Teen Volunteers. 

Holocaust survivor Jack Lewin and his wife, Regina, came with their caregiver. 

“My heart grows with happiness to see so many young people,” Jack Lewin said. “It was the most beautiful thing we achieved — to be able to get so many young people here.”

The afternoon was planned by teen siblings and volunteers Rex and Gracie Evans with the support and guidance of MOT Director of Museum Volunteer Services Elana Samuels. Since Samuels created the MOTivating Teen Volunteer Program in 2008 to encourage teens to learn from history and to promote tolerance and respect, 300 teens have participated.

Rex started volunteering at the museum in the fall of 2017 and soon began organizing intergenerational programs that foster dialogue and understanding between survivors and teens, the first of which was held in March. He and Gracie already had started planning the music-themed November event when Rex received the Julie Beren Platt Teen Innovation Grant from The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles this fall.

The idea for the music theme came from Gracie. “I tried to think of something prevalent in the survivors’ lives that is still widely appreciated today,” she said. “Naturally, music came to mind and since my brother and I have been playing classical piano ever since we were young, I thought a mini concert would be the perfect way to spark reciprocal conversations between survivors and teens.”

“Elana and I spent many hours planning and discussing different ideas for the program, and it worked out really well,” Rex said. “My sister performed ‘Fantasia’ by Mozart and I played an étude by Chopin on the keyboard. Another teen, Cashio Woo, played the violin. Elana also projected songs on YouTube to sing along to, and we brought percussion instruments for everyone to play. The accordions were a hit!”

Samuels said seeing the Holocaust survivors and teens actively engaging and listening to one another was heartwarming. 

“The impact of [the teens’] relationships with the Holocaust survivors is transformative,” she said. “They are not just learning about history — they are touching history.”

— Debra Eckerling, Contributing Writer


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