March 29, 2020

Sharsheret Gala, Multifaith Celebration of Israel

From left: Sari Abrams, Stephanie Bressler, Abbi Hertz, Lisa Hofheimer, Shuli Steinlauf, Alexandra Avnet, Courtney Mizel and Jenna Fields celebrate “Love, Light and Life Under the Stars” with Sharsheret California. Photo courtesy of Sharsheret

About 160 people gathered at the Hancock Park home of Lisa and Josh Hofheimer on Dec. 1 for “Love, Light and Life Under the Stars,” Sharsheret California’s second annual celebration. The event drew supporters and friends of the national nonprofit, which provides assistance to young Jewish women and their families after a diagnosis of breast cancer or ovarian cancer. 

The program spotlighted the stories of survivors who had been supported by Sharsheret after diagnosis. One survivor, Laura Osman, had found out through a genetic test that she was positive with the BRCA1 gene, which has been shown to increase the risk of cancer. 

“I knew that fear and feeling sorry for myself was not an option,” Osman said, noting that during her treatment and recovery she was “surrounded by an army of friends, family and Sharsheret.”

Jenna Fields, regional director of Sharsheret’s Los Angeles office, shared Sharsheret’s origin story, noting that its late founder, Rochelle Shoretz, started the organization so that Jewish women would not have to face breast or ovarian cancer alone. This year, 100 educational programs across California were held with Sharsheret’s help. 

Courtney Mizel, a member of the Sharsheret board of directors, who was diagnosed with breast cancer nine years ago, said the L.A. office had fielded 303 callers this year, up from 60 in its first year, 2017. 

“Think of how much we’ve done and how much more there is to do,” Mizel said. “The evening not only celebrated the achievements of the California regional office, but allowed people to experience what the organization’s founder intended when she chose the name Sharsheret” — which translates to “chain.” “We are inextricably linked as a community that is directly affected by breast and ovarian cancer.” 

“I like to take something positive from every experience,” said Lisa Hofheimer, who received vital support services from the organization after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. “Sharsheret is definitely one of those things.” 

— Esther D. Kustanowitz, Contributing Writer

Members of the Iglesia Evangélica Latina church in downtown L.A. proudly blow shofars during their celebration of a “Night To Honor Israel.” Photo by Karmel Melamed

Blasting shofars, waving flags and joyfully singing Israeli songs, close to 400 local Latino evangelical Christians and Jews gathered at a downtown L.A. church on Nov. 29 to celebrate a bilingual “Night to Honor Israel.” 

The event, held at the Iglesia Evangélica Latina church was organized by the Christians United for Israel (CUFI), a national pro-Israel nonprofit. The gathering was CUFI’s inaugural Southern California event rallying support for Israel among their Latino members.

“Without a doubt, this event will go down in history as one that lifted up Israel and the Jewish community for years and decades to come,” CUFI National Hispanic Outreach Coordinator Peter De Jesus said.

In addition to CUFI leaders addressing the crowd, local Jewish community speakers included Daniel Gold, vice president of Israel education and advocacy at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles; Sinai Temple’s Rabbi David Wolpe; and Eitan Weiss, deputy chief of mission at the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles, who praised CUFI members for their support for Israel.

“Tonight is also special because it is the 71st anniversary of the U.N. General Assembly voting for a resolution to create the modern state of Israel,” Weiss said. “We know that a large part of our survival all of these years would not have been possible without the help of you in the Christian community. And on behalf of the State of Israel, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support.”

Those in attendance not only prayed for Israel but also vocally pledged support for L.A.’s Jewish community, which in recent weeks has encountered various anti-Semitic attacks.

“It was essential for us as Christians to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our Jewish brothers and sisters here in Los Angeles at a time now when they are facing an increase in anti-Semitic attacks and let them know they are not alone,” said CUFI National Diversity Coordinator and Pastor Dumisani Washington.

The event’s organizers said they were planning additional pro-Israel events in the coming year in an effort to bring together Jews and Christians.

— Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer

From left: ShareWell Gala honorees Barry and Andrea Cayton, Sandra Stern and Craig Erwich. Photo by Rich Polk, Getty/Wire Images

The nonprofit organization ShareWell celebrated a significant upcoming event at its 18th annual Discovery Award Dinner at the Skirball Cultural Center in November. The organization’s Zimmer Children Museum will relocate in early 2019 from its current home at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles building on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Grove to a 21,000-square-foot space atop the Santa Monica Place shopping mall in Santa Monica. The new facility will be renamed The Cayton Children’s Museum in honor of a gift from Barry and Andrea Cayton.

“The Caytons have a long, philanthropic history of giving back to the community, and we are thrilled they have chosen to champion our transformation,” ShareWell founder and CEO Esther Netter said in a statement. 

Barry Cayton is founder and president of Audio Command Systems. Andrea Cayton, his wife, is vice president of the board of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust and is active in Jewish philanthropy.

The Nov. 7 event’s approximately 600 guests included Netter and Courtney Mizel, vice chair of the ShareWell board of directors. Comedian Demetri Martin emceed the evening, which raised $750,000 for the organization’s mission of providing programs and experiences for youth. 

Along with the Caytons, the event honored Craig Erwich and Sandra Stern for their contributions to ShareWell. 

In addition to the Zimmer Museum, ShareWell operates youTHink, which empowers middle school and high school students to embrace social responsibility.

— Debra Eckerling, Contributing Writer

Supporters of the Ovarian Cancer Circle gathered for the group’s seventh annual luncheon on Nov. 15 at Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Courtesy of Ovarian Cancer Circle

The Ovarian Cancer Circle, inspired by the late Robin Babbini, held its seventh annual fundraising luncheon on Nov. 15 at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Woodland Hills. 

Ovarian Cancer Circle founder and President Paulinda Babbini, Robin’s mother, welcomed a sold-out room of more than 200 guests, including L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz.
The guest of honor was Sanaz Memarzadeh, a gynecologic oncologist and the director of the Gynecologic Oncology Discovery Laboratory at UCLA. 

The Ovarian Cancer Circle dedicated all of its fundraising to support Memarzadeh’s research lab. As of 2018, the group had raised approximately $500,000 in donations benefiting the laboratory, Babbini said.

In her remarks, Babbini spoke about her daughter, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 17 and died three years later, in 2006.

Harriet Rossetto, founder and clinical director of Beit T’Shuvah and Annette Shapiro, president of Beit T’Shuvah’s board of directors, prepare for the catwalk at the organization’s Haute Couture High Tea and Fall Fashion Show.

Rehabilitation organization Beit T’Shuvah held its Haute Couture High Tea and Fall Fashion Show on Nov. 11 at its Culver City campus.

The event showcased the talents of Beit T’Shuvah’s residents, alumni, community members and volunteers and featured designer clothing from the organization’s thrift store.

 Among those in attendance were Harriet Rossetto, Beit T’Shuvah’s founder and clinical director; and Annette Shapiro, its board president.

Pat Train Gage and Heidi Bendetson co-chaired the event; and Shapiro, Cookie Miller, Sharon Polansky, Virginia Maas, Tiffany Calig and Barbara Tell served on the event committee. 

Paul Koretz speaking at IsraAID’s event. Photo courtesy of IsraAID

IsraAID held an event on climate change Dec. 11 discussing what’s next for California at a private residence in Holmby Hills.

Seth Davis, IsraAID CEO, shared the organization’s current work in Paradise and Chico, as well as other disaster areas. Los Angeles councilmember Paul Koretz was in attendance and said that “IsraAID is more critical than ever, in California, U.S. and around the world.”

Tel Aviv University atmospheric physicist Colin Price also spoke,  previewing the disaster-response training series that IsraAID will launch in Los Angeles and the Bay Area in January. IsraAID Humanitarian Professionals Network (IHPN), will equip professionals with the skills and knowledge to deploy on relief missions or respond to local disasters.

For more information about IsraAID visit their website.

— Erin Ben-Moche, Contributing Writer