Rabbi Shimon Abramczik, Florette Benhamou, Fanny Koyman and Patty Tanner were selected as recipients of the Milken Family Foundation’s 2018 Jewish Educator Awards.
The 29th annual awards were presented at a Dec. 13 luncheon at the Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel. With the award, each recipient was given $15,000.
Abramczik teaches Judaic studies and serves as director of 11th- and 12th-grade student activities and Israel guidance at YULA Boys High School in Los Angeles. Tanner is the K-6 math coordinator for Wise School in Los Angeles. Benhamou is a first-grade teacher at Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy in Beverly Hills. Koyman is the lead Hebrew and Judaic studies teacher for transitional kindergarten and kindergarten at Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School in Northridge.
Attendees at the event included Milken Family Foundation Executive Director Richard Sandler; Builders of Jewish Education Executive Director Gil Graff; Milken Family Foundation co-founder Lowell Milken; Stephen Wise Temple Senior Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback; and Mark Goldenberg, who sang the Israeli and American national anthems.
The Jewish Education Awards recognize K-12 educators working at schools affiliated with the Builders of Jewish Education organization, “based on their demonstrated excellence as teachers, administrators or other education professionals,” according to the awards website.
“I don’t do what I do every day for an award,” Benhamou said when she accepted her prize. “To teach is to touch a life forever.”
Noa Kligfeld, daughter of Temple Beth Am Rabbi Adam Kligfeld, has been elected to serve as international president of United Synagogue Youth (USY), the youth movement for Conservative teens across the country.
“I believe that, whoever you are, your voice deserves to be heard,” Kligfeld said upon her election. “And I promise to listen to all of you, because in a religious community it is kol hakolot [all of the voices] — all our amazing, unique, valuable voices complementing one another to create something beautiful.”
Kligfeld was elected to the position on Dec. 27, making her the second international president of USY from Temple Beth Am in three years. Noah Lee, a member, of the Los Angeles synagogue, was the 2017 USY international president.
In a joint statement, Temple Beth Am President Avi Peretz and Executive Vice President Stuart Tochner called Kligfeld’s appointment “nothing less than historic within the Conservative Movement. … For nearly 70 years, United Synagogue Youth has been the crown jewel of the Conservative Movement. Never before, in all those years, have two out of three successive international presidents come from the same synagogue USY chapter.”
Kligfeld previously served on the USY Far West Region’s religion and education committee. Her father, the senior rabbi at Temple Beth Am, served as USY international president in 1990.
“Never before in the history of the Movement have a parent and a child both served as USY international president,” the synagogue’s statement said.
“Noa’s remarkable achievement this week reminds us about what makes Temple Beth Am unquestionably unique,” Peretz and Tochner said. “We raise children who revel in their Jewish identities. We ground their enthusiasm with substantive knowledge gained through a Pressman [Academy of Temple Beth Am] or JLC [Jewish Learning Community] education. Most importantly, we raise mensches — and, consequently, the next generation of Jewish leaders.”
A West Hollywood benefit concert for Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue was held at the Peppermint Club on Dec. 19.
Performers included rapper Kosha Dillz, indie rock band Distant Cousins, “conscious pop” band Blesd and singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ray Goren.
The Tree of Life synagogue was targeted in a deadly mass shooting that killed 11 people on the Shabbat morning of last Oct. 27, the deadliest attack against Jewish people in U.S. history.
The West Hollywood event raised funds to help repair the synagogue’s building, which incurred physical damage in the attack.
Acclaimed performer Seal visited Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services in Los Angeles for the organization’s open mic night on Dec. 17.
The singer spent time with Vista Del Mar’s children, sharing in their talents, stories and a message of hope.
“His choice to be of service and to show the power of song to connect to those of like mind and heart is truly tzedakah,” a spokesperson for the organization said.
Seal, a Grammy Award-winning British singer-songwriter known for hit songs “Kiss From a Rose” and “Crazy,” also met with Vista Del Mar’s Leadership Advisory Board (LAB) fellows.
LAB fellows, made up of professionals ages 25–45, use their resources and relationships to optimize the lives of Vista Del Mar’s children, according to the spokesperson. They participate in a 10-month comprehensive program where they have the opportunity to work with the facility’s youth and learn from experts about philanthropy, fundraising and children’s mental health, as well as leadership skills, including public speaking and media training.
Seal, who was raised in a foster family, told his story to the children and provided each of them with a handwritten note with words of encouragement and inspiration.
Before and after his talk, Seal spent time inside Vista Del Mar’s residential Special Care Facility, where he further connected with the youth.
Caroline Cameron, a LAB fellow, introduced Seal at the event and shared the story of her work with the program in the past year. Children from Vista Del Mar’s Arts Enrichment program also sang a song.
Originally the Jewish Orphan’s Home of Southern California, Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services provides a range of programs serving children and families in need.
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Correction: The date that Noa Kligfeld was elected to serve as international president of United Synagogue Youth was misreported in an item in the Jan. 18 Movers & Shakers. She was elected Dec. 27.