Rabbi Named ‘Woman of Year,’ Bais Naftoli Farewell

March 13, 2019
Beth Chayim Chadashim Rabbi Lisa Edwards (center) was named “Woman of the Year” by State Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove (second from left). Photo courtesy of Beth Chayim Chadashim

From advocating for her community during the AIDS crisis to fighting for marriage equality; from protecting the environment to promoting Jewish sacred texts, Rabbi Lisa Edwards of Beth Chayim Chadashim (BCC) has long been a pillar of the Los Angeles progressive Jewish community.

Her contributions to her community have not gone unnoticed. On March 4, Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove (District 54) named Edwards a “Woman of the Year” during a formal ceremony on the Assembly floor in Sacramento. 

The “Woman of the Year” award was conceived in 1987 in celebration of March being Women’s History Month. The annual program, sponsored by the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, allows each state senator and assemblymember to invite a woman from their district to the Capitol to be honored for their accomplishments.

Edwards’ synagogue, the nation’s first LGBTQ synagogue, is located in Assembly District 54, which includes parts of the Westside. 

Since 1994, Edwards has served as the spiritual leader of BCC, which translates from Hebrew to “House of New Life.” 

“Rabbi Edwards has been a Jewish lesbian activist from the pulpit, on the page, on the web, in the classroom and in Los Angeles,” a BCC statement said. “She has witnessed — and works to counteract — the damage done to LGBTQ individuals when discrimination is preached by religious authorities and practiced by families and communities of faith.”

Edwards was one of several women from California recognized for their service to their communities.

From left: Gregory Martayan, Cindy Moore, LAPD Chief Michel Moore, L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz, Chani and Andrew Friedman and LAFD Assistant Chief Jaime Moore attended the farewell Shabbat celebration for Congregation Bais Naftoli, which has operated for nearly 30 years and is being transferred to another synagogue. Photo courtesy of the Office of Councilmember Paul Koretz

Local Jewish and community leaders took part in the March 2 farewell Shabbat celebration of Congregation Bais Naftoli, including Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore, Los Angeles Fire Department Assistant Chief Jaime Moore and L.A. City Controller Ron Galperin.

The synagogue celebrated 27 years of service to the Jewish community.

Andrew Friedman, founding president of the synagogue, said the congregation has provided a free mikveh, daily morning and evening minyanim and daily lessons in English, Hebrew and Yiddish. Through its community outreach program, the congregation has been a strong advocate for Jewish causes with state, local and federal officials.

The shul, at 221 S. La Brea Ave., which was founded by a group of late Holocaust survivors, is being transferred to Congregation Ohr Hachaim, led by Rabbi Shlomo Klein, which also was founded by Holocaust survivors. 

Cantors Benzion Miller, Nati Baron and Yehuda Green led services at the farewell Shabbat. A Kiddush luncheon, sponsored by Friedman and his wife, Chanie, and Ira and Cohava Frankel, followed.

From left: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum National Leadership Award recipients Tony and Linda Rubin and Sylvie and Mark Deutsch with Dinner Co-Chairs Janet and Lenny Rosenblatt. Photo courtesy of tUnited States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) honored Sylvie and Mark Deutsch and Linda and Tony Rubin with its National Leadership Award for their contributions to preserving Holocaust history.

The Washington, D.C.-based museum honored the two couples during its 2019 Los Angeles dinner called “What You Do Matters,” which was held on March 6 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills.

The museum also presented its highest honor, the Elie Wiesel Award, to all Holocaust survivors for their courage and resilience and for inspiring the global movement for Holocaust remembrance and education. 

“Sylvie and Mark Deutsch and Linda and Tony Rubin are the epitome of generosity with their time to the museum and commitment to Holocaust history. We are pleased to be able to honor them with the museum’s National Leadership Award,” USHMM Regional Director Marla Abraham said in a statement. 

Named for the museum’s founding chairman, the Elie Wiesel Award recognizes prominent individuals and organizations whose actions have advanced the museum’s vision of a world where people confront hatred, prevent genocide and promote human dignity. In a pre-recorded video message, director Steven Spielberg paid tribute to the survivors. 

Nancy Mishkin, Janet and Lenny Rosenblatt and Carol and Jac Stulberg co-chaired the evening, which raised more than $1 million for the USHMM $1 billion campaign, “Never Again: What You Do Matters,” which enables the museum to invest in keeping Holocaust memory alive. 

More than 1,000 attendees turned out, including USHMM Director Sara Bloomfield; evening host and actress Lisa Edelstein; actor Mark Feuerstein; L.A. City Controller Ron Galperin; Remember Us: The Holocaust Bnai Mitzvah Project Director Samara Hutman and Scott Jacobs of JooTube.TV.

Bloomfield conducted a Q-and-A with Wendy Lower, the John K. Roth professor of history at Claremont McKenna College and author of “Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields.”

Edelstein discussed the importance of combating anti-Semitism today.

A living memorial to the Holocaust, the USHMM inspires citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide and promote human dignity, according to a USHMM website. Since opening in 1991, the museum has to date welcomed 43 million visitors.

From left: Israeli model Esti Ginzburg hosted the inaugural Friends of United Hatzalah of Israel gala, which honored comedian Jay Leno (center) and drew Jon Voight (far right), among others. Photo by Mor Gaby

Friends of United Hatzalah of Israel held its inaugural Los Angeles gala on Feb. 28 at the Beverly Hilton, raising $5 million. United Hatzalah of Israel is an all-volunteer organization that provides 24-hour lifesaving emergency medical services to Israeli residents.

More than 1,000 people attended, including elected officials and community leaders.

Comedian Jay Leno, former host of “The Tonight Show,” accepted the Humanitarian Award for his work with United Hatzalah. Leno said he loves supporting Hatzalah because the organization is not political and saves lives regardless of a person’s religion, color, race or beliefs.

Israeli model Esti Ginzburg hosted the gala, which drew actor Jon Voight and “Fauda” star Rona Lee Shimon, among others.

Israeli singer Dudu Aharon entertained the crowd.

To improve services provided by the 5,000 volunteers of United Hatzalah, the event raised 100 “ambucycles,” or medically equipped motorcycles, thanks to a “match” donation from philanthropist Stewart Rahr. United Hatzalah Chairman Mark Gerson matched a donation of 100 defibrillators. Audience members underwrote 50 more “Day of Lifesaving” gifts, a program introduced by Board Member Amy Korenvaes. 

“The community in L.A. really came out to show their support for the lifesaving work that we do in Israel,” United Hatzalah of Israel President Eli Beer, who founded the nonprofit in 2006, said. “Raising $5 million at a first event is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”

Citing United Hatzalah’s uniqueness, Ami Pomeranc, international gala chairperson of United Hatzalah, said he was honored to travel the world “and see so many new people come together from different paths to save lives in Israel.” 

United Hatzalah’s diverse volunteer roster in Israel includes 300 Muslims, Christians and Druze.

The gala was co-chaired by Dina Kadisha Aspen. Eitan Weiss, deputy chief of mission at the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles, participated in the evening.

— Ari L. Noonan, Contributing Writer

Want to be in Movers & Shakers? Send us your highlights, events, honors and simchas. Email ryant@jewishjournal.com.

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