JQ International Awards, Beit T’Shuvah Fundraiser

May 1, 2019
From left: Lorin and Linda Fife; Yoni Kollin; Zachary Gaidzik; Rabbi RBO Bat-Or and Rabbi Zach Shapiro at the 2019 JQ International Awards Brunch. Photo by Grant Terzakis

LGBTQ+ Jewish organization JQ International recently recognized five community leaders representing the best of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies.

“We take our job very seriously and select our honorees because they have made a difference in a positive way and we want to celebrate them and hold them up for all to see,” JQ International Executive Director Asher Gellis said after the 2019 JQ International Awards Brunch, which was held April 14 and honored Lorin and Linda Fife, Yoni Kollin, Rabbi Rachel “RBO” Bat-Or and Rabbi Zach Shapiro.

More than 250 people gathered at the Beverly Hills home of Neil and Kevin Goetz and helped raise more than $140,000 for JQ International, a West Hollywood-based organization that offers education, support and identity-enriching programs for LGBTQ+ Jews and their allies.

Lorin and Linda Fife received the Community Leadership Award for years of service to the community. Accepting the award, the two noted how far the community has come in its attitude toward gay and lesbian Jews since JQ’s founding 15 years ago.

Lorin credited “JQ activists and allies for having the vision to enrich our community, and for adding your contributions to make our Jewish world better, stronger and more inclusive.”

Kollin, a senior at Hamilton High School, came out as gender non-binary in 2017. Kollin — who goes by the gender pronoun they — did not feel seen until their mother, Deb Engel Kollin, treasurer of JQ International, joined the JQ team, Kollin said.

Accepting the Inspiration Award, Kollin also spoke about their drag alter ego, Krystal Guyzer, who ran for homecoming king in 2018.

“I didn’t win, but some games aren’t meant to be won. They’re meant to be started,” Kollin said. “And because of me, I have now paved the way.”

Bat-Or, a licensed marriage and family therapist and the director of JQ Helpline and Inclusion Services, received the Rabbi RBO (Rachel) Bat-Or Lifetime Achievement Award. Bat-Or — who goes by the gender pronoun per — takes daily calls and emails from therapists, teachers, parents and teens around the world that are seeking support related to LGBTQ+ issues. Per has been a spiritual leader, therapist and educator for almost 40 years.

“Through per work, RBO has completely shifted the landscape of LGBTQ inclusion in the Jewish community and has been a lifeline for community members in crisis,” Gellis said, presenting the award to Bat-Or.

Shapiro was awarded the Visibility Award for his leadership at Temple Akiba in Culver City, where he has served as rabbi since 2006, and for his contributions to the L.A. community.

“You are all lights.  You create legacy. And you bring goodness into the world,” Shapiro said, accepting the award.

In an email, L.A. City Controller Ron Galperin said he was thrilled about his husband, Shapiro, receiving the award.

“The JQ Visibility Awards are always a highlight for me, but this year’s was particularly special because my husband was an honoree,” Galperin said. “Zach is such a thoughtful spiritual leader and is so deeply committed to the betterment of the LGBTQ Jewish community and so many others in Los Angeles. I may be biased, but I can’t think of a more deserving recipient of this award.”

The gathering began with an outdoor buffet brunch in the backyard of the Goetz home. The award ceremony was held on the property’s tennis court, with rows of chairs arranged beneath a canopy.

Comedian Shawn Pelofsky entertained the crowd with lighthearted, self-deprecating humor about dating life, why Jews don’t do rock concerts and the college admissions scandal.

JQ International calls itself the “premier LGBTQ+ Jewish organization in Los Angeles.” Established in 2004, the organization has impacted more than 13,000 people in the past year with its Teen Jewish Queer Straight Alliance and programs serving the Persian community, young adults and others, the JQ website says.

The event celebrated this and more.

“Today, we honor five amazing individuals, all of whom were chosen for their trailblazing work,” Todd Shotz, chair emeritus at JQ International, said. “Each of them is a role model and sets an example for us of what it means to be so dedicated to strengthening and supporting a vibrant, dynamic and inclusive Jewish community.”

From left: Beit T’Shuvah honoree Judy Flesh, Holocaust survivor and philanthropist Hedy Orden and Harriet Rossetto, founder and clinical director of Beit T’Shuvah. Courtesy of Beit T’Shuvah

Nearly 200 women gathered on April 2 at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills for the 12th annual Beit T’Shuvah Circle of Majesty luncheon.

The Circle of Majesty comprises of a group of women who have pledged to support Beit T’Shuvah’s work in preventing, educating and treating the disease of addiction for all those in need, regardless of the financial obstacles that are often in the way.

The event raised more than $250,000 and honored Judy Flesh with the Majesty Service Award for her exceptional volunteer work as an art therapist.

Flesh began facilitating an art psychotherapy group at Beit T’Shuvah 19 years ago and continues to donate her time anda expertise on a weekly basis so that residents can benefit from a discipline that combines psychotherapy and art into a powerful healing practice.

The money raised from this year’s Circle of Majesty will go toward the establishment of the Orden/Flesh Art Therapy Endowment Fund, which will ensure that the program remains a permanent part of Beit T’Shuvah’s clinical repertoire.

The integration of art and therapy can be healing for those who can’t find the right words to describe their feelings,” Flesh said.

“Art therapy allows residents to connect to their inner selves. They can draw what they are feeling and express themselves in a safe place,” Flesh said.

Shelley Zalis, CEO of the Female Quotient, was the afternoon event’s guest speaker. She delivered a speech on female empowerment, equality and living your life with passion and purpose.

The Circle of Majesty has raised close to $1.5 million for Beit T’Shuvah since its inception 12 years ago, according to Beit T’Shuvah.

Beit T’Shuvah is a 138-bed residential treatment center in Los Angeles. Since its launch in 1987, the center has helped more than 5,000 people recover from addiction. The facility also offers prevention services, as well as addiction education for clergy and medical professionals through the Elaine Breslow Institute.

From left: Maia Ferdman; Mark Rothman; Alisa Finsten; and Rabbi Ilana Grinblat celebrate Passover at an interfaith seder at City Hall. Courtesy of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles held its 2019 interfaith seder with the city of Los Angeles Human Relations Commission on April 17.

More than 120 community members, leaders and elected officials came
together to celebrate Passover at L.A. City Hall.

“The seder explored the universal themes of Passover and gave every participant the opportunity to dialogue and find common ground during these challenging times,” Jay Sanderson, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, said in an April 19 statement to the community. “These relationships will lead to even deeper partnerships in the future.”

Elected officials in attendance included State Sen. Henry Stern, Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin, L.A. City Councilmembers Bob Blumenfield and Paul Koretz, L.A. Community College District Board President Mike Fong, L.A. Community College District Board Vice President Andra Hoffman and L.A. Community College District Board Member Scott Svonkin.

Students picked up a pita on their way to class, mingled and listened to musical performances at Israelpalooza, USC’s largest Israeli cultural event of the year. Courtesy of Hillel at ‘SC

Israelpalooza, which describes itself as USC’s largest Israeli cultural event of the year, was held on April 2 and featured food, fun and festivities all in celebration of Israel.

The gathering held in advance of Israel’s Independence Day took place in the Los Angeles university’s McCarthy Quad from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Students picked up a pita on their way to class, mingled, listen to musical performances and opened their minds to all of the opportunities Israel has to offer.

“Israelpalooza was a huge success!” Hillel at ’SC, the organizer of the gathering, said on Facebook. “We cannot wait for next year!”

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