Garcetti Visits Israel, Kol Ami Turns 27

May 22, 2019
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, left, meets with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin during a recent trip to Israel with other U.S. mayors. Photo courtesy of American Jewish Committee

During a recent visit to Israel along with his counterparts from around the United States, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, among other officials.

“Los Angeles and Israel share so much — vibrant cultures, beautiful landscapes, diverse communities, ties of family and friends, our experiences as dreamers, and our common belief in democracy,” Garcetti said in a statement. “Our delegation is showing how cities lead on the world stage, how mayors get things done, and how urban centers can tackle everything from innovation and climate change to immigration and economic growth.”

American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) Project Interchange and the U.S. Conference of Mayors organized the weeklong delegation of mayors to Israel, which embarked for the Jewish state on May 11 and returned May 18. 

AJC Project Interchange National Chair Debbie Saidoff helped make the trip possible, according to Siamak Kordestani, assistant director for policy and communications at AJC Los Angeles.

“From water management to immigrant absorption and technological innovation, Los Angeles and Israel have much to learn from one another. We are pleased that our mayor, Eric Garcetti, is leading this important delegation to explore Israel and its challenges and opportunities,” Kordestani said in a May 12 statement. “American and Israeli cities stand to benefit through expanded economic, academic and cultural ties.”

 The other U.S. mayors on the trip were Kathy Sheehan of Albany, N.Y.; Rick Kriseman of St. Petersburg, Fla.; Michelle De La Isla, of Topeka, Kan.; and Shane Bemis of Gresham, Ore.

Also participating were Melanie Pell, AJC assistant executive director and managing director of regional offices; Ana Guerrero, chief of staff to Garcetti; Laura Waxman, director of public safety at the U.S. Conference of Mayors; and AJC CEO David Harris, who joined the mayors for their opening dinner.

According to AJC, the aim of the delegation was to “enhance U.S.-Israel relations at the important municipal level.” The delegation visited Tel Aviv; Haifa; Israel’s borders, including the Lebanon border; and Jerusalem, including the Old City. The group also met with civic and business leaders in the Palestinian Authority.

The delegation participated in conversations related to Israel’s strategic environment, diversity and coexistence, and interreligious cooperation.

The program marked the inaugural delegation under the auspices of a Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. Conference of Mayors and AJC, which calls itself the “leading global Jewish advocacy organization.”

Marking Yom HaShoah, Beverly Hills High School students gathered to hear Holocaust survivor William Harvey share his story at their school. Photo courtesy of Beverly Hills High School

A Holocaust survivor was the guest speaker at Beverly Hills High School (BHHS) on May 7.

In commemoration of Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), a packed room of BHHS students gathered and joined the school’s weekly Jewish club as William Harvey shared his harrowing experience of surviving eight concentration camps, including Buchen-wald. Harvey immigrated to the U.S. in 1946 and eventually opened a successful beauty salon business. He regularly speaks about his life at the Museum of Tolerance, teaching people about the Holocaust as well as how to succeed in life.  

The students heard about his journey from a penniless immigrant boy to a self-made successful businessman and had the opportunity to ask him questions. 

During a press conference at UCLA, Bikur Cholim President Rabbi Hershy Ten addresses the measles threat facing Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of Bikur Cholim

State Sen. Dr. Richard Pan held a May 10 press conference on the UCLA campus in Westwood, addressing the impact of measles on Greater Los Angeles. Participants included a coalition of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the California Medical Association, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and Rabbi Hershy Ten, president of Bikur Cholim, a health care charity in California. 

In addition to Bikur Cholim’s charita-ble work, the organization provides a Jewish perspective on health care issues that impact individuals and the public at large.

In his remarks, Ten said, “For some time, the media has focused on the measles outbreaks on the East Coast, and particularly in the Orthodox Jewish community … [but] the propaganda and paranoia that question the safety of vaccines is not confined to any particular religious or ethnic group, or bound by ideology or class.  Those living in Brooklyn appear to be just as susceptible to anti-vaccine conspiracies as do wealthy professionals living in Santa Monica or Oregon.”  

Ten continued, “On issues of health and public safety, decisions in Jewish law are based on the opinions of the majority of medical experts.  In cases of measles, mumps and rubella, the opinion held by tens of thousands of physicians is that vaccinations must be taken as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To be clear: In Jewish law, there is an obligation to be vaccinated and no basis that immunizations should be avoided unless medically indicated.”

During his address, Ten called on all L.A. rabbis, community leaders and Jewish day school and yeshiva principals to speak publicly on this matter, as he believes that during a public health crisis, communities look to their leaders for guidance, a Bikur Cholim statement said.

Ten concluded his remarks by sharing his support for Pan’s Senate Bill 276,
which will lead to the creation of a standard procedure for vetting vaccine exemption requests. Ten said he stands “with the thousands of physicians who serve our families and help protect them from harm.”

From left: Cary Davidson, Richard Wortman, Peter Mackler, Rabbi Denise Eger, Deborah Futrowsky, Rabbi Max Chaiken, Richard Bernard and Marilyn Ader
celebrated Congregation Kol Ami’s 27th anniversary. Photo courtesy of Congregation Kol Ami

Congregation Kol Ami held its 27th anniversary gala on May 6 at the community’s West Hollywood campus.

“Havana Nights” was the theme of the lively event, featuring nosh by Cornucopia Caterers. More than 150 gathered to celebrate.

Kol Ami member Deborah Futrowsky received the Spirit of Kol Ami Award, recognizing her volunteerism as chair of the Women of Kol Ami and as liaison to the synagogue’s families with children.

The congregation also honored Richard Wortman, managing partner of GDLSK in Los Angeles, with the Shomer Tzedek, Guardian of Justice Award. For 18 years,
Wortman has sponsored the synagogue’s Downtown Lunch ’N Learn program. The award also spotlighted Wortman’s devotion to Kol Ami and his leadership in the
Jewish community.

Founded in 1992, Congregation Kol Ami describes itself as “a progressive, Reform congregation rooted in a rich Jewish tradition, with commitment to social justice, Israel and diversity that guides us in the present and transforms our future.” 

Kol Ami is one of two LGBTQ+ congregations in Los Angeles.

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