Heritage Month Bash, Bialik Honored

June 5, 2019
Iconic women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred receives an award from L.A. City Councilman David Ryu in commemoration of Jewish American Heritage Month. Photo courtesy of Los Angeles City Photography

A commemoration of Jewish American Heritage Month at Los Angeles City Hall drew more than 400 people. 

The offices of L.A. City Councilmembers David Ryu and Bob Blumenfield co-chaired the May 29 celebration, which highlighted the accomplishments of Jewish women.

Honorees included Iranian Jewish women Gina Nahai, Sharon Nazarian and Tabby Refael; iconic women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred; Holocaust survivors Sidonia Lax and Frida Berger; black Orthodox Jew Chava Shervington; educator Stephanie Wolfson; Donna Bojarsky, founder of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ New Leaders Project; and Marlene Bane, who has been a political fundraiser. 

The theme of this year’s celebration was “Being Deborah: A History of Jewish Women Creating Change in Los Angeles.” An exhibition of the same name curated by Dylan Kendall and on display at City Hall highlighted the contributions of L.A. Jewish women including former Paramount Pictures CEO Sherry Lansing; Israeli actress Noa Tishby and Congregation Kol Ami Rabbi Denise Eger.

Attendees at the event included L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer; L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz; City Controller Ron Galperin; Temple Israel of Hollywood Rabbi John Rosove; and Adeena Bleich, deputy chief of staff for Ryu.

In the City Hall rotunda, Galperin highlighted the impact the Jewish community has had on Los Angeles.

“The Jewish community in Los Angeles is a mosaic that’s linked to every community,” Galperin said. “Jewish American Heritage Month is a wonderful opportunity for us to celebrate exceptional people, like Sidonia Lax, and to recognize how we are so intertwined with Los Angeles’ social, economic, political and cultural fabric.”

 Jewish Women’s Theatre and the Shalhevet High School ChoirHawks provided entertainment at the gathering.


From left: Doug, Michelle and Jill Friedman, Elaine Hall and Robia Rashid attend the Miracle Project’s “Evening of Miracles.” Photo courtesy of the Miracle Project

More than 200 people attended The Miracle Project’s “Evening of Miracles” on May 23 at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills.

Celebrating the organization’s more than 14 years of serving individuals with autism and other disabilities, the evening honored community philanthropists Doug and Jill Friedman, their daughter, Michelle, as well as Robia Rashid, creator and showrunner of Netflix’s “Atypical.” 

The “Evening of Miracles” also premiered a new Miracle Project, “Identity: the Musical,” an original show created by and starring many individuals with autism and other developmental differences.

“Many individuals with developmental disabilities and neurological differences are made to believe that their potential roles in society are limited and have been predetermined by their diagnosis,” said Elaine Hall, founder and executive artistic director of The Miracle Project. “Individuals with autism are so often labeled for what they cannot do instead of what they can do. This musical is an allegory [about] if everyone was labeled that way.”

The Miracle Project describes itself as “an inclusive theater, film and expressive arts program focused on building communication, self-esteem, and job and social skills for individuals with autism and all abilities.” Primarily serving the Jewish community, The Miracle Project was started 14 years ago by a grant from the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles and is supported in part by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

Rashid received the Entertainment Angel award for her work transforming the way the world sees and understands disability. “Atypical” cast members Brigette Lundy-Paine and Fivel Stewart as well as Miracle Project participants Naomi Rubin, Spencer Harte and Domonique Brown, who have all starred on the show, presented Rashid with the award.

“ ‘Atypical’ gave each of us an opportunity to represent ourselves, to show the world that autism … makes us stronger,” Brown said.

Among the honorees was 24-year-old Michelle Friedman, one of the inaugural members of The Miracle Project’s new Miracle Masters Internship program, for which the organization received a Cutting Edge Grant in 2018 from the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles. 

In her speech, Friedman told the crowd, “This program and my year as a Miracle Masters intern has helped me discover my own passion and career path in teaching. Each day, The Miracle Project continues to help talented, driven and, most importantly, brave individuals with disabilities become more than what their diagnosis is.” 


From left: Dr. Ruth Feldman, Dr. Victoria Simms, Leslie Silverstein and Phil Liff-Grieff attended a graduation ceremony for the First 36 Project. Photo courtesy of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles

Last month, the parenting development program First 36 Project celebrated the graduates of its latest cohort and welcomed its new fellows embarking on an 18-month fellowship.

A program of the Simms Mann Institute in collaboration with the Builders of
Jewish Education and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, the First 36 Project provides Parent and Me facilitators with a professional development opportunity. Drawing on neuroscience research for children from birth to age 3, it offers access to the latest child development theories and helps parents form healthy connections with their children.

The May 20 celebration at the  Federa-tion’s offices on Wilshire Boulevard
included a keynote address by Dr. Ruth Feldman,  an Israel-based neuroscientist
and expert in early brain development. Her address was titled “How Can We Foster Empathy and Values In Young Children?”


From left: JFLA Board President Jordan Lurie; actress and JFLA honoree Mayim Bialik; JFLA Executive Director Rachel Grose and JFLA board member Alan Spiwak. Photo by Marvin Steindler Photography

The Jewish Free Loan Association (JFLA) honored actress Mayim Bialik at its “Big Bang Extravaganza.”

Bialik, one of the stars of “The Big Bang Theory,” the hit CBS sitcom that aired its final episode just three days before the JFLA event, is also a best-selling author and entrepreneur. She was presented with a philanthropic leadership award by JFLA at the Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel on May 19.

The evening brought together about 300 guests, including young and seasoned professionals from various industries, to honor Bialik, a JFLA board member, and learn more about the organization’s mission.

“JFLA is responsible for giving interest-free loans to people of all backgrounds,” Bialik said. “They are among the first responders when people need help in emergencies. This year alone, JFLA has helped veterans, foster youth, homeless students and victims of the recent fires. JFLA is there to provide funds to families and individuals that are affected often by circumstances they can’t control.”

“The Big Bang Theory” co-creator, executive producer and writer Bill Prady
presented Bialik with her award. She also was honored with a proclamation from the City of Los Angeles, presented by L.A. City Councilman David Ryu. And Bialik’s “Big Bang” co-star Kevin Sussman, who played Stuart on the show, led a Q&A session with the actress.

Attendees included event co-chairs Abby Kohn, a Hollywood screenwriter (“I Feel Pretty,” “He’s Just Not That Into You,” “How To Be Single”) and Alan Spiwak, a JFLA board member; actress and blogger Busy Philipps and her husband, Marc Silverstein; and Bialik’s family.

“The incredible Mayim Bialik has been a dedicated supporter of Jewish Free Loan for almost 20 years,” JFLA Executive Director Rachel Grose said. “We were thrilled to honor her with the JFLA Leadership Award at our ‘Big Bang Extravaganza.’ No one is more deserving.”

Debra Eckerling, Contributing Writer

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