Movers & Shakers: APN Luncheon, Cancer Fundraiser, AJC Leader

Richard Hirschhaut, American Jewish Committee’s new L.A. director. Photo courtesy of American Jewish Committee

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) named civil rights advocate and communal leader Richard Hirschhaut as its Los Angeles director, effective Sept. 3.

 “We are thrilled to welcome Rick as our Los Angeles Director,” AJC Los Angeles Board President Scott Edelman, a partner at the law firm, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, said in a statement. “He is a transformational leader who has served both the Jewish community and the broader American public with passion and integrity for over three decades.”

AJC CEO David Harris echoed Edelman’s enthusiasm.

“We are excited that Rick Hirschhaut will be bringing his depth of experience and passion for the well-being of the Jewish people and Israel to AJC,” Harris said in a statement. “A strong and vibrant AJC Los Angeles is crucial to advancing our global mission and we look forward to Rick’s leadership in achieving these important objectives.”

Hirschhaut served as the founding executive director of the Illinois Holocaust Museum from 2004-14. He worked at the Anti-Defamation League for 21 years, including a decade as the Midwest regional director in Chicago. He also has worked at American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and American Friends of Rambam Medical Center, all the while helping to secure the well-being and security of Jews in the United States, Israel and around the world, according to AJC.

Hirschhaut, who, with his wife, Susan, are the parents of two adult children, graduated from Tulane University in 1982. He also studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 

“I am humbled by the trust that has been placed in me to lead AJC Los Angeles,” Hirschhaut said. “We are reminded of the urgency of AJC’s mission every day. With dedicated leadership and talented professional staff, we will confront the incivility of our times by standing with communities facing the sting of intolerance.” 

— Staff Writer Aaron Bandler contributed to this report

From left: Friends of Sheba Medical Center Executive Director Molly Soboroff, Parvin Djavaheri and Janine Winkler Lowy. Photo courtesy of Friends of Sheba Medical Center

Friends of Sheba Medical Center’s newest chapter, the Daughters of Sheba, held a kickoff event on Aug. 28 at The Peninsula Beverly Hills.

The evening was dedicated to mental health awareness and overcoming the stigma associated with mental illness. Professor Mark Weiser, head of psychiatry at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center, Tel HaShomer, and Nick Holton, director of positive psychology at Milken Community Schools, engaged in a panel discussion that addressed the community’s questions around the rise in depression, autism, cannabis use and much more.

Daughters’ leadership includes Daphnah Nazarian, Sharona Soofer Veiseh, Shoshana Djavaheri Zar, Julie Darwish, Rachel Kuluva Roth and Shani Weltsman Moran.

Congressman Adam Schiff (left) and Richard and Lois Gunther attended Americans for Peace Now’s award luncheon. Photo by Jami Ferreira

Some 250 West Coast stalwarts of Americans for Peace Now (APN) turned out at the Skirball Cultural Center on Sept. 8 for tributes to its pioneers, political updates from the halls of Congress, some lively music and a hearty luncheon.

The event opened with the blowing of the shofar, after which the center stage was ceded to Richard and Lois Gunther as joint recipients of the Arthur P. Stern Leadership Award for a “lifetime of activism and leadership” in Jewish and secular institutions from Los Angeles to Israel.

The couple met and married when Richard was in the Army and Lois was 19 years old and, her husband testified, just as beautiful after 72 years of marriage. Their formula, according to Richard, is to lead a “life of adventure, service and love,” including vigorous mountain climbing.
David Myers, president of the New Israel Fund, lauded the Gunthers’ devotion to peace between Israeli Jews and Arabs, a goal which would require “national leadership in the Middle East,” which at this point was lacking on both sides.

As the closing event, former Congressman Mel Levine interviewed Rep. Adam Schiff, (D-Calif.) and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Schiff warned of “current threats to liberal democracy” emanating both from Moscow and Washington, a threat to which Jews must pay attention,  “for we know how it will end.”

Americans for Peace Now seeks to educate the public and its leaders on the need and possibility for a comprehensive political settlement of the Arab-Israel conflict, including a two-state solution with the Palestinians, consistent with Israel’s long-term security needs and its Jewish and democratic values.

APN partners with Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) and was founded in Israel in 1978 by 348 reserve officers and soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces. Regional APN director David Pine and his staff organized the event.

­— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Sharsheret event committee (back row, from left): Shuli Bendheim Steinlauf, Debi Pomerantz, Abbi Hertz, Courtney Mizel, Jenna Fields and (front row, from left) Kathi Barnhard, Sari Abrams, Elisa Schoenfeld and Dr. Sarah Farzan. Photo by Louis Raynor

More than 200 people attended Sharsheret California’s annual benefit on Sept. 8 at the Beverly Hills home of Lisa and Joshua Greer. 

The event, which raised more than $125,000, featured survivor stories and celebrated three years of California-based programming designed to increase lifesaving cancer awareness and provide prevention information to the Jewish community. 

Since the Sharsheret office opened in 2016 nearly 11,000 people have participated in 235 community education programs in California, and 762 women and family members in the state have received direct support from Sharsheret’s team of social workers. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center is also partnering with Sharsheret to expand high-impact cancer education and prevention programs for the Jewish community in Los Angeles.

“You never think you’re going to be the one,” said Annie Spar, who was diagnosed in 2015. “Sharsheret was a place to go to ask questions, receive support and somewhere I felt I had a community that understood what I was going through. Now I, too, am a link in the Sharsheret chain (Sharsheret means chain in Hebrew).” 

Her husband, Elon Spar, credited Sharsheret’s Spungen Family Focus program with helping him to support Annie and their kids through treatment. “When you think of the toll cancer takes you, don’t only think of the toll it takes on the patient, but the toll it takes on the family,” he said.

Aviva Walls said that her strong-willed, opinionated mother, grandmother and great-grandmother taught her “the importance of community, of connection and of family,” but that she also inherited their breast cancer mutation. 

After watching her mother go through breast cancer treatment, Walls took control of her own health and underwent a prophylactic mastectomy and reconstruction. She now speaks on college campuses on behalf of Sharsheret, about understanding one’s genetic history and making informed health choices. “I am lucky to use that strong, inherited voice for good,” she said.

“It was incredible to see how the Los Angeles Jewish community has come together to support Sharsheret over the last three years,” Courtney Mizel, national board member and California advisory committee co-chair, said.

After the event, Sharsheret California Regional Director Jenna Fields told the Journal that several attendees had noted “how specific the Jewish experience is when it comes to cancer and intergenerational trauma. At Sharsheret, one of our main goals is to provide the support and resources to women and men who are facing this issue head on.”

— Esther D. Kustanowitz, Contributing Writer

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