IDF Program, United Hatzalah Raises $15M

March 4, 2020
From left: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Director Sara Bloomfield, film and television producer Deborah Oppenheimer and actress, author and activist Jamie Lee Curtis. Photo courtesy of Ryan Miller, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

Some 500 supporters of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, D.C., gathered Feb. 26 at the Beverly Hilton hotel to honor three Angelenos, hear reports on the museum’s recent work and to pledge to “never forget” the 6 million Shoah victims.

Honored with the institution’s National Leadership Award were Deborah Oppenheimer, Dana Perlman and Renee Firestone.

Film producer and TV executive Oppenheimer, introduced by actress Jamie Lee Curtis, was feted for her Oscar-winning film, “Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport.”

She gave proper weight to the award by recalling that “my father used to say he didn’t have any buttons left on his shirt because they’d burst out of pride in me. … His buttons would be popping all over the place if he could be here tonight.”

Museum director Sara Bloomfield presented the award to attorney Perlman, an L.A. City Planning Commissioner, who chairs the museum’s national planned giving and endowment recognition societies.

In his remarks, Perlman recalled, “As the son of
survivors, when I first visited the museum, I was reluctant. I didn’t think there was anything else I could or needed to learn from the memorial. But I was very wrong. I learned that as important as the museum’s memorial function is, remembrance without action, without education, falls terribly short of truly commemorating the victims and survivors.”

Educator Erin Gruwell presented the award to Firestone, who asked, “Why did I survive and others didn’t?”

The evening’s participants raised $700,000 for the museum, which describes its mission to “inspire citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide and promote human dignity. “
— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

From left: Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Hillel Newman, philanthropist Dina Leeds and L.A. City Councilman Herb Wesson, who is running for a seat on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.

L.A. City Councilmember Herb Wesson appeared at a luncheon at the home of local philanthropists Dina and Fred Leeds on Feb 25.

During the gathering, Wesson, who has served on the Council since 2005, met with Jewish leadership and discussed issues related to security and anti-Semitism.

Representatives of schools, synagogues and nonprofits across the city turned out, including Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center; Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Hillel Newman; Roz Rothstein of StandWithUs and Rabbi Kalman Topp of Beth Jacob Congregation.

A unit of Israeli Defense Forces veterans spent a therapeutic week in Los Angeles discussing the challenges they faced as soldiers. Photo courtesy of Tanya Surpin

A unit of Israeli Defense Forces veterans visited Los Angeles from Feb. 16-23 and spent time with Beth Jacob Congregation as part of the Peace of Mind program (POM), which enables the veterans to process their combat experiences. 

Developed after the Second Lebanon War, POM was created to help veterans discuss the challenges and difficulties they faced as soldiers.

Having previously served together in the elite Egoz commando unit, the soldiers reunited and processed service-related trauma. 

Two therapists, Alon Weltman and Yuval Kessler, accompanied the group from Israel and equipped the veterans with the language needed to discuss their fears and feelings about their time in battle. This was a new and important skill that had not yet been developed by these soldiers, according to a Peace of Mind representative.

One of the veterans, David Hoffman, spoke in shul on Shabbat.

“As soldiers we are taught survival skills — how to fight, and how not to think about our feelings. Yet in the military we went through many difficult and terrifying situations. We were well trained for military operations, but we were not taught skills for how to return to civilian life afterward. After participating in this program, we now possess the language to talk about what we went through, and we will be able to share our feelings more easily with our partners, our children, our parents,” Hoffman said. “After this intensive week, we are going home more aware and more whole.”

Created by Metiv: The Israel Psychotrauma Center, the nine-month program includes a week in a Diaspora community. The distance from home enables veterans to work on the issues that are most pressing without any outside interference. 

The Beth Jacob community united around the program, with volunteers hosting the soldiers in their homes, Beth Jacob Rabbi Kalman Topp said.

“The Peace of Mind program brought the community together, and brought out the best in each one of us,” he said.

From left: Jay Leno, Miriam and Sheldon Adelson and Eli Beer attend the Friends of United Hatzalah gala in Beverly Hills. Photo by Joseph Pal Photography

Friends of United Hatzalah of Israel raised $15 million at its second annual Los Angeles gala at the Beverly Hilton on Feb. 27.

Proceeds from the event support the lifesaving work of the organization’s volunteers in Israel. Hatzalah (Hebrew for rescue) is a volunteer emergency medical service organization based in Jerusalem. It provides immediate medical intervention between the onset of an emergency and the arrival of traditional ambulance assistance. There are currently 6,000 volunteers registered with Hatzalah who respond to calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Eli Beer, founder of United Hatzalah and president of the U.S.-based organization, introduced keynote speaker Miriam Adelson. 

“I had the honor of meeting Miriam and Sheldon before they were married.  What I didn’t realize back then is that when these two got together, what a force their love created to change the world,” Beer said.

Adelson told the 1,100 guests about the time she served as a chief physician in the emergency room at Hadassah Hospital. 

Adelson and her husband, Sheldon, were honored during the evening, along with Dina Aspen, who was awarded with the Pioneer Award, and Nicolai Marciano, who was awarded with the Young Leadership Award.

Comedian Jay Leno performed and had the audience roaring with laughter. The former late-night host was the recipient of last year’s award for his support and work with United Hatzalah. 

The evening concluded with a performance by Israeli recording artist Dudu Aharon.
— Ayala Or-El, Contributing Writer

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Email ryant@jewishjournal.com.

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