L.A. Federation Stages Pre-Passover Program, Day Schools Support Ukraine

April 14, 2022
Attendees at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ recent program in Venice Beach included (from left) L.A. Federation CEO Rabbi Noah Farkas, L.A. Federation Board Chair Albert Praw and City Councilman Paul Krekorian. Photo by Howard Pasamanick

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles held a special pre-Passover program at its BAR Center at the Beach in Venice highlighting the holiday’s evergreen messages of perseverance and exodus. 

Attendees at the April 7 gathering included L.A. Federation CEO Rabbi Noah Farkas and Rabbi Ilana Grinblat, vice president of community engagement for the Board of Rabbis of Southern California. The two oversaw the afternoon’s activities, designed by the L.A. Federation with the hope of inspiring inclusiveness, togetherness and for others to recreate during the Passover holiday.

From left: Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles Rabbi Ilana Grinblat and Joanna Mendelson, senior vice president of community engagement at the Federation, attended the pre-Passover program at the beach. Photo by Howard Pasamanick

There were four stations at the event, each with interactive projects relating to Passover while providing participants the chance to get to know each other on a deeper level. The stations were called “Breaking the ‘Ashkenormative’ Wall”; “Recognizing and Celebrating Diversity in L.A. and Israel”; “The Universal Connectivity of Music” and “Connection and Action.”

“The goal of this program was to forge bonds between diverse communities using the power of our history and storytelling to inspire progress,” Farkas said. “We must step outside our comfort zone to achieve freedom for all – both Jews and non-Jews. We all must work together to achieve the kind of Los Angeles and world that we want to live in – one that honors the human dignity of each person.”

Many elected officials and community leaders turned out, including L.A. Federation Board Chair Albert Praw, L.A. City Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Paul Krekorian, City Controller Ron Galperin, Capri Maddox, executive director of the Los Angeles City Civil, Human Rights and Equity Department, educator Sharon Furman-Lee, IKAR board member Michelle Rosenthal and Holocaust Museum Los Angeles vice president of community engagement and exhibits Jordanna Gessler.

Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School in Palo Alto, CA holds a fundraising bake sale benefiting Ukrainian refugees. Courtesy of Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School

Bel Air-based Reform community Stephen Wise Temple recently garnered the attention of CBS News Los Angeles for its effort raising funds for United Hatzalah’s Operation Orange Wings.

“I know all of our students and families are deeply moved to participate in this,” Head of School Tami Weiser told the local news station.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, United Hatzalah has been sending charter planes with medics and medical supplies from Israel to Moldova, then flying Ukrainian refugees from Moldova and surrounding countries back to Israel on each flight’s return journey.

To date, Stephen Wise Temple, in partnership with Congregation B’nai Jeshrun in New Jersey, has raised more than $200,000. The effort kicked off after Stephen Wise Temple congregant Dina Aspen urged her community to expand its support for Ukraine beyond education and general advocacy, according to the Stephen Wise Temple website. 

“For us as a religious institution that cares about compassion and about loving the other, we feel compelled—we have no other choice than to try to save lives,” Stephen Wise Temple Senior Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback told CBS News. 

In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which started in February, Jewish day schools and synagogues across California have been stepping up to help the Ukrainian people. On a recent Shabbat afternoon, elementary school students at Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School in Palo Alto organized a fundraising bake sale benefitting Ukrainian refugees, with cupcakes, cookies and other tasty goodies for sale. Students at the TK-8 school also wrote letters to Ukrainian children, and a school parent coordinated a collection drive of hygiene items and medical supplies. 

“There’s been a lot of learning, a lot of discussion and a feeling of this is a moment when we have to act,” Daniel Lehmann, head of the Northern California school, said in an interview. He declined to share how much the April 1 bake sale raised, saying, “It’s more focused on the effort and the process.”

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