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StandWithUs Training, AJU Hire, Westside JCC Rebrands

Notable people and events in the LA Jewish community
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August 31, 2023
StandWithUs educator Michelle Geft conducts a training in Israel for emissaries who will spend a year in the United States doing service work. Photo courtesy of StandWithUs

IsraelLINK, StandWithUs’ signature middle school curriculum, and the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) are partnering on a new venture in which The Jewish Agency’s ShinShinim (Israeli emissaries) present the IsraelLINK curriculum as part of their year of service.

Israeli high school graduates, the ShinShinim will work with Jewish communities throughout the United States and the world prior to joining the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) or becoming part of Shirut Leumi, a volunteer position in Israel in lieu of army service.

Both organizations — StandWithUs and the Jewish Agency for Israel — recently completed a six-month pilot program with IsraelLINK Educational Specialist Michelle Geft, who is spearheading it.

“I am so excited to be working with the ShinShinim,” Geft said.

Mina Rush, national director of middle school education and programming at StandWithUs, described the collaboration with The Jewish Agency as a “dream come true.”

IsraelLINK, an initiative of the middle school department of StandWithUs, provides students with authentic and meaningful experiences that foster a strong connection to Israel and Jewish identity.


New signage is installed at J Los Angeles, formerly known as the Westside JCC, at the center’s facility on Olympic Boulevard. Photo courtesy of J Los Angeles

The Westside Jewish Community Center (Westside JCC) has undergone a rebranding, developing a new name and identity. Going forward, the organization will be known as J Los Angeles.

“Westside JCC is more than a neighborhood community center – and not at all located on the west side of Los Angeles. This is why we have taken the bold step to develop a new name and new identity, one that expresses the profound connection with our beloved city and community members who have always been a part of us,” the organization said in a statement.

The Westside JCC opened in 1954 and was so named because it was the furthest west of the newly built JCCs – replacing the Soto Michigan JCC in Boyle Heights. What was once imagined as a neighborhood community center now serves a much wider L.A. population, however. The day camp, aquatics, teen, and Israel experience programs draw participants from all over the greater Los Angeles area.

“‘J Los Angeles speaks to who we are today and where we are going,” J Los Angeles Executive Director Brian Greene told the Journal. “It is bold statement about our place in the community. The new J Los Angeles brand is inspirational and aspirational. It makes a statement to our board, to our staff and to our community that we will be a part of shaping the L.A. Jewish future.”

“The staff at the J has done a tremendous job bringing this transformation to fruition,” J Los Angeles Board President Tony Regenstreif said. “Over the last few years, the programming at the J has been renewed and expanded and it was time for the name to catch up with that change.  Plus — we’re not even on the Westside!”


AJU’s Suzy Bookbinder. Courtesy of American Jewish University

American Jewish University (AJU) has named Suzy Bookbinder its vice president for advancement and chief development officer.

In this role, Bookbinder will work closely with AJU’s president, board and senior leadership to advance the university’s philanthropic goals and continue to foster a relationship of service and partnership with the community.

An accomplished fundraising professional with more than three decades of experience, Bookbinder recently served as the executive philanthropy consultant at anti-genocide organization Jewish World Watch and previously held positions at Hillel International as the director of donor relations; Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles as the chief development officer; and de Toledo High School as the chief advancement officer

“American Jewish University holds a significant and ongoing role in my life and the lives of many others. The university serves as a lifelong institution that embraces individuals at all points of their Jewish journey,” Bookbinder said in a statement. “My goal is to enlighten potential supporters and donors, fostering in them the same passion for AJU that existing community members hold.”

AJU President Jeffrey Herbst expressed excitement about Bookbinder joining AJU’s leadership team, saying, “Suzy Bookbinder is an accomplished fundraiser with a strong understanding of the Los Angeles Jewish community, and we are delighted to see her bring this expertise, leadership, and problem-solving skills to her new role as AJU’s Vice President for Advancement and Chief Development Officer.”

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