JFSLA Marks Rosh Hashanah, Geft Retirement, LAJH Gala

Notable people and events in the Jewish LA community.
September 28, 2023
Jewish Family Service LA held Rosh Hashanah festivities for its older adults. Courtesy of Jewish Family Service LA

Throughout the month of September, Jewish Family Service LA’s (JFSLA) Senior and Multipurpose Centers hosted Rosh Hashanah festivities for members of Café Europa, JFSLA’s social group for survivors of the Holocaust, and participants from the JFS Arts, Wellness, and Engagement (AWE) Program. 

JFSLA’s AWE Program offers engaging wellness activities, fitness classes, educational and art classes, and social events to 500 seniors weekly throughout the Los Angeles community. On Sept. 7, more than 100 seniors celebrated Rosh Hashanah at JFSLA’s Jona Goldrich Multipurpose Center. Seniors enjoyed a catered meal, a lecture about the traditions of Rosh Hashanah and a musical performance. More than 40 seniors also attended Rosh Hashanah celebrations at JFSLA’s Valley Storefront Community Resource Center and the BAR Center at the Beach.

“Our Rosh Hashanah celebrations were open to all older adults in the community, including survivors of the Holocaust,” JFSLA Senior Director of Multipurpose and Senior Centers Susan Belgrade said. “We were happy to celebrate, but we were also excited to share and educate the community about social services, transportation, nutrition, and activities offered to older adults at JFSLA.”

To spread joy during Rosh Hashanah, JFSLA sent Café Europa members a special Rosh Hashanah gift box that included a challah, grape juice, a honey jar, honey cake, and a Shana Tova greeting card.

Rabbi Nolan Lebovitz attended JFSLA’s Rosh Hashanah celebration for Café Europa Holocaust survivors. Courtesy of Jewish Family Service LA

Nearly 50 Café Europa members celebrated Rosh Hashanah at JFSLA’s Jona Goldrich Multipurpose Center and the Valley Storefront Community Resource Center. Survivors discussed the meaning of the Rosh Hashanah simanim (symbolic foods) and blessings, enjoyed musical entertainment, and heard the ceremonial blowing of the shofar by Valley Beth Shalom Senior Rabbi Nolan Lebovitz.

“This week’s Café Europa program was especially meaningful, as Café Europa and members of the JFSLA Board of Directors expressed their gratitude to me for my involvement and gifted me with an extraordinarily beautiful Tzedakah Box,” Lebovitz said. “As a grandchild of survivors, it is my responsibility that all survivors receive love and support throughout the rest of their lives. My holidays can no longer begin without spending time with Cafe Europa and ensuring the survivor community hears the shofar once more.”

Liebe Geft has announced her plans to retire from her position as director of the Museum of Tolerance, effective at the end of October.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve this exceptional organization for 27 years. I am extremely proud of the countless accomplishments of this time – not only my own but, even more so, those of my colleagues and the collective organization,” Geft said in a Sept. 22 statement. “I am immensely grateful for the trust placed in me by the leaders of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) and Board of Trustees and I am profoundly appreciative to all my esteemed professional colleagues at the MOT.

“It has been my great pleasure to work with so many extraordinary consultants and partners, and I thank you for the opportunity to collaborate on many important projects, programs and initiatives,” Geft said.

Going forward, Geft said she will be serving as the museum’s emeritus director.

From left: Los Angeles Jewish Health (LAJH) CEO Dale Surowitz and LAJH honoree Robert Hirsch. Courtesy of Los Angeles Jewish Health

On Sept. 10, Robert Hirsch, a philanthropist and long-time leadership volunteer who has devoted decades of support toward the well-being of the city’s senior community, was honored by Los Angeles Jewish Health (formerly Los Angeles Jewish Home) at its annual Reflections Gala, held at the Skirball Cultural Center. 

Event emcee Josh Flagg. Courtesy of Los Angeles Jewish Health

Noted real estate agent and television personality Josh Flagg served as master of ceremonies at the event, which paid tribute to Hirsch’s influential career and saluted his longtime generosity and involvement at LAJH supporting seniors in Los Angeles.

 The gala drew more than 300 attendees from throughout Southern California, raising more than $625,000 to advance LA Jewish Health’s efforts and specifically to see the new Hirsch Family Campus housing program become a reality. The Campus will expand housing and care options for the growing population of low and middle-income seniors across Los Angeles in need of affordable housing options, thanks to the generosity of the Hirsch Family.

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