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Em Habanim Celebrates, Mishkon Gala, iCenter Gathers L.A. Educators

Notable people and events in the Jewish LA community.
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June 20, 2024
Em Habanim’s anniversary celebration. Courtesy of Em Habanim

North Hollywood-based Sephardic community Em Habanim celebrated its 50th anniversary during a joyous June 9 ceremony.

Honoree Sidney Chriqui, Rabbi Joshua Bittan, President Albert Ifrah and Trustee Richard Elgrichi celebrate Em Habanim’s 50th anniversary. Courtesy of Em Habanim

The evening — which was filled with warmth, laughter, friendship and a sense of shared history, reflecting the synagogue’s enduring commitment to its members — began with a speech from synagogue President Albert Ifrah. Jason Rimokh served as master of ceremonies, and Sidney Chriqui, founder of Em Habanim who also serves as the synagogue’s chairman of the board of trustees, was the evening’s esteemed honoree. He received the Keter Shem Tov Award. 

Spiritual Leader Rabbi Joshua Bittan was among the evening’s participants.

Em Habanim is a Sephardic synagogue in the San Fernando Valley. Fifty years ago, a group of friends immigrated to Los Angeles from Morocco and acted on a dream — that dream was Em Habanim.

Since its founding in 1974, Em Habanim has served not only as a place of worship and spiritual devotion but also as a hub for education, cultural enrichment and community involvement.

The golden anniversary celebration included heartfelt tributes to the founding members, whose unwavering faith, vision and dedication brought the synagogue to fruition, congregant Sandi Chriqui Bouhadana said.

“The historic occasion epitomized the enduring warmth and vibrancy that have always defined Em Habanim, emphasizing its pivotal role as a sanctuary of faith, tradition, and unity. Furthermore, it looks ahead to the future with optimism and determination, steadfast in its commitment to preserving its heritage and passing it on to generations to come.”


Mishkon Tephilo honoree Murray Kalis and his daughter, Sam Aotaki, kick up their heels on the dance floor. Courtesy of Mishkon Tephilo

Longtime Mishkon Tephilo congregant Murray Kalis was honored by Mishkon Tephilo at the synagogue’s 2024 gala on May 19 at the 1217 Second Street venue in Santa Monica. More than 130 people attended the sold-out “Mad Men”-themed event, celebrating Kalis’ 50-year legacy in advertising.

In keeping with Kalis’ role as an Emmy Awards judge, guests entered the room on a red carpet, were greeted by paparazzi flashbulbs and enjoyed an eye-popping reel of Kalis’ commercials over the decades.

Kalis’ impressive career spans from psychological operations in the Korean War, to creative director stints at top agencies like Leo Burnett, Burson-Marstelle, and Young and Rubicam, to principal of his own firm, Kalis Inc. His daughter, Karen Solomon, had the crowd in stitches with her stories about growing up with a father in advertising.

Mishkon Tephilo is the historic heart of Jewish life in Venice, located a few blocks from the ocean. The oldest operating synagogue on the Westside, its diverse community and thriving preschool warmly welcome everyone, including interfaith families and converts to Judaism.


The latest cohort of iCenter’s Israel education program includes six Los Angeles participants. Courtesy of The iCenter

The iCenter’s Master’s Concentration program is bringing graduate students together from 17 different universities across North America and Israel to learn together for a year to become more effective Israel educators.

The program’s newest cohort—the first to launch since Oct. 7—kicked off earlier this month. Among the local participants in the cohort are CJ Mays, a student rabbi at the Venice Beach-based Open Temple; Jeffrey Silverstein of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles; Chloe Levian, a Beverly Hills-based senior campus regional manager at pro-Israel education group StandWithUs; and Erin Wyner, a teacher at Adat Ari El in Studio City.

The program aims to strengthen Israel education, reimagine what that looks like and identify Jewish leaders’ needs in the dynamic and ever-evolving reality in Israel and around the world, post-Oct. 7.

“Jewish organizations are navigating increasingly complex realities post-October 7th,” Rachel See, program director at the iCenter, said. “Campus Hillels, day schools, youth groups, JCCs, camps, synagogues, and beyond want to support their learners in every way they can, and a big part of this means having highly qualified Israel educators in this moment who themselves are members of a supportive environment of colleagues and mentors.”

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