Moving and shaking: Democracy Council benefit, Jewish Diplomatic Corps and more

Three former campers were honored with leadership awards Dec. 5 at the Shalom Institute’s gala at the W Hollywood hotel.
January 14, 2016

Three former campers were honored with leadership awards Dec. 5 at the Shalom Institute’s gala at the W Hollywood hotel.

Andrea Spatz, a Shalom Institute board member since 2007 and immediate past president who spent summers growing up at Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s Camp Hess Kramer and Gind-ling Hilltop Camp in Malibu, received the David and Rae Finegood Leadership Award.

Emerging Young Leader Awards went to Mathew Arnold and Alexandra Spitz — both of whom met their spouses through camp. Arnold is a former Camp JCA Shalom camper who has held several staff positions at the camp. Spitz is a second-generation Camp JCA Shalom alum.

The event raised more than $140,000 for Shalom Institute “camper scholarships, community program enhancements and facility improvements,” according to a press release. Among the more than 250 people in attendance was Bill Kaplan, executive director at the Shalom Institute.

Marsha Rothpan, development and community engagement director at the Shalom Institute, said the event was a success.

“We increased sponsorship levels; the honorees hit it out of the park,” she said.

Gala attendees participated in the Shalom Institute’s community Holocaust Torah Restoration Project, a yearlong initiative to restore a Torah recovered in Prague that was entrusted to the Shalom Institute in 1989. Each attendee wrote a letter in the sacred scroll.

The University of Haifa has received its largest-ever single donation for one project — $10 million — and the money comes from Los Angeles’ Paul and Herta Amir. 

Husband-and-wife Los Angeles philanthropists Paul and Herta Amir, who recently donated $10 million to the University of Haifa’s social sciences department, attend an American Society of the University of Haifa event. Photo courtesy of American Society of the University of Haifa

The husband-and-wife philanthropists pledged the money toward the Faculty of Social Sciences at the university, which was renamed for them in a festive ceremony on Jan. 5, according to a statement from the American Society of the University of Haifa (ASUH), the fundraising arm of the Israeli university.

“We feel very fortunate that we have the ability to contribute to the University of Haifa, an institution that is educating the next generation of all sectors of Israeli society,” Herta Amir said during the ceremony in Israel, as quoted by the ASUH press release. “The task of the next generation is to continue to build the society, and it is our job to give the tools for them to do so through an outstanding education.”

The gift will go toward adding four floors to the buildings of the Faculty of Social Sciences, establishing new laboratories and recruiting new, young faculty. The department is the university’s largest, with 5,000 of the school’s 18,000 students enrolled in it, according to Larry Geiger, ASUH assistant director. 

Paul Amir’s connection to the university stems from his having lived in Haifa in the 1940s. Born in Czechoslovakia, he came by boat to Haifa and lived there after World War II before immigrating to the United States and settling in Los Angeles, Geiger said. 

Other organizations to benefit from donations by the Amirs include the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. 

“It’s interesting,” Geiger said in a phone interview. “There was a feeling on the campus that it was shifting away from its roots of social sciences, and this very generous contribution brings that back again to the core. … It’s an important contribution for the university no matter where it is placed, but putting it in social sciences, which remains the bellwether of University of Haifa, [signifies] a real step forward.”

Over plates of lemon herb salmon and angel-hair pasta, a group of about a dozen young Jewish professionals heard a pitch from the World Jewish Congress (WJC) for a program that would turn them into globetrotting diplomats for Jewish interests.

Hans Jörg Neumann, consul general of the Federal Republic of Germany in Los Angeles, and Yaki Lopez, consul for political affairs at the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles, headlined the invite-only evening at La Gondola restaurant in Beverly Hills on Dec. 17. Each extolled the brand of informal diplomacy practiced by the Jewish Diplomatic Corps, a WJC cadre that educates young leaders in political affairs and sends them around the world to advocate for Jewish causes.

“The [nongovernmental organizations] or the non-official organizations are becoming more and more important,” Lopez said, adding that such groups are now “almost equally important as the official partners.”

Neumann sounded a similar note, citing how many nongovernmental organizations took part in recent climate talks in Paris.

The WJC has held similar recruitment events over the past year in New York, Washington, D.C., Toronto, Montreal and Odessa, Ukraine.

Shana Meyerson, a four-year veteran of the Jewish Diplomatic Corps, said her experience with the program began with a “backgrounder” on the U.S. political community as it relates to Jewish and Israeli interests. Since then, she has traveled to Rome, New York and Brussels.

The best part about the program, she said, is that “wherever you travel in the world, there’s always going to be a [Jewish diplomat] to meet with.”

— Eitan Arom, Contributing Writer

A Democracy Council benefit for Syrian refugees at the Del Rey Yacht Club on Dec. 13 drew approximately 100 people and raised $20,000 to support the “salaries of doctors and teachers providing essential services to Syrians in refugee camps,” according to organization spokesman Gemini Kline

James Prince, president of Democracy Council, and Leon Janks, a member of Milken Community Schools’ board of trustees and the board of TRIBE Media Corp., attend a benefit organized by the Democracy Council. Photo courtesy of Jimmy Rudon 

The Democracy Council, founded in 1998, is a nonprofit organization that “advocates freedom, human rights, equal opportunity and public participation across the globe,” according to its website. The group’s co-founder and president, James Prince, who previously told the Journal that the organization has been working in Syria for more than a decade, was a speaker at the event.

Others who attended included Tzivia Schwartz Getzug, director of the West Coast office of Jewish Funders Network; Frederic Hof, a resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East; and Syrian-American actor Jay Abdo.

Additional supporters who were there included Leon Janks, a Milken Community Schools’ board of trustees member and board member of TRIBE Media Corp., the parent company of the Jewish Journal; and the Journal’s publisher and editor-in-chief, Rob Eshman.

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com. 

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