Moving and shaking: World of Children Alumni Honors and more

The April 12 World of Children 2016 Alumni Honors ceremony took place at the Montage Beverly Hills. The gathering featured Brooke Burke-Charvet as emcee, a performance by Yemin Orde Youth Choir, a group of at-risk immigrant teens from the Yemin Orde Youth Village in Israel and more, and raised “more than $300,000 for vulnerable children,” a press release said.

Brooke Burke-Charvet emceed the April 12 World of Children 2016 Alumni Honors. Photo courtesy of Joe Scarnici / Getty Images for World of Children Award

The event recognized previous World of Children Award nominees Dr. Ashok Banskota, founding chairman of the Hospital and Rehabilitation Center for Disabled Children in Nepal; Ryan Hreljac, founder of Ryan’s Well Foundation in Sub-Saharan and West Africa; and Denisse Pichardo, director of Caminante Proyecto Educativo in the Dominican Republic.

World of Children Award recognizes “promising heroes leading programs for children” and grants “funds to advance their efforts,” according to its website.

The Israel-based Yemin Orde Youth Choir made several appearances in Los Angeles in April as part of its 2016 U.S. tour.

Its members range in age from 15 to 18 and hail from Ethiopia, France, Ukraine, Israel and Brazil.

Its tour included an April 11 performance at Beth Jacob Congregation that drew a crowd of 200 people. Joining the choir in the concert at Beth Jacob were students from Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy, under the direction of Beth Jacob Cantor Arik Wollheim; from Shalhevet High School, under the direction of Joelle Keene; and from the Jewish Community Children’s Choir, under the direction of Michelle Green Willner. The Yemin Orde choir also appeared at Milken Community Schools on April 13.

The touring choir included 11 residents and one graduate of the Yemin Orde Youth Village, which operates 20 homes for children in need.

“They remain connected to the village long after they graduate,” Barbara Sherbill, a marketing and communications associate at Friends of Yemin Orde, which raises funds for Yemin Orde Youth Village, said in an interview.

The April 14 Anti-Defamation League (ADL) annual Entertainment Industry Dinner at the Beverly Hilton hotel honored Ken Solomon, president of the Tennis Channel.

From left: Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Regional Board Chair Eric Kingsley, Larry Scott, ADL Regional Director Amanda Susskind, honoree Ken Solomon, Ben Silverman and Bill Macatee. Photo courtesy of Anti-Defamation League 

“As a respected leader in the sports and entertainment industries, Ken Solomon regularly uses his platform to spread messages of inclusion and speak out against bias and prejudice,” ADL regional director Amanda Susskind said in a statement. 

More than 500 people attended the dinner, including celebrities Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, who were 2014 ADL Entertainment Industry Award recipients; Berry Gordy Jr.; Norman Lear; Chuck Lorre; Ben Silverman; and Larry Scott.

Bill Macatee served as the emcee of the event, which raised more than $850,000 for ADL. 

ADL is an organization that combats anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry and discrimination. According to ADL press materials, “The ADL Entertainment Industry Award is given to individuals annually for their vision, leadership, accomplishments and contributions to the entertainment industry.”

Shalhevet High School 2012 graduate Rachel Lester won the grand prize, $7,500, for her submission to the Israel Video Network “Inspired by Israel” video contest, which launched in March and garnered more than 100 submissions from across the world.

Rachel Lester, the grand-prize winner of the Israel Video Network “Inspired by Israel” video contest. Photo courtesy of Jewish Journal

“We wanted the people participating to show how Israel is inspiring them and why is Israel inspiring them,” Adam Milstein said in a phone interview. 

Milstein’s foundation, the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation, a partner in the contest, announced the winners April 7.

Lester won for her film, “Superman’s Got Nothing on Israel,” which focuses on Israel’s efforts providing aid to countries that have experienced mass-casualty incidents. 

The current USC student has experienced Israel firsthand. In 2015, Lester took time off from her schooling to volunteer for the Israeli program, Sar-El. She writes the Jewish Journal blog “All About That Base.”

Shlomo Weprin and Joshua Fleisher’s film, “The Shuk Gallery,” won first prize. The video follows street artists Solomon Souza and Berel Hahn and their efforts spray-painting portraits of famous Jews onto the shuttered doors of a popular market in Jerusalem. First prize was $2,500.

Additional winners included the short “Roots,” produced by film-based education program Jerusalem U; and visual artist Shai Getzoff’s “City of Soul.” Each received $1,000.

Israel Video Network is a website that features videos about Israel and the Jewish people.

Residential treatment center Beit T’Shuvah has hired as its CEO psychiatrist Bill Resnick, who has served as chair of the organization’s board of directors for the past four years.

Bill Resnick and Harriet Rossetto. Photo courtesy of Beit T’Shuvah

“The changes we are making will serve the good of all concerned. Rabbi Mark [Borovitz] and I are letting go of our administrative duties in order to pursue our passion to teach, write and spread the message of spiritual recovery to other communities,” the organization’s founder, Harriet Rossetto, said in a statement.

Rossetto will continue as a senior consultant to the treatment center and Borovitz will remain the center’s senior rabbi.

The leadership changes are effective immediately, according to Janet Rosenblum, the new director of advancement at Beit T’Shuvah, which serves community members suffering from various addiction issues.

Meanwhile, succeeding Resnick in the role as board chair is current vice chair Russell Kern.

Beit T’Shuvah currently treats about 150 residents.

Gathered around a U-shaped seder table, the crowd at a youth center on Overland Avenue chanted: “We were slaves — now we are free people!”

For one of the guests at the second-night seder held by B’nai Horin (Children of Freedom) on April 23, the words were literally true.

“It’s a life [in which] you cannot see the horizon,” Avelino Reloj, a human trafficking survivor from the Philippines, told the seder-goers. 

He now lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Donna. Both of  them work with the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST), advocating on behalf of current and former victims of trafficking.

After losing his job in the Philippines, Reloj was thrilled to find work in the United States, but a series of disheartening surprises began turning his enthusiasm into dread.

Arriving in Florida, he was forced to sign a new contract, his employer took his passport, then never delivered his wages. Meanwhile, back in the Philippines, the debt he’d taken on to finance his journey “kept on building up every day,” he said.

“In that moment, I didn’t ask a question,” Reloj said. “My nervousness kept on rising.”

In 2009, he managed to escape and find work as a caregiver for the elderly in Arizona, but his new employer also exploited him, forcing him to work when he was sick and denying the wages he’d earned. Again he escaped, this time taking a Greyhound bus to Los Angeles.

“The worst part was here in California,” he said. 

He was forced to work 12-hour days and rarely allowed to sleep through the night, he said.

The seder held by the nomadic Reform congregation was meant to draw attention to the fact that Los Angeles, one of the main points of entry to the U.S., is also a center for exploitation of foreign workers.

Finally, in June 2011, Reloj learned about CAST, which helped him secure his freedom and permanent residency status. In 2013, his wife joined him in Los Angeles.

“[CAST] gave me freedom,” he said. “They gave me hope.”

— by Eitan Arom, Contributing Writer

Beit T’Shuvah Senior Rabbi Mark Borovitz recently released a book, “Finding Recovery and Yourself in Torah: A Daily Spiritual Path to Wholeness” (Jewish Lights, 2016).

Television director and producer Jack Bender and Beit T’Shuvah Senior Rabbi Mark Borovitz come together during the book launch for Borovitz’s new book, “Finding Recovery and Yourself in Torah.” Photo courtesy of Beit T’Shuvah

And on March 30, he appeared at a book launch, which took place at Beit T’Shuvah’s Venice Boulevard campus, to celebrate the work’s release.

The event drew approximately 300 attendees, including Aryeh Cohen, a professor of rabbinic literature at American Jewish University.

“I had the distinct pleasure to be at the book launch. Rabbi Mark is a classic Chassid in the mold of the Toldot Yakov Yosef, whose first question is always: ‘How is this Torah relevant today?’ ” Cohen said, as quoted by a press release. “Mark asks that question in ways that save people’s lives.”

Brentwood luxury real estate agent Anna Solomon was named to the board of directors of Hadassah Foundation, per an April 19 announcement.

Anna Solomon, a member of the board of directors of Hadassah Foundation.  Photo courtesy of Anna Solomon

Solomon “has been a member of Hadassah for close to 30 years,” the statement said.

She is one of five recently elected Hadassah board members. The others are Margaret Offit Gold of Rockville, Md.; Jennifer Goldsmith and Linda Saker of Brookline, Mass.; and Phyllis Silverstein of Marietta, Ga.

Founded in 1998 by Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Hadassah Foundation “enables Hadassah to address unmet societal needs in Israel and the United States,” according to hadassah.org. 

The board of directors of Reboot announced on April 4 that it has hired music industry veteran and current Jewish communal professional David Katznelson as its new executive director.

David Katznelson. Photo courtesy of Reboot

Katznelson, the former chairman of the board of Reboot, the nonprofit behind the National Day of Unplugging and other initiatives, worked for more than 30 years in the music industry. Most recently, he served as director of strategic change at Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma counties.

“I am beyond excited to be taking on this new role at Reboot, an organization I have loved since its beginnings,” he said in a statement.

Katznelson succeeds Reboot’s interim executive director, Shane Hankins.

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email [email protected].

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