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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Moving and shaking: American Society for Yad Vashem, AcaDeca and more

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Edward and Elissa Czuker, co-chairs of an upcoming gala hosted by the American Society for Yad Vashem (ASYV), hosted a kickoff reception March 28 at their Beverly Hills home. About 50 people were on hand to learn about the gala set for June 6 that will honor two Holocaust survivors: producers Meyer Gottlieb (“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” “Master and Commander: Far Side of the World”) and Branko Lustig (“Schindler’s List,” “Gladiator”).

Phil Blazer, founder of Jewish Life TV, introduced Gottlieb, former president of Samuel Goldwyn Films and a Holocaust survivor, who recalled his experience as a young boy fleeing the Nazi invasion of Poland.  

Lynne Segall, executive vice president and group publisher at Billboard and the Hollywood Reporter, was on hand to represent the latter publication, which also will be honored June 6 for its story “Hollywood’s Last Survivors,” an in-depth article about the 11 remaining Holocaust survivors who made a name for themselves in the entertainment business. The contributors to the story, writers Peter Flax and Gary Baum, discussed the months of research and interviews that went into the creation of the piece. 

Ron Meier, ASYV executive director, spoke about the organization’s work and the significance of Yad Vashem. ASYV was established 35 years ago by a group of Holocaust survivors to advance the efforts of Yad Vashem through Holocaust education, traveling exhibitions, and philanthropy. 

Later, Gottlieb stressed to the Journal how important such efforts are: “With the passage of time and the dwindling of eyewitness survivors, the Holocaust would become an issue simply of statistics without institutions like Yad Vashem and the vital work they do in education, research and keeping the memories of the victims alive so that the Holocaust is never forgotten.” 

— Virginia Isaad, Contributing Writer


Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills (TEBH) celebrated Mimouna, a traditional North African Jewish holiday marking the end of Passover, with 275 young professionals on April 30. 

From left: Chloe Pourmorady, Zack Lodmer, Daniel Raijman and Marcel Borbon rehearse in advance of the Mimouna celebration.  Photo by Luis Bargos, Moishe House Venice

“There’s an opportunity for the Jewish community, dominated by Ashkenazi Jews, to learn from and integrate the traditions of Jews of all backgrounds,” TEBH Associate Rabbi Sarah Bassin told the Journal. “In Israel, Mimouna was brought by North African immigrants and with time became a national holiday. I hope that we can replicate this beautiful integration here in the United States.”

One goal of the evening event, held at Studio 11 in Culver City, was “to connect those professionals to the amazing organizations in our community that serve them,” according to Bassin. It was put on with funding provided by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and in partnership with The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ NextGen Engagement Initiative.

Upon arrival, guests were given a “passport” and visited different stations staffed by partner organizations AJC Access, Bend the Arc, Israeli American Council/Bina, JDC Entwine, Jews of Color, Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA), JScreen, Moishe House, Reboot, Stephen Wise Temple, Temple Emanuel YoPro, Young Adults of Los Angeles (YALA), Sinai Temple Atid, Miller Introduction to Judaism Alumni and Open Temple. Stations offered information about the organization as well as light snacks to aid attendees in transitioning back to chametz

Guests lined up for henna and glitter tattoos and wandered through the venue’s garden, socializing in circles around a hookah with fellow attendees. Musical guest Bazaar Ensemble provided its unique Middle Eastern jazz-funk vibe, and Persian-American violinist, vocalist and composer Chloé Pourmorady contributed audience-rousing multicultural sounds.

— Esther D. Kustanowitz, Contributing Writer


Adat Shalom in West Los Angeles hosted a pre-Passover open house party April 3 for more than 80 people. The event included music from Cantor Dale Schatz, who sang Passover-themed songs. Guests noshed on fruit from a fruit cart, popcorn and pretzels while Rabbi Nolan Lebovitz read the Passover book “And Then Another Sheep Turned Up” by Laura Gehl. 

The free event included face-painting and art projects designed by the rabbi’s wife, Blair Lebovitz. Kids got to design matzo covers, color Passover placemats and solve Passover puzzles. 

It marked the beginning of an ongoing partnership with PJ Library, which sends Jewish children’s books to families for free. The book was selected because it “stressed the values of family and welcoming others during the Passover seder,” Lebovitz said.

“Engaging with unaffiliated Jewish families in West L.A. is a priority for me in my rabbinate,” Lebovitz told the Journal. “Adat Shalom has so much to offer families with children.  That’s why we’re so proud of our partnership with PJ Library.”

Among those in attendance were Adat Shalom President Liz Bar-El and board member Marla Knoll.

— Virginia Isaad, Contributing Writer


Led by coach Mathew Arnold, the Academic Decathlon team at Granada Hills Charter High School took home the national title in the quiz competition last month — again. The win is the fifth championship for Arnold, 38, an English teacher and longtime former camper at Camp JCA Shalom in Malibu.

The 2016 national Academic Decathlon champions from Granda Hills Charter High in the San Fernando Valley, led by coach Mathew Arnold (far right), a former camper at the JCA Shalom Malibu summer camp.  Photo courtesy of Granada Hills Charter High School

Despite his status as the winningest coach in Academic Decathlon history, it wasn’t clear until near the end of the competition in Anchorage, Alaska, that he would be going home with another title.

“At times, it seemed like we were neck and neck,” Arnold said. “That was tense.”

In the end, Granada Hills’ 13-member group of high schoolers — divided by grade-point average among “A,” “B” and “C” students — dominated the individual as well as the group scoreboards, earning top spots in the competition’s rankings for each tier of students. The San Fernando Valley high school has won five of the last six national championships.

Arnold emphasized that the team’s success would not be possible without support from the administration, other teachers and parents. “It really takes an entire school,” he said.

But the ultimate credit — and the college essay fodder — goes to the teenagers who spend hours after school studying for tests not required in their class curricula.

Arnold recalled one of his students being honored as the top scorer in the “C” category: “He stood up and it was like he’d just won ‘America’s [Next] Top Model’ or something,” Arnold said. “He had this look on his face that was like, ‘Me? Me? You mean me?’ ”

— Eitan Arom, Staff Writer

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

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