Moving and Shaking: Yom HaAtzmaut, Yom HaZikaron and Foster Mother’s Day

The May 11 Yom HaAtzmaut reception held by Israel’s consulate in Los Angeles took on a bittersweet air — not just because it followed Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Remembrance Day, but also because it was a de facto goodbye party for Consul General David Siegel.
May 19, 2016

The May 11 Yom HaAtzmaut reception held by Israel’s consulate in Los Angeles took on a bittersweet air — not just because it followed Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Remembrance Day, but also because it was a de facto goodbye party for Consul General David Siegel.

The celebration, held at the Skirball Cultural Center, was the outgoing consul’s final Independence Day celebration in Los Angeles after five years of service here.

Before the ceremony, guests lined up to take pictures with Siegel. 

Among those spotted at the event were Stuart Steinberg (father of fallen Israel Defense Forces soldier Max Steinberg); philanthropist and co-founder of the Israeli-American Council Adam Milstein; German Consul General in Los Angeles Hans Jorg Neumann; Consul General of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles Nasimi Aghayev; Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, the longtime executive director at UCLA’s Hillel, and his wife, psychologist Doreen Seidler-Feller; City Attorney Mike Feuer; and Los Angeles City Councilmen David Ryu, Mike Bonin and Paul Koretz.

A host of dignitaries took the stage to pay tribute to Siegel and to toast Israel on its 68th birthday, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Beverly Hills City Councilman Julian Gold and West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister. A trio of Israeli singers, including Kathleen Reiter, the first winner of Israel’s “The Voice” television competition, provided musical entertainment.

Taking the stage last, after a surprise video tribute, Siegel recalled how he arrived in Los Angeles five years ago hoping to “share the real Israel with all of you.” He noted some encouraging signs from his tenure. For example, he recounted that when he arrived, UC Irvine was a “stark symbol” of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Now, UCI has partnerships with a number of Israeli universities, he said.

He pointed to a bill currently under consideration in California’s legislature as a sign that “support for Israel is deep, is strong and is bipartisan.”

Speakers did not fail to pay respects to the evening’s nominal star: the State of Israel. “It’s such a pleasure to be here to celebrate one of my favorite birthdays — of a nation both older than my oldest ancestor and younger than my mother,” Garcetti said.

Uri Herscher, the Skirball’s president, offered a personal account of the birth of the Jewish state 68 years ago, when he was 7 years old. “I had never stayed up until midnight, but my father did not want me to miss the glorious moment” when Israel came into being, he said.

He added, “[Those memories] move me even now after all these years more than ever.”

— Eitan Arom, Staff Writer

IDF Sgt. Miles Rubin lighting yahrzeit (memorial) candles to honor Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror. Photo by Justin Kenderes

For about 60 seconds on the evening of May 10, more than 1,000 Angelenos at the Saban Theatre on Wilshire Boulevard were transported to Israel by the sound of air raid sirens.

The crowd that gathered to commemorate Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Remembrance Day, silently rose to its feet when the mournful wail came over the theater’s sound system, mimicking the custom observed each year in Israel.

“This is no longer just an Israeli observance,” said Rabbi David Baron of Temple of the Arts, which makes its home at the Saban in Beverly Hills. The congregation co-hosted the event with the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces Western Region and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The ceremony celebrated the sacrifice of 23,447 fallen Israeli soldiers and terror victims since the state’s founding, including 47 Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers and 32 civilians slain this year.

Baron’s remarks followed a video address from Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. After Rivlin’s speech, a host of community leaders and visiting dignitaries took the stage to light 18 memorial candles. Among those called up were Jay Sanderson, president and CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Miles Rubin, a “lone soldier” who emigrated to Israel to serve in the IDF, and Leehy Shaer, whose nephew, Gilad Shaer, was kidnapped and killed in 2014 by Hamas operatives along with two other Israeli yeshiva students, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach.

The candles remained onstage as the lights went dark for a screening of “Our Boys,” a 2015 documentary produced by Moriah Films, a division of the Wiesenthal Center. The film is about the three Israeli yeshiva students who were killed and features extensive interviews with the boys’ parents.

— Eitan Arom, Staff Writer

From left: Ashley Williams, volunteer with Foster Care Counts; Jeanne Pritzker, founder of Foster Care Counts; U.S. Congresswoman Karen Bass; Jennifer Perry of Children’s Action Network; and Maggie Lin, volunteer with Foster Care Counts at the eighth annual Foster Mother’s Day celebration on Mother’s Day. Over 2,000 foster moms and kids were treated to a day of fun, entertainment and pampering. Photo by Chris Devlin

Foster Care Counts, the nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness and serving the needs of foster youth and families in Los Angeles, hosted its eighth annual Foster Mother’s Day on May 8 at The Willows Community School in Culver City. 

“We started Foster Mother’s Day eight years ago to honor and show our respect for the many foster parents who give selflessly of themselves every day,” Jeanne Pritzker, the founder of Foster Care Counts, said in a press release. “We all share responsibility for children in foster care — in fact, I see these kids as all of our kids! Foster Mother’s Day allows us to show our appreciation while bringing the community together in support of foster families.”

The event served more than 2,000 foster moms and kids with a day filled with fun, entertainment, food, relaxation and pampering. Visitors to a spa enjoyed hairstyling by future professionals from Paul Mitchell the School in Sherman Oaks and makeup from Jouer Cosmetics. Children had their own area, where there were carnival games, arts and crafts, magicians, balloon artists and face painting.

Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services Director Philip Browning, Congresswoman Karen Bass, Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas made appearances at the event, as did Hayden Byerly from Freeform’s “The Fosters.” 

“There is no one more deserving of recognition and our gratitude than the many Los Angeles County foster mothers and fathers who care for our most vulnerable children,” Browning said in a press release.  

— Avi Sholkoff, Contributing Writer

Comedians Gad Elmaleh and Elon Gold mug backstage with a Jewish Journal cover story on Elmaleh, who closed out his limited run at Largo at the Coronet with a sold-out show May 5.

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