30 under 30: The remarkable young people changing the L.A. Jewish community

January 26, 2017

In historic terms, 30 years is the blink of an eye for the Jewish people. But here, in Los Angeles, it reflects an entire generation of thinkers, influencers, artists and entrepreneurs growing up and preparing to set the moral and cultural compass of tomorrow’s Jewish community in this town.

Thirty years ago, the Jewish Journal was born. Since then, the impressive people who make up this list came into the world and took it by storm. To be clear, these are just a cross section of the dynamic young people logging accomplishments beyond their years. But we believe the musicians, businessmen, actors and activists, all either raised in L.A. or living here, do justice to representing their impressive Jewish generation and bode well for the future.

Maya Aharon, 30

Holocaust education

mayaaharonAharon first got involved in March of the Living as a student at Milken Community High School in 2004; now she’s been responsible for sending some 200 students from more than 20 local high schools to Poland and Israel each year as director of March of the Living for Builders of Jewish Education in Los Angeles. The students visit concentration camps alongside Holocaust survivors. Aharon, who holds a Jewish studies degree from Indiana University, grew up as a camper and counselor at Camp Ramah in Ojai and continues to return there each summer to train senior camp staff.

— Eitan Arom, Staff Writer

Alex Banayan, 24

Author, venture capitalistalex-banayan-headshot-smiling
Two days before Alex Banayan, 24, started his freshman year in college, he was determined to get on — and win — “The Price Is Right.”

He stayed up all night and read articles with tips for being one of the eight contestants picked out of the 300 people in the audience. He even researched the show’s casting producer and learned about how to win people over by making physical contact. Read Alex’s full profile.

Rachel Bloom, 29

rachelbloomActress, writer, showrunner

In 2010, Bloom burst upon the entertainment scene when she wrote, starred in and self-funded the viral music video “F— me, Ray Bradbury,” about a young woman’s sexual awakening through literature. Hollywood soon noticed this musical virtuoso on the make (Bloom is a graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts) and rewarded her with a big break: Today, Bloom is the star and co-creator of The CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” a romantic comedy-musical series that showcases women’s struggles and truths in all of their raw, awkward beauty, and which earned Bloom a 2016 Golden Globe award.

— Danielle Berrin, Senior Writer

Ben Bram, 29

Music producer

benbramThe Grammy-winning arranger from Brentwood is one of the masterminds behind Pentatonix, a hit a cappella group that performs songs from bands such as Daft Punk and which will perform for three nights at the Hollywood Bowl this summer. The son of local philanthropists Steve and Julie Bram, he attended the USC Thornton School of Music and has a resume that includes credits on the movie “Pitch Perfect” and its sequel, on which he Bram worked as the on-set music director, vocal coach and vocal arranger. He’s also worked on NBC’s “The Sing-Off.” — Ryan Torok, Staff Writer

Justin Brezhnev, 24

Nonprofit head

justin_brezhnev_picBrezhnev is the founder and chief executive of Hacker Fund, a nonprofit that throws hackathons for students to learn entrepreneurship and tech skills, empowering them to create social change. A graduate of UCLA in communication studies, Brezhnev also is a motivational speaker and founder of Silicon Beach Sports League, a nonprofit that encourages its members to socialize and stay fit. A second-degree black belt in judo, he is a former champion of a Soviet martial art and combat sport known as sambo.

— Olga Grigoryants, Contributing Writer

Jamie Feiler, 23

Rebecca Hutman, 22

Marissa Lepor, 22

Holocaust educators

feller-etcThe trio co-founded the Righteous Conversations Project in 2011 while they were juniors at Harvard-Westlake School. The organization, which has had more than 700 program participants, connects teens and young adults to Holocaust survivors through oral histories that inspire collaborative art projects, photography and filmmaking. Feiler’s grandmother, Helen Freeman, survived Auschwitz, and Lepor serves on the “3G” Third Generation Holocaust survivor board at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. Hutman was the youngest national staffer on President  Barack Obama’s re-election campaign and interned for Vice President Joe Biden.

— Elyse Glickman, Contributing Writer

Jeffrey Greller, 29

Virtual reality agent

jeffreygrellerIn 2014, Greller put on an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset and knew it was the future. The same year, he took over virtual reality and augmented reality strategy at Beverly Hills-based William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, one of the world’s largest and most influential talent agencies. The position puts him in the top echelon of a rapidly growing media industry. Last year, Greller, who graduated from USC in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, was one of seven agents named as Variety’s New Leaders in 2016. — EA

Alana Haim, 25

Este Haim, 30

Danielle Haim, 27


30-haimThese sibling bandmates from the San Fernando Valley make up the band Haim. They began playing together as kids in a family band with their Israeli father, Mordechai. Things got serious upon the band’s 2013 debut release, “Days Are Gone.”  The acclaimed album features ’80s-style pop-rock and lyrics on hit songs “The Wire” and “Falling” exploring relationship woes relatable to 20-somethings. They’ve appeared on the stages of major music festivals and joined Taylor Swift’s list of BFFs. Their sophomore album reportedly features collaborations with Israeli-American Grammy-winning producer Ariel Rechtshaid. — RT

David Hertzberg, 26


davidhertzberg-photobyadammoskowitzThe son of San Fernando Valley State Sen. Bob Hertzberg is composer-in-residence for Opera Philadelphia and Music-Theatre Group. Hertzberg has two degrees from Juilliard (where he studied under the tutelage of Jewish composer Sam Adler) and has been described as a “gifted young composer … with a vibrantly personal style” by The New York Times. His music has been performed at Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall, and by the likes of the New York City Opera, the Kansas City Symphony and the Pittsburgh Symphony.

— Julie Bien, Contributing Writer

Sara Kramer, 30

Sarah Hymanson, 30


sarakramer-sarahhrymansonjpgA New York native and former Broadway performer, Kramer was named Eater’s NYC Chef of the Year in 2013. Both she and Hymanson worked at Glasserie in New York before coming to L.A., where they were named to Zagat’s 30-Under-30 Los Angeles list in 2015 after opening Madcapra, a casual falafel shop in Grand Central Market. The buzz generated earned them their big break when superstar restaurant group Jon & Vinny helped them start a second Middle Eastern-influenced restaurant,  Kismet, which just opened in Los Feliz. — EG

Rachelle Yadegar, 23

Judith Iloulian, 26

Fashion designers

rachelleyadegar-judithilloulianAbout a year and half ago, Yadegar was working in retail and her cousin, Iloulian, was buying clothing wholesale and selling it online. Then, over lunch one day, they decided to start a fashion brand that would cater to Orthodox Jewish tastes — that is, modest without sacrificing style and elegance. They began sketching designs on the back of a napkin for what would become their fashion brand, RaJu. Now, the brand is available online and in 20 retail locations from Los Angeles to Canada and London. — EA

Noey Jacobson, 26


noeyjacobsonWhile at Yeshiva University in New York City, this Houston native joined the school’s 12-member a cappella group, the Maccabeats. With an eclectic mix of musical styles, the Modern Orthodox singers became an overnight sensation after their Chanukah video parody, “Candlelight,” went viral in 2010.  Jacobson performed with the group on six continents, including an appearance at the White House, before moving to L.A. in 2015.  Now he’s teaching at Shalhevet High School, where he’s also communications director, while continuing with the Maccabeats and embarking on a solo career, with a pop music album in the works.  — Naomi Pfefferman,
Arts & Entertainment Editor

Jacob Jonas, 24


jacob-jonas-photo-by-don-normanAt 13, Jonas began performing with the street dance troupe Calypso Tumblers on the Venice Beach boardwalk. He went on to accompany them on an international tour and, after being mentored by the legendary choreographer Donald Byrd, founded Jacob Jonas The Company. It creates original work based on real-life experiences by melding such diverse forms as breakdance, modern dance and ballet.  Film, photography and social media enhance Jonas’ work. He was named best new choreographer by Dance magazine two years ago and best new force in Los Angeles dance for 2016 by LA Weekly. — NP

Jack Stratton, 29

Theo Katzman, 30


30-katz-jackKatzman of New York and Stratton of Ohio are two of the co-founders of the L.A.-based funk band Vulfpeck. The four-person band is a throwback to the era of great rhythm sections and has developed a strong following among millennial music fans, selling out shows at major venues nationwide and becoming a staple of large-scale music festivals such as Bonnaroo in Tennessee and Outside Lands in San Francisco. Vulfpeck was on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” after the release of their second album, “The Beautiful Game,” in October. — Julia R. Moss, Director of Community Engagement

Ty Jacob “T.J.” Leaf; 19


leaf_tj_11As a 6-foot-10 forward on the nationally ranked UCLA Bruins basketball team, this Israeli-American has been lighting up Pauley Pavilion this season. The freshman is averaging nearly 17 points and nine rebounds per game. Born in Israel to a father, Brad, who played professional ball there. Leaf committed to the Bruins after playing at Foothills Christian High School in San Diego County, where he won All-America honors playing under his father. Before joining the Bruins, he played on behalf of Israel in the FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship league competition. — RT

Noah Lee, 18

Youth leader

noahleeBeverly Hills High School senior Noah Lee was elected international president of United Synagogue Youth (USY), the youth group of the Conservative movement, during the 66th annual USY international convention last year in Dallas. His term began the day after his Dec. 28 election and lasts one year. Lee, who attended day school at Temple Beth Am’s Pressman Academy as a child, said he is hopeful about the future of the Conservative movement, and that during his tenure, he intends to promote values such as inclusion and the giving of tzedakah. — RT

Tiffany Matloob, 27


tiffanymatloobMatloob always has been interested in entertainment, so it was a dream come true that after graduating from USC, she went on to work with celebrities like the Kardashians, Nick Cannon, Kelly Osbourne and Snooki, creating editorial and visual content for their online properties. Today, she is the owner of her own digital media company, Intelli Agency. Matloob also taught social media to students at Sinai Temple’s Chai School for Jewish teens, and runs a course on cause marketing at American Jewish University’s MBA program. — Kylie Ora Lobell, Contributing Writer

Arya Marvazy, 30

LGBT advocate

aryamarvazyAfter graduating from New York University with a master’s degree in organizational behavior, Marvazy began a career in human resources, including a stint as talent recruitment and professional development manager at Hillel International. But it wasn’t until he returned to Los Angeles after a decade that he found a job that truly merged his personal and professional lives. An Iranian American who is gay, Marvazy’s current work as assistant director for JQ International, a Jewish LGBT group, enables him to act as a resource for others in that community struggling with their sexual or gender identity. — EA

Shanel Melamed, 28

Nonprofit head

shanelmelamedMelamed was born in Los Angeles to parents who fled Iran shortly after the Islamic Revolution there. A graduate of USC, she took over the executive director position at 30 Years After in 2015. Her duties include helping to connect and educate more than 10,000 Iranian-Jewish young professionals in the U.S. and abroad, often through political and civic activities. She also facilitates the Legacy Project, a documentary short films project dedicated to preserving the history of Iranian-American Jews. — EG

Avi Oved, 23

Student activist

avi-oved-3Oved served as student regent on the University of California Board of Regents from 2015 to 2016, a nomination that saw pushback from pro-Palestinian elements in the UC system. In that role, Oved, an observant Jew, lobbied the regents to pass a statement of principles against intolerance that condemned anti-Semitism. He also pushed successfully for the creation of a new student adviser position on the board and brought visibility to middle-income students struggling to pay for their education. He begins law school at UCLA in August. — EA

Ben Platt, 23


benplattA 2011 graduate of Harvard-Westlake, Platt received a Teen Choice Award nomination for his role as the “Star Wars”-obsessed character Benji Applebaum in “Pitch Perfect.” In 2014, Platt put off attending Columbia University when he was cast in the role of Elder Cunningham in the Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon.” Last year, Platt landed the lead in the new Broadway musical “Dear Evan Hansen,” for which he won an Obie Award during an off-Broadway production. Platt also has appeared in a number of other musicals, including “Caroline, or Change,” “Wonderland” and “Hair.” — JB

Chloe Pourmorady, 26


chloepourmoradyChloe Pourmorady picked up a violin at the age of 9 and hasn’t put it down since. The 26-year-old Los Angeles native, who went to Sinai Akiba Academy, started out in the school orchestra there playing Jewish music, then went on to study at Loyola Marymount University (LMU), where she got a degree in violin and played classical music in the chamber ensembles. Read Chloe’s full profile. – KOL

Sean Rad, 30


sean_rad_picRad is chairman of Tinder, an app that enables users to meet people for dating and friendship with just the swipe of a finger. According to the company’s website, Tinder users swipe 1.4 billion times and make 26 million matches per day. Rad, whose co-founders included fellow Milken Community High School alum Justin Mateen, attended the USC Marshall School of Business but dropped out early to focus on entrepreneurial opportunities. Rad also is the chairman of Swipe Ventures, Tinder’s branch that seeks to expand the company’s work through acquisitions and new investments. — OG

Zan Romanoff, 30


zan_romanoff_picRomanoff’s first young adult novel, “A Song to Take the World Apart,” was named one of the best books of 2016 by SparkNotes. Her follow-up, “Grace and the Fever,” will be published by Knopf Books for Young Readers in May. A graduate of Yale University, Romanoff’s work as a freelance writer — often about feminism, television and the intersection between personality, technology and culture — has appeared in BuzzFeed, The Atlantic, Elle and Rolling Stone. Romanoff was the program coordinator at the Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center for 2 1/2 years. — OG

Josh Rosen, 19


30-josh-rosenThe Jewish quarterback in the modern era of the NFL is a rare breed. There have only been two: Jay Fiedler, a mostly unheralded eight-year veteran, and Sage Rosenfels, a career second-stringer. Not exactly the types to pile up records and invade living rooms with commercial appearances.

That might change soon. Read Josh’s full profile.

– Oren Peleg

Leeav Sofer, 26


leeavsoferSofer has performed at nationally recognized venues, preserved traditional Jewish music and given back to people in need. Founder and bandleader of Mostly Kosher, a Jewish folk music group that recently had a two-month residency at Disneyland as part of the Festival of Holidays, he plays multiple instruments. Sofer has a performance degree from the Bob Cole Conservatory at CSU Long Beach, and is co-founder and director of the Urban Voices Project, an adult music program and community choir for Skid Row residents. — KOL

Hailee Steinfeld, 20

Actress, model, singer

haileesteinfeld-photobythosrobsinsongettyimagesSan Fernando Valley native Steinfeld, who has appeared in more than a dozen films, received an Oscar nomination for her role in the 2010 remake of “True Grit.” She also was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for her performance in the coming-of-age film “The Edge of Seventeen. As a model, Steinfeld has been the face of Miu Miu and Max Mara. And after covering the song “Flashlight” in “Pitch Perfect 2,” she was signed to Republic Records. Her most recent release, “Starving,” a collaboration with artists Grey and Zedd, peaked at No. 12 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. — JB

Rachel Sumekh, 25

Nonprofit director

rachel-sumekh-ss08In 2010, when she was an undergraduate at UCLA, Sumekh co-founded an organization to alleviate hunger in L.A. by asking students to donate their unused meal points. She’s since become executive director of that effort — now called Swipe Out Hunger — and expanded the program to 23 universities, providing more than 1.3 million meals. Included in this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 list of social entrepreneurs, she was invited to the White House in October for a tech summit. This year, she will participate in The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ New Leaders Project.

— Avishay Artsy, Contributing Writer

Brocha Yemini, 24

Chaya Israily, 24


brochayemini-chayaisrailyThe 10 Israeli soldiers who traveled to Los Angeles in June with the fledgling organization Lev Chayal had been variously blown up, run over and crushed by rubble. One has his own death certificate as a souvenir of the time his heart stopped. But you wouldn’t know it to look at their smiling faces in photos taken at Knott’s Berry Farm, in the Dodgers dugout and posing on Hollywood Boulevard. The young men were enthusiastic and humbled by the experience — much like the two women responsible for bringing them there, Chaya Israily and Brocha Yemini. The plan was simple: Create an opportunity for wounded Israeli soldiers to come to L.A. and relax while enriching the local community through their presence and their stories. Since the June trip ended, Israily and Yemini have begun planning for another one in February.  Read Brocha and Chaya’s full profile. – EA

Simone Zimmerman, 26


simone-zimmermanSimone Zimmerman looks, on paper, like so many young Jewish professionals from Los Angeles: 10 summers at Camp Ramah in Ojai, leadership training in the United Synagogue Youth, a family that’s active in the community. In 2014, she was one of the founders of IfNotNow, a network of progressive millennial Jews that protests the Jewish establishment for what it sees as its commitment to the unacceptable status quo in the Palestinian territories. Then, in April, Zimmerman, then 25, found herself in charge of Jewish outreach for the Bernie Sanders campaign. Five days later, she was suspended after establishment figures including Morton A. Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, and Abe Foxman, former head of the Anti-Defamation League, called for her ouster. Her experience earned huge visibility for IfNotNow, she said; it now boasts 700 leaders in eight cities, including Los Angeles. Read Simone’s full profile. – EA

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