July 18, 2019

Lifetime Achievement; Lasker Award

From left: Jewish Federation Board Chair Julie Platt, Lifetime Achievement Award honorees Annette and Leonard Shapiro and Jewish Federation CEO Jay Sanderson attended a gala honoring the Shapiros for their longtime involvement in the Jewish community. Photo courtesy of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles has honored Annette and Leonard Shapiro with its 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award.

At a gala dinner on Sept. 13 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, the Shapiros received the award “for setting the highest standard for philanthropy, leadership and involvement,” a Federation statement said. “Annette and Leonard’s dedication stems from a deep belief in the importance of involvement in institutions benefiting Israel, our community and our Federation.”

Annette was raised in the San Fernando Valley. Her paternal grandfather, David Familian, emigrated from Russia in 1903, made his living in the plumbing business and helped start the Jewish Free Loan Society and the Jewish Burial Society.

Leonard was raised in Los Angeles and is the founder and CEO of Shapco Inc.

The Shapiros, who met in their teens at a fundraising dance for City of Hope, have been married 70 years.

Organizations supported by the Shapiros include American Jewish University, where the Shapiros established the David Alan Shapiro Memorial Synagogue, in memory of their late son, who died at age 49 in 2001 due to complications with diabetes.

They have also supported the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, where Annette served as the board’s first female chair, the Los Angeles Jewish Home and Jewish rehabilitation organization Beit T’Shuvah.

The approximately 500 attendees at the gala included Patrick Soon-Shiong, owner of the Los Angeles Times and a longtime friend of Annette Shapiro; Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles CEO Jay Sanderson; Jewish Federation of Los Angeles Board Chair Julie Platt and Richard Sandler, chair of the Jewish Federations of North America. Open Temple Rabbi Lori Shapiro — who is married to their son, Joel — delivered the invocation.

The Federation said the event raised $1 million. The proceeds will benefit the Federation’s Los Angeles Jewish Teen Initiative, which works to increase the number of young people engaged in Jewish life and to give them tools to address issues including stress, anxiety, peer pressure and social media.

Keshet Chaim Artistic Director Eytan Avisar presents Keshet supporter and board member Sidonia Lax with the Keshet Award.
Photo by Michaela Todaro

The Keshet Chaim Dance Ensemble of Los Angeles celebrated its 36th anniversary on Sept. 6 at American Jewish University. At an evening event dubbed Keshet@36, members of the nonprofit dance company performed new and recent works, including “Chassids, Next Gen,” a portrayal of yeshiva students teaching their Chassidic rabbis hip-hop dance moves.

Keshet Chaim Artistic Director Eytan Avisar honored Keshet Chaim board member and Holocaust survivor Sidonia Lax with the Keshet Award, a statue depicting a pair of intertwined dancers.

The evening also supported Keshet Chaim’s interactive public school educa-tional programs, which, since 1995, have taught thousands of students in the Los Angeles Unified School District about Israeli culture and the Jewish people, according to the Keshet Chaim website.

Under the leadership of Avisar, choreographer Kobi Rozenfeld and executive director Genie Benson, Keshet Chaim (Hebrew for “Rainbow of Life”) uses melody, rhythm and ethnic contemporary movement to bring to life traditional Jewish culture and love for Israel.

Daniel Mitzner

Daniel Mitzner has been named director of state political affairs at the Orthodox Union’s (OU) Teach Advocacy Network.

In ths newly created role, Mitzner will advocate for government funding in nonpublic schools, including Jewish day schools and yeshivas, in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Sacramento metro areas, as well as schools in New Jersey, Florida, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

“Currently, 450 day-schools and yeshivas receive government funding through Teach Advocacy efforts,” the OU said.

Mitzner and his team will “initiate and monitor key legislation and advocacy to further the Network’s mission,” the OU added.

“I am thrilled to be a part of this team and help fan the flames of involvement by members of our community for this paramount cause — our children,”
Mitzner said.

Mitzner previously worked as director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee for the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.

“Daniel is a tremendous community organizer with an unparalleled passion for the work we do to bring our fair share of funding to nonpublic schools,” Teach Advocacy Network’s Executive Director Maury Litwack said.  “He brings a specific skill set to our team that will enable more involvement from schools, parents and students.”

UCLA professor and son of Holocaust survivors Michael Grunstein, who was named the recipient of the 2018 Albert Lasker Award. (Photo courtesy of of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation.)

Michael Grunstein, a distinguished professor of biological chemistry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, has received the 2018 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award for his groundbreaking research on gene expression. Widely regarded as America’s top biomedical research prize, Grunstein shared the $250,000 award, announced on Sept. 11, with biochemist C. David Allis of Rockefeller University in New York.

Grunstein, 72, was born in Romania, one of two sons of Holocaust survivors. The family moved to Montreal when he was a child. He earned an undergraduate degree from McGill University in Montreal and a doctorate from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He did his postdoctoral training at Stanford University in Palo Alto, where he invented the colony hybridization screening technique of recombinant DNAs in the lab of David Hogness, an
influential biochemist, geneticist and developmental biologist laboratory

Soon after coming to UCLA in 1975, Grunstein and his team pioneered the genetic analysis of histones in yeast, showing for the first time that histones are regulators of gene activity in living cells. They also showed that the presence or absence of a particular chemical group, known as an acetyl, at certain spots within histones helps turns the genes on and off.

Working independently, Allis built on the findings of Grunstein’s research.

In its announcement of the award, the Lasker Foundation said that, because of the two scientists’ work, other researchers have discovered that errors in histones contribute to several developmental disorders and various forms of cancer, providing new targets for potential therapies.

“With these awards, we honor innovative scientific thinking and years of dedicated meticulous research that expanded knowledge and improved health,” the announcement stated. “These researchers made groundbreaking discoveries, but not all at once. Their achievements came piece by piece.”

Grunstein lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Judith, a dentist. They have two children and two grandchildren.

The award will be presented to Grunstein on Sept. 21 in New York City.

— By Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

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