July 18, 2019

Building for Community; Writing Winner

From left: Annenberg Foundation executive director Cinny Kennard; philanthropist Audrey Irmas; WBT Senior Rabbi Steven Leder; WBT Cantor Don Gurney; philanthropist Erika Glazer; WBT President Alberto Valner; Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Herb Wesson; Mayor Eric Garcetti and his daughter Mia; L.A. Country Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas; and architects Rem Koolhaas and Shohei Shigematsu attend the groundbreaking of the Audrey Irmas Pavilion at Wilshire Boulevard Temple

Wilshire Boulevard Temple (WBT) on Nov. 11 broke ground on its Audrey Irmas Pavilion, a multi-use cultural, religious and event space. 

The pavilion, which will be adjacent to the congregation’s Koreatown campus, will be the first building in Los Angeles from Pritzker Prize-winning architect Rem Koolhaas and OMA partner Shohei Shigematsu, with collaboration by consulting architects Gruen Associates.

“I think [it] will be maybe the most important piece of American-Jewish architecture of this century,” said WBT Senior Rabbi Steve Leder. The building will include a new chapel and terrace, a grand ballroom, meeting rooms, performance spaces, a rooftop sky garden and a kitchen.

The temple is finalizing plans with the Annenberg Foundation to also house in the pavilion a space for “purposeful aging” programs for a older adults. “The center will be open to the community at large and will seek to inspire a path to purposeful aging through wellness, creativity, tech exploration, social connections, community engagement, financial education and more,” stated a WBT press release. 

Attending the groundbreaking were Leder, Koolhaas and Shigematsu; philanthropists Audrey Irmas and Erika Glazer; Cinny Kennard, executive director of the Annenberg Foundation; Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and his daughter, Maya; L.A. City Council members Paul Koretz and Herb Wesson; L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas; WBT President Alberto Valner and WBT Cantor Don Gurney.

The project is scheduled to be completed in late 2020. 

WBT, which has been serving the L.A. Jewish community since 1862, is the oldest Jewish congregation in Los Angeles, with campuses in Koreatown and West L.A

Participants of the Friendship Circle of Los Angeles ninth annual Walk4FriendshipLA helped raise funds for Jewish children and young adults with special needs and their families.
Courtesy of Friendship Circle of Los Angeles

The ninth annual Walk4Friend–shipLA, a 2-kilometer walkathon and festival benefiting Friendship Circle of Los Angeles (FCLA), was held Oct. 21 at Shalhevet High School.

The event is the biggest annual community awareness program and fundraiser for FCLA, a nonprofit organization that supports Jewish children and young adults with special needs and their families.

“It was a thrill to see close to 800 people in the white-and-pink T-shirts that said ‘Live, Love, Give’ walk in support of our Jewish children who have special needs,” FCLA Development Director Gail Rollman said in a statement.

Funds raised by the event help support social, developmental and educational programming for FCLA’s participants and volunteers.

When the walkers arrived back at Shalhevet, they were greeted with a variety of free activities and entertainment, including inflatables, bungee jumping, a Lego party, Hot Wheels race cars, Bubblemania, a puppy party and barbecue. Entertainment included performances by the Broken Chains Band; the Alice and Nahum Lainer School teen band, led by FCLA volunteer Zev Gaslin; and the Distant Cousins Band. 

A Tour De Summer Camp rider does her part to help send Jewish kids to summer camp.
Photo by Howard Pasamanick Photography

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles held its sixth annual Tour de Summer Camps, a communitywide cycling fundraiser, on Oct. 28 at Camp Alonim on the Brandeis-Bardin Campus of the American Jewish University in Simi Valley.

The gathering drew more than 500 participants and raised more than $1.23 million toward scholarships to send kids to Jewish summer camp. The Federation has raised $7 million over the course of six Tour de Summer Camps events.

The Sunday event featured four bike routes of varying length and included people of all bike-riding ages. This year for the first time, the event featured Cycle at Camp, in which 50 participants rode stationary bikes in an outdoor spinning studio.  

“Tour de Summer Camps is a magical day in October that helps make magic for kids all summer long,” Andrew Cushnir, said executive vice president of donor relations at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. “It is amazing how the whole community comes together every year, and by doing so, we ensure strong Jewish identities for thousands of children.”

Participants included Rodney Freeman, founder and ride-master of Tour de Summer Camps.

“The entire community — family, friends, community partners, and more — has embraced this special event,” Freeman said. “Tour de Summer Camps has become a day to celebrate the good in our community. … The cooperation from the summer camps and the Jewish community as a whole is inspiring.” 

Participants stood together for moment of silence and solidarity to commemorate the tragedy in Pittsburgh. Before the rides began, Rabbis Ron Stern of Stephen Wise Temple and Joe Menashe, executive director of Camp Ramah, shared words for healing and strength for the victims of the attack at Tree of Life synagogue.

The event took place before the Woolsey Fire blazed through Wilshire Boulevard Temple Camps and the Shalom Institute, home of Camp JCA Shalom, in Malibu. Campers at those camps are supported by the cycling fundraiser.

From left: Rabbi Josh Spodek, Mel Wacks and Benjamin, Sarah, Susan and Elizabeth Nachimson. Photo by Natalie Williams

For the second consecutive year, a student at YULA Girls High School won the Norman E. Alexander Award for Excellence in Jewish Student Writing. Ninth grader Sarah Nachimson was presented with the Alexander medal, a certificate and a $500 check by Jewish-American Hall of Fame Director Mel Wacks during a school assembly on Oct. 11. The ceremony was attended by Nachimson’s parents, Susan and Benjamin Nachimson; her grandmother Elizabeth Nachimson; YULA’s Head of the School Rabbi Josh Spodek and Associate Principal Natalie Williams. 

The theme of this year’s writing competition was “Jewish Contributions to American Music,” and the highlight of the ceremony was Nachimson reading her essay about Lesley Gore, the singer of such hit songs as “It’s My Party (And I’ll Cry If I Want To)” and “You Don’t Own Me.”

“Lesley Gore’s songs and influence are significant to me, because they exhibit how a high schooler, like me, can express his or her voice and be heard,” Nachimson read at the close of her essay.

In the four years since the national writing competition was started by the Jewish-American Hall of Fame, the Fresh Ink for Teens website, and The Jewish Week newspaper of New York, students from Los Angeles area have won every year. More than 100 entries were submitted this year from around the United States and one from London.

“As one of the judges, I was touched by Sarah’s exceedingly well-written essay about Lesley Gore,” Wacks told the Journal via email. “I was familiar with Gore’s hits, but I learned so much about her from Sarah’s essay — which she read with much feeling at the presentation. I know that Sarah Nachimson has a great future ahead of her!”

The theme for the 2019 competition is “Who I Think Should Be in the Jewish-American Hall of Fame.” Students should email essays, up to 500 words, to Lily Weinberg at lily@jewishweek.org by May 29, 2019. Entries must include the name of the student’s high school and the student’s grade. More information is available on the Hall of Fame’s website, amuseum.org/jahf/news/.

— Debra Eckerling, Contributing Writer

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