August 17, 2019

Hebrew High’s 70th, Dancing for Dassa

Celebrating the Los Angeles Hebrew High School’s 70th anniversary are from left:Amittai Benami, Sheldon Dorph, Dalia Orion-Oz, Ben Zion Kogen, Michael Singer, Arlene Lepoff Agress, Judy Bin-Min, Rabbi Yaakov Rhone. Photo by Curtis Dahl Photography

More than 200 guests celebrated Los Angeles Hebrew High School’s 70th anniversary at a gala on Jan. 13 at Sinai Temple in Westwood. Hebrew High sophomore Charlotte Green performed the national anthem and “Hatikvah.” Veteran teacher Michael Singer delivered the opening blessing followed by an invocation by the Bureau of Jewish Education’s Gil Graff, a longtime supporter of the school.

Board President Karen Freed introduced tribute videos. State Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), a Hebrew High alumnus (class of 1996), paid tribute to alumnus and former Los Angeles City Councilman and L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and his late wife, Barbara, who met while at Los Angeles Hebrew High School. Among those honored were former Head of School Rabbi Sheldon Dorph.

Also in attendance were current Head of School Amittai Benami, and founder of de Toledo High School and alumnus Rabbi David Vorspan.

The school, which is tailored to eighth- to 12th-grade students, saw a 20 percent surge in overall enrollment for the second year in a row. Its mission is to advance Hebrew and Jewish education and Israel advocacy among of Jewish teens in greater Los Angeles.


Marla Eglash Abraham. Photo courtesy of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., has appointed Marla Eglash Abraham as director of its Western region office in Los Angeles, which is responsible for the museum’s programs in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington state. The museum’s regional offices help engage local communities and support the museum’s mission of holocaust education.

In a Jan. 14 statement announcing Abraham’s hiring, Jordan E. Tannenbaum, the museum’s chief development officer, praised her for her passion for Holocaust education. Abraham began working in the position in October. She previously was the regional director of development at American Jewish Committee Los Angeles for six years, leading development initiatives in Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Santa Barbara, Phoenix and Denver.

Abraham holds a master’s degree in Jewish nonprofit management from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, a master’s in social work from USC, and a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and linguistics from UCLA.

In the statement announcing her hiring, Abraham said she is taking the position at “a critical and challenging moment” for the 25-year-old museum.

“With the Holocaust receding in memory and the number of Holocaust survivors diminishing … the museum needs to continue to bring Holocaust education to the Western region of the United States and grow its global reach,” she said. “It’s only through the dedicated support of thousands of people here and many thousands more around the country that we can reach the millions we do each year around the globe. The survivors, their families and everyone who is committed to this mission are indebted to them for their unwavering support.”


More than 500 friends, fans and family members gathered to celebrate Israeli Folk dancer and teacher Dani Dassa’s 90th birthday. Photo by Tish Laemmle

A love of Israeli dancing and famed Israeli dancer and teacher Dani Dassa were cause for celebration on Jan. 6 as about 500 guests gathered at the Brandeis-Bardin Campus of American Jewish University in Simi Valley for Dassa’s 90th birthday.

Among those attending were Dassa’s wife, Judy Dassa, and the couple’s four children and eight grandchildren.

Dassa, who has been called “the father of Israeli folk dancing in the United States,” was born in Jerusalem, where he discovered his love for dance at the age of 4 and grew up dancing in youth groups. He was involved in the folk dance movement of Israel and studied modern dance in Israel and New York before coming to Los Angeles in 1958.

Dassa founded and directed the folk dance camp RIKUD; toured the United States as a performer and teacher; served on the faculty of adult education programs at Sinai Temple in Westwood, Adat Ariel in Valley Village and Valley Beth Shalom in Encino; and founded Cafe Danssa, a folk-dance coffee house in the Sawtelle neighborhood. 

“Our whole family and especially my father were overwhelmed with the strong sense of community [at the party],” said Dassa’s son David Dassa, a dancer and choreographer. 

“It was as if we went back in time to the glory days of Israeli dance. There was also the disbelief at how young my 90-year-old father looks and moves still today.”

The event began as a large reunion, as many attendees hadn’t seen each other in decades. After 45 minutes of hugs and kisses, the dancing began and continued for 2 1/2 hours until former Camp Alonim Director Arthur Pinchev and song leader Greg Podell led the attendees in singing some of Dani Dassa’s favorite folk songs. Most of the songs were from early Israel’s “chalutzim” (or farming settlement) culture, but also included “This Is the Day,” by American composer Max Helfman. More dancing followed, and the event ended with Dani Dassa leading everyone in a joyous horah. n

Debra Eckerling, Contributing Writer


The students of the Israeli Martial Arts Academy at the Academy’s “Fighting for Our Heroes” fundraiser. Photo courtesy of The Israeli Martial Arts Academy.

The Israeli Martial Arts Academy in Westlake Village sponsored a “Fighting for Our Heroes” sparring event on Dec. 6 that raised nearly $3,000 to buy gifts for local firefighters, in appreciation for their efforts in November during the Borderline Bar and Grill shootings in Thousand Oaks and the Woolsey Fire. 

The academy used the money raised to purchase gift certificates to movie theaters for 57 firefighters who work out of four fire stations in the area.

At the event, 40 children (ages 10 to 15) and 50 adults donated a minimum of $20 to participate in sparring matches of full-contact karate. The children sparred for 50 continuous rounds and the adults fought for 90 continuous rounds.

“During this whole ordeal [in November], we saw the work of our firefighters — their brave sacrifice and duty,” said Hezi Sheli, the academy’s owner and head instructor. “We decided to take action to support those who risked their lives to save our homes and our dojo.”

“The gym’s goal is to build a stronger community through the practice of the Israeli martial-art and self-defense method, [called] Hisardut,” he continued. “This is an example of how martial arts can bring people together and inspire a community to give back despite recent hardships.”

— Debra Eckerling, Contributing Writer


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