May 21, 2019

NewGround Awards, Zimmer Museum Farewell

From left: Tasneem Noor, Tzivia Schwartz Getzug, Rabbi Reuven Firestone and Rabbi Ruth Sohn attend NewGround’s Trailblazer Awards, which honored Firestone and Shiza Shahid, the founding CEO of the Malala Fund. Courtesy of NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change

NewGround: A Muslim and Jewish Partnership for Change honored recipients of its Trailblazer and Change-maker awards at a luncheon at the Skirball Cultural Center on Feb. 10. 

The Suzy and Wally Marks Jr. Trailblazer Award was presented to Shiza Shahid, the founding CEO of the Malala Fund, and Rabbi Reuven Firestone, a professor of medieval Judaism and Islam at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion.  

The Suzy and Wally Marks Jr. Change-maker Award went to NewGround’s professional cohort of 2015, who were the alumni behind the “Two Faiths One Prayer” video, which brought Jews and Muslims together for prayer.

Aron Kader, comedian and founding member of The Axis of Evil Comedy, provided entertainment.

More than 300 people attended the event, helping the organization to nearly reach its fundraising goal of $140,000.

“[The] Suzy and Wally Marks Jr. Trailblazer Awards luncheon reminded us all of what is possible when individuals have the opportunity to really know one another, person to person, and then create something bigger by building on those relationships,” Aziza Hasan, executive director of NewGround, said in a statement. 

Established in 2006, NewGround seeks to strengthen Muslim-Jewish ties in Los Angeles through a leadership program for high school students, a fellowship for professionals, events, internships and other programs.


Young visitors in Toddler Town Spanish Class with Museum Educator Maritxell Carrero at the closing celebration of the Zimmer Children’s Museum. Photo by Elaine Lee Photography

More than 500 adults and children turned out to say farewell to the Zimmer Children’s Museum by Sharewell at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles building in Beverly Grove on Feb. 10.

After two decades of operating at that location, the museum is relocating
to Santa Monica Place and changing its name to The Cayton Children’s Museum. A grand opening is scheduled for June 1.

Members of the community dropped by to take one last hop in the ball pit, leave a handprint or sign their yearbook as part of an art activity where children and families could leave their mark.

 “The Zimmer Children’s Museum has been a good friend, almost a family member to so many who have visited us over the past 20 years,” Esther Netter, founder and CEO of ShareWell, told the Journal. “Kids have dressed as rescuers, celebrated Shabbat and countless birthdays, and practiced being the best version of themselves.”

Performer Mista Cookie Jar treated a packed house to a lively, yet bittersweet show. Amid some tears was excitement for the next chapter of the museum.

“While we are sad to see the Zimmer close its doors, we are lifted by the anticipation of the new Cayton Children’s Museum by ShareWell,” Netter said. “Inspired by the generosity of Andrea and Barry Cayton, and Andrea’s father, Jona Goldrich, the Cayton teaches each of us that we are responsible for the other and that each of us has the capacity to make the world a better place. With our new site comes expanded capacity, greater accessibility and visibility. We are ready.”

— Debra L. Eckerling, Contributing Writer


From left: Women’s Guild Cedars-Sinai Symposium Chairs Robyn Field and Jane Gavens; speakers Wendy Walsh, Kerry Johnson and Jackie Lacey, honorary chair Dorothy Salkin, Judge Valerie Salkin and Women’s Guild President Shelley Cooper. Photo courtesy of Women’s Guild Cedars-Sinai

The Women’s Guild Cedars-Sinai Symposium 2019 was held on Feb. 7 at the Cedars-Sinai Harvey Morse Auditorium.  

Approximately 200 people attended the event chaired by Women’s Guild board members Jane Gavens and Robyn Field and advisory chair Dorothy Salkin. 
The theme was “Gender: Relationships and Power,” and the group of speakers included Kerry Johnson, chair of communications studies at UCLA; Wendy Walsh, a psychologist and journalist who helped give rise to the #metoo movement; and Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey.  

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Valerie Salkin moderated the gathering.

The attendees started the morning with a sound bath performed by yoga guru Evan Cooper.

Attendees included Women’s Guild President Shelley Cooper; Women’s Guild past presidents Gina Furth, Judy Briskin, Beverly Firestein and Lorette Gross; and Women’s Guild board members.

Since 1957, the Women’s Guild Cedars-Sinai has brought together women philanthropists who are devoted to raising funds toward the clinical and research priorities of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. 


From left: Hebrew Helpers team Ronit Aranoff, Rabbi Keara Stein, Wendy Jackler, Rachel Moran, Debbie Jaffe, Sigi Gradwohl, Melissa Raub, Marnina Wirtschafter, Robyn Altman, Sarah Grondlund-Jacob and Hebrew Helpers founder Todd Shotz. Music Director Justin Stein in the background. Photo by Stephanie Waisler, Hebrew Helpers

On Feb. 10, more than 160 people assembled at Busby’s East for an event marking the 13th birthday of b’nai mitzvah learning company Hebrew Helpers. 

Among those in attendance were students and their family members, as well as many of the Hebrew Helpers “mentors” who have worked with Jewish students to create a meaningful bar or bat mitzvah experience. The event also marked the official launch of the Mitzvah Learning Fund, a nonprofit that will provide small grants to individuals seeking to access personalized Jewish education or to educators working to create new curricula. 

Since its founding in 2005, Hebrew Helpers has mobilized its 42 mentors to help students connect with their bar or bat mitzvah learning. As of January 2019, the organization had helped create 534 services for bar and bat mitzvah students in Boston; New York City; New Jersey; Pennsylvania; Maryland; Washington, D.C.; Richmond, Va.; San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.

The event featured a display of all the past students’ names, formatted to look like text in a Torah scroll; musical presentations by Hebrew Helpers mentors and former students; and speeches by board members, many of whom paid tribute to the vision of Hebrew Helpers founder.

“Every single person in this room has a story about how you’ve brought them Judaism in a way that they’ve never ever felt,” said Rabbi Sherre Hirsch, addressing Shotz and sharing her own experience as a three-time Hebrew Helpers parent. Hirsch, also a Mitzvah Learning Fund board member, presented Shotz and Hebrew Helpers with an honorary citation from the city.

Shotz called the launch of the Mitzvah Learning Fund “the fulfillment of a longtime dream.” 

“As Hebrew Helpers has grown, I have met many families who were seeking Jewish learning but felt they couldn’t afford it,” he said. “Now, through small grants for learners and educators, the Mitzvah Learning Fund will bring these uniquely personal and custom-crafted Jewish educational opportunities into logistical and financial reach.”

“The Mitzvah Learning Fund is going to make the ancient new,” said longtime community professional Rhoda Weisman, a member of the Mitzvah Learning Fund board. “Life is so expensive. Everyone needs a little help. We’re going to have so many adults learning.”  

— Esther D. Kustanowitz, Contributing Writer


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