July 18, 2019

Heschel RoboHawks, Gehry Honored

Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School robotics students participated in a competition in Uruguay earlier this month. Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School robotics students participated in a competition in Uruguay earlier this month. Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School robotics students participated in a competition in Uruguay earlier this month. Photo courtesy of Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School

Northridge-based Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School held a May 23 Tefilat HaDerech (“Traveler’s Prayer”) ceremony for the seven sixth-grade robotics students who headed to Montevideo, Uruguay, to participate in the First Lego League Open Invitational international robotics competition, which took place May 30-June 1. 

During the gathering, the students wore pins in honor of Kendrick Castillo, a young man from Colorado who died on May 7 while rushing a gunman at his school, STEM School Highlands Ranch. Like Heschel’s boys, Castillo was passionate about robotics; a CBS story described Castillo as the “heart and soul” of his team.

The Heschel RoboHawks, the sixth-graders’ robotics team, were one of five teams from the United States that participated in the competition more than 6,000 miles from Los Angeles.

“We are extremely proud of this RoboHawks team of seven whose time, dedication and vision have brought them to this amazing opportunity,” the school said in a statement. “[We] look forward to hearing about their journey when they return.”


From left: Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills Rabbi Emerita Laura Geller; ChaiVillageLA incoming chairman Pete Siegel; Hope Stevens; and Sheri Hirschfeld, chair of the Beverly Hills Architectural commission. Photo courtesy of ChaiVillageLA

Virtual elderly community ChaiVillageLA celebrated its third anniversary and held a Shavuot celebration on June 9 at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills (TEBH).

Attendees included TEBH Rabbi Emerita Laura Geller and Beverly Hills residents Pete Siegel, who is the incoming chairman of the ChaiVillageLA board, Hope Stevens and Sheri Hirschfeld, chair of the Beverly Hills Architectural Commission.  Those gathered enjoyed refreshments, live music and one another’s company. Also turning out were those interested in learning more about ChaiVillageLA.

A collaboration of Reform congregations TEBH and Temple Isaiah, ChaiVillageLA describes itself as part of the growing village movement, a community led by older adults who share their optimism, skills, support and expertise with one another to navigate the challenges and opportunities of aging. 


Last month, Valley Outreach Synagogue Rabbi Ron Li-Paz met with Pope Francis at the Vatican. Photo courtesy of Valley Outreach Synagogue

Rabbi Ron Li-Paz of the Valley Outreach Synagogue and Center for Jewish Life met with Pope Francis in Rome last month. They spoke at the Vatican about a world in need of unity, according to Ross Goldberg, a congregant of the Valley Outreach Synagogue. 

Li-Paz reportedly thanked the pope for his leadership and solidarity in combating rising global anti-Semitism and offered him a Hebrew blessing from the Torah:May God bless you and protect you. May God illuminate God’s face to you and be gracious unto you. May God lift up God’s face to you and grant you peace.” 

According to the Valley Outreach Synagogue website, Li-Paz’s visit to Italy was part of a three-country trip, during which he met Jewish leaders of Istanbul and attended the fifth annual World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, held May 2-3 in Baku, Azerbaijan, before wrapping up his travels in Rome. He returned to the U.S. on May 9.

Li-Paz is the spiritual leader of Valley Outreach Synagogue and Center for Jewish Life, a nondenominational congregation in Calabasas serving more than 2,000 Jews from approximately 600 families in the San Fernando Valley, Conejo Valley and Malibu-area communities.


From left: AMIT Los Angeles Council Chair Evan Green, Layla Green, Rav Yoni Berlin, Joy Volk and AMIT LA Council member Sandra Roklen. From left: AMIT Los Angeles Council Chair Evan Green, Layla Green, Rav Yoni Berlin, Joy Volk and AMIT LA Council member Sandra Roklen. Courtesy of AMIT Los Angeles

Israel education network AMIT Los Angeles celebrated a night of passion and philanthropy on May 13 at the Beverly Hills home of Phil and Shelley Zalis Fleshner in Beverly Hills. 

The program, which was emceed by Joy Volk, included a presentation by celebrity nutritionist and entrepreneur Rachel Beller, who shared tips on how to lead a healthy lifestyle and how proper nutrition can help prevent or manage existing health conditions including cancer. 

AMIT School Principal Rav Yoni Berlin spoke about the impact the AMIT educational network’s work has on children from diverse and low socioeconomic backgrounds, and how AMIT schools continue to lead in innovation and academic excellence across Israel. 

The evening drew approximately 60 guests and was supported by AMIT LA Advisory and Engagement Committee members.

Founded in 1925, AMIT, according to its website, “educates 35,000 kids in 110 schools, youth villages, surrogate family residences and other programs in 33 cities” in Israel.


Frank Gehry laughs with emcee Howie Mandel at the World’s Jewish Museum 2019 Gala at the Montage in Beverly Hills. Photo by Vince Bucci Photography

Renowned architect Frank Gehry and philanthropists David and Sheryl Wiener were honored at the American Friends of the World’s Jewish Museum (AFWJM) inaugural gala at the Montage Beverly Hills on June 6. Comic and television host Howie Mandel emceed the event.

The $300 million museum designed by Gehry is slated to open in Tel Aviv in 2023. Attendees pledged over $6.7 million at the gala, with $5 million coming from philanthropist Stanley Black. 

Gehry received a lifetime achievement award, while the Wieners were honored for their leadership and generous contributions to many causes. 

Gail Asper, the visionary behind the museum, said, “With the World’s Jewish Museum, we aim to create a world-class experience that celebrates our contributions and the impact that we have had on the world throughout the ages. We hope that this museum will inspire the next generation to embrace their Jewish identity.”

Patty Glaser, founding partner at Glaser Weil Fink Howard Avchen & Shapiro LLP, invited Gehry to the stage and introduced him as a humanist, an activist and a thinker. “Of all the arts, the one that moves most slowly and touches most deeply is architecture,” she said.  

Accepting the award, Gehry said, “When I was a kid, my grandfather read the Talmud to me, and the word ‘Why’ stuck with me. I have been guided by that. … Take chances, take risks, be curious.” Of the museum, he added, “I have a pretty good track record. I’ve wanted to do a project in Israel. I will put my heart and soul into it.”
— Kelly Hartog