September 21, 2019

‘Divas of Sheba’, PUP Gala, Chai Lifeline Soiree

Louise Taubman attended the celebratory gala for the Pico Union Project last month. Photo courtesy of the Pico Union Project

Multicultural and interfaith center Pico Union Project (PUP) held its June 22 gala, “Spirit: An Evening of Song, Story and Spirit,” at its home in the Pico-Union neighborhood.

“Last Saturday night, our friends and neighbors helped us raise over $100,000 to ensure the vital community services the Pico Union Project performs will continue for the foreseeable future,” a statement from the organization said.

The celebratory event featured performances by PUP friends and supporters including the klezmer band Mostly Kosher, author Barney Salzberg, dancer Adrian Hoffman, musician Sara Hershkowitz, actor and composer Stuart Robinson, writer Rick Lupert and Valley Beth Shalom Senior Rabbi Ed Feinstein.

PUP founder Craig Taubman also was in attendance along with his wife, Louise.

The gathering featured live music and spoken-word performances while drawing “spiritual and community leaders that are so fundamental to the PUP,” according to a statement on the PUP website.

Offering a diverse array of arts, religious and community-oriented programming, PUP operates out of a former Welsh church. Taubman, a songleader and musician, founded PUP in 2013.


Chai Lifeline West Coast’s Young Leaders came together at Chai Lifeline West Coast’s 5th Annual Summer Soiree. Courtesy of Chai Lifeline

More than 100 members of Chai Lifeline West Coast’s Young Leaders Initiative gathered at the home of Marilyn and Jaime Sohacheski on June 17 for an evening of fun and inspiration at Chai Lifeline West Coast’s fifth annual summer soiree. 

The evening of appreciation recognized the commitment and support of Chai Lifeline’s young leaders, including couples and individuals in their 20s, 30s and early 40s who champion the organization’s mission of enhancing the lives of children and families living with serious illness or loss.

The evening featured cocktails and a dinner buffet under the starlit sky in the Sohacheski’s garden and two speakers who shared their personal experiences with Chai Lifeline. Nadia Heckman, whose 3-year-old son, Lazar, is battling a brain tumor, spoke about the constant support she has received from Chai Lifeline. 

“I came here tonight to say thank you to all of you, Chai Lifeline Young Leaders, for supporting this organization and allowing them to help kids like Lazar and families like mine,” Heckman said. “I don’t know how we would manage without them.”

Bina, 16, who was diagnosed with a chronic illness five years ago, shared memories from the magical summers she enjoyed at Camp Simcha, Chai Lifeline’s flagship program for seriously ill children and teens. 

“Because of my illness, I would never be able to have the same carefree experience as other kids,” Bina said. “Chai Lifeline and my amazing summers at Camp Simcha changed all of this for me. Camp Simcha gave me hope that I’m not alone in this fight and gave me the childhood I would otherwise not have had.”

Natalie Williams, associate principal of Yeshiva University Los Angeles (YULA) Girls School and a Chai Lifeline young leader, spoke about her family’s involvement in Chai Lifeline. Her son, Adriel, participated in Chai Lifeline’s newly launched Simcha Junior Volunteers, a program for middle school students. 

“Adriel is very proud to be a Chai Lifeline volunteer. He enjoyed going through the training and learned so much about chesed, empathy and the importance of giving back to others,” Williams said. 

She also spoke about the important role Chai Lifeline serves in helping schools and communities through crises.  

“Chai Lifeline has been here for YULA to guide and assist us during difficult times,” Williams said. “We know we can call them and they will be here to help us through the crisis.”

Moshe Buchman, who served as master of ceremonies, discussed the growth of the initiative since its inception five years ago. He also talked about the many opportunities for young leaders and their children to participate in Chai Lifeline programs and events, including the Buchman Birthday Initiative, where sponsors create birthday parties for sick kids in honor of their own birthdays.

The evening was capped off with a competitive trivia game, followed by a dessert bar.


Howard and Irene Levine attend a dedication for the new Howard and Irene Levine Community Center at Valley Beth Shalom; Photo courtesy of Valley Beth Shalom

Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) held the grand opening of its VBS Howard and Irene Levine Community Center on June 9.

“It’s the first brand-new facility at VBS in over 25 years and represents our growing Jewish community and commitment to the VBS future,” Elana Vorspan, director of marketing and communications at VBS, said in an email.

The grand opening of the 18,000-square-foot center — housing a gym, performance and prayer space and more — coincided with Shavuot and featured a children’s concert, Shavuot services and Torah dedication ceremony, followed by dairy lunch, a staff and sixth grade basketball game and many activities.


OU Board Member Raphael Nissel introduced U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) at a meeting with leaders of the Orthodox Union on Capitol Hill. Photo courtesy of the OU Advocacy Center

Orthodox Union (OU) board member Raphael Nissel introduced Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) at a meeting with leaders of the OU on Capitol Hill on June 26. OU representatives were in Washington to discuss the organization’s federal advocacy priorities, including funding for Department of Homeland Security grants to protect synagogues, day schools and other nonprofits.

Founded in 1898, the OU supports the Orthodox Jewish community around the world. Its programs include the OU Advocacy Center, the organization’s “non-partisan public policy arm,” according to the OU website.


Sheba Medical Center’s inaugural “Divas of Sheba” Women’s Mission to Israel took place May 30-June 5. Sheba Medical Center’s inaugural “Divas of Sheba” Women’s Mission to Israel took place May 30-June 5. Photo courtesy of Friends of Sheba Medical Center

During the inaugural “Divas of Sheba” women’s mission to Israel, which took place May 30-June 5, 21 participants were granted access to some of Sheba Medical Center, Tel HaShomer’s top physicians and researchers.

Sheba doctors shared the latest advances in cardiology, cancer treatments, fertility, mental health, gastroenterology, neonatology, neuroscience, gynecology, oncology, nutrition, endocrinology, oncology immunology therapy, urology, hydrotherapy and more.

Off Sheba’s campus, the participants socialized with the female physicians who traveled with the group through the grottos of Rosh HaNikra, the alleyways of Neve Tzedek, a Druze village, kibbutz tours and the Carmel market. 

Together with more than 1,100 Sheba supporters, the mission participants celebrated Sheba at a garden gala.  At the conclusion of the trip, the women returned home as ambassadors of Sheba’s achievements and plans for the future.

This article was edited on July 5 to reflect that Valley Beth Shalom’s grand opening of the Howard and Irene Levine Community Center did not feature a ribbon-cutting ceremony with clergy and local interfaith leaders, a barbecue lunch, family activities and self-guided tours of the new facility. 


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