December 7, 2019

Israel Film Festival Awards, Friends of IDF Gala

From left: Israel Film Festival (IFF) Founder Meir Fenigstein with IFF 2019 honorees Arthur Cohn and Sharon Harel-Cohen. Photo by Jordan Strauss for Israel Film Festival and January Images

The opening night gala of the 33rd Israel Film Festival (IFF) honored independent producer Arthur Cohn with the 2019 IFF Lifetime Achievement Award and producer Sharon Harel-Cohen with the IFF Achievement in Film Award. 

The more than 900 guests on Nov. 12 at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills included Meir Fenigstein, founder and executive director of the IFF; Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Hillel Newman, Israeli directors Dani Menkin (“Picture of His Life”) and Alon Gur Arye (“Mossad”); Temple of the Arts Rabbi David Baron, whose congregation holds services at the Saban; Israeli actress Tal Berkovich; and comedian Sunda Croonquist, who emceed.

On the red carpet, Newman said the festival captured the best of Israel. “It really displays what Israel is all about: a full democracy and freedom of expression.”

Following the red carpet, attendees enjoyed an awards ceremony with actress Rosanna Arquette presenting the award to Cohn, and Avi Lerner, chairman and CEO of Millennium Media, presenting the award to Harel-Cohen.

The evening also included the premiere of Israeli director Yaron Zilberman’s latest film, “Incitement,” about the assassination of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. It is Israel’s official selection to the 2019 Academy Awards for Best International Feature Film (the category previously called Best Foreign Language Film). 

In an interview, Fenigstein told the Journal the festival was the perfect opportunity for L.A. audiences to better their understanding of Israel. He expressed hope people would come out to the festival, which continues through Nov. 26 with screenings in Beverly Hills and Encino.

“It’s not just a festival, it’s an educational festival and I hope people will come out and see what Israel is about, today and in the past.”


From left: Maurice Marciano, U.S. Ambassador Jamie McCourt and Professor Yitshak Kreiss, director general of Sheba Medical Center, attended the Friends of Sheba Medical Center gala. Photo by Curtis Dahl

The Nov. 3 Friends of Sheba Medical Center (FSMC) gala at the Beverly Wilshire hotel drew more than 650 people and raised over $6.5 million for Israel’s Sheba Medical Center.

The “Humanity Heals Humanity” event honored U.S. Ambassador to the French Republic Jamie McCourt for her humanitarian efforts and continued support for Israel and the Jewish community; Beverly Hills art collectors Ruth and Michel Steinberger for their 30-plus years of service to FSMC and Sheba Medical Center; and Mimi Paley and Evan Paley for their commitment to FSMC’s young leadership group, Sheba 2.0.

“We chose the theme ‘Humanity Heals Humanity’ because Sheba Medical Center in Israel will do everything in its power, at all times, to provide healing and peace for anyone in the world, no matter their color or creed,” FSMC Executive Director Molly Soboroff said in a statement. “It is a call to action to continue to build bridges to peace through medicine and to provide humanitarian aid to those in need worldwide.”

Chaired by Patti and Steve Soboroff and Shoshana and Parham Zar, the event celebrated Sheba Medical Center’s high standard of medicine, technology and research, FSMC said in a statement.

Dr. Talia Golan, medical director of Sheba’s pancreatic cancer program, delivered the keynote lecture and spoke about her new pancreatic cancer treatment breakthrough. Yoav Hadas, a patient in Golan’s clinical trial whose cancer is now in remission, was in attendance.


A panel on the vaping epidemic was held at Temple Ahavat Shalom. Photo courtesy of Jonah Sanderson

Temple Ahavat Shalom, along with Jonah Sanderson, who is studying for a master’s degree at the Academy for Jewish Religion California, organized a Nov. 10 panel on the vaping epidemic.

Approximately 50 people, including children ages 12-15, gathered to hear from Doug Rosen of Beit T’Shuvah, Dr. Leslie Kaplan, Keri Pacheco from the Los Angeles LGBT Center and psychologist Simcha Russak. 

Rabbi Dalia Samansky, director of education at Temple Ahavat Shalom, moderated the panel.

The participants discussed why the vaping crisis has become so dangerous and what treatments including cognitive behavioral therapy can do to curb it. Samansky asked how parents can help their children cope with stress.

In an email, Sanderson said in the coming months he plans to continue organizing events dedicated to raising awareness about mental health, to attract people otherwise not engaged in Jewish life.

“Mental health is the most important battle of our time. We must continue to bring it into homes and synagogues,” he said. “Many Jews are feeling alienated from the core of what our religion has to offer. One way to bring them back is to erase the stigma of mental illness that has so many people in its grasp.”


From left: At the FIDF annual gala, two IDF soldiers join Cheryl and Haim Saban; Amy and Robert Book; FIDF National Director Meir Klifi-Amir; FIDF Western Region Executive Director Jenna Griffin; Gila Klifi-Amir; another IDF soldier; and Yael Eckstein show their support for Israel’s fighters. Photo by Mark Von Holden

The Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) held its annual Western Region gala on Nov. 7 at the Beverly Hilton hotel. The event was attended by 1,000 people and raised $29 million.

The “Making a Difference” gala was held in memory of the late Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, who died earlier this year after suffering cardiac arrest at the age of 67.

Eckstein, who dedicated his life to unifying Christians and Jews to support the State of Israel, was the founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Event attendees remembered him for his large annual contributions to FIDF and his love of Israel.

“My father was a dedicated and ardent supporter of Israel and its soldiers, and firmly believed in the vital mission of FIDF, caring for the men and women who protect Israel and the Jewish people,” Eckstein’s daughter, Yael, said. “I am proud to be part of this big family — a family that celebrates our diversity and embraces our different backgrounds.”

Attendees included Eckstein’s wife, Joelle Eckstein, who established the Eckstein Fund in memory of her late husband.

A delegation of both American and Israeli soldiers and veterans attended the gala and addressed the crowd. During the event, IDF Staff Sgt. (Res.) Amit Kadosh, who
was part of a special IDF operation to neutralize a senior Hamas terrorist, surprised
his girlfriend of seven years, Talya, by proposing onstage. She said yes as the crowd cheered.

Haim and Cheryl Saban, who have chaired the FIDF Western Region gala for 13 years, donated $15 million. Haim Saban announced last year that he would resign from his position as the gala chairman. 

“Cheryl and I are honored to have served as FIDF Western Region gala chairs for 13 incredible years and are proud to see the outpouring of support that this event continues to receive,” Saban said.

Attending the event were FIDF National Vice President and Western Region Chairman Tony Rubin and his wife, Linda; FIDF National Board Member and Western Region President Ari Ryan and his wife, Rebecca; FIDF Western Region founder Leo David; and FIDF Western Region Executive Director Jenna Griffin. 

The event featured a performance by David Foster and Friends.

— Ayala Or-El, Contributing Writer


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