January 18, 2020

Challah Bake, NDF Gala, Ji’s New Leader

Milken Community Schools’ annual, community-wide challah bake drew Milken students and their families to the school’s Bel Air campus for a fun-filled evening. Photo by Joe Goldman

Milken Community Schools held its third annual community-wide challah bake, during which 500 people prepared challah for Shabbat. 

Attendees at the Nov. 14 event at Milken’s Bel Air campus included Head of School Sarah Shulkind.

People used 2,000 cups of flour, 1,000 cups of oil, 250 cups of sugar and 500 cups of eggs to bake challah, and 50 volunteers were on hand to help people bake.

The event was followed on Friday night by Shabbat Across Milken, which featured more than 500 people celebrating Shabbat in each other’s homes.

“Seeing over 500 parents, students, faculty and friends braiding challah together here at Milken followed by a Shabbat celebration in each other’s homes across Los Angeles is a testament to our kehillah — our community — supporting one another through joyous times like these and times of need,” Shulkind said. “Leaning on each other is at the heart of Milken, and I’m grateful to be a part of this amazing community.” 

Yechiel Hoffman, inaugural U.S. director at Jewish Interactive. Photo courtesy of Yechiel Hoffman

Jewish Interactive (Ji) has hired Rabbi Yechiel Hoffman as its inaugural U.S. director, after an extensive national search. 

Hoffman — whose hiring became effective Nov. 1 — is overseeing the daily operations of Ji, which aims to provide high-quality Jewish and Hebrew education to students through their families and schools. 

“Jewish Interactive’s growth and creativity ignited my passion to marry technology and student-centered educational approach to make our tradition relevant and present for Jewish children’s lives,” Hoffman said in a statement. “I want Ji to be the conduit for collaboration, exploration and experimentation for schools, teachers, parents and students.”

Ji CEO Chana Kanzen said, “With Dr. Rabbi Hoffman on board, Ji has secured the ideal candidate to drive forward our U.S. growth strategy enabling us to further develop and provide dynamic learning tools and solutions for schools and families across North America and beyond.”

Hoffman previously served as director of youth learning and engagement at Temple Beth Am and earned his doctorate of education at Northeastern University in Boston, where he studied innovation in Jewish education. He is a recipient of the Covenant Foundation’s prestigious Pomegranate Prize for emerging Jewish educators.

Ji’s mission includes providing families with Jewish and Hebrew educational technology products that develop children’s knowledge of holidays, Torah, prayer and more.

Hoffman said he was eager to bring these tools to Jewish families. 

“Ultimately, I want every parent and teacher to know these tools are available to them, and that we want to learn from their experience to craft Jewish learning that meets their needs in a world where being online is where life happens.”

Friendship Circle of Los Angeles (FCLA) and Cheder Menachem partnered on FCLA’s second annual Inclusion Collaboration Day. Photo courtesy of Friendship Circle of Los Angeles

Friendship Circle of Los Angeles’ (FCLA) second annual Inclusion Collaboration Day saw the nonprofit partnering with Orthodox day school Cheder Menachem.

Coinciding with Veterans Day, the Nov. 11 event paired Jewish boys with special needs or delays in behavioral, social and motor abilities, and two seventh-grade buddies from Cheder Menachem. The children took part in davening and in interactive lessons on Hanukkah and Jewish observances, led by Cheder Menachem rabbis.

Gail Rollman, development director at FCLA, said Cheder Menachem went “above and beyond” preparing for the inclusive experience, providing the children with Cheder Menachem yarmulkes, a photograph in front of a step-and-repeat and a magnet picture to remember the day.

With the aim of providing Jewish educational and enrichment programs for special needs children and their families, FCLA currently partners with three Jewish day schools and one high school. 

The collaborative morning sought to provide FCLA kids, whose special needs prevent them from enrolling in Jewish day schools, with the opportunity to spend a few hours in a Jewish classroom. Rollman said Veterans Day was the perfect day for this kind of collaboration.

“For kids in public school, legal holidays mean school is out but for Jewish kids who have special needs in Los Angeles, it is a chance to go to Jewish school,” she said.

Rabbi Mendel Greenbaum, principal at Cheder Menachem, thanked FCLA for the opportunity to host the organization.

Chanie Lazaroff, director of inclusion at FCLA also participated in the event.

At the Neuromuscular Disease Foundation’s (NDF) Arts Gala, international scientists who are working on a cure or treatment for GNE Myopathy flank NDF CEO Lale’ Welsh (at lectern). Photo courtesy of the Neuromuscular Disease Foundation

The Neuromuscular Disease Foundation (NDF) held its second annual NDF Arts Gala on Nov. 17 at the Skirball Cultural Center. 

The organization is committed to enhancing the lives of those with GNE Myopathy, also known as hereditary inclusion body myopathy (HIBM), a rare muscle disease most frequently found in Persian Jews. 

According to NDF CEO Lale’ Welsh, the event helped NDF raise the balance of the foundation’s $2.5 million challenge grant. The $5 million total will fund pre-clinical studies for gene therapy .

“To the surprise of many, we have proven that we really are ‘the little engine that could,’ ” Welsh said in a statement. “With the help of key stakeholders as well as devoted scientists, we have achieved a fundraising goal thought to be impossible by any nonprofit organization our size. We owe this to the dedication of our patient population and their families, who have risen to this challenge.”

The evening’s honorees included Dr. Nuria Carrillo, who received the Scientific Advancement Award. Carillo is the principal investigator of GNE Myopathy clinical studies at the National Institutes of Health. Michael Minarich, CEO of Leadiant Biosciences, a pharmaceutical company, also received the award.

The event drew more than 530 attendees, including several NDF ambassadors, a group of young adults that works with NDF to promote its outreach, awareness and education efforts.