February 27, 2020

Rabbi Sacks, Pope Greets Hier, Nazarians Feted

Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) Dean and Founder Rabbi Marvin Hier (left) and Pope Francis greet each other at the Vatican. Photo courtesy of the Simon Wiesenthal Center

Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) Dean and Founder Rabbi Marvin Hier participated in a delegation of international leaders that met with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

On Jan. 20, one week before the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp during World War II, and on the 78th anniversary of the infamous Wannsee Conference of Nazi officials that sealed the fate of European Jewry with discussion of a “Final Solution,” the pope addressed a private audience of 54 SWC leaders.

“If we lose our memory, we destroy our future.” Francis said, according to a Jan. 20 statement by SWC. “May the anniversary of the unspeakable cruelty that humanity learned of 75 years ago serve as a summons to pause, be still, and to remember. We need to do this lest we become indifferent.”

According to SWC, Francis also denounced the current spike in Jew-hatred, saying the world is experiencing “a barbaric resurgence of cases of anti-Semitism. I will never tire of firmly condemning every form of anti-Semitism.”

Hier spoke of the importance of recognizing the anniversary of the Wannsee Conference at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise in countries like Iran, and Christians are being attacked in Kenya and Nigeria, among other countries.

“It was on this very day, January 20th, some 78 years ago where 14 people sat around the table in Wannsee to plot the ‘Final Solution,’ a code word that would lead to the extermination of six million Jews,” Hier said. “Who could have imagined that a mere eight decades later we would again witness another worldwide epidemic of anti-Semitism and hate?”

Hier concluded his remarks thanking Francis for the upcoming release of the Vatican Secret Archives on March 2, which reportedly will shed light on Pope Pius XII’s silence and inaction during the Holocaust.

Additional participants included Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the SWC.

University of Haifa students Dorin Theodora Asis (left) and Omri Hen visit the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust on Jan. 13. Photo courtesy of University of Haifa.

Two University of Haifa students visited Los Angeles on Jan. 13 as part of their nationwide tour of the United States to build support for the Israeli academic institution and its mission.

Dorin Theodora Asis and Omri Hen — master’s and doctoral students, respectively, in University of Haifa’s Human Biology and Medical Sciences Department — accompanied former university Board of Governors Chairman Alfred Tauber from Jan. 11-23 on visits to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Cleveland, Boston and New York.

University of Haifa describes itself as a “multiversity” (a multicampus institution), which eases access for students and adds vitality to its city and region while allowing a wide range of ideas and activities to flourish in a diverse community.

Theodora Asis, 30, is completing studies of the molecular mechanisms of apoptosis and cancer in the laboratory of professor Sarit Larisch. She serves as the elected student union representative of the Human Biology and Medical Sciences Department. Prior to her time at the university, Asis worked as a TV news anchorwoman.

Hen, a 30-year-old doctoral candidate, who graduated from Tel Aviv University then spent a year as the assistant to the Israeli Minister for Social Equality. He studied national security at the University of Haifa’s International Master’s program and later pursued a degree in cancer dormancy and metastasis.

“We noticed that many American Jews are not necessarily highly familiar with what we have in Israel,” Asis said. “For instance, they may have last visited Israel six, eight or 10 years ago, and each year Israel makes tremendous progress in technology and other areas. Therefore, it was very important to share our educational experience in Israel with the Los Angeles community.”

“The networking, relationships and education acquired at the university form the basis of any future, especially in regard to regional development,” Hen said. “The north is probably the most heterogeneous and complex region in Israel, with critical infrastructure and a diverse mosaic of populations. Its development is crucial to Israel’s future.” 

From left: Sephardic Temple Rabbi Tal Sessler and Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. Photo courtesy of Sephardic Temple

Celebrated Rabbi LORD Jonathan Sacks appeared at Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel before a sold-out crowd of approximately 600 people on Jan. 21 and discussed challenges facing Jews in the 21st century.

The event marked Sephardic Temple’s 100th anniversary.

When Sacks entered the sanctuary hall flanked by Sephardic Temple Rabbi Tal Sessler and Sephardic Temple Cantor Haim Mizrahi, attendees broke into song, chanting “Hevenu Shalom Aleichem.” Throughout the evening, the audience continued to show love for the former chief rabbi of Britain as he spoke of the importance of people showcasing their religion with pride.

“Wear your identity with pride,” Sacks, the former chief rabbi of Britain, said. “That’s probably the best thing you can do to let anti-Semites know they cannot win.”

Sessler told the Journal he was pleased Sacks turned out to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of Sephardic Temple, which was established in 1920.

Speakers included Sephardic Temple President Kamran Nickfardjam and Neda Mehdizadeh, vice president of social and cultural at Sephardic Temple.

Attendees included Israeli-American philanthropist Adam Milstein; former Milken Schools President Metuka Benjamin; Nefesh Rabbi Susan Goldberg; Jewish Journal Publisher and Editor-in-Chief David Suissa;  and Sephardic Temple board member Rae Cohen.

An invite-only reception with Sephardic Temple congregants, among others, kicked off the evening.

From left: Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles Chair Albert Praw; Sharon Nazarian and her mother and evening honoree, Soraya Nazarian; L.A. Federation General Campaign Chair Orna Wolens; and L.A. Federation President and CEO Jay Sanderson. Photo by Howard Pasamanick Photography

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles honored Younes and Soraya Nazarian with its Lifetime Achievement Award on Jan. 23. Younes was under the weather and unable to attend.

The L.A. Federation honored the Nazarian family for its decades of leadership and generosity to the local Jewish community, Israel and the Los Angeles community at large, the Federation said in a statement. Younes Nazarian, an Iranian Jewish American businessman, and Soraya, a sculptor, have contributed to numerous causes through their Younes and Soraya Nazarian Family Foundation.

The glitzy evening at the Beverly Wilshire hotel brought together diverse segments of the Los Angeles Jewish community. Attendees included the honorees’ four children, Sharon, David, Shulamit and Sam Nazarian. Sam Nazarian, an L.A. businessman, partook in a conversation with philanthropist Michael Milken about the future of Los Angeles, with Jessica Naziri, founder and CEO of TechSesh, moderating the discussion.

More than 700 people turned out to help raise over $1.1 million for the L.A. Federation’s Next Generation Leadership Training Programs, which focus on ensuring that young adult leaders have the skills to help the Los Angeles Jewish community address shared challenges.

Major event sponsors included Robin and Elliott Broidy, Lili and Jon Bosse, and Lynn and Les Bider. Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz, who presented the Nazarians with an award from the city of L.A., and Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles CEO and President Jay Sanderson also attended.

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Email ryant@jewishjournal.com.