Pro-Israel philanthropists Sheldon and Miriam Adelson announced a $13 million donation to the Israeli-American Council (IAC) during the organization’s 10th annual gala on March 18 at the Beverly Hilton.
The Adelsons’ pledge was by far the largest of the event, which raised more than $16.5 million. Additional donors included Haim Saban, who pledged $1 million.
“The IAC has achieved remarkable progress in advancing its historic mission,” Sheldon Adelson said in a statement. “We are deeply invested in the organization’s long-term success and its vision of a coast-to-coast community with Israel in its heart. This is an investment in the future generations of Jewish Americans and the State of Israel.”
An IAC Board of Directors statement issued in appreciation of the Adelsons’ generosity said the couple are “among the great Jewish leaders of our time.”
“Their bold vision, passionate leadership, and unmatched generosity have been an inspiration to all of us, and have propelled the IAC’s rapid growth and great success,” the IAC statement said. “We look forward to partnering with the Adelsons in the years ahead to further the rapid growth of our community and our donor base, working together to make a historic impact for the Jewish people and the State of Israel.”
The 10-year-old IAC is one of the fastest-growing Jewish organizations in the country.
IAC Chairman Adam Milstein told gala attendees that the IAC owed its growth to a “strong nationwide movement … rooted in our unequivocal love and support for our Jewish homeland, the State of Israel.”
Keynote speaker Rabbi Avraham Infeld said that 250 years ago, Jews understood that being Jewish wasn’t necessarily being part of a religion but being a part of a people. Today, he said, many Jews view Judaism as solely a religion, to the detriment of the community at large.
“We are living in a period in which the concept of a Jewish people has almost been forgotten,” Infeld said.
The gala featured a performance by Israeli singer Yehoram Gaon and a video message from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“We’re winning,” Netanyahu said in the video. “Israel is winning. Israel has never been stronger.”
— Aaron Bandler, Contributing Writer
Pico-Robertson Orthodox congregation Pico Shul held its annual fundraising dinner, The Dinner Party, on March 21 at The Mark.
During the charity soiree, Pico Shul Rabbi Yonah Bookstein and Rebbetzin Rachel Bookstein presented its Pico Shul Couple of the Year award to Lemor and Shuki Greer, who have played an integral role in growing the Pico Shul community.
“Pico Shul is more than just a place to daven, a place to pray,” Lemor Greer said upon accepting the award. “It really is a community, a group of people who have come together with a similar mindset who dedicate themselves both to being religious and being proud of their Judaism, and also being open and accepting to everybody.”
Additional honorees included Legacy Trustee Jeremy Kagan, a film and television director and Pico Shul supporter.
Before honoring Kagan, Bookstein showed a video montage featuring clips from many of the director’s films, including “The Chosen,” a 1981 drama adapted from the Chaim Potok novel of the same name. Bookstein said Kagan’s films have tackled some of the greatest issues facing the American Jewish community in recent history.
The Booksteins also recognized Neuriel Shore, a Jewish communal professional who led the congregation’s men’s club for several years.
Pico Shul, located in a rented Pico-Robertson storefront, attracts observant young professionals, many of whom are returning to Judaism after years of leading nonpracticing lives.
In addition to leading Pico Shul, Rabbi Bookstein runs programs that seek to serve Jews where they are, rather than waiting for Jews to come to them. These efforts include Shabbat Tent, which arranges for Shabbat services at unlikely settings, including music and film festivals.
“[Bookstein] goes to places where there is no Judaism and puts on Judaism in all these different events,” said Ramtin Rafiee, who works in real estate and attended the dinner with his wife, Sherene. “He shows people you can be Jewish and have fun.”
The event drew about 150 attendees, including shul supporters Cheston Mizel and Josh Kaplan, and congregants Fabian Lijtmaer, Ronit Aranoff and Marcus Freed.
Celebrating Israel’s upcoming 70th birthday, Beverly Hills Synagogue Senior Rabbi Pini Dunner on March 18 presented Ernie Goldberger with the “Gibor Yisrael” (“Hero of Israel”) Award, in recognition of his heroism and bravery during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948.
The presentation was made during the synagogue’s annual fundraiser, which drew more than 250 guests to the Petersen Automotive Museum.
Goldberger, 90, a Holocaust survivor born in Romania, arrived in Palestine in 1944, and the Palmach recruited him in 1946. He supplied Israel’s defenders with munitions before an injury prompted him to move to the United States. Since coming to the U.S., Goldberger has earned a living in the jewelry business and supported numerous synagogues and charities.
The evening event drew more than 250 guests, who watched a newly produced mini-documentary about the honoree’s extraordinary life.
Speakers included Simon Wiesenthal Center founder and dean Rabbi Marvin Hier.
Beverly Hills Synagogue is a Modern Orthodox Zionist congregation that has served the Beverly Hills Jewish community since 1991.
The Sinai Temple Men’s Club held its 31st annual Burning Bush gala, honoring Sinai Temple Rabbi Erez Sherman and Cantor Marcus Feldman, on March 18.
The Burning Bush Awards are presented annually to men and women of the Sinai community who represent strong Jewish values, unwavering support of Israel and a deep commitment to giving back. A Sinai Temple spokesperson described this year’s recipients as “pillars of Sinai Temple … deeply defined by their Jewish identities.”
Sherman’s award was presented to him by his colleague and longtime friend, Sinai Temple Rabbi Jason Fruithandler.
Fruithandler spoke of Sherman’s unwavering commitment to both his family and his synagogue, where Sherman’s wife, Rabbi Nicole Guzik, is also on the clergy team. He described Sherman as Sinai’s “Yes Man,” always willing to solve problems and make things happen.
In presenting Feldman with his award. Guzik highlighted the cantor’s ability to infuse joy and a love of Judaism, through song, into everyone he comes across.
The evening also raised more than $100,000 for two critical Jewish organizations, Beit T’Shuvah and the Israel Air Force Center Foundation.
Sinai Men’s Club members Farideh and Farshad Rafii co-chaired the gala.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) drew more than 800 guests to its annual gala at the Beverly Hilton on March 22, which raised $2.6 million to fund the center’s worldwide battles against anti-Semitism, threats to Israel’s existence and the rising wave of right-wing racism swelling in Europe.
Speakers who addressed those threats were Rabbi Marvin Hier, SWC’s founder and dean; SWC’s Executive Director Meyer H. May; and Hollywood studio executive and film producer Jeffrey Katzenberg. The latter shared master of ceremonies duties with television host James Corden.
The recipient of the evening’s top honor, the 2018 Humanitarian Award, went to Leslie Moonves, chairman and CEO of CBS Corp.
Moonves is a semi-distant relative of Israel’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, who was honored posthumously with SWC’s Medal of Valor.
Among other entertainment industry leaders in attendance were Paramount CEO Jim Gianpulos, NBC Universal’s Ron Meyer, producer Brian Grazer, producer Burt Sugarman with his wife, Mary Hart, and the original Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter.
Another Medal of Valor winner was Raheel Raza, a Pakistan-born Islamic woman who delivered a surprisingly gutsy speech about her work in opposing her country’s and her religion’s male domination and their shared hostility toward Israel.
Raza noted that, while the Muslim establishment has ranked her as the sixth most-hated Islamic activist in the world, she was striving for the No. 1 spot.
— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor