Pearls, fedoras, feather boas, flapper dresses and headbands were in fashion on May 17 as members of IKAR celebrated at their annual fundraising gala at The Mark on Pico Boulevard.
Cocktails flowed freely, a jazz band played, Charleston dance steps were taught and attendees piled their plates high at buffet stations offering a variety of items ranging from Chinese food, mock-brisket burgers and tater tots, to street tacos and corn on the cob.
Between a silent auction and a live auction, IKAR raised $385,000, which exceeded the goal set for the event, said IKAR Development Manager Elad Dash-Banks.
Formerly known as the Night of the Wandering Jew, this year’s event — celebrating IKAR’s 14 years of operation — was renamed “Party With a Purpose: A Night at the Speakeasy,” and honored outgoing board member Karen Hogan and her husband, Jeff. The couple and their four sons are moving to the East Coast after eight years at IKAR.
The Hogans’ involvement in IKAR began when their youngest son, Tyler, enrolled as a member of its Early Childhood Center’s inaugural class. Over the years, Karen served as the board’s assistant treasurer, its co-chair and ultimately its chair.
“Karen brought sophisticated thinking, well-honed analytical skills and deep love into every conversation,” said IKAR founder and Senior Rabbi Sharon Brous. “Jeff also modeled what it meant to be a partner and a truly supportive community member.”
Brous presented the Hogans with certificates of recognition from U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is also an IKAR member and studies Talmud regularly with Brous.
Jeff, who isn’t Jewish, quipped, “As the great scholar Pope Francis said, ‘Inside every Christian is a Jew.’ IKAR is the place where I discovered my inner Jew.”
Karen spoke of her High Holy Days experience at IKAR and how she discovered an extraordinary connection to the hundreds of people at services despite knowing only a few of those in the room.
“To me, that is IKAR’s secret sauce,” she said. “Giving people the space in which to have a powerful personal and communal experience simultaneously.”
— Kelly Hartog, Senior Writer
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak promoted the release of his memoir, “My Country, My Life: Fighting for Israel, Searching for Peace,” with an appearance at Wilshire Boulevard Temple on May 17.
The former Israeli leader discussed with Jewish Journal Book Editor Jonathan Kirsch the recent protests at the Israel-Gaza border, the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, his experiences serving as Israel’s prime minister from 1999-2001 and more.
In regard to negotiating for peace with Yasser Arafat, Barak said the late Palestinian leader deserved an Academy Award for his acting skills. “Arafat was not a person to negotiate with,” Barak said.
Additional speakers included Wilshire Boulevard Temple Senior Rabbi Steve Leder, who noted that Barak’s life was interwoven with the narrative of Israel. “His life story is the story of Israel,” Leder said.
Barak also spoke about President Donald Trump’s recent decision to pull the United States out of the Iranian nuclear agreement, which removed sanctions against Iran in exchange for the country curbing its nuclear weapons program. He considered the agreement a bad deal that should have never been made but, because it was already in place, should have been left alone. He metaphorically compared his mixed feelings about the agreement to how he would feel if his mother-in-law drove his new BMW off a cliff.
— Ginger Vick, Contributing Writer
Joy and gratitude marked the Jewish student graduation ceremony on May 22 at Cal State Northridge (CSUN).
Jewish students who could not attend the previous weekend’s graduation events due to Shabbat and Shavuot were provided with an alternate ceremony organized by the CSUN administration, the College of Humanities and the Jewish Studies Program. A reception provided by Hillel 818 and CSUN Chabad followed the event.
More than 200 friends and family of graduates attended.
CSUN Dean of Humanities Elizabeth Say, Provost Yi Li, Director of Jewish Studies Jody Myers, Interim Director of Jewish Studies Terry Hatkoff and Associated Student President Jonathan Goldenberg presided over the ceremony.
Graduating students Leora Gabay and Orly Bitton served as honored speakers.
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) held its fifth annual gala on May 15 at the Skirball Cultural Center.
The event recognized husband-and-wife philanthropists Dianne and Tad Taube, whose Taube Philanthropies has provided support to Jewish causes and various other initiatives. The Taubes have committed more than half of their wealth to philanthropic causes.
The gathering also spotlighted Arthur Greenberg, former overseer of the Western region of HUC-JIR; Lee Wunsch, recently retired as president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston; and HUC-JIR’s Zelikow School of Jewish Nonprofit Matnagement’s 50th anniversary.
The event was touched by sadness due to the recent death of Rabbi Aaron Panken, HUC-JIR’s former president, who died in a plane crash on May 5 at the age of 53.
“I am confident that Aaron’s dreams will yet be realized through the foundations he constructed and the visions he has bequeathed us,” said Rabbi David Ellenson, who was appointed interim president of HUC-JIR following Panken’s death.
Ellenson praised the partnership the Taubes developed with Panken, including the opening of the Taube Family Campus at HUC-JIR’s Jerusalem campus in 2016, thanks to a $15 million grant provided by Taube Philanthropies.
During the event, Tad Taube announced to the 250 guests that a new $150,000 gift over three years would establish the Aaron Panken Merit Scholarship. Scholarships will go to rabbinical students, who will have an opportunity to study at the HUC-JIR Los Angeles campus.
Rabbi William Cutter, emeritus professor of human relations at HUC-JIR, introduced former HUC-JIR board member Greenberg, commending his leadership throughout the Los Angeles Jewish and legal communities.
Steven Windmueller, emeritus professor of Jewish communal service at HUC-JIR, introduced the recently retired Wunsch, who has been called “the face of Houston Jewry.”
— Ari L. Noonan, Contributing Writer
As co-founder of Gibson & Stromberg, a large and influential public relations firm, Gary Stromberg, 76, has rubbed shoulders with clients such as the Rolling Stones, Muhammad Ali and Barbra Streisand. But on May 11, Stromberg, who lives in Marina del Rey, had perhaps his most memorable face-to-face encounter when he met Israeli Alex Kikis — his bone marrow donor.
They met as part of City of Hope’s 42nd annual Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion event at the medical center’s Duarte campus. During a press conference attended by nearly 4,000 patients and their families, donors, medical staff and supporters, Stromberg delivered emotional remarks about the lifesaving bone marrow transplant he received at City of Hope in 2012 that eradicated his acute myeloid leukemia.
“When City of Hope informed me that I had been selected to meet Alex and that they were bringing him and his wife, Larisa, to our BMT Survivors Reunion, I was elated,” Stromberg said. “I’ve been dreaming about this day since I found out I had a donor, almost six years ago.”
Kikis, a 33-year-old manufacturing specialist for Intel Corp., flew from Israel with his wife for the event. In Israel, where bone marrow donation is strongly encouraged, practically everyone in the Israeli military is entered into a bone marrow registry, which is how Kikis became part of the National Marrow Donor Program’s “Be The Match” campaign nearly 20 years ago.
Prior to the event, Kikis quoted Talmud to City of Hope officials in explaining why he agreed to donate stem cells to a complete stranger thousands of miles away. “Jews have a saying: ‘If you save one life, it’s like you saved the whole world,’ ” he said. “Why not help if possible?”
In concluding his remarks at the press conference, Stromberg expressed his gratitude to Kikis on behalf of his two adult children, David and Emily, and his ex-wife, Sherri Ralph, who were in attendance.
“My family and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the impact you’ve had on mine,” he said.
— Oren Peleg, Contributing Writer