January 16, 2019

Moving and Shaking: Shawn Landres receives NextGen Award, ADL honors philanthropists

NextGen Award recipient Shawn Landres. Photo via Google+

Jewish-innovation advocate Shawn Landres praised the Liberty Hill Foundation when the social change organization named him the recipient of its 2013 NextGen Award during its recent Change L.A. ceremony, but he could have just as easily been speaking about the diversity of the city he calls home. 

“Liberty Hill celebrates all of us for who we are and the communities we come from: religious, spiritual or secular, immigrant or homegrown, LGBTQI or not; African-American, Asian-American, Latino, European or all of the above; Boyle Heights, West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Lynwood, Calabasas and beyond,” the co-founder and CEO of Jewish think tank Jumpstart said, accepting his award on Sept. 8.

Given out annually, the NextGen award recognizes individuals who contribute toward the advancement of social justice.

Kafi Blumenfield, president and CEO of the Liberty Hill Foundation, presented Landres with the honor. Incoming Liberty Hill CEO Shane Goldsmith accompanied her onstage during the event, which took place at mid-Wilshire bar Busby’s East. L.A. City Controller Ron Galperin gave Landers a certification of recognition on behalf of the city as well.

Community members in attendance included Jumpstart co-founder Joshua Avedon and board members Richard Siegel, Rhoda Weisman and Adam Weiss; Rabbi Sarah Bassin of NewGround; L.A. City Councilman Bob Blumenfield and others. 

Sponsors included the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, Bill Resnick, Paula and Barry Litt, the Jumpstart board of directors, IKAR; Julie Hermelin and Sinai Temple. Several Jewish organizations and leaders served on the ceremony’s host committee.

From left: Anti-Defamation League honorees Leonard Comden and Steve Wasserman.

Mitch Dunitz, Leonard Comden and Steve Wasserman were honored for their philanthropic support of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Sept. 11 at the 30th annual ADL/El Caballero Golf Tournament, a collaboration between the ADL and El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana. The event helped raise more than $250,000 for the ADL, according to the organization’s Web site.

Dunitz offered inspiration for other potential philanthropists when he said, “There is no shame in making the calls; there is only shame in not answering the calls when you’re in a position to help.”

Dunitz of Sherman Oaks, who received the Sam Saltsman Award, named after the late Jewish community leader and founder of the annual tournament, is a former president of the Tarzana country club and founder of the real estate investment firm MD Investments. The Distinguished Community Service Award went to Comden of Tarzana and Wasserman of Woodland Hills, who run the law firm Wasserman, Comden, Casselman and Esensten, LLP.

The honors were well deserved, according to an ADL statement that read: “ADL is pleased to celebrate these three honorees for their work in the community and their commitments to philanthropy.” The civil rights agency’s mission is combating anti-Semitism, hate and bigotry.

The event featured 18 holes of golf, dinner, an awards presentation and a live auction.

Alison Diamond and Ron Salter served as event co-chairs.

Moshe Willner addresses the IEEE Photonics Conference. Courtesy of Yeshiva University Los Angeles.

Spending the summer cooped up in a science lab paid off for YULA Boys High School student Moshe Willner. This month, the high school senior was invited to appear at the IEEE Photonics Conference, an annual symposium that draws leading scientists and engineers in light and optics, held in Bellevue, Wash., after a paper he worked on was accepted by the conference.

During his 10-minute presentation, Willner discussed how light sends information. His talk drew from experiments he helped conduct while working at a lab at University of Southern California (USC) this past summer. 

“I loved the idea of discovering something new, something that doesn’t exist, that you can’t find in a textbook already,” Willner said in a statement. “Working in the lab doing research on optical engineering provided me with that exciting feeling of discovery.”

Willner knew little about photonics before spending the summer at USC, where his father, Alan Willner, works as a professor in the department of electrical engineering. 

Willner discovered that he’d been accepted into the conference — which took place from Sept. 8-12 — while building a sukkah with his classmates in preparation for this month’s holiday. It gave him only one day’s notice to make his way to Seattle.

At YULA, a Modern Orthodox high school, Willner is a member of his school’s varsity basketball team. YULA Head of School Rabbi Dov Emerson described him as a “hard-working student” and a “well-respected student leader.”

“Moshe truly represents the best of YULA,” Emerson said.

Moving and Shaking acknowledges accomplishments by members of the local Jewish community, including people who start new jobs, leave jobs, win awards and more, as well as local events that featured leaders from the Jewish and Israeli communities. Got a tip? E-mail it to ryant@jewishjournal.com.