January 21, 2019

Moving and Shaking: JWW presents Survivors’ Legacy Award, TBH hosts Feed the Hungry Feast

From left: Janice Kamenir-Reznik, JWW president and co-founder; JWW honoree Mukesh Kapila; Rabbi Harold Schulweis, JWW co-founder; and Michael Jeser, JWW executive director. Photo by  Brian Swann

Jewish World Watch (JWW) presented its Survivors’ Legacy Award — which recognizes activists who honor the legacy of the Holocaust by responding to genocide wherever it occurs — to the Rabbi Jacob Pressman Academy on Nov. 17.

Receiving the organization’s I Witness Award that same day was Mukesh Kapila, a Darfur genocide whistleblower and former United Nations resident and humanitarian coordinator for the Sudan. He was one of the first public figures to bring international awareness to the Darfur genocide of 2003.

In giving the Survivors’ Legacy Award to the Pressman Academy, JWW highlighted student participation in the organization’s annual Walk to End Genocide, its work to pressure elected officials to take action against mass killings overseas, fundraising and more. 

Over the last seven years, Pressman, which is affiliated with Temple Beth Am and the Conservative day school movement, has raised more than $32,000 for JWW with its annual Jump for Darfur campaign. Pressman alumna Michelle Hirschorn, who was also honored, started the campaign when she was in fourth grade at Pressman.

The I Witness Award “recognizes leaders who have made contributions to the fight against genocide by raising awareness and spurring activism,” according to a JWW statement. During the event, held at Temple Isaiah in West Los Angeles, the congregation’s Rabbi Zoë Klein interviewed Kapila. The U.K.-based diplomatic figure, author and university professor discussed his experience serving in the United Nations and speaking out about the crimes in Sudan, despite the pushback from the then-members of the Sudanese government. 

More than 200 attendees turned out for the event. From JWW, there was Janice Kamenir-Reznik, president and co-founder; Rabbi Harold Schulweis, co-founder; and Michael Jeser, executive director. Students and administrators from Pressman Academy were present as well. They included Pressman’s Rav Beit Sefer (head school rabbi), Chaim Tureff, middle school principal Inez Tiger, interim head of school Rabbi Joel Rembaum and Judaic studies principal Jill Linder.

Founded in 2004, the San Fernando Valley-based JWW describes itself on its Web site as a “leading organization in the fight against genocide and mass atrocities,” with a focus on the “ongoing crises in Sudan and eastern Congo.”

Guests enjoy a holiday meal at the 13th annual Temple Beth Hillel Feed the Hungry Thanksgiving Feast outdoors on the temple campus. Photo courtesy of Temple Beth Hillel

Valley Village synagogue Temple Beth Hillel (TBH) fed more than 800 needy people, including the homeless, seniors and mentally ill individuals, during its 13th annual Thanksgiving Day Feed the Hungry Feast on Nov. 28.

“It was nice to see our community come together,” TBH Senior Rabbi Sarah Hronsky said.

The annual event took place in the synagogue’s parking lot and drew more than 200 volunteers on Thanksgiving Day. They helped with cooking, hosting and waiting tables at a gathering that featured restaurant-style service. Volunteers also helped with delivering meals to those in need.

Additional volunteers came from Muslims for Progressive Values, whose Web site indicates that its goal is to be a voice for “human dignity, egalitarianism, compassion and social justice.”

 Hronsky emphasized the need for free holiday meals such as these, noting that a line of hungry people formed around the block prior to the event. The Reform congregation open its doors early to accommodate the crowd.

Preparation took place over the course of several days, with temple members cooking more than 1,000 pounds of turkey, 250 pounds of cornbread stuffing and 400 pounds of vegetables, as well as apple cobbler and other items.

Organizers included the temple’s Brotherhood and Women of TBH clubs, as well as congregant and professional caterer Scott Tessler. A presentation honored Tessler’s longtime involvement with the event.