December 9, 2018

Moving and Shaking: VBS honors Vets, Bob Blumenfield loves Israel, Marilu Henner honored

Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) honored 200 veterans during a special pre-Memorial Day Shabbat service on May 24. The program spotlighted veterans of World War II, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and conflicts in between. 

Bea Cohen, 104, believed to be the oldest living female veteran of World War II in California — and perhaps the country — was among the honorees. She was born on Feb. 3, 1910, in Bucharest, Romania. After working for Douglas Aircraft Co. in Santa Monica, she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) toward the end of 1942. Later, she enlisted in the new Women’s Army Corps (WAC), which, unlike WAAC, was part of the regular Army. Stationed overseas in Great Britain, she worked with top-secret mimeographed documents. 

Cohen, who became a bat mitzvah at age 100 at Culver City’s Temple Akiba, appeared in uniform and served as a guest speaker at the third annual event, which took place two days before Memorial Day and also paid tribute to American soldiers who liberated concentration camps in Europe.

“Now [Cohen] volunteers with the VA to the extent that she can. She said that men come in there with shoes and no socks. She started to cry,” Rabbi Ed Feinstein, who led services at the Conservative Encino synagogue, told the Journal. “At that moment I stood up and said, ‘We pledge 10,000 pairs of socks.’ ”

The VBS event — which was attended by some 700 people — included a blessing for the veterans and a singing of “God Bless America,” as well as an opportunity for all the veterans to introduce themselves, Feinstein said.

“How could you not say thank you to people like this,” he said. “I wanted kids to meet these people. I wanted kids to see what heroes look like.”

The program was created and organized by VBS congregant Harvey Keenan. Dignitaries in attendance included Paul Cohen, commander of Post 603 (San Fernando Valley) of the Jewish War Veterans (JWV) of the United States of America; Greg Lee, commander of the department of California for the organization; Art Sherman, leader of Wings Over Wendy’s, a veterans group that meets in the San Fernando Valley; and Mort Schecter, who was named Veteran of the Year by the Los Angeles County Department of Military and Veterans Affairs in 2012 — an award that went to Cohen the following year. 


From left: Larry Gold, Jacob Segal, Glenn Yago, Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, Consul General David Siegel, Councilmember Curren Price, Lee Wallach, Jacob Lipa and Mark Levinson at Los Angeles City Hall. Photo courtesy of the Office of Councilmember Blumenfield. 

Los Angeles City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield wasn’t joking when he declared his love of Israel at Los Angeles City Hall on May 23.

Am Yisra’el Chai,” the elected official said, joined by Israel Consul General in Los Angeles David Siegel, Israeli American Council (IAC) chairman Shawn Evenhaim, IAC board member Naty Saidoff and others during two presentations that underscored the robust partnership between Israel and Los Angeles.

During the first presentation, which took place on Friday morning, L.A. City Council considered a motion to create a cooperative task force between Los Angeles and Eilat. Its purpose would be to encourage mutually beneficial development between the two cities.

“The Los Angeles/Eilat Innovation and Cooperation Task Force builds on the 55-year-old sister-city relationship with Eilat and is designed to promote collaboration and advancement in technology investment, business development and research opportunities in clean technology, water resources, solar energy and environmental technologies throughout Los Angeles and the State of Israel,” according to a city council press release.

According to press material, the partnership would build on a two-way trade agreement that California and Israel signed on to together back in March. Blumenfield successfully “secured City Council support” for the task force’s creation, the statement states.

Representatives of Los Angeles City Council, the Israeli government and local community organization Israeli American Council schmooze at Los Angeles City Hall on May 23. Photo by Abraham Joseph Pal.

During the second presentation, Blumenfield presented an award to the IAC in recognition of the IAC’s May 18 Celebrate Israel festival. The Yom HaAtzmaut event drew a crowd of 15,000 people to Rancho Park and has become an annual tradition in West Los Angeles.

Last week, Evenhaim credited City Council with making the event, which required the participation of multiple city agencies, possible.

“I want to thank you for your support,” the IAC leader said.

Blumenfield was not the only council member to express his affinity for Israel last week. From his desk in the council chambers, L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar called for a lasting friendship between Israel and Los Angeles.

“I think Los Angeles and Israel have a lot in common, and we have our future bound together as we move forward,” he said. 


Shalom Institute vice president Gil Breakman and his wife, Jennifer, join Shalom Institute executive director Bill Kaplan at the Shalom Institute’s boys cabin donor wall. Photo by David Starkopf

Feast on the Farm, an annual donor appreciation event at the Shalom Institute in Malibu, turned the spotlight on a host of honorees May 4.

Those people and organizations honored included: the JCC Development Corp.; the Real Estate Principals Organization of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, Mick Horwitz, the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, Abby and Stephen Solomon, Andrea Spatz and Robert Wunderlich, Gosia and Adam Weiss, and an anonymous donor.

They were chosen because they assist Jewish groups and financially supported the renovation of the 75-year-old boys’ cabins and restrooms used by more than 500 campers every summer, as well as educational programs and retreats throughout the year.

“This renovation allows us to provide a better experience for our Camp JCA Shalom campers and for our year-round retreat participants and rental groups. It also increases our capacity during our summer camp and year-round for community organizations that use the Shalom Institute as their retreat center,” Bill Kaplan, Shalom Institute executive director, said in an email.

More than 100 donors attended the appreciation party for the Boys’ Side dedication, wine tasting, dinner and tours of the campgrounds. They were thanked for their help that enables scholarships for children to attend programs and facility improvements.

“Support is critical for Shalom Institute to continue to strive for excellence as a year-round experiential Jewish education center and Jewish overnight camp. We feel grateful for the support of all the organizations and individual donors who helped make our dream of renovating the boys’ side into a reality,” Kaplan said.

Shalom Institute is located at 34342 Mulholland Highway in Malibu and welcomes more than 25,000 people annually. 

— Michelle Chernack, Contributing Writer


Women’s Guild-Cedars Sinai honored actress, author and wellness advocate Marilu Henner with the Woman of the 21st Century Award during a April 22 luncheon at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Henner, who is the author of books on health and fitness, starred on the legendary sitcom “Taxi.” Her neurological condition, highly superior autobiographical memory (HSAM), inspired the CBS drama “Unforgettable.”

The Cedars-Sinai group also honored author-producer Jackie Collins with the Trailblazer Award. She is a supporter of the Children’s Diabetes Foundation, among other causes.

Guild board member Gina Furth received the Evelyn Clayburgh Award in honor of her “leadership, service and dedication,” according to a Guild press release.

Annabelle Gurwitch, actress and author of “I See You Made an Effort: Compliments, Indignities and Survival stories From the Edge of 50,” served as the master of ceremonies. Attendees included actresses Jami Gertz (“Twister”) and Lori Loughlin (“Full House”).

The event also inducted the group’s new president, Hella Hershon. The organization describes itself as a “volunteer group dedicated to patient care.” 

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email