December 14, 2018

Moving and shaking

The University of California Board of Regents on July 16 approved pro-Israel UCLA student Avi Oved as its student regent-designate, a nonvoting position. 

As a result of the vote, Oved will serve as student regent in 2015-16. In that capacity, he will hold “a student vote on the governing Board of UC,” the University of California Student Association (UCSA) website explains. 

The selection was not without controversy. In the lead-up to the vote, the UCSA voted 10-0 to delay Oved’s confirmation pending an investigation into allegations of improper ties between the UCLA junior and local philanthropist Adam Milstein during Oved’s student government race in 2013. This was despite evidence that no allegations involved violations of any of the UCLA bylaws. 

The only dissenting vote against Oved on July 16 came from Sadia Saifuddin, a Muslim student from UC Berkeley who supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and is the board’s incoming student regent. She said she had “concerns related to recent allegations against [Oved] of a conflict of interest and lack of transparency,” according to the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s student newspaper. 

After the vote, Oved issued a statement reaching out to Saifuddin.

“Regent Saifuddin: thank you for welcoming me and serving as a support system throughout the selection process. I am so excited to tag team the UC and the state of California with you.”

 The vote took place during a two-day UC regents meeting at UC San Francisco, held from July 16-17.

Los Angeles-area teens Morgan Davidson and Yaniv Sadka have been named recipients of this year’s Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards. The award recognizes young people who have demonstrated exemplary leadership in their communities and participated in projects that “repair the world,” in accordance with the values of tikkun olam.  

Davidson, 16, who lives in Woodland Hills and attends New Community Jewish High School (NCJHS), is the founder of Ambassadors for Hope Club, a student-run group that raises blood cancer awareness, hosts blood drives and holds other events. The club currently has chapters at Calabasas High School and NCJHS, and all proceeds are donated to the City of Hope’s Blood Donor Center.

Morgan Davidson

Davidson was inspired to start the club after her grandmother died of lymphoma. To date, she has raised more than $45,000 for cancer research at City of Hope, recruited more than 250 donors for the Be the Match bone marrow registry and successfully matched four individuals with donors.

Sadka, 18, who lives in Beverly Hills and recently graduated from Beverly Hills High School, created Teens Curing Cancer, a charitable nonprofit with 2,000 student members at Beverly Hills High School and Windward School. Sadka has a personal stake in the fight against cancer — one of the boys on the youth lacrosse team he coached was diagnosed with and later died from lymphoma, and Sadka became determined to help eradicate childhood cancer. He currently serves as president of Teens Curing Cancer’s four-member executive board and has helped raise more than $11,000 for cancer research.  

Yaniz Sadka

Sadka will attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the fall.   

In recognition of their service to the community, each Diller award recipient receives $36,000 and an invitation to an Aug. 25 luncheon. Davidson and Sadka were two of 15 teens in the country to receive the award this year. 

The Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards, now in their eighth year, are given by the Helen Diller Family Foundation. They have given out nearly $2 million to 55 Jewish teens. 

—Nuria Mathog, Contributing Writer

In the closing year of World War II, a young woman from the contested Alsace-Lorraine region between France and Germany was recruited by French intelligence to spy on Germany’s Wehrmacht.

Marthe Hoffnung was very good at her new job. She spoke fluent German, was pretty, petite, blonde, blue-eyed — and Jewish.

Last month, some 69 years later, the ex-spy, now Marthe Hoffnung Cohn, 94 and a Palos Verdes resident, was the center of attention during a ceremony at the German consulate in Los Angeles. There, German Consul General Bernd Fischer conferred his country’s highest honor, the Cross of the Order of Merit, on the former enemy spy.

German Consul General Bernd Fischer and Marthe Hoffnung Cohn. Photo courtesy of the German Consulate General of Los Angeles

Depending on one’s perspective, this unlikely scene represented either an exercise in historical irony or a sign of how profoundly German–Jewish ties have changed since the end of the Holocaust. 

To Rabbi Mark Diamond, Los Angeles regional director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the evolution of this relationship has been simply amazing. In 1998, the national AJC took a historic step to reconcile the one-time perpetrators and victims of the Holocaust by opening a permanent, full-time office in Berlin.

“We are now witnessing the astonishing revival of Jewish life in Germany, spurred by the large-scale immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union,” Diamond said in a phone interview.

A recent sign of the revival is the opening of a Conservative rabbinical seminary last year, joining a previously established Reform rabbinical seminary. Again ironically, both institutions are located in Potsdam, the cradle of Prussian militarism.

On the world stage, where the State of Israel has few friends, Germany is among the Jewish state’s strongest allies, Diamond noted. Nevertheless, there are some troubling signs, he added, saying that “anti-Semitism is rising in both the left and right wings of German politics,” often in the guise of anti-Zionism.

Stefan Biedermann, Germany’s deputy consul general in Los Angeles, was born and raised in West Germany, two decades after the Nazi era, and he sees nothing astonishing about his country’s tribute to the former spy. He told the Journal Marthe Cohn was a heroine “on the right side, and her actions helped end the war a little earlier.”

— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

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