January 24, 2019

Moving and shaking: L.A. Sephardic Jewish Film Festival, Beth Chayim Chadashim and more

Israeli Sephardic actor Yehoram Gaon, Los Angeles attorney Ronald J. Nessim, and philanthropic couple Joelle and Jack Rimokh were the honorees at the opening gala of the Los Angeles Sephardic Jewish Film Festival, taking home the Cinema Sepharad Lifetime Achievement Award, the Maimonides Leadership Award and the Sephardic Legacy Award, respectively.

The Nov. 9 event at the Paramount Pictures studio lot featured an array of activities, including a silent auction, dinner buffet, a screening of the film “Operation Sunflower” (starring Gaon) and an award presentation.

And the late-afternoon gathering marked, in celebratory fashion, the official kickoff of the annual Sephardic film festival in Los Angeles, which featured films depicting the Sephardic Jewish experience. The weeklong festival, which ended Nov. 16 at the Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills, featured films about Jewish communities in Iran, Morocco, Yemen and India, among others.

The Sephardic Educational Center (SEC), an international nonprofit education and culture organization that has its own historic campus in the Old City of Jerusalem, organizes the festival every year. Nessim, a former chairman of the center, is the son of the late Jose Nessim, the SEC’s founder.

Neil J. Sheff, SEC president and a Westside immigration attorney who helped create the film festival, also attended the gala. 

Beth Chayim Chadashim (BCC) featured the Los Angeles premiere of social justice-oriented filmmaker Ann P. Meredith’s 2014 Holocaust documentary, “Triangles: Witnesses of the Holocaust” on Nov. 9.

From left: “Triangles” filmmaker Ann Meredith and her film subjects, Gabriella Karin, Eva Nathanson and Anne Berkovitz, appeared at Beth Chayim Chadashim. Photo by Glenn Berkovitz

The movie explores the lives of Jews, Soviet prisoners of war, homosexuals, Gypsies, Poles and others who were victims of the Shoah, according to the film’s publicity materials. 

Among those present was Gabriella Karin, who was a young girl during the Holocaust and survived by hiding in a convent in what was then Czechoslovakia. She was joined by child survivors Eva Nathanson, who was born in Budapest, and Anne Berkovitz, who left Germany on a Kindertransport in 1939.

Approximately 30 people attended the community event, which also featured a Q-and-A with Meredith, Karin, Nathanson and Berkovitz.

Meredith encourages social change through art and film, according to her website. She cultivated her craft in New York City, and subjects tackled in her work include HIV/AIDS, breast cancer and more. 

Sponsors of the BCC event included Ruth Geffner, the synagogue’s executive director; Rochelle Saidel, founder and executive director of the Remember the Women Institute; and Howard Solomon, president of the World Congress of GLBT Jews. BCC Rabbi Lisa Edwards hosted the evening. 

Founded in 1972 as the world’s first lesbian and gay synagogue, BCC today describes itself as an inclusive community of progressive lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and heterosexual Jews, their families and friends.

“Laughing Matters,” a comedy fundraiser benefiting Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFS), was held on Nov. 11 at The Laugh Factory in Hollywood. The sold-out show raised more than $80,000 and featured comedian Bob Saget as the main entertainment, with a special guest appearance by his former “Full House” co-star Dave Coulier

This was the third consecutive year that the event was held to raise money for JFS programs that serve survivors of domestic violence. Last year, JFS assisted more than 1,000 people through its three shelters and counseling programs.

The night started off with event co-chairs Linda Levine and Wendy Silver thanking the 250-plus attendees for helping make the night so successful. JFS board chair Debbie Barak then emphasized the importance of JFS’ services and facilities for helping to protect, rehabilitate and empower survivors of domestic violence.  

From left: Wendy Silver and Linda Levine, who co-chaired “Laughing Matters,” and Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles board chair Debby Barak. Photo by Rebecca Weiner

Following a raffle and auction, Coulier took the stage and made the audience laugh with his impressions of famous comedians, a skill that he said has shaped his career. Saget joked about his shared background with the mostly Jewish audience members and performed a selection of songs from his upcoming parody album.

-contributed by Rebecca Weiner

Danielle Cohn-Brahinsky was named Visionary of the Year during a recent fundraising event for VISIONS: The Next Generation of Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF). 

Cohn-Brahinsky was recognized for her efforts as a member of the ICRF VISIONS Committee during the Nov. 8 evening at The Mark for Events. 

The Monte Carlo-themed event raised more than $100,000 to fund fellowships for cancer research, according to the organization’s press materials. The evening featured an open bar and buffet; dancing, a silent auction, prize drawings, blackjack and more. 

ICRF has chapters in the U.S., Canada and Israel. VISIONS: The Next Generation of ICRF is unique to the Los Angeles chapter of the organization. It is a “dedicated group of individuals whose mission is to create a greater awareness, within their peer group, of the need to support cancer research in Israel,” according to icrfonline.org. 

More than 500 attendees celebrated Halloween with the American Friends of Citizens Empowerment Center in Israel (CECI) Young Leaders on Oct. 30, with a costume party at the Beverly Hills home of Sandra and Shahram Afshani.  

The event raised more than $50,000 for CECI, an apolitical nonprofit program that promotes leadership and education programs in Israel, Soraya Nazarian, director of development at American Friends of CECI, told the Journal in a phone interview. 

From left: American Friends of CECI Young Leaders Sasha Farahi, Nicole Manoucheri, Michael Lavee, Rebecca Simhaee and Orit Younessian. Photo by Albert Tabibian

“This was basically done to raise funds and awareness — awareness for young people … to get them more involved in Jewish causes in their own unique atmosphere,” she said. “The money was raised in support of the CECI educational projects in Israel, and every dollar we raised was matched by the founder of the [CECI] organization, Izak Parviz Nazarian.

Attendees included American Friends of CECI Young Leaders Sasha Farahi, Nicole Manoucheri, Michael Lavee, Rebecca Simhaee, Orit Younessian and Jonathan Kohanoff

There were a lot of cute costumes, according to Soraya Nazarian, who is Izak Parviz Nazarian’s cousin by marriage: “From Moses, to Beauty and the Beast, to Poison Ivy, to chefs, maids, all different kinds of costumes — Waldo, a lot of Persian cats, Superwoman [and] a lot of cops.”

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com.