November 21, 2018

Moving and shaking: Characters Unite, MATT construction and more

The Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Board of Governors gala on Dec. 2 honored David and Janet Polak, who support numerous Jewish and Israeli causes. The couple received the Cedars-Sinai Philanthropic Leadership Award.
The event at the Beverly Wilshire hotel in Beverly Hills also marked the launch of the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute, which will “advance the field of regenerative medicine and translate laboratory discoveries into effective stem cell therapies and other treatments for neurological disorders, cancers and metabolic, eye and skeletal diseases,” according to publicity materials. The evening raised funds for the institute, although officials declined to say how much.
David Polak is the founder, former chairman and chief investment officer of NWQ Investment Management Co. and his wife is a former schoolteacher. They are supporters of the Los Angeles Jewish Home, and they have assisted the American Technion Society. 
“Janet and David Polak are passionate about giving back,” said Ruth Dunn, chair of the Cedars-Sinai board of governors. “Their exceptional philanthropy, quite notably in the Jewish community and Israel, has made an incredible impact. We’re proud of their commitment to the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute. Their support will have a global impact that will benefit humankind for generations to come.”
Comedian-actor Paul Reiser acted as the emcee of the evening, and jazz great Al Jarreau performed. Sally Magaram and Harriet Nichols co-chaired.

David R. Levy has been named executive director and chief executive officer of the Jewish Free Loan Association (JFLA). His hiring took effect Nov. 20.

David R. Levy, Photo courtesy of Jewish Free Loan Association 
Levy succeeds longtime JFLA leader Mark Meltzer, who continues on as the JFLA executive director and CEO emeritus.
Levy’s work in the Jewish community is extensive. The new JFLA leader previously worked at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Community Relations department, where he was “responsible for leading the team working with the Medical Center’s Board of Governors and volunteer-based fundraising groups,” the JFLA website says. Additionally, he has served as the Los Angeles Hillel Council executive director; the Jewish Federation Valley Alliance associate executive director; the Los Angeles Jewish AIDS Services director and more.
“David has shown a true commitment to Jewish communal service, and he is a well-respected leader in the community,” Aaron Bloom, president of JFLA’s board of directors, said in an official statement. “We know that David will do a fantastic job, and we are confident that JFLA will continue to grow and thrive under his leadership.”
Levy is a member of the LGBT-friendly Reform synagogue Congregation Kol Ami, and he serves on the West Hollywood shul’s board of trustees.  
JFLA provides interest-free microloans to community members in need. It oversees loan programs that assist with emergency situations, student needs, home health care, small businesses, children with special needs, life cycle events, in vitro fertilization procedures, resettlements of recent immigrants and residential environmental upgrades. It is a beneficiary agency of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

MATT Construction won Best Overall Project of the Year Award for its work on the restoration of Wilshire Boulevard Temple during the Engineering News-Record (ENR) awards breakfast in Long Beach on Dec. 4.

“The project was both beautiful and substantive,” said one of the competition judges at the event, according to a press release. “They went the extra mile to restore it, rather than just making cosmetic changes.”
The historic, Koreatown-based synagogue, which sits at a crowded intersection on Wilshire Boulevard, has a Byzantine dome, history-telling murals and more. Rabbi Steven Leder serves as the shul’s senior rabbi. The honored company completed the project in 2013.
Steve Matt, CEO and co-founder of MATT Construction, said he appreciated the opportunity to have been involved with the important job.
“The Temple project was the result of years of dedication and labor on the part of a core group of congregants, which began long before we arrived,” Matt said in the press release. “It took truly visionary leadership — we could not have asked for a better client or project team.”
MATT Construction is a family- and employee-owned general contractor that has worked on projects that include the Skirball Cultural Center and the Museum of Tolerance.
The event also honored Levin & Associates. Brenda Levin, a Wilshire Boulevard Temple congregant and founder of Levin & Associates, served as the architect on the project. The firm shared top honors with MATT Construction. 
ENR, the organizer of the Dec. 4 event, is a magazine publication that covers construction and engineering management.

A USA Network Characters Unite event at the Museum of Tolerance honored Sofia Shield, a Los Angeles community member and granddaughter of Holocaust survivors.

Harvey Shield and his daughter, honoree Sofia Shield. Photo by Brian Brophy 

The Dec. 2 event spotlighted the recent Tufts University graduate’s human rights advocacy work, which includes serving as the co-chair of Tufts Against Genocide, a student-run initiative under the Cummings/Hillel Program for Holocaust and Genocide Education, and participating in workshops for teens in Russia, Ireland and the Czech Republic. She also was active educating children and young adults about human rights violations, genocide prevention and the importance of tolerance while serving as an intern at the Anne Frank Center USA and the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. 
Shield, who attended Temple Israel of Hollywood’s day school and Marlborough School, took home $5,000 as part of the event at the museum.
The Characters Unite public service program was created to address social injustices and cultural divides, according to its website.

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