January 23, 2019

Moving and shaking: StandWithUs, Chanukah in Los Angeles and Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback

Stephen Wise Temple has named Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback as its next senior rabbi.

The senior rabbi-elect, who is currently the head of Wise School, the synagogue’s day school for kindergarten through sixth grade and early childhood center, succeeds Rabbi Eli Herscher, according to a Dec. 10 announcement on the Stephen Wise website.

Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback. Photo courtesy of Stephen Wise Temple 

When he starts July 1, Zweiback, 45, will be only the third senior rabbi in the community’s 50-year history. Herscher, 67, who became senior rabbi in 1990, is set to continue as senior rabbi emeritus. Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin, 94, founded Stephen Wise in 1964.

A hilltop Reform congregation in Bel Air, Stephen Wise has grown to become one of the largest in the nation, with 2,200 member families. Board President Glenn Sonnenberg expressed confidence in Zweiback’s abilities to lead it.

“Rabbi Yoshi brings with him a robust package of vision, spirituality, management experience and love for the Jewish people, committed to building upon the foundation provided by Rabbis Zeldin and Herscher,” Sonnenberg said in a statement. 

The appointment culminates a national search for a successor to Herscher, according to the temple’s website. Additional clergy at the temple includes Rabbis David WoznicaRon Stern and Spike Anderson and Cantor Nathan Lam.

Zweiback is a graduate of Princeton University and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), where he was ordained and received his training as a Jewish educator, according to his biography on the temple’s website. He previously served Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills and directed HUC-JIR’s Year-in-Israel program. He also is a musician and composer.

He and his wife, Jacqueline Hantgan, are dual citizens of the United States and Israel. Together they have three daughters.

Pro-Israel advocacy group StandWithUs’ (SWU) annual Festival of Lights gala, which took place on Dec. 14 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza hotel, drew 1,200 attendees and raised more than $2 million. The funds raised will “support people around the world who want to educate their campuses and communities about Israel,” Roz Rothstein said. 

From left: Festival of Lights drew Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, SWU President Esther Renzer, honorees Larry and Sandy Post, SWU CEO Roz Rothstein, SWU COO Jerry Rothstein and comedian Elon Gold. Photo by Jonah Light

Honorees included SWU Vice President Larry Post and his wife, Sandy, who have supported SWU campus programs and more. 

Two college students, Sarah Tagger, a junior at UC Santa Barbara and Gabriel Goldstein, a freshman at Brandeis University, described how the organization has equipped students with the ability to push back against anti-Israel activity. SWU CEO Roz Rothstein presented them with the SWU Star of David for Courage and Leadership Award.

Also honored was Diane Schulman, wife of the late Roger Richman, a philanthropist who left SWU a legacy donation. The evening marked the launch of the Diane Schulman and Roger Richman Israel Education Fund, which will help support SWU’s outreach on high school and college campuses. 

Israel Consul General in Los Angeles David Siegel highlighted the need for SWU’s work in the community. The evening featured comedian Elon Gold as emcee and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach as keynote speaker. Rapper Ari Lesser and Rabbi Cantor Alison Wissot and Cantor Alon Miller performed.

A pair of recent Chanukah celebrations took place at Los Angeles City Hall.

On Dec. 12, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, other elected officials and representatives of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles came together inside the City Hall rotunda to light an electric chanukiyah, nosh on sufganiyot and more. Three days later, West Coast Chabad partied on the steps of City Hall’s Spring Street entrance.

Notables in attendance at the former event included City Controller Ron Galperin and his husband, Temple Akiba Rabbi Zach Shapiro; Federation President-CEO Jay Sanderson; Israel’s Consul General in Los Angeles David Siegel; City Attorney Mike Feuer; City Councilmembers Paul KoretzBob Blumenfield and Joe Buscaino; Federation board member Jesse Gabriel; and Federation’s senior vice president of community engagement, Catherine Schneider. The event began at 11:30 a.m. and ended an hour later.

Meanwhile, Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin, the West Coast Chabad leader, City Councilmembers Koretz and Paul Krekorian and others attended the Chabad gathering. The Cheder Menachem Boys Choir performed at the event, which began at noon.

Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin, the West Coast Chabad leader, at Los Angeles City Hall. Photo by Paul Michael Neuman

The first night of Chanukah this year fell on Dec. 16.

Wilshire Boulevard Temple hosted a community sing-along of “Fiddler on the Roof” on Dec. 14 in honor of the well-known Jewish musical’s 50th anniversary. The event was free to the public and featured a live orchestra and nine cantors from various synagogues who led the packed temple in song. 


From left: Linda Kent and Rabbi Susan Nanus, co-producers of the “Fiddler on the Roof” community sing-along. Photo by Rebecca Weiner 

Rabbi Susan Nanus, who produced the event with Linda Kent, welcomed the 1,200 plus attendees, saying that the sing-along was Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s Chanukah gift to the community 

Barbara Isenberg, author of “Tradition! The Highly Improbable, Ultimately Triumphant Broadway-to-Hollywood Story of ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ the World’s Most Beloved Musical,” was on hand to speak about the origins of the musical, which debuted on Broadway in 1964. She noted that one of the reasons why “Fiddler” has been so popular is that the story goes beyond ethnic, religious and generational lines with its universal themes of love, family and, of course, tradition. 

Following Isenberg’s opening remarks, a full orchestra came onto the stage to perform “Fiddler’s” overture. Then 10 cantors, including Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s Cantor Don Gurney and Cantor Seth Ettinger, took the stage to lead the audience in a selection of popular songs from the musical. Gurney encouraged the crowd to sing along with professionals, to “raise the roof — ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ that is.” Gurney provided the solo for “If I Were a Rich Man,” an audience favorite. 

Following the sing-along, participants were free to shmooze in the courtyard and enjoy complimentary jelly doughnuts. 

— Rebecca Weiner, Contributing Writer 

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