January 16, 2019

Moving and shaking: Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters, AFKMC and more

Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles (JBBBSLA) celebrated its centennial and the renaming of its nonsectarian Camp Max Straus during a Feb. 21 event at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza hotel that drew more than 700 attendees and raised $760,000 for the mentoring organization.

The evening also honored Bob Waldorf (Legacy Award), Brian Appel (Inspiration Award), and Gelena and Keith Wasserman (Spirit Award), for their commitment to JBBBSLA, which was founded in 1915.

Camp Max Straus, which helps underserved children, will now be named Camp Bob Waldorf on the Max Straus Campus, in recognition of his lifetime commitment and a significant donation by the Waldorf family. The name change for the camp — which has helped more than 60,000 children since its inception in 1938, according to a press release — takes effect immediately. 

Waldorf, a former board president of the organization, once attended the camp and was a Little Brother at age 8. Later, he became a Big Brother and board member.

Situated on more than 100 scenic acres in the Verdugo Mountains and at the end of a cul-de-sac in a quiet residential neighborhood, Camp Bob Waldorf on the Max Straus Campus serves a primarily non-Jewish population of low-income and disadvantaged youth ages 7-12.

“We are not just celebrating the fact that JBBBSLA has been helping serve the community for a century,” JBBBSLA CEO Randy Schwab said in a statement. “We are celebrating the opportunity to help so many more children over the next century.”

American Friends of Kaplan Medical Center’s (AFKMC) inaugural event on the West Coast on Feb. 22 introduced locals to the lifesaving work of its beneficiary, an Israeli hospital based in the southern Israeli city of Rehovot.

From left: Lou Balcher, national director at American Friends of Kaplan Medical Center (AFKMC); Jacob Segal of Southern California-Israel Chamber of Commerce; Jacob Yahav, CEO of Kaplan Medical Center; and Yishay Aizik, executive director at Merage Institute. Photo courtesy of Lou Balcher

Kaplan Medical Center is a smaller and more obscure operation than many of Israel’s major hospitals — it has 550 hospital beds, compared to Hadassah Medical Center’s 1,000 beds — but still “serves a population of more than 1 million,” according to its brochure. 

The medical center treated Israelis during last summer’s war in Gaza and also helped 10 wounded Ukrainian pro-democracy protesters who had been airlifted to Israel last year.  

 “The reason I am with Kaplan Medical Center is that I like underdogs,” Jacques S. Abramowicz, AFKMC’s chairman, told a crowd of approximately 90 people in Long Beach. “Very few people know about them.”

The event, at the Long Beach home of Molly and Israel Weinberg, featured Israeli Consul General in Los Angeles David Siegel as the keynote speaker. He told the crowd that recent terrorist attacks inside Israel, upheaval in surrounding countries and the Iran nuclear issue pose threats to Israel’s security. 

“It is the mounting of burdens and the challenges that is mind-numbing,” the Israel consul general said.

Professor Jacob Yahav, CEO of Kaplan Medical Center, and Haim Danon, chairman of the board of directors of the Israeli Friends Association of Kaplan Medical Center in Israel, also delivered remarks.

Among those in attendance was Shelly Korenboim, Jewish Agency for Israel fellow to Beach Hillel, which serves Long Beach and surrounding communities. 

The California Association for the Gifted (CAG) recently presented Wise School, formerly Stephen S. Wise School, with the Five Star Award for Gifted Education. The school is one of only four schools to receive the award this year; this is the first time a Jewish day school has been chosen as the recipient of the award. 

From left: Ashley Van Noppen, Wise School second-grade teacher;  Karen Anderson, Wise School director of curriculum and instruction; Deborah Hazelton and Anna Williams, CAG awards committee members and past presidents. Photo courtesy of Stephen Wise Temple and Wise School

“It’s a validation of the work that we’ve been doing in terms of generalizing the tenets of gifted pedagogy to a diverse population of learners,” said Karen Anderson, Wise School’s director of curriculum and instruction. “We believe that all children have the ability to learn deeply and be creative and experience wholeness in order to figure out ways to make the world a better place. 

Anderson accepted the award, along with second-grade teacher Ashley Van Noppen, at the annual CAG conference Feb. 27 in Palm Springs.

Wise’s head of school, Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback, and its principal, Tami Weiser, said the award recognizes the hard work that the school accomplishes daily.

“When an outside, independent organization like CAG, with so much experience in gifted instruction, names you a Five Star gifted school, it validates what you see every day,” Zweiback said. 

Weiser added, “Walking through the hallways, you see evidence of a different kind of thinking by the work on the wall, and you hear the evidence through conversations among students and between teachers.”

Founded in 1977, Wise School has an early childhood center with 157 children and an elementary school that goes up to sixth grade with 314 students.

— Leilani Peltz, Contributing Writer

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