November 18, 2018

Moving and shaking: Aish gala, ‘Mad Mensch’ at IKAR and more

The glitzy 35th annual Aish Los Angeles gala, held on May 20 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, spotlighted the organization’s mission of connecting Jews to Judaism while drawing a crowd of 950 people.

Richard Sandler, executive vice president of the Milken Family Foundation and immediate past chair of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, was presented with the Aish LA Partner of the Year Award. David and Sarah Osterman, who are involved with the organization’s Jewish Men’s Initiative and Jewish Women’s Initiative, received the Aish LA Leadership Award. 

Criminal defense attorney Benjamin Brafman, the keynote speaker, discussed his pro-Israel views as well as his experiences of being an observant Jew in the workplace. 

Much of Aish’s work focuses on young professionals, and more than 300 young singles turned out for the event, which included an after party with dancing on the hotel’s rooftop.

Also attending were Aish LA Executive Director Rabbi Aryeh Markman; Michael Milken, co-founder of the Milken Family Foundation and chairman of the Milken Institute; Aish LA board of governors members Lowell Milken and Mitch Julis; Ben Pery, executive director of the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project; and Federation President and CEO Jay Sanderson.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) awarded an honorary doctorate to Los Angeles philanthropist Joyce Brandman on May 31 during the university’s international board of governors meeting in Jerusalem. 

Joyce Brandman, 2015 recipient of Hebrew University honorary doctorate. Photo courtesy of American Friends of Hebrew University

Brandman is immediate past president of the Western region of American Friends of The Hebrew University (AFHU). She and her late husband, Saul, a World War II veteran, helped establish the HU Saul and Joyce Brandman Science Laboratories with an $8 million gift from the Joyce and Saul Brandman Foundation of Los Angeles. She sits on the university’s international board of governors. 

AFHU President Daniel Schlessinger praised Brandman in a statement.

“Joyce’s dedication and continued support for The Hebrew University and its scientific and medical research has been critical in developing solutions for the betterment of the world,” he said.

The honoree’s interests extend beyond the university, including work as a regular volunteer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, according to an AFHU press release.

AFHU is a fundraising organization that supports the work of HU.

Orthodox blended-learning high school Yeshiva High Tech has hired Debora Parks as its new principal. 

Debora Parks, principal of Yeshiva High Tech.  Photo by Viktoriya Zamskaya.

Parks, who previously served as general studies principal at Maimonides Academy and Conejo Jewish Day School in Thousand Oaks, succeeds Rebecca Coen. She was also the general studies principal of grades K-8 at Shalhevet before the school’s lower schools closed. 

Parks, whose hiring became effective March 31, told the Journal via email that she is grateful to have the opportunity to work in a school that is taking innovative approaches to education. 

“I’m very excited to be a part of Yeshiva High Tech, which is essentially becoming the viable model for the future of Jewish Day Schools in Los Angeles,” she wrote. 

She is a graduate of the University of Alabama, where she earned a doctorate, two master’s degrees and a bachelor’s degree — all focused on education.

Yeshiva High Tech combines face-to-face teaching with an online learning platform in a brick-and-mortar campus. Located on Olympic Boulevard, it opened in 2012 and is a school for boys and girls. 

There are approximately 50 students, and Parks said she hopes to increase enrollment to 70 by the fall. She expects other major changes to take place, such as a name change and a relocation of the school campus. 

“There’s just a lot of changes like that that are happening,” she said in a phone interview as she was preparing the school’s senior class of nine students for its June 15 graduation ceremony. 

The hit TV series “Mad Men” ended, but that didn’t stop progressive, egalitarian congregation IKAR from tapping into its spirit during its annual “Night of the Wandering Jew” gala, held on May 31 at Highland Park event space The Fig House. There was cheese fondue, a secret whiskey bar and even a station where attendees could record their thoughts on a typewriter. 

From left: IKAR’s Melissa Balaban and Rabbi Sharon Brous attended the “Mad Men”-themed IKAR gala. Photo by Harry Van Gorkum

In tribute to the theme of the evening, “Mad Mensch,” IKAR Rabbis Sharon Brous and Ronit Tsadok; Hillel Tigay, chazzan and musical director; and Executive Director Melissa Balaban were among those attired in slick dresses and suits inspired by the television show set in the world of an ad agency in the 1960s. 

As DJ Maasha spun eclectic tunes to set the mood, people mixed and mingled over cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. The evening wrapped with a live auction, led by Brous, that raised funds for the shul community, which is headquartered at the Westside Jewish Community Center and encourages its congregants to practice social justice work.

Among the many in attendance were Rabbi Ed Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom; JQ International Executive Director Asher Gellis; and Joseph Shamash, One Wish Project co-founder and rabbinical student.

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email