November 16, 2018

Moving and shaking: Michael Oren, Tony Blair, synagogue softball and more

Former Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren’s dual loyalties — and his frustration with the growing separation between Israel and the U.S. — were evident in his remarks July 1 when he appeared at the Museum of Tolerance to discuss his recently released, controversial memoir.

“Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide” (Random House) is an autobiographical account following an American native who made aliyah and renounced his American citizenship in order to serve in the Israeli government.

“I always thought of myself as a person who can span the divides,” Oren, who is based in Tel Aviv, said during the 90-minute event, which was billed as “A Special Evening With Michael Oren” and drew a crowd of about 300 people.

The book is, at times, critical of President Barack Obama’s approach to Israel, alleging that he hurt the U.S.-Israel alliance by putting “daylight” between the countries and by implementing policy decisions that caught Israel by surprise.

Museum of Tolerance Director Liebe Geft delivered an introduction, and Oren then spoke for approximately 20 minutes before participating in a lengthy back-and-forth with Journal President David Suissa, who joined the former ambassador onstage. Oren attributed the current divide between the two countries to the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Obama see the world differently.

“You have two men who have profoundly different worldviews,” said Oren, a historian who served as ambassador from 2009 to 2013 and now is a member of the centrist Kulanu Party in the Knesset. He also discussed the backlash he has faced since the book’s June 23 publication. (For the full story, click here.)

Congressmember Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) appeared June 28 at Congregation Bais Naftoli’s 23rd annual breakfast and discussed anti-Semitism in Europe, the importance of a U.S.-brokered nuclear deal with Iran that does not endanger Israel and other topics of interest to the Jewish-American community.

Congressmember Ed Royce appeared at Congregation Bais Naftoli. Photo by Kati Kereki 

Also during the evening, the Orthodox shul on La Brea Avenue honored its youth director, Rabbi Shaul Spira, and Reka Szemerkenyi, Hungarian ambassador to the U.S. Szemerkenyi said her country is working to counteract anti-Semitism, and as part of that effort, is introducing Holocaust education into school curriculums.

“We do see a thriving Jewish cultural life in Hungary,” she said.

The event drew a crowd of dignitaries, clergy and community members that included Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin, L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer, L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich and former L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca. Bais Naftoli President Andrew Friedman and Rabbi Yoel Gold were on hand, as were singer Moti Boyer and Arnold Ross, a 2013 Bais Naftoli honoree and congregant. 

Tony Blair, former prime minister of the United Kingdom, accompanied by Michael Milken, chairman of the Milken Institute, made an impromptu visit to Milken Community Schools on  May 26.

Tony Blair joins two members of Milken Community Schools’ robotics team during a recent visit to the school. Photo courtesy of Milken Community Schools

Blair and Milken toured the school, stopping by its Mitchell Academy of Science & Technology (MAST) and meeting with robotics team members and other MAST science research students. Students took the opportunity to share their accomplishments with Blair. Ben Kotzubei, class of 2016, detailed the football helmet concussion technology he developed and the cancer research he is conducting at UCLA. Marcus Bernstein, class of 2018, recalled how he built a 3-D printer out of a hot glue gun and Legos, according to Andrea Smith, Milken Community Schools communications and marketing coordinator.

Roger Kassebaum, director of MAST, described the academy’s connection with Israeli institutions such as the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and Weizmann Institute of Science. Milken said connecting with Israel is important, but students should not forget places such as Singapore and the U.K. Blair agreed, mentioning that there are many scientific endeavors progressing in the U.K. that are similar to what Milken students study, Smith added.

Blair and Milken also visited the AP language and composition class, where Blair participated in a Q-and-A. Student Ella Sherman, class of 2016, asked Blair if he would sign her yearbook. (He did.)

“Milken Community Schools was honored to host Tony Blair,” Metuka Benjamin, Milken Community Schools president, said in a statement. “Blair enjoyed interacting with our talented students and faculty. He was particularly impressed with Milken’s innovative learning environment and rigorous academic curriculum.” 

— Virginia Isaad, Contributing Writer

Softball teams from all over the area battled on the diamond June 14 as part of the Los Angeles Synagogue Softball league’s Championship Sunday. 

The Temple Aliyah A’s of the Synagogue Softball League. Photo courtesy of Synagogue Softball

The games were held in the morning at Sepulveda Basin, where league commissioner Kevin Weiser and his top-seeded Wise Guys from Stephen Wise Temple played in the “A” division championship. The team, led by coach and captain Mike Goodman, gutted out an 11-8 victory over Temple Aliyah and its Aliyah Stars team, the defending champion.

The “B” division championship pitted Wilshire Boulevard Temple against Temple Israel of Hollywood. Wilshire, after barely sneaking to the playoffs, pulled off a 9-5 upset, capturing its first “B” division crown. It was managed by Stephen Matloff.

With “C” division bragging rights on the line, the third-seeded Temple Aliyah A’s, managed by Stuart Hoffman and sporting Oakland A’s-inspired canary yellow and forest green uniforms, squared off against the top-seeded Temple Ramat Zion team, which had only one loss. A high-scoring affair, with a final score of 15-12, saw Temple Aliyah capture its third division title in seven years, qualifying it as a bona fide dynasty in the world of recreational softball. 

The Mensches of Mayhem, representing Temple Beth Ami, capped an undefeated regular season in the “D” division by defeating University Synagogue. Temple Beth Ami President Eddie Nathan scampered home with the winning run thanks to Jerry Witherspoon’s walk-off single. It was the perfect weekend for Witherspoon, who enjoyed the bat mitzvah celebrations for his twin daughters the day before.

— Oren Peleg, Contributing Writer

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