November 18, 2018

Moving and shaking: LAPD show up for Torah-dedication, Far West USY reunion and more

A Torah-dedication ceremony at the ultra-Orthodox Hancock Park synagogue Kollel Yechiel Yehuda drew about 400 people on Aug. 11 — including a number of Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers.

“It’s important to tap into the ultra-Orthodox community,” LAPD officer Adam Deckel, 31, said during a phone interview afterward. 

Deckel, whose father is Moroccan and whose mother worked in ultra-Orthodox Jewish education, identifies as Modern Orthodox and is a member of Em Habanim Sephardic Congregation in North Hollywood. Previously, he taught at Milken Community Schools.

“Being from the Modern Orthodox community … a lot of people know me and trust me, and building trust is huge, especially with what’s going on nationwide with police,” Deckel said.

Other LAPD attendees included Cmdr. Horace Frank; officer Shawn Alexander, a Muslim community member who serves as liaison between the LAPD and the Muslim community; and Lt. Lonnie Tiano. Together, they gave out police badge stickers to some of the children.

Deckel’s supervisor, Deputy Chief Michael Downing, who was the featured speaker at the 2015 Anti-Defamation League annual High Holy Days security briefing Aug.11, said Deckel has been instrumental in the police department’s efforts to build relationships with the Jewish community.

“Whenever they have issues or challenges or just want representation or access, he is there in the Jewish community,” Downing said.

For the first time in the history of the Far West United Synagogue Youth (USY), generations of alumni gathered for a reunion. The event drew more than 200 people who were members of Far West USY classes from the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s to Temple Ramat Zion in Northridge on July 11.

Multiple generations attended the Far West United Synagogue Youth reunion event at Temple Ramat Zion on July 11. Photos courtesy of Far West United Synagogue Youth region

“The reunion was long overdue,” Merrill Alpert, regional director of youth activities, said in an email. 

Among those who turned out were Rabbi Stephen Weiss, 1978 regional president and current rabbi at B’nai Jeshurun Congregation in suburban Cleveland; writer and early ’80s alum Gary Rotto of San Diego, who wrote a first-person article about the event titled “A Return to the Birthplace of His Jewish Activism”; and Leor Alpern, a 1991 alum and president emeritus of Democrats for Israel Los Angeles. Recent USY graduate and San Diego resident Melanie Ross showed a montage video she created that included a tribute to alumni who have died.

USY is a part of the United Synagogue Conservative Judaism movement. The Far West region includes Los Angeles and other chapters in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada. There are 34 Far West chapters, according to Alpert.

The Jewish Federation & Family Services, Orange County (JFFS) board of directors has named Lauren Gavshon its interim president and chief executive officer, according to a July 22 announcement. She succeeds Shalom Elcott, who continues as strategic adviser to JFFS board Chairman Daniel Koblin.

Lauren Gavshon, interim president and CEO of Jewish Federation & Family Services-Orange County. Photo courtesy of Jewish Federation & Family Services-Orange County

Gavshon previously served as JFFS’ director of clinical services and began at the organization in 2011, following a stint in a top leadership position at the John Henry Foundation and Miramar Health Inc.

“Dr. Gavshon and her family have been involved in the local Jewish community for over 20 years, and she is well-positioned to take on this expanded role,” Koblin said in the release. “At JFFS, Dr. Gavshon has repeatedly demonstrated sound and innovative leadership. Her prior success in establishing and reorganizing clinical programs to improve efficiencies and to create long-term profitability has earned her widespread respect and support.”

As for Elcott, the board of directors issued a statement calling his work transformative: “Shalom’s ability to grow significant donor support in challenging times, and his collaboration with different religious streams, allowed JFFS to provide vital support to numerous organizations, locally and globally.”

JFFS is a grant-making social service organization that focuses on providing resources to elderly people in need, combating anti-Israel attitudes on Orange County-based college campuses and more, according to its website.

The next step for JFFS will be working with a national search firm to review options for a permanent CEO.

More than 100 rabbis and rabbinical students from across all denominations gathered Aug. 10 at Stephen Wise Temple to learn, reflect and prepare for the High Holy Days as part of a conference sponsored by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the Board of Rabbis of Southern California. 

“The day was filled with the learning and community that is the hallmark of the conference,” Jonathan Freund, a vice president of the Board of Rabbis, said in an email.

Erica Brown, a leading Orthodox educator and the conference’s first female keynote speaker, led a two-hour session, “A Spiritual Workout: Personal Growth During the High Holy Days Season.” 

From left: Rabbi Joshua Hoffman, Rabbi Morley Feinstein, Rabbi Jonathan Jaffee Bernhard, keynote speaker Erica Brown, Rabbi Sarah Hronsky and Rabbi Jason Weiner. Photo courtesy of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California

A diverse set of community leaders, rabbis and others participated, including Stephen Wise Temple Rabbi Ron Stern; Temple Beth Hillel Rabbi Sarah Hronsky, vice president of the Board of Rabbis and chair of the conference; Leo Baeck Temple Rabbi Ken Chasen; Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Rabbi Jason Weiner, vice president of Board of Rabbis; Congregation Kol Ami Rabbi Denise Eger; and Adat Ari El Rabbi Jonathan Jaffe Bernhard

The panel “Why Is This Anti-Semitism Different From All Other Anti-Semitisms?” was moderated by Rabbi Morley Feinstein, University Synagogue rabbi and Board of Rabbis president. Anti-Defamation League Regional Director Amanda Susskind; Santa Barbara Hillel Executive Director Rabbi Evan Goodman; and Michael Berenbaum, director of American Jewish University’s Sigi Ziering Institute and a Journal contributing writer, joined him, according to Freund. 

The Board of Rabbis is a rabbinic membership organization affiliated with Federation.

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