January 27, 2020

Moving and shaking: Helen Mirren at the IFF; LAMOTH gala; Frank Gehry is honored and more

The opening night of the 29th Israel Film Festival (IFF) drew nearly 2,000 people to the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills for a star-studded gathering of Hollywood celebrities and Jewish community leaders.

Honorees at the Oct. 28 event — which included a gala and a premiere film screening — were Helen Mirren, the star of “Woman in Gold,” who was given the IFF Career Achievement Award; Aaron Sorkin, who received the IFF Achievement in Film and Television Award; and Sharon S. Nazarian, who was recognized with the IFF Humanitarian Award.

A screening of the Israeli film “Baba Joon,” Israel’s official entry for best foreign language film at the 2016 Academy Awards, followed a red carpet ceremony. The movie is a story of familial conflict among three generations of Iranian-Jewish men.

Among those present at the gala was Meir Fenigstein, founder and executive director of the IsraFest Foundation, which organizes the festival. Others included actress Diane Lane, who presented Mirren with her award and co-stars with the actress in the upcoming film “Trumbo”; Israel Consul General in Los Angeles David Siegel; Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (LAMOTH) President E. Randol Schoenberg; LAMOTH Executive Director Samara Hutman; and philanthropists Naty and Debbie Saidoff and Stanley Black.

The film festival runs through Nov. 19.

The mood was not mournful but festive at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust’s (LAMOTH) annual gala dinner Nov. 1, celebrating the legacy of “Woman in Gold,” the story of a Gustav Klimt painting stolen from a Jewish family during the war that earlier this year served as backdrop for a Hollywood film starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds

From left: Samara Hutman, E. Randol Schoenberg, Stacey Janks Jasper and Richard B. Jones at LAMOTH’s Nov. 1 gala dinner.  Photo courtesy of LAMOTH

The Beverly Wilshire ballroom overflowed with more than 850 museum supporters who contributed more than $1.2 million to LAMOTH. Guests dined on chicken thighs and vegetable stuffing while the museum honored Milken Community Schools educator Stacey Janks Jasper, Merrill Lynch investment adviser Richard B. Jones, and lawyer and LAMOTH president E. Randol Schoenberg. Schoenberg’s eight-year legal battle to return five Klimt paintings, stolen by the Nazis, to their rightful owner, Maria Altmann, provided the narrative for “Woman in Gold.” After recovering and reselling the gold-leaf portrait of Altmann’s aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer to the Neue Galerie in New York for $135 million, Jones served as Altmann’s financial adviser.  

Film director and producer Shawn Levy (“Night at the Museum”) served as the evening’s emcee and was quick to recount his personal connection to the Holocaust. Levy said his grandfather, Moshe, took him and his other young relatives on a formative trip to Europe, where they visited concentration camps. “I experienced pretty early — and unforgettably — those horrors,” Levy said, “so I understand deeply the mission of this museum.”

Punctuating the evening’s theme were musical performances related to the “Woman in Gold” story, including two opera pieces honoring Altmann’s memory performed by USC student Anthony Moreno and LA Opera soprano So Young Park — first, an excerpt from “Don Giovanni,” which Altmann’s opera-singer husband, Fritz Altmann, sang to her at their Vienna wedding, and another piece by Viennese-Jewish composer Eric Zeisl, who fled Austria for Paris in 1938, arriving in the United States in 1939. 

Looking on from the audience were Holocaust survivors and philanthropists Jona Goldrich and David Wiener; real estate mogul Fred Leeds and philanthropist wife Dina; New York fashionista Peri Arenas, filmmaker husband Nacho and daughter Lola; and retail hardware mogul Eric Smidt and wife Susan. Also in attendance were Arizona-based philanthropists William and Susan Levine (mother of LAMOTH executive director Samara Hutman). 

Danielle Berrin, Senior Writer

Iconic architect Frank Gehry has been honored with the Henry Award for Outstanding Achievements in Product Design by the Museum of California Design (MOCAD).

Frank Gehry Photo by Patrick Rideaux/Picture Perfect

The annual award was presented Oct. 25 by MOCAD Executive Director Bill Stern, with an introduction by KCRW’s Frances Anderton, host of “Design and Architecture.”

During his acceptance speech, Gehry admitted that, earlier in his career, designing commercial products held little appeal: “I didn’t want to design objects. I liked architecture.” Since then, Gehry has gone on to design commercial products ranging from vodka bottles to cardboard chairs while continuing his architecture practice.

Approximately 285 people attended the event, held at Joel Chen’s JF Chen@1135 gallery.

All proceeds benefited MOCAD; officials declined to say how much was raised overall.

The event in Hollywood included the first-ever survey exhibition of Gehry’s furniture, lighting, jewelry and design objects. The installation, “Frank Gehry: Forty Years of Product Design 1972-2012,” spent one week at the gallery and is scheduled to travel to other venues. Highlights include a cardboard version of Gehry’s famous Wiggle Chair, as well as a concrete and silver ring produced as part of an exclusive jewelry line for Tiffany and Co.

The award benefit concluded with a live and silent auction of a variety of works by notable California designers, such as signed textiles by Gere Kavanaugh, an old friend and former studio mate of Gehry’s; a signed lithograph by Ed Ruscha; a set of signed posters designed by John Van Hamersveld; and a signed Gehry lithograph that fetched $1,400.

Julie Bien, Contributing Writer

About 100 Iranian-American Jewish young professionals and community leaders turned out at the Beverly Hills home of Daryoush Dayan for a brunch to learn about Israel’s missile-defense system and an upcoming fundraising effort for the group 30 Years After.

Shanel Melamed, executive director at 30 Years After, addresses a crowd at a private residence in Beverly Hills. Photo by Ryan Torok

Speakers at the Oct. 18 gathering included an Israeli scientist behind the Iron Dome — the defense system that has intercepted rocket fire from the Gaza Strip — who requested not to be identified for security reasons; prosecutor and Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors candidate Elan Carr; and Shanel Melamed, executive director of 30 Years After, a group of young Iranian-American Jews. 

Melamed announced that the 8-year-old organization is launching its first crowdfunding campaign. As part of the campaign, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles has pledged to match, dollar-for-dollar, the first $15,000 the organization raises between now and Dec. 9, according to Jewcer, the crowdfunding website for the campaign.

Sam Yebri, an attorney who co-founded 30 Years After, explained to the Journal, “We want to become the [go-to] resource for the Iranian-Jewish community, and we are ramping up our fundraising efforts.”

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