December 10, 2019

Moving and shaking: Chanukah, Tipsy Torah and more

An annual Chabad menorah-lighting took place before sundown on the afternoon of Dec. 8 on the Spring Street steps of Los Angeles City Hall.

The festive event brought together local elected officials and Chabad leaders. Together they lit two candles on the Katowitz menorah, which was rescued from a Polish synagogue  that was destroyed on Kristallnacht.

Those in attendance included L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and West Coast Chabad Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin — the two interrupted a moment of dancing to embrace. They were joined by L.A. City Council members Paul Krekorian, Paul Koretz, David Ryu and Mitch O’Farrell; Consul General of France in Los Angeles Christophe Lemoine; Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles David Siegel; L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer; L.A. City Controller Ron Galperin; and others.

Chanukah is “not just a time we celebrate miracles — we celebrate hope,” Koretz said, standing between the menorah and a large framed photograph of the Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

After the candlelighting, attendees joined hands and danced in a circle, while a keyboardist played Jewish music. A Chabad children’s choir performed additional music under the direction of Chabad Rabbi Mendel Duchman.

Approximately 65 people attended the gathering. Cunin told the Journal that this year’s event was the 33rd Chabad menorah lighting at City Hall.

On the night before Chanukah began, the Dec. 5 premiere screening of “Tipsy Torah: Hanukkah,” the second installment of the “Tipsy Torah” short comedic film series, was held at the Beverly Hills home of Sue and Barry Brucker.

Lauren Kay and Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills Associate Rabbi Sarah Bassin, co-star in the latest episode of “Tipsy Torah.” Photo courtesy of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills 

Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills (TEBH) Associate Rabbi Sarah Bassin was among attendees and is one of the leaders of “Tipsy Torah,” an effort of the TEBH young professionals group, YoPro.

Inspired by the television show “Drunk History,” “Tipsy Torah” offers drunken retellings of stories in Jewish history. The first installment, which premiered last year and is currently available on YouTube, told the Purim story. The latest one tells the Chanukah story, and can also be viewed online.

“Tipsy Torah: Hanukkah” premiered as part of the Infinite Light initiative, a self-described “city-wide celebration of miracles — a curated, weeklong festival of creativity and community” organized by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ NuRoots program.

Lauren Kay, Margo Rowder, Adam Everett and Bradley West co-star in the film; additional performers include Danielle Soto and Yaron Shani. Yael Tygiel and Bassin served as co-executive producers.

A Dec. 6 Friendship Circle of Los Angeles celebration, titled “Chanukah in Israel,” attracted nearly 350 people to the organization’s headquarters on Robertson Boulevard. 

Rabbi Michy Rav-Noy, executive director at Friendship Circle Los Angeles (FCLA), Bracha Gabaie and FCLA volunteer Yetzirah Cohen came together for an Israel-themed Chanukah party at FCLA. Photo courtesy of Friendship Circle Los Angeles

Philanthropists Joy and Jerry Monkarsh co-sponsored the festive gathering, during which children recited the blessing and lit candles on a menorah. Additionally, children received gifts courtesy of the Lev Foundation, an organization with Iranian-American Jewish roots. 

Those leading programs included Jake Weiner, founder and director of Zooz Fitness, a company offering fitness programs for young people with special needs. Weiner led an interactive Israel Defense Forces-inspired boot camp that doubled as a fun fitness activity for the children.

The Friendship Circle of Los Angeles is a Chabad program serving children with special needs by, among other things, pairing them with young mentors in the Jewish community. It also provides support services for the families of the children.

A Dec. 10 Chabad Chanukah parade featured a procession of an estimated 100 cars with electric menorahs latched onto their roofs or trunks. The vehicles drove along Waring Avenue, Melrose Avenue, La Cienega Boulevard and Third Street. 

Students at Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad organized the parade, which coincided with the fifth night of Chanukah. 

Los Angeles Police Department officers blocked off several streets to accommodate the parade, which occurred in the evening and featured a variety of cars including convertibles, limousines, minivans and more.

“We want to spread the light of Chanukah, especially during these times of darkness,” Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad Rabbi Ben-Zion Oster said. 

Earlier in the day, a similar, albeit smaller, parade, organized by Chabad of Santa Monica took place in the Santa Monica area. On Facebook, Chabad of Santa Monica Rabbi Eli Levitansky said 14 cars participated “in memory/honor of the 14 victims of terror in S. Bernardino.” 

The Beverly Hills Jewish Community Synagogue (BHJCS), which holds services at the Beverly Hills Hotel, held its 18th annual menorah lighting at the hotel Dec. 7. At the event, BHJCS presented the hotel with the Excellence in Community Service award. 

The approximately 100 attendees included Vice Mayor of Beverly Hills John Mirisch; Beverly Hills real estate mogul and philanthropist Stanley Black; General Manager of the Beverly Hills Hotel, Edward Mady; BHJCS Rabbi Yosef Cunin; and others, according to Cunin.

“The Beverly Hills Hotel has been most welcoming to our very diverse community and has opened its doors and hearts to the Jewish community,” Cunin, who presented the award to Mady, said in a statement. 

Cunin leads services with Cantor Levi Coleman at BHJCS.

A Chanukah-themed boat is manned by, from left, Yoni Merkin  and Adam Stein during the annual Venice Canals Holiday Boat Parade on Dec. 13. Photo courtesy of Sharon Merkin

“Questions? Comments? Kvetches?” Michael Medved asked, kicking off a Q-and-A on Dec. 3 at Beth Jacob Congregation.

Medved, the popular radio host, is used to fielding all of the above when he appears on air. It was no different for him in person, as was reflected during his keynote address at the 2015 Orthodox Union (OU) West Coast Convention. Titled “Leadership in Troubled Times,” the convention took place in Los Angeles Dec. 3-6.

Michael and Diane Medved attend the kickoff of the Orthodox Union West Coast convention. Photo by Ryan Torok

Medved made perhaps his most poignant point when he bridged the spiritual and the political, saying that an important characteristic of any leader is perspective. And how does he believe one can achieve perspective?

“Shabbat provides perspective,” Medved said. He emphasized the importance of the nation’s political leaders having this quality, saying, “Perspective is the key area for a leader.”

The lecture drew approximately 200 attendees, including one who boldly asked Medved to predict who will win the 2016 presidential election.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio from Florida has “the best chance of being a truly successful president,” Medved said, citing what he said is the candidate’s ability to work with people with whom he disagrees.

Beth Jacob Congregation Senior Rabbi Kalman Topp kicked off the event with introductory remarks, and the congregation’s Associate Rabbi Adir Posy concluded with announcements.

Diane Medved, the keynote speaker’s wife and an author, also attended. She and her husband signed copies of some of their books in the shul’s lobby following Medved’s lecture.

This year’s OU convention also featured a Dec. 5 presentation by Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., discussing “Political Leadership Today and Tomorrow — Election 2016”; Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center participating in a Dec. 6 panel titled “Jewish Leadership in Today’s World”; and others.

OU oversees the youth group NCSY, formerly known as National Conference of Synagogue Youth; operates a kosher certification agency; and more.

Nearly 1,000 people representing the many faith traditions of Los Angeles gathered on the front steps of City Hall on Dec. 13 at an afternoon rally organized by local Muslim groups, with the support of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office, to affirm unity and reject violence, extremism and hate. 

Women in headscarves, women in kippot and women wearing crosses stood together holding banners reading, “Muslims and Friends Against Extremism.” Children held signs that proclaimed, “Hate Divides, Love Abides,” and young men at the bottom of the steps held up banners that said, “ISIS Is Not Islam.” 

The program began when Aziza Hasan, executive director of NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change, introduced an interfaith children’s choir, and the crowd joined the singers in a song written in honor of slain journalist Daniel Pearl. Archbishop Jose Horacio Gomez offered a prayer for peace, and the crowd applauded wildly when Garcetti affirmed the belief that diversity is the heart and strength of Los Angeles, an idea that was embraced by other speakers, including Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck

IKAR Rabbi Sharon Brous and Muslim leader Imam Sayed Moustafa al-Qazwini attend a rally at Los Angeles City Hall on Dec. 13. Photo courtesy of IKAR

Rabbi Sharon Brous of IKAR spoke passionately about Jewish reaction to any attempt to single out a religious minority. “For us,” she said, “it is personal.” Muslim leaders Muzammil Siddiqi, Islamic Shura Council of Southern California chair, and Shia Muslim Council of Southern California President Sayed Moustafa al-Qazwini shared the podium as well. Before a closing rendition of “Hine Ma Tov” by Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels and a group of drummers, the mayor of San Bernardino, R. Carey Davis, asked everyone present to remember the victims of the Inland Regional Center shooting and their families in their evening prayers. 

— Darcy Vebber, Contributing Writer

Rep. Ted Lieu announced on Dec. 4 the introduction of “a resolution to champion the importance of the U.S.-Israel economic relationship and encourage new areas of cooperation,” according to a statement released by Lieu.

The authors of what is described as a bipartisan resolution include Lieu; Ted Poe, R-Texas; Rep. Ed Royce, D-Calif.; and Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.

Lieu said the resolution marks a significant milestone in U.S.-Israel relations.

“Since the signing of the U.S.-Israel trade agreement 30 years ago, Israel has become one of our most dynamic economic partners in the entire Middle East and North Africa. Despite representing a mere 2 percent of the region’s population, it has become a top U.S. trading and investment relationship,” he said in the statement. “What makes the relationship truly unique, however, is the cutting-edge innovation that I have witnessed firsthand.”

Lieu, who represents the state’s 33rd District — geographic areas of the district include Santa Monica, Malibu and Beverly Hills — broke ranks with his political party this summer when he supported a resolution to oppose the U.S.-brokered nuclear agreement with Iran, an agreement also opposed by leadership in Israel.

“Our resolution today recognizes that the U.S.-Israel economic relationship has become central to our strategic partnership,” Lieu said. “I plan to work with my colleagues to seek out new ways to deepen that relationship even further and address the shared challenges our two nations face.”

On Nov. 10, the Association of Fundraising Professionals honored Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles Vice President of Development Baruch S. Littman as Outstanding Professional of the Year, during the association’s annual gala at Paramount Studios.

“I am inspired on a daily basis by the generosity of the Jewish Los Angeles philanthropists with whom I interact,” the honoree said in a statement following the ceremony. “Their acts of chesed [loving-kindness] and tikkun olam [repairing the world], as well as desire to leave meaningful legacies, make my work such a joy.”

Actress Heather McDonald presented an Outstanding Professional of the Year award to Baruch Littman, vice president of development at the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles. Photo by Bebe Jacobs Photography

Actress Heather McDonald presented the award to Littman, who has been working with the foundation for more than 16 years.

The foundation is charged with distributing money to organizations in the Jewish community. Littman is “part of a leadership team that has grown charitable assets under management from $250 million to more than $1 billion,” according to a press release. The foundation serves 1,200 donor families and last year distributed more than $75 million in grants.

The gala celebrated the Association of Fundraising Professionals-Los Angeles chapter’s 30th anniversary and coincided with National Philanthropy Day.

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