December 8, 2019

Moving and shaking: A night for Chaim, Peachy and Mark Levy Beit Midrash and more

Hillel at UCLA threw “A Night for Chaim” on Jan. 31 to celebrate its longtime director, Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, who became the organization’s emeritus director in June. Held at the Skirball Cultural Center, the gala drew 480 guests, including alumni, students, donors and others who were impacted by and admiring of the gregarious and eccentric rabbi.

Actress and UCLA alumna Mayim Bialik emceed the event, and actress Barbra Streisand (another of Seidler-Feller’s students) made an appearance on one of the videos that highlighted his impact on Jewish students and faculty at UCLA. Seidler-Feller’s children, Shulie and Shaul, gave their father tributes, and Hillel International President and CEO Eric Fingerhut gave remarks.

Musical performers included Hillel at UCLA a cappella group Jewkbox, and Cantor Judy Dubin Aranoff, Ruth Dubin Steinberg, Ronit Aranoff and Yael Aranoff. FSU Limmud’s Matthew Bronfman presented Seidler-Feller with a lifetime achievement award. In the area outside the main hall, Hillel set up a photo booth with Seidler-Feller’s office as a backdrop, and even included multiple sets of glasses, enabling guests to smile for the camera posing as Seidler-Feller.

The evening wasn’t just a celebration of Seidler-Feller, who led Hillel since 1975 — it was also a fundraiser for the Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller Institute of Jewish Learning, which will support Jewish educational programs in partnership with UCLA and the local Jewish community. Hillel representatives said $600,000 has been raised thus far for the institute, $50,000 of which came from the gala.

Jared Sichel, Senior Writer

Leo Baeck Temple recently held a ceremony at its campus on Sepulveda Boulevard dedicating its Peachy & Mark Levy Beit Midrash. 

Leo Baeck Temple Rabbi Ken Chasen and philanthropist Peachy Levy. Photo courtesy of Leo Baeck Temple 

Peachy Levy was among those in attendance at the Jan. 15 event, which coincided with Friday night services at the shul. Levy is a philanthropist who has supported, along with her late husband, Mark, numerous Jewish causes, including Union for Reform Judaism camps and scholarships as well as Leo Baeck Temple, a Reform congregation. 

Additional participants in the Shabbat program included Leo Baeck Temple Rabbi Ken Chasen, Assistant Rabbi Lisa Berney, Senior Rabbi Emeritus Sandy Ragins and Cantor Linda Kates. Temple President Randi Levine was also present. 

Held three days before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the event also included a tribute to the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. 

The Woodland Hills chapter of JNET, a Jewish professional networking organization based in Southern California, hosted its annual networking event for more than 200 members on Jan. 21 at Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills. Guest speaker Paul Neinstein, COO of RatPac Entertainment, a film financing company, spoke about his experience making deals in Hollywood, including during his time with Paramount Pictures. 

Front row, from left: JNET Woodland Hills’ Michael Sholklapper and Sandy Hollander, Paul Neinstein, COO of RatPac Entertainment, JNET Woodland Hills President Lisa Aminnia and JNET Woodland Hills Vice President Jackson Schwartz. Back row, from left: JNET Woodland Hills’ Douglas Wolf, Stuart Fried, George Schaffer, David Shannon, Randy Michel and Mark Widawer. Photo by Larry Estrin, Eugene Photography 

“From a networking perspective, the biggest thing you have is your reputation, and one thing that I take pride in [with] every negotiation is protecting that reputation,” he said.

Guests also explored the JNET Community Marketplace featuring 30 JNET-member businesses. Rabbi Stewart Vogel of Temple Aliyah kicked off the event with a short speech, in which he noted that integrity and honesty in matters of business are rooted in “our 4,000 years as a tribe.”

And on Jan. 28, JNET’s board of directors announced the election of attorney Lisa Aminnia as president of its Woodland Hills chapter. Aminnia replaces Mark Widawer of The Invitation Maven, who led the chapter for the last two years.

JNET is a nonprofit organization with a membership of nearly 400 in 13 chapters located in various synagogues throughout Southern California.

“You never know when you may cross paths with past acquaintances that could become your new best resource,” JNET President Jackie Mendelson said. 

Virginia Isaad, Contributing Writer

Sarica Cohen had to shut down the registration webpage for the Jan. 14 Young Adults of Los Angeles (YALA) mixer at the Dark Horse Tavern in Tarzana after about 110 people signed up to attend. She was worried they might get kicked out for bringing too many people. It’s happened to her before at YALA events, albeit never in the San Fernando Valley.

Otherwise sleepy on a Thursday evening, the tavern filled with groups of three or four, chatting over drinks in a wood-paneled back room under orange light bulbs hanging from exposed wires.

YALA is an effort by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles to help young people ages 25 to 40 form communities of their own around common interests. The bar social was the 2016 kickoff event for the organization’s Valley contingent, or YALA Valley, which Cohen, 38, chairs.

“None of the [Jewish] nonprofits are in the Valley, they’re all on the Westside,” said Ira Gold, 35, a real estate agent from Studio City who attended the mixer.

He pulled up a calendar item on his phone for a Jewish-interest event he would consider attending, but then pointed to the West Hollywood address — easily a 50-minute drive through winding canyons or chaotic freeways from where he stood.

And unlike some events that aim at marrying off Jewish singles, with YALA “people really appreciate that it’s not a meat market,” he said.

Erika Maya, 39, is a committee member for YALA Valley — the only one, for now — and a new homeowner in the Valley. This year, she’s planning to partner with the amateur sommeliers of YALA’s Wine Cluster to organize a winery event.

“We’re Jews — that’s what we do,” she said. “We bring people together; we create.” 

Eitan Arom, Contributing Writer

Julia R. Moss has been named director of community engagement of TRIBE Media Corp., the nonprofit media company that produces the Jewish Journal and Jewish Insider.

Photo by Lynn Pelkey

Prior to joining TRIBE, Moss was a nonprofit consultant at NPO Solutions; manager of partnerships and innovation and later the assistant director of NuRoots at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles; and engagement associate at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Previously, she worked in journalism for outlets such as Kaiser Health News, CBS News and NPR. She has a masters of science in social entrepreneurship from USC’s Marshall School of Business and a bachelor’s degree in political communications from The George Washington University. At TRIBE, she will manage development and fundraising and oversee TRIBE’s live community events and sponsorships. You can reach her at 

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