September 22, 2019

Moving and shaking: 30th Israel Film Festival, new Beverly Hills mayor installed and more

At the recent kickoff sponsor luncheon of the 30th Israel Film Festival at the Four Seasons Hotel, Meir Fenigstein addressed the some 150 attendees like a proud parent. When he started the festival while a student at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, he said, “I could not have imagined how far this event would come.” 

With screenings now annually held in New York and Miami as well as Los Angeles, “my crazy idea has brought more than 1,000 Israeli films to reach more than 1 million people in the United States,” he added. This year’s L.A. event will take place from Nov. 9-23.

And for the second year in a row, the festival will bring Israeli movies to the upcoming American Film Market in Santa Monica to help filmmakers secure distribution.

In an interview with the Journal, Fenigstein said he will start planning the festival’s lineup after the Israeli Academy of Film and Television announces its Ophir Award (the Israeli Academy Award) nominees around mid-May. Meanwhile, the goal is to raise the approximately $700,000 required to put on the festival.

At the March 31 luncheon, Nu Image/Millennium Films’ Danny Dimbort (a producer of “The Wolf of Wall Street”) received the festival’s lifetime achievement award; philanthropist Daphna Ziman, who is renowned for her work with foster children, was presented with the 2016 humanitarian award; while festival designers Peter Bemis and Smitty received the 2016 Image Award.

David Siegel, consul general of Israel in Los Angeles, spoke of the importance of presenting Israeli cinema, as did Jay Sanderson, president and CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. Comedian Elon Gold served as emcee, while actors Radha Mitchell and Edward James Olmos — a Chicano who discovered his forebears include Hungarian Jews — presented the humanitarian award to Ziman.

Ziman, for her part, recalled how she was especially drawn to the festival after watching a screening of the 2010 documentary “Precious Life,” the story of a Palestinian woman who had hoped her son would grow up to become a suicide bomber until Hadassah hospital treated the boy for his genetic disease. “I’m going to cry, because that movie had such a huge impact on me,” Ziman said in an interview.

Actor Navid Negahban, a non-Jewish Iranian who has played a terrorist on Showtime’s “Homeland,” told the Journal he has been a supporter of the festival since his movie “Baba Joon” was the opening night selection last year. “The Israeli film industry has welcomed me so warmly that I continue to work there,” he said.

— Naomi Pfefferman, Arts & Entertainment Editor

An installation ceremony for Beverly Hills Mayor John Mirisch and Beverly Hills Vice Mayor Nancy Krasne took place March 16 at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

From left: Pepperdine University School of Public Policy interim Dean Pete Peterson, Beverly Hills Mayor John Mirisch and Mirisch’s son, Vincent. Photo courtesy of City of Beverly Hills

Mirisch and Krasne preside over the Beverly Hills City Council, which is composed of William Brien, Lili Bosse and Mirisch’s predecessor, Julian Gold, who was Beverly Hills’ mayor when the city entered into a 2015 agreement with Israel focused on water and cybersecurity, among other issues. Bosse, who served as Beverly Hills mayor in 2014, is the daughter of late Holocaust survivor and author Rose Toren.

Participants at the event, which drew approximately 450 attendees, included Rabbi Pini Dunner of Beverly Hills Synagogue, who led the invocation, and Pepperdine University School of Public Policy interim Dean Pete Peterson.

Mirisch was elected mayor in February.

Los Angeles attorney and Congregation Bais Naftoli President Andrew Friedman presented Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban with a City of Los Angeles certificate of honor signed by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz during a visit to the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest, Hungary, on March 21. Friedman described the certificate as “a greeting from the people of Los Angeles to the people of Budapest, Hungary.” 

Bais Naftoli President Andrew Friedman (left) presents Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban with a City of Los Angeles certificate of honor. Photo courtesy of Andrew Friedman

“The main reason I went is to discuss a number of Jewish issues with him, including his statement that he has zero tolerance for any anti-Semitism,” Friedman, whose congregation is an Orthodox synagogue with a sizable Hungarian population, said in a recent phone interview.

The attorney and his shul are currently engaged in an ongoing relationship with the Hungarian government underscoring improved relations between Hungary and the Jewish community, both inside of Hungary and in the Diaspora. In 2013, Hungarian President Janos Ader visited Bais Naftoli.

Friedman, who was born in Hungary but left with his family in 1956 while the country was seeking religious freedom, has since returned to Hungary several times and helped refurbish Jewish synagogues and cemeteries there. During his recent meeting with Orban, the Hungarian leader presented Friedman with “an honorary certificate for fighting anti-Semitism in Hungary,” Friedman said.

Temple Hadar Israel, a struggling synagogue in New Castle, Pa., has donated a Torah to Beit Centrum Ki Tov, a new congregation in Warsaw, Poland, and a local rabbi helped with the transport.

Bais Naftoli President Andrew Friedman (left) presents Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban with a City of Los Angeles certificate of honor. Photo courtesy of Andrew Friedman

Temple Hadar Israel congregant Dale Perelman traveled with the Torah from New Castle and delivered it to Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak on March 24 at Koreatown-based Wilshire Boulevard Temple. Beliak then traveled with the Torah to Poland. The Torah arrived in Warsaw on March 31. Lori Peljovich, a spokesperson for the Jewish Community Legacy Project (JCLP), which facilitated the transfer of the Torah, said a dedication ceremony is scheduled to take place April 8 at Beit Centrum Ki Tov. 

JCLP is based in Atlanta and led by President David Sarnat. The JCLP “works with small, dwindling congregations around the country to help them determine their legacies,” according to Peljovich. “We advise them on everything from endowment planning, cemetery care, leadership transitions and real estate divestment to archival storage and distribution/donation of artifacts and Judaica.”

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