September 18, 2019

Moving and shaking: Outstanding American by Choice Award, YRF Darca and more

Uri Herscher, president and founder of the Skirball Cultural Center, received the Outstanding American By Choice award on April 5 at the U.S. National Archives in Washington, D.C., from Leon Rodriguez, director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Alejandro N. Mayorkas, deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. At the ceremony, Rodriguez swore in more than a dozen immigrants as citizens, and Herscher led them in their first Pledge of Allegiance as new Americans.

The award Herscher received is given annually to an immigrant who has made outstanding contributions to American society. Herscher, who also is a board member of TRIBE Media Corp., parent company of the Jewish Journal, was born in Israel in 1941 and arrived in the United States in 1954. 

Herscher was joined at the event not only by the new immigrants, but also by his family members: his wife, Myna; their sons, Adam, Joshua, Aron and Gideon; his brother and his sister-in-law, Rabbi Eli and Bonnie Herscher; his daughters-in-law, Deborah and Tracey; and five grandchildren, Eden, Daniella, Micah, Jonah and Judah.  

“I think of my grandparents,” Herscher said in his remarks accepting his award, “who yearned to be immigrants, but who perished in Nazi Europe before they could escape. I feel their presence here today. They stand beside me in memory. They live on in my heart. Their hopes and dreams inspired me to create the Skirball Cultural Center, a place of meeting in Los Angeles founded upon the Jewish value of welcoming the stranger. At the Skirball, we celebrate not only what America has done for its immigrants, but what immigrants have done for America.”

(For more information about this event, see Rob Eshman’s column on page 6.)

— Rob Eshman

A group of 10 Los Angeles-based young professionals visited Israel recently as part of a leadership mission organized by YRF Darca.

Los Angeles participants in a recent YRF Darca trip to Israel included (from left) Jordan Sall, Lou Sokolovskiy, YRF Darca Regional Director Michal Frankel, Kate Dayan, Daniel Hakimi, Michael Hakimi, Shelby and Jason Istrin, David Eshaghian and Jeff Gimbel. Photo courtesy of YRF Darca

YRF Darca, the result of a 2014 merger between the U.S.-based Youth Renewal Fund and the Darca network, operates more than 20 high schools and two learning centers in Israel serving economically disadvantaged communities.

Its leaders include Raphael Sutton, who was appointed the organization’s CEO on March 1, and Michal Frankel, the L.A.-based regional director of the organization.

Frankel was among those who took part in the recent trip to Israel, which took place March 3-9 and served YRF Darca Ambassador Circle members, consisting of those under 35 who have donated more than $2,500 to the organization. The group visited schools in Lod, Bat Yam, Netivot, Ashkelon, Gedera and Elad.

“In these classrooms, students and teachers demonstrated how access to cutting-edge opportunities like 3-D printed drones for robotics class, negotiation seminars with neighboring Arab-Israeli schools and game-based English language acquisition can open career and leadership opportunities after graduation,” according to Adam Soclof, the marketing and communications manager at YRF Darca

Other L.A.-area residents who participated in the trip include Jordan Sall, a financial adviser at Morgan Stanley in downtown Los Angeles; Milken Community Schools alumni Daniel Hakimi and Jason Istrin; Istrin’s wife, Shelby; and David Eshaghian, a principal at Capitas Partners.

Hakimi said he was drawn to YRF Darca because it serves students both Jewish and non-Jewish.

“YRF Darca is supporting work in all Israeli communities,” he said in a statement. “Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Druze.”

Israel Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran arrived in Southern California last week as a guest of Jewish Federation and Family Services of Orange County. Among other appearances, he spoke at the Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law, visited a local courthouse and met with officials, including local judges, at the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles for an off-the-record conversation. Joubran is a native of Haifa and the only Arab on the Israeli Supreme Court.  

— Jewish Journal staff report

Emek Hebrew Academy Teichman Family Torah Center’s 55th annual trustees’ dinner was held Feb. 24 at the Alexandria Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

From left: Emek Hebrew Academy Teichman Family Torah Center supporters Elliot and Pam Bieda, Charles and Jody Levy, and Victor Mellon and Chavee Lerer. Photo by Highlight Photography 

The event recognized the late Larry and Sally Mellon, who were instrumental in founding Emek Academy. Their children, Victor Mellon, Pam Bieda and Jody Levy, accepted the award on their parents’ behalf.

The event also paid tribute to Rabbi Joshua B. Gordon, the late founder of Chabad of the Valley.

Approximately 200 attendees turned out.

The dinner raised more than $500,000 for the Orthodox school, which is currently growing an endowment with the aim of making tuition more affordable. During the event, Emek leadership announced that the school is participating in Generations LA, an initiative of the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE) Endowment and Legacy Institute that helps day schools create endowments and secure legacy gifts.

“We feel this is a critical initiative and speaks to the perpetuity of our school,” Emek Hebrew Academy Head of School Rabbi Mordechai Shifman said in a phone interview.

As part of the initiative, Emek is obligated to raise $2.4 million over a three-year period, Shifman said, and the school will receive “incentive grants of $25,000 … for meeting campaign benchmarks,” according to the PEJE website. Shifman said he hopes the school raises $50 million over the course of 20 years.

Other schools currently participating in the latest cohort of Generations LA are Wise School, Bais Chaya Mushka and Brawerman Elementary School of Wilshire Boulevard Temple.

Emek Hebrew Academy is a coed, early childhood center based in North Hollywood, with an elementary and middle school in Sherman Oaks.

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