September 18, 2019

Moving and shaking: Beit T’Shuvah, Pico Union Project and more

This year’s Beit T’Shuvah Circle of Majesty luncheon honored Andrea Sossin-Bergman for her contributions to the organization’s externship program, and raised more than $100,000 for the Jewish rehabilitation center that serves those wrestling with addiction issues.

Andrea Sossin-Bergman, the Beit T’Shuvah Circle of Majesty 2016 luncheon honoree 

The honoree and her husband, Paul Bergman, “were responsible for starting Beit T’Shuvah’s externship program, which provides work opportunities for [Beit T’Shuvah] residents in order [for them] to acquire new skills in the workplace and rebuild their lives professionally,” according to Janet Rosenblum, director of advancement at Beit T’Shuvah.

The June 15 event was held at the home of event co-chair Lois Bloom. There were 100 women in attendance, including Beit T’Shuvah founder and event co-chair Harriet Rossetto. Additional event co-chairs were Lindsey MontoyaHeidi BendetsonTiffany CaligMeryl Kern and Ronnie Stabler.

Held every spring, the Circle of Majesty event was established nine years ago to encourage philanthropic support for Beit T’Shuvah.

Zach Lasker has been appointed the first executive director of the Pico Union Project, a multifaith cultural center founded in 2013 by recording artist, composer and musician Craig Taubman.

Zach Lasker. Photo courtesy of Pico Union Project

“Exciting transitions demand exciting leadership” Taubman said in a statement.  “Zach’s focus, passion and background are exactly what we need to fulfill our mission of being a light in the community.”

Lasker, whose hiring was announced June 7, is charged with the task of overseeing the center’s operations and growing them. He previously worked as the camp director of Camp Ramah in California in Ojai — he served as a counselor and camp director to Taubman’s children — and, since 2012, as the director of Melton Research and Education Projects at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City.

“Learning what it means to build an interconnected community where people are in touch with each other and listen to each other are among the many gifts that I drew from my time at Ramah,” Lasker said in a phone interview with the Journal. 

Raised in the L.A. Jewish community, Lasker said he is excited to give back. A certified yoga instructor, he said he hopes to use yoga as a model to build Jewish communities. Lasker said he has plans to create a space for “self-exploration, spiritual exploration, communal celebration and responsibility to the community.”

Pico Union Project provides art classes, cooking classes, High Holy Day services, and has plans to offer monthly Shabbat services. It also is home to a number of groups from other religions, including The Women’s Mosque of America and Kwang Yum Community Church.

— Hannah Jannol, Contributing Writer

For a record third time, Barbara Meltzer has been awarded The Link Award by the Los Angeles County Commission for Older Adults (LACCOA) in recognition of her exceptional volunteer work for the aging community. She was presented with the honor on June 6 by Commission President Linda Yamauchi at the L.A. County Community and Senior Services office.

Barbara Meltzer receives her Link Award from L.A. County Commission for Older Adults President Linda Yamauchi. Photo courtesy of L.A. County Commision for Older Adults

LACCOA is an advisory board working to ensure the well-being of older individuals in the county. Since 2007, Meltzer has served as a commissioner for this body, first appointed by former L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and later reappointed by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. Because of term limits, Meltzer’s last day as a committee member was June 30.

In 2003, she became a caretaker to her mother and experienced firsthand the problems facing the aging community, from medical care to transportation. During her tenure at LACCOA, Meltzer chaired both the communications and legislative committees of the commission and created a speakers bureau to educate future commissioners on the most effective ways to advocate for the elderly. 

As a public relations specialist in her professional life, Meltzer found success writing a newsletter on behalf of LACCOA (coincidentally enough, called The Link) that was sent to, among other people, the 88 mayors in Los Angeles County.

She also is vice chair of the West Hollywood Human Services Commission.

— Isaac Engelberg, Contributing Writer

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy has named Miri Belsky as its regional director, Western States, effective June 14.

Miri Belsky, regional director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy Photo courtesy of Miri Belsky 

Belsky, who previously served as the deputy CEO of the Israeli-American Council, said she is excited to join the staff of the Institute.

“My passion is in Washington [D.C.], Israel and the Middle East,” she said in an interview, “so it’s a very natural fit.” 

Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and Howard Berkowitz, chairman emeritus of the institute, welcomed Belsky to the organization. 

“I am thrilled that a professional as accomplished as Miri has joined the institute,” the two said in a joint statement.

The mission of the institute is “to advance a balanced and realistic understanding of American interests in the Middle East and to promote the policies that secure them,” according to the organization’s website.

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