September 18, 2019

Moving and Shaking: StandWithUs gala, Milken Family Foundation Jewish Educator Awards and more

The pro-Israel organization StandWithUs (SWU) celebrated its 15th anniversary at its annual “Festival of Lights” gala on Dec. 11 at The Beverly Hilton. Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg welcomed the approximately 900 attendees and thanked StandWithUs for its strong support of Israel. 

The organization honored Debbie and Naty Saidoff, who have supported SWU since its 2001 founding. Together with Ellie and Bruce Lederman, the Saidoffs have paid for every “Festival of Lights” gala and recently pledged $1.2 million per year to the organization for the next decade.

SWU co-founder and CEO Roz Rothstein presented recent high school graduate Eliav Terk with SWU’s Star of David Award for his legal fight against anti-Israel actions that were allowed at his school in Houston. Upon receiving the award, Terk said SWU’s Saidoff Legal Department, a new SWU initiative, helped him take action after Israeli flags were torn down at his school. Some students wore Hamas-affiliated scarves and waved Palestinian flags, Terk recalled. He complained to school administrators, but no measures were taken against the students.

 “Some administration members told me, ‘You need to empathize with Palestinian students and see where they are coming from,’ ” said Terk, now a college student. With the legal aid of SWU, Terk filed a grievance with the Houston Independent School District, which ruled against the school and will implement new protocols to prevent similar incidents. 

Also at the gala, Rothstein and her husband, Jerry, and SWU President Esther Renzer presented the Guardian of Israel award to seven American firefighters who recently flew to Israel to help combat wildfires there.

Comedian Elon Gold served as master of ceremonies. Musical performers included David Kates, Alon Miller and Rabbi Cantor Alison Wissot.

Keynote speaker Mark Yudof, former president of the University of California and current advisory board chair of the Academic Engagement Network, a group of American college faculty opposed to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, discussed the anti-Semitic nature of BDS and equated the battle over BDS with a fight for hearts and minds of future generations.

“What happens on campuses does not stay just on the campuses,” he said to applause. “Silence is complicity.”

— Ayala Or-El, Contributing Writer

From left: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti; Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles board chair Julie Platt; Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles CEO Jay Sanderson; Federation board member Jesse Gabriel; and Rabbi David Wolpe attend a Chanukah gathering at the Federation of Los Angeles offices. Photo courtesy of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles

Chanukah celebrations were held across Los Angeles in advance of the holiday that began on Dec. 24, including a menorah lighting ceremony at Los Angeles City Hall on Dec. 13 that brought together L.A. City Council members and local Jewish community leaders; the Chanukah party of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) at The Mark in Los Angeles on Dec. 15; and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ celebration at its headquarters on Dec. 19.

The City Hall gathering — which featured singing, candlelighting and more — was attended by City Councilman Bob Blumenfield, Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles CEO Jay Sanderson, Temple Akiba Rabbi Zach Shapiro and University Synagogue Rabbi Morley Feinstein.

Attendees at the AJC event included Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg; Julie Bram, vice president of the AJC L.A. executive committee; AJC Regional President Scott Edelman; Ira Handelman, chair of the AJC’s public policy committee in L.A.; and consuls general representing a variety of countries.

At the Federation celebration, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and State Sen. Ben Allen were among the attendees.

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