August 19, 2019

Moving and Shaking: Jewish World Watch, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and more

Anti-genocide organization Jewish World Watch (JWW) has named Diana Buckhantz as its new board chair, according to a Jan. 3 announcement by the organization.

Buckhantz, previously JWW’s vice chair, said she was excited about taking on the leadership position.

“I have been involved with nonprofits for over 25 years, and while I have had the privilege of working with other organizations that do extraordinary work on various important issues, there are few whose staff and leadership are as committed to the mission of the organization as those at Jewish World Watch,” Buckhantz said in a statement on the JWW website.

She succeeds David Straus, who steps down after nearly a year of serving as chair. 

In a Jan. 5 statement, JWW Executive Director Susan Freudenheim described Buckhantz as having “deeply committed support of Jewish World Watch.”

Committed to fighting genocide, JWW has gained recognition for its work in far-reaching corners of the world, including the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan, among others. Recently, the organization has worked to educate the public about the Syrian refugee crisis and to raise funds for agencies offering aid to those impacted by it. 

From left: Cecelie Wizenfeld, director of the Kehillat Mogen David Spivak Educational Center (KMDSEC); KMDSEC founders and honorees Betty and Al Spivak; and Congregation Mogen David Rabbi Gabriel Elias. Photo by Naomi Solomon

The Kehillat Mogen David Spivak Educational Center (KMDSEC) held its inaugural “Gala of Lights” at The Mark For Events on Dec. 29.

The gala honored Al and Betty Spivak, founders of the school, with the Founders Award; board member and supporter Michael Wolf with the Chesed Award; and members of the school’s PTA, President Roneet Aviv and board member Ilana Davidson, with the Hakarat Hatov Award.

KMDSEC is a Jewish day school for children in preschool through third grade. The school is inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach to education and offers both a secular and Judaic studies curriculum.

Ami Kozak, a member of the Los Angeles band Distant Cousins and a parent at the school, served as master of ceremonies.

Its dean and headmaster, Rabbi Gabriel Elias, spiritual leader of Congregation Mogen David, led a lighting of the chanukiyah in celebration of the sixth night of Chanukah.

Comedians Wendy Hammers and Marvin Silbermintz performed. 

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. Photo courtesy of Shmuley Boteach​

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, appearing at Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills on Dec. 31, denounced the Obama administration’s decision to have the United States abstain from voting on United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which opposes Israeli settlements.

“While over 500,000 of our Arab cousins have been murdered in Syria, the Obama administration believes that the greater threat to stability in the Middle East is the building of Jewish homes and nurseries in Judea and Samaria,” Boteach said during Shabbat and Chanukah services.

Boteach contended that the outgoing administration’s obsession with Israel blinded it to the Syrian genocide and other crimes against humanity taking place across the Middle East.

“We now know that while the Obama administration could have been taking action against the murder of Christians at the hands of ISIS, they were busy drafting this anti-Israel United Nations resolution,” he said.

Boteach said the lessons learned from Chanukah, and the building of homes in Judea and Samaria, showed Jewish commitment to life and peace.

“The Jewish people have endured through centuries because we worship the infinite,” Boteach said. “We dedicate our resources to build and to better our lives, rather than to wage war.”

The rabbi argued that the Jewish people should be vocal about the Security Council resolution, which describes Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories as an illegal obstacle to peace, and that they should hold President Barack Obama accountable for the decision of his administration to abstain, thereby letting the resolution pass.

The approximately 600 audience members included Nessah board members Aaron Kahen and Simon Etehad, and Nessah Chief Rabbi David Shofet.

Mati Geula Cohen, Contributing Writer

From left: Cedars-Sinai Alumni Association honoree Dr. Howard Allen; concert pianist Marina; Dr. Myles Lee, president of the Los Angeles Doctors Symphony Orchestra; and cardiologist Dr. Yzhar Charuzi. Photo courtesy of Marina

The Cedars-Sinai Alumni Association dinner on Nov. 30 featured a performance by concert pianist Marina, who was born in Ukraine, raised in Israel and has played for audiences around the world.

 About 200 people attended the event in the Cedars-Sinai Harvey Morse Auditorium on the medical center’s campus. Honored were Cedars-Sinai’s Dr. J. Louis Cohen, medical director of operating room services and surgical director of the kidney transplant program, and Dr. Howard N. Allen. Cohen was named Alumnus of the Year, while Allen “was recognized for his lifetime service and the many cardiology innovations at Cedars-Sinai,” according to a Cedars-Sinai press release.

Participants and attendees included Rabbi Jason Weiner, senior rabbi and manager of Cedars-Sinai’s Spiritual Care Department; Dr. Mehran Khorsandi, president of the Cedars-Sinai Alumni Association; Dr. Yzhar Charuzi, an Israeli cardiologist; and Dr. Myles Lee, president of the Los Angeles Doctors Symphony Orchestra.

The Cedars-Sinai Alumni Association was founded more than 50 years ago and is committed to maintaining relationships between “past and present medical staff, residents, fellowship candidates” and others, according to the Cedars-Sinai website.

Former L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky discusses the 2016 presidential election before a large crowd of young professionals. Photo by Sam Yebri

More than 100 young adults unhappy with the results of the 2016 presidential election turned out on Jan. 10 at a private residence in Beverly Hills for a discussion featuring two Jewish leaders similarly displeased with President-elect Donald Trump.

“I want to remind everybody this guy did not win in a landslide,” retired Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said in reference to Trump. Yaroslavsky appeared with L.A. City Councilman Bob Blumenfield

The organizers of the event were attorneys Jesse Gabriel and Sam Yebri, and public relations professional Jason Levin, a former staff member for Blumenfield. They represented a group of young Jewish leaders in Los Angeles who came together after the November election and decided they wanted to continue to stand in opposition to Trump after their publication in August of a letter in the Journal denouncing the then-Republican nominee.

“It was a group of people, of friends, who felt very strongly about this and decided we had to come together and do something,” Gabriel said in an interview after the 45-minute discussion.

The event raised $15,000 for the Anti-Defamation League, which Gabriel described as being outspoken against hateful rhetoric during the presidential campaign. “I was just so impressed with their willingness to speak out when it mattered most, and I think a lot of the people I was in conversation with felt exactly the same way,” Gabriel said.

Samantha Millman, a board member of the pro bono legal organization Bet Tzedek and a supporter of President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign, moderated the discussion.

The evening event began with attendees mingling over wine, cheese and grapes. Among those in the crowd was Elana Horwich, founder of Meal and a Spiel and a Journal contributing writer, who in November canvassed in Nevada on behalf of the Hillary Clinton campaign. In an interview, Horwich recalled being “traumatized” by the results of the presidential election. “It was traumatic,” she said. “And, on some level, I knew it was coming.”

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