December 5, 2019

Moving and Shaking: Geller-Gallagher Leadership Institute event, Lainie Kazan and “My Favorite Year”

Jewish communal professionals, lay leaders and graduate students from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Relgion’s Zelikow School of Jewish Nonprofit Management gathered on Aug. 3 at SmogShoppe in Mid-City for the second annual Geller-Gallagher Leadership Institute event.

The evening began with hors d’oeuvres and networking for the more than 160 attendees, followed by a conversation on strategic philanthropy moderated by Zelikow Director Erik Ludwig and featuring Chip Edelsberg, executive director emeritus of the Jim Joseph Foundation, and Rachel Levin, president of the philanthropic consulting firm Fundamental and executive director of the Righteous Persons Foundation.

The Geller-Gallagher Institute aims to “promote new thinking on topics that support the growth of professionals and lay leadership,” Ludwig said. Attorney Jay Geller, who with his husband donated $1 million last year to establish the institute, noted in his opening remarks that over the years in his role as a lay leader, he has had some relationships with professionals that have “been great and some have not worked out so well.”

On the topic of strategic philanthropy, Levin told the crowd of mostly Jewish communal professionals, “It’s easy to give away money; it’s not always easy to give it away well. … Strategic philanthropy is about the well piece, especially [when] the world is on fire in so many ways and you really need to care about how those resources are being put forth.”

Edelsberg and Levin, whose respective organizations are considered leading funders in the Jewish communal landscape, discussed how funders often are the ones setting communal priorities. Levin said some of the most well-known programs in the Jewish community — such as Birthright, PJ Library and the Foundation for Jewish Camp — while important, “were determined by funders sitting in a room together determining what they wanted to do.” Ideally, Levin later noted, “the role of philanthropy is R&D” for creative, new ideas.

Julia Moss, Contributing Writer

The Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Summer Comedy Soiree at the Comedy Store on July 27 featured stand-up comedy from Jeff Garlin (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Wendy Liebman and others.

Garlin, who also stars on “The Goldbergs,” took questions from the audience. Of course, attendees wanted to know about “Curb,” according to Bettina Ho, assistant director of development for the ADL’s Pacific Southwest Region, who spoke with the Journal afterward.

Ho was among more than 150 attendees at the event, which raised $12,000 for the ADL.

Comedian Jeff Garlin, among others, performed at the Anti-Defamation League Summer Comedy Soiree at the Comedy Store on July 27. Photo courtesy of Anti-Defamation League

Additional performers included Ian Bagg, a finalist on “Last Comic Standing”; Jewish comedian Bruce Fine, the master of ceremonies, who discussed ADL efforts to combat anti-Semitism and bigotry; comedian Chris Spencer (“Real Husbands of Hollywood”); and musician Kosha Dillz.

Dillz rapped in Hebrew, Spanish and English, energizing guests in the crowd, “who waved their hands in their air and sang along,” Ho said. “He was able to weave our mission of fighting anti-Semitism and hate in his freestyle rap.”

The ADL NextGen program, which engages young adults in the mission of the ADL, organized the event, with the help of ADL NextGen planning committee co-chairs Sharyn Nichols and Rebecca Ruben.

“We wanted to put something on that would resonate with our young leaders and would be entertaining,” Ho said. “And comedy is a great way to get to a younger audience. … With the political climate, it’s a nice reason to laugh and kind of get out of such seriousness, but also raise money for a good cause.”

From left: Michael Gruskoff, Lainie Kazan and Richard Benjamin took the stage July 27 at the Laemmle Royal in West L.A. following a 35th anniversary screening of “My Favorite Year.”  Photo by Rob Eshman

Hollywood director Richard Benjamin, actors Lainie Kazan and Joseph Bologna, and producer Michael Gruskoff took the stage July 27 at the Laemmle Royal in West Los Angeles for a discussion after the 35th anniversary screening of “My Favorite Year.”

The story of a hapless young Jewish comedy writer who must chaperone a wild, drunken film star, played by Peter O’Toole, before that star’s appearance on a live TV program in the 1950s, still had the audience howling.

During the discussion, Gruskoff told how Mel Brooks had Norman Steinberg write the script based on Brooks’ experience on “Your Show of Shows.” Bologna said working on the movie was one of the great joys of his career.

Jewish Journal Staff

Violin virtuoso Gil Shaham Photo courtesy of Gil Shaham

Born in Illinois, raised in Israel, violin virtuoso Gil Shaham debuted with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra in 1981 at age 10. On July 25, Shaham took the stage at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and conductor Stéphane Denève to perform Violin Concerto by John Williams. The composer of iconic movie scores, including “Schindler’s List” and “Star Wars,” wrote the moving, powerful concerto in the mid-1970s as a memorial to his first wife, Barbara.

At the piece’s conclusion, the audience leapt to an extended standing ovation, which grew louder when Williams appeared on stage to take a bow with Denève and a visibly touched Shaham.

Jewish Journal Staff

Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav and Rabbi Michelle Missaghieh come together at Temple Israel of Hollywood. Photo courtesy of Rabbi Michelle Missaghieh

A July 28 discussion titled “Arab-Jewish Coexistence in Haifa: Israel’s 3rd Largest City,” held at the conclusion of Friday night services at Temple Israel of Hollywood, featured Yona Yahav, the mayor of Haifa, Israel.

About 100 people attended, including Temple Israel Rabbi Michelle Missaghieh; Ahuvi Goldin, director of the West Coast office of the American Associates of the Haifa Foundation; and Jewish Journal columnist Marty Kaplan. Yahav discussed the history of pluralism in Haifa, which has been home to Jews, Arabs, Christians, Bahá’ís, Ethiopians, Russians and others. Yahav told the audience he works to make everyone in Haifa feel as though they have a stake in the future of the Israeli port city, Missaghieh later told the Journal.

Yahav also spoke about how Haifa is often ignored by tourists who visit Israel because most opt to visit Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. If they do make it to Haifa, they do not spend much time there, he said after asking the attendees to raise their hands if they had been to Haifa and, if so, whether for more than a day.

His stop at Temple Israel was part of a tour of the West Coast that also included a visit to San Francisco, the sister city of Haifa.

“Everyone said they learned something new,” Missaghieh said.

Love seekers turned out for JQ International’s JQupid! A Jewish Queer Speed Dating Mixer, held at JQ International in West Hollywood, on Aug. 3. Photo courtesy of JQ International

About 30 Jewish and non-Jewish LGBT daters enjoyed a night of wine, music and nervous laughter as they walked back and forth between candlelit tables at JQ International’s JQupid! A Jewish Queer Speed Dating Mixer, held at JQ International’s West Hollywood office on Aug. 3.

JQ International Assistant Director Arya Marvazy said the mixer increased the chance for LGBT Jews to meet and make personal connections with other Jews in the community.

“But as much as cultivating Jewish relationships and life where an LGBTQ person can feel safe and accepted is important, we do not fear interfaith marriage as if it would in some way diminish one’s sense of Jewishness,” Marvazy said.

The mixer kicked off Love Angeles, a four-day citywide festival organized by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ NuRoots initiative and coinciding with Tu b’Av, the ancient Jewish festival of love.

NuRoots Community Engagement Fellowship Director Zack Lodmer said Love Angeles takes the premise of Tu b’Av and updates it for the contemporary Los Angeles Jewish community.

“We like to remix and reimagine Jewish customs and life,” he said. “We compete with so many things, so the challenge is how do we integrate the Jewish experience and meet them where they’re at in their journey.”

Nicholas Cheng, Contributing Writer

Moving & Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas.
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