September 18, 2019

Briefs: Comedy writer Ross endows UCLA Yiddish chair, Hadassah official focuses on fundraising

Veteran comedy writer and producer Michael “Mickey” Ross has donated $4 million to endow an academic chair in Yiddish language and culture at UCLA.

The university’s Center for Jewish Studies announced that the gift by Michael and Irene Ross will provide support for an “outstanding scholar of Yiddish culture,” as well as for faculty and graduate student research, academic conferences and lectures for the general public.

Born Isidore Rovinsky, Ross grew up in a Yiddish-speaking home, permeated, he said, by “the essence of Yiddishkayt.” After graduating from City College of New York, he served as an Army pilot during World War II and was shot down over Nazi-occupied France.

His first professional television job was as stager-director for “The Gary Moore Show.” He hit his stride in the 1970s as an Emmy-winning writer and executive producer for three groundbreaking and immensely successful sitcoms, “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons” and “Three’s Company.”

Yiddish has been taught at UCLA for 30 years, and the Ross gift “will allow us to move forward to our goal of becoming a center of international distinction in Jewish and Yiddish studies,” said David N. Myers, director of the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies.

“Renowned for its wide range of expression, from the comic to the tragic, Yiddish was the language of great rabbis, authors, entertainers, scientists and political activists,” Myers added.

“The fact that the overwhelming majority of the world’s Yiddish-speaking population was murdered in the Holocaust makes the study of Yiddish an especially urgent and necessary task,” he said.

— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Hadassah Official Focuses on Fundraising

“There’s a difference between my husband and myself when we decide to support a cause,” Andrea Silagi observed. “He’ll simply go ahead and write a check. I’ll also write a check, but I’ll certainly consult him first.”

Silagi is a Hadassah vice president and coordinator of development for the 300,000-member women’s organization and, therefore, an expert on women’s fundraising.

In the case of Hadassah fundraising, we’re talking serious money. The organization raised $100 million from large and small donors last year and is in the home stretch of a special $210 million capital campaign for a major addition to the Hadassah hospital in Ein Kerem.

Besides the two Jerusalem medical centers in Ein Kerem and on Mount Scopus, Hadassah supports the Hadassah College, also in Jerusalem; three youth villages; Youth Aliyah; Young Judaea; breast cancer awareness programs; youth-at-risk projects; and a leadership academy.

While Hadassah gets some huge grants — one couple gave $75 million for the hospital addition — the day-by-day fundraising is the job of members and 13 professionals in the United States.

“Our slogan is, ‘No money, no mission,'” said Silagi, who attended this week’s national Hadassah convention in Los Angeles.

To carry out the mission, she oversees a continuing education program among the membership, including a convention workshop titled, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway (Overcoming the Fear of Asking for Donations).”

“It’s not always easy to ask people for money, even for the best of causes, and the training program serves as a kind of desensitizing workshop,” Silagi said.

“We run through different scenarios of how to ask for money and point to success stories,” she added. In most cases, members serve as “door openers” for follow-up by professional fundraisers.

Serving as auxiliary fundraisers are Hadassah International chapters in Europe, South America and Australia (though not in Israel) and the men’s Associates, with a membership of 30,000.

Silagi lives in Encino, and before taking on her volunteer responsibilities with Hadassah, she worked as a Hebrew teacher at Los Angeles-area synagogue schools.

“I went to Israel as a youngster, studied and worked there, met my husband there and just fell in love with the country,” she said. “My Hadassah work is one way to continue the connection.”

— TT

Arrested Agriprocessors Workers Get Aid

A New Jersey-based Jewish charity helped provide for families affected by the raid on Agriprocessors. The Good People Fund, in cooperation with Temple Israel-Ner Tamid and Gleaner’s Food Bank, both of Ohio, delivered 24 pallets of food and humanitarian relief — enough to fill a 53-foot truck — to a food pantry in Postville, Iowa.

Nearly 400 workers were arrested in a May 12 raid in Postville at the country’s largest kosher meat producer, leaving many families without income and dependent on outside assistance to meet their basic needs.

“The undocumented workers arrested during the raid included mothers and fathers who were later released on humanitarian grounds to care for small children,” said Naomi Eisenberger, the fund’s executive director.

“But these people cannot work and have no way to pay rent or put food on their tables,” she said. “Since Agriprocessors is the largest kosher slaughterhouse in the country, we felt it was particularly appropriate for the Jewish community to step in and help.”

— Jewish Telegraphic Agency