September 23, 2019

Moving & Shaking: Waldorf Astoria ribbon-cutting; new JFS director; social justice awards

Israeli-American hotel owner Beny Alagem celebrated the opening of his new Waldorf Astoria hotel in Beverly Hills at a June 28 ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The guest list for the Champagne and hors d’oeuvres event included Alagem’s wife, Adele, Beverly Hills Mayor Lili Bosse and Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta.

Alagem thanked all of the partners at the hotel, including Andy Cohen of the Gensler design firm.

Bosse told those gathered that the hotel is a great addition to the Beverly Hills community. Ted Kahan, president of Alagem Capital, introduced the speakers and Christina Vu, the hotel marketing manager, said in an interview that the Waldorf is “the new luxury for the city of Beverly Hills.”

The 12-story hotel has 170 rooms and cost $200 million to build. A 6,300-square-foot ballroom is available for events.

Alagem, who was born in Israel, served as a tank driver in the Israeli army. He was the founder of computer parts manufacturer Packard Bell. In 2003, he purchased the Beverly Hilton from Merv Griffin. He has contributed to many organizations, including the Israeli American Council, an umbrella organization for the Israeli-American community; Friends of the Israel Defense Forces; and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

— Clara Sandler, Contributing Writer

Eli Veitzer has been named the new president and CEO of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of JFSLA

Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFS) has named Eli Veitzer, CEO of Prototypes, as its incoming president and CEO. He succeeds JFS President and CEO Paul Castro, who is retiring at the end of the year after 35 years at the organization.

“We are extremely confident that Eli has the leadership skills, professional background and commitment to our mission to lead JFS into the future, as we continue to provide our wide array of social services and be a vital safety net for the greater Los Angeles community,” Shana Passman, chair of the JFS board of directors, which worked with Castro in conducting a national search for his successor, said in a July 11 statement.

At Prototypes, a Southern California social service organization, Veitzer led an organization that provides substance abuse prevention and treatment programs to 10,000 men, women and children annually, according to the group’s website. It calls itself one of the “nation’s leading behavioral health care organizations.”

He has served as Prototypes’ CEO since 2015. During the 15 years before that, he held leadership positions at JFS, including serving as director of administration at the organization from 2000 to 2010, and later director of strategic initiative and business development. He received his bachelor’s degree in development studies from Brown University.

“It is a tremendous honor to follow Paul Castro in leading Jewish Family Service,” Veitzer said in a statement. “He has cemented JFS as a vital, vibrant and caring organization, and I am excited to build on that foundation.”

His hiring becomes effective Sept. 5, and he will work closely with Castro to ensure a smooth transition, according to the organization.

Rabbi Leah Lewis is the new senior rabbi of Temple Menorah in Redondo Beach. Photo courtesy of Temple Menorah

During a July 1 Shabbat service, Temple Menorah in Redondo Beach welcomed Rabbi Leah Lewis into its congregation of 250 families. The weekly Shabbat service was Lewis’ first as senior rabbi. She succeeds Rabbi Steven Silver, who was the temple’s head rabbi for 30 years and will continue as rabbi emeritus.

In a statement, Barry Deutsch, the synagogue president, expressed excitement about the leadership transition.

“We’ve only changed rabbis a handful of times in our history as a congregation. That’s a historic milestone in anyone’s book.” Deutsch said. “Rabbi Silver has laid a strong foundation for our future evolution, growth and transformation over the last 30 years.”

During the service, cantorial soloist Stacey Morse joined Lewis on the bimah. About 120 people were in attendance to welcome the rabbi into the community. After the service, a celebratory lunch was held in Lewis’ honor in the temple’s social hall.

Lewis previously served six years on the clergy team of Congregation Shir-Ha-Ma’alot in Irvine. For the previous seven years, she served as the associate rabbi of Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles. She was ordained in 2002 at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s New York campus.

Lewis said she is excited to join this “incredibly welcoming community.” She said she hopes to learn from what Rabbi Silver brought and carry on Temple Menorah traditions, with her own spin.

  Isabella Beristain, Contributing Writer

Rebecca Schusterman, a 2017 graduate of Valley Torah High School in Valley Village, has been named a recipient of a Milken Scholars Program $10,000 scholarship. Photo by Paul Takizawa

Rebecca Schusterman, a 2017 graduate of Valley Torah High School in Valley Village, is one of 13 students from Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and New York to receive a college scholarship from the 2017 Milken Scholars program, according to a July 11 announcement.

The Milken Scholars program, a joint initiative of the Milken Institute and the Milken Family Foundation, was founded in 1989 by Michael and Lori Milken to honor exceptional young men and women based on scholarship, leadership, service, character and triumphs over obstacles. The Milken Scholars Program awards a $10,000 scholarship as well as lifelong mentorship and support to help recipients pursue a path of professional and life success.

Schusterman was valedictorian at her school and has volunteered at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, where she “experienced both the joy and the heartbreak of health care,” according to the announcement.

She plans to spend a gap year in Israel before attending Harvard University, where she plans to study human developmental and regenerative biology.

She is involved in many Jewish organizations, including Builders of Jewish Education and Friendship Circle, where she worked with a young boy who has a learning disability. She also started a recycling club at school that donates all proceeds to Chai Lifeline.

— Jakob Marcus, Contributing Writer

Members of Leo Baeck Temple participate in the synagogue’s social justice initiative, Community Organizing: Connecting L.A. Face to Face, Not Bumper to Bumper. Photo courtesy of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Leo Baeck Temple and Temple Israel of Hollywood, along with 15 other congregations across the country, were awarded the Irving J. Fain Award, which recognizes the work of Reform Jewish congregations that create a culture of social justice advocacy.

The award is named for Fain, who was chairman of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism. For more than 30 years, the award has recognized social action programs in Reform Jewish communities.

Diane Baer, chair of the Fain Award Selection Committee for the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, said that winning congregations “took meaningful action on local and global social justice issues.”

Barbara Weinstein, director of the commission, said the winners “provide vibrant examples of ways congregations can engage in critical issues that confront us as Jews and as engaged members of our communities.”

Leo Baeck Temple was recognized for Community Organizing: Connecting L.A. Face to Face, Not Bumper to Bumper, a program run by a team of approximately 20 people, including co-chairs Eric Stockel, the temple’s vice president of social justice, and Bea Richman. With this program, the temple aims to support efforts to build mass transit along the 405 freeway corridor and create jobs, reduce carbon emissions and connect Los Angeles residents to their jobs, friends, family and communities.

Temple Israel was recognized for 3×3 Social Justice, which addresses three major issues: bias and criminal justice reform; hunger and homelessness; and gun violence prevention. 3×3 Social Justice responds to these issues using education, advocacy and action. The program is run by temple Vice President of Social Action Heidi Segal and Rabbi Jocee Hudson, along with the temple’s social justice task force, which is composed of congregation members.

The congregations will be honored at the Union for Reform Judaism’s Biennial in December.

— Caitlin Cohen, Contributing Writer

From left: The Orthodox Union honored Michael and Eva Neuman and Nadine Gerson-Zeller and Robert Zeller at their annual West Coast banquet. Photo by Lew Groner

The Orthodox Union (OU) West Coast held its annual banquet, “Under the Stars,” on June 21 at the Beverly Hills Marriott.

The event honored Eva and Michael Neuman and Nadine Gerson-Zeller and Robert Zeller with the OU Chesed Award.

The Union honored the Neumans, congregants of Beth Jacob Congregation, for their support of OU West Coast. The Neumans also support the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and West Coast Friends of Laniado Hospital in Netanya, Israel.

Additionally, the organization feted the Zellers, congregants of Beverly Hills Synagogue, also known as Young Israel of North Beverly Hills, for their support of OU West Coast.

The OU handles and organizes youth events, kashrut and Jewish advocacy for the greater Orthodox community.

OU West Coast President Scott Krieger spoke at the banquet about the programs and accomplishments of the OU over the past year. Rivki and Sam Mark were this year’s emcees.

Comedian Martin Silbermintz and a string quartet from USC entertained the guests, and an auction raised funds for the OU’s Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus.

— Clara Sandler, Contributing Writer

Moving & Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas.
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