February 19, 2020

Moving & Shaking: Haim and Cheryl Saban donate $5 million to FIDF; Jewish Community Day at Dodger Stadium

Haim and Cheryl Saban of Beverly Hills have donated $5 million to Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) to fund construction of a heritage center dedicated to the memory of fallen Israeli Druze soldiers.

“To me, the historic bond that Israel and the Jewish people have with the Israeli Druze community — and the mutual commitment we have to support and protect each other — is particularly inspiring. The Druze community deserves recognition for all its contributions to and sacrifices for Israel’s security,” Haim Saban said.

The 25,000-square-foot center, in the Arab town of Kisra-Sumei in northern Galilee, will have a 500-seat auditorium, a gymnasium, a heritage room, classrooms, offices and a dining hall, and it will display elements that tell the story of the Druze impact on the IDF and the State of Israel. It will be a facility for rest and recreation for active-duty and discharged soldiers, as well as a memorial for Druze soldiers who died in battle.

The Sabans attended a groundbreaking for the center on July 27, along with Israeli Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman; Sheikh Muwaffak Tarif, spiritual leader of the Israeli Druze community; and Shachiv Shanan, a former member of the Knesset and father of Advanced Staff Sgt. Maj. Kamil Shanan, one of two Israeli Druze soldiers who were shot and killed in a terrorist attack at the Temple Mount on July 14.

The Druze community in Israel has a population of about 130,000, most of whom serve in the IDF.

“This FIDF Druze Soldiers Heritage Center is a good and significant step toward making the Israeli public and Jewish community more aware of Druze contributions to defending the Jewish homeland, Israel,” said Haim Saban, chairman and CEO of Saban Capital Group, who was born in Alexandria, Egypt, and immigrated to Israel at the age of 12. “It is all of our responsibility to continue to highlight their important contributions to Israel’s safety and security, and do what we can to support them.”

— Ryan Torok, Staff Writer, and Clara Sandler, Contributing Writer

From left: Adam Koral, Richie Koral, Ryan Hayden and Anthony Lapenna were the champions of the 27th annual Jewish National Fund Golf Tournament on July 31 at the Riviera Country Club. Photo courtesy of Jewish National Fund


Nearly 130 players teed off in support of Israel during the 27th annual Jewish National Fund (JNF) Golf Tournament at Riviera Country Club on July 31.

The tournament began with practice at the driving range, followed by a barbecue lunch. Some participants played a round of golf, while others who were unable to play honed their skills with golf lessons.

The sold-out event included cocktails and an awards reception hosted by 2015 Miss America Kira Kazantsev, who played in the tournament and shot a 76. She also
was the longest-drive winner. Tournament champions were Ryan Hayden, Adam Koral, Richie Koral and Anthony Lapenna. Richie Koral also was the sponsor of the caddy bibs.

Over the past 25 years, the golf tournament has raised millions of dollars. Through its One Billion Dollar Roadmap for the Next Decade campaign, JNF is greening the desert with millions of trees, building thousands of parks across Israel, creating new communities and cities for generations of Israelis to call home, bolstering Israel’s water supply, helping develop innovative arid agriculture techniques, and educating people about the founding and importance of Israel and Zionism.

— Ayala Or-El, Contributing Writer

Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson (left) and Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg enjoy Jewish Community Day at Dodger Stadium on Aug. 13. Photo by Jon SooHoo


large contingent of Los Angeles Jews, many wearing special Hebrew-language Los Angeles Dodgers caps, cheered the Dodgers to a 6-4 victory over the San Diego Padres on Aug. 13 during the 18th annual Jewish Community Day at Dodger Stadium.

Before the Sunday afternoon matchup, Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson, whose mother is Jewish, joined Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg, who threw out the game’s ceremonial first pitch.

“Jewish Community Day is awesome,” said Pederson, who played for the Israeli national team in the qualifying rounds of the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

[For more photos from Jewish Community Day visit our Facebook page]

Additional pregame ceremonies featured Israeli-American singer and former “American Idol” contestant Elliott Yamin performing the national anthem and U.S. Army Ranger Capt. Dylan Alexander Mack receiving the Military Hero of the Game honor. Mack, who was the only Jewish cadet in his class at West Point, lives in Glassell Park and is an Iraq War veteran.

Members of Shomrei Torah Synagogue, Mishkon Tephilo and other synagogues and Jewish organizations turned out for the game, sporting the Hebrew Dodgers caps provided to attendees who purchased a special ticket package.

Glatt kosher hot dogs were available at two locations in the stadium, including on the Reserve level, where Beth Jacob Congregation Rabbi Kalman Topp stopped by shortly before the seventh-inning stretch to enjoy the dogs cooked by Jeff Rohatiner, owner of the Pico-Robertson-based Jeff’s Gourmet Sausage Factory.

“I grew up at Dodger Stadium,” Rohatiner said. “And now to make my own hot dogs and be able to serve them at the stadium to the community — to my Jewish community — is an amazing, wonderful thing.”

David Hanelin, 19, a YULA Boys High School graduate, was behind the counter, helping Rohatiner. Hanelin, whose family belongs to Young Israel of Century City, said he was happy that Jewish community members turned out to enjoy the ballgame.

“I think it’s good for the Jews to come out together and show their Jewish pride,” Hanelin said.

In a nod to the many Jewish community members in the crowd, including Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies Dean Rabbi Bradley Artson, the stadium organist, Dieter Ruehle, played “Havah Nagilah” and “If I Were a Rich Man.”

To read more about Jewish Community Day at Dodger Stadium, visit JooTube.TV. 

Rachel Grose. Photo courtesy of Rachel Grose

The Los Angeles Jewish Free Loan Association (JFLA) named Rachel Grose as its new executive director on May 24. Grose, the organization’s longtime associate director, succeeds James A. Kohn, a past JFLA president and current board member who had been serving as interim executive director.

“My goal is to build on [our] distinguished tradition, collaborating with donors, board members, staff and other agencies, to increase our impact and strengthen our entire community,” Grose said.

Grose first joined JFLA in 2002 and began serving as associate director in 2013. She said she wants to uphold the values of JFLA and make a difference in the lives of families.

JFLA President Harold Tomin said Grose is poised for success in her new position.

“First, she is extremely bright and knowledgeable about not only the JFLA but Jewish philanthropy in general,” Tomin said. “She understands the absolute value of hard work and how it leads to success. She is growing into the position in an amazingly swift way.”

JFLA, founded in 1904, provides small, interest-free loans to individuals from all backgrounds and socioeconomic levels. JFLA has an active portfolio of $12 million, and last year it made nearly 1,000 loans. The organization extends services to about 3,000 families and has provided loans for a variety of circumstances, including household emergencies, small businesses and college educations.

— Avi Vogel, Contributing Writer

“Yitzhak Rabin: Chronicle of an Assassination,” which spotlights the former Israeli prime minister’s murder and the days preceding it, debuted at the Ford Theatre on July 23. Photo by Timothy Norris, courtesy of Ford Theatres


Israeli director Amos Gitai, whose feature films include “Kippur,” “Kadosh” and the recent “Rabin, the Last Day,” which chronicles Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s murder and the days preceding it, arrived in Los Angeles for the local debut of “Yitzhak Rabin: Chronicle of an Assassination,” which was performed at the Ford Theatre on July 23.

The show, a theatrical version of “Rabin, the Last Day,” premiered at the 2016 Festival d’Avignon in France and also was performed at the Lincoln Center Festival in New York. The production features two actresses and three musicians, with a projection screen showing scenes from the final days of Rabin’s life, including images of the murder scene where three gunshots by Yigal Amir ended Rabin’s life shortly after a peace rally in support of the Oslo Accord. The assassination took place on Nov. 4, 1995, at the Kings of Israel Square in Tel Aviv, now known as Rabin Square.

Reading from the memoirs of Rabin’s widow, Leah Rabin, actresses Einat Weitzman and Sarah Adler explored the political violence and tension in Israeli society in the days and weeks prior to the event and the last moments of Rabin’s life as seen through his wife’s eyes.

Gitai, who sat in the last row during the L.A. premiere, created the project 20 years after the assassination that sent shockwaves around the world.

Musical performers in the 90-minute production included pianist Edna Stern, soprano Keren Motseri and violinist Alexey Kochetkov.

— Ayala Or-El, Contributing Writer

Middle and high school students present pitches on education technologies during the Israeli American Council Eitanim Summer Hackathon. Photo by Linda Kasian Photography


More than 250 people came to American Jewish University on Aug. 3 for the conclusion of the Israeli American Council (IAC) Eitanim Summer Hackathon, which kicked off on July 30.

During the second annual event, seven finalist groups presented to a panel of judges pitches on education technologies they had developed over the course of several days. The judges included Ilana Golan, CEO of Golan Ventures; Kfir Gavrieli, CEO of Tieks by Gavrieli; and Metuka Benjamin, president of Milken Community Schools.

Also in attendance were Israeli professionals from across the United States who mentored the students on their pitches. Among the mentors were Kobi Laredo, cloud technical account manager at Amazon Web Services; Justin Wolff, co-founder of Yoobi; Yair Vardi, managing partner at Splash Ventures; and numerous other industry professionals from across the country.

Addressing the crowd of students and guests, Orit Mizner, national director of programs for IAC, said the hackathon drew some of the most impressive young minds in the country.

“This week has been full of innovation and teamwork,” she said as the student section erupted with applause. “This is the group of leaders that will innovate and guide others nationwide.”

— Avi Vogel, Contributing Writer

Moving & Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com.