September 23, 2019

Moving & Shaking: Sukkot Brunch to Address Homelessness, Jewish Teen LGBT forum, John Lithgow emcees Friends of Sheba gala

California State Sen. Robert (Bob) Hertzberg’s Oct. 8 Sukkot brunch and legislative update drew about 30 Jewish social justice leaders.

Guests gathered inside a sukkah at his Van Nuys home as Hertzberg, a member of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, discussed a package of housing bills written to address the state’s homeless crisis and his commitment to reforming the cash bail system, which he said undermines the American idea of the presumption of innocence.

Valley Beth Shalom Rabbi Noah Farkas also attended and was a guest speaker. He drew connections between the fragility symbolized by the sukkah and the situation facing the homeless. He also discussed the symbolism behind the lulav and the etrog, two of the four species used during the holiday of Sukkot, which was Oct. 4-11.

Barri Worth Girvan, Hertzberg’s district director, welcomed guests and asked everyone to introduce themselves as one big family.

Artwork from San Fernando Valley synagogues Temple Beth Hillel and Adat Ari El, which are located in Hertzberg’s legislative district, decorated the sukkah.

From left: Teenagers Yoni Kollin, Sunshine Schneider, Maccabee Raileanu and Anthony Palomera participated in a JQ International Forum, “Today’s Teens: Voices of Queer and Ally Youth.” Photo by Anna Michele Falzetta.


The Teen JQSA (Jewish Queer Straight Alliance), the first communitywide youth group in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning (LGBTQ) and ally Jewish teens ages 13-18, held an Oct. 8 panel titled “Today’s Teens: Voices of Queer and Ally Youth” at the West Hollywood City Council chambers.

JQ International, Builders of Jewish Education and the city of West Hollywood organized the event. Teen JQSA is a JQ International program.

Panelists Maccabee Raileanu, Yoni Kollin, Sunshine Schneider, Anthony Palomera and Emma Aronoff-Aspaturian discussed challenges facing LGBTQ youth.

“I just want my administrators and directors and adults in my corner of the Jewish community to realize what they’re really asking when they ask for queer teens to be their own advocates,” said Raileanu, a longtime JQSA participant and El Camino Real Charter High School senior. “I want them to step into the shoes of the people they’re talking to, because then I think a lot of changes will happen. They will realize how scary and how weird and uncomfortable that experience can be, and they’ll step up as the adults in the situation and realize what they’re working with.”  

Social media personality Stephanie Frosch, known on YouTube and Instagram as ElloSteph, moderated.

The gathering drew about 50 attendees, including JQ staff members Asher Gellis, Arya Marvazy, Anna Goodman and David Kazdan, and Temple Judea Rabbi Samuel Spector.

Organizations that partnered with JQ to make the event possible included Congregation Kol Ami, Hebrew Helpers, the Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue, Kol Tikvah, IKAR, Adat Ari El and Camp Lightbulb, an overnight summer camp for LGBTQ young people.

JQ has been engaging in teen health and wellness work thanks in part to a grant from The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and its L.A. Jewish Teen Initiative.

Alyse Golden Berkley, the new board president of the Jewish National Fund Greater Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of Jewish National Fund.


The Jewish National Fund (JNF) Greater Los Angeles has named Alyse Golden Berkley as its board president.

Berkley succeeds Matt Fragner, who has served as JNF regional president for the past two years.

A JNF Oct. 16 press release announcing Berkley’s appointment said she is a “proud Zionist and active within the Jewish community.”

In a 2016 video, Berkley said her life changed after participating in a five-day JNF mission to Eilat.

“I actually could see the difference that I could make in my lifetime for Israel,” she said. “I could make a difference and I could improve the life of Israelis. Now, I devote pretty much close to full time volunteering for the Jewish National Fund, which is my pleasure, my honor.”

In a statement, JNF Greater Los Angeles Executive Director Lou Rosenberg welcomed the new regional president.

“We are very excited to have Alyse assume the leadership of Greater Los Angeles,” he said.

According to its website, JNF is the “single largest provider of Zionist programs in the U.S. Its work is divided into seven program areas: Forestry and green innovations, water solutions, community building, Zionist education and advocacy, research and development, heritage sites, and disabilities and special needs.”

Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills Rabbi Emerita Laura Geller was named a Next Avenue Top 50 Influencer in Aging for 2017.


Next Avenue, a journalism website focused on America’s booming older population, has named Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills Rabbi Emerita Laura Geller as one of its Top 50 Influencers in Aging for 2017.

Next Avenue recognized Geller for her efforts in creating Next Stage: Boomers & Beyond, an initiative designed to address the needs of community members who are 50 and older, and her more recent venture founding ChaiVillageLA, a partnership between Temple Emanuel and Temple Isaiah that enables people to age in place as they grow older.

Working in partnership with public television organizations, including PBS, Next Avenue divides its coverage into five areas: health and well-being; caregiving; money and security; work and purpose; and living and learning.

Geller, the third woman to become a rabbi in the Reform movement upon her ordination in 1976, was the only Jewish clergy member named to this year’s list. She made baby boomers a focus of her pulpit before her retirement in 2016, even speaking about it from the bimah during the High Holy Days.

Geller served at Temple Emanuel for 22 years. She currently is working with her husband, Richard Siegel, on a book titled “Getting Good at Getting Older: A Jewish Catalog for a New Age.”

Based on a statement she provided to Next Avenue regarding one thing she would change about aging in America, Geller said, “I would encourage the creation of religious and secular rituals to mark transitions in the journey of growing older, whether closing a family home, becoming a grandparent, reaffirming marital vows, sharing ethical wills or beginning new adventures. Marking transformations provide spiritual and practical guides for growth, connection and wise aging.”

Entertainment executive David Geffen has pledged $150 million to the building LACMA campaign. Photo by Bruce Weber


The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has received a $150 million pledge from Jewish philanthropist and entertainment executive David Geffen toward the museum’s new galleries, raising the fundraising total for the Building LACMA campaign to $450 million. The campaign goal is $650 million.

In a press release, LACMA described the donation as “the largest single cash gift from an individual in the museum’s history. … [T]he new Peter Zumthor-designed building will be called the David Geffen Galleries in honor of his extraordinary gift.”

The David Geffen Galleries will replace four of the museum’s current seven buildings.

“At a time when federal funding for the arts is threatened, it’s important that we foster public-private partnerships, like this one, to support arts and cultural institutions,” Geffen said in a statement. “We must ensure that the public, everyone, has access to these venerable institutions. I am proud to partner with the County and other members of the community in helping LACMA move this remarkable project from vision to reality. Together, we can and must make sure every person has access to the arts.”

LACMA CEO and Director Michael Govan said Geffen’s gift is an unprecedented gesture of dedication to the exhibition of the arts in Los Angeles.

“David’s commitment demonstrates his belief in the power of art museums to reach a broad and diverse public and create significant civic benefit,” Govan said.

LACMA board of trustees co-chairs Elaine Wynn, a Jewish businesswoman who co-founded Mirage Resorts and Wynn Resorts, and Jewish-American businessman Tony Ressler also expressed gratitude for Geffen’s contribution.

Geffen, 74, is a movie and music mogul who founded Asylum and Geffen records and co-founded DreamWorks SKG with Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg. The son of parents who met in what was then Palestine, his estimated net worth is $7.8 billion.

From left: Friends of Sheba Medical Center Executive Director Nina Lieberman, honoree Shannon Massachi and gala emcee John Lithgow. Photo courtesy of Friends of Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer.


Actor John Lithgow hosted the Friends of Sheba Medical Center’s 47th anniversary gala, “Embracing Our Future,” on Oct. 15 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

Philanthropists Robert and Beverly Cohen co-chaired the event, which drew 725 guests and raised more than $2.5 million for the medical center in Tel Hashomer, Israel. The funds will be used to support Sheba Medical Center’s new neonatology center. Sheba’s Department of Neonatology and Neonatal Intensive Care is one of the largest in Israel and births approximately 170,000 babies annually, including those born prematurely or requiring intensive care treatment.

Keynote speaker Dr. Tzipi Strauss, chief of neonatology at Sheba Medical Center, discussed Sheba’s work in advancing neonatal care.

Meanwhile, Lithgow presented Shannon Massachi, an e-commerce entrepreneur who has helped promote and advance Sheba’s medical research and pediatric neuro-oncology work, with the Laurel of Leadership award. After dinner, the Ruth Flinkman-Marandy and Ben Marandy family received the Professor Mordechai Shani Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of their support for education, art, research, health, Israel and Sheba Medical Center.

Attendees included Marilyn Ziering, who announced a $1 million donation; Max Webb; Soraya and Younes Nazarian; Stanley Black; Jean and Jerry Friedman; and Dina Leeds.

Lithgow’s appearance included the reading of an original fairy tale about the life-saving work of the medical center, written by Hollywood writer and producer Jeff Astrof. The fairy tale featured a tiger and a goat — natural enemies — meeting and becoming friends through their life-saving treatment at Sheba Medical Center.

— Esther Kustanowitz, Contributing Writer