September 23, 2019

Moving & Shaking: Friends of ELNET, StandWithUs and More

Friends of ELNET: European Leadership Network (FELNET), which supports the work of ELNET, an Israel advocacy organization devoted to improving the perception of Israel in Europe, raised more  than $800,000 at its Dec. 7 gala at the Beverly Hilton hotel.

The event featured a discussion between former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and David Siegel, chief executive officer of ELNET-Israel, with Jewish Journal Editor-in-Chief David Suissa moderating. Before the discussion, Valls delivered remarks about, among other things, anti-Semitism in France.

The approximately 200 attendees included Larry Hochberg, co-founder and chairman of FELNET; Ken Ruby, the organization’s vice chairman; Jonathan Boyer, West Coast director of FELNET; and philanthropists Stanley Black, Naty Saidoff and Annette Shapiro.

The event had been planned to take place at the Skirball Cultural Center but was moved to the Hilton because of last week’s Skirball Fire.

From left, top row: Adam Peri, Gal Hayon, Itay Shimoni, Ronen Gordon, Hush Paz and Kfir Melamed and (from left, bottom row), Noa Goren Zahavi, Gilat Rapaport and Liron Sela participated in the Base Band concert at American Jewish University. Photo by Linda Kasian

Base Band, a local musical group of Israeli musicians and singers, performed Israeli army band songs before a sold-out crowd at American Jewish University’s Gindi Auditorium. The Nov. 29 concert commemorated the Nov. 29, 1947, adoption of the U.N. Partition Plan for Palestine.

“This show is meant not only for the Israeli community but for the Jewish-American communities who are familiar with the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] but are unfamiliar with the Israeli bands,” said Israeli musician Itay Shimoni, who formed the group with local Israeli singer Gilat Rapaport. “We want to bring them and their children closer to Israel through the songs of our country and give them a glimpse of the Israeli army culture life.”

Israeli army bands were popular in the 1960s and 1970s. Band members performed in military bases all over Israel in order to lift the morale of personnel. Sometimes they performed during lulls in the battle, when troops would regroup at the base. Their songs became part of the Israeli culture and some of Israel’s leading singers made their debut as singers in those groups.

Base Band was formed after Shimoni, who arrived in Los Angeles a couple of years ago, contacted Rapaport with the idea. The latter, who performed in such a band in the 1990s, immediately decided to join Shimoni in the project. The two managed to find young Israeli singers, including Gal Hayon, Liron Sela and Noa Goren Zahavi, each of whom immigrated in recent months to the United States.

Ayala Or-El, Contributing Writer

AJC honoree Marlene Grossman and her husband, Marshall (left), with
Dan Schnur, the director of the Los Angeles region of the American Jewish Committee. Photo by Howard Pasamanick Photography

American Jewish Committee (AJC) Los Angeles honored Marlene Grossman, an environmental advocate, urban planning expert and community organizer, with the Ira E. Yellin Community Leadership Award on Dec. 3 at the Jonathan Club in downtown Los Angeles. Her children, Leslie Bronson and Rodger Grossman, presented her with the award.

The Yellin Award, named in memory of former AJC regional president Ira E. Yellin, recognizes the accomplishments of outstanding civic, business and community leaders who have improved the quality of life in Los Angeles.

The keynote speaker was Erwin Chemerinsky, a nationally recognized constitutional lawyer and dean of the UC Berkeley Law School. He discussed protecting free speech on college campuses, combating hate crimes and how young attorneys can make a positive difference.

Yellin’s daughter, Jessica Yellin, a former chief White House correspondent for CNN, served as master of ceremonies.

AJC regional board members Marshall Grossman, the honoree’s husband, Marian Mann, Reeve Chudd, Phyllis and Bert Massing, Cathy and Len Unger and Adele Yellin, Ira’s widow, served as dinner chairs. Also in attendance were Dan Schnur, regional director of AJC; Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer; and City Councilwoman Nury Martinez.

About 40 people attended the inaugural Arq West Coast event in Venice. Photo by Danya Shults

The inaugural Arq West COAST event was held on Nov. 7at the Late Sunday Afternoon store in Venice. About 40 people attended the event organized by the lifestyle brand. Arq is designed to connect Jews and non-Jews to Jewish life and culture in a way that feels relevant and modern.

Founder Danya Shults, a public relations and marketing consultant, considers herself “Jew-ish,” noting on the Arq website that she read “ ‘Macbeth’ in Hebrew at Jewish day school, made out with a Jewfroed counselor in the red gazebo at a Jewish summer camp, and sang Shabbat songs around the piano every week with her Zionist mother, yarmulke-wearing father and siblings.”

The roots for Arq came about when Shults created “Pop-Up Shabbat,” potluck dinners for people in New York. Last year, Shults expanded the concept to include personal meet-ups that included community gatherings, retreats, couples’ salons, along with a website and a weekly newsletter called the “Ish.”

Shults and her husband moved to Los Angeles several months ago and launched Arq locally. Shults told the Journal that Arq is “less about specific age or background. We aim to be inclusive for people seeking something that is accessible.”

In that spirit, the event began with participants discussing with a partner questions such as: When have you fallen and gotten up again? Who helped you? What’s a cause that riles you up or that you have been an advocate for? What’s something that you need help with right now?

Chaplain Dina Kuperstock then spoke about the story of Noah’s ark and God’s promise to never destroy the world again, and she asked everyone to take part in a meditation session focusing on the notion that everyone has the power to find light and a spark in the darkest of times.

Shults said Arq’s events are a way for people not only to connect but to also come together during difficult times. “The political situation has been really tough,” she said. “There’s been violence and natural disasters. I don’t want to be a downer, but these things are in everyone’s Facebook feeds.”

To that end, she said, Arq’s mission to help people connect “is one of the key antidotes to the stress and anxiety and panic and fear that comes from all of this.”

Kelly Hartog, Contributing Writer 

From left: StandWithUs Festival of Lights honorees Alon and Rosana Miller and Dina and Fred and Leeds; keynote speaker Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations; Roz and Jerry Rothstein, CEO and COO of StandWithUs; and Michael Dickson, executive director StandWithUs-Israel, at the Beverly Hilton. Photo by Jonah Light Photography

The StandWithUs (SWU) Festival of Lights gala dinner, which was held on Dec. 10 at the Beverly Hilton, raised more than $3 million for the pro-Israel education organization.

The evening program honored Dina and Fred Leeds and Rosana and Alon Miller.

It also recognized Kfir Itzhaki, 28, with the Guardian of Israel Award, and Yahya Mahamid, 20, with the Star of David Award.

In November 2015, Itzhaki stopped a stabbing rampage by a 19-year-old terrorist from Hebron, who attacked an 80-year-old woman and a 35-year-old man. Ithaki chased the attacker and held him down until police arrived. A specialist in the Krav Maga fighting system, Ithaki told the 1,000 people at the gala that he knew he was risking his life but didn’t hesitate.

“I was raised by the Torah value that says, ‘Thou shall not stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor.’ I don’t think it’s only your right but your duty to stop a terrorist from hurting other people.”

Mahamid, meanwhile, is an Israeli-Arab Zionist and SWU educator who has been touring the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, speaking at campuses, synagogues and high schools. Born in Umm El-Fahm, Mahamid said he was indoctrinated from childhood to hate Israel and Jews, but that things changed after he got a job as a busboy in a Tel Aviv hotel and found that Israelis were nice to him.

When three Jewish boys were kidnapped and later murdered in the West Bank, Mahamid posted their photos on Facebook. He said his friends and community didn’t take it well. “I started receiving death threats, but it didn’t stop me,” he said during his speech. “We must stand against hate and always show our love and support to the State of Israel.”

Mahamid plans to join the Israel Defense Forces upon his return to Israel, although Israeli Arabs are not required to join the army.

Roz Rothstein, chief executive officer and co-founder of SWU, discussed the work the organization has done for the past 16 years.

“SWU was created to fight against anti-Semitism and educate people around the world of all ages and faiths about Israel,” she said. “Based on what we are seeing today, it was timely and visionary that we began the organization, that we did not wait for someone else to do the work we do.”

Former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Dore Gold, the keynote speaker, praised President Donald Trump’s recent recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s a national holiday for the Jewish people,” he said.

Comedian Elon Gold was the master of ceremonies.

Debbie and Naty Saidoff and Ellie and Bruce Lederman underwrote the event.

Ayala Or-El, Contributing Writer