November 22, 2019

Moving & Shaking: March for Our Lives, Big Brothers Seder

A March for Our Lives “sibling” rally in studio City drew about 200 participants to Ventura Boulevard and Coldwater Canyon Avenue on March 24, including members of the Jewish community.  It was held in support of the main March for Our Lives rally that took place the same day in Washington, D.C.

One of the participants, Marilyn Fishbein of Woodland Hills, a congregant of Temple Judea in Tarzana, carried a sign that said, “Enough.”

“This is a movement that is not just for today,” Fishbein said, referring to the marches and demonstrations organized nationwide in the wake of the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., that resulted in the deaths of 17 students and faculty members. “It is for always.”

“We need the members of Congress to do their jobs, to wake up and realize this has to happen,” Fishbein said. “We don’t want any more incidents. We want action, and we want it now.”

She said she would like to see the Jewish community respond more strongly to the high levels of gun violence in the United States.

“I’d like to hear more, much more. I’d like to see temples really involved. Our temple got together to do the march today — they actually got organized — but I think one day is not enough. We have to be consistent, and we have to keep going,” she said.

Additional attendees of the 9 a.m. rally, which lasted an hour, included retired business owner and Temple Judea congregant Larry Weintraub. Weintraub, who ran Randy’s Donuts for several decades with his brother, said he supported the right to own guns, but he called on legislators to ban assault weapons.

“I’m appalled by what is going on,” Weintraub said. “They should be able to do away with assault rifles. I’m not for taking people’s guns away, but I think we need to do something about that.”

The Studio City rally was one of several March for Our Lives demonstrations in Los Angeles on March 24, the largest of which took place in downtown L.A. Those who attended the downtown rally included Rabbi Naomi Levy, who along with members of her Nashuva congregation, participated in a prayer service at the start of the rally, and Rabbi Joel Simonds, executive director of the Jewish Center for Justice.

From left: Yaara Segal, director of public diplomacy at the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles; firefighter Elan Raber; Michelle Moreh, director for academic affairs at the consulate; Karin Pery, consul for public diplomacy; and firefighter Bert Salazar come together at the Los Angeles Fire Department’s Encino Station. Photo courtesy of the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles.

The public diplomacy team at the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles toured the Los Angeles Fire Department’s Encino Station 83 on March 20.

The consulate general team — including Yaara Segal, director of public diplomacy; Michelle Moreh, director for academic affairs; and Karin Pery, consul for public diplomacy — met with the station’s firefighters, including Elan Raber, a member of the Emergency Volunteer Project, an organization that provides emergency backup to Israel in the case of war or a major fire.

Additional firefighters who met with the Israeli representatives on the tour included Bert Salazar.

Brad, a Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles (JBBBSLA) mentor, and Lidor, a mentee, celebrate a Passover seder with other members of the JBBBSLA community. Photo courtesy of Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles.

Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles (JBBBSLA) held its annual Passover seder on March 25 at Temple Judea in Tarzana, drawing a record turnout of 220 guests, including families, mentees and mentors, many of whom may not have otherwise experienced a seder this year.

Attendees participated in a variety of Passover-themed activities, including decorating seder plates and making matzo covers.

There were five winners in the afikomen competition. “This is the only seder I get to go to,” said 9-year-old Rebecca. (JBBBSLA is not allowed to give out last names of minors in its program.) It was fun learning about the Exodus story, and even more fun that I got to share my own story!”

Temple Judea’s rabbinic intern, Lillian Kowalski, from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, led the seder.

The organization’s CEO, Randy Schwab, said he was especially pleased with the event.

“Each year, we invite our community to be a part of this fun and engaging Passover seder. The attendance this year was impressive, and it was encouraging to see so many of our matches bond over a shared Jewish experience,” Schwab said. “This is the only event of the year where we are also able to include the families of the mentees. It truly was an unforgettable seder and we were lucky to host it at our new Valley home, Temple Judea.”

Founded in 1915, JBBBSLA provides children with mentoring, camp and scholarship programs. It also operates Camp Bob Waldorf on the Max Straus Campus, a 112-acre residential camp and retreat center in Glendale’s Verdugo Hills.

From left: Jason Perel, Matthew Blumkin, Michael Helscher, Ron Altman, Mark Hamermesh, Tom Keefer, Aric Browne, Jordan Esensten and event chair Michael Persky enjoy the Los Angeles Jewish Home Longest Day of Golf. Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Jewish Home.

The Los Angeles Jewish Home held its Longest Day of Golf on March 19 at Woodland Hills Country Club.

Nine golfers — Jason Perel, Matthew Blumkin, Michael Helscher, Ron Altman, Mark Hamermesh, Tom Keefer, Aric Browne, Jordan Esensten and event chairman Michael Persky — asked friends and family to sponsor them to play golf all day.

The event raised nearly $100,000 for the Los Angeles Jewish Home, one of the leading senior health care systems in America, serving 6,000 seniors every year.

From left: Susan Azzizadeh, president of the Iranian American Jewish Federation, state Assembly member Richard Bloom and state Assembly member Adrin Nazarian attend a Persian New Year celebration at the state Capitol in Sacramento. Photo by Karmel Melamed.

More than 50 Iranian Americans of various faiths from across California gathered to celebrate the Persian New Year of Nowruz at an official event held at the state Capitol in Sacramento on March 19.

During the event, state Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian (D-Sherman Oaks) presented a resolution for statewide recognition of Nowruz for the fifth consecutive year in the legislature.

Nowruz is the ancient Persian secular holiday marking the beginning of spring and calling for friendship, peace and tolerance among all people.

At the event, Susan Azizzadeh, president of the West Hollywood-based Iranian American Jewish Federation, presented Nazarian with her organization’s plaque for his efforts in fostering good relations among and with Iranian Americans in California.

“We wanted to show our appreciation to Mr. Nazarian for promoting the great aspects of Iranian culture in the mainstream and presenting our community as one that embraces one another regardless of our religions,” Azizzadeh said.

Also in attendance was acclaimed Iranian-Jewish artist Kamran Khavarani of Los Angeles, who received a state proclamation for his artistic accomplishments.

Nazarian, who is not Jewish but is of Armenian background, said he wanted to shed light on the significant contributions Iranian Americans have made to California.

“By celebrating Nowruz in the Assembly, we honor the Persian community because they have been an incredible asset to the state for more than 30 years, and account for a lot of our continued success,” Nazarian said. “I’m also honored, as an Iranian-American immigrant, to be able to recognize Nowruz on a state level.”

Other official local Nowruz celebrations included a March 23 event at the Los Angeles City Council Chambers with Mayor Eric Garcetti and a March 25 Persian cultural gathering in Westwood Village attended by various local elected officials.

Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer