November 19, 2019

MOVERS & SHAKERS: Israel’s 70th Birthday, Rabbinic Chair at Wise

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA – JUNE 10: (L-R) Guri Weinberg, Sherri Shepherd, Eric Dickerson, Consul General of Israel, Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg, Yael Grobglas, Billy Crystal, Kelsey Grammer, David Blu, Noa Tishby, Mayim Bialik, Elon Gold, Mike Burstyn, Liel Kolet and Gilat Rapaport attend the 70th Anniversary of Israel celebration in Los Angeles on Sunday, June 10, 2018. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Israeli Consulate, Los Angeles)

Angelenos invited in past years to the annual Independence Day reception by the Israel Consulate have known pretty well what to expect: greetings from local political and civic dignitaries, a couple of acts by visiting Israeli musicians, heavy schmoozing with friends — and lots of hummus.

This year, on June 10, the event took a radical turn with the presentation of a slam-bang “Hollywood Salutes Israel” show in seven acts — one act for every decade since the birth of the State of Israel.

The impresario was Sam Grundwerg, consul general of Israel in Los Angeles.

The show was held not at a synagogue or community venue but at Soundstage 4 on the Universal Studios lot. The audience was warmed up by video greetings from actors Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Barbra Streisand, Gal Gadot and Bill Maher, with lots of hearty “mazal tovs” to Israel.

Each decade of Israel’s development had its own theme and big-name narrator, from “The Rebirth of a Nation” (1940s) through “A Water Superpower” (1960s) and “An Innovation Nation” (1990s) to “A Hub for Culture (2010s).

Other performers who participated included actress Mayim Bialik, comedian Elon Gold, football great Eric Dickerson and actor Billy Crystal.

— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Avi Lerner, 2018 IFF Achievement in Film Award Winner Producer Ram Bergman, Mark Hamill and Executive Director/Founder of IFF Meir Fenigstein

Ram Bergman, producer of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” received the Israel Film Festival (IFF) Achievement in Film Award on May 31 at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills. Actor Mark Hamill, known for his role as Luke Skywalker in the “Star Wars” films, presented the award at the 32nd annual IFF sponsor luncheon.

Additional honorees were Larry Tanz, vice president of global television at Netflix, who received the IFF Achievement in Television Award; and Stanley Black, founder and partner of Black Equities Group, who received the 2018 IFF Humanitarian Award. 

Bergman, a native of Israel, moved to the United States in 1991. He has since built an impressive career in Hollywood as a producer or executive producer of 33 films.

Also attending the event were Meir Fenigstein, founder and executive director of the IFF; Adam Berkowitz, IFF chairman and co-head of the television department at Creative Artists Agency; and Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg.

The 32nd annual festival, which will take place Nov. 6–20 in Los Angeles, introduces American audiences to cinema and television from Israel. The festival is the self-described “largest showcase of Israeli films in the U.S.”

The 21st annual JVS Strictly Business L.A. Awards Luncheon was held May 24 at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills. 

The gathering brought together hundreds of business leaders and raised more than $541,000 for JVS SoCal, formerly known as Jewish Vocational Service.

“The JVS Strictly Business luncheon is a networking and outreach event for the business community that also honors employers and JVS clients,” the JVS website says.

Keynote speaker Art Bilger, founder and CEO of WorkingNation, discussed the future of workforce development.

“This time it’s about the heart of America,” Bilger said of the importance of retraining workers for new positions. “JVS is doing exactly the types of things we’re trying to identify and tell in stories.”

Steve Solk of OneWest Bank accepted the Corporate Partnership Award for his company’s support of the JVS BankWorks program. 

“By providing job training, mentoring and education, and employment opportunities, JVS sets individuals on a path for economic independence and a better life,” said Solk, president of consumer banking for OneWest Bank.

Elliot Weissbluth, founder and CEO of HighTower Advisors, presented the JVS Founder’s Award to Jim Hausberg, a member of the JVS SoCal board of directors. 

“Jimmy embodies that spirit of generosity and service to others that our clients appreciate so much,” Weissbluth said. “I’m grateful to know him.”

JVS clients Janet Romero, Edgar Rodriguez, Sonie Knott and Erika Crenshaw appeared onstage to share their personal stories of resilience and to thank their supporters.

Nearly 200 people gathered at Tarbut V’Torah (TVT) Community Day School in Irvine for the inaugural middle school Moot Beit Din competition on May 18.

During a Moot Beit Din competition, students use halachah — Jewish law — as the basis for legal decisions.

Five Southern California day schools participated: Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School, Milken Community Schools, Pressman Academy of Temple Beth Am, TVT Community Day School and San Diego Jewish Academy. Kinneret Day School in New York joined in via video conference.

Participating students prepared for months to debate a fictional case involving Snapchat and lashon harah (gossip). Moot Beit Din participants debated whether Snapchat falls under a medieval edict, which banned opening someone else’s mail. They also discussed whether those involved were guilty of lashon harah and what the proper course of action for the school would have been.

Rabbis, attorneys, professors and community members of different denominations came from Orange
County and the Los Angeles area to serve as judges.

TVT took first place.

“I joined Moot Beit Din because I thought it would be interesting to gain a deeper understanding about Jewish texts and how they work together,” said Ophir Berrin, a seventh-grader at Pressman Academy. “It was a great experience for me. Even though we didn’t win, it was so fun to present our argument and to be able to hold myself under pressure.”

Rabbi David Woznica has been named the
inaugural holder of the Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin Rabbinic Chair at Stephen Wise Temple.

The Stephen Wise Temple board of directors established the position to honor and continue the legacy of Zeldin, the Wise community’s founding rabbi, who died in January at the age of 97.

Senior Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback’s selection of Woznica to become the first holder of the chair was approved unanimously by the temple’s executive committee and board.

“The primary purpose of this chair is to honor the memory and legacy of our founding Rabbi, Isaiah Zeldin,” Zweiback said in a statement. “It is a great pleasure to appoint my colleague Rabbi Woznica as the chair’s first occupant. Rabbi Woznica is a wonderful teacher, pastor and friend, and we are grateful to him for his service to our community.”

The temple is providing funds to support Woznica’s work with the Center for Jewish Life at Stephen Wise Temple and the Wise Melton School for Adult Education.

Woznica joined the Stephen Wise Temple clergy team 14 years ago and has served as a worship leader, speaker, teacher and pastor.

He assumed the chair during a June 8 Friday night service, at which the synagogue community also honored outgoing President Steven Fishman and installed incoming President Janine Kolodny.