September 18, 2019

Letters to the editor: Mensches, Rabbi Toba August, OAN and more

Leading Lady of Lev Eisha

The article “Female Rabbis at Forefront of Pioneering Prayer Communities” (Dec. 19) gave well-deserved recognition to women rabbis who have defined and inspired several previously unserved groups of Jews in the L.A. area and beyond. However, it overlooked one of the first such “pioneers,” who is still growing and innovating after more than 14 years. That woman is Rabbi Toba August, the spiritual leader of Lev Eisha.

Formed in 2000, Lev Eisha is “a joyous community of Jewish women engaged in prayer, study and spiritual growth.” It is post-denominational, not affiliated with any specific denomination or institution. Under Rabbi August’s guidance, the monthly services in West L.A. attract over 100 women (and men) from as far away as Pasadena, Agoura Hills, Orange County and San Diego. Our congregants identify as secular, atheistic, agnostic, Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Reform and Renewal. Our backgrounds vary from traditional practices to no practice at all.

Rabbi August, like Rabbi Naomi Levy, was a member of the first class of women to be ordained in the Conservative movement. These two pioneers study together on a weekly basis. Rabbi August draws on wisdom from many sources to instruct and inspire the congregants who regularly attend Lev Eisha services. Under Rabbi August’s direction, prayers are led by our well-known and well-respected Cantorial Soloist Cindy Paley on guitar, two to three additional vocalists and two additional musicians.

Rabbi August constantly searches for ways to make Lev Eisha soulful, fresh and meaningful to everyone … and all leave inspired. With her deep and broad knowledge of Judaism, coupled with her sense of humor and personal caring, Rabbi August has made Lev Eisha a long-term success.

Lev Eisha Board of Directors

OAN and Only

Marty Kaplan’s column about One America News (OAN) is very timely (“My New Favorite News Network Is Not Liberal (and Not Fox),” Jan. 9). I have seen OAN and was wondering what their agenda was. I am glad to learn from his column that nonpartisan news, like CNN when it was first launched, is available round-the-clock on TV again. Thanks for the heads up!

Jeff Gurman via email

Honorable Mensches

Thank you for the annual Mensch List, a group that I was honored to join in 2009 and happy to see growing and inspiring others (“The Mensch List,” Jan, 2). There are two honorees mentioned this year I know personally:

Joe Samuels greets everyone with a smile and positive outlook on life that is simply contagious. He used to lead the congregation at Kahal Joseph with his popular refrain, “This is the day the Lord has created — let us rejoice and be happy with it!” When my daughter would see him in synagogue on Shabbat, he would present her with a mini-rose that he grew in his Santa Monica home, and he brought enough for all the girls, old and young!

Nira Sayegh has been on the executive board of the Sephardic Educational Center for five years and is always a picture of grace, calm and patience, and never says no to any project, that will help make our community a better place. These are qualities that make someone a “Ben-Adam” — the way they treat others and reflect the image of God that is part of their nature, and this is what I applaud the most.

Neil J. Sheff, President, Sephardic Educational Center

Kudos to the Journal for recognizing the extraordinary volunteers of our community. While they all are amazing, I was so happy to see Harriet Rechtman acknowledged and so very proud for her. I have known this quiet, selfless person all my life.  Growing up, our mothers were close friends. She is an inspiration and represents the true meaning of the word “mensch.”

Frayne Rosenfield, Encino


A photo caption accompanying the article “How Jews Helped Build L.A’s Music Center” (Jan. 9). incorrectly identified the man at the far left of the image. It is Los Angeles County Supervisor Ernest Debs.

A photo of Bob Klausner that accompanied a story about NCJW/LA (“Rags or Riches? Longtime Retail Clothier Thriftily Blends the Two,” Jan 9) was incorrectly credited. The credit should have read courtesy of NCJW/LA.

An article on the arts organization Artis (“Avant-Garde Israel,” Jan 9), incorrectly cited Peter Eleey, a curator at New York’s MoMA. The name should have been Klaus Biesenbach, director of MoMA PS1 and chief curator at large at MoMA. In the same article, it was incorrectly stated that LAX><ART presented a project with Nira Pereg in 2014. Peleg was not part of the project.