November 21, 2018

Moving & Shaking: Shul Merger, ADL Entertainment Dinner

From left: ETTA president Kambiz Babaoff, ETTA co-chairman Jaime Sohacheski, ETTA Executive Director Michael Held, state Sen. Robert Hertzberg, and Irina Schaeffer and George Schaeffer celebrate the opening of ETTA’s headquarters in North Hollywood. Photo by Steve Cohn Photography.

More than 200 supporters of ETTA, a provider of social services in Los Angeles for Jewish adults with special needs, gathered for the April 15 grand opening of ETTA’s new headquarters in North Hollywood, at 13034 Saticoy St.

While still retaining a presence in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood with its community-based adult day programs, which help clients feel more confident and independent in their communities, ETTA has consolidated its office operations in the North Hollywood location to better serve its clients and the greater community, said ETTA spokesman Harvey Farr.

The celebratory event, which coincided with ETTA’s 25th anniversary, paid tribute to husband-and-wife George and Irina Schaeffer, longtime ETTA supporters whose financial support made the new headquarters a reality.

Attendees included state Sen. Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin, ETTA President Kambiz Babaoff, ETTA Co-Chairman Jaime Sohacheski and ETTA Executive Director Michael Held.

Founded in 1993, ETTA serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families by providing residential housing, case management, employment training and placement, educational services and training.

The organization is an affiliate of OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services.

From left: Rabbi Richard Flom and Rabbi/Hazzan Jason Van Leeuwen appeared at the Temple B’nai Hayim in association with Congregation Beth Meir installation ceremony. Courtesy of Temple B’nai Hayim in association with Congregation Beth Meir.

San Fernando Valley congregations Temple B’nai Hayim and Congregation Beth Meir have made their merger official, signaling a new chapter for the two congregations that have struggled financially and experienced declining memberships over the past several years.

The merger, effective Aug. 29, followed the nearly $1 million sale of the Beth Meir campus in Studio City in February 2017. On April 15, the merged temples celebrated the installation of Rabbi Richard Flom and Rabbi/Hazzan Jason Van Leeuwen. The ceremony drew 75 people to the community’s new home, Temple B’nai Hayim in Sherman Oaks.

“We’re off to a great start, with wonderful High Holiday services and continued Shabbat services Friday night and Saturday morning, well-attended,” Lenny Adelson, chair of the transitional board of Temple B’nai Hayim in association with Congregation Beth Meir, said in an email.

“It was hard to move out of our building in Studio City,” said Martin Lee, a longtime Beth Meir member who has been serving on the transitional board during the merger. “The building is iconic and its dome was built to resemble Rachel’s Tomb. It was established in 1957 and we had concerns about who was going to purchase it and what would be done with the place. In the end, once we put the building up for sale, our neighbor, who had a good relationship with our rabbi, offered to purchase it over the asking price because he wanted to extend his shopping mall. So it all worked out well.”

Adelson, originally of Temple B’nai Hayim, said the merger has proven beneficial for both congregations.

“We had known for years that we would need to merge with another temple,” he said. “I think that everyone in both congregations was satisfied. It was clear that neither congregation had the capital to sustain payments and go on. It was either merge or close the doors, and it worked out beautifully.”

With the combined membership, Temple B’nai Hayim in association with Congregation Beth Meir has about 100 members.

—  Ayala Or-El, contributing writer

From left: American Friends of Hebrew University honorees Gayle and Edward Roski, Patricia Glaser, Hebrew University President Asher Cohen and Richard Ziman attend the AFHU Scopus Award gala. Photo by Howard Pasamanick Photography.

The American Friends of Hebrew University (AFHU) Scopus Award gala, which honored wife-and-husband Gayle and Edward Roski Jr., was held at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on April 19.

During the event, Roski, chairman and president of Majestic Realty Co., called Hebrew University a “shining example of the world’s best minds and research.”

With Gayle at his side, the real estate developer and philanthropist described the moving experience he had ascending Masada in Israel. Meanwhile, he expressed his support for the Jewish state.

“With all the changes happening around the world, it is more important than ever to support Israel,” Roski said.

He called the recent decision by President Donald Trump to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem a “powerful form of recognition.”

The event drew 425 attendees and raised more than $1.6 million for AFHU, a national nonprofit that raises funds and awareness for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

“We exist to connect the passions of Americans to the talent at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, one of the world’s most distinguished academic and research institutions,” the AFHU website says.

The Scopus Award, named for Mount Scopus, where Hebrew University’s first cornerstones were laid in 1918, is the highest honor AFHU bestows — “awarded to individuals who demonstrate humanitarian concerns throughout their careers.”

Speakers included emcee Jonathan Anschell; attorney Patricia Glaser, vice chair of AFHU’s Western region; Richard Ziman, chairman of AFHU’s Western region; Mark Genender, president of AFHU’s Western region; and Hebrew University President Asher Cohen.

The Rev. Gregory Goethals delivered the benediction, and Rabbi Naomi Levy led the invocation.

A marching band from USC — Roski’s alma mater — kicked off the event by performing instrumental versions of songs including  “Uptown Funk.”

At the evening’s conclusion, Grammy winner Michael Bolton performed.

From left: Political scientist Fred Balitzer; Sri Sri Ravi Shankar; Holocaust survivor Sol Teichman; and Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper participate in a dialogue at the Museum of Tolerance. Photo by Bart Bartholomew/Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) has honored Sri Sri Ravi Shankar with its International Leadership Award, which it said marked the first time the Indian spiritual leader has been honored by a Jewish organization.

The SWC recognized Shankhar, founder of The Art of Living Foundation, an international nonprofit dedicated to fostering stress-free minds and violence-free societies, on April 16 at the Museum of Tolerance.

Shankar has partnered with SWC’s mission throughout Asia, including bringing “Courage to Remember,” the SWC traveling Holocaust exhibit, to cities including Delhi and Bangalore, India.

“Despite the obvious cultural and religious difference, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s global agenda is closely aligned to the goals the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance pursue every day,” said SWC Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper. “We are honored to have worked with the founder of Art of the Living in Israel, Indonesia, India and the U.S.”

Following the award presentation, Shankar, Cooper, political scientist Fred Balitzer and Holocaust survivor Sol Teichman participated in a discussion about the nexus between religion, terrorism and tolerance.

From left: ADL Entertainment Industry Dinner Co-Chair Jill Ratner; ADL Regional Director Amanda Susskind; actor Rob Morrow; ADL honoree Nancy Dubuc; Regional Board Chair Ivy Kagan Bierman; and Entertainment Industry Dinner Co-Chair Michael Garfinkel attend the ADL 2018 Entertainment Industry Dinner. Photo by Michael Kovac.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) honored Nancy Dubuc, chief executive officer of Vice Media, at the ADL 2018 Entertainment Industry Dinner on April 17 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Upon accepting her award, Dubuc, who previously was president of A+E Networks and whose hiring at Vice was announced in March, spoke of the importance of entertainment industry leaders using their pulpit to influence positive change.

“Entertainment is an incredibly powerful platform in our country’s culture,” she said, before asking her industry colleagues to use storytelling to “keep educating and elevating our understanding of one another.”

The event raised more than $500,000 for ADL efforts to combat anti-Semitism and bigotry of all kinds.

Event emcee, actor Rob Morrow, said the ADL’s work was more important than ever at a time when anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred are increasing in the United States.

“Never before in my life has truth been under such assault,” Morrow said. “Never before has the venom of defamation had so many means to spread.”

Additional speakers included entertainment committee co-chairs Jill Ratner and Michael Garfinkel; Kern Oduro, assistant superintendent at the Chaffey Joint Union High School District in San Bernardino County; ADL Regional Director Amanda Susskind; entertainment industry attorney and ADL Regional Board Chair Ivy Kagan Bierman; entertainment executive and ADL’s National Entertainment Advisory Council Chair Ben Silverman, and actress and director Shiri Appleby, who presented the honoree with her award.

“Nancy has used the power of media to advocate for some of the most pressing social justice issues of our time,” Appleby said. “She has used her influence, power and platform to bring out the best in us.”

Moving & Shaking: Valley Beth Shalom, American Friends of Hebrew University and more

From left: Jay and Laura Sanderson and Ellen and Richard Sandler attend the Valley Beth Shalom Harold M. Schulweis Humanitarian Award dinner. Jay Sanderson, president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, chaired the event, which honored Richard Sandler with the Humanitarian Award. Photo courtesy of Valley Beth Shalom

Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) honored Richard Sandler with the Harold M. Schulweis Humanitarian Award at the Encino synagogue’s annual gala on May 7 at VBS, which drew approximately 300 attendees.

Sandler, son of founding VBS members Helen and Ray Sandler, “has been instrumental in the growth of the community,” according to a VBS statement. He previously served on the VBS board of directors. His current leadership positions include serving as executive vice president and trustee of the Milken Family Foundation; as board chairman at Milken Community Schools; and as chair of the board of trustees at the Jewish Federations of North America, an umbrella organization for Jewish Federations. He is a partner at the law firm Maron and Sandler.

Attendees included Sandler’s wife, Ellen; Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles CEO and President Jay Sanderson and his wife, Laura; Malkah Schulweis, widow of Rabbi Harold Schulweis, who was one of the best-known pulpit rabbis in America before he died in 2014; and VBS Senior Rabbi Ed Feinstein.

The Harold M. Schulweis Humanitarian Award recognizes “an individual who transcends the ordinary and recognizes the highest level of social conscience,” a VBS statement said.

The event featured a Champagne welcome, the award reception and a dinner.

American Friends of Hebrew University (AFHU) Western Region Vice Chair Patricia Glaser (center) congratulates and thanks outgoing AFHU Vice President Renae Jacobs-Anson (left) and outgoing AFHU President Brindell Gottlieb for their dedication and leadership. Photo courtesy of American Friends of Hebrew University

The American Friends of Hebrew University (AFHU) Western Region held its Evening of Tribute at Brentwood Country Club on May 3 and honored outgoing regional President Brindell Gottlieb and outgoing regional Vice President Renae Jacobs-Anson.

Regional Vice Chair Mark Vidergau installed Mark Genender as the organization’s new regional president.

AFHU raises funds and awareness for The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Established in 1918, it is Israel’s second-oldest university.

Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg, among the the evening’s guest speakers, shared his perspective on “the important role of Hebrew University in Israel’s past, present and future,” according to an AFHU statement.

More than 130 people attended the event, including longtime donors and supporters Patricia Glaser, Bari and Steve Good, Shirley and Lou Gram, Hella and Chuck Hershon, Corie and Michael Koss, Ronda and Barry Lippman, and Janet and Marvin Jubas.

About 5,000 people turned out May 14 for the Great
Lag b’Omer Parade in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood of Los Angeles. Photo by Yossi Percia​

About 5,000 people turned out May 14 for the Great Lag b’Omer Parade in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood of Los Angeles.

“It showed unity from all walks of life,” said parade chairman Rabbi Mendel Duchman, spiritual leader of Kol Yakov Yehuda. “It was Mother’s Day. We had the local Orthodox community from Pico, the community from Hancock Park, and people who were still celebrating Israel.”

The street fair, rides, carnival games, live music, kosher food and more delighted those who turned out to Pico Boulevard, which was closed between Doheny Drive and Robertson Boulevard. Entertainers included children’s performer Uncle Moishy and Eli Marcus, a Crown Heights-based musician who fuses Chasidic soul melodies with influences from around the world.

Kol Yakov Yehuda and Chabad of California co-organized the event, which drew representatives from the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Fire Department. Sponsors included Meshuga Sushi, Chabad Century City and the Jewish Journal.

Among many leaders and families in the Orthodox community, the attendees included Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin, director of Chabad of California, and Chabad of Century City Director Rabbi Tzemach Cunin.

“The unity that stands before us today — thousands of souls united — brings true joy to our rebbe,” Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin said. “As I look out to this crowd … we celebrate 50 years of spreading the mission of the rebbe on the West Coast.”

Father Cyril Gorgy (far right) leads a prayer ceremony at the conclusion of a symposium of the Genocide Coalition at Adat Ari El. Joining him are (from left), Steve Zimmer, Father Avedis Abovian, Kimthai Kuoch, Mike Brand, Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Dydine Umunyana, Rev. Cecil Murray, Rabbi Pamela Frydman, Amy Friedman Cecil and City Councilman Paul Koretz. Photo by Ryan Torok

At a symposium of the Genocide Coalition at Adat Ari El in Valley Village on May 24, several speakers addressed the current state of genocide in the world and what can be done to stop it.

“We can’t fight genocide alone — that’s the message of tonight,” Amy Friedman Cecil, director of community engagement for Jewish World Watch, said to the diverse audience of about 100 people, which included Muslims, Jews and others. Drawing from the words of Pirkei Avot, she added: “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.”

Genocides discussed during the event ranged from one that began in 2003 in Darfur to the current torture and imprisonment of gay men in Chechnya allegedly ordered by the country’s Kremlin-backed leader. Speakers also discussed the genocides of Cambodia, Rwanda, the Holocaust and others.

Mike Brand, director of advocacy and programs for Jewish World Watch, discussed the current South Sudan conflict, a crisis with a “100 percent man-made famine” that has put more than 1 million people at risk of starvation.

Friedman Cecil said 65.3 million people, roughly the population of France, are displaced throughout the world. “The only way to stop genocide is to take preventable action before [the perpetrators] start,” she said.

Brand added that, unfortunately, “one thing the international community is horrible at is stopping genocide.”

Rt. Rev. Alexei Smith, a member of the spirituality commission of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, delivered the invocation. Other speakers included Paul Wilder, organizer of the event and the child of Holocaust survivors; Daniel Tamm, the Westside area representative for L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti; L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz; and Steve Zimmer, outgoing president of the L.A. Unified School District Board of Education.

Rev. Cecil Murray, a fellow at the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture, delivered closing remarks. Additional participating clergy included Father Cyril Gorgy of Holy Resurrection American Coptic Orthodox Church.

A video presentation featured messages from U.S. Reps. Judy Chu, Adam Schiff and Brad Sherman.

Jonathan Baruch, an Israel21c board member and the driving force behind the nonprofit website’s new online video network, 21see. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Baruch

The nonprofit website Israel21c launched an online video network, 21see, which will seek to highlight arts and culture from the Jewish state, at a May 10 event in West Hollywood.

It celebrated the launch by screening videos from the new network at Soto House, an exclusive penthouse club known for its Hollywood crowd.

The lights went dark in the plush screening room of the Soto House and upbeat music blared over the speakers as a promotion for “21see with Kathy Cohen,” one of the network’s inaugural series, came on the screen.

Yogi Roth, a college football analyst who hosts “We All Speak Ball” for the new video network, attended the launch. Between videos, Roth conducted an onstage interview with Sam Grundwerg, Israel’s consul general in Los Angeles. Grundwerg shared that he had played in the Israel Football League — featured in “We All Speak Ball” — and even earned a spot in the league’s hall of fame.

He shared some advice he said he received from Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States and a fellow Israel Football League hall of famer: “The secret to being a successful Jewish athlete is to play with Jews.”

Television producer Jonathan Baruch, an Israel21c board member and the driving force behind the new video network, attended the launch, as did Israel21c President Amy Friedkin. The video website, Friedkin said, would hew to Israel21c’s goal of revealing a dimension of Israel not often seen in the mainstream media.

“This is what we do,” she said. “The culture and the exciting things in Israel — that’s our mission, to present it to the world.”

— Eitan Arom, Staff Writer

Moving & Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email

This article was edited June 1 to reflect the annual Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) gala was held at VBS, not the Skirball Cultural Center.

Moving and Shaking: VBS students dance, ADL honors law enforcement, new leadership at LAMOTH

Orly Star Setareh (far right), a dance specialist, leads VBS students in dance at The Music Center. Photo courtesy of the Music Center.

About 40 Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) Day School fifth-graders were among the 18,000 elementary school students who participated in the 47th annual Blue Ribbon Children’s Festival, a free arts education initiative held Feb. 28 at The Music Center in downtown Los Angeles.

Nancy Herbst, director of general studies at the day school, was among the adults accompanying the VBS students, who attended a performance by the Ailey II dance company in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion before they performed a synchronized dance inspired by Ailey II in The Music Center plaza.

Blue Ribbon is the self-described “premier women’s support organization of The Music Center.”

The Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Helene & Joseph Sherwood Prize for Combating Hate luncheon and awards ceremony was held March 14 at the Skirball Cultural Center.

The event honored law enforcement officials who have played a role in fighting hate in Southern California.

Among the honorees were Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Yadira Perez, who helped apprehend an arsonist responsible for setting a mosque ablaze in Coachella in December 2015, and Cindy Cipriani, senior management counsel and director of community outreach in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California, who “has dedicated her life’s work to advancing the values of unity and understanding with humility and compassion,” the ADL statement said.

Perez recalled her decision to pursue the arsonist after spotting him while off-duty: “At that point,” she said, “I felt the risk to public safety outweighed the risk of me catching him.”

LAPD and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigators and L.A. city attorneys, who were honored for their takedown of a white supremacist gang in the San Fernando Valley, come together with Joseph Sherwood (seated, front row) and his son, Howard (crouching, far right) at the Anti-Defamation League’s Helene & Joseph Sherwood Prize for Combating Hate luncheon and awards event.

LAPD and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigators and L.A. city attorneys, who were honored for their takedown of a white supremacist gang in the San Fernando Valley, come together with Joseph Sherwood (seated, front row) and his son, Howard (crouching, far right) at the Anti-Defamation League’s Helene & Joseph Sherwood Prize for Combating Hate luncheon and awards event.

The fire at the mosque was seen as a vengeful reaction to the killing of 14 people and wounding of 22 earlier that month at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino by perpetrators who claimed terrorist allegiances.

In addition, the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Division, its Orange County Resident Agency, the Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California were honored as a group for thwarting “two Anaheim individuals planning to travel to Syria and fight for ISIS,” the ADL said. One of the individuals had planned to fly from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv to join terrorist fighters in the Middle East.

The event’s additional group honoree was the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ L.A. field division, the L.A. City Attorney’s Office and the Los Angeles Police Department’s Major Crimes Division, which were honored for removing a “stronghold of San Fernando Valley Peckerwoods, a white supremacist gang,” the ADL said.

The more than 250 attendees included Ayelet Feiman, an L.A. city attorney prosecutor who was honored with the Sherwood Prize in 2013 for her efforts on a case involving swastikas drawn in maple syrup outside the home of a Jewish family in Northridge; Joseph Sherwood and his son, Howard; ADL Regional Director Amanda Susskind; L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell and others.

The event also celebrated Joseph Sherwood’s 100th birthday, on March 12.

The Sherwood family launched the prize in 1996 as a way to bring attention to the positive contributions of law enforcement.

From left: Former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Michael Tuchin, Richard Pachulski and Patricia Glaser attend the American Friends of Hebrew University Torch of Learning Award Dinner, which honored Tuchin and Pachulski. Photo courtesy of AFHU.

From left: Former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Michael Tuchin, Richard Pachulski and Patricia Glaser attend the American Friends of Hebrew University Torch of Learning Award Dinner, which honored Tuchin and Pachulski. Photo courtesy of AFHU.

The March 1 American Friends of Hebrew University (AFHU) Harvey L. Silbert Torch of Learning Award Dinner at the Beverly Hilton honored Richard Pachulski, a corporate restructuring attorney, and Michael L. Tuchin, a founding member and co-manager of Klee, Tuchin, Bogdanoff & Stern.

Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens, who often writes about events pertaining to Israel and has spoken out against President Donald Trump despite being a conservative, was the guest speaker. He discussed what makes America great, noting the disproportionate number of Nobel Prize winners who are Americans, many of whom are immigrants. Additionally, he said HU, with its diverse student population of Arab, secular and religious students, embodies what is best about Israel.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is described by an AFHU press release as “the honorees’ longtime friend,” presented Pachulski and Tuchin with their awards.

The event raised $1.2 million for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Law.

Attendees included Patricia Glaser, event chair and the AFHU western region vice chair; Michael Karayanni, dean of the Hebrew University Faculty of Law; Richard Ziman, vice chairman of the AFHU board of directors; and Brindell Gottlieb, president of AFHU’s western region.

AFHU raises awareness of and support for Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

From left: Cedars-Sinai Dr. Shlomo Melmed, Isabelle Szneer and Cedars-Sinai Dr. Charles Simmons commemorate Szneer’s donation to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Photo courtesy of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

From left: Cedars-Sinai Dr. Shlomo Melmed, Isabelle Szneer and Cedars-Sinai Dr. Charles Simmons commemorate Szneer’s donation to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Photo courtesy of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

The family of the late Leopold Szneer, a German-Jewish Holocaust survivor and former Congregation Mogen David cantor, has provided a $250,000 gift to the Cedars-Sinai Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease program.

A dedication and luncheon to celebrate the donation, given in Szneer’s memory and in the memory of the 1.5 million children who perished during the Holocaust, was held Jan. 17 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Szneer, who died in 2016, was imprisoned in Dachau during the Shoah, fled on the Kindertransport to Belgium in 1938 and experienced numerous challenges before immigrating to Los Angeles in the 1950s.

He went on to serve as a cantor, his longtime dream, at Congregation Mogen David in Pico-Robertson, for more than 20 years.

Isabelle Szneer, his wife since 1947 and also a Holocaust survivor, provided the gift in her husband’s memory. “He was a much loved man in the city,” she said.

Attendees at the event included Congregation Mogen David Rabbi Gabriel Elias; Dr. Shlomo Melmed, executive vice president of academic affairs at Cedars-Sinai; and Dr. Charles Simmons, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Cedars-Sinai.

Beth Kean

Beth Kean

The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (LAMOTH), which describes itself as the oldest survivor-founded Holocaust museum in the country, has named Beth Kean its executive director and Paul Nussbaum its president, according to a March 14 announcement.

Kean, who became the museum’s president in January 2016, had also been serving as interim executive director since November, following the departure of the museum’s previous executive director, Samara Hutman. Nussbaum previously served as the museum’s treasurer. Jamie Rosenblood, a current board member at LAMOTH and museum docent who has a background in finance, is succeeding Nussbaum in that role. 

Paul Nussbaum

Paul Nussbaum

The leadership transition is part of “an unprecedented five-year plan to expand [the museum’s] mission of teaching the dangers of genocide and promoting empathy, tolerance and understanding through history, shared knowledge, and personal experience,” the announcement says.

Kean, the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, has been involved in various leadership roles on the museum’s board for more than a decade. Her husband, Jon, is a filmmaker whose work includes the documentary films “Swimming in Auschwitz” and “After Auschwitz.”

“The relevance and urgency of our mission has never been more critical than it is in today’s environment,” Kean said in the announcement. “We are creating a strategic plan that will ensure that we continue to provide free educational programming, opportunities for dialogue with Holocaust survivors, and substantially grow our audience while teaching them the relevance of becoming stewards of this important history.”

The museum expects to draw more than 60,000 visitors in 2017, an increase from the 48,000 visitors it had in 2016, according to the announcement.

In the announcement, Nussbaum, the son of Holocaust survivors, expressed optimism about the museum’s continued success.

“We’re aware that we’ve become one of the most cherished cultural assets not only in Los Angeles but in the country,” Nussbaum said. “Our intent now is to establish a roadmap to guide LAMOTH on its journey toward continued growth and awareness.”

From left: Rabbis Elie Spitz, Naomi Levy, Stewart Vogel and Reuven Taff — all of California — received honorary doctorates from Jewish Theological Seminary. Photo by Jewish Journal Staff.

From left: Rabbis Elie Spitz, Naomi Levy, Stewart Vogel and Reuven Taff — all of California — received honorary doctorates from Jewish Theological Seminary. Photo by Jewish Journal Staff.

During a March 2 ceremony at Sutton Place Synagogue in Manhattan, New York’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) awarded honorary doctorates of divinity degrees to 55 rabbis, including five California rabbis, all of whom are members of the Rabbinic Assembly, the international association of Conservative rabbis.

The honorees have served the Jewish community for 25 years or more, on the pulpit, in the classroom and elsewhere.

The local rabbis were Elie Spitz of Congregation B’nai Israel in Tustin, who was ordained at JTS in 1988; Naomi Levy of Nashuva in Los Angeles, who was a member of the first class of women to attend JTS’s rabbinical school, in 1984; Stewart Vogel of Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills, who was ordained in 1988; Neal Scheindlin of Milken Community Schools in Los Angeles, who was ordained in 1986; and Reuven Taff of Mosaic Law Congregation in Sacramento, who studied at JTS and was ordained in 1988 at a seminary in Israel.

Levy gave remarks on behalf of those being honored.

— Jewish Journal Staff

CORRECTION – 3/28/17: The original version of this story misidentified Orly Star Setareh.

Moving and shaking: American Friends of Magen David Adom, Breed Street Shul and more

It was the emotional highlight of the night — in fact, it would have been the emotional highlight of any night. During American Friends of Magen David Adom’s (AFMDA) star-studded Red Star Ball on Oct. 23, two victims of Hamas rocket attacks were reunited with the Magen David Adom (MDA) paramedics who saved their lives.

The reunions, kept as surprises for the survivors, happened live onstage following the premiere of a short film recounting their harrowing stories. Yarin Levy, 16, of Ashkelon, was reunited with MDA’s Einav Asulin and Neomi Zvi. Jehan Berman, 31, of Nahal Oz, was reunited with MDA’s Dr. Oren Wacht, a volunteer paramedic who teaches emergency medicine at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Yarin Levy hugs Neomi Zvi, the MDA medic who saved his life, during the AFMDA Red Star Ball. Photo by Michelle Mivzari  

If those were the emotional highlights of the black-tie dinner at the Beverly Hilton, there were plenty of entertainment high points as well. Guests were treated to a rousing musical performance by legendary singer-songwriter Paul Anka. “The Star-Spangled Banner” was sung by Scott Hoying of the a capella group Pentatonix, and Israel’s national anthem  was performed by the Rev. Robert Stearns. Honorees included Holocaust survivor David Wiener, Dr. Bill Dorfman and Gina Edwards.

Jay Leno hosted, quipping, “I guess there are no Jewish comedians.” After the former late-night talk-show host pledged his own $10,000 to the cause, he said, “We need to get more non-Jews to donate!”

The evening raised $6 million for MDA’s new national underground blood center in central Israel. MDA, Israel’s version of the Red Cross, has a mandate to serve every Israeli regardless of background, though it receives no government funding. The new center is expected to cost $100 million. The $6 million raised on Oct. 23 eclipses the record set by last year’s AFMDA Los Angeles Gala, which generated $4 million.

AFMDA’s West Coast Region Chairman Paul Guerin works the crowd at the Red Star Ball as Jay Leno looks on. Photo by Noam Chen

“We’ve been so fortunate to count on the L.A. community’s support of MDA and its medics who are on the front lines during times of war and peace,” said AFMDA Western Region President Dina Leeds, who was honored at last year’s gala, along with her husband, Fred Leeds. “After all, Israel relies on two critical agencies to save lives: the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] and Magen David Adom. And now that Angelenos have met some of these MDA heroes in person, we hope that support will only grow.”

Industry titans in finance, business and entertainment lent support to the evening, including singers Toni Braxton and Pat Boone, actor and motivational speaker J.R. Martinez, actress Amy Paffrath, and pediatrician/talk-show co-host Dr. Jim Sears. Israel’s Consul General in Los Angeles David Siegel opened the event. Congressman Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) presented MDA Director General Eli Bin with an award and an official American flag that once flew atop the U.S. Capitol. Both items will be located in the new blood center once it’s built.

“The reunions between the Israeli civilians and their MDA lifesavers was one of the purest displays of human emotion and joy I have ever seen,” said AFMDA Western Region Chairman Paul Guerin, who chaired the event with his wife, Vera, and Beny and Adele Alagem. “We owe it to MDA’s heroes to show Americans what MDA does in Israel every single day. And supporting these incredible medics and building them a new MDA national blood center is the least we can do.”

— Staff report

Westside egalitarian congregation IKAR and Boyle Heights sustainable community garden Proyecto Jardin came together for an Aztec-Jewish Sukkot Harvest Festival on Oct. 12.

The event at Proyecto Jardin in Boyle Heights “blended the sukkah, lulav and the etrog … with the conch shell, feathered costumes, face painting and aromatic censer animating the Aztec danzas, or dance prayers,” Alisa Schulweis Reich told the Journal in an email. Reich is a co-chair of IKAR’s Green Action Minyan Tzedek social justice group. 

“In addition to sharing our beautiful and dramatic harvest rituals, the two communities celebrated the striking similarities of Jewish and Aztec agricultural wisdom: reverence for the Earth as a divine gift and for the Creator’s intention that we share its fruits fairly,” Schulweis Reich said. “Perhaps most significant, the festival brought together neighborhoods from all over the greater Los Angeles area.”

More than 75 members of IKAR turned out. Among the others who were there were Proyecto Jardin executive director Irene Pena and Erica Huerta, captain of the Danza Tlaltekuhtli dance group. 

A $5,000 ChangeMaker Challenge grant from The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles supported the event. 

A stone throw’s away on the same day, more than 100 community members attended “Boyle Heights Heroes Talk About Music,” a community event at the Breed Street Shul. Legendary music producer Lou Adler, who grew up in Boyle Heights and had his bar mitzvah at the Breed Street Shul, reflected on his memories of the synagogue, the community and how growing up in the multicultural neighborhood affected the music he was exposed to and the influences it had on him.

Music legend Lou Adler, Chicano musician Martha Gonzalez, Boyle Heights Community Youth Orchestra artistic director Suzanne Gindin, and USC communication and journalism professor Josh Kun at Breed Street Shul. Photo courtesy of the Breed Street Shul Project

Martha Gonzalez, lead singer of the Grammy-winning band Quetzal, which specializes in Chicano music, also participated. Gonzales is also an academic at Scripps College in Claremont, where she is an assistant professor in the Chicano/Latino Studies department. 

Additional panelists included Suzanne Gindin, artistic director and founder of the Boyle Heights Community Youth Orchestra. Josh Kun, associate professor of communication and journalism at USC, moderated.

The event kicked off with a walking tour of the area and discussion of its Jewish past, led by the Jewish Historical Society of Southern California. For many, the shul is a symbolic reminder of the Jewish community that once thrived in the neighborhood. It is the last remaining Jewish synagogue in the area and today functions as a neighborhood community center for the neighborhood’s Latinos.

Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker, philanthropists whose family owns the Hyatt hotel chain, opened their Beverly Hills home to more than 250 people for the American Friends of the Hebrew University (AFHU) Los Angeles Region’s Bel Air Affaire on Sept. 13. The annual event raised nearly $900,000 for student scholarships at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 

From left: Torch of Learning Award honorees Steven and Bari Good with AFHU Regional Chairman Richard Ziman. Photo courtesy of AFHU 

Bel Air Affaire co-chairs Renae Jacobs-Anson and Helen Jacobs-Lepor told guests the mission of the evening was supporting Hebrew University students, who, they said, are on the front lines of the academic world.

AFHU L.A. Region Chairman Richard Ziman and AFHU L.A. Region Vice Chair Patricia Glaser presented Bari and Steven Good and Ronda and Barry Lippman, respectively, with Humanitarian Torch of Learning awards. This award recognizes leading men and women who have influenced the course of higher learning in the United States and Israel.

The Goods were recently recognized as Guardians on the Wall of Life during the Hebrew University’s 77th board of governors meeting for their philanthropic leadership. Bari is a former president of the National Council of Jewish Women’s Los Angeles office, and her husband is the founding president of the Santa Monica Synagogue and an AFHU national board of governors member.

The Lippmans have helped AFHU in their mission for nearly three decades. Barry is a Hebrew University governor, a member of AFHU’s national board and previously served as president of the Los Angeles Region board. He is a past president of the Ambassadors of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and JNF’s Los Angeles region. Among Ronda’s leadership activities, she serves as a board member of the Los Angeles chapter of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. 

AFHU is a nonprofit organization that raises awareness and support for The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel’s most comprehensive institution of higher learning, according to the website

— Amanda Epstein, Contributing Writer

American Jewish Committee Los Angeles (AJCLA) has named a new assistant regional director, Siamak Kordestani. He began working at AJCLA in August. He succeeds Michael Aurit. 

Born in Tehran, Iran, Kordestani grew up in Los Angeles. He received a bachelor’s degree in political science from UC Berkeley and a master’s degree in security studies from Georgetown University. 

AJCLA Assistant Regional Director Siamak Kordestani. Photo courtesy of AJCLA 

He joins a staff of 10 that includes AJCLA Regional Director Rabbi Mark Diamond. 

Kordestani previously worked as a staff associate for the Committee on Foreign Affairs at the U.S. House of Representatives. 

At AJCLA, Kordestani handles public policy, communications, issues concerning Iran and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. He also staffs the international relations program along with AJCLA Associate Regional Director Gosia Weiss and AJCLA Assistant Regional Director Anna Prager.

“AJCLA’s mission is to enhance the well-being of the Jewish people and Israel, and advance democratic values in the United States and around the world,” according to 

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