May 24, 2019

Jewish Heart: How Jewish Communities are Giving Back

Being good stewards of the land and offering good will towards man represents genuine Jewish values. Perhaps this is one reason Israel recycles more than other countries around the world, including the United States. Now, there are a number of ways members of the Jewish community give back, and the following are some worth pointing out.

Give to the Poor


Members of the Jewish community, specifically practicing Jewish people, seem to be more generous than those who do not practice the religion. The obvious way these people donate is through their religious organizations, but that has changed in today’s modern age. People also donate to their favorite charities online and some use apps to do this. This is probably happening more because most people, not only members of Jewish communities, hold their revenue digitally rather than in cash.

The group that donations seem to be directed at the most is poor. This should show Americans that there are a lot of values worth adopting that are safely tucked within Jewish communities. It is hard to see the good in other communities, especially during today’s racially toxic environment, but this should show just how much beauty is left to be shared across cultures or religions.

Recycling is Holy Duty


Active Jews or family members raised by individuals who believe the commandments set by holy texts know that it is their duty to protect the earth. This could be one reason many Jewish people consider themselves environmentalists. Some of these individuals would probably point to Tikkum Olam to prove that protecting the earth is their duty. Tikkum Olam says it is the duty of humanity to fix the world.

It should be noted that the Bal Tash’chit commandment also exists and tells individuals that the willful destruction of the world is not allowed. This is one reason why many members of the Jewish community are doing their best to help people recycle. Some have taken up the idea of composting at home while others go online to sell laptop so that gadgets continue to be reused in a productive way. Others are getting rid of their old cars by either donating the vehicle or by simply calling a junkyard to ensure it is taken care of properly.

Community Growth


There does not seem to be a shortage of goodwill towards humanity and towards each other within Jewish communities around the country. There is one trend that is definitely worth pointing out, and it is the efforts some Jewish neighborhoods are taking to jumpstart community gardens. These have proven successful in several communities, and the trend is set to continue growing.

A positive thing about these community gardens is that most of the food grown is organic. The organic trend is pretty big, not just within the Jewish community but within American culture, so this move should not surprise many. It is probably not surprising that some of these communities have decided to donate some of their surplus food to the poor, which makes sense. No one is saying this particular move is going to save people from starvation, but it is nice to see that some communities are doing the right thing.

These are just some ways Jewish communities across the country are shining brighter than ever. This type of shine is sorely needed, and hopefully, it is bright enough to attract people who do not know how to embrace their humanity by giving forward. There are probably a number of other ways to help humanity just waiting to be discovered by individuals.

Sherry Lansing’s epiphany

By 8 a.m. last Wednesday, when Sherry Lansing took the stage at the downtown Bonaventure Hotel, the women of Hadassah were hollering as if they were in a gospel service.

“Sixty is the new 40,” said TV anchor Rikki Klieman to shouts and cheers swirling through the crowd.

Lansing disagreed. “I used to think 60 is the new 40, but now I say, 60 is the new 60!” More cheers erupted from the 1,800 delegates at the Hadassah Convention, who were munching on bagels and lox during a conversation between Klieman and Lansing, gal pals from Northwestern.

“We are younger, healthier — and, statistically, people in their 60s are the happiest group demographically,” Lansing continued. “We’re not competing anymore, we’re just enjoying.”

Lansing has good reason to enjoy the prime of her life: Since retiring as chairwoman of Paramount Pictures and her historic role as the first female to head a major movie studio, Lansing has “shifted priorities” and is now devoted — full time — to her new thrill and philanthropic enterprise, the Sherry Lansing Foundation.

As she describes it, on the eve of turning 60, she had an epiphany.

“Suddenly, I cared less about a hit movie or making money than I did about giving back. That was the legacy that I wanted,” Lansing said.

Indeed, she achieved her Hollywood dreams, is financially secure and, she says, equally passionate about the new chapter of her life advocating for education and healthcare. Through her foundation, the one-time movie mogul responsible for such critical and box office hits as “Forrest Gump,” “Braveheart” and “Titanic” is working with the Los Angeles Unified School District to place qualified retirees in either volunteer or paid positions in local public schools.

For Lansing, turning 60 was not about retirement — it was an opportunity to start over from a different place. With years of vitality left, she is encouraging other 60-somethings to give back too. Why waste the expertise and talent of successful individuals on golf courses?

Lansing’s inclination toward social work has been a part of her dream fabric since she was a child growing up in Chicago. After her father’s death when she was 9, her mother chose to learn the family real estate business instead of passing off responsibility to some male friends who offered to manage it. Her mother’s work ethic and determination is the source of Lansing’s drive and inspiration.

“I watched my mother never be a victim. I watched her never show me her tears, and like she used to say ‘pull up her socks’ and take care of her life.”

When other girls dreamed of marriage and family, Lansing thought of work. In 1984, when she became head of 20th Century Fox, she discovered that being a woman had its setbacks — but it also had benefits.

“No one knew how to handle a woman. I could be myself. I didn’t have to follow any rules. All I did was work. I overworked,” she said.

After three decades in the upper echelons of showbiz, Lansing shows no signs of slowing down. In addition to her work with her foundation, she is also on the board that governs California’s $3 billion stem cell research fund. When husband and filmmaker William Friedkin was directing an opera in Israel, Lansing went from hospital to hospital encouraging Israeli doctors to apply for California grant money. When she mentioned that Hadassah Hospital in Israel is a leading stem cell research institution, the crowd cheered again.

Lansing is an impressive icon in many circles, but in this room, she was among hardcore fans.

Business Thrives With Eye on Beauty

Shawn Tavakoli reads Women’s Wear Daily, and he’s not
ashamed to admit it. He also reads Vogue, Mademoiselle and most other beauty
magazines. It isn’t pleasure reading he’s doing. It’s research.

The owner of the Beauty Collection beauty supply chain
explained, “I’m always looking for new products, and I think those seem to be
the best sources of the products that are hot on the market.”

This unabashed pragmatism may account for Tavakoli’s recent
successes. Since 1998, he’s taken what began as his parents’ family business of
two stores in the Valley and expanded it to five.

His latest expansion in December was a move over the hill
and up the ranks, when Beauty Collection Apothecary opened its doors at the
Farmers Market at Third Street and Fairfax Avenue. This was the first of the
Beauty Collection stores to carry the Apothecary designation, a signifier of
its more high-end disposition.

How a red-blooded Persian American Jewish guy wound up in
the beauty business is a relatively simple story. He was raised in it, first
working with his father as a teenager, back when his dad worked for Wilshire
Beauty Supply. His mother was a manicurist, and in 1988, his parents went into
business for themselves, opening Eddie’s Beauty Supply in Van Nuys. In 1997,
Tavakoli, now 32, decided he wanted to work in the business full time.

Today, three of the Beauty Collection stores (Calabasas,
Tarzana and Farmers Market) are Tavakoli’s outright. The other two stores, one
called Beauty Collection, in Sherman Oaks, and the other, Eddie’s, his parents’
original store in Van Nuys, are still owned by his parents, although he helps
with some aspects of the business.

A salesman at heart, he sees this business much like any
other. “Every day is different, every customer is different, every store is
different, all the vendors are different,” Tavakoli said. “So it’s really
challenging to be able to accommodate those personalities. That’s part of why I
like this job.”

Being successful at the job entails knowing the demographics
and what they crave. According to Tavakoli, “The demographic in the 818 area
code is different from the 310 area code.” Thus, each of his stores’
merchandise is tailored to the clientele.

The Apothecary at Farmers Market is Tavakoli’s most
ambitious store. It’s stocked with exclusive brands that Tavakoli insists would
not be supported as well in the Valley, and it was designed by Hollywood set
designers Tavakoli hired to create a sleeker new look for the store and
accompanying salon, Elements.

Tavakoli likes to throw around phrases like “lifestyle
environment” and “one-stop shop” in describing Beauty Collection Apothecary.
“We really wanted to set ourselves apart from the Larchmonts [Beauty Supply] of
the world, the Wilshire Beauty Supplies of the world and the Sephoras of the
world,” he said.

He aims to do that by providing a beauty supply store with
the finest brands and an exclusive next-door full-service salon. Beauty
Collection Apothecary keeps up with its neighborhood counterparts by providing
trendy lines like Diptyque, Caudalie and Dermalogica.

Tavakoli aims to pull ahead by offering things the others
don’t, like a barber in the salon who does straight-razor shaves for men, seven
brands of men’s personal care items in the store and personalized service by a
highly trained professional staff of estheticians, cosmetologists and makeup

There’s nothing particularly Jewish about the beauty
business, but some Beauty Collection locations have a substantial Jewish
clientele. Calabasas is one of them, as is the Farmer’s Market, with its nearby
Fairfax District.

With all of their success, Tavakoli and his wife have always
made it a point to give back to their stores’ communities, especially
Calabasas. They support Calabasas High School and the Calabasas Shul.
“Calabasas is a very prominent Jewish community… I come from a Jewish
background and I believe that if I’m going to give to anybody, I’d rather give
to the Jewish community,” Tavakoli explained.

Other organizations they support include Heschel Day School
and Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services. They also volunteer with a child
advocacy program called CASA. “One of the ideas I have is that we work with one
of our manufacturers and come up with a specific lipstick color, where all the
proceeds from that would go toward the charity,” Tavakoli said. He’s
considering making CASA the beneficiary.

Despite his penchant for women’s magazines, Tavakoli remains
unconcerned by any questions about his masculinity. He thinks it’s funny, too.
He’s also too busy trying to be the best.

“I want to be the leader in the area,” he stressed. “That’s
my goal…. That’s what we’ve successfully done in the Valley, and that’s what
we’re hoping to do out here. The competition is much higher, but I thrive on
competition.” Â

Community Designs

Although he owns more than 11 million square feet of office space, Charles S. Cohen is not your typical New York real estate mogul.

For one, he spends a lot of time in Los Angeles — calling it his second home — and it seems clear why L.A. culture appeals to him. A lifetime film aficionado, Cohen, 49, has made award-winning shorts and written a book on film trivia. Still, he is far from the bohemian artistic types who populate Hollywood — he dresses impeccably, and is conservative and soft-spoken. But he is also a man with a vision who has radical ideas for what real estate should be doing for the community.

"In real estate, people tend to dwell on the importance of location," Cohen told The Journal from his office in New York City. "Location is critical, but what is more important is to connect the location and the building to the community." Cohen takes a very hands-on approach for every building his company, Cohen Brothers Realty Corporation, owns. It is not enough to simply fill an office building with tenants — the building itself has to give something back to the community, he said.

This is why Cohen feels so passionately about his plans to "raise the blue whale" and revitalize the Pacific Design Center (PDC) on the corner of Melrose and San Vicente. It is the second of three design centers that his company has purchased around the country. Cohen, who bought the 12-million-square foot PDC two years ago, envisions a building that will work with local communities, becoming a place where people can learn about design and attend design-related events. He also hopes that the local entertainment community will embrace the state-of-the-art theater in the PDC, and use it to hold first-run film screenings.

Cohen’s community service ambitions extend beyond business to philanthropy. He supports a range of causes from medical institutions such as Cedars-Sinai, to law enforcement, military and religious institutions like Yeshiva University and United Jewish Appeal. On Oct. 25, a day proclaimed by West Hollywood and Gov. Gray Davis to be Charles S. Cohen Day, B’nai B’rith International will honor Cohen at the Regent Beverly Wilshire with its Distinguished Humanitarian Award. (He will also be honored by the organization at a luncheon Nov. 12 at the St. Regis hotel in New York City.)

His business and philanthropic travels have not been curtailed by the attacks on America. "America was founded as a country, as a respite and a home for freedom. That is what is being threatened here, and that is unacceptable. We can’t have our freedoms abridged. I am proud to be an American, and proud to be a Jew, and I am ready to do anything I can to help."

Cohen, who is in the process of establishing his own foundation, said, "I am at the beginning of what I hope will be a long philanthropic career, which I hope will contribute many millions of dollars to good Jewish organizations."

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