November 16, 2018

Moving & Shaking: Film Fest Finale, Holocaust Education

The Israel Bonds luncheon drew (top row, from left) Nancy Sloan, Rochelle Boren, Ambassador Danny Danon, Talie Danon, Sharona Nazarian, Daniel Nazarian and Dalia Farkas and (bottom row, from left) Ghazal Rokhsar, Vera Liebenthal, Jacqueline Burdorf, Myrtle Sitowitz and Ruth Low. Photo courtesy of Israel Bonds.

The Israel Bonds Los Angeles’ Women’s Division Council held its 2018 Golda Meir Luncheon on May 1 at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Husband-and-wife Talie and Danny Danon, Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations, served as the event’s guest speakers. Talie discussed “The United Nations: A Women’s Perspective.”

Gina Raphael, the Los Angeles co-chair on the Israel Bonds L.A. Women’s Division Council, led an awards presentation honoring Abigail Kedem Goldberg; Georgette Joffe; Vera Liebenthal; Jennifer Meyers; Sharona Nazarian; Hannah Niman; and Ghazal Rokhsar.

Additional speakers included Karin Eliyahu-Pery, the consul for public diplomacy and culture at the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles; Mark Goldenberg served as master of ceremonies; Jean Friedman, women’s division council chair, delivered welcoming remarks; Sinai Temple Cantor Marcus Feldman sang the national anthems; and Jerry Friedman led the invocation and hamotzi.

The event acknowledged Israel’s 70th anniversary since its founding in 1948.

Israel Bonds is a broker dealer that underwrites securities issued by the State of Israel. It ranks among Israel’s most valued economic and strategic resources.

Producer and talent manager George Shapiro (left) and film composer Alan Bergman attended the screening of “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast” on the closing night of the L.A. Jewish Film Festival. Photo courtesy of RozWolfPR.

“We were focusing on what the spirit of life is and what makes them live,” Gold said.

The work features more than showbiz folks. Ida Keeling, one of the individuals profiled in the film, is a 100-year-old woman who, after losing two of her sons while in her late 60s, takes up running.

Classic film and music expert Michael Schlesinger moderated the discussion, which also featured film composer Alan Bergman (“Yentl,” “Toostie”).

LAJFF Director Hilary Helstein introduced the film in front of a nearly sold-out audience. She expressed gratitude to those who had turned up throughout the week to the various films screening around the city.

Holocaust survivor Joe Alexander showed his tattoo from Auschwitz to high school students Eli Sitzman, Sara Schechter and Adora Dayani during a Witness Theater: Voices of History production. Photo by Michael Canon.

Holocaust education program Witness Theater: Voices of History staged a student-led Holocaust remembrance program on April 16 at the Norman Pattiz Concert Hall at Hamilton High School.

More than 30 students from 11 local high schools wrote, directed and acted in dramatic vignettes inspired by the stories of Holocaust survivors Mary Bauer, Eva Wartnik, Tomas Kovar and Joe Alexander. Alexander, born in Poland, survived 12 camps during the war.

Ann Noble and Talya Waldman directed the performance, which culminated with the students and survivors appearing together onstage in front of an audience of more than 500 people.

This marked the first year that Witness Theater has staged a production in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust and Beth Jacob Congregation served as partners on the production.

From left: Friends of Sheba Medical Center supporter Marilyn Ziering and 2018 Marjorie Pressman Legacy Award recipient Dvorah Colker attend the Friends of Sheba Women of Achievement luncheon. Photo courtesy of Friends of Sheba Medical Center.

Friends of Sheba Medical Center held its annual Women of Achievement Luncheon at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on April 26, raising more than $350,000 to benefit Sheba Medical Center, Tel HaShomer.

Drawing 450 attendeees, the event honored Judy Flesh Rosenberg with the Women of Achievement Award and Dvorah Colker with the Marjorie Pressman Legacy Award. Helene Boston and Parvin Djavaheri co-chaired. Lynn Ziman served as the honorary chair and Beverly Cohen the vice chair.

Serving as the emcee, Israeli-American actress Moran Atias (“Tyrant”) highlighted Sheba Medical Center’s position at the forefront of the fight against cancer. Sheba patient Tamir Gilat discussed his battle against an aggressive form of cancer under the care of Sheba Medical Center, thanking Sheba’s remarkable staff for providing world-class treatment, hope, and support to him and his entire family.

“We were very happy to welcome so many new friends to our community and together make a direct impact on cancer treatment worldwide,” Friends of Sheba Medical Center President Parham Zar aid after the event.

Sheba Medical Center, Tel HaShomer is the largest and most comprehensive medical center in the Middle East. It combines an acute care hospital and a rehabilitation hospital on one campus, and it is at the forefront of medical treatments, patient care, cutting-edge research and education. As a university teaching hospital affiliated with the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel-Aviv University, it welcomes people from all over the world. ”

Esther Kustanowitz, Contributing Writer

Aziza Hasan, executive director of NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change, and human relations consultant Lloyd Wilkey speak at the Museum of Tolerance screening of Katie Couric’s new National Geographic series. Photo courtesy of Museum of Tolerance.

The Museum of Tolerance on April 25 screened “White Anxiety,” the fourth episode of Katie Couric’s new documentary series, “America Inside Out,” which is airing on the National Geographic Channel this month.

Couric’s six-part series is about social upheaval across the United States, which is why the Museum of Tolerance was interested in screening the film for the Jewish community of Los Angeles, Museum of Tolerance communications director Michele Alkin told the Journal.

“The Museum of Tolerance plays a crucial role in bringing people together for solutions-oriented community dialogue that has a call to positive action,” Alkin said. “We are working with people with whom we have worked many times in the past on films with a social action message.”

The audience of 300 at the Museum of Tolerance enthusiastically  embraced the theme of Couric’s series.

Speakers included human relations consultant Lloyd Wilkey and Aziza Hasan, executive director of NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change.

“White Anxiety,” which premiered on May 2, is about large numbers of immigrants pouring into small, insular communities often dominated by a single industry, and about technology taking over traditional working-class jobs. Both developments ignite social and labor upheaval.

The Couric series carries titles including “Re-Righting History” and “The Muslim Next Door.” The series’ finale, “The Age of Outrage,” will air May 16 on the National Geographic Channel.

Ari Noonan, Contributing Writer

George W. Bush headlines largest Israel Bonds event since ’51 launch

Former President George W. Bush headlined the largest Israel Bonds fundraiser since the organization was inaugurated in 1951.

The event in Dallas on Monday evening drew 1,500 people and raised more than $60 million, Israel Bonds said in a statement, adding that it was the largest since the launch at Madison Square Garden in New York.

“President Bush spoke about his first visit to Israel, calling it one of his most meaningful experiences,” the statement said.

Israel Bonds’ national chairman, Fred Zeidman, a Texas-based lawyer and Republican fundraiser, joined Bush at the event. Zeidman for decades has been close to the one-time Texas governor.

Fast cash from Israel Bonds

The next time violence erupts between Israel and its neighbors in the Middle East, Israel Bonds CEO Israel “Izzy” Tapoohi is not going to run to major banks and mutual funds if the government needs emergency cash.

Forgoing Wall Street in favor of the likes of “Mr. Cohen” — his term for the thousands of American Jews who buy from Israel Bonds, a private Manhattan-based company that underwrites securities issued by the State of Israel in the United States — Tapoohi told the Journal during a recent visit to Los Angeles that “I can probably raise within three months another $1 billion for the Israeli economy.”

To illustrate, the 68-year-old CEO raised the following scenario: “If I now sit with a large bank, most likely if everyone in Israel is sitting in bomb shelters, he will say to me, ‘Izzy, it’s nice to know you. Is there any possibility to get an early redemption on my bond?’

“But if I go to Mr. Cohen, and I say to Mr. Cohen, ‘Israel is for the moment under a war situation. You bought $10,000 recently; do you mind buying another $10,000?’ I guarantee he’ll say, ‘Yes.’ ”

Reaching out to the Mr. Cohens of the world, Tapoohi believes he could raise $1 billion at an interest rate of just a few percent (current Israel Bonds rates range from about 1 percent to 4 percent). Reaching out to the global market? Tapoohi thinks it would be closer to 10 percent if Israel were under siege.

“In the emergency time, Wall Street is ruthless,” Tapoohi said. “Wall Street would downgrade. S&P [Standard & Poor], Fitch would downgrade Israel immediately.”

Since 1951, Israel Bonds has raised more than $36 billion, much of which has funded Israeli infrastructure projects, technology development and immigrant resettlement. In 2013, bond sales to Americans exceeded $1.1 billion, a company record.

Tapoohi, who has led Israel Bonds since 2011, emphasized that Americans should view Israel Bonds not only as a pro-Israel investment, but as a strong financial instrument. 

The possibility of war may seem ever-present, adding risk to doing business there, but Israel’s economy has actually performed head-and-shoulders above many Western economies since the beginning of the 2008 recession, growing at  nearly a 5 percent clip in both 2010 and 2011 and just under 3 percent in 2012. The United States, meanwhile, has struggled to eclipse 2 percent during that period.

And the shekel is performing so well relative to world currencies that Israel’s central bank is concerned about it becoming too strong, which would make it more difficult for Israel to export its goods. 

Despite these positive indicators, though, Tapoohi is predicting another global economic downturn, albeit not comparable to the one in 2008. He thinks that central banks around the world will increase interest rates sooner or later rather than risk feeding unsustainable bubbles. The real question, as Tapoohi framed it, is whether Israel’s economy crashes or makes a soft landing when interest rates go up. He’s betting on the latter.

“Israel never gave its people borrowing rates at 90 percent like it was in America,” Tapoohi said. “We have never allowed in Israel refinancing of your house and using it for spending.”

Tapoohi has experienced the highs and the lows of Israel’s economy. Born in 1946 in what would become Israel, but raised in Australia, Tapoohi moved to Israel for good in 1979. Since then, he has been an executive at multiple Israeli companies, weathered Israel’s 1983 financial crisis and served as chairman of the board for Bezeq, Israel’s largest corporation and communications provider.

The businessman also has a close relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He served as an economic liaison during Netanyahu’s first term in the late 1990s and as a member of his “100 Days” economic advisory team in 2009, when he helped prepare economic guidelines in his second term. 

Since Tapoohi took the helm at Israel Bonds in October 2011, the company has, in an effort to reach a younger demographic, launched an online portal through which users can purchase bonds. In less than three years, online sales exceeded $55 million, with nearly half of that coming in 2013, according to an Israel Bonds spokesman. A mobile app is reportedly in the works, too.

Regarding the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that is attempting to gain a foothold in the United States, Tapoohi said it doesn’t scare him. But that hasn’t stopped Israel Bonds from using its threat as a rallying cry for pro-Israel Americans. (The headline on its website reads, “Israel Bonds are a strong response to BDS advocates.”)

Of more concern to him is that individuals, pension funds and governments continue to see Israel Bonds as a smart financial investment. According to the group, states and municipalities have invested more than $140 million in Israel Bonds since Jan. 1, and there are commitments for another $50 million.

“Whether you like it or not, most companies like to do business,” Tapoohi said. “And they couldn’t give a damn who they do business with.”

In historic move, Ohio buys $42 million in Israel Bonds

Ohio has bought $42 million in Israel Bonds, reportedly the largest single government purchase of Israel Bonds in U.S. history.

The March 1 purchase increases the total amount of Israel Bonds in the state's treasury portfolio to more than $80 million; the Cleveland Jewish News reported it as the largest such buy in U.S. history.

“We believe this is a sound investment for the taxpayers of Ohio and consistent with our strategy of investing in safe and strong securities,” Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel, who is Jewish, told the newspaper.

The Ohio Revised Code was amended in 1993 to allow the state to invest in foreign bonds. In 2010, the Ohio State Senate passed a bill allowing the state treasury to increase debt earnings in foreign nations from 1/2 a percent to 1 percent of the state’s portfolio, according to the newspaper.

The previous highest single purchase of Israel Bonds in U.S. history was $25 million, made by several states, Thomas Lockshin, executive director for Israel Bonds in Ohio and Kentucky, told the Cleveland Jewish News.

Ex-Knick Allan Houston scores with Israel Bonds

Allan Houston, a former All-Star with the New York Knicks and now their assistant general manager, was awarded State of Israel Bond’s 2011Martin Luther King Award.

Ido Aharoni, acting consul general of Israel in New York, presented the award Wednesday on the court at Madison Square Garden before the Knicks played the Atlanta Hawks.

Houston was recognized “in honor of his efforts in spreading compassion and uniting communities of all backgrounds,” according to Israel Bonds.

The Consulate General of Israel in New York has presented the King award for the past 20 years to individuals and organizations promoting ethnic and cultural understanding. The award is given in conjunction with the Jewish National Fund and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.

“This tribute today honors Allan Houston for his efforts in promoting diversity and tolerance,” Aharoni said. “Allan Houston embodies the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through his work in creating a peaceful coexistence between people of diverse religious, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds.”

Previous honorees include Martin Luther King III, former New York City Mayor David Dinkins, entrepreneur Russell Simmons, opera singer Jessye Norman, author Toni Morrison and jazz legend Lionel Hampton.

Is It Good for Them?

Earlier this week, an official in the ruling Palestinian leadership sat down for dinner at the Beverly Hills estate of a wealthy Jewish businessman and listened to a plan to save Palestine.
The businessman, Guilford Glazer, is the staunchly pro-Israel former chair of Israel Bonds, a friend and confidant to every prime minister since David Ben-Gurion. But he’s written a big check to fund Rand Corporation research that lays out the blueprint for a viable, sustainable Palestinian state.
Rand unveiled “Building a Successful Palestinian State” in a press conference Wednesday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The study acknowledges Glazer who, “brought the project into being and saw it through to completion.”
It is remarkable work: visionary yet packed with statistics, almost recklessly optimistic and, at the same time, wonkish. If Theodor Herzl had advanced degrees in architecture, urban planning, environmental design and economics, “The Jewish State” would have read like this.
Although the study was officially released this week, it has been rolled out over the past month with the savvy of a summer blockbuster. The focus audiences have been people such as Prime Minister Tony Blair, current and former government leaders, Israelis, Palestinians, investment bankers, aid experts. Just last week, Rand officials convened a closed-door session for invited international investors and analysts at the Milken Foundation Global Conference in Beverly Hills.
I asked Glazer what kind of criticism the plan has received.
“That’s the part that bothers me,” he said. “We haven’t gotten a bit.”
Glazer is 83. The son of a welder, he grew up in Knoxville, Tenn., one of eight children. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the college sophomore dropped out to join the Navy, and served as an engineer during World War II. He returned to his recently widowed mother and took over his father’s steel business.
“When I started it had two employees,” he told me. “A year later it had 150.”
Glazer went on to make millions — no, billions — in the building industry. Although he’s devoted his retirement years to philanthropic causes, primarily in the Jewish world, when you Google Glazer, the most frequent hit is his annual listing in the Forbes List of 400 Richest Americans.
Glazer had been involved with Rand for years, ever since his close friend Moshe Dayan urged him to retain Rand to assess Israel’s financial contribution to America’s Cold War struggles.
The Santa Monica-based think tank was already at work on a Palestine study, initially funded by Santa Monica residents David and Carol Richards, when it contacted Glazer and tapped into his long-standing interest.
“My father used to tell me that a man with nothing to lose is very dangerous,” Glazer said. “We need in our self-defense to make sure they have something,” he said, referring to the Palestinians.
In other words, Glazer and the Rand people have turned the old formulation on its head. Is it good for the Jews? now has a corollary: “Is it good for the Palestinians?”
Failure, Glazer said, is not an option. A seething, destabilized state of Palestine would pose a constant security threat to Israel. A viable, sustainable state might just ensure a regional calm.
“You need to do something to get them started,” he said. “These people are not just gonna lose everything anymore for no reason.”
The Rand study begins with the current state of the Palestinian entity, which is a train wreck.
Its population density rivals Bangledesh. It receives half of the water it needs. Since the intifada began in 2000, gross income has dropped by 40 percent and unemployment has risen from 25 percent to 80 percent. In the best-case scenario, it will take five years for these numbers to improve to pre-intifada levels, which weren’t exactly Sweden’s.
Palestine’s success depends on four key factors, say the Rand planners: territorial contiguity, permeability of borders, capital investment and economic and governmental policy.
The challenges are daunting. The new country will have to reabsorb tens of thousands of destitute refugees within its borders, and an estimated 500,000 returnees from abroad. The Palestinians will have to do this while stamping out violent factions and political corruption within and dealing with a neighbor, Israel, for whom permeable borders and territorial contiguity present significant, immediate security threats.
The bad news is that Palestinians now inhabit an economy that is either destroyed, obsolete or decrepit. The good news: They can start from scratch and build their future smartly.
This is what the Rand people did — treated the existing topography, resources and society as a kind of blank slate for state-of-the-art, sustainable urban planning.
The result makes you wish Rand was around to plan Los Angeles 60 years ago.
The plan’s centerpiece is visually and intellectually simple, in the best sense of the word. It calls for a light-rail line, which it calls “the arc.” The rail line would essentially bisect Palestine, freeing the proto-nation from a future dependence on cars while also providing the backbone for a high-tech infrastructure and adjacent green space. Picture a stylized “J.” The top of the letter starts in the upper West Bank, in Jenin, and the stem runs down along the ridge of already settled towns — Nablus, Ramallah, Jerusalem, Bethlehem. The hook goes through Israel via a secure path, and reappears in Gaza, where it runs upward through that narrow strip from Rafah to Gaza City.
The “J,” located just east of existing towns, would connect the major Palestinian population centers in an efficient, car-free way. (“Cars ruin everything,” Glazer told me. “Israel’s all car-ed up.) Water, utility, sewage and fiber-optic lines would follow the same J-shaped trunk line. Efficient, relatively cheap high-speed buses would link the old town centers with new high-tech, industrial zones and settlement corridors forming horizontally along its route. A greenbelt would border the line, forming a single park up and down the country’s length. Electricity would flow from wind and solar generators.
This “J” would contain sprawl, preserve other open spaces, obviate the need for most cars, smooth the flow of goods and services, and help preserve the character of old, tourism-friendly Palestinian towns while allowing for new industrial and residential growth. In Palestine, demography is destiny, and the Rand report assumes that the population will double over the next 10 years.
The plan is estimated to cost $41.5 billion over the next 10 years. That’s about the same amount the international community pays to keep the peace in Bosnia — over $700 per person per year.
During our long phone conversation, Glazer repeatedly praised the study’s authors, especially lead author Douglas Suisman. I raised the possibility that Palestinians might ignore their names and focus, suspiciously, on his own: Why should Palestinians heed a study largely funded by a wealthy, pro-Israel Jewish businessman in Beverly Hills?
“I don’t worry about that,” he said. “The ones who have seen it tell me they’re glad to have any help from any source. If they don’t want it then it can wither on the vine, but maybe they’re tired of committing suicide.”
Glazer paused and then came at the question again: “All this makes plain common sense to me, and it must get done. It’s just a dream, but you have to work at your dreams.”
For more information, visit www.rand.org/palestine.

Israel Bonds

Israel Bonds: They’re not just for bar and bat mitzvahs anymore.

That’s the message the State of Israel Bonds organization wants to get across in announcing its new floating rate offerings. Rather than being seen as a quasi-charity and feel-good gift for 13-year-olds, the organization wants to be considered a legitimate investment option.

It hopes to do that by adding the London Interbank Offer Rate (LIBOR) to its notes and offerings. LIBOR is a floating interest rate based on the average daily lending rates offered by several London banks. It’s considered a more international benchmark that takes global economics into account.

“It’s significant because, to this day, some people view Israel Bonds as a less-than-veritable investment, mostly because of a lack of knowledge of the bonds,” said a spokesman for Israel Bonds, adding that the addition of the LIBOR benchmark is “just another step” toward Israel Bonds being considered “a bona-fide investment option.”

The LIBOR-based instruments “will provide investment options that could better reflect the environment of the global market,” Gideon Patt, Bonds president and CEO, said in a statement.

Israel bonds are securities issued by the State of Israel to help build the country’s economy and infrastructure. Proceeds go to Israel’s treasury for general use. Historically, Israel Bond funds have been earmarked for projects such as highways and bridges. Current projects being used by Bonds money, a spokesman said, include water desalination and high-speed train projects.

“When you invest in Israel, you invest in the Jewish family business,” he said.

Still, they could make a respectable bar or bat mitzvah gift.

For more information, call the Contact Development Corp. for Israel at 1-800-229-9650, or go to www.israelbonds.com

This story was contributed by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency