January 21, 2019

‘Son of Hamas,’ MDA, Survivors and Teens

Husband-and-wife philanthropists Fred and Dina Leeds chaired the American Friends of Magen David Adom gala. Photo by Michelle Mivzari

The sixth annual Red Star Ball held by American Friends of Magen David Adom (AFMDA) honored Magen David Adom’s paramedic heroes along with Steven Mizel, who was named Humanitarian of the Year; Jacqueline Goldman, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award; and Ruthi and Elliot Kahn, who were honored with the Next Generation Leadership Award.

The Oct. 30 evening event at the Beverly Hilton featured performances by singer Gladys Knight, comedian Andrew “Dice” Clay and Israeli musician Ninet Tayeb.

Local philanthropists Dina and Fred Leeds chaired the star-studded gathering.

AFMDA raises funds and awareness for Magen David Adom, Israel’s national emergency medical, disaster, ambulance and blood bank service. The organization describes itself as “the largest supporter of MDA worldwide.”

Magen David Adom is not a government agency but is the only group mandated by the Israeli government to provide first-responder, life-saving services. The organization relies on the support of groups like AFMDA.

“Son of Hamas” Mosab Hassan Yousef (center) with Jewish National Fund supporters Judy and Bud Levin. Photo courtesy of Jewish National Fund

Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of a senior Hamas leader, headlined the annual Jewish National Fund (JNF) breakfast on Nov. 27 at the Beverly Hilton. Yousef spoke about the dramatic trajectory of his life — from the rejection of his father, Hassan Yousef, to helping Shin Bet, Israel’s security agency, fight terrorism.

“Being here is not a choice I made yesterday,” Yousef, 40, said onstage in the hotel ballroom, surrounded by posters of David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, Menachem Begin and Theodor Herzl. “It is the collective choices of my journey.”

Hamas supports the creation of a Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel. 

“They don’t care about Palestinian people,” said Yousef, author of the 2010 autobiography “Son of Hamas.” “They have a cause — a Palestinian state.”

He added: “They call it Palestinian resistance. I have a better word for it: anti-Semitism.” 

As a result of leaving Hamas behind, Yousef said he no longer is in touch with his family. 

Also speaking at the breakfast was Louis Rosenberg, executive director of the JNF, Los Angeles chapter, who said the organization had raised $548 million of the $1 billion goal of its decadelong initiative, the “One Billion Dollar Roadmap.”

JNF National Campaign Director Sharon Freedman said the organization’s Los Angeles chapter was one of its fastest-growing communities in the United States. 

JNF operates a number of initiatives in Israel, including serving people with special needs; planting trees and creating green spaces; and developing Galilee and the Negev into centers of agriculture, tourism and technology.

From left: ETTA Board President Kam Babaoff, honorees Bill Prady, Dena and Joel Bess and Jacob Katz and ETTA Executive Director Michael Held. Photo by John Solano

ETTA, a provider of services for Southern California adults with special needs, held its 25th-anniversary gala on Nov. 28 at the Beverly Hilton.

About 750 supporters, guests, clients and friends attended the event hosted by actress, writer and activist Mayim Bialik.

Honorees included Bill Prady, co-creator and executive producer of “The Big Bang Theory,” with the Visionary Award; Dena and Joel Bess with the Community Champions Award; and Jacob Katz, who has been involved with ETTA since its founding, with the Hendeles Youth Leadership 

Attendees included ETTA Board President Kam Babaoff and ETTA Executive Director Michael Held. 

Holocaust survivors and MOTivating Teen Volunteers shared their love of music at a Nov. 11 event. Photo by Seyeon Kim

The Green Room at the Museum of Tolerance (MOT) was filled to capacity on Nov. 11, when 18 Holocaust survivors, including their family members and caregivers, shared an afternoon of memory, music and refreshments with 15 MOTivating Teen Volunteers. 

Holocaust survivor Jack Lewin and his wife, Regina, came with their caregiver. 

“My heart grows with happiness to see so many young people,” Jack Lewin said. “It was the most beautiful thing we achieved — to be able to get so many young people here.”

The afternoon was planned by teen siblings and volunteers Rex and Gracie Evans with the support and guidance of MOT Director of Museum Volunteer Services Elana Samuels. Since Samuels created the MOTivating Teen Volunteer Program in 2008 to encourage teens to learn from history and to promote tolerance and respect, 300 teens have participated.

Rex started volunteering at the museum in the fall of 2017 and soon began organizing intergenerational programs that foster dialogue and understanding between survivors and teens, the first of which was held in March. He and Gracie already had started planning the music-themed November event when Rex received the Julie Beren Platt Teen Innovation Grant from The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles this fall.

The idea for the music theme came from Gracie. “I tried to think of something prevalent in the survivors’ lives that is still widely appreciated today,” she said. “Naturally, music came to mind and since my brother and I have been playing classical piano ever since we were young, I thought a mini concert would be the perfect way to spark reciprocal conversations between survivors and teens.”

“Elana and I spent many hours planning and discussing different ideas for the program, and it worked out really well,” Rex said. “My sister performed ‘Fantasia’ by Mozart and I played an étude by Chopin on the keyboard. Another teen, Cashio Woo, played the violin. Elana also projected songs on YouTube to sing along to, and we brought percussion instruments for everyone to play. The accordions were a hit!”

Samuels said seeing the Holocaust survivors and teens actively engaging and listening to one another was heartwarming. 

“The impact of [the teens’] relationships with the Holocaust survivors is transformative,” she said. “They are not just learning about history — they are touching history.”

— Debra Eckerling, Contributing Writer


Want to be in Movers & Shakers?Send us your highlights, events, honors and simchas.
Email ryant@jewishjournal.com.

From 1947 to 2018, the Miracles of Nov. 29

When supporters of Israel worldwide think about Nov. 29, they think about miracles. 

In 1897, Theodor Herzl convened the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in their own country.

This right was recognized in the Balfour Declaration of 1917, and re-affirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations, which, in particular, gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Eretz Israel and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild their national home.

Nov. 29, 1947, marked one of the greatest milestones along the road to realizing the miracle of the modern Jewish state. On that day, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel. This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their state is irrevocable. 

Subsequent events cemented this miracle, including how the nascent Jewish state proceeded to declare independence, and then to defy the odds by overcoming formidable Arab armies in the War of Independence. But the roots of the miracle were planted at the U.N. on Nov. 29.

I’ve dedicated my career and personal life to appreciating, advocating for, and preserving this miracle. Now, quite fittingly on Nov. 29, I’m adding an even more personal layer as to my part in the sacred responsibility that we all share in securing this miracle. 

On Nov. 29, I begin my new role as world chairman of Keren Hayesod-UIA (United Israel Appeal). Born and raised in a religious Zionist environment in Miami Beach, I’ve long savored the realization of a modern Jewish state and the Jewish people’s miracle of sovereignty in their ancestral homeland. But even as I advanced in my career working on behalf of the State of Israel, it would have been hard to imagine that today I would find myself at the helm of an organization that has the most direct connection possible to the state itself by serving as the fundraising arm of the global Zionist movement.

Never would I have thought that an American Jew from Miami Beach would assume this position, whose selection process involves direct coordination with the prime minister of Israel — the leader of a strong and thriving Jewish state, dedicated to protecting the Jewish people worldwide. Although my appointment was announced about a month ago, I am still processing its full ramifications. How did my personal and professional journey ever bring me to this point?

After fulfilling a lifelong dream and making aliyah alone at age 17 in 1990, I served as a combat soldier in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) armored corps, and later in the IDF reserves as a casualty officer. But my ensuing career was a back-and-forth journey between Israel and the U.S., including jobs in finance and law (in addition to attending business school and law school at the University of Miami), as director general in Israel for the World Jewish Congress, and as Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles to the Southwest United States — appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It was truly humbling to have earned the prime minister’s confidence for my immediate past role in Los Angeles, as well as for my new position with Keren Hayesod, together with the support of the international Jewish leaders who comprise its board of trustees.

My time in Los Angeles was a high-level crash course in Israel-Diaspora ties and diplomacy.

My time in Los Angeles was a high-level crash course in Israel-Diaspora ties and diplomacy, and in Israel’s crucial relationships with various demographic groups and communities, from American Jews to Israeli-Americans to Latinos to Hollywood. Indeed, representing Israel in Los Angeles gave me the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to engage and meet one-on-one with celebrities like Conan O’Brien, Billy Crystal, Mayim Bialik, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and many others. In doing so, I had the privilege to build and fortify those relationships in an Israel-centric context enhancing our country’s diplomatic standing. I’ll never forget those exciting, action-packed years.

But now I’m moving on to a new, next-level challenge. And to understand that challenge, one really needs to understand what Keren Hayesod is and what it does. Admittedly, amid today’s “alphabet soup” of Jewish and Israeli nonprofits, it’s easy for true awareness about any organization’s actual work and mission to get lost in the shuffle.

Founded in 1920, Keren Hayesod helped lay the foundation for the future Jewish state. With the help of donations from throughout the world, it brought tens of thousands of Jews fleeing Europe to the land of Israel, helped absorb them, and started more than 900 urban and rural settlements. It provided the newcomers with homes and jobs, and developed the economic, educational and cultural framework of pre-state Israel. After Israel’s independence, Keren Hayesod-UIA became one of the country’s national institutions.
Today, in partnership with the global Jewish community and friends of Israel in more than 45 countries, Keren Hayesod-UIA helps advance the national priorities of the state. The most important priorities are rescuing Jews from places where their lives are in peril, encouraging aliyah, and absorbing new immigrants. Further, scores of Keren Hayesod-UIA projects strengthen weak populations in Israel, provide opportunities for disadvantaged youths, and connect young Diaspora Jews to Israel and to Jewish life. Our newest projects are the renovation of Israel’s national heritage sites and the development of efficient alternative energy.

As I reflect on these two improbable events occurring on Nov. 29 — the U.N.’s approval of the partition plan, and the beginning of my time as Keren Hayesod’s world chairman — I keep coming back to the word “miracle.” The modern State of Israel has forged a highly unlikely path to existence and continued survival and, personally, I’ve experienced an unlikely journey to my current role. I am the grandson of Holocaust survivors and the great-grandson of those who were murdered in the Holocaust. Yet today, my own children are approaching the age of IDF service and will soon defend the Jewish state. A few days before Hanukkah, I can’t think of a greater miracle.

Sam Grundwerg is world chairman of Keren Hayesod-UIA (United Israel Appeal) and the former Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles.

What’s Happening: Boyle Heights, ‘GI Jews’ and Distant Cousins

Distant Cousins


Amos Oz — Shabbat Lunch and Learn
The work of Amos Oz, one of Israel’s best-known living authors, is the subject of the latest Shabbat Lunch and Learn class at Sephardic Temple, part of the series called “Masters of Prose: Great Israeli Writers.” 9:30 a.m.–1 p.m. Free. Sephardic Temple, 10500 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. To RSVP, call (310) 475-7000 or email melissa@sephardictemple.org.  

“Remembering Boyle Heights”
“Remembering Boyle Heights” — an audience participatory, immersive and theatrical celebration — brings to life the early history, stories and memories of Boyle Heights, once the heart of the Jewish community of Los Angeles, while revealing the mythical and human dimensions of the neighborhood that was called the “Ellis Island of the West” Panel discussions follow select performances. Through Dec. 16. Fridays and Saturdays, 7:45 p.m.; Sundays, 4:45 p.m. Tickets $15, $17, $19.99. Tickets with dinner or desert $19.99, $29.99, $39.99. Casa 0101 Theater, 2102 E. First St., Los Angeles. (323) 263-7684.


Hanukkah Drum Circle
Make Hanukkah crafts and enjoy sweet holiday treats with South Bay families at the JKidz Club Hanukkah drum circle and gathering at Polliwog Park in Manhattan Beach. 3–5 p.m. $10 family admission. Polliwog Park, 1601 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Manhattan Beach. (424) 543-4648.


JNF Breakfast for Israel
Alon Ben-Gurion, grandson of Israel founding father David Ben-Gurion, speaks at the Jewish National Fund’s annual Breakfast for Israel. Ben-Gurion is committed to seeing his grandfather’s dream of making the Negev desert bloom a reality and uses his hospitality business to promote development in the Negev. Israel’s Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked also delivers a greeting. 7:30–9 a.m. Free. The Beverly Hilton, 9876 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (323) 964-1400, ext. 966.

“Nuclear Proliferation in the Middle East”
A panel discussion on “Nuclear Proliferation in the Middle East: Power, Politics and Regional Threats” examines nuclear proliferation issues in the Middle East in light of the recent U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran. Speakers are former UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale, a specialist in arms control and national security; Chen Kane, director of the Middle East Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies; and David Menashri, professor emeritus at Tel Aviv University. UCLA School of Law professor Kal Raustiala moderates. 6–7:45 p.m. Free. UCLA Fowler Museum, Lenart Auditorium, 308 Charles E. Young Drive North, Los Angeles. (310) 825-9646.

“Home is Where the Heart Is: A Biological Reunion”
Thirty years after being taken away from her parents and given up for adoption, singer-songwriter Jenni “Cami” Alpert began searching for her birth father, Don. When she found him, he was a homeless, toothless drug addict. Their reunion forms the basis of this concert and presentation, which they lead. Actress Mayim Bialik (“Big Bang Theory”) moderates a Q-and-A. 7:30 p.m. Free. Temple Beth Am, 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 652-7353.

“When the World Comes Crashing Down”
Sinai Temple Rabbi Sam Rotenberg addresses the young professionals of Sinai Temple’s Atid program about “When the World Comes Crashing Down” — what Judaism teaches in regard to surviving, and even thriving, in a violent time. Attendees are encouraged to donate to the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ L.A. Wildfire Relief Fund. 7:30–9:30 p.m. Free. For people in their 20s and 30s. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 474-1518.

L.A. Jewish Symphony Kids Concerts

L.A. Jewish Symphony Kids Concerts
Culminating a two-month education outreach program, the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony, with conductor Noreen Green and soloist Cantor Marcelo Gindlin, presents an interactive concert for third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students at Valley Beth Shalom Day School. The one-hour performance celebrates Jewish-Spanish music and history. 11 a.m. Free. Valley Beth Shalom Day School, 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino; Another concert takes place on Dec. 3 at Adat Ari El, 12020 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village. (818) 646-2844.


“Conversations With God”
Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, vice president of American Jewish University, tackles the question, “What difference does God make in a human life?” during “Conversations with God,” a series that runs for eight Wednesday evenings at Valley Beth Shalom. VBS Senior Rabbi Ed Feinstein hosts the series — open to rabbis, scholars and thinkers — which continues through Jan. 9. 7–9 p.m. Free. Valley Beth Shalom, 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 788-6000.

“Myth Makers and Breakers”
How did Israel shape Israeli music? How has Israeli music changed Israel? A musical celebration of Israel’s 70th birthday features Daniel Stein Kokin leading an exploration of seven iconic Israeli songs: three myth makers, three myth breakers and one that takes off in a new direction. The professor of Jewish literature from Germany, who is a visiting professor at UCLA, also highlights the songs’ original artists with film clips of their performances. 7 p.m. $15. American Jewish University’s Familian Campus, Sperber Jewish Community Library, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 440-1572.


Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked

Ayelet Shaked
[UPDATED DATE] Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks at Beth Jacob Congregation about the “Internal and International Challenges of the Jewish People.” A computer engineer, Shaked is the only secular woman in the leadership of the Jewish Home party, which is to the political right of Netanyahu’s Likud party and is opposed to any evacuation of West Bank settlements. 7:30–9 p.m. Free. Beth Jacob Congregation, Shapell Sanctuary, 9030 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 278-1911.

“Shabbat in Your Home”
Adat Ari El Senior Rabbi Jonathan Jaffe Bernhard leads a monthly workshop for parents of school-age children designed to bring the rituals and philosophy of Shabbat into the home. Gatherings are hosted in homes of participants. If interested in participating and/or hosting, contact Diana Weinberg at dweinberg@adatariel.org. 7:30–9:30 p.m. Free. RSVP required. (818) 766-9426.

G.I Jews

“GI Jews”
The PBS documentary “GI Jews: Jewish Americans in WWII” — which tells the story of American Jewish troops who fought against fascism, helped save European Jews and assisted survivors of Nazi concentration camps — screens at Wilshire Boulevard Temple. After years of struggle, these soldiers emerged transformed, determined to continue the fight for equality at home. 7:30–9:30 p.m.  Free. Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Irmas Westside Campus, 11661 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles.  (213) 388-2401.

Distant Cousins

Distant Cousins
Los Angeles-based folk-pop trio Distant Cousins perform songs exploring the group members’ deep connections and a variety of musical genres. Their original music is the collaboration of its members, Ami Kozak, Dov Rosenblatt and Duvid Swirsky. They appear at The Mint. Zev the Wolf opens. Ages 21 and over. Doors 7:30 p.m. Show 8 p.m. $12 in advance, $15 day of show. The Mint, 6010 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 954-9400.

Community Reactions to Pittsburgh Shooting

In the aftermath of the Pittsburgh synagogue shootings, the Journal asked leaders of our community to provide words of comfort, advice and inspiration, hoping their ideas will help us move forward with sensitivity, purpose and unity. 

Despite Differences, We Are One
The tragedy at Tree of Life is a stark reminder that, despite our Jewish community’s religious or political differences, we are, above all else, a family with a shared destiny. The shooter looked to harm Jews — not specifically Orthodox or Reform, religious or secular, Ashkenazic or Sephardic, conservative or progressive. When it comes to anti-Semitism, we are one. I pray that this tragedy will be a turning point for our community, in which we strive to always treat each other like the brothers and sisters that we are, regardless of how we vote, the views we hold, or how we practice our faith. Otherwise, the murder of our 11 family members will have been in vain.

Sam Yebri, president/co-founder, 30 Years After

Our Ancient Muscles Help Us Deal With Anti-Semitism
Anti-Semitism is not about you or me. It is not your fault that they hate you. It is entirely theirs. Because, anti-Semitism is not really about Jews. We might be the object of hatred but we are not its true cause. Anti-Semitism is based on the ideas of scarcity and lack of control. Scarcity of resources, scarcity of grace and scarcity of power. It comes from a radical form of either/or thinking that says either “we” have all the power or “they” do. When “we” do not have power “we” do not have control. Anti-Semites externalize their loss of control to ask only, “Who did this to us,”; instead of the more important question, “What can I do differently?” It’s an easy way to distract them from deeper issues within a community. We as Jews know this type of anti-Semitism. We have two ancient muscles to deal with it. The first is pastoral: to open our hands and hearts to each other so we can, as Rav Kook said, conquer senseless hatred (sinat chinam) with boundless love (ahavat chinam). The other is prophetic: to make our Jewish values public. As it says in Micah, “What does the Lord require of you? To act with justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Finally, do not let anti-Semites define you. Do the work to define yourself. Remember, most of all, never apologize for loving your people. Never apologize for pursuing justice. Never apologize for loving Israel. Never, ever apologize for being a Jew.

Rabbi Noah Farkas, Valley Beth Shalom

Let the Tree of Life Guide Us
It is good in this moment to come together to comfort each other. We also come together to commit to making the memory of those who have been murdered a blessing. A blessing to stand against hate for our people, for all people, in all of its forms, rhetoric, and violence. We grab onto the Etz Chaim, the Tree of Life, and we hold it close and we let it guide the work of our hearts and our hands to make a better world.

Rabbi Susan Goldberg, Wilshire Boulevard Temple

Going High, in Memory of the Victims
“We go high when they go low.” “We have to answer hate with love.” That’s what many of our Jewish leaders are preaching. I so want to go there. And I will. But today that doesn’t feel like enough. It feels, well, naïve in the face of guns and pipe bombs. So, what do I want? I want rational gun laws. I want a leader who unequivocally demands civility from his followers and doesn’t wink at the extremists in his base with rhetoric that labels fellow Americans as “enemies”; a leader who does not joke about being a nationalist or there being “good people on both sides.” Maybe it’s only a dotted line from the White House to the three violent acts of hatred committed these past weeks, but as journalist Dahlia Lithwick points out, “People who hate Jews and immigrants and minorities believe that when they commit violence against these people, they are behaving as the followers their president wants them to be.” So, in memory of those murdered, I will try to go high. And I will vote.

Tzivia Schwartz Getzug, consultant and community activist

Faced with Hate, Lead with Love
Whether I speak as chair of the board of an organization that touches the lives of Jews in Los Angeles and around the world, or as a mother of five and grandmother of three, my reaction to the horrific events at Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh is the same: when faced with hate, we must lead with love. When our hearts are broken because Jews are targeted by a senseless act of terror, we must heal them and stay strong. When the world goes crazy, we must turn to the teachings that are our birthright as Jews and persevere. We stand with Pittsburgh and we mourn the loss of life. And we stand together in Los Angeles to do all we can to stay safe and ensure a Jewish future for our children and grandchildren. That is the power of community. And we need it more than ever.

Julie Platt, chair of the board, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles

Jews Believe in the Worth and Dignity of Every Human Being
Perhaps the most remarkable fact to emerge in the assailant’s murderous violation of our sacred space, when a newly minted Jewish child was being named, was his special hatred for Jews due to our very essence as a people committed to immigrants. Proof? Torah’s holy triad of compassion, “the migrant, the widow and the orphan.” Yes, Mr. Bowers, I am a Jew. I believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every human being on this planet, the worth of the planet itself, all manifestations of a God of justice. I will never waver, for even a second from this truth, saturating our sacred texts and seared upon our minds and hearts by the prophets Amos and Jeremiah: Our treatment of the downtrodden, the economically disadvantaged and the despised of our society defines our relationship with God. You, Mr. Bowers, and your minions, will not replace us.

Rabbi Jonathan D. Klein, executive director, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice: Building a Just and Sacred Society

The Kedoshim (Holy Ones) of Pittsburgh Must Unite Us

Our sages teach that when two brothers’ blood is spilled as one, it eclipses the sun (Sukkah 29b). Pittsburgh is a total eclipse of our sun. The enormous tragedy of 11 Jews murdered in synagogue on Shabbat cannot be explained away, compartmentalized or forgotten. Our synagogues are meant to be places of holiness, not places defiled by hate. In spite of our tears, anger and fear, we must never let Pittsburgh divide the Jewish community. We are all coping with intense emotions, dealing with grief in our own ways. However, if we let Pittsburgh divide one Jew from another, the kedoshim of Pittsburgh will have died in vain. Rather, in their sacred memory let us become angels of lovingkindness, turning tragedy into blessing, anger into compassion, fear into fellowship. 

Rabbi Yonah Bookstein, co-founder, Pico Shul, Deanna and Allen Alevy Family Senior Rabbi in Community Outreach

Helping Our Kids Face the Unfathomable
I find the metaphor of the lighthouse useful for parents and educators: a stable beacon of light in uncertain conditions; a reliable landmark; a place to feel safe in a storm. Perhaps we ourselves are shaken as we hear and process the news. We lament that this isn’t the world we want for our children. We want to do everything in our power to protect them. But we can’t make the waters calm or the rocky shore less rugged. They have to be ready for the world. What we can do is shine a light to illuminate the small steps we can take to navigate successfully in dark times: support one another, speak out against intolerance, stand up for righteousness, be appropriately vigilant, muster our collective courage, and be a light for others.

Dr. Miriam Heller Stern, national director of the School of Education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

Building Relationships Creates a Safety Net for Us All
In these moments of vulnerability, we may feel the desire to close ranks. This natural impulse is being exploited, but sowing division makes us — Jews and everyone — less safe. This is the moment to reach out past the Jewish community to find the people who will stand with us, and with whom we will stand. When I arrived at the vigil for Tree of Life, I spotted my Muslim friend Umar Hakim at the edge of the gathering. A man had come with a flag and signs to protest the vigil. So had a young man wearing a “Punch Nazis” T-shirt. As I approached, I could see Umar gently separating the two men and escorting the protester away from attendees. As the young man turned toward me, I could see his whole body tense and shaking. I spoke with him until his body and voice relaxed. This moment reminded me how reaching out and building relationships creates a safety net for all of us.

Andrea Hodos, program co-director, NewGround: Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change

Continue to be Beacons of Faith
In the wake of this terrible massacre we need to do all that we can to strengthen our faith, rather than allow it to become diminished. At the same time, we must do everything in our power to protect ourselves against the terrible hatred that targets Jews. We must do these things so that we may continue to be beacons of faith in a world that denies the value of faith, so that the true light of God can inspire those who seek inspiration and give strength to those who might falter.

Rabbi Pini Dunner, Young Israel of North Beverly Hills, Beverly Hills Synagogue

Turn to Each Other, Tradition and the Polls
Eleven praying Jews murdered on Shabbat. The tragic news sent chills through every Jewish community in the country and reverberations around the world. Our first reaction has to be one of shock, horror and grief. But as the hours stretch into days, we recognize additional insights: that anti-Semitism has been permitted to spew in public, as has violence and scorn for women, people with special needs, people of color, Muslims, LGBT people and others. Bigotry unbottled at the highest levels will spread. Words encouraging violence and brutality turn easily into acts of terror and bloodshed, magnified by the refusal to regulate the possession of weapons of war. Where do we turn for courage and hope? To each other, to our ancient tradition of wisdom and resilience, to the Holy One who desires life. Where do we turn for change and safety? To the polls and to renewed engagement in the democratic process. What defines success? Ancient Jewish visions and depictions of a messianic dignity and unity for all.

Rabbi Dr. Bradley Shavit Artson, Roslyn and Abner Goldstine Dean’s Chair & Professor of Philosophy, Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, American Jewish University

Through Grief, Looking for Hope and Strength
Name a grief-related emotion and I’m feeling it. Anger and rage. Sadness and disgust. Confusion and dismay. Frustration and disbelief. Denial and despair. I want to blame it on Trump and then I feel stupid for wanting to blame it on Trump. I want to ignore it and then I feel shameful for being cowardly and thinking I could run from this. I want it to make sense, but then I remember: It doesn’t make sense. Grief never makes sense, and this kind of violence, perpetrated against innocents in a place of sanctuary, never makes sense. I miss innocence and peace. I miss my fantasies of this country, forged by my grandparents’ stories of escaping the Holocaust and arriving in a land where even Jewish immigrants could become anything. I miss this American dream that I was told to have before I’d even fully grasped what it really meant. Today my dreams became shadows of a nightmare that remains even when I am wide awake. As with grief, we get to move forward knowing that while our memories and the sadness will always be with us, so too our hope and strength can be our constant companions. Through compassion, dedication and truly being the change we wish to see in the world, we can have tikvah (hope) and shalom. Even though it seems so far away, it’s not. It’s been inside of all of us since the beginning of time.

Mayim Bialik, actress and neuroscientist

Condemn Hatred, Send Love and Strength
Even as we struggle to hold the enormity of this tragedy, even as we grieve, we must be clear-headed and unequivocal in naming and condemning the disease of hatred that has permeated the culture of our nation that paved the way for this attack, as well as the fanatical obsession with guns that allows hatred to turn deadly. Pittsburgh did not happen in a vacuum — it was the inevitable outcome of racialized hatred and anti-Semitism being fed, fueled and funded by those with a political agenda that literally puts our lives on the line. Over the past few years, America has turned from a place with a constant but quiet undercurrent of anti-Semitism to a place in which anti-Semitism is public, unabashed and condoned from the highest offices. We also know that the spike in anti-Semitism in America today is part of a broader cultural trend of hatred and demonization many minority communities are facing, whether they be Jews, Muslims, Latinos, Blacks, LGBTQ folks, immigrants or refugees. That’s why our multifaith partners stood with us this week, and we stand with them. Arm in arm, side by side, reclaiming — through our tears and our conviction — an America that treats every one of us with love, respect and dignity.

Rabbi Sharon Brous, IKAR

Ushpizin: Who Would You Invite Into Your Sukkah?

During Sukkot, we gather with in our temporary structures (sukkot) meant to recall those used by the children of Israel after they left Egypt and wandered the desert. 

One tradition suggests that, in addition to hosting family and friends, we invite specific Jewish historical figures as ushpizin (guests): Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David. More recently, a new tradition has suggested adding Jewish historical women: Sarah, Rachel, Rebecca, Leah, Miriam, Abigail, and Esther. Even more contemporary interpretations expand the list of potential guests to include relatives who have passed away and other important or inspiring figures from our lives.

We asked rabbis, community leaders, comedians and others to tell us which historical or living inspirational figures they would like to symbolically invite into their sukkah this year:

Rachel Grose, Executive Director, Jewish Free Loan Association
Anne Frank. Her ability to believe in people despite her desperate and terrifying situation is an inspiration for all of us to make the effort to see the best in everyone.

Joshua Holo, Dean of the Los Angeles Campus and Associate Professor of Jewish History at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
Legendary actor Archibald Leach once said of himself, “Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant.” Good company and lively conversation, purveyed under palm trees and lubricated with sacramental wine, enliven Sukkot’s moniker as “the season of our joy.” My dream ushpiz is one part self-examiner, perhaps a little hungover from the previous week’s introspection, and two parts conversationalist, suitable for public radio’s “The Dinner Party Download.” Who better to carry the banter in the sukkah than Cary Grant? Fabulous stories of a bygone age, threaded with mildly rueful self-discovery, all in real time. 

“Haman, so he could see that his plan backfired. I’d also make sure that all the fruit in my sukkah were hanging from the bamboo in tiny nooses.” — Elon Gold

Elon Gold, comedian and actor
Haman. I’d seat him at the kids’ table in my sukkah because he’s a big, stupid baby, and so he could see that his plan backfired and that we have lived on, generation after generation, flourishing, beautiful and strong as ever. I’d also make sure that all the fruit in my sukkah were hanging from the bamboo in tiny nooses. Just to remind him of the good old days and what happens to anyone who tries to wipe out our people. 

Also, Noah’s next door neighbor. Most people would want Noah himself to visit but I have a few questions for his neighbor: How annoying was all that construction morning, noon and night for all those years? Does he believe in climate change? Also, when you saw your neighbor building an ark, it didn’t pique your curiosity? Because if it were me, I’d be either kissing Noah’s ass big-time to get a couple seats on the ark or start building my own. 

And Golda Meir. I know a lot of comedians, all sharp, quick-witted and fun to be around. But every quote I’ve ever heard or read of Golda’s was laced with biting, brilliant humor. I would love nothing more than to hear her regale us with stories of Israel in its “Golda-en” age and get her take on the modern world. (I bet she’d figure out who wrote that anonymous New York Times op-ed). And then I’d ask her to share her thoughts on Haman and Noah’s neighbor, and then just sit back and laugh as she laces into them as only Golda knows how.

E. Randol Schoenberg, attorney and genealogist
I spend a lot of time working on genealogy, so there are naturally many ancestors I would really like to have met, especially my two grandfathers, the composers Arnold Schoenberg and Eric Zeisl. Their musical legacies continue to inspire me and so many others, but I would love to be able to just sit around a table and get to know them. The conversation wouldn’t have to turn to weighty topics, although I am sure their views would be fascinating and insightful. I’d really just like to enjoy their wit and sense of humor. The public tends to think especially of my grandfather Schoenberg as a stern lawgiver, sort of like the depiction of Moses in the Bible, but within our family he isn’t remembered that way at all. Probably Moses wasn’t so strict all the time, either. I’d like to get to know my famous grandfathers, not as famous people, but just as grandfathers. 

Naama Haviv, Director of Development and Community Relations, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger
I’d love to share my sukkah with Leibel Fein (z”l), intellectual, journalist, activist, co-founder and editor of Moment magazine, and founder of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. I wonder especially what he would say about our place in the world as Jews now, in today’s ever more hyperpartisan atmosphere. When he founded MAZON, hunger was a safe, nonpartisan issue that everyone could get behind without political rancor. If stories from our staff and board who knew him are correct, he’d probe the question with immense curiosity and thoughtfulness, and with his trademark razor-sharp wit and charm. And we’d all be better people, better advocates and better Jews for it. 

Rabbi Adam Greenwald, Director, Miller Intro to Judaism Program, American Jewish University
Moses. OK, so that might seem like the most painfully “rabbi-ish” answer ever, but bear with me. The Talmud tells the story of Moses traveling through time to sit in Rabbi Akiva’s (50-135 C.E.) study hall. Moses can’t follow the discussions and begins to despair that he no longer recognizes those who are supposed to be his spiritual heirs. Finally, a student asks a question to which Rabbi Akiva responds, “Well, that is Torah that we received from Moses, our teacher,” and Moses’ mind was set at ease. If Moses was confused by the Judaism that followed him by just a thousand years, it’s hard to imagine what he would make of ours. Yet I wonder if he could come and sit with us in the sukkah, what would he recognize, and even knowing that so much would be profoundly unfamiliar, would we make him proud?

Rabbi Noah Zvi Farkas, Valley Beth Shalom
There are so many people I’d like to invite, but if I’d have to choose one, I’d probably choose President Abraham Lincoln. I’d Iike to sit with the ol’ rail splitter and ask him to reflect on how we can bridge a very divided country today. I’d love for him to guide us to recover our civic virtue and help us find those “better angels of our nature.”  

Jay Sanderson, President and CEO, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles
I would invite those who personify the leadership skills we sorely need today. My guests would be Moses (resilience), Mahatma Gandhi (sacrifice), David Ben-Gurion (determination), Martin Luther King Jr. (vision), Anne Frank (optimism), Abraham Lincoln (persistence) and Lillian Wald (idealism).

“Moses. I wonder what would he recognize, and even knowing that so much would be profoundly unfamiliar, would we make him proud?”
— Rabbi Adam Greenwald

Mayim Bialik, actress, writer, founder of GrokNation
I’m kind of wanting to invite whoever wrote that NY Times op-ed just because I’ve got so many questions, but I would invite Sacha Baron Cohen. His “Who Is America?” has blown my mind. 

Janice Kamenir-Reznik, Co-founder of Jewish World Watch, Chair of Beit T’Shuvah and of Jews United for Democracy and Justice
I would like to invite both Maimonides (Rambam) and Nechama Leibowitz into our sukkah on the same night. I have always seen Maimonides as one of the smartest, most open-minded and perhaps most influential Jewish thinkers of all time. His teachings on all aspects of Jewish thought, including the role of women in Judaism, permeate rabbinic education and Jewish learning. It surprised me that Maimonides, a progressive figure for his time, expressed the belief that women are biologically inferior to men and that a man ought not teach his daughter Torah. 

When Maimonides meets Nechama Leibowitz in our sukkah, he will certainly see that there is no biological inferiority and that there is great benefit to teaching one’s daughter Torah. Nechama Leibowitz, who died at 92 in 1997, is widely viewed as one of the most influential teachers of Torah of her generation. My family and I would enthusiastically welcome Rambam and Leibowitz and would relish being witness to their conversation, but since ushpizin is an idea that requires a certain degree of magical thinking, I would hope that, after experiencing Nechama Leibowitz and her brilliant Torah, Maimonides would go back and do a few corrections in his teachings and analysis and become an active advocate in favor of an inclusive role for women in all aspects of Judaism, thereby letting the women of the last millennium use their advocacy talents and energies to fight other battles. 

Annie Korzen, actress/humorist
I am a secular Jew, but I happily celebrate the holidays when someone invites me. I enjoy being in a room full of Jews, plus I never refuse free food. If I were hosting in a sukkah, my guest list would include Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Michelle Obama, Nelson Mandela and, to add a touch of levity, Mel Brooks. Sounds like a fun group to me.

Moving & Shaking: Focus on Women’s Health; Bialik at UCLA

From left: Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles Board Chair Julie Platt, L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin and L.A. Federation CEO Jay Sanderson attend the Federation’s community leaders’ Passover seder in Venice. Photo courtesy of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles held its annual community leaders’ Passover seder on March 28 at the Israel Levin Center in Venice, bringing together elected and civic representatives from multiple faiths and backgrounds to celebrate the holiday.

Elected officials in attendance included Los Angeles City Council members Mike Bonin, Paul Koretz and David Ryu; L.A. City Controller Ron Galperin; state Treasurer John Chiang; state Sen. Ben Allen; and Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg.

From left: Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Dr. C. Noel Bairey Merz​; ​Friends of Sheba Medical Center (FSMC) supporter ​Myrtle Sitowitz; ​Sheba Medical Center ​Dr. Romana Herscovici; FSMC Senior Vice President ​Ruth Steinberger; FSMC President Parham Zar; and FSMC Executive Director David Levy attend “Women’s Heart Health,” a salon-style discussion in Beverly Hills. Photo courtesy of Friends of Sheba Medical Center.

Friends of Sheba Medical Center (FSMC) held its “Women’s Heart Health” salon on March 21 to discuss preventive measures against women’s cardiovascular disease, the world’s leading cause of death in women.

Nearly 100 people attended the sold-out gathering that featured Sheba Medical Center’s Dr. Romana Herscovici and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Dr. C. Noel Bairey Merz speaking about heart health for women. The event was held at the Beverly Hills home of longtime FSMC supporter Myrtle Sitowitz.

Herscovici is spending two years as a research fellow at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, working under Bairey Merz’s mentorship in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center. Upon her return to Israel later this year, Herscovici will continue her work focusing on women’s heart health at Sheba Medical Center, which is the largest, most comprehensive medical center in Israel and the Middle East. Herscovici’s fellowship at Cedars-Sinai is an example of one of Sheba’s many global partnerships working to advance medicine worldwide.

“It was exciting to participate in such an important and informative conversation that affects all women and our families,” said Barbara Lazaroff, vice president of the FSMC board. “I am very proud of the partnership between Sheba Medical Center and Cedars-Sinai, knowing it will make a significant difference in women’s heart health across the globe.”

Esther D. Kustanowitz, Contributing Writer

Mayim Bialik, who has been selected to deliver the commencement address at UCLA in June. Photo courtesy of UCLA.

UCLA has selected actress Mayim Bialik of “The Big Bang Theory” as its distinguished alumna speaker for the UCLA College commencement on June 15. Bialik holds a bachelor’s degree and a doctorate in neuroscience from UCLA.

“Dr. Bialik embodies the values of a Bruin,” UCLA College Senior Dean Patricia Turner said in a statement. “Throughout her career, she has shown how hard work, determination and civic duty can lead to success. I know that our graduates will be inspired by her story as they set out to make their own mark in the world.”

Bialik will address both commencement ceremonies, scheduled for 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., in Pauley Pavilion.

Since 2010, she has appeared on the popular CBS sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” playing Amy Farrah Fowler, a neurobiologist who is the fiancée of Sheldon Cooper, played by Jim Parsons.

Among her several acting roles as a youth, Bialik portrayed the title character in the 1990s sitcom “Blossom.” After that show ended its run, Bialik left acting and earned her bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from UCLA in 2000, with a minor in Hebrew and Jewish studies. She earned her doctorate in neuroscience in 2007. Her thesis examined the role of the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin in obsessive-compulsive disorder in adolescents with Prader-Willi syndrome.

While at UCLA, Bialik was a student leader in UCLA Hillel, founding a women’s Rosh Chodesh group, chanting and blowing shofar for High Holy Days services, and conducting and writing music for UCLA’s Jewish a capella group.

Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg and actress Mayim Bialik attend the Sixth Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism. Photo courtesy of the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Sixth Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism, held at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem from March 19–21, drew foreign ministers, politicians and community leaders from around the world.

Actress Mayim Bialik, Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg and Sharon Nazarian, senior vice president of international affairs at the Anti-Defamation League, were among the attendees from Los Angeles.

Bialik delivered the keynote address, about her personal experiences dealing with anti-Semitism and her love for the State of Israel and its people.

“It was a privilege to take part in the Sixth Global Forum with leaders from around the world,” Grundwerg said. “It is critical to focus on the importance of fostering tolerance and the need to continue to fight anti-Semitism on every front. Having the opportunity to bring Mayim Bialik, a leading and courageous voice of moral clarity in the community, is one of the true highlights of my posting. Her passion, love of the Jewish people and strong message of support for Israel resonated deeply with all who were present, including myself.”

Panels at the event addressed, among other topics, anti-Semitism in European far-right movements, anti-Semitism in the intersectionality of the far-left, and cyberhate.

Former U.S. President George W. Bush and Jewish Federation of North Americas Board Chair Richard Sandler appeared in conversation before major Federation donors. Photo courtesy of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

Former President George W. Bush and Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) Board of Trustees Chair Richard V. Sandler appeared in conversation on March 21 at the Conrad Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., before 150 members of the JFNA Prime Minister’s Council.

Sandler, of Santa Monica, is the former board chair of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

In the conversation, Bush discussed the challenges of presidential decision-making, fatherhood, the 9/11 attacks, the need to help free people from tyranny and his decision to pursue painting after leaving the White House.

The JFNA Prime Minister’s Council is a group of families that have contributed more than $100,000 each to their local Federation annually or have made an endowment commitment to their Federation of $2 million.

From left: JNF Los Angeles Board President Alyse Golden Berkley, Judy Levin, Alon Ben-Gurion, Victoria Davis and JNFuture Chair Jordan Freedman attend a JNF breakfast in the San Fernando Valley. Photo courtesy of Jewish National Fund.

More than 400 people who attended the Jewish National Fund (JNF) Breakfast for Israel at the Woodland Hills Marriott on March 28 heard Alon Ben-Gurion recount stories about his grandfather — Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion.

“The historical, touching and humorous anecdotes were a wonderful way to celebrate Israel’s 70th anniversary,” said JNF spokeswoman Marina Brodetsky.

Alon Ben-Gurion, who served as a paratrooper during the Yom Kippur War, is a hospitality consultant who previously was a general manager for the Hilton hotel chain, including at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York from 1997-2004. In recent years, he has been focused on development issues in the Negev desert in Israel.

Attendees at the breakfast included JNF Los Angeles Board President Alyse Golden Berkley, JNF CEO Russell Robinson, breakfast co-chairs Judy Levin and Victoria Davis, JNFuture Chair Jordan Freedman, JNF supporters Marilyn and Allen Golden, and children from the MATI Israeli Community Center in Tarzana.

The nonprofit JNF, according to its website, is committed to ensuring a “strong, secure and prosperous Israel for the Jewish people everywhere.” Its programs include agricultural research farms in the Galilee, developing housing projects for young families in the Negev, and making Israel more inclusive for people with disabilities and special needs.

Mayim Bialik to Deliver UCLA Commencement

Mayim Bialik. Courtesy of UCLA.

Maybe expressing an unpopular viewpoint could be the theme of Mayim Bialik’s forthcoming commencement address at UCLA.

On April 4, the public university announced its selection of the “The Big Bang Theory” actress and UCLA neuroscientist alumna as the distinguished alumna speaker for the UCLA College commencement on June 15.

“Dr. Bialik embodies the values of a Bruin,” UCLA College Senior Dean Patricia Turner said in a statement. “Throughout her career, she has shown how hard work, determination and civic duty can lead to success. I know that our graduates will be inspired by her story as they set out to make their own mark in the world.”

What she will talk about when she addresses both commencement ceremonies, scheduled for 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., in Pauley Pavilion, remains to be seen, but the experience of expressing challenging opinions during challenging times would be appropriate. Throughout her career, Bialik has never shied from supporting Israel. And following the publication of her 2017 New York Times essay, “Being a Feminist in Harvey Weinstein’s World,” she demonstrated an ability to deal with backlash among those who accused her of victim blaming.

Bialik became a household name portraying the title character in the hit 1990s sitcom, “Blossom.”

After “Blossom” ended in 1995, Bialik enrolled at UCLA. While there, she was active at the campus Hillel, founding a women’s Rosh Chodesh group and participating in Hillel High Holiday services.

She is an observant Jew.

She earned her degree from UCLA in 2000, and her doctorate in 2007, before returning to the screen.

“I had no health insurance and missed performing and making people laugh,” she said in the aforementioned 2017 New York Times piece of her return to acting.

Since 2010, she has appeared on the popular CBS sitcom, “The Big Bang Theory.” She plays Amy Farrah Fowler, a neurobiologist who is romantically involved with Jim Parsons’ Sheldon Cooper.

TABLE FOR FIVE: Five takes on the weekly parsha

Photo from Pixabay.

PARSHA: Vayigash, Genesis 45: 1-3

“Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, ‘Have everyone withdraw from me!’ So there was no one else about when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. His sobs were so loud that the Egyptians could hear, and so the news reached Pharaoh’s palace. Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph. Is my father still well?’ But his brothers could not answer him, so dumbfounded were they on account of him.”

Mayim Bialik
Actor, neuroscientist, author

I have given this parsha much thought in the 29 years since I chanted these words as a bat mitzvah.

Joseph sends everyone away so that there will be no one around when he makes himself known. He can no longer contain himself and he creates distance in hopes of containing his emotions.

However, his sobs are so loud that they reach the Pharaoh — a striking emphasis of not only the intensity of his cries, but of their deeper significance. Joseph’s cries communicate the emotion which he thought he could keep to himself by isolating himself. How many times have I hidden in isolation in hopes that my emotions would go away simply because they were not being seen or heard?

Hiding does not protect us from our emotions. We carry our traumas and our blessings into every interaction we have. Sometimes we may be able to protect others from their impact, but as Joseph learned, the depth of emotional experience is often so strong, not even sending people away can prevent them from being heard and felt by everyone around — including ourselves.

Rabbi Gordon Bernat-Kunin
Milken Community Schools

Interpreting this passage seems more like staring into a bottomless pit than a shiny mirror. Rather than try to capture its meaning inside a tidy box, imagine a family, a group of friends or a chavurah learning together after a Shabbos meal. Jonathan Cohen teaches that “the drama of the lesson should be based on the shared attempt to find the meaning hidden between the lines.” In this spirit, let’s consider the following open-ended questions:

1. Joseph could no longer “control himself”(l’hitapek) before all his attendants. Classical commentaries translate l’hitapek in many ways — as control or refrain himself, bear or suffer, or strengthen himself. How does each translation alter the story?

2. Why does Joseph need to be alone? Whom is he protecting?

3. To what extent does Joseph actually reveal himself?

4. Why does he cry?

5. When Joseph’s brothers arrive in Egypt, he shrewdly manipulates them into a pit of dependency. Given what Joseph experienced at the hands of his brothers, does he need the brothers to experience what it feels like to be at the bottom of a pit? Does the capacity to forgive or the ability to do teshuvah require the offender to somehow stand in the place of the offended?

6. At the beginning of the story, Joseph dreamed that his brothers and parents would be utterly subservient to him. At the end of the story, he places his family and all of Egypt into a state of dependency. Has Joseph changed?

Rabbi Francine Green Roston
Glacier Jewish Community/B’nai Shalom, Whitefish, Mont.

As we read the Joseph saga, we find ourselves asking over and over again: What is in Joseph’s heart? Is he angry at his brothers, seeking to enact vengeance? Is he waiting for a sign that his brothers have changed before he forgives them? What holds Joseph back from revealing his identity?

Maybe Joseph doesn’t know his “true” identity. Maybe his struggle is not with his brothers but within his own soul.

Pharaoh gave Joseph an Egyptian name, an Egyptian wife and the greatest position in the Egyptian court. When Jacob’s sons arrive in court, they see an Egyptian standing before them.

As he is foreign to his brothers, Joseph is foreign to himself, as well. His sons’ names reflect his sense of disconnection and ambivalence (see Genesis 41:51-52). Each time the brothers stand before Joseph, he must ask himself: Who am I? Am I an Egyptian or an Israelite? Am I Pharaoh’s heir or the son of Jacob? As the brothers reveal their compassion, Joseph is able to find compassion for them, for their father and for himself.

Joseph can no longer restrain himself from claiming his place in his birth family. He sends away the Egyptians and says, “I am Joseph. … I claim my place as your brother and Jacob’s son.”

As an adoptee and as an American Jew, I understand Joseph’s struggle. Like Joseph, we each must wrestle with multiple layers of identity, define our place in our families and find our voice as Children of Israel.

Rabbi Daniel Bouskila
Sephardic Educational Center 

It’s easy to beat up on Joseph, the perennial spoiled brat. But who was Joseph? From the time he could remember, someone always wanted something from him. During his childhood, Joseph’s brothers wanted his multicolored coat, which they eventually got, along with the money they made by selling him into slavery.

In Egypt, Joseph’s rise to prominence came about through people needing him for something. The baker, winemaker and Pharaoh all wanted him because of his talent interpreting dreams, and Potiphar’s wife — well, she just wanted him.

When he became the prince of Egypt, Joseph had another encounter with his brothers. Now a powerful public figure, he nevertheless found himself sought out once again for what he could provide — this time, food for his starving brothers. Throughout his life, nobody ever asked Joseph what he wanted, what he needed or how he felt. He was constantly approached by people who made appointments with him for their own needs, always seeking to get something from him.

Joseph finally broke down and cried out, “Is my father still well?” A peculiar question, perhaps, but for Joseph, this was his way of saying, “I also have feelings, and I even have needs. I need my father.” Beyond revealing his identity, Joseph finally revealed — to his brothers, to the House of Pharaoh, and to all of us — the pain pent up deep inside of him, accumulated over a lifetime spent exclusively in the service of others.

Rabbi Jason Weiner
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

These incredible verses aren’t only the climax of a gripping story, they also hint at something we each may experience and how we could direct our lives accordingly. Imagine the feeling of everything you know to be true — everything you know to be your reality — suddenly being turned inside out. What you thought you knew is not actually correct. Things are much deeper, holier, more complex than you had experienced them. Your past actions — what you had forgotten, thought nobody noticed, didn’t think were a big deal — are suddenly openly displayed before you. In front of your family. In front of God.

How would you react? What would you say? Is it possible to say anything?

The brothers were dumbfounded, “on account of him (mipanav),” which also means “penimiyut” internality. The brothers saw the inner holiness of Joseph’s true identity, which just moments before they couldn’t fathom in their wildest dreams.

One day, hopefully after 120 healthy years, we all will have such a moment. We may see the world in a way we never could have imagined. We will see the true world, beaming with light, with love, with potential, with God. It may be a shocking moment. No words will be necessary, or possible. It has the potential to be a very beautiful moment. If we can begin seeing the potential in ourselves, and the hidden light in every person and every moment, then we have nothing to worry about. Thank you, Joseph, for showing us the way.

GA ‘17, Limmud After Dark, Matisyahu and More

Mayim Bialik


Stand-up comedian and best-selling author Rita Rudner often alludes to her Jewish upbringing in her act. She’ll give away free tickets to two tapings of her latest stand-up special at the historic Palace Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. Don’t miss an evening with the funny lady who claims to have the longest-running solo comedy show in Las Vegas’ history. 5:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. Free. Palace Theatre, 630 S. Broadway, Los Angeles. (213) 488-2010. ritafunny.com.


The New York Times’ conservative columnist serves as Sinai Temple’s 2017 Abner & Roslyn Goldstine Scholar-in-Residence this weekend, beginning with a Friday night dinner, followed by a lecture titled “What Is U.S. Foreign Policy For?” During a Saturday luncheon, Stephens discusses “Will Israel Live Till 2048?” On Sunday he participates in a light breakfast, lecture and discussion with Sinai Temple Rabbi David Wolpe on “Writing While Jewish.” Stephens’ previous positions include writing for The Wall Street Journal and serving as editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post. His focus is domestic politics and foreign policy. Through Nov. 12. 7 p.m. Friday (community Shabbat dinner). 8:30 p.m. (lecture). $70 (Shabbat dinner; lecture is free). Noon Saturday, $45 (includes lunch). 9:30-11 a.m. Sunday, $35. RSVP required. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 474-1518. sinaitemple.org.


Celebrate Shabbat with “Big Bang Theory” star Mayim Bialik; Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum; and stand-up comedian Benji Lovitt. This evening of music, learning and community marks the official launch of Limmud North America. On the eve of the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly, Bialik discusses “Standards of Beauty and Ugliness in Hollywood and Beyond”; Berenbaum examines “21st Century Anti-Semitism: Not Your Father’s Anti-Semitism”; and Lovitt presents “What War Zone? Stand-up Comedy From Israel.” Spirituality expert Sherre Hirsch; Rabba Yaffa Epstein; and Doreen and Chaim Seidler-Feller also participate. Ikar music director Hillel Tigay performs a musical Havdalah. 7 p.m. $30. At-door tickets subject to availability. American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. limmud.org/afterdarkla.


Ken Feinberg, an attorney who has been key to resolving many of this nation’s most challenging and widely known disputes, including administering funds to families affected by 9/11, discusses “Unconventional Responses to Unique Catastrophes: What Is Life Worth?” Feinberg served as the special master of the U.S. government’s Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund, an experience he wrote about in his 2005 book, “What Is Life Worth? The Inside Story of the 9/11 Fund and Its Effort to Compensate the Victims of 9/11.” 9:30 a.m. (Shabbat service), 11:30 a.m. (lecture). Free. Reservations recommended at info@beverlyhillsjc.org. Beverly Hills Hotel, 9466 Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 276-4246. beverlyhillsjc.org.


In 1970 in Leningrad, a group of young Jewish dissidents who were denied exit visas plotted to hijack an empty plane and escape from the Soviet Union. Forty-five years later, filmmaker Anat Zalmanson-Kuznetsov revisits that incident in the documentary film “Operation Wedding.” The film tells the story of her parents, leaders of the group, who were “heroes” in the West but “terrorists” in the USSR, and even in today’s Russia. Zalmanson-Kuznetsov participates in a Q-and-A following this L.A. premiere screening, organized by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Russian-speaking Jewish young professionals network RuJuLA and the Museum of Tolerance. 7 p.m. (doors). 7:30 p.m. (screening). $15 in advance, $20 at the door. Museum of Tolerance, 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 772-2505. museumoftolerance.com.

His focus is domestic politics and foreign policy. Through Nov. 12. 7 p.m. Friday (community Shabbat dinner). 8:30 p.m. (lecture). $70 (Shabbat dinner; lecture is free). Noon Saturday, $45 (includes lunch). 9:30-11 a.m. Sunday, $35. RSVP required. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 474-1518. sinaitemple.org.

GA 2017

Julie Platt

Reuven Rivlin

The Jewish Federations of North America’s annual three-day gathering will draw Jewish communal professionals, volunteers and philanthropists. Israeli figures, including President Reuven Rivlin and the Jewish Agency’s Natan Sharansky, are scheduled to appear. Local leaders participating include L.A. Federation CEO Jay Sanderson and Chair Julie Platt, who is co-chairing the GA with her husband, Hollywood producer Marc Platt; Rabbis Naomi Levy, Ed Feinstein, David Wolpe and Nicole Guzik; the Jewish Journal’s Danielle Berrin and Shmuel Rosner; Tablet Magazine Editor-in-Chief Alana Newhouse; Tinder founder Sean Rad; and Joint Distribution Committee Global Leader Ashton Rosin. Through Nov. 14. $499 (general admission), $399 (Jewish communal professional), $189 (single-day admission). JW Marriott, downtown Los Angeles, 900 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (866) 208-2144. generalassembly.org.


Food, storytelling and a screening of Temple Beth Am member Daniel Goldberg’s 1995 documentary film, “Un Beso a Esta Tierra” (“A Kiss to the Land”) highlight this community gathering. 6:30 p.m. Free. Temple Beth Am, 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 652-7353. tbala.org.


Milana Vayntrub, a comedian, actress and activist known to many for her AT&T commercials and for her role in the television show “This is Us,” discusses “Dreams of a Hollywood Refugee.” Vayntrub is a refugee from the former Soviet Union and, after a visit to Greece, became involved in assisting Syrian refugees. Her organization, Can’t Do Nothing, which she co-founded with entrepreneur Eron Zehavi, focuses on empowering people to affect change in the world on the global refugee crisis and other issues. Proceeds from the event benefit Hadadit, formerly the Israel Free Loan Association. 7 p.m. $36. Bel Air private residence (address provided upon RSVP). milana.eventbrite.com.


The Jewish comedienne is a winner of the 2008 “Last Comic Standing” and a regular at the Improv and The Comedy Store. She’ll headline “Girls Night In,” an evening of comedy with special guests. Expect social commentary, politics and pop culture. A portion of ticket proceeds will be donated to Planned Parenthood. 7 p.m. (doors), 8 p.m. (show). $30. Largo, 366 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 855-0350. largo-la.com.


The Jewish-American reggae artist performs as part of his “Broken Crowns” tour, accompanied by Dub Trio’s Joe Tomino (drums) and Stu Brooks (bass) and his original guitarist Aaron Dugan. Expect to hear material from Matisyahu’s latest album, “Undercurrent,” as well as fan-favorites including “One Day,” “King Without a Crown” and “Jerusalem.” Also scheduled to appear are Orange County reggae-rockers Common Kings and Orphan, a Matisyahu-produced project featuring a trio of sons of Lubavitch rabbis. 6:30 p.m. $15-$120. The Wiltern, 3790 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 388-1400. matisyahuworld.com.


The Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) Women’s Leadership Network’s annual conference explores “Unstoppable: The Power of Women.” Participants in the program include Saudi filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour; acclaimed singer and recording artist Barbara Morrison; fashion editor and meditation entrepreneur Suze Yalof Schwartz; Kathy Suto, vice president and general manager at Bloomingdale’s in Century City; and actress Nikki Crawford, who hosts the event. Proceeds benefit the WoMentoring Program and all JVS programs serving women in need. 8 a.m. (networking breakfast), 9 a.m.-1 p.m. (conference and luncheon). $200. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 761-8888. jvsla.org.


Ronda Spinak, artistic director of Jewish Women’s Theatre, delivers a spirited presentation about her experience of interviewing 18 of Los Angeles’ most prominent female rabbis for a video catalog about a once-marginalized group that fought for representation in their religion. 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. $20. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 474-1518. sinaitemple.org.


Inspired by NPR’s “The Moth,” this NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change storytelling event features Jews and Muslims sharing personal accounts of solidarity and standing up for one another. NewGround is a nonprofit focused on bringing together Muslims and Jews for change. Previous iterations of this event have explored “Transformation,” “Digging Deeper” and “The Space Between.” 7 p.m. (reception), 7:30 p.m. (show). Iman Cultural Center, 3376 Motor Ave., Los Angeles. newground.nationbuilder.com/spotlight17.


Marking the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Balfour Declaration, a letter declaring British government support for the creation of a Jewish state, a panel of scholars, including Georgia Tech British historian Jonathan Schneer; University of Pennsylvania political science professor Ian Lustick; and University of Cincinnati modern Jewish history professor Mark Raider discusses the history of the Balfour Declaration and its significance for today. 4 p.m. Free. UCLA Faculty Center, California Room, 480 Charles E. Young Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 825-9646. international.ucla.edu.


A yearlong break between the end of high of school and the start of college, the gap year is becoming an increasingly popular alternative for high school graduates. This fair, the largest Israel gap-year fair on the West Coast, offers more than 50 Israel programs appealing to students of all backgrounds. Organized by the American Israel Gap Year Association, the annual event draws representatives of gap-year programs and gap year-friendly colleges as well as parents, students and educators. 7-10 p.m. Free ($10 suggested donation). YULA Girls School, 1619 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 702-0644. israelgapyear.org.

Mayim Bialik under fire for suggesting women should dress modestly to avoid sexual harassment

Television star Mayim Bialik questioned the timing of the March for Racial Justice on her Facebook page. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Actress Mayim Bialik has faced criticism for writing in a column that women should dress modestly to avoid sexual harassment in Hollywood.

In a New York Times op-ed published on Saturday, the Big Bang Theory star wrote that she began her career in Hollywood “as a prominent-nosed, awkward, geeky, Jewish 11-year-old” and that while she was “shocked and disgusted” by the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, she was not necessarily surprised.

“I have always had an uncomfortable relationship with being employed in an industry that profits on the objectification of women,” wrote Bialik. “Though pressure to ‘be like the pretty girls’ started long before I entered Hollywood, I quickly learned even as a preteen actress that young girls with doe eyes and pouty lips who spoke in a high register were favored for roles by the powerful men who made those decisions.”

Bialik proceeded to recall how she was the butt of jokes over her looks when she was younger, yet she’s had a successful career in Hollywood. She noted that she takes precautionary measures to avoid scenarios of sexual harassment in Hollywood.

“I have decided that my sexual self is best reserved for private situations with those I am most intimate with,” wrote Bialik. “I dress modestly. I don’t act flirtatiously with men as a policy.”

She acknowledged that engaging in that kind of behavior “might feel oppressive to many young feminists” but it’s the best course of action.

“In a perfect world, women should be free to act however they want. But our world isn’t perfect,” wrote Bialik. “Nothing — absolutely nothing — excuses men for assaulting or abusing women. But we can’t be naïve about the culture we live in.”

Bialik concluded her column with a note of encouragement to women who are “not a perfect 10.”

“There are people out there who will find you stunning, irresistible and worthy of attention, respect and love,” wrote Bialik. “The best part is you don’t have to go to a hotel room or a casting couch to find them.”

Bialik was criticized for her op-ed:

Others were less critical:

Bialik addressed the outrage on Facebook Live with New York Times editor Bari Weiss.

“I really do regret that this became what it became, because literally I was trying to speak about a very specific experience I had in a very specific industry,” said Bialik. “I was not looking to speak about assault and rape in general.”

She then said she was “deeply hurt” if anyone thought she was “victim-blaming.”

March for Racial Justice organizers apologize for Yom Kippur conflict

Television star Mayim Bialik questioned the timing of the March for Racial Justice on her Facebook page. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Organizers of the March for Racial Justice in Washington, D.C., are using a Yom Kippur mea culpa as a way to build stronger ties with the Jewish community across the country — including Los Angeles.

The original announcement that the civil rights march through the nation’s capital would take place on Sept. 30, Yom Kippur day, was met with a backlash from Jews who felt the timing excluded them.

“Anyone else think that’s absurd?” Jewish television star Mayim Bialik (“The Big Bang Theory”) wrote in a Facebook post Aug. 13. “I mean, it automatically excludes a distinct portion of people who historically have stood up for racial equality in enormous ways.”

Following the recent white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va., the increased interest in civil rights actions brought criticism of the Yom Kippur conflict to a fever pitch, according to March for Racial Justice organizer Dorcas Davis. After speaking with Jewish leaders, including Rabbi Jill Jacobs of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, and Rabbi Scott Perlo of the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in Washington, the organizers issued a statement that apologized for the conflict and promised to accommodate the Jewish community.

“Choosing this date, we now know, was a grave and hurtful oversight on our part,” the organizers wrote in an Aug. 16 statement. “It was unintentional and we are sorry for this pain as well as for the time it has taken for us to respond. Our mistake highlights the need for our communities to form stronger relationships.”

Bialik said she was satisfied by the statement, even though the date of the march will not change.

“They made a very gracious apology and we have to accept that,” she told the Journal on Aug. 17.

However, she added, “It hits close to home when Jews are in any way excluded, deliberately or not deliberately. It’s very painful.”

Davis said the organizers were unaware of the timing or significance of Yom Kippur when they planned the march, which was set for the anniversary of a mass lynching of African Americans in Arkansas. Once they learned about Yom Kippur and its traditions and meaning, they began looking for ways to be inclusive of Jews who would be unable to attend the march, she said.

After sundown on Sept. 30, the organizers will host a break-fast event, she said. Additional marches will be held in several cities on Oct. 1, including New York. The date of the Los Angeles march had not be determined as of Aug. 29.

“The whole reason we came up with the march was because of the pain we’re in,” Davis told the Journal, referring to police shootings such as that of Philando Castile in Minnesota in July 2016. “So to cause that pain, or reopen wounds in that way for people, was not something that we felt good about.”

She said the conversations with Jewish leaders led to a positive result.

“It wasn’t just, ‘Let’s figure this Yom Kippur situation out.’ It was like we found allies — straight-up allies,” she said. “For us as organizers, the feeling was like, Wow, once you do honor someone and say, like, ‘Hey, we messed up and we’re sorry,’ and you come with that humility, it opens doors, because they’re human beings, too.”

Jacobs, a prominent Conservative rabbi and leader in Jewish social justice movements, said she readily accepted the organizers’ apology.

“As a community, we can’t expect that individuals will necessarily understand the significance of Yom Kippur,” she said.

Jacobs said she hopes to use the scheduling conflict and its aftermath as a means to deepen relationships between Jews and other ethnic and racial communities.

“Especially when white supremacists are attacking Jews and people of color and immigrants, we need to stand together, knowing that sometimes we’re going to screw up, sometimes we’re going to offend each other,” Jacobs said. “The most important thing is to keep talking and try to do better.”

Mayim Bialik calls out March for Racial Justice over Yom Kippur date

Mayim Bialik at the 67th Emmy Awards in Beverly Hills, California on September 19, 2015. Photo by Lily Lawrence/Getty Images.

Jewish actress Mayim Bialik called out the March for Racial Justice for taking place on Yom Kippur.

In a Facebook post Sunday, Bialik complained that the timing of the march against white supremacy, scheduled for Sept. 30 in Washington, D.C., excludes Jews, who traditionally spend Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, fasting and praying.

“anyone else think that’s absurd?,” she wrote in a mostly lowercase text. “i mean, it automatically excludes a distinct portion of people who historically have stood up for racial equality in enormous ways.”

Bialik, a star of “The Big Bang Theory” TV sitcom who publicly embraces her Jewish identity and practice, doubted that the scheduling was an oversight, saying “And trust me: it’s on every calendar they checked before setting the date.”

Earlier Sunday, March for Racial Justice organizers posted their own statement on Facebook in which they apologized for the “scheduling conflict” and voiced appreciation for the Jews’ history of progressive activism. They repeatedly singled out Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who famously marched alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.

“The core leadership of the March for Racial Justice regrets the scheduling conflict of the September 30 date for the March for Racial Justice and the Yom Kippur holiday, the Day of Atonement,” the statement said. “The core leadership of the March for Racial Justice recognizes and celebrates the historical unity between African Americans and Americans of the Jewish faith. These two communities are natural partners, as each have a history of persecution and discrimination.”

The March for Racial Justice describes itself as “a multi-community movement led by a coalition united in our demands for racial equity and justice.”

However, the organizers made clear there were no plans to reschedule the march. They explained that the date had been chosen to honor the 1919 Elaine race riot, in which white mobs attacked and killed dozens of African-Americans in Arkansas.

The  statement cites Rabbi Hannah Spiro, a Reconstructionist rabbi who leads Hill Havurah in Washington, who according to the organizers said that the march “might be a powerful opportunity for Jews to pray with their feet in between services on Yom Kippur afternoon,” referencing Heschel’s famous quote about the significance of his marching.

The organizers added that Spiro warned that “the fast may not allow for many to come out — but that some Jews may find it powerful to know that this march is happening in parallel with their fast.”

In a subsequent Facebook post, Spiro wrote that it was “sadly disappointing that the march is happening on the one day of the year on which Jews are least likely to be able to attend.” Spiro said she was not recommending that Jews attend, but only explaining to organizers why some would.

“I will not be attending and I will not be urging my community members to attend,” Spiro wrote.

Earlier this month, organizers of the North Carolina Pride parade changed the schedule of their annual event, which was to fall on Yom Kippur this year, to accommodate the Jewish community.

While Bialik did not directly reference the March for Racial Justice’s statement in her Facebook post, she pointed out that she named her second son after Heschel and concluded, “argh, super mad right now.”

Moving & Shaking: Lakers hoop for hope; Mayim Bialik book tour

From left: The Hoops4Hope winning team’s Isaac Aftalion, Idan Eythan and Isaac Gabai with Lakers players Julius Randle, Metta World Peace and Jordan Clarkson. Photo by Jonah Light photography

Los Angeles Lakers Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and Metta World Peace delighted fans, many sporting purple and gold, at this year’s Hoops4Hope charity basketball tournament at the Westside Jewish Community Center.

The May 7 event benefited the Jewish medical organization Ateres Avigail, whose more than 200 volunteers provide services to people in need, including preparing kosher meals, transportation to medical appointments, affordable medical equipment and access to the consulting services of physicians from all over the country.

Steve Rechnitz, president of Ateres Avigail, took the reins of the organization 3 1/2 years ago after his wife, Avigail, the former president, died of cancer. The organization, formerly called Ladies Bikur Cholim, was renamed for Avigail after her death.

About 115 players paid the $100 entry fee to take part in the three-on-three tournament, vying for prizes such as courtside Lakers tickets and vacation packages. Players of varying skill sets and backgrounds participated, with many local Jewish high school players and alumni represented.

High-fliers from the Venice Basketball League — a Venice Beach-based, invitation-only summer league with top amateur talent — wowed the 300 spectators with a jaw-dropping dunk contest.

Per tradition, the winning team — Malachei 26, comprising Isaac Aftalion, Isaac Gabai and Idan Eythan — got to play the Lakers trio in a largely ceremonial, half-speed game. The contest included a nasty crossover from Clarkson that sent a Malachei 26 defender tumbling to the ground.

Ateres Avigail’s director and lone employee, Rabbi Avraham Hirschman, said fundraising totals were still being tallied, but he deemed the day a slam-dunk success.

“I think people really want to come out and support our work helping Jewish families facing medical crises,” Hirschman said. “It’s a high-energy environment and people like tapping into that energy, doing what they love to do — playing basketball and benefiting an organization like ours.”

— Oren Peleg, Contributing Writer

Mayim Bialik discusses her book, “Girling Up: How to Be Strong, Smart and Spectacular,” at The Grove. Photo by Tess Cutler

“Oh, I see her!” said a mother, pointing forward to a mass of people. “Oh, yeah!” a girl squealed, “I see her arm, I think!” Actress Mayim Bialik was the center of that attention on May 16, when she appeared at The Grove’s Barnes & Noble store.

Bialik, an actress known for her supporting role on “The Big Bang Theory,” was unveiling her new book, “Girling Up: How to Be Strong, Smart and Spectacular,” intended as a guide for girls ages 10 to 18. More than 100 people showed up, filling a cordoned-off area.

“This book is as eternal as the Torah,” Bialik joked.

Comedian Iliza Shlesinger, Bialik’s good friend — the two met years ago at a comedy event — moderated the gathering. While being introduced to the audience, an emcee butchered Shlesinger’s last name.

“If I had a dollar every time an emcee brought me onstage and messed up my last name, I would have, like, $50,” Shlesinger said to a laughing crowd. “Fifty anti-Semitic dollars.”

“Girling Up,” published May 9 by Philomel Books, is Bialik’s third book, following her vegan cookbook, “Mayim’s Vegan Table,” and her parenting handbook, “Beyond the Sling.”

The book covers topics including mental health, bullying and the birds and the bees. Bialik, who has a doctorate in neuroscience, incorporated some biological and chromosomal lingo into the book, as well.

During lighthearted banter between Bialik and Shlesinger, an audience member asked Bialik, “How do you balance your religion with your science?”

Bialik was quick to quip, “The snarky answer is: I just do.”

— Tess Cutler, Contributing Writer

The UCLA Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies hosted a May 4 panel on “Six Days/Five Decades: 1967 and Its Significance for Israeli Security,” ahead of the 50th anniversary of Israel’s June 10, 1967, victory in the Six-Day War.

The panelists, representing a range of policy expertise on challenges facing Israeli society, were Gilead Sher, former chief of staff to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak; Motti Inbari, a University of North Carolina at Pembroke professor of religion, focusing on Jewish fundamentalism; Elie Rekhess, a visiting professor at Northwestern University and an expert on the Arab minority in Israel; and Paul Rivlin, a senior fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center, specializing in Middle East economics. Nazarian Center Director Yoram Cohen introduced the speakers.

“The Six-Day War resulted in a profound, overwhelming identity crisis,” Rekhess said, pointing to the solidification of Palestinian identity that followed.

Sher emphasized how Israeli control of the Palestinian territories threatens its long-term stability. Inbari talked about how Jewish messianism evolved in response to Israeli conquests in 1967 and 1973.

Rivlin spoke about the economic miracle after the war that transformed Israel’s economy, with 14 percent growth in 1968.

“Confidence is the key factor in investment, and this is what the war resulted in,” Rivlin said.

The event drew students, faculty and UCLA community members, including Hillel at UCLA emeritus director Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, UCLA computer scientist Judea Pearl and UCLA student body President Danny Siegel.

— Eitan Arom, Staff Writer

Entertainment attorney Martin Singer and Sherry Lansing, the former studio head of Paramount Pictures, attend the Jewish National Fund’s Women for Israel luncheon. Photo courtesy of Jewish National Fund

Sherry Lansing, the former head of Paramount Pictures and the first woman to helm a major Hollywood studio, was honored May 4 at the Jewish National Fund’s Women for Israel luncheon.

About 250 people attended the event at the Beverly Wilshire hotel, where Lansing treated guests to an intimate interview conducted by entertainment attorney Martin Singer.

“I am busier than I’ve ever been, and I’m so happy with what I’ve been doing because it all comes from my heart,” Lansing, 72, told the Journal before the event.

Since retiring from Hollywood, Lansing has devoted herself to supporting philanthropic projects in medical research and education through her Sherry Lansing Foundation. She serves on the University of California Board of Regents and co-founded the nonprofit Stand Up to Cancer, which has distributed about $500 million to cancer research.

Lansing also is the subject of a new, authorized biography, “Leading Lady,” by Stephen Galloway. The book details her career in Hollywood, from actress to studio executive. Over her 30-year career, Lansing had a hand in developing an estimated 200 films, including “Forrest Gump,” “Braveheart” and “Titanic,” each of which reaped huge profits and numerous awards.

Today, Lansing is a mentor to young women. Although she lamented Hillary Clinton’s loss in the presidential election, she said she was heartened by the resurgent feminism that has since been ignited.

“Ten years ago, when I would talk to career women, there was a feeling that the word ‘feminist’ was a dirty word, and there was a lack of respect for people like Gloria Steinem, who was my idol, without whom I would not be here today,” Lansing said. “Women believed that none of these rights could be taken away and that they were there forever. When I would talk to college kids about Roe v. Wade, they would look at me like I was a hysterical old lady. Now, that has changed because these very rights are now being threatened, and that has turned people [toward] the same activism that I [engaged] in during my 30s.”

Lansing said she is aware of both the gifts and deficits of aging. “The losses are more,” she said. “But there is also more gratitude, more determination not to let the small stuff bother you. You learn to only do what’s important and meaningful. The only thing that matters at the end of the day is love and human connections.”

— Danielle Berrin, Senior Writer

Moving & Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com. 

The Halacha* of Mayim Bialik

*Halacha (noun): set of Jewish religious laws

“It’s my job to be a public person and I get that,” actress Mayim Bialik told a packed crowd at the Barnes & Noble book-signing of her third book, Girling Up: How to Be Strong, Smart and Spectacular (Penguin), a manifesto, of sorts, for girls going through puberty. Somebody in the audience had just asked her how she dealt with the pressures of fame.

“But,” she continued, “it’s not my job to be super-anything.” (Still, it might be noted that she is donning a superhero cape on the cover of “Girling Up.”)

The actress-comedian-author-neuroscientist-feminist-Zionist is somewhat of an anomaly. “I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a celebrity who wants to be as authentic as I do. Like I literally posted a photo of me holding a toilet bowl brush,” she said, referring to a Facebook post where she’s holding aforementioned toilet bowl accoutrement.

“I posted that because I don’t want to be that celebrity who’s like, ‘I’m supermom!’ I’m not.”

Bialik, a real-life scientist, plays a neurobiologist in what’s being hailed as the most watched show on television today: “The Big Bang Theory” on CBS. But, in a culture downright obsessed with celebrity, she’s the polar opposite of a Kardashian. She wants (and makes a solid effort) to display her humanness, her Jewishness, her flaws.

In some ways, the 41-year-old actress wrote her newest book for herself, although perhaps a younger version of herself. “I think I basically wrote the book that I wish I had when I was in this age range and going through all those changes,” she told the Journal.

Bialik is still going through changes – not to mention a divorce in 2012 to her now ex-husband – but, when undergoing major life events, she turns to Judaism for answers. On Kveller, an online community for moms, grandparents and women, Bialik wrote a post about Rabbinit Alissa Thomas-Newborn of B’nai David-Judea, the first woman to be hired as Orthodox clergy in Los Angeles.

Well, when I was getting divorced, I spoke to male rabbis. I spoke to their wives. I spoke to therapists, and mentors, and other women who had been divorced. But there were questions I longed to ask a woman who was trained in halacha. I needed her then.

“The Big Bang Theory” star said if she weren’t acting, she probably would’ve pursued a rabbinical career. She first became aware of this yearning at the age of 15, she wrote on her website GrokNation. Bialik admits that had her life path been different, she could’ve easily pursued a rabbinical education at Yeshivat Maharat, the first yeshiva to ordain women as Orthodox clergy.  

I am now a PhD-holding divorced woman and a mother of two sons. I support myself and my children by being a full-time actor. My chance to be a rabbi is gone; my life is meant for something different. But I still remember, understand and feel the desire to lead.

“How do you balance your religion with your science?” It’s a question raised time and time again with Bialik. To her, science and religion go hand-in-hand. During the author’s Q&A, it was, inevitably, one of the questions asked. “The snarky answer is: I just do,” she quipped, before delving into the physics of faith. There’s a hint of sermonizing in the way Bialik speaks. As one might expect, there’s science, fact and logic embedded in her diction. And also, there’s something deeply Talmudic. Listen to her full response here (with a gratuitous animation):

Moving and Shaking: L.A. celebrates Purim, IDF soldiers celebrated, Elon Gold reignites Jewish comedy

From left: Michael Robin, Melanie Zoey Weinstein, Marnina Wirtschafter and Jaclyn Beck sing a politically themed song parody of “Seasons of Love” as part of IKAR’s Purim celebration. Photo by Len Muroff.

Mayim Bialik suited up for the Velcro wall at Valley Beth Shalom’s March 12 Purim carnival. Photo courtesy of Mayim Bialik.

Los Angeles Jews celebrated Purim across the city and around the world on March 11 and 12.

On the Westside, Shtibl Minyan and Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills held “Hamilton”-themed shpiels, “Hamalkah: A Purim Musical” and “Esther: A Purim Musical,” respectively. Temple Isaiah hosted “The Late Late Show Purim,” with Rabbi Joel Nickerson playing talk show host James Grogger and featuring characters from the Purim story as his guests. At Temple Beth Am, senior staff and interns dressed as either Little Orphan Annie or her dog, Sandy, to convey the message that “the sun will come out tomorrow.” Aish Los Angeles held a jungle-themed Purim party for young adults ages 21 to 32 at Morry’s Fireplace.

Venturing to Club Fais Do-Do, IKAR held a combination Megillah reading and shpiel, featuring slides with funny images. Between chapters, the shpiel team screened a number of video shorts, including “IKARaoke,” starring “Royal Pains” actor Mark Feuerstein. The spiel ended with a politically themed song parody of “Seasons of Love” (from the musical “Rent”). Costumes, too, skewed political, with Rabbi Sharon Brous dressed as the Statue of Liberty.

Festivities continued Sunday around the region, with carnivals at Temple Judea, Temple Isaiah and Valley Beth Shalom (VBS), among other places. At VBS, actress Mayim Bialik (“The Big Bang Theory”) was one of the carnival-goers who suited up for the Velcro wall.

In Israel, Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, was spotted dancing after a Megillah reading at the Tel Aviv Hilton with his son, Avi Hier, and Andrew Friedman, president of Congregation Bais Naftoli.

— Esther D. Kustanowitz, Contributing Writer

Soldiers who traveled to Los Angeles as part of Lev Chayal “Trip of a Lifetime” gather around businessman and philanthropist Marvin Markowitz (top row, seventh from left, seated). Photo by Debra Halperin Photography.

Soldiers who traveled to Los Angeles as part of Lev Chayal “Trip of a Lifetime” gather around
businessman and philanthropist Marvin Markowitz (top row, seventh from left, seated). Photo by Debra Halperin Photography.

Lev Chayal held its second annual “Toast to Our Heroes” party on March 4 at The Mark for Events on Pico Boulevard. The party honored 10 Israel Defense Forces soldiers who were wounded during hostilities with Hamas in Gaza in 2014.

Lev Chayal, which translates to “Heart of a Soldier,” is a group dedicaxted to honoring wounded Israeli soldiers by offering them free leisure trips to Los Angeles. Chaya Israily and Brocha Yemini founded the group in 2016 under the auspices of the Chabad Israel Center.

The black-tie evening coincided with the second trip for soldiers sponsored by Lev Chayal. During their 10-day tour of Los Angeles, dubbed “The Trip of a Lifetime,” the soldiers attended a Lakers game, toured the headquarters of dating app Tinder and visited the Getty Villa museum, among other attractions.

Businessman and philanthropist Marvin Markowitz donated the use of the event space and paid for a significant amount of the event’s expenses.

Some 200 people attended the event, which raised nearly $50,000. Lev Chayal is preparing for the next trip for soldiers in December.

— Eitan Arom, Staff Writer

Alan Dershowitz and Roz Rothstein at “Combating the Boycott Movement Against Israel” conference. Photo courtesy of StandwithUs.

Alan Dershowitz and Roz Rothstein at “Combating the Boycott Movement Against Israel” conference. Photo courtesy of StandwithUs.

More than 250 people participated in the “Combating the Boycott Movement Against Israel” conference on March 4-6, organized by the group StandWithUs, which focused on countering the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

Supported by the Diane Shulman and Roger Richman Israel Education Fund, the conference at the Hyatt Regency Los Angeles International Airport drew students, professionals and activists from the United States, Canada and Israel. Attendees and members of StandWithUs, a nonprofit pro-Israel organization, shared their experiences with the BDS movement and the tactics they have used to challenge it on college campuses and other places.

“Today, you can’t say anything about minorities, about gay people, about Palestinians, about Muslims or about Arabs,” said Harvard University law professor emeritus and defense attorney Alan Dershowitz. “But when you put a shoe on the other foot, you can say analogous things about the nation-state of the Jewish people, about the Jewish lobby, and ultimately about Jews.”

He said college campuses should “demand a single standard” that is fairly applied to both sides.

“Whatever the left says is hate speech against them, we must demand that that be deemed hate speech against us on the other side,” Dershowitz said.

Other guest speakers included Judea Pearl, father of late Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl; Yaki Lopez, consul for political affairs at the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles; and Anne Bayefsky, director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust.

Hannah Karpin, 17, StandWithUs High School Intern at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, said the conference enabled her to learn more about the BDS movement.

“I think it should be acknowledged as an anti-Semitic movement,” said Karpin, who is planning to attend college next year. “It was shocking to hear that some recognizable organizations were behind the BDS movement.”

— Olga Grigoryants, Contributing Writer


Elon Gold. Photo by Ryan Torok.

Comedian Elon Gold performed at a Purim comedy concert at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills on March 9, during which he talked about why Israel is the nipple of the Middle East breast (Gold said Israel is the most sensitive area and he doesn’t get to visit it as much he would like) and acted as Abraham negotiating with God over how much should be cut off during a circumcision (with God sounding like Marlon Brando and Abraham like Woody Allen).

Gold is Modern Orthodox and his material focused almost exclusively on the Jewish experience. He asked at one point if any gentiles were in the crowd. When nobody raised a hand, he insisted there were a couple of goy but they were hiding. He then asked the non-Jews how it felt for them to be the ones hiding.

Alex Edelman, a stand-up comedian who opened the show, gleaned material from his Jewish upbringing and did an eight-minute bit about the year his family celebrated Christmas, much to the chagrin of his yeshiva teacher.

The several hundred attendees included Pico Shul Rabbi Yonah Bookstein and his wife, rebbetzin Rachel Bookstein; Jacob Segal, co-chair of the Southern California Israel Chamber of Commerce; David Suissa, president of TRIBE Media Corp., and his daughter, Tova; and Scott Jacobs of JooTube.

On a more serious note, Gold took the opportunity to denounce the anti-Semitism that has been on the rise over the past couple of months, with Jewish community centers being targeted with bomb threats and several Jewish cemeteries vandalized.

“You mess with the Jews, you lose,” Gold said.

From left: FIDF Chairman Ari Ryan and FIDF board members Francesca Ruzin and Michael Spector. Photo courtesy of S&N Photography.

Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) held its Young Leadership Western Region Spring Mixer on March 9 at the Nightingale Plaza dance club on La Cienega Boulevard.

Some 650 young donors mingled over cocktails under violet lighting as house music blared, celebrating the work FIDF has done to support Israeli troops. Life-size posters of IDF soldiers in uniform beamed at the guests.

For an extra $18 above the $36 ticket price, attendees were able to send a Purim gift package to an IDF soldier.

The event, chaired by Danielle Moses, Mimi Paley, Francesca Ruzin and Miles Soboroff, raised more than $41,000 for FIDF.

In 2016, FIDF supported, by its own count, 66,000 soldiers, veterans and bereaved family members, including 14,500 through educational programming, 2,800 through assistance to so-called lone soldiers who don’t have immediate family in Israel, and 8,000 soldiers needing financial assistance.

— Eitan Arom, Staff Writer


Michael Janofsky

Michael Janofsky, a former correspondent for The New York Times and more recently managing editor of LA School Report, has joined the Jewish Journal as an assistant editor. Janofsky was a sportswriter, national correspondent and Washington, D.C. reporter over 24 years with the paper. After moving to Los Angeles in 2006, he worked as a speechwriter for the dean of UCLA’s business school and a freelance writer and editor before joining the Journal.

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com. 

Moving and Shaking: Bet Tzedek’s big night, IAC holds conference, interfaith tolerance celebrated

From left: Terry Friedman, chair of Bet Tzedek’s board of directors; Bet Tzedek President and CEO Jessie Kornberg; and Georgina and Alan Rothenberg at Bet Tzedek’s annual gala on Feb. 21. The Rothenbergs received the Luis Lainer Founder’s Award at the gala. Photo by Kim Silverstein, Silver Lining Photography.

Bet Tzedek Legal Services honored donors and employees with awards Feb. 21 at its annual gala dinner, which was attended by more than 1,200 people at the JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. Live.

The organization helps low-income clients deal with a range of legal issues, from housing to elder abuse.

Prominent Los Angeles lawyer Alan Rothenberg and his wife, Georgina, received the Luis Lainer Founder’s Award. The Eisner Foundation, a nonprofit that invests in intergenerational programming, received the Rose L. Schiff Commitment to Justice Award. Bet Tzedek elder-fraud attorney Nicholas Levenhagen received the Jack H. Skirball Community Justice Award.

Most Rev. José H. Gomez, archbishop of Los Angeles, delivered the evening’s invocation.

Philanthropists Art and Dahlia Bilger, who donated $50,000 on the occasion of the gala, were among the dinner’s co-chairs, along with Mayor Eric Garcetti; retired California Chief Justice Ronald George and his wife, Barbara; and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Mickey Kantor and his wife, writer and former broadcast journalist Heidi Schulman.

Bet Tzedek reported that it raised more than $2.1 million from the dinner.

— Eitan Arom, Staff Writer

Rabba Yaffa Epstein led a salon-style, Purim-focused learning session on Feb. 24.  Photo by Esther Kustanowitz.

Rabba Yaffa Epstein led a salon-style, Purim-focused learning session on Feb. 24. Photo by Esther Kustanowitz.

Rabba Yaffa Epstein, director of strategic partnerships at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and a 2015 graduate of Yeshivat Maharat, led a salon-style, Purim-focused text study at the West Adams home of Abby Fifer Mandell, executive director of the Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab at USC’s Marshall School of Business, on Feb. 24.

Yeshivat Maharat is the self-described “first yeshiva to ordain women as Orthodox clergy.”

Over the course of two hours, participants at the gathering split up into pairs and examined texts from the megillah, the Mishnah and more. They discussed the importance of celebrating Purim in a communal setting and what distinguishes Purim from other Jewish holidays. Attendees included Jewish Journal Contributing Writer Esther Kustanowitz, organizer of the event; actress Mayim Bialik (“The Big Bang Theory”); Fifer Mandell’s husband, Avram Mandell, executive director and founder of Tzedek America; current Tzedek America fellows Gabe Melmed and Emily Heaps; Todd Shotz, founder and executive director of Hebrew Helpers; and consultant Wendy Jackler.

Cheese and wine were served to attendees, many of whom were affiliated with LimmudLA, a volunteer-led Jewish learning community, and the Wexner Graduate Fellowship, a leadership development program for Jewish communal professionals. Limmud Bay Area co-founder Mila Wichter was among the participants.

“The opportunity to sit around in someone’s living room and talk about what makes Purim different from all the other holidays provided a burst of energy at the end of a long day,” Kustanowitz said.

Approximately 400 Israeli-American students from across the country attended the Israeli American Council Mishelanu conference.  Photo courtesy of Israeli American Council.

Approximately 400 Israeli-American students from across the country attended the Israeli American Council Mishelanu conference. Photo courtesy of Israeli American Council.

Israeli American Council (IAC) Mishelanu held its third national conference Feb. 17-19 at the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Hotel.

Mishelanu, a college campus program, provides a home for Israeli-American students who explore their Israeli-American and Jewish identities through culture, language, heritage and a strong connection to Israel. The national network is present on 96 campuses.

About 400 Israeli-American students from across the country attended the conference. The students spent the weekend participating in breakout sessions on initiative-building, networking, policy and political organizing, strategic leadership, social media campaigning, Israeli-American media and Israeli music.

Speakers included entrepreneurs, business leaders and nonprofit professionals. Among them were Guy Katsovich and Yair Vardi, managing partners of Splash Ventures; Roy Dekel, CEO of SetSchedule; and Yotam Polizer, co-CEO at the humanitarian response organization IsraAID.

Also appearing were Israeli journalist Ben Dror Yemini; educator Neil Lazarus, an expert on the Middle East and Israeli politics; and Moti Kahana, the Israeli-American founder of Amaliah, an American organization aiding Syrian refugees.

IAC leaders in attendance were Chairman Adam Milstein, CEO Shoham Nicolet, Chairman Emeritus Shawn Evenhaim, board member Naty Saidoff and Los Angeles regional director Erez Goldman.

The program reaches nearly 1,000 students in 17 states.

“IAC Mishelanu students are our ‘secret sauce’ on campus,” Nicolet said in a statement. “They speak both ‘Israeli’ and ‘American’ and can serve as a unique bridge within the university’s student body, spreading love and passion for Israel.”

Manny Dahari, 23, a student at Yeshiva University and a Mishelanu student leader, was among those who attended the conference.

“I’ve attended all three Mishelanu conferences and it only gets bigger and better each year,” Dahari said. “This year’s conference was fantastic, as always. I believe the Israeli-American community is getting stronger and Mishelanu will only continue to grow around the country.”

— Mati Geula Cohen, Contributing Writer

ms-interfaith toleranceDuring the first Interfaith Tolerance Awards, Consul General of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles Nasimi Aghayev honored Pico Shul Rabbi Yonah Bookstein, Churches in Action founder Bishop Juan Carlos Mendez and King Fahad Mosque member Mahomed Akbar Khan in recognition of their efforts in promoting peace, tolerance and harmony among the three major religions.

The Feb. 21 event at the Museum of Tolerance also featured the screening of the documentary “Running From the Darkness.” Produced by J-Connect, an organization with which Bookstein is involved, and the One Wish Project, the film spotlights the 1992 Khojaly Massacre, when Armenian armed forces committed a mass murder of Azerbaijani civilians in the town of Khojaly. In 2015, Bookstein visited Baku, Azerbaijan’s largest city and home to a little-known community of mountain Jews.

About 200 people attended the awards event, including Liebe Geft, director of the Museum of Tolerance; Josh Kaplan, president of J-Connect; and Neuriel Shore, a Pico Shul congregant and senior campaign executive at the Jewish National Fund.

A live performance of Azerbaijani and European classical music followed the ceremony and screening.

ms-Hutman at Little TokyoSamara Hutman, director of Remember Us, an organization dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust, participated in a Feb. 18 forum at the Japanese American National Museum addressing the 75th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066.

Signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1942, Executive Order 9066 resulted in the forced incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans.

Hutman was on a panel that featured African-American, Japanese-American, Muslim and Latina speakers, including Norman Mineta, who served as President George W. Bush’s secretary of transportation; former Congressman Mike Honda; and Haru Kuromiya, a 90-year-old Japanese-American placed in an internment camp after Roosevelt’s executive order.

The event’s speakers drew parallels between the executive order of 1942 and President Donald Trump’s recent executive order, which, though ultimately blocked by the judicial branch of government, would have barred citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

Hutman and others stood before a banner-sized petition opposing “executive orders and laws that attack our civil and constitutional rights.” In addition, she read three poems, one by a child who was in the Terezin concentration camp during the Shoah and two by Japanese children placed into internment camps in the 1940s.

The event coincided with the opening of a new exhibition at the museum titled “Instructions to All Persons: Reflections on Executive Order 9066,” which runs until Aug. 13.

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com.

The shape of things to come: Jewish L.A. in 30 years

In commemoration of the Jewish Journal’s 30th anniversary, Jewish leaders discuss their hopes and predictions for the next 30 years of L.A. Jewish life.

Melissa Balaban

Executive director of IKAR

balabanMy greatest hope for the Jewish community in Los Angeles in the next 30 years is that we come together to rededicate ourselves to finding areas of commonality, rather than focusing on our divisions. We are at our best when we work toward common goals, using the wisdom of our tradition toward achieving a shared vision of the world. I would love to see an end to the divisiveness surrounding Israel, as we all work toward ensuring that Israel is a thriving Jewish, democratic and secure state, which reflects its highest Zionist ideals.

Rabbi Amy Bernstein

Kehillat Israel

When I spoke with KI congregants who have lived here for 30 years about what they hope the Jewish community will be like in the next 30 years, they said that they hope it will be a community that is warm, close, inclusive, vibrant, prosperous and safe. They hope that it will be a community that is socially engaged, as well as engaged with the larger community—where all factions get along, where there are no “others,” and where we can truly celebrate the diversity of the Los Angeles Jewish community.

Mayim Bialik

Actress and scientist

I cannot even imagine personally what 30 years from now will look like but I guess I would like to see Los Angeles Jews continue to be what I see as an example of the openness and the inquisitiveness and the beauty that Judaism really models and provide for us as a guide – I would hope that in 30 years no matter what happens politically or globally that L.A Jews continue to lead the way as part of a very significant and thriving community that we always have been.

Rabbi Yonah Bookstein

Pico Shul

Most of the growth in the community, as it has been for the past 10 years, is going to be within what is called the more traditional side of the equation on the spiritual, cultural and religious continuum. … I do have a fear that we will lose a substantial portion of millennial Jews to assimilation … but I also feel like we have the ability to do a lot to prevent that from happening. But it’s going to require a lot of dedication on the part of the community and to approach it with multiple means.

Rabbi Noah Farkas

Valley Beth Shalom

I wish day school tuition wasn’t a hindrance for people going to school.

Jesse Gabriel

Attorney and Jewish community leader

The energy, idealism, and optimism of young Jews is going to reinvigorate our communal institutions and enable us to be guided by our hopes rather than our fears. Their embrace of diversity, commitment to pluralism and inclusion, and willingness to move beyond past divisions will allow us to navigate the inevitable challenges and build a stronger and more deeply engaged community. We have much to be optimistic about!

Rabbi Emerita Laura Geller

Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills


[I predict] there will be fewer synagogues because the current funding model will no longer work. … Instead of membership in a particular synagogue many people will join a “kehilla” which would be a collaboration of many different synagogues that would hire clergy and teachers. … The large and growing cohort of older Jews will create alternative housing arrangements, including new ways to age in place. … What I hope will also happen is that our community becomes more inclusive, welcoming all kinds of Jews, and that we will have learned to talk to each other about difficult issues with civility and respect, including what it means to love Israel, which has remained Jewish and democratic.

Arya Marvazy

Assistant director of JQ International

aryaMy sincere hope and prediction is that these next few decades will encompass a greater wave toward radical inclusion – embracing others and their unique differences, understanding that at our core, we are all carbon copies of one another. What we express and how we identify with respect to race, religion, sexual orientation and lifestyle will serve far less to divide us, and we will truly focus on those elements of our humanity that make us one gigantic global family.

Patricia Glaser

Attorney and Jewish community leader


Over the next 30 years, I expect the Jewish community to continue to make a substantial contribution to the culture, business and very fabric of Los Angeles. Within the Jewish community, I hope that there is a conscious effort to better understand each other; that a movement emerges to bring together the disparate views and various religious groupings within Judaism in order for an intrafaith dialogue to develop that helps all of us to better understand our community and each other. I hope that younger Jews learn to understand the significance of being a Jew in America and support the State of Israel and to understand that –  whether it is $50, $500, $500 – giving is not a choice; we all must give.

Brian Greene

Executive director of the Westside Jewish Community Center


My hope is that in 30 years – if not sooner – Jewish communal life in L.A. will be inclusive and collaborative. Cultural and denominational divisions between Jews will feel so “ancient.” Our strength will be our commitment to being a unified community that is open and welcoming to all.

Sam Grundwerg

Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles

Given the fact that the Jewish people make up only less than half of 1 percent of the world’s population, it is nothing short than a miracle that we are able to contribute to the world in so many ways, from lifesaving discoveries to high-tech innovation and medical advances. In the next 30 years, may we see Jewish L.A. become more unified, spreading that spirit and passion. When we work together as a community we grow together and we are able to better serve the incredible Los Angeles community. Just like Israel, L.A. is truly a melting pot, and provides us all an opportunity to build stronger bonds with the communities around us.

Aaron Henne

Artistic director of Theatre Dybbuk

Jewish L.A. will be the fertile soil from which provocative, challenging and adventurous artistic work from a Jewish perspective grows. We will be rich in diverse viewpoints, expressed through a variety of forms and techniques, colliding, collaborating, and contradicting each other.  We will dive deep into our Jewish narratives in order to then turn our gaze outward, engaging in the world in humane, empathetic, and mindful ways.

Samara Hutman

Executive director of Remember Us

Marie Kaufman

President emeritus of the Child Survivors of the Holocaust, Los Angeles


Our hope for them [this generation of young adults] and for all of us is that we honor all communities, that we remember our roots and how we all got here and bring that to our daily work, our lives and our community.

Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky

B’nai David-Judea

kanefskyI hope that the next 30 years bring a more affordable cost of Jewish living to Los Angeles, so that the exodus of our children to other cities might slow down. I also hope that we make the effort to really listen to each other, and learn that right and left both love Israel, that traditional and liberal both love Judaism, and that in the long run, we will pay a bitter price for the momentary pleasure we receive from screaming at each other.

Jessie Kornberg

President and CEO of Bet Tzedek

jessica-kornberg-special-to-the-daily-journal-4At Bet Tzedek, as in so much of L.A.’s Jewish community, our identity has been indelibly shaped by our commitment to meet the needs of aging Holocaust survivors. Our identity for the next 30 years will similarly reflect how we respond to the needs of new populations seeking refuge in our city from violence, war, and persecution.

Kosha Dillz


kosha-dillzThe next 30 years of Jewish L.A. are quite vibrant. I predict that … more and more Jews from around the world will migrate to our beloved, sunny Los Angeles. Tech, music and film will continue to thrive and grow to the forefront of their respective industries. We will continue to be unapologetic in our support for Israel, yet continue to engage in our criticism to be better at it, and always engage in conversations with those most critical in an educational way.

Esther Kustanowitz

Jewish Journal contributing writer and editorial director at Groknation.com


I hope that Jewish L.A. will comprise and embody the best that both terms – “Jewish” and “L.A.” –  have to offer; that it will continue to be a bright example of creativity, innovation, diversity and community, and that the geography of this place continues to inspire and reflect the potential that we all have.

Shawn Landres

Co-founder of Jumpstart Labs, senior fellow at UCLA Luskin, and chair of the Los Angeles County Quality and Productivity Commission and the city of Santa Monica Social Services Commission

shawn-landresHere in Los Angeles, our continuing mandate will be to connect our core values with the aspirations and needs of our neighbors of all backgrounds and creeds, especially the most vulnerable. No doubt, individual Jewish Angelenos will continue to contribute across all sectors of our vibrant region. Our broader task is to deepen our  relationships – as a Jewish community and as stewards of Jewish tradition – with everyone in the L.A. mosaic. In 2017, too few Jewish communal leaders (and not only in Los Angeles) are willing to say “Black lives matter” or “Muslim and immigrant lives matter” without qualification or apology. Whether more of us can do so in 2047 – with whoever may need our solidarity – will define L.A. Jewry’s significance in this century.

Rabbi Nolan Lebovitz

Adat Shalom

I pray that our community plays a greater role in modeling how we can love Torah, love Israel, love one another and love our greater community without conflicting values.  

Adam Milstein

Philanthropist and Israeli American Council board chair

milsteinThe Israeli-American community will be an integral part of Jewish Los Angeles for the next three decades. It will serve as an important connector to the State of Israel, as a vibrant home for pro-Israel advocates, and as a source of strength for the broader Jewish community in our great city.

Moishe House Residents

Downtown Los Angeles

moishe-house-residentsMoishe House DTLA hopes the next 30 years will bring greater unity to the Jewish L.A. community, allowing our community to be a symbol of hope and acceptance for others in the L.A. area.

Ayana Morse

Executive Director of Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center

In 30 years, I see a Jewish L.A. that is a model for the best in local engagement, innovation and creativity. Let’s open our city’s metaphorical gates to each other and delight in the knowledge and mastery that emerges.

David N. Myers

Professor at UCLA



I think the next 30 years will bring an intensification of two noticeable trends in L.A. Jewish life: more drift away from institutional affiliation for the majority of L.A.’s Jews, and growing prominence and market share for the Orthodox population in town. In between, we may well see a blurring of the boundary between Reform and Conservative institutions. In this way, L.A. will be like the rest of the country, except more.

Sharon Nazarian

President of the Y&S Nazarian Family Foundation

nazarianJewish L.A. will mirror our great city of Los Angeles, a city reflecting reflecting the richness of its immigrant communities. When we refer to the Jewish Community of Los Angeles, we will be referring not only to European Jews, but also Russian Jews, Persian Jews, Israeli Jews, Iraqi Jews, Syrian Jews, Argentine Jews, Mexican Jews, Ethiopian Jews. While we will continue to celebrate the strength of our cultural uniqueness, we will have consolidated our Jewishness and our cohesion as one community.

Julie Platt

Board chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles

plattOver the next 30 years, The Jewish Federation will continue to be a convener for the Los Angeles Jewish community, bringing us together from every spiritual region and every geographic region, casting as wide a net as is necessary. Our Federation will continue to strategically impact this community, informed by our Jewish values and with clear and nimble focus and mission. We will always continue to work together to care for Jews in need, ensure the Jewish future and engage positively with our broader community.

Bruce Powell

Head of school at de Toledo High School

My hope and prediction for the Jewish future of Los Angeles in 2047 is simple: I believe that the thousands of students now in our Jewish day schools will become the leaders of our community and thereby create a vibrant and even more brilliant L.A. Jewish life and vision.

Jay Sanderson

President and CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles

As the president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, I live with every day with the question of where we will be over the next 30 years. We are focusing on looking at the greatest challenges and the greatest opportunities facing our community and the Jewish people. And the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity facing the Jewish people is how do we connect to the next generation of Jews? How do we connect to millennials? How do we make Judaism relevant, and how do we make the Jewish community open and accessible to all Jews?

Rabbi Lori Shapiro

The Open Temple

lori-shapiroWe are going through a Jewish renaissance in Los Angeles and these seeds will proliferate. Los Angeles will become a center of Jewish spiritual creativity and art, and our ritual practice will include film and new media. I predict that our spiritual communities will have not only rabbis on staff but universalist ministers as well as artists and media producers.

Rachel Sumekh

Founder and CEO of Swipe Out Hunger 

I predict that over the next 30 years, L.A. will see the peak of its burgeoning cultural renaissance and there will be a beautiful Jewish component to it –– and one thing I know won’t change is that, Persian Jews will hold the title for greatest Shabbat dinner parties.

Amanda Susskind

Anti-Defamation League regional director 

So for the next 30 years of Jewish L.A., my hope is that we will continue to work in coalition with other minority communities as the city continues to thrive as one of the major diverse communities in the world. But my fear is there will be so many issues to deal with around the world, from climate change to hate to nuclear proliferation, that we will have very, very big challenges to stand up to injustice, and that’s why I think the work of the ADL is going to be so critical, because we do build those coalitions and bridges to other communities.

Craig Taubman

Founder of the Pico Union Project

craigtaubman-2The future of the L.A. Jewish community will bring to us what we bring to it. Rabbi Harold Schulweis said it best: “Think ought. Not what is a Jew, but what ought a Jew to be?” This could be the anthem for our children who, unlike us or our parents, don’t determine their future on what was done in the past. They ought to be inspired by the City of Angels they live in, and like angels strive to be messengers of goodness, kindness, righteousness and beauty. This is the Jewish community I aspire to build.

Rabbi David Wolpe

Max Webb Senior Rabbi at Sinai Temple

Today we will play prophets
Tomorrow, we’ll be fools:
Who will and won’t belong?
We’re certain to be wrong.
Whose words will never fade?
Predict, and be betrayed.
Triumphs may bring tears
‘Lasting’ disappears.
Who knows in thirty years?

Sam Yebri

Attorney and Jewish community leader

When I think of the next 30 years of Jewish Los Angeles, I think of my own daughters and look at that question through their lens. What I hope for in Jewish Los Angeles is there to be a Jewish community that represents the best of our values as Iranian-American Jews – love of family, tradition, and of Israel – as well as the best of our American-Jewish experience –  a community that is progress-oriented and open-minded, that is engaged civically, Jewishly and philanthropically – and also that cares deeply about the greater community and the greater world.

Senior Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback

Stephen Wise Temple

Jewish life 30 years from now? Well, in addition to colonizing space, I have two words for you: rabbi robots. I’m joking, of course, that would be awful for me, personally. What I really see happening over the next 30 years is growth. I think our Los Angeles Jewish community, given its diversity and creativity, is going to grow, both in terms of the number of Jews engaged in Jewish life and in terms of how deeply they are engaging in Jewish life. Because actually now, more than ever before, people need meaning and purpose and that’s what Judaism offers. I’m very excited to be part of that story.

Moving and shaking: A night for Chaim, Peachy and Mark Levy Beit Midrash and more

Hillel at UCLA threw “A Night for Chaim” on Jan. 31 to celebrate its longtime director, Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, who became the organization’s emeritus director in June. Held at the Skirball Cultural Center, the gala drew 480 guests, including alumni, students, donors and others who were impacted by and admiring of the gregarious and eccentric rabbi.

Actress and UCLA alumna Mayim Bialik emceed the event, and actress Barbra Streisand (another of Seidler-Feller’s students) made an appearance on one of the videos that highlighted his impact on Jewish students and faculty at UCLA. Seidler-Feller’s children, Shulie and Shaul, gave their father tributes, and Hillel International President and CEO Eric Fingerhut gave remarks.

Musical performers included Hillel at UCLA a cappella group Jewkbox, and Cantor Judy Dubin Aranoff, Ruth Dubin Steinberg, Ronit Aranoff and Yael Aranoff. FSU Limmud’s Matthew Bronfman presented Seidler-Feller with a lifetime achievement award. In the area outside the main hall, Hillel set up a photo booth with Seidler-Feller’s office as a backdrop, and even included multiple sets of glasses, enabling guests to smile for the camera posing as Seidler-Feller.

The evening wasn’t just a celebration of Seidler-Feller, who led Hillel since 1975 — it was also a fundraiser for the Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller Institute of Jewish Learning, which will support Jewish educational programs in partnership with UCLA and the local Jewish community. Hillel representatives said $600,000 has been raised thus far for the institute, $50,000 of which came from the gala.

Jared Sichel, Senior Writer

Leo Baeck Temple recently held a ceremony at its campus on Sepulveda Boulevard dedicating its Peachy & Mark Levy Beit Midrash. 

Leo Baeck Temple Rabbi Ken Chasen and philanthropist Peachy Levy. Photo courtesy of Leo Baeck Temple 

Peachy Levy was among those in attendance at the Jan. 15 event, which coincided with Friday night services at the shul. Levy is a philanthropist who has supported, along with her late husband, Mark, numerous Jewish causes, including Union for Reform Judaism camps and scholarships as well as Leo Baeck Temple, a Reform congregation. 

Additional participants in the Shabbat program included Leo Baeck Temple Rabbi Ken Chasen, Assistant Rabbi Lisa Berney, Senior Rabbi Emeritus Sandy Ragins and Cantor Linda Kates. Temple President Randi Levine was also present. 

Held three days before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the event also included a tribute to the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. 

The Woodland Hills chapter of JNET, a Jewish professional networking organization based in Southern California, hosted its annual networking event for more than 200 members on Jan. 21 at Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills. Guest speaker Paul Neinstein, COO of RatPac Entertainment, a film financing company, spoke about his experience making deals in Hollywood, including during his time with Paramount Pictures. 

Front row, from left: JNET Woodland Hills’ Michael Sholklapper and Sandy Hollander, Paul Neinstein, COO of RatPac Entertainment, JNET Woodland Hills President Lisa Aminnia and JNET Woodland Hills Vice President Jackson Schwartz. Back row, from left: JNET Woodland Hills’ Douglas Wolf, Stuart Fried, George Schaffer, David Shannon, Randy Michel and Mark Widawer. Photo by Larry Estrin, Eugene Photography 

“From a networking perspective, the biggest thing you have is your reputation, and one thing that I take pride in [with] every negotiation is protecting that reputation,” he said.

Guests also explored the JNET Community Marketplace featuring 30 JNET-member businesses. Rabbi Stewart Vogel of Temple Aliyah kicked off the event with a short speech, in which he noted that integrity and honesty in matters of business are rooted in “our 4,000 years as a tribe.”

And on Jan. 28, JNET’s board of directors announced the election of attorney Lisa Aminnia as president of its Woodland Hills chapter. Aminnia replaces Mark Widawer of The Invitation Maven, who led the chapter for the last two years.

JNET is a nonprofit organization with a membership of nearly 400 in 13 chapters located in various synagogues throughout Southern California.

“You never know when you may cross paths with past acquaintances that could become your new best resource,” JNET President Jackie Mendelson said. 

Virginia Isaad, Contributing Writer

Sarica Cohen had to shut down the registration webpage for the Jan. 14 Young Adults of Los Angeles (YALA) mixer at the Dark Horse Tavern in Tarzana after about 110 people signed up to attend. She was worried they might get kicked out for bringing too many people. It’s happened to her before at YALA events, albeit never in the San Fernando Valley.

Otherwise sleepy on a Thursday evening, the tavern filled with groups of three or four, chatting over drinks in a wood-paneled back room under orange light bulbs hanging from exposed wires.

YALA is an effort by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles to help young people ages 25 to 40 form communities of their own around common interests. The bar social was the 2016 kickoff event for the organization’s Valley contingent, or YALA Valley, which Cohen, 38, chairs.

“None of the [Jewish] nonprofits are in the Valley, they’re all on the Westside,” said Ira Gold, 35, a real estate agent from Studio City who attended the mixer.

He pulled up a calendar item on his phone for a Jewish-interest event he would consider attending, but then pointed to the West Hollywood address — easily a 50-minute drive through winding canyons or chaotic freeways from where he stood.

And unlike some events that aim at marrying off Jewish singles, with YALA “people really appreciate that it’s not a meat market,” he said.

Erika Maya, 39, is a committee member for YALA Valley — the only one, for now — and a new homeowner in the Valley. This year, she’s planning to partner with the amateur sommeliers of YALA’s Wine Cluster to organize a winery event.

“We’re Jews — that’s what we do,” she said. “We bring people together; we create.” 

Eitan Arom, Contributing Writer

Julia R. Moss has been named director of community engagement of TRIBE Media Corp., the nonprofit media company that produces the Jewish Journal and Jewish Insider.

Photo by Lynn Pelkey

Prior to joining TRIBE, Moss was a nonprofit consultant at NPO Solutions; manager of partnerships and innovation and later the assistant director of NuRoots at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles; and engagement associate at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Previously, she worked in journalism for outlets such as Kaiser Health News, CBS News and NPR. She has a masters of science in social entrepreneurship from USC’s Marshall School of Business and a bachelor’s degree in political communications from The George Washington University. At TRIBE, she will manage development and fundraising and oversee TRIBE’s live community events and sponsorships. You can reach her at juliam@jewishjournal.com. 

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com.

Oscars red carpet preview: Is modesty the new sexy?

Pity Jennifer Lopez. As far as memorable red carpet moments go, she set such a high bar at the 2000 Grammys with her now-legendary plunging green Versace dress that she seemed destined to never top it.

But many fashion insiders (and followers) have been buzzing about the actress-singer’s Golden Globes gown earlier this month. That’s not because of how much of her body she showed off, but precisely the opposite: The caped, marigold-colored Giambattista Valli dress covered her shoulders, most of her arms and even much of her legs.

J.Lo was hardly the only celeb on the red carpet taking a (relatively) modest turn. Cate Blanchett rocked an elbow- and knee-covering flapper-inspired fringe dress from Givenchy, while Julianne Moore wore a long-sleeved blue sequin Tom Ford gown that would have been appropriately gorgeous attire for a black-tie synagogue event. And all three women landed on many a best dressed list.

Julianne Moore wearing a glamorous, full-coverage Tom Ford gown to the Golden Globe Awards, Jan. 10, 2016. Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

“Modesty has very much found its niche within the fashion world, and not just for religious women,” says Adi Heyman, founder of the Jewish fashion blog Fabologie. “There’s an empowerment to owning your look and not having to put everything out there.”

Granted, only a few of these red carpet gowns actually adhere to Orthodox rules of modesty — varying among communities, that typically means covering necklines, backs, elbows and knees. Blanchett’s Golden Globes dress had an open back, after all, and J.Lo’s frock had a slit up to her thigh (and she seemingly spared no opportunity to flaunt said thigh). But compared to the typical trajectory of ever more revealing designs — after all, 2015 showcased the super-bare “naked dress” favored by La Lopez herself — this year’s red carpet represented a shift toward a more covered-up kind of chic.

“You’re not seeing that same in-your-face sex appeal you saw in the late 1990s and early 2000s,” Heyman says. “Even when a dress is sleeveless, you’re often getting a cape or a higher neckline. Modern fashion is taking a modest spin.”

As such, many fashion insiders are predicting the chaste leanings on display at the Globes are just a taste of what’s to come at the upcoming Academy Awards and eventually, in true trickle-down “fashionomics,” a high-street shop near you.

Esti Burton, owner of Esti’s, a boutique specializing in modest couture with locations on Long Island and in Brooklyn, New York, says she wouldn’t be surprised to see more modesty at the Oscars, which will be held Feb. 28. While her team is often asked to build sleeves and higher necklines onto more revealing dresses, she says her stores also carry dresses from couture designers like Lanvin, Valentino and Carolina Herrera that meet religious clients’ needs. Even Alexander McQueen, a design house known for outrageous style, has “covered-up dresses,” she says.

“The red carpet fashions tend to come in cycles,” Burton says. Now there’s a “been there, done that” feel when it comes to the completely bare look, she says.

“The red carpet will always reflect what’s happening in fashion, and over the past two years or so we’ve seen a definite increase in looks that feature more material and more draping,” says Mimi Hecht, a Hasidic designer who with sister-in-law Mushky Notik runs Mimu Maxi, which has been featured in Vogue. The line specializes in oversized casual clothing, but Hecht says they have plans to roll out some eveningwear in response to requests from religious Jews and Muslims.

“Fashion is always about rebelling, and younger women are now rebelling against the idea that they have to show their skin to be sexy,” Hecht says. “It used to be empowering to show what you have, but now more is more.”

Plus, at the biggest-ticket events in the celebrity circuit, it makes sense that women would want to wear more material, says Heyman — after all, the gowns are works of art.

“When you’re talking in terms of design aesthetic, I say the more the merrier,” she says. “It’s always best when there’s more to look at.”

Heyman credits actresses like Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Michelle Williams and Emma Stone — as well as fashionistas like Olivia Palermo and Alexa Chung — for giving a fresher, cutting-edge feel to a more traditional style of dress, both on and off the red carpet.

In some ways, the Olsen twins have become the patron saints of high-end modest fashion. The two women, who are often photographed in layers of voluminous, flowing clothes, have their own high-end line of ready-to-wear clothing with ankle-length skirts, long-sleeve shirts and coats as staples. Called The Row. the line is described by The Council of Fashion Designers of America as “simplistic shapes that speak to discretion.”

“I’ve always been obsessed with them,” Hecht says of the star siblings. “It’s simplicity done so regally and luxuriously. People always talk really highly about their clothes without talking about how modest they are, which just shows you that you can have clothes that are completely fashionable without the modesty aspect being so obvious.”

But when it comes to red carpet designers that really nail the look, “Valentino is the epitome of modern modesty,” Heyman says. Even labels like Dolce & Gabanna — known for some outrageous, show-stopping looks — have more conservative dresses, she says. (In fact, D & G recently launched its very own line of high-end hijabs and abayas.)

Mayim Bialik, an Emmy nominee for “The Big Bang Theory” and an observant Jew, says her self-imposed red carpet dress code (nothing too short, nothing sleeveless) is a mix of social and religious modesty  — and a way to demonstrate her “second-wave feminist side.” The thinking, according to Bialik, is that she doesn’t need to show everything — that keeping parts of your body private is empowering.

Mayim Bialik at the 21st Annual Critics’ Choice Awards in Santa Monica, Calif., Jan. 17, 2016. Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

“There’s a resurgence of younger women who are rebelling against the idea that they have to show skin to be sexy,” she says. “In fact, the more you’re covered up, the more you can show your attitude. It used to be just older women or larger-sized women who dressed modestly, but even the most petite actresses are doing it.”

Bialik has also perfected the art of covered-up chic, such as the green Oliver Tolentino dress she wore on Sunday to accept her Critics’ Choice Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. She’s learned some tricks over the years, too.

“When you dress modestly, you need to keep jewelry, makeup and hair sleek, modern and sexy, or risk looking matronly,” Bialik says.

It’s a lesson that some stars will likely put into practice at the upcoming Oscars. Heyman, for one, predicts that we’ll see stars wearing more covered-up, sparkly frocks, like what Moore wore to the Globes.

And while there will undoubtedly be lots of “strapless and low-cut looks” at the Academy Awards, Hecht expects to see a good showing of modest dresses, too.

“Modesty isn’t considered a matronly, archaic, biblical way of dressing anymore,” she says. “And that creates an opening for a lot of designers.”

Free speech, hate speech: Where’s the line at UCLA?

Where does UCLA draw the line when it comes to speech and conduct protected by the First Amendment? When are words and actions punishable according to university standards?

Those are questions some Jewish and pro-Israel UCLA students and faculty have been asking since Lisa Marie Mendez, a UCLA student and former work-study employee at the UCLA Medical Center, posted multiple blatantly racist, anti-Jewish and anti-Israel comments on the Facebook page of Jewish actress Mayim Bialik, and on that of the group Students Supporting Israel (SSI) at UCLA. Mendez wrote posts that drew attention on Dec. 9, 10 and 11. 

“Go Murder some Palestinian children so you can have their parents arrested and move into their home,” Mendez wrote. “Greedy lifeless pieces of s— people. Capitalist colonizers who steal and kill from other races to promote your dead ideologies.”

“F—ing Jews,” she wrote. “GTFOH [Get the f— out of here] with all your Zionist bulls—, ” Mendez wrote.

“I live in the ghetto, and if you’re a Jew, you’re white. Not black, not middle eastern [sic], not Asian — white. Being a Jew is not a race — it’s a faith system that keeps you inbreeding long enough to believe you’re preserving your race, and keeps you thinking you’re entitled to take someone else’s land.” 

There’s much more, and her posts can still be found on Facebook and other websites. 

After SSI posted on its Facebook page an alert to Mendez’s comments, demanding a public condemnation from UCLA, Mendez (who changed her Facebook profile’s name to “Zatanna Zatarra,” a comic book superheroine) wrote a comment that reads, in part, “I can imagine that colonialists like you can’t have people like me with good jobs, especially when behind closed doors you treat us all like slaves. I’m Mexican, my family is from the land we stand on. You’re the foreigners, locusts who steal resources and oppress people … I work with you people everyday. I go to school with your rotten children who have screamed obscenities in my face … You never had your family dragged out of your house by the cops, or had to witness your children gunned down by them, have your family destroyed when they are deported, etc.”

Mendez did not immediately respond to an email or private Facebook message from the Journal requesting comment.

On Dec. 16, Janina Montero, UCLA’s vice chancellor for student affairs, sent an email to UCLA’s 42,000 students condemning Mendez and her comments, without naming her. “The hurtful and offensive comments displayed ignorance of the history and racial diversity of the Jewish people, insensitivity and a disappointing lack of empathy. Bigotry against the Jewish people or other groups is abhorrent,” Montero wrote.

On Dec. 17, Kelsey Martin, interim dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, wrote a letter “in regard to the reprehensible anti-Semitic Facebook post allegedly made by a student who also has a work study position in the University Health System.” Martin strongly condemned Mendez’s posts, but added that UCLA “cannot control the activities of individuals in their personal lives when not acting on behalf of the University, and that the First Amendment protects individual’s private speech, however reprehensible the University and the medical school finds it.”

In an interview this week, Liat Menna, president of SSI at UCLA, who was first to draw public awareness to Mendez’s posts, said she’s disappointed with UCLA’s reaction and believes its decision not to punish Mendez is inconsistent with its interim suspension of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and the Alpha Phi sorority after they held a “Kanye Western” themed party on Oct. 6, during which, according to the Daily Bruin student newspaper, partygoers wore baggy clothes, plumped lips and dressed as “Kardashians.” 

There is “110 percent inconsistency between them suspending a group that indirectly attacked a minority and [not punishing] an individual who directly and blatantly attacked a minority group,” Menna said. “Had it been any other minority group on campus they would’ve taken it, I think, with greater heaviness, and would’ve put on an investigation to see when and where she was posting online.”

On Oct. 8, UCLA released a statement titled “UCLA statement on ‘Kanye West’-themed fraternity party,” in which it stated, in part, “Both Greek organizations allegedly involved have been placed on immediate interim suspension of all social activities pending the outcome of the investigation. While we do not yet have all the facts, the alleged behavior is inconsistent with good judgment as well as our principles of community.”

But on Jan. 12, a new explanation emerged for the groups’ suspensions, when UCLA spokesman Ricardo Vazquez sent a statement to the Journal, explaining that the two Greek organizations were suspended not for the content of the party itself, but “for violating policies on properly registering a campus event,” adding that the sanctions on the fraternity and sorority end the week of Jan. 10.

“They were sanctioned for failing to properly register a social event,” the statement says. “The sanctions issued were consistent with those imposed for similar violations of Interfraternity and Panhellenic council standards. There is a difference between sanctions imposed on a registered student group for violating procedures when hosting a campus-related social activity and an individual expressing her own personal views on social media.”

On Jan. 7, in response to a request from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), UCLA wrote another letter condemning Mendez’s “reprehensible anti-Semitic comments,” adding that she “previously” had a work-study position within UCLA’s health system — a position that, according to her Facebook page, she began in October. Vasquez told the Journal on Jan. 12 that Mendez is not currently employed by the university, but did not give a reason.

The ADL’s published response on the matter stated there’s no evidence to suggest Mendez made the posts while at the medical center, or that she discriminated against Jews at work.

Arielle Mokhtarzadeh, a UCLA sophomore and vice president of Bruins for Israel, applauded the administration for quickly responding to Mendez’s Facebook posts, but said she is skeptical that “a response from the administration is going to actually change the realities on the ground for the experiences of Jewish students.”

Mayim Bialik visited her father’s grave before Emmys

Actress Mayim Bialik visited the grave of her father before the Emmy Awards ceremony.

Bialik, who plays Amy Farrah Fowler on the popular sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” told People in an article published on the magazine’s website Sunday that she would visit the grave of her father, Barry, who died in April, because it is traditional to visit the graves of loved ones on the Sunday between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

“But it’s really nice because it gives perspective for everything we’re doing,” she said. “There are things so much bigger than anything that goes on [with the Emmys].”

The 67th Primetime Emmy Awards were held at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday evening. The host was Adam Samberg, who also is Jewish. Bialik received her fourth Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, but did not take home the award.

She said she would visit the grave with her mother, her children and her ex-husband.

Bialik is a columnist for Kveller, which with JTA is a 70 Faces Media property.

Mayim Bialik: Being religious isn’t trendy in Hollywood

People of faith working in Hollywood are often out of step with the entertainment industry, American actress Mayim Bialik said.

“I think in general it’s never going to be trendy to be observant or religious in Hollywood circles,” Bialik, 39, told Fox411 in an interview broadcast over the weekend. “There are people I know of faith and we tend to congregate together. I study Jewish texts weekly. That’s something really positive to me when you’re a person of faith, it stays with you all the time.”

Bialik is known in Hollywood as an observant person. She said she gets a lot of flack for being a modest dresser, including getting labeled as a prude.

“Being a modest dresser, that for me is a certain amount of my religious faith — privacy and chastity. Just because I have a body, doesn’t mean it means to be on display,” she said.

Bialik also spoke about the “negative attention” she received on the Internet for her recent visit to Israel. “It really doesn’t matter what I support or believe, the fact that I’m Jewish and go there is enough – that should be alarming to most people,” she said.

Bialik, who has written for the JTA-affiliated Jewish parenting site Kveller for the last  five years, plays Amy Farrah Fowler on the popular sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.” She recently launched a new website, GrokNation.com.

Mayim Bialik launches her own website

After acting in two major TV sitcoms, earning a doctorate in neuroscience and gaining a following as an online writer, Mayim Bialik has already accomplished more than most do in a lifetime. But that doesn’t mean she’s stopping anytime soon.

In her next move, “The Big Bang Theory” star and four-time Emmy Award nominated actress launched her own website on Tuesday. The site, named GrokNation – a reference to the classic 1961 sci-fi novel “Stranger in a Strange Land” – will feature Bialik’s commentary on the news, popular culture and personal and Jewish topics.

Bialik has been doing similar writing for JTA-affiliated Jewish parenting site Kveller for five years. She announced and described her new venture on the site.

“When things happen in the world that are outrageous — rape, abuse, immorality, women held to unfair standards — as a writer, I feel the need to write. I want to reach people. I love to touch people. I hope my brain and everything it produces can help someone think differently, act differently, or react differently,” Bialik wrote.

“What I really want to do is share the way my brain works with more people in a more daring and inventive way … I want to get past stereotypes and name-calling and be thoughtful in our analysis of serious and important topics, and I want to really explore how complicated most issues are.”

Bialik, who was awarded her fourth Emmy nomination last month for her work on TV comedy “The Big Bang Theory,” emphasized that she will continue to write for Kveller and that she wants her new site to feature additional voices in the future.

In “My Opinionation”: Looking Back on Blossom

My interest in Blossom blossomed relatively late, since I discovered the television series well after it stopped airing on NBC. When Blossom premiered in 1990, its title character was thirteen and I was six—more interested in Garfield and Friends than Blossom and Co. Instead, Blossom was “that show” to which older friends and other babysitters made wide-eyed reference. It was that show to which they hitched the nebulous term “very special episode,” one which did little to pique my youthful interest. In short, Blossom and I were not in step.                                                                                                                                  

Nineteen years later, we fell into step. Rather, in spring 2009 I stepped into Half Price Books in search of decently half-priced entertainment and casually stopped my shoes in front of “Blossom: Seasons One and Two.” I contemplated the timing of the DVD as the words “very special episode” flashed across my mind. There was a month and a half left before returning to graduate school and I had a rough interest in a television series with which older, other persons once had some sort of association.

I purchased the DVD that Monday evening, befitting the Monday evenings on which the show ran. Back at my apartment, I dimmed the lights, popped on my pajamas and popped in Blossom.

Several episodes into the first season, I fell in love with the series. To be more precise, I fell in love with the idea of what the series was to a teenage girl in 1990 and with what it was to a twenty-something girl in 2009. Five years later, I remain nostalgically in love with Blossom and with the idea of Mayim Bialik’s Blossom Ruby Russo, who showcases adolescence at a remove; she sashays alongside Full House’s Stephanie Judith Tanner as the other girl I would have wanted to befriend during the similarly precocious 1990s. For this twenty-something, the decade now unfolds to the tune of Jesse and the Rippers and big families and to that of Salt-N-Pepa and big hats. Belatedly, I wish to be Blossom, in a retroactive sense, as one could be before the 2000s.

The show’s heroine arrives onscreen with teenage panache. She fearlessly wiggles, shuffles and shimmies into the first season’s grainy, goofy camera sequence, and prances and dances through subsequent sequences. Clad in a comfortingly large sweater in the second episode, Blossom careens her cart down the aisle after Tampax shrouded in glum grey wrapping. In ensuing episodes, Blossom’s best friend Six, and sometimes she, speaks very, very fast and shrieks, in short succession, in her room. In one episode, Blossom calls up Six to talk, and she’s talking about the big time here—she’s thinking of going to second base with Jimmy! In one episode a month later, Blossom frets over what everyone’s going to think when her friend Dennis claims they went all the way in the balcony at the multiplex! Yet in time Blossom is not shy about the fact that she wants her boyfriend Vinnie and that she wants Vinnie to want her. Mayim’s Blossom repeatedly stresses this ambition to Six in a voice wonderfully inflected with Jewish notes; in the course of episodes, the equally academically ambitious young woman repeatedly stresses over attending Stanford.             

I see the bookish and sweetly preoccupied Blossom and I see myself at that age. Blossom and its protagonist confront me with my own adolescence. At thirteen, I, too, was on the cusp of junior fashions and was getting through womanhood with the help of chocolate ice cream. In due course, I, too, would consider Stanford.                  

As a result, I catch myself with the perverse wish to be an adolescent again. But I wish to be one on a particular day and time, namely, Monday evenings from 1990-1995.                              

I wish to be the brainy girl who is caught fervently studying her Latin assignment with Vinnie on these Monday evenings, the balanced girl who catches a study break to tune in to a Blossom television episode and to Mayim’s Blossom herself.                                                   

I wish to be the wry, witty girl who susses out her Harvard interview and evolving ambitions by visiting with her dotty, but not doddering, grandfather.

I wish to be the fretful girl who valiantly tries to talk to her father about her woes over chocolate chip cookie dough—even if that talk ends with the straight-faced “Good night, good-bye, God bless.”

I wish to be the astute, able girl who lovingly utilizes multisyllabic vocabulary words and who quirks asides in the privacy of her own room, her punch lines unknowingly aided by a laugh track.

Alternatively, I watch the episodic evolution of this girl between emails, via internet connection.

As taken from the show’s title character, this girl is “Blossom Russo, she wrote.”

Your guide to Jews and the Emmys

Mayim Bialik–Outstanding supporting actress in a comedy (The Big Bang Theory)

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Jenji Kohan–Showrunner for best comedy series nominee, (Orange is the New Black)

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Julianna Margulies–Outstanding leading actress in a drama series (The Good Wife)

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Lizzy Caplan–Outstanding leading actress in a drama series (Masters of Sex)

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Lena Dunham–Outstanding leading actress in a comedy series (Girls)

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Julia Louis-Dreyfus–Outstanding leading actress in a comedy series (Veep)

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Mandy Patinkin–Outstanding supporting actor in a drama series (Homeland)

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Josh Charles–Outstanding supporting actor in a drama series (The Good Wife)

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Matthew Weiner (writer)–Outstanding drama series (Mad Men)

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Jon Stewart–Outstanding variety series (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart)

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Bill Maher–Outstanding variety series (Real Time with Bill Maher)

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Sarah Silverman–Outstanding varietal special (We are Miracles)

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Billy Crystal–Outstanding varietal special (700 Sundays)

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Nathan Lane–Outstanding guest actor in a comedy series (Modern Family)

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Anthony Bourdain–Outstanding host for a reality or reality-competition program (Parts Unknown)

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Carrie Brownstein–Outstanding writing for a variety series (Portlandia)

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Amy Schumer–Outstanding writing for a variety series (Inside Amy Schumer)

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Jerry Seinfeld–Outstanding short-format nonfiction program (Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee)

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The many blessings of Jewish homeschooling

Shari Rosenman decided to homeschool her children because it gave her the freedom to set her family’s schedule. Leat Silvera does it because she wants her children to pursue their passions. 

A few years ago they realized that, as Jews, they weren’t alone in making this educational choice.

“When we started homeschooling, there weren’t many Jewish families homeschooling, and then the economy changed,” said Rosenman of Carthay Square. “A lot of Jewish families could no longer afford to send their children to private Jewish schools, and they weren’t going to send them to public schools.”

The result, they found, was an increased desire for Jewish homeschooling, and about five years ago this led to the creation of LA Jewish Homeschoolers (lajewishhomeschoolers.com), a network of families seeking to connect for social and educational purposes. 

“We put together a support network so people wouldn’t have to start from scratch,” said Rosenman, one of the organization’s founders, who homeschooled her daughter, Maya, 16, and son, Eytan, 14, for years.

The group ranges in size from 60 to 100 families at any one time and is open to all denominations. Members are located in the San Fernando Valley, Pico-Robertson, Long Beach and parts of Central Los Angeles. 

The network exists for support, collaboration and more. Twice a month, members meet up for social activities, and there are informal classes that they’re welcome to join, although the group is not set up as a primary educator for the kids. Past instruction has included Bible study, writing circles, history classes and a course where instructors teach how to solve robotics challenges using Legos. There have been hikes, visits to a planetarium, a nature walk with a naturalist and a park day. 

Among the members of LA Jewish Homeschoolers is actress Mayim Bialik (“The Big Bang Theory”), a Valley resident. She wrote in an e-mail to the Journal that she prefers homeschooling because it allows her two kids to learn at their own pace. 

“Our sons love learning, they are focused and attentive, [and] they are respectful of others and see the world as an opportunity to constantly be learning,” Bialik wrote. “These are the gifts we have seen in our homeschooling experience and journey.”

Bialik — who has a doctorate in neuroscience from UCLA — has taught neuroscience, high school biology, chemistry and a specialty research development course for students through LA Jewish Homeschoolers. 

An advantage of teaching her own sons, who are 4 and 7, is that she has control over the subjects they learn, she wrote.

“We love being able to teach our kids subjects the way we want them taught,” Bialik wrote. “For example: the notion of what ‘really’ happened when Columbus landed in America is quite easily taught in a homeschool environment, whereas it’s politically charged in other schools.”

One of Silvera’s motivations for homeschooling her five children is that the possibilities for learning are endless. 

“Homeschooling is not taking a classroom and putting it in your dining room,” she said. “Once you’re outside the brick and mortar of the school building, your whole world opens up. You can really create a program based individually on your child that can inspire a lifelong love of learning.”

Parents — who are not required to have teaching credentials if they homeschool their children — sometimes choose to teach everything themselves, while others hire tutors and teachers to help out. 

Beth Braunstein of Valley Village, who has homeschooled all five of her children, said that there is no typical day. 

“Some days are outdoors-based, where we do field trips. I think you have to be part of the world by seeing and experiencing it. Some are more class-oriented, and then [my children] do whatever work we decide needs to be done that week. It’s more flexible according to their needs.”

Because her children have learning disabilities, they have performed better because of homeschooling, Braunstein said. 

“Testing them in the standard way will never be beneficial. It’s part of the frustration they had in school.” 

A personal issue that Braunstein said she has with traditional schooling is that it is based on a reward system — grades — as opposed to teaching children to learn for the sake of learning. 

“My kids developed an intellectual curiosity. The schools have so many things to deal with, and the structures in place are in some ways outdated and obsolete,” she said. “It’s just not inspiring the kids to be prepared for an ever-changing world.”

Bialik, like Braunstein, likes that the schooling can be personalized and planned according to a child’s needs. She said it allows “your child to develop at their own pace rather than conforming to what the ‘norms’ are for developing speech, academic ability, etcetera.” 

Although there are many positive aspects to homeschooling, it doesn’t work well for everyone, she admitted. 

“You have to want to be with your kids a lot of the day,” Bialik said. “There is a lot of flexibility and open-mindedness you learn to have when you homeschool.”

Silvera said the perks are worth it. 

“You get to see your children very relaxed, happy, picking up books and reading on their own or doing creative projects. Through homeschooling, you give your kids the gift of time: Time to explore their passions and what they love. There’s no limit.”

Through the Jewish homeschooling network, Bialik, Silvera, Braunstein and Rosenman have found similar-minded peers to whom they can turn whether they need advice, have questions or want to feel part of a community. 

“The wonderful thing about the Jewish Homeschoolers is the resources available,” Bialik said. “I can ask questions and find people with kids like mine temperament-wise and ask what worked for them. It’s wonderful to be supported by a homeschooling community like this.”

The 2013 (Jewish) Emmy nominees

The 2013 Emmy nominations are in!  We won’t bore you with the whole long list, but we will share this compact yet impressive group of Jewish nominees. Here goes.


Mandy Patinkin, “Homeland”


Lena Dunham, “Girls”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”


Mayim Bialik, “The Big Bang Theory”


Michael Douglas, “Behind The Candelabra”

Tune into CBS on September 22 at 8 p.m. to see who goes home with a shiny statue. (And to see who’s wearing what, of course.)

Alicia Silverstone opens vegan breast milk sharing service

It seems Mayim Bialik isn’t the only vegan Jewish actress/author in Hollywood who happens to also be an outspoken breastfeeding advocate.

While Bialik has provided advice to fellow moms, Alicia Silverstone is now providing them with actual breast milk. According to Us Weekly, Silverstone, mom to Bear Blu, 2, and author of The Kind Diet, has just launched Kind Mama Milk Share, a service for vegan mothers unable to produce enough milk on their own.

In a recent blog post Silverstone wrote of a woman in her community who had trouble nursing due to a breast reduction surgery and didn’t feel comfortable accepting donor milk because “it was almost impossible to figure out what kind of lifestyle choices the donors had made.”

Using someone else’s breast milk—and insisting that person be a “clean eater”– might seem extreme, but Silverstone is no stranger to extreme baby-feeding methods. Last year she uploaded a video of herself practicing premastication, i.e., transferring prechewed food from her mouth to Bear Blu’s.

“I can understand that [pre-chewing] would make some people feel uncomfortable possibly, because it’s new to them,” Silverstone told ET. “But I do want to let you know that this has been going on for thousands of years. [It's] still going on all over the place. And it’s natural.”

We’re just hoping there are no plans for a Kind Mama Prechewed Food Share on the horizon.

Mayim Bialik divorcing

On Thanksgiving, a day that Americans celebrate with family, and friends Big Bang Theory” star Mayim Bialik took to her Kveller blog to say she's divorcing her husband, Michael Stone, after nine years of marriage.

“After much consideration and soul-searching, Michael and I have arrived at the decision to divorce due to 'Irreconcilable Differences,' ” Bialik wrote last week. “Divorce is terribly sad, painful and incomprehensible for children. It is not something we have decided lightly.”

The couple have sons aged 7 and 4. Bialik, who has chronicled her parenting style online for years, denied it had any relation to the breakup. “The hands-on style of parenting we practice played no role in the changes that led to this decision; relationships are complicated no matter what style of parenting you choose,” the former “Blossom” star wrote.

Bialik went on to say, “The main priority for us now is to make the transition to two loving homes as smooth and painless as possible. Our sons deserve parents committed to their growth and health and that’s what we are focusing on. Our privacy has always been important and is even more so now, and we thank you in advance for respecting it as we negotiate this new terrain. We will be ok.”

Mayim Bialik’s pain-coping techniques

Mayim Bialik, who nearly lost her right hand thumb in a car accident two weeks ago, told “Access Hollywood” in an interview that immediately following the accident, her first instinct was to get out of the car, fearing it would explode. “Many Denzel Washington films” ran through her head, she said. Bialik also thought about her family, saying to herself, “I’m a mom, this is not happening. I have kids waiting for me. It’s my son’s birthday—and it was. That was my first thought.”

The Emmy-nominated “Big Bang Theory” star declined to use pain killers, instead opting for methods she used while giving birth that ”really reaffirmed my faith in pain with a purpose and the meditative properties, the ability to lower your blood pressure, which women do in labor. It absolutely is what I used to get me through all stages of this.”

The accident did not affect the filming of the sixth season of “Big Bang Theory,” as Bialik’s hand is being hidden from the camera during the shooting.