May 24, 2019

Moving & Shaking: JWW Fundraiser, Big Brothers Golf Classic

Jewish World Watch (JWW) held its annual Global Soul fundraiser on May 8 at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Century City, raising funds and awareness for the organization’s work fighting mass atrocities and genocide.

The Encino-based nonprofit celebrated its 14th year since its founding by honoring Ben Reznik, an attorney, philanthropist and activist who is also the husband of JWW co-founder Janice Kamenir-Reznik.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti delivered a video address praising Reznik and JWW for their activism.

“My thanks to Jewish World Watch for your tireless efforts to build a world without genocide,” Garcetti said.

Officials and prominent community members in attendance included Consul General of Mexico in Los Angeles Carlos Garcia de Alba; Los Angeles City Councilmembers David Ryu, Paul Koretz, Mike Bonin and Nury Martinez; Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles President and CEO Jay Sanderson; and Rabbis Mark Borovitz, Richard Camras, Noah Farkas, Ed Feinstein, Nina Feinstein, Arthur Gross-Schaefer, Chaim Seidler-Feller and Richard Spiegel, a JWW board member. Also present were Pastor Kasereka Kasomo of the African Christian Community Church of Southern California; attorney and activist Sam Yebri; Beit T’Shuvah founder Harriet Rossetto and Aziza Hasan, executive director of NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change.

Former Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, a JWW board member, presented the Global Soul honor to Reznik, recounting their days carpooling to Hebrew school together and their activism in the Soviet Jewry movement, calling Reznik “a tough lawyer” and a “mensch.”

“He’s got the courage of his intellect and his convictions,” Yaroslavsky said.

The open-air event featured traditional African music — a nod to the organization’s humanitarian work in Africa — as well as excerpts from the play “Sister Africa” by playwright Stephanie Liss, performed by actors Takesha Meshé Kizart and Christopher McLellan, based on testimonies from survivors of rape and mass atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The event also showcased JWW’s work with impacted communities in Syria, Myanmar, Chad, Sudan and Iraq. Reznik, whose parents were Holocaust survivors, said the work of JWW is necessary to ensure that the world does not remain silent in the face of mass atrocities as it did during the Holocaust.

“That is why this honor from this organization means so much to me,” Reznik said. “I can think of no more deserving cause to support with my heart, my soul and my wallet.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Esther Kustanowitz, Contributing Writer

From left: Joey Behrstock, Bob Waldorf and Steve Miller turned out for the Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles 23rd annual golf classic. Photo courtesy of Jewish Big Brothers
Big Sisters of Los Angeles.

Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles (JBBBSLA) held its 23rd annual golf classic on April 23, honoring former camper and longtime supporter Bob Waldorf.

The tournament brought together more than 150 players and supporters at the Valencia Country Club.

The event raised $265,000, which will enable underserved children to attend the agency’s camp, Camp Bob Waldorf on the Max Straus Campus, for free this summer.

The event’s lead sponsor, Gelt, Inc., was founded by Keith Wasserman. Wasserman and his wife, Gelena, are volunteers in the agency’s mentoring program.

JBBBSLA CEO Randy Schwab said he was thrilled with the community support of this year’s golf classic.

“Camp Bob Waldorf is more than a summer camp. Campers from all over Los Angeles attend dynamic and innovative programming year-round. From our social justice winter break camp to teen electives that help them explore their passions, all our programs focus on positively impacting our camper’s self-esteem and feeling of community,” Schwab said. “Most importantly, they get to have a break from the stressors of their home life and just be kids.”

Many of the campers that attend Camp Bob Waldorf face disadvantages like food insecurity, poverty and crime-ridden neighborhoods. Through community support, campers receive partial or full financial aid.

“This annual event ensures that these vulnerable youth are able to experience the support, valuable life lessons and character-building skills that camp provides,” a JBBBSLA statement said.

Owned and operated by JBBBSLA, Camp Bob Waldorf on the Max Straus Campus is a nondenominational residential camp located on 112 acres in the Verdugo Mountains of Glendale. Since 1938, the camp has helped more than 60,000 underserved children, offering youth development activities for children as young as 9 and providing services to them through the age of 17 and beyond.

From left: Incoming Temple Beth Am President Avi Peretz, L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz and Outgoing Beth Am President Susan Hetsroni enjoyed the Temple Beth Am groundbreaking gala.
Photo by Steve Cohn Photography.

Conservative congregation Temple Beth Am held its groundbreaking gala on May 6.

More than 350 people attended the evening event, which began with an outdoor reception and a “Passing the Shovel” ceremony, which recognized many in the community who have been involved in the congregation’s construction projects for nearly a decade.

The congregation will be renovating its historic sanctuary and building a new middle school facility that will provide innovative space for project-based learning and an enhanced STEAM (science, technology, engineering the arts and mathematics) curriculum.

The gala featured a dinner in the temple’s ballroom, where the congregation honored outgoing Education Vice President Karen Fried and President Susan Hetsroni for their passion and dedication to Pressman Academy of Temple Beth Am, the congregation and the broader Jewish community.

Fried’s successor is Jennifer Elad and Hetsroni’s successor is Avi Peretz.  The new officers begin their terms on July 1.

Attendees included L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz, who praised Temple Beth Am for its work and the partnerships it has forged.

From left: Sinai Temple Gala co-chairs Ebi and Lida Simhaee, Sinai Temple Rabbi David Wolpe, Gala Co-Chair Judy Flesh, Sinai Temple President Angela Maddahi and Gala Co-Chair Tom Flesh celebrated Wolpe’s 20 years of leadership during the Sinai Temple Gala. Photo courtesy of Sinai Temple.

More than 720 Sinai Temple members and friends gathered to honor Sinai Temple Max Webb Senior Rabbi David Wolpe’s 20 years of leadership during the Sinai Temple Gala on May 6.

The themes of the evening were inclusion, acceptance and unity.

The Sinai Temple Gala not only celebrated Wolpe’s legacy of leadership and community building but also marked the official announcement of the naming of the Elaine and Gerald Wolpe Parenting Center of the Alice and Nahum Lainer School of Sinai Temple, in memory of Wolpe’s parents.

Accepting his award, Wolpe spoke words of admiration and appreciation for his parents, who, he said, shaped him into the inspirational, spiritual leader he is today.

Additional highlights of the program included a choir performance by Alice and Nahum Lainer School and Sinai Temple Religious School students, led by Cantors Marcus Feldman and Lisa Peicott; a musical performance by Craig Taubman; an invocation by Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson; a video presentation highlighting the effects of Wolpe’s work and a ha-Motzi recitation, led by rabbis who have each touched Wolpe’s life over the years.

Emcee Rick Lieberman kept the program flowing and infused humor into the festivities.

The Sinai Temple Gala raised more than $1.6 million to benefit synagogue programming and the parenting center. The Younes and Soraya Nazarian Family Foundation provided the lead gift.

Moving & Shaking: Shul Merger, ADL Entertainment Dinner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—  Ayala Or-El, contributing writer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving & Shaking: Holocaust Memories; Temple of the Arts Bash

From left: Remember Us Teen Board President Eva Suissa; Remember Us Director Samara Hutman; Samantha Lazaruk, Michele Rodri’s daughter-in-law; Remember Us Board Co-Chair Michele Rodri; and Remember Us Board Member and Child Survivors of the Holocaust Los Angeles President Lya Frank come together at a Yom HaShoah concert. Photo courtesy of Remember Us.

The Conejo Valley community gathered at the new home of Valley Outreach Synagogue on April 15 for “Music and Memory,” a Yom HaShoah concert that was the vision of Asher Mehr when he became a bar mitzvah last July.

For his bar mitzvah project, Mehr participated in Remember Us: The Holocaust B’nai Mitzvah Project, during which he came to know Michele Rodri, a survivor and Remember Us co-president. Mehr decided he wanted to help bring the memory of Rodri’s beloved brother, Maurice Rosenberg, who died in Auschwitz, back into communal memory and into the hearts and minds of his friends and family, said Remember Us Director Samara Hutman.

The concert featured pianist David Kaplan, cellist Kevan Torfeh and vocalist Rabbi Ron Li-Paz. The musical program included Beethoven’s “Appassionata,” for which Kaplan received a standing ovation.

“Like me, Maurice loved music, especially Beethoven,” Mehr said in the program notes. “Because Maurice loved Beethoven, I felt it was crucial that Beethoven be part of this afternoon.”

Mehr also performed “La Mer,” a 1946 song written by French composer, lyricist and singer Charles Trenet that was Rosenberg’s favorite song.

“I think music can reach where words cannot and that art can offer healing,” Mehr said. “I wish for survivors to be able to find a place together in music that can lift spirits from a time of vulnerability and rawness. I hope this concert to honor Maurice will provide an opportunity for community, light and comfort.”

Holocaust survivor Itzhak (Ernie) Hacker and his wife, Niza, pose together at Zikaron Basalon, Hebrew for “Memories in the Living Room,” during which Hacker shared his story of survival. Photo by Ayala Or-El.

Itzhak (Ernie) Hacker, born in Austria in 1929, had a happy childhood until the day the Nazis invaded his small village and ordered the Jews to pack up and leave.

“I still can’t imagine how a government can be so cruel,” said Hacker, 89, his voice trembling some 70 years since the Holocaust took place. “It’s unimaginable.”

Hacker was one of a dozen survivors who shared their stories in private homes across Los Angeles on April 9, two days before Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day), as part of the annual Zikaron Basalon (“Memories in the Living Room”) project.

Established eight years ago in Israel, Zikaron Basalon, which provides Holocaust survivors the opportunity to share their stories in intimate settings, has grown into an international event. This year in Los Angeles, Zikaron Basalon was organized by the Israeli-American Council and held in several locations, including at the Woodland Hills home of Rakefet and Arye Aharon, where 180 guests listened to Hacker’s story in the Aharons’ spacious living room.

“Once we had arrived in Auschwitz,” Hacker continued, “the doors were opened [to the freight-train cars] and the SS officers started barking at us: ‘Schnell! Schnell!’ [German for “Quickly!”] We were separated into two groups — in one, the men, and in the other, the women, young children and old people. One of the first things I noticed was the smoke coming out of the crematorium. At first, I had no idea what was the meaning of it, but after a couple of days, I’d realized that those were my brothers and sisters who were going up in smoke.”

Hacker, who lives in Tarzana with his wife, Niza, was a teenager during the Holocaust. His memories of Auschwitz include a tattooed man who was murdered because an SS officer’s wife had taken a liking to his tattoo and wanted to use his skin for a new purse, and another man who tried to escape and had his testicles cut off as punishment.

Hacker also remembered acts of kindness in a place where humanity had ceased to exist.

“I was very thin and weak, but I missed my mom so much,” he recalled. “I wanted to see her and let her know I was still alive. So I wrote a note and walked to the fence, which separated the two blocks between the women and men sections. At the fence, I saw a Hungarian woman. I asked her if she knew where my mother was, but she shook her head. Still, I threw the note to her so she could give it to my mom. She picked it up and then took something out of her pocket and threw it toward me. It was a small piece of bread. If you gave me today $1 million, it wouldn’t mean as much to me. I asked her for her name and she said, ‘Agnes Genz Fried.’ I have never forgotten it.”

Ayala Or-El, Contributing Writer

From left: Former Beverly Hills Mayor Jimmy Delshad, Temple of the Arts Board President James Blatt and Temple of the Arts Founding Rabbi David Baron attend the Temple of the Arts 25th anniversary fundraising dinner. Photo courtesy of Temple of the Arts.

Beverly Hills Temple of the Arts honored its founders and board of directors at an April 10 fundraising dinner, which also celebrated the synagogue’s 25th anniversary.

The evening at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills recognized Temple of the Arts’ founding rabbi, Rabbi David Baron, as well as the 10 members of the synagogue’s board of directors and the 10 members of the board of the Beverly Hills Performing Arts Center, both of which operate out of the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills.

“We had a very successful event,” Baron said. “We exceeded our target goal by 20 percent, which is always great, and we had a great celebration.”

Beverly and Robert Cohen, owners of the Four Seasons, chaired the gala, which drew about 190 guests. Among those in attendance were Burt and Mary Hart Sugarman, who dedicated the synagogue’s new dressing room and green room; former Beverly Hills Mayor Jimmy Delshad, who presented the synagogue with a proclamation on behalf of the city of Beverly Hills; and Temple of the Arts President James Blatt, who presented the honorees with their awards.

Temple of the Arts was founded in 1992 with 50 members. Today, the synagogue has 1,400 members and continues its mission of connecting people to Judaism through music, drama, arts, dance and film, Baron said.

“We are an address for those who relate to art and religion, but we’re not conventional denominational Jews,” Baron said. “I feel we have carved out that niche.”

The synagogue purchased the Saban Theatre, an art deco building and a Beverly Hills historic landmark, in November 2005.

“By owning and operating our own venue, which is a historic theater, we are able to attract that part of the community,” Baron said. “That’s very gratifying.”

Temple of the Arts plans to open a preschool in a building it purchased recently on South Hamilton Drive, behind the Saban Theatre. The preschool is scheduled to open in September 2019 and is expected to serve about 60 children, Baron said.

The synagogue is in the process of searching for an assistant rabbi whose responsibilities will include working in the preschool, he said.

Allen and Deanna Alevy. Photo courtesy of Bnei Akiva Los Angeles.

Religious Zionist youth movement Bnei Akiva of Los Angeles has renamed its Modern Orthodox Zionist camp in Running Springs, Calif.

The new name, Moshava Alevy, became effective April 9. The camp was previously known as Moshava California, and before that as Moshava Malibu.

The renaming is “in gratitude to the generosity of Mr. Allen and Mrs. Deanna Alevy … in memory of their parents Norton and Sylvia Alevy,” the organization stated on its website.

Allen Alevy is an entrepreneur, futures trader and real estate investor who has provided funds to a variety of Jewish causes designed to strengthen Jewish connection, identity and longevity.

When the camp was launched in 2013, in partnership with the Shalom Institute, a nondenominational organization in Malibu, Bnei Akiva named its camp Moshava Malibu. When Bnei Akiva acquired its own site in Running Springs in 2014, it renamed the camp Moshava California.

The name change marks a new chapter for the camp and for Bnei Akiva, which, operating in the United States and Canada, is the self-described “premier religious Zionist youth movement dedicated to growing generations of Jews committed to building a society devoted to Torah and the Jewish people in the State of Israel.”

From left: JQ International honored (from left) Lynn Bider, Jacob Hofheimer and Maria Shtabsakya during its 2018 JQ Awards Garden Brunch. Photo by Anna Falzetta.

The 2018 JQ Awards Garden Brunch was held on April 15 at the Beverly Hills home of Dr. Jamshid Maddahi and Angela Maddahi.

JQ honored philanthropist Lynn Bider with the Community Leadership Award; Jacob Hofheimer, JQ’s first teenage and transgender honoree, with the Trailblazer Award; and Maria Shtabsakya, an LGBTQ leader and wealth management adviser, with the Inspiration Award.

The gathering, JQ International’s signature event, honored the work of prestigious LGBTQ and ally Jews in Southern California.

Other attendees included JQ Executive Director and Co-Founder Asher Gellis, JQ Assistant Director Arya Marvazy, and JQ board member Todd Shotz.

JQ International, which operates a variety of programs and services for the LGBTQ community, holds inclusion training for institutions, conducts workshops, runs a speakers bureau, has a Jewish Queer Straight Alliance for teens across Los Angeles, operates a JQ Helpline, and more.

Comedian Dana Goldberg served as host for the event, which drew 250 people and raised more than $140,000.

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.

Moving & Shaking: March for Our Lives, Big Brothers Seder

From left: Temple Judea members Sheldon and Marilyn Fishbein, Temple Judea member Barbara Weintraub, Carol Siembeida of Congregation Or Ami and retired business owner Larry Weintraub show their support for the March for Our Lives at a “sibling” rally in Studio City. Photo by Ryan Torok.

A March for Our Lives “sibling” rally in studio City drew about 200 participants to Ventura Boulevard and Coldwater Canyon Avenue on March 24, including members of the Jewish community.  It was held in support of the main March for Our Lives rally that took place the same day in Washington, D.C.

One of the participants, Marilyn Fishbein of Woodland Hills, a congregant of Temple Judea in Tarzana, carried a sign that said, “Enough.”

“This is a movement that is not just for today,” Fishbein said, referring to the marches and demonstrations organized nationwide in the wake of the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., that resulted in the deaths of 17 students and faculty members. “It is for always.”

“We need the members of Congress to do their jobs, to wake up and realize this has to happen,” Fishbein said. “We don’t want any more incidents. We want action, and we want it now.”

She said she would like to see the Jewish community respond more strongly to the high levels of gun violence in the United States.

“I’d like to hear more, much more. I’d like to see temples really involved. Our temple got together to do the march today — they actually got organized — but I think one day is not enough. We have to be consistent, and we have to keep going,” she said.

Additional attendees of the 9 a.m. rally, which lasted an hour, included retired business owner and Temple Judea congregant Larry Weintraub. Weintraub, who ran Randy’s Donuts for several decades with his brother, said he supported the right to own guns, but he called on legislators to ban assault weapons.

“I’m appalled by what is going on,” Weintraub said. “They should be able to do away with assault rifles. I’m not for taking people’s guns away, but I think we need to do something about that.”

The Studio City rally was one of several March for Our Lives demonstrations in Los Angeles on March 24, the largest of which took place in downtown L.A. Those who attended the downtown rally included Rabbi Naomi Levy, who along with members of her Nashuva congregation, participated in a prayer service at the start of the rally, and Rabbi Joel Simonds, executive director of the Jewish Center for Justice.

From left: Yaara Segal, director of public diplomacy at the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles; firefighter Elan Raber; Michelle Moreh, director for academic affairs at the consulate; Karin Pery, consul for public diplomacy; and firefighter Bert Salazar come together at the Los Angeles Fire Department’s Encino Station. Photo courtesy of the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles.

The public diplomacy team at the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles toured the Los Angeles Fire Department’s Encino Station 83 on March 20.

The consulate general team — including Yaara Segal, director of public diplomacy; Michelle Moreh, director for academic affairs; and Karin Pery, consul for public diplomacy — met with the station’s firefighters, including Elan Raber, a member of the Emergency Volunteer Project, an organization that provides emergency backup to Israel in the case of war or a major fire.

Additional firefighters who met with the Israeli representatives on the tour included Bert Salazar.

Brad, a Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles (JBBBSLA) mentor, and Lidor, a mentee, celebrate a Passover seder with other members of the JBBBSLA community. Photo courtesy of Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles.

Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles (JBBBSLA) held its annual Passover seder on March 25 at Temple Judea in Tarzana, drawing a record turnout of 220 guests, including families, mentees and mentors, many of whom may not have otherwise experienced a seder this year.

Attendees participated in a variety of Passover-themed activities, including decorating seder plates and making matzo covers.

There were five winners in the afikomen competition. “This is the only seder I get to go to,” said 9-year-old Rebecca. (JBBBSLA is not allowed to give out last names of minors in its program.) It was fun learning about the Exodus story, and even more fun that I got to share my own story!”

Temple Judea’s rabbinic intern, Lillian Kowalski, from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, led the seder.

The organization’s CEO, Randy Schwab, said he was especially pleased with the event.

“Each year, we invite our community to be a part of this fun and engaging Passover seder. The attendance this year was impressive, and it was encouraging to see so many of our matches bond over a shared Jewish experience,” Schwab said. “This is the only event of the year where we are also able to include the families of the mentees. It truly was an unforgettable seder and we were lucky to host it at our new Valley home, Temple Judea.”

Founded in 1915, JBBBSLA provides children with mentoring, camp and scholarship programs. It also operates Camp Bob Waldorf on the Max Straus Campus, a 112-acre residential camp and retreat center in Glendale’s Verdugo Hills.

From left: Jason Perel, Matthew Blumkin, Michael Helscher, Ron Altman, Mark Hamermesh, Tom Keefer, Aric Browne, Jordan Esensten and event chair Michael Persky enjoy the Los Angeles Jewish Home Longest Day of Golf. Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Jewish Home.

The Los Angeles Jewish Home held its Longest Day of Golf on March 19 at Woodland Hills Country Club.

Nine golfers — Jason Perel, Matthew Blumkin, Michael Helscher, Ron Altman, Mark Hamermesh, Tom Keefer, Aric Browne, Jordan Esensten and event chairman Michael Persky — asked friends and family to sponsor them to play golf all day.

The event raised nearly $100,000 for the Los Angeles Jewish Home, one of the leading senior health care systems in America, serving 6,000 seniors every year.

From left: Susan Azzizadeh, president of the Iranian American Jewish Federation, state Assembly member Richard Bloom and state Assembly member Adrin Nazarian attend a Persian New Year celebration at the state Capitol in Sacramento. Photo by Karmel Melamed.

More than 50 Iranian Americans of various faiths from across California gathered to celebrate the Persian New Year of Nowruz at an official event held at the state Capitol in Sacramento on March 19.

During the event, state Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian (D-Sherman Oaks) presented a resolution for statewide recognition of Nowruz for the fifth consecutive year in the legislature.

Nowruz is the ancient Persian secular holiday marking the beginning of spring and calling for friendship, peace and tolerance among all people.

At the event, Susan Azizzadeh, president of the West Hollywood-based Iranian American Jewish Federation, presented Nazarian with her organization’s plaque for his efforts in fostering good relations among and with Iranian Americans in California.

“We wanted to show our appreciation to Mr. Nazarian for promoting the great aspects of Iranian culture in the mainstream and presenting our community as one that embraces one another regardless of our religions,” Azizzadeh said.

Also in attendance was acclaimed Iranian-Jewish artist Kamran Khavarani of Los Angeles, who received a state proclamation for his artistic accomplishments.

Nazarian, who is not Jewish but is of Armenian background, said he wanted to shed light on the significant contributions Iranian Americans have made to California.

“By celebrating Nowruz in the Assembly, we honor the Persian community because they have been an incredible asset to the state for more than 30 years, and account for a lot of our continued success,” Nazarian said. “I’m also honored, as an Iranian-American immigrant, to be able to recognize Nowruz on a state level.”

Other official local Nowruz celebrations included a March 23 event at the Los Angeles City Council Chambers with Mayor Eric Garcetti and a March 25 Persian cultural gathering in Westwood Village attended by various local elected officials.

Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer

Moving & Shaking: IAC Raises $16.5 million; Moonves Honored

From left: Yehoram Gaon, Haim Saban, Shawn Evenhaim, and Miriam and Sheldon Adelson attend the Israeli-American Council gala at the Beverly Hilton. Photo by Idan Ozeri-Tal.

Pro-Israel philanthropists Sheldon and Miriam Adelson announced a $13 million donation to the Israeli-American Council (IAC) during the organization’s 10th annual gala on March 18 at the Beverly Hilton.

The Adelsons’ pledge was by far the largest of the event, which raised more than $16.5 million. Additional donors included Haim Saban, who pledged $1 million.

“The IAC has achieved remarkable progress in advancing its historic mission,” Sheldon Adelson said in a statement. “We are deeply invested in the organization’s long-term success and its vision of a coast-to-coast community with Israel in its heart. This is an investment in the future generations of Jewish Americans and the State of Israel.”

An IAC Board of Directors statement issued in appreciation of the Adelsons’ generosity said the couple are “among the great Jewish leaders of our time.”

“Their bold vision, passionate leadership, and unmatched generosity have been an inspiration to all of us, and have propelled the IAC’s rapid growth and great success,” the IAC statement said. “We look forward to partnering with the Adelsons in the years ahead to further the rapid growth of our community and our donor base, working together to make a historic impact for the Jewish people and the State of Israel.”

The 10-year-old IAC is one of the fastest-growing Jewish organizations in the country.

IAC Chairman Adam Milstein told gala attendees that the IAC owed its growth to a “strong nationwide movement … rooted in our unequivocal love and support for our Jewish homeland, the State of Israel.”

Keynote speaker Rabbi Avraham Infeld said that 250 years ago, Jews understood that being Jewish wasn’t necessarily being part of a religion but being a part of a people. Today, he said, many Jews view Judaism as solely a religion, to the detriment of the community at large.

“We are living in a period in which the concept of a Jewish people has almost been forgotten,” Infeld said.

The gala featured a performance by Israeli singer Yehoram Gaon and a video message from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“We’re winning,” Netanyahu said in the video. “Israel is winning. Israel has never been stronger.”

Aaron Bandler, Contributing Writer

From left: Pico Shul Rabbi Yonah Bookstein and Rebbetzin Rachel Bookstein present the Pico Shul Couple of the Year Award to Lemor and Shuki Greer. Photo by Ryan Torok.

Pico-Robertson Orthodox congregation Pico Shul held its annual fundraising dinner, The Dinner Party, on March 21 at The Mark.

During the charity soiree, Pico Shul Rabbi Yonah Bookstein and Rebbetzin Rachel Bookstein presented its Pico Shul Couple of the Year award to Lemor and Shuki Greer, who have played an integral role in growing the Pico Shul community.

“Pico Shul is more than just a place to daven, a place to pray,” Lemor Greer said upon accepting the award. “It really is a community, a group of people who have come together with a similar mindset who dedicate themselves both to being religious and being proud of their Judaism, and also being open and accepting to everybody.”

Additional honorees included Legacy Trustee Jeremy Kagan, a film and television director and Pico Shul supporter.

Before honoring Kagan, Bookstein showed a video montage featuring clips from many of the director’s films, including “The Chosen,” a 1981 drama adapted from the Chaim Potok novel of the same name. Bookstein said Kagan’s films have tackled some of the greatest issues facing the American Jewish community in recent history.

The Booksteins also recognized Neuriel Shore, a Jewish communal professional who led the congregation’s men’s club for several years.

Pico Shul, located in a rented Pico-Robertson storefront, attracts observant young professionals, many of whom are returning to Judaism after years of leading nonpracticing lives.

In addition to leading Pico Shul, Rabbi Bookstein runs programs that seek to serve Jews where they are, rather than waiting for Jews to come to them. These efforts include Shabbat Tent, which arranges for Shabbat services at unlikely settings, including music and film festivals.

“[Bookstein] goes to places where there is no Judaism and puts on Judaism in all these different events,” said Ramtin Rafiee, who works in real estate and attended the dinner with his wife, Sherene. “He shows people you can be Jewish and have fun.”

The event drew about 150 attendees, including shul supporters Cheston Mizel and Josh Kaplan, and congregants Fabian Lijtmaer, Ronit Aranoff and Marcus Freed.

Beverly Hills Synagogue Rabbi Pini Dunner (left) presents the “Gibor Yisrael” Award to Ernie Goldberger, a Holocaust survivor who fought for Israel during the-then fledgling country’s War of Independence. Photo courtesy of Beverly Hills Synagogue.

Celebrating Israel’s upcoming 70th birthday, Beverly Hills Synagogue Senior Rabbi Pini Dunner on March 18 presented Ernie Goldberger with the “Gibor Yisrael” (“Hero of Israel”) Award, in recognition of his heroism and bravery during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948.

The presentation was made during the synagogue’s annual fundraiser, which drew more than 250 guests to the Petersen Automotive Museum.

Goldberger, 90, a Holocaust survivor born in Romania, arrived in Palestine in 1944, and the Palmach recruited him in 1946. He supplied Israel’s defenders with munitions before an injury prompted him to move to the United States. Since coming to the U.S., Goldberger has earned a living in the jewelry business and supported numerous synagogues and charities.

The evening event drew more than 250 guests, who watched a newly produced mini-documentary about the honoree’s extraordinary life.

Speakers included Simon Wiesenthal Center founder and dean Rabbi Marvin Hier.

Beverly Hills Synagogue is a Modern Orthodox Zionist congregation that has served the Beverly Hills Jewish community since 1991.

From left: Sinai Temple Rabbi Nicole Guzik, longtime Sinai Temple member Malcolm Cosgrove, Sinai Temple Cantor and honoree Marcus Feldman, and Sinai Temple Men’s Club President Mark Haloossim celebrate at the Sinai Temple Men’s Club Burning Bush gala. Photo courtesy of Sinai Temple.

The Sinai Temple Men’s Club held its 31st annual Burning Bush gala, honoring Sinai Temple Rabbi Erez Sherman and Cantor Marcus Feldman, on March 18.

The Burning Bush Awards are presented annually to men and women of the Sinai community who represent strong Jewish values, unwavering support of Israel and a deep commitment to giving back. A Sinai Temple spokesperson described this year’s recipients as “pillars of Sinai Temple … deeply defined by their Jewish identities.”

Sherman’s award was presented to him by his colleague and longtime friend, Sinai Temple Rabbi Jason Fruithandler.

Fruithandler spoke of Sherman’s unwavering commitment to both his family and his synagogue, where Sherman’s wife, Rabbi Nicole Guzik, is also on the clergy team. He described Sherman as Sinai’s “Yes Man,” always willing to solve problems and make things happen.

In presenting Feldman with his award. Guzik highlighted the cantor’s ability to infuse joy and a love of Judaism, through song, into everyone he comes across.

The evening also raised more than $100,000 for two critical Jewish organizations, Beit T’Shuvah and the Israel Air Force Center Foundation.

Sinai Men’s Club members Farideh and Farshad Rafii co-chaired the gala.

Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) honoree Leslie Moonves (left) and SWC dinner chairman Jon Feltheimer pose at the SWC’s annual national tribute dinner. Photo by Benjamin Shmikler / ©ABImages.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) drew more than 800 guests to its annual gala at the Beverly Hilton on March 22, which raised $2.6 million to fund the center’s worldwide battles against anti-Semitism, threats to Israel’s existence and the rising wave of right-wing racism swelling in Europe.

Speakers who addressed those threats were Rabbi Marvin Hier, SWC’s founder and dean; SWC’s Executive Director Meyer H. May; and Hollywood studio executive and film producer Jeffrey Katzenberg. The latter shared master of ceremonies duties with television host James Corden.

The recipient of the evening’s top honor, the 2018 Humanitarian Award, went to Leslie Moonves, chairman and CEO of CBS Corp.

Moonves is a semi-distant relative of Israel’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, who was honored posthumously with SWC’s Medal of Valor.

Among other entertainment industry leaders in attendance were Paramount CEO Jim Gianpulos, NBC Universal’s Ron Meyer, producer Brian Grazer, producer Burt Sugarman with his wife, Mary Hart, and the original Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter.

Another Medal of Valor winner was Raheel Raza, a Pakistan-born Islamic woman who delivered a surprisingly gutsy speech about her work in opposing her country’s and her religion’s male domination and their shared hostility toward Israel.

Raza noted that, while the Muslim establishment has ranked her as the sixth most-hated Islamic activist in the world, she was striving for the No. 1 spot.

Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Moving & Shaking: ADL, Chai Center Events; Beit T’Shuvah Marathoners

From left: Rich and Sam Wildman, Michael and Kami Stone, Cory Garson, Rabbi Becky Hoffman, Temple Kol Tikvah Rabbinic Intern Elana Nemitoff, Kol Tikvah Rabbi Jon Hanish and Kol Tikvah Cantor Noa Shaashua celebrate Kol Tikvah at the congregation’s gala event. Photo by Rebecca Schulman.

Temple Kol Tikvah held its annual “Magical Evening” gala honoring several of the Reform community’s members on Feb. 24 at its campus in Woodland Hills.

More than 250 guests attended the soldout event, which included dinner, cocktails, dancing and roaming magicians.

The evening’s honorees were Cory Garson, who received the Kehillah Community Award, and Simona and Rich Wildman, who received the L’dor V’dor Award. The Young Adult Leadership Award recipients were Kami and Michael Stone.

“Our honorees’ accomplishments and dedication continue to make a huge impact on Kol Tikvah and on the greater Jewish community,” said Kol Tikvah Senior Rabbi Jon Hanish. “The magic of their kindness inspires all of us.”

Kol Tikvah clergy in attendance included Rabbi Becky Hoffman and Cantor Noa Shaashua.

The event’s co-chairs were Bunny Getz, Melissa Shenkin Saunders and Rachel Rapport.

Garson has served several key roles at Kol Tikvah, including temple president and vice president of membership. She was on the board of trustees for several years.

The Stones became members in 2013 while searching

for a preschool for their daughter, Charli. Kami began volunteering in the preschool and has been a part of the education fundraiser committee every year. Michael worked with The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles to acquire a federal grant for Kol Tikvah to upgrade its security systems.

The Wildmans — who also recently celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary — became members in 1996 and consider their greatest joy to be their commitment to volunteering and the temple, according to the synagogue’s website.

Virginia Isaad, Contributing Writer

From left: L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell and Anti-Defamation League Sherwood Prize honoree Marino Gonzalez, a sergeant with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department who was promoted from deputy sheriff since the award was announced, attend the annual ADL Sherwood Prize luncheon on March 13. Photo courtesy of Anti Defamation League.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) honored law enforcement personnel for combatting extremism, bigotry and hatred at the Helene and Joseph Sherwood Prize for Combating Hate luncheon on March 13 at the Skirball Cultural Center.

Recipients of the prize, which was founded in 1996 to recognize law enforcement personnel, units and programs, were Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Marino Gonzalez, Laguna Beach Police Department Cpl. Cornelius Ashton, the Los Angeles Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Section and the Palm Springs Police Department’s Investigations Bureau.

“This year’s honorees have made creative and effective contributions to the fight against hate,” said Amanda Susskind, director of the ADL’s Pacific Southwest region. “The common thread shared by all the honorees is their work with the many diverse groups that make up the population of Southern California.”

The ADL recognized Gonzalez for working toward restoring public trust in law enforcement in the mostly migrant community of Cudahy in southeastern L.A. County. In his acceptance speech, Gonzalez said that undocumented residents have “nothing to fear if they call [the] L.A. Sheriff’s Department.”

In a touching moment, Vasco Possley, a student who benefited from Ashton’s intervention after a hate crime, spoke about how Ashton made him “feel safe.”

David Sherwood, grandson of the couple who founded the award that bears their names, spoke on behalf of his grandfather, who turned 101 the day before the awards ceremony and was unable to attend. Addressing the assembled law enforcement personnel, including L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, Sherwood said his family was grateful for “everything you do.” He closed by repeating the epitaph on a garage wall of a local police department: “Be smart, be safe, be fair and be back.”

Virginia Isaad, Contributing Writer

From left: Rabbi Mendel Schwartz, Chai Center Honoree Youval Ziv and Esther Schwartz come together at the Chai Center’s 30th annual banquet. Photo by Joe Silva.

The Chai Center, a Jewish outreach organization, held its 30th annual fundraising banquet on March 8 at the El Rey Theatre in the Mid-Wilshire District.

Hosted by husband and wife Rabbi Mendel Schwartz and Esther Schwartz, the event featured Jewish Journal Publisher and Editor-in-Chief David Suissa as master of ceremonies.

The event opened with an art exhibition, “Venezia Ghetto, 500 Years,” by artist Sarah Singer. This evening’s honoree, Youval Ziv, CEO and managing director for real estate investment company Pacific Holdings, brought 50 of his friends to the event.

The Chai Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the Jewish community in the greater Los Angeles area and beyond with Shabbat dinners, singles parties, holiday celebrations, innovative High Holy Days services at the Writers Guild Theater, Passover seders, kabbalah classes and retreats. The Chai Center serves Conservative, Reform and unaffiliated Jews from all backgrounds.

The Chai Center was co-founded by the late Rabbi Shlomo Schwartz — also known as “Schwartzie” — and his wife, Olivia Schwartz, the parents of Mendel Schwartz. Olivia serves as the organization’s co-director and Mendel Schwartz is its program and development vice president.

Suissa, in his remarks, described Schwartzie and dinner chairman and philanthropist Stanley Black as two people who never said no.

Black pledged an additional $25,000 toward Chai Center programing.

Beit T’Shuvah coaches Leslie Gold and Anna Johnson helped prepare Beit T’Shuvah residents and supporters for participating in this past Sunday’s L.A. Marathon. Photo by Justin Rosenberg.

Residents and supporters of Jewish rehabilitation organization Beit T’Shuvah, which serves community members suffering from substance abuse and other addictions, participated in the Los Angeles Marathon on March 18.

Every year, Beit T’Shuvah residents and supportive community members run the marathon as part of the Beit T’Shuvah program Running4Recovery, which raises funds for Beit T’Shuvah and serves a clinical function for residents of the center.

This year, 52 individuals — including residents, residents’ friends, Beit T’Shuvah staff and board members — participated and raised more than $100,000 for the organization.

“Running the marathon helps our residents on their road to recovery,” Beit T’Shuvah Director of Advancement Janet Rosenblum said in an email.

Among those running were Beit T’Shuvah Board of Directors Chairman Russell Kern, board members Samuel Delug and Susan Krevoy, and Rosenblum’s husband, Robert Rosenblum, who participated in a 26-week training program prior to the race.

Janet Rosenblum said Beit T’Shuvah developed Running4Recovery in 2009 as both a fundraiser and a clinical program. It has raised about $1 million over its nine years,

“We know that training for and completing a marathon helps residents on their road to recovery,” she said. “It takes a lot of hard work to run or walk a marathon, and the program has been incredibly valuable to the residents who participate. It also brings out our board and other community members and becomes a shared experience for the entire Beit T’Shuvah community.”

From left: Friends of Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Western Region Executive Director Jenna Griffin; FIDF Young Leadership of L.A. President Zach Zalben; Amanda Mondre; Rebecca Sahim; Francesca Ruzin; Michael Spector; Chantly Geoulla; Jennie Arad and incoming FIDF Young Leadership of L.A. President Danielle Moses attend the FIDF Roaring 20s Old Hollywood gala at The MacArthur. Photo by Justin Kenderes.

The Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Young Leadership of Los Angeles (YL-LA) held its 10th annual L.A. Roaring ’20s Old Hollywood Gala on March 10 at The MacArthur special events venue in the Westlake neighborhood.

The event raised more than $500,000 in support of programs for the well-being and education of IDF soldiers and drew more than 1,100 young professionals from across greater Los Angeles.

The evening honored the legacy of Zev Karkomi, who was born in Ukraine and escaped the Holocaust before moving to Israel — then the British Mandate of Palestine — in 1941.  He fought for Israel’s independence as a member of the Haganah and later served as a captain of the IDF until 1958. He immigrated to Chicago in 1960, built a thriving business there and became a supporter of the FIDF, among other organizations.

Karkomi’s grandson, Ari Ryan, an FIDF national board member and Western Region vice president, co-founded FIDF YL-LA to continue his grandfather’s legacy.

“L.A.’s FIDF Young Leadership Division is more successful than ever,” Ryan, who chaired the gala for his 10th and final year, said in a statement. “Over the last decade, more than 6,000 young L.A. professionals have gotten involved through our events and helped us to raise much-needed funds to support Israel’s brave soldiers. I am so proud of what we have accomplished, and am humbled by the passion and desire to give back demonstrated by L.A.’s young professional community.”

Attendees included FIDF YL-LA President Zach Zalben; FIDF YL-LA board member and incoming president Jennie Arad; FIDF YL-LA executive board members Robert Roig and Michael Spektor; IDF soldiers, including a former Lone Soldier (one who serves in the Israeli military without immediate family in Israel); “Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles” cast member Josh Flagg and his husband, Bobby Boyd, who were gala sponsors; and FIDF Western Region Executive Director Jenna Griffin.

Headquartered in New York City, FIDF was established in 1981 by a group of Holocaust survivors to provide for the care of IDF soldiers and the families of fallen soldiers. The organization has 20 regional offices in the United States and Panama.

Moving & Shaking: Yad Vashem and ADL Events, Plus Big Sunday

Photo by Adam Kleifield

The work involved in commemorating the Shoah has evolved from collecting documents about the victims to telling the stories of the people behind those documents, a director of Yad Vashem recently told a Los Angeles luncheon gathering.

Haim Gertner, director of the Archives Division at Yad Vashem, spoke on the subject of “Does the Holocaust Matter Anymore?” at the March 7 event in the Brentwood office of the American Society for Yad Vashem (ASYV). The son of a Holocaust survivor, who holds a doctorate in modern Jewish history from Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Gertner discussed the museum’s efforts to identify, document and provide a name for every victim of the Holocaust.

“So today, instead of only having one piece of information about the death of someone, we are collecting all pieces of information,” he told the small gathering of ASYV staff members. “And by that, more and more, you have pieces that tell the life story of a person. It is a lively, ongoing project. Every month, we add tens of thousands of new entries of information.”

Gertner said that documenting the history of the Shoah in increasingly sophisticated ways — such as using innovative technology to sift through artifacts, data and photos to uncover names for the 1.5 million victims who remain unknown — becomes a greater part of the museum’s mission as the survivor generation dies off.

“In the post-survivor generation, we have to find ways to be relevant to younger people,” he said.

Two moral imperatives frame his work, he said: Collecting material from the Holocaust and sharing the findings with the world.

Attendees at the gathering included Michael Fisher, director of the American desk of the International Relations Division at Yad Vashem; Ron Meier, ASYV’s executive director; and Bill Bernstein, director of institutional advancement for the ASYV Western Region.

During a Q-and-A session following his presentation, Gertner was asked what can be done to address the uptick in Holocaust denial and the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe.

“This is one of the reasons why there is a necessity to use the historical case, this unique historical case of the Shoah, in order to be aware of the fact that things like that can happen,” he said.

Yad Vashem, based in Jerusalem, is Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. It draws more than 1 million visitors annually.  Working with partners, the museum has “collected and recorded the names and biographical details of millions of victims of systematic anti-Jewish persecution during the Holocaust,” its website says.

To date, the museum has collected documentation on more than 4.5 million victims, accessible on a database on the museum website.

“The names of nearly one-and-a-half million victims remain unknown,” the website says, “and time is running out.”

From left: Haim Gertner, director of the archives division at Yad Vashem; Michael Fisher, director of the American desk of the international relations division at Yad Vashem; Ron Meier, executive director at American Society for Yad Vashem (ASYV); and Bill Bernstein, director of institutional advancement of the ASYV western region, attended a March 7 luncheon at the West L.A. ASYV office. Photo by Adam Kleifield

IKAR’s “Stranger Purim” party and spiel, held on Feb. 28 at Busby’s East, a Mid-Wilshire sports bar, was one of dozens of local Purim celebrations to take place over the course of the holiday.

The theme of the party played off the hit sci-fi Netflix show “Stranger Things” while the gathering embodied the progressive, social justice-oriented spirit of the egalitarian spiritual community. During the spiel, attendees used boxes of dry macaroni as groggers, which were then to be donated to the SOVA Community Food and Resource Program operated by Jewish Family Service.

IKAR Director of Community Organizing Brooke Wirtschafter handed out 100 red tote bags filled with Band-Aids, snacks, toiletries, socks, a baseball cap and other items for attendees to distribute on their own time to homeless people. The homeless survival kits were ordered from Los Angeles attorney Albert Cohen, who has been overseeing distribution of the kits as part of a broad Jewish community effort, Wirtschafter said.

The event, which had “Stranger Things” paraphernalia decorating the walls, motivated IKAR clergy to fly their inner freak flags. Chazzan and Music Director Hillel Tigay impersonated Mick Jagger while dancing to the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up,” Associate Rabbi Ronit Tsadok performed a choreographed dance to the music of the Spice Girls and Senior Rabbi Sharon Brous dressed up as a zombie. The nonclergy got strange, too: Local environmentalist Steven Wynbrandt dressed up as Ali G, Noah Schechter came as Charlie Chaplin and Zack Lodmer wore a gorilla costume.

After the spiel, the event organizers cleared out the chairs and the party began as many hit the dance floor, drank and schmoozed. For those not into dancing, there was limbo, a miniature golf course and a photo booth. And there was plenty of pizza, potato skins and corn on the cob to eat.

Other Purim celebrations included a March 2 convening of Yavneh Hebrew Academy students with Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu, and a March 1 Megillah reading with Rabbi Berel Yemini of the Chabad Israel Center at the Verizon campus in Playa Vista.

From left: Stephanie Wolfson, director of education at the David Labkovski Project (DLP); Leora Raikin, executive director at DLP; Legacy of Hope Award Recipient Josh Shane; keynote speaker Bernd Wollschlaeger; Legacy of Hope Award Recipient Gabby Vanderlaan and DLP board members Nadine Lavender and Connie Marco, attend the second annual DLP Scholars Luncheon. Photo courtesy of the David Labkovski Project.

The David Labkovski Project’s second annual Scholar’s Luncheon — held Feb. 25 at the Courtyard Marriot in Sherman Oaks — honored Arizona State University automotive systems engineering major Josh Shane and de Toledo High School senior Gabrielle Vanderlaan.

The two honorees received the Legacy of Hope Award in recognition of their “exemplary contributions to the David Labkovski Project,” said Leora Raikin, Labkovski’s great-niece and the Project’s executive director.

Bernd Wollschlaeger, who at the age of 14 discovered his father was a Nazi during World War II served as the keynote

According to its website, the David Labkovski Project advances knowledge of the Holocaust and Jewish history by introducing students to the artwork of Labkovski, who survived both the Gulag and Nazi persecution.

Some of the late artist’s paintings were put on display from Feb. 12–28 at an exhibition, “Documenting History Through Art,” sponsored by Hillel 818 at Cal-State Northridge.

From left: Big Sunday honoree Marta Kauffman; Rita Speck, representing honoree Kaiser Permanente and Big Sunday Founder and Executive Director David Levinson attend the third annual Big Sunday gala. Photo by Erlinda Olvera.

Big Sunday held its third annual gala on March 8 at Candela La Brea in the Mid-Wilshire district and honored Big Sunday participant Marta Kauffman, co-creator of the classic sitcom “Friends,” and health care provider Kaiser Permanente, a longtime supporter.

“I believe in exponential giving, where one gives to a certain organization, and that gift then goes on to a larger audience, touching an incredible amount of people, who then go on to touch the lives of even more people,” Kauffman said in a statement. “Big Sunday is that kind of organization, one that has grown exponentially and continues to positively impact more and more people.”

Kauffman became involved with Big Sunday — which connects people through volunteer opportunities — soon after the organization launched in 1999.

Today, Big Sunday is one of the largest volunteer-driven organizations in the country.  Its annual Big Sunday Weekend, which actually takes place over the course of a month, draws thousands of people to volunteer projects across Southern California. The organization, which started as a Mitzvah Day at Temple Israel of Hollywood and grew under the leadership of David Levinson, its founder and executive director, also offers year-round volunteer opportunities, including school beautifications, neighborhood cleanups and bingo games with seniors.

From left: ADL Regional Director Amanda Susskind; Deborah Feinerman of Paramount Pictures; Andrea Fluczynski of Sotheby’s Americas; Nichol Whitman, executive director of the L.A. Dodgers Foundation; Jihee Kim Huh, vice chairman at PAFCO and ADL Senior Vice President Sharon Nazarian attend the 23rd annual ADL Deborah Awards dinner. Photo by Michael Kovac.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) held its 23rd annual Deborah Awards dinner March 7 at the SLS hotel in Beverly Hills.

The event raised $350,000 to help the ADL combat racism and bigotry, and honored four women who have exemplified ADL ideals and values in their respective professions and civic contributions, an ADL statement said.

The honorees were Deborah Feinerman, executive vice president of business affairs and legal at Paramount Pictures; Andrea Fluczynski, executive vice president and chairwoman at Sotheby’s Americas; Jihee Kim Huh, vice chairwoman at Pacific American Fish Company; and Nichol Whiteman, executive director of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation. All the honorees, who shared their personal stories, were either immigrants or children or grandchildren of immigrants.

The honoress were presented with their awards by Paramount Pictures General Counsel Rebecca Prentice; filmmaker, writer and actress Susan Nimoy; LA84 Foundation President and CEO Renata Simril; State Treasurer John Chiang; and ADL Senior Vice President Sharon Nazarian. Television personality AJ Gibson served as the emcee.

The Deborah Award, which the ADL gives out every year to extraordinary women in the professional and civic communities, is named for the biblical prophetess, Deborah, who was noted for her courage, wisdom and leadership.

Moving & Shaking: Museum Gala, Julie Platt, Joseph Siegman

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, attended the 90th Academy Awards ceremony last weekend. Photo courtesy of the Simon Wiesenthal Center

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), a two-time Academy Award-winner and a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, attended the 90th Academy Awards ceremony on March 4 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

“I’m proud to say, as an active member of the academy, I’ve voted ever since I won my first Oscar in 1981. I never missed the opportunity,” he said. “I exercise my membership obligations every year faithfully, because I think you should not be a member of theAcademy if you don’t intend to vote.”

Hier, one of more than 6,000 Academy members, attended the event with his grandson.

“I met a lot of interesting people and, of course, my grandson was thrilled,” Hier said. “A lot of people came over to me because I was wearing a yarmulke.”

It marked the third time Hier attended the Academy Awards. The first time, in 1981, was when the SWC’s film division, Moriah Films, won the Oscar for best documentary feature for “Genocide.” Moriah Films’ “The Long Way Home,” a documentary about Jewish refugees, also won an Oscar in 1997.

At the Dolby, Hier schmoozed with industry friends, including Ted Sarandos, chief content officer at Netflix, and Ron Meyer, vice chairman of NBCUniversal and a past SWC honoree.

Although he was unable to discuss which nominees he voted for, Hier said he was happy to see Gary Oldman win the lead actor award for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in the biopic “Darkest Hour.” Last year, Oldman spoke at the SWC’s Museum of Tolerance, after a members-only screening of the film.

Julie Platt, chair of the Foundation for Jewish Camp. Photo courtesy of the Foundation for Jewish Camp

The Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) has selected Los Angeles philanthropist, community leader and activist Julie Platt as its board chair.

Platt will serve a three-year term at the charitable group, which works with more than 250 day and overnight camps, creates additional Jewish camps, works to increase camp enrollment and retention and trains camp professionals.

Platt, whose selection was announced on Feb. 23, will deliver her initial address as board chair on March 17 in Baltimore during the biennial FJC Leaders Assembly.

“Building on FJC’s track record of success, I am excited to help lead the Jewish camp field to adapt and evolve to remain competitive and compelling,” Platt said in a statement. “In our rapidly changing world, Jewish camp becomes even more vital for developing leaders and building a stronger community. I look forward to encouraging generous philanthropists across North America to support the FJC board and staff as we continue to grow the field.”

In her youth, Platt attended Camp Ramah in Ojai, a Conservative summer camp. She is the fifth chair in the history of FJC, which was established in 1998.

“We are thrilled that she has now assumed this important leadership role,” said the organization’s CEO, Jeremy Fingerman.

Platt also serves as board chair at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. Her husband, Marc, is a successful film producer whose credits include “La La Land.”  They have five grown children, including their son Ben, who appeared on Broadway in the title role of “Dear Evan Hanson.”

From left: Sheila Moore, JFS senior director of comprehensive senior services; Heather Angel-Collin, director of Holocaust Programs and Valley Storefront Senior Center; and Sherri Kadovitz, program coordinator at the Israel Levin Senior Center, attend the Cafe Europa Purim party. Photo by Michael Sidman.

More than 250 guests attended Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles’ (JFS) lively Cafe Europa Purim Party on Feb. 27 at Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) in Encino.

Café Europa, a social club offering Holocaust survivors educational and social activities — including organized trips, holiday celebrations and entertainment — is one of JFS’ signature programs. Guests at VBS included survivors and their families, as well as program donors, caregivers and staff.

The event included a Purim spiel with JFS President and CEO Eli Veitzer playing the role of King Ahasuerus. VBS provided a catered lunch, hamantashen and mishloach manot gift bags and a photo booth for attendees. Klezmer Juice, a traditional Yiddish band, played music that spurred many onto the dance floor.

“Every Purim is a special event for our survivors because some of our survivors each year become too frail to attend, so it’s very meaningful for them to be at the synagogue, to be with their friends, hear familiar music, sing and dance and eat together,” said JFS Director of Holocaust Programs Heather Angel-Collin.

Café Europa has two locations, in the Los Angeles basin and the San Fernando Valley, where social gatherings for survivors are held regularly. For the Purim celebration, survivors were invited to come together from across the city.

“Having our two Café Europa groups together at Purim allowed survivors from the city to see their Valley friends and vice versa, so our Purim party was something of a ‘family reunion’ for many of the survivors,” Angel-Collin said.

The photo booth, in particular, was a big hit, she added.

“Being able to take pictures with their friends at the photo booth and to have that photo as a memento really meant a lot,” Angel-Collin said.

Oren Peleg, Contributing Writer

Joseph Siegman, who was recognized by the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Photo Courtesy of Siegman

Joseph (Joe) Siegman of West Los Angeles has received the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in Netanya, Israel, in recognition of his decades-long work to promote sports in Israel and California.

Siegman, a television producer and writer, founded the Hall of Fame in 1979 and served as its chair from 1981 to 1989. He has since served as chairman of its selection committee and for 15 years was a member of the U.S. Maccabiah Games Organizing Committee.

Not merely a sideline supporter, Siegman represented the United States on the cricket and lawn bowling teams at five Maccabiah Games in the 1970s and ’80s.

“I didn’t bring home any gold, silver or bronze medals from my five Maccabiah forays, but I did capture the United States national lawn bowling championships in 1989 and 2003, representing the Beverly Hills Lawn Bowling Club,” Siegman told the Journal.

The Hall of Fame, located at the Wingate College of Physical Education in Netanya, has inducted nearly 300 top Jewish athletes. The Lifetime Achievement Award is presented annually. For details, visit

Siegman has been a publicist and manager for numerous Hollywood stars, ranging from Ed Asner to Henny Youngman, and a producer of live shows and television shows. His producing credits include the seminal reality series “Celebrity Bowling” and “The Comedy Shop,” hosted by Norm Crosby, which featured such veteran comics as Don Rickles, Buddy Hackett, Youngman, Garry Shandling, Nathan Lane, Howie Mandel, Arsenio Hall, Michael Keaton and many others.

Between all these activities, Siegman has written a series of historical reference books under the title “Jewish Sports Legends.”

Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

From left: Jewish Republican Alliance (JRA) co-founder Bruce Karasik, author and radio talk show host Larry Elder and JRA co-founder Mitch Silberman attend a JRA event at Valley Beth Shalom featuring Elder. Photo by Tracie Karasik, TLK Multimedia

Republican author and radio talk show host Larry Elder shared his conservative views and discussed the challenges of being conservative in the era of Donald Trump during a Feb. 26 lecture at Valley Beth Shalom.

“The 800-pound gorilla in this room is a man named Donald Trump,” Elder said. “Trump was not my first choice. Out of 17 Republicans, I think he was my 20th…But I’ve never seen anybody connect with people like that since Ronald Reagan.”

“Donald Trump understands this country,” he said.

The Jewish Republican Alliance (JRA) organized the event, during which Elder acknowledged the president’s inability to apologize for ill-advised remarks, including criticism of President George W. Bush’s decision to send troops to Iraq after the 9/11 attacks. Elder said criticism of the Iraq War, specifically that Republicans lied about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction, has hurt the Republican brand.

Camaraderie among community members supportive of the Trump administration permeated the event, which drew about 750 attendees to the Encino synagogue.

“Look to your right, look to the left — no, not the left,” said JRA co-founder and financial adviser Mitch Silberman, garnering laughs. “Aren’t you excited to know you’re not alone?”

Additional participants included JRA co-founder Bruce Karasik, a real estate broker who spoke in praise of Vice President Mike Pence’s support for Israel, and Valley Beth Shalom Cantor Phil Baron, who started the event by leading the attendees in the singing of the national anthem and “Hatikvah.”

Karasik and Silberman, who live in the Conejo Valley, co-founded the JRA in 2016 to support Republicans in heavily Democratic California. The organization operates chapters in the Conejo Valley, the San Fernando Valley, West Los Angeles and Newport Beach.

During his remarks, Elder, known as “The Sage From South Central,” said his views have not always won him fans among his fellow African-Americans. He said he has been called everything from an Uncle Tom to a sellout, but has seldom been called wrong.

From left: L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum honorees Vera and Paul Guerin, attend the USHMM 25th anniversary dinner, which honored the Guerins. Photo courtesy of U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum commemorated its 25th anniversary with a dinner on March 1 at The Beverly Hilton.

The event honored Vera and Paul Guerin, their family and the memory of Vera’s parents, Lilly and Nathan Shapell, with the National Leadership Award. Nathan Shapell survived two concentration camps, Buchenwald and Auschwitz, and became a successful real estate developer in California. He was one of the founders of the museum. In 2013, Vera sold her late father’s business, Shapell Industries, and is involved in philanthropy in the Jewish community. The event raised more than $1.3 million.

Evening participants included Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who presented the Guerins with their award. During his remarks, Garcetti called the Washington, D.C., museum the “moral conscience of our entire nation.”

Broadcast journalist Pat Harvey emceed the event, which began with Wilshire Boulevard Temple Senior Rabbi Steve Leder leading the 1,000-plus crowd in the ha-Motzi.

Before the award ceremony, museum Director Sara Bloomfield and Daniel Greene, curator of the museum’s exhibition “Americans and the Holocaust,” discussed films including “Confessions of a Nazi Spy” and “Casablanca,” which influenced how Americans thought and felt about the Germans during World War II, Greene said. Just as those films did not mention the Jewish people in their depiction of the war in Europe, Americans at the time were less concerned about the treatment of Jews under the Nazis than they were about the threat the Nazis posed to American principles such as democracy.

Attendees included L.A. City Controller Ron Galperin; Samara Hutman, director of Remember Us; Andrew Cushnir, executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles; Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust Executive Director Beth Kean; and Jewish Journal Publisher and Editor-in-Chief David Suissa.

Adele and Beny Alagem, Hella and Charles Hershson, and Cheryl and Haim Saban co-chaired the dinner, the theme of which was “What You Do Matters.”

Moving & Shaking: NewGround Honors; Teens’ Relief Work

From left: NewGround Executive Director Aziza Hasan; NewGround honoree Sadegh Namazikhah; Muslim Public Affairs Council President Salam Al-Marayati and NewGround honoree David Myers attended the NewGround Trailblazer Award Dinner. Photo by Salim Lakhani

The nonprofit interfaith organization NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change honored David Myers, Sadegh Namazikhah, Julia Meltzer and the Zeno family during its Suzy Marks and Wally Marks Jr. Trailblazer Award Dinner on Feb. 13 at the Iman Cultural Center.

The honorees represented a cross section of the Muslim and Jewish world.

Myers is the president and CEO of the Center for Jewish History in New York City and a professor of Jewish history at UCLA. He is involved with the NewGround Change-Makers fellowship and teaches about anti-Semitism to participants of the program.

Namazikhah is the founder of the Iman Cultural Center and has supported NewGround since its inception.

Meltzer is an American-Jewish film director who partnered with Mustafa Zeno, a Syrian-American Muslim, on a film about members of Zeno’s family displaced by the Syrian conflict. The film, “Dalya’s Other Country,” which premiered on PBS in June, follows a Muslim teenager and her mother as they acclimate to life in the United States.

Attendees included former L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky; NewGround’s Executive Director Aziza Hasan and its Program Co-Directors Andrea Hodos and Tasneem Noor; Muslim Public Affairs Council President Salam Al-Marayati and Director of Policy & Public Programming Edina Lekovic; and Rabbis Jonathan Klein and Aryeh Cohen.

NewGround was established to improve relations between Muslims and Jews through a professional fellowship, high school leadership council and public programming. The Trailblazer Award is named after Suzy Marks and her late husband, Wally Marks Jr., who provided seed funding to NewGround when the organization was in its infancy.

From left: David Lehrer, president of Community Advocates; Temple Israel of Hollywood Senior Rabbi John Rosove; former L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky; Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin; and former Congressman Mel Levine discuss “The Challenges of Trump’s America.” Photo by Robert Lurie

President Donald Trump is dangerous for American Jews, Washington Post conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin said during a Feb. 20 appearance at Temple Israel of Hollywood (TIOH).

“When I’m asked, ‘Is Trump so bad?’ Of course he is so bad,” Rubin said while participating on a panel titled “The Challenges of Trump’s America: A Conservative’s View on Trump.” “He has undermined the basis for American democracy and with that the greatest protection, the greatest support, the greatest freedom the Jewish people in the Diaspora have ever experienced.”

The panel also featured former Democratic Congressman Mel Levine and former Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. TIOH Senior Rabbi John Rosove moderated the discussion, the third program in a series called Community Conversations.

Sponsors of the event included Community Advocates, the Jewish Journal, Jews United for Democracy and Justice, Stephen Wise Temple and Valley Beth Shalom.

Stephen Wise Temple Senior Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback was among those in the audience.

“Why is the Republican Party enabling this man to the extent they are doing it?” Levine said.

Rubin, a former TIOH member, was visiting L.A. from Washington, D.C., where she writes the Post’s “Right Turn” column. Her opinions could have come from Trump’s strongest critics on the left. She characterized the president as an authoritarian who “does not understand what America is about and what it means to be an American.”

“Without that basic understanding, without the appreciation of what America is and what defines America and what the Israel-and-America relationship is built on, we are in very, very deep trouble as Americans and as Jews,” Rubin said.

From left: Jewish Graduate Student Initiative (JGSI) CEO Rabbi Dave Sorani, Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn and JGSI COO Rabbi Matt Rosenberg attend the Jewish Executive Leadership Conference. Photo by Ari Praw

The Jewish Graduate Student Initiative (JGSI) held its seventh annual Jewish Executive Leadership Conference on Jan. 28 at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows in Santa Monica.

The conference, which drew more than 360 Jewish graduate students and young professionals, featured keynote speaker Alan Horn, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, along with approximately 50 other top executive panelists from various industries. During the conference, the graduate students and young professionals learned from the industry leaders and exchanged contact information in the hopes of keeping in touch to help empower their careers.

“This year’s conference was undoubtedly our best ever,” said  JGSI Chief Operating Officer Rabbi Matt Rosenberg. “Each panel room was filled to capacity with standing room only, all of the speakers were fantastic, and we had hundreds of young Jewish professionals networking with one another throughout the day.”

Additional speakers included Scott Adelson, co-president and global co-head of corporate finance at Houlihan Lokey; Michael Kohn, general counsel at Dick Clark Productions; Doug Mankoff, CEO of Echo Lake Entertainment; Jana Winograde, West Coast president of business operations at Showtime Networks; and Lee Zeidman, president of the Staples Center, Microsoft Theater and L.A. Live.
The conference also featured a networking hour showcasing nonprofits — including the Gift of Life Marrow Registry, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and Moishe House — whose representatives presented volunteering and leadership opportunities to conference participants.

“We are quite excited at the fast-paced growth of this conference,” said Rabbi Dave Sorani, CEO of JGSI. “It is the only event of its kind in the country. We see it growing bigger and bigger each year. And we are extremely proud of its success.”

Mati Geula Cohen, Contributing Writer

Tzedek America’s teen disaster response team, including Avram Mandell, founding executive director of Tzedek America (back row, far left), deconstructs a house in Port Arthur, Texas. The house was flooded during Hurricane Harvey and the water rose to four feet high in the home. Photo courtesy of Tzedek America

Fifteen teenagers from Los Angeles traveled with Tzedek America to Houston and spent several days engaged in relief efforts benefiting Hurricane Harvey victims.

Tzedek America’s Teen Disaster Response Team organized the Feb. 15-19 trip.

“The trip was a huge success,” said Avram Mandell, founding executive director of Tzedek America, a Los Angeles-based Jewish gap-year and social justice program. “We gave over 350 hours of service to the cities of Port Arthur and Houston, Texas. The teenagers worked tirelessly without complaining and celebrated Shabbat with the Jewish community of Beaumont, Texas.

“At the conclusion of the five days, the teenagers said it was a great trip and they only wished they could have had more sleep,” Mandell added. “They are eager to do more service work. They feel that helping people is part of being Jewish, and being part of the Tzedek America Teen Disaster Response Team was a great way to do that.”

The teens spent two days demolishing two houses in Port Arthur and a day rebuilding a house in Houston. They represented three synagogues — Kehillat Israel, Leo Baeck Temple and Temple Israel of Hollywood — all of which are active in social justice work. Two of the teens were unaffiliated, Mandell said.

One of the partners on the project was Nechama: Jewish Response to Disaster, which in February kicked off its rebuilding project in Houston.

“Just thinking about the fact that there are still tens of thousands of houses that stand in disrepair, almost all belonging to poor and elderly people with nowhere else to go, saddens my heart,” said one of the participants, Noam Ginsburg, a 17-year-old junior at Westview Academy. “But I am so grateful that Tzedek America was able to help me help others.”

A Feb. 10 gala at Shomrei Torah Synagogue honored Shomrei Torah Rabbi Richard Camras (second from left). He is joined by his wife, Carolyn (third from left), and flanked by their children, Talya, left, and Noah. Photo courtesy of Shomrei Torah Synagogue

Conservative community Shomrei Torah Synagogue honored its Rabbi Richard Camras on Feb. 10 during a “Hamilton”-themed gala at its West Hills campus.

“It was an overwhelming experience being honored and recognized for the 18-years-plus that I have served my community,” Camras said in an email. “While I know that I am deeply valued by the members of Shomrei Torah Synagogue, and together we have accomplished so much over the years, it was incredibly meaningful to experience and comprehend the deep appreciation the membership has for their rabbi.”

More than 475 guests attended — including gala chair Judy Groner; the synagogue’s Cantor Ron Snow, Cantorial Soloist Jackie Rafii and President Rob Schreiber; and Camras’ wife, Carolyn, and their children, Talya and Noah — to celebrate Camras, who has served as Shomrei Torah’s rabbi since 1999.

“In just 18 years,” Groner said, “Rabbi Richard Camras has experienced a rabbinic evolution, from taking on his first senior pulpit rabbinic position at Shomrei Torah to becoming a passionate, wise, religious leader, both within our congregation and in the greater Jewish community.”

Moving & Shaking: Hadassah, New Malibu Rabbi and More

From left: KTLA reporter Sam Rubin, JBBBSLA Inspiration Award winner Marc Mostman, JBBBSLA Big Sister of the Year Lauren Kurzweil, JBBBSLA Big Brother of the Year Braden Pollock and JBBBSLA CEO Randy Schwab attend the JBBBSLA Big Event 2018. Photo courtesy of JBBBSLA.

Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles’ (JBBBSLA) annual Big Event 2018 on Feb. 7 at the UCLA Luskin Conference Center drew about 350 attendees and raised more than $400,000 for the organization.

The event honored Braden Pollock as Big Brother of the Year, Lauren Kurzweil as Big Sister of the Year and Marc Mostman with the Inspiration Award.

JBBBSLA staff member Alba Arzu received the inaugural Gail Silver Award for Exceptional Achievement.

“The honorees have collectively spent over 75 years supporting the agency in unique and transformative capacities,” a JBBBSLA statement said.

KTLA-TV entertainment reporter Sam Rubin emceed the event, which kicked off with dinner and cocktails and concluded with a dessert reception.

“Each year, we serve over 1,800 kids from different backgrounds, races, religions and socio-economic status,” said JBBBSLA CEO Randy Schwab. “They each face unique struggles but have one thing in common: They come to us to help give them hope. From age 6 to college and beyond, we help shape them to be thriving adults by providing dependable mentors, college scholarships, teen empowerment workshops, social justice camps and other life-changing experiences. This year, we want to do even more. We want to help more kids in Los Angeles get the chance at a different, better future.”

JBBBSLA runs a one-to-one mentoring program, offers scholarships, and owns and operates Camp Bob Waldorf on the Max Straus Campus.

Rabbi Michael Schwartz. Photo by Jennifer Herrguth

The Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue (MJCS), a Reconstructionist community, has hired Rabbi Michael Schwartz as its new senior rabbi.

Schwartz, whose hiring became effective Feb. 9, succeeds MJCS Rabbi Emerita Judith HaLevy, who retired in 2017 and now lives in Santa Fe, N.M.

Schwartz previously served at Congregation Kol Emeth in Palo Alto, Calif., and the following international Jewish communities: United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong, the International Jewish Center in Brussels and the Hod Ve Hadar community in Kfar Saba, Israel.

“He is an interesting guy and lovely man,” MJCS President Steven Weinberg said.

Schwartz made aliyah in 1997. He and his wife, Tamar Forman, have four children.

He was ordained at the Schechter Institute for Jewish Studies, a Masorti institution, in 2001. According to a synagogue statement, Schwartz is “a strong believer in interreligious peacebuilding and social justice” and an educator who “guided high school and college Jewish groups through Israel for over a decade.”

With his hiring at MJCS, Schwartz joins a clergy team that includes long-serving Cantor Marcelo Gindlin.

With a membership that includes more than 170 families, MJCS promotes a modern and inclusive approach to Judaism and holds alternative programs that include Shabbat-on-the-beach summer services.

Holocaust survivor and American Society for Yad Vashem (ASYV) Board Member Meyer Gottlieb appeared at the inaugural West Coast exhibition titled “SHOAH: How Was It Humanly Possible?” Photo courtesy of American Society for Yad Vashem.

The American Society for Yad Vashem (ASYV) Western Region and Sinai Temple held their inaugural West Coast exhibition titled “SHOAH: How Was It Humanly Possible?” on Jan. 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The VIP reception and exhibition, held at Sinai Temple,  included several sections, each recounting a major historical aspect of the Holocaust.

Guest speakers included Sinai Temple Rabbi Nicole Guzik, ASYV Executive Director Ron Meier, ASYV Director of Education Marlene Yahalom and former president of Samuel Goldwyn Films and ASYV advisory board member Meyer Gottlieb, a Holocaust survivor.

Ayelet Sason (center) and her autistic son, Yarin, were among the attendees of Maagalim Valentine’s Day dance party. Photo courtesy of Ma’agalim.

Maagalim Community Circles held a Feb. 3 Valentine’s Day dance party at the IAC Shepher Community Center in Woodland Hills for teenagers and young adults with autism and other special needs.

Nearly 200 people attended, including Rachel Weizman, who helped launch the organization, and families of special-needs children, caregivers and volunteers who enjoyed dancing, a photo booth, creating heart-shaped cookies and more.

“Somehow the word spread through social media and we saw many non-Jews who came to celebrate with us,” organization creator Ayelet Sason said.

Sason is the mother of four children, including a 21-year-old son, Yarin, who has autism. Raising Yarin, she said, has taught her that there is a need for social and inclusive opportunities for young people with special needs.

“Those young adults have no social lives, nobody pays attention to them,” Sason said. “People think that they lack social skills because it’s harder for them to communicate, but it’s not true.”

Sason said her events also help teach compassion and understanding to teenage volunteers who are interacting with special-needs people for the first time.

“The amount of phone calls I received after the event from volunteers — and the impact it had on them — was overwhelming,” Sason said. “Those barriers people often have when it comes to special people fell down. [The event] opened the hearts of our volunteers and it was beautiful to witness. That’s why I encourage teens to come and volunteer and interact with them. It makes them more compassionate to others in need.”

Sason said she has seen friendships develop between the event’s special-needs participants and their families.

“Often their parents find themselves isolated. They can’t take their children anywhere, either because they are not invited with them to social events, friends cut them off, or because of the constant need to watch over them,” Sason said.  “Here, they can truly enjoy themselves and put their guard down. For the first time in a long time, they didn’t feel like outsiders.”

Ayala Or-El, Contributing Writer

Noreen Green, artistic director of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony, was named a Top 30 Musical America Professional of the Year. Photo courtesy of L.A. Jewish Symphony

Musical America Worldwide, a magazine of classical music, has named two Jewish directors of Los Angeles organizations to its Top 30 Musical America Professionals of the Year awards for 2017.

The two are Noreen Green, artistic director for the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony, which celebrates both well-known and obscure Jewish orchestral works, and Yuval Sharon, founder and artistic director of the experimental opera company The Industry.

The publication announced the honorees in its December issue.

“Noreen Green has been the most energetic advocate for Jewish music and music-making in the Los Angeles area for more than a couple of decades now,” wrote Musical America’s Richard Ginell.

Under Green’s leadership, the L.A. Jewish Symphony has played host to such performers as Leonard Nimoy, Billy Crystal, Marvin Hamlisch and Theodore Bikel; performed music exploring Sephardic-Latino connections; and reached young listeners in Jewish day schools and low-income elementary schools, Ginell wrote.

Sharon, a recipient of a 2017 MacArthur Fellowship “genius” grant, has been shaking up the conventional wisdom of what opera is and where it can be performed since founding The Industry in 2012, Ginell wrote. Sharon’s innovative productions led to him being affectionately called a “disrupter in residence” by former Los Angeles Philharmonic President Deborah Borda, who hired him as an “artist-collaborator” for the orchestra in 2016.

Hadassah of Southern California presented Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Rady Rahban with the Katherine Merage Humanitarian Award. Photo courtesy of Hadassah of Southern California.

The Haifa and Malka Boards of Hadassah of Southern California honored Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Rady Rahban with the Katherine Merage Humanitarian Award during a luncheon on Feb. 7 at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Rahban was presented with the award in recognition of his charitable efforts on behalf of the Jewish community and the Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem.

“Despite having a thriving practice, Dr. Rahban makes time for tikkun olam,” Hadassah of Southern California said in a statement. “He dedicates his talents to helping those less fortunate both here and abroad.”

About 450 people attended the event, which featured guest speaker Farhang Holakouee and raised $100,000 for Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem, event spokeswoman Arlene Howard said.

Two days after receiving the award, Rahban, a member of Ohr HaTorah Synagogue, traveled with Mercy Missions to Guatemala to perform cleft-lip and cleft-palate surgeries on children in need.

Moving & Shaking: Defending Israel, Standing Up for DACA

From left: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra; Jessie Kornberg, president and CEO of Bet Tzedek; Ora T. Fisher, vice chair at Latham & Watkins; and Latham & Watkins partners David Schindler and Peter Rosen attend the annual Bet Tzedek gala dinner. Photo by Kim Silverstein, Silver Lining Photography

More than 1,000 people attended the Bet Tzedek annual gala on Feb. 1 at the JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. Live, which raised more than $2.2 million for the pro bono legal aid agency.

Bet Tzedek provides free, comprehensive legal services for low-income individuals and families in Los Angeles.

Honorees included Kim Selfon, who received the Jack H. Skirball Community Justice Award; the law firm of Latham & Watkins, which received the Rose L. Schiff Commitment to Justice Award, presented by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to the firm’s vice chair, Ora Fisher; John Ly, who received the Rebecca Nichols Emerging Leader Award, presented by Brian Sun, partner-in-charge at the Los Angeles office of the Jones Day law firm; and E. Randol Schoenberg, an attorney and former president of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, who received the Luis Lainer Founder’s Award, presented by David Lash, managing counsel for pro bono work at the O’Melveny & Myers law firm.

“The Bet Tzedek annual gala dinner is a powerful statement that ensuring equal justice for all is not just a tagline, it’s an ongoing commitment of our community to provide free legal services to those that need them most,” said Bet Tzedek President and CEO Jessie Kornberg.

After the gala, more than 100 young professionals gathered at The Mixing Room at the JW Marriott for the Bet Tzedek New Leadership Council After Party, which raises funds for, and awareness of, the work of Bet Tzedek.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra addressed approximately 60 people at Young Israel of Century City (YICC) last week. YICC Senior Rabbi Elazar Muskin (right) introduced Becerra. Photo by Ryan Torok

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra appeared at Young Israel of Century City (YICC) on the evening of Feb. 6 for a wide-ranging discussion on immigration, homelessness, mental illness and Israel.

Addressing about 60 people in the YICC social hall, Becerra called himself a “strong ally and supporter of Israel.”

“We endanger the fight for Israel if we make it a partisan issue in the U.S.,” he said to applause.

Asked about Democrats’ sometimes critical views of Israel, Becerra, a Democrat said Republicans were to blame for turning Israel into a partisan issue.

“Most of the Democrats I know have been strongly supportive of Israel,” he said.

Becerra began the evening with a discussion of immigration, saying the term “sanctuary cities” is a term of art. With no official legal definition, “sanctuary cities” generally describes cities whose law enforcement agencies do not cooperate with, but do not interfere with, federal law enforcement in identifying and deporting undocumented immigrants, he said.

An American of Mexican descent, Becerra became California’s chief law officer in 2017, after his predecessor Kamala Harris’ election to the U.S. Senate.

During a Q-and-A after the presentation, an audience member, who said his brother had a mental illness, asked Becerra what elected officials were doing to help people like his brother.

Becerra acknowledged the dearth of services for the mentally ill but did not have an answer. Instead, he drew a connection between untreated mental illness and the rise in homelessness.

Notable attendees at the event included YICC Senior Rabbi Elazar Muskin, YICC Past President Mark Goldenberg and Pico Shul Rabbi Yonah Bookstein.

From left: Marcia Brous, Steven Wynbrandt, Ariel Wolpe and Stacie Chaiken sing at a Jews for Dreamers rally at the West L.A. office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Photo by Ryan Torok

More than 100 Jews gathered Feb. 6 for a rally in support of recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, outside the West Los Angeles office of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein at Sepulveda and Santa Monica boulevards.

“Let my people stay,” the protestors chanted.

The lively rally, organized by Leo Baeck Temple, the secular Sholem Community and Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, drew Rabbi Aryeh Cohen, part-time rabbi-in-residence at Bend the Arc; Cohen’s wife, Andrea Hodos, program co-director at NewGround: A Muslim Jewish Partnership for Change; Rabbi Sarah Bassin, associate rabbi at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills; Rachel Sumekh, founder of Swipe Out Hunger; Hillel at UCLA Director Emeritus Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller; and Marcia and Rick Brous, the parents of IKAR Senior Rabbi Sharon Brous.

While Marcia Brous banged a bongo drum, Rick Brous held a sign that read, “Republican for Dreamers.”

“I’m an American before I’m a Republican, and I can’t stand our current president,” Rick Brous said. “I think it is important for everybody to support Dreamers, not just Jews. It is the right thing to do.”

Sumekh, for her part, said she felt good being around likeminded people.

“Normally, I feel this when I’m listening to my podcasts, and now I get to feel this rage with hundreds of people,” she said.

Sumekh said she empathizes with young, undocumented immigrants because her mother fled Iran at the age of 21 “with a dream.”

LA Kids Challah Bake participants complete the first stage of making
their challah dough: adding yeast to warm water. Photo by Ricardo Cornejo

On the morning of Feb. 4, Super Bowl Sunday, about 200 people turned out for a different kind of food-centered tradition: the second annual LA Kids Challah Bake at The Majestic Downtown in Los Angeles.

Event organizer Brocha Yemini said “people who affiliate with the Jewish religion” were invited to participate. She added that she was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of the attendees and heartened by the number who had never before attempted to make challah.

“That was one of our goals,” said Yemini, director of Camp Gan Israel, one of the event’s sponsors.

She said she hoped that many of the newbies would now feel confident enough to attempt making challah at home.

“Challah is delicious,” she said. “It’s something that is loved by all. We want to have unity through challah.”

She and her sister, Rochie Yemini, were inspired to start the event in December 2016 by a similar, albeit larger program in New York. They held the inaugural bake event at the Chabad Israel Center on South Robertson Boulevard in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood. While they considered that event a success, they wanted to make sure everyone — affiliated Jews, unaffiliated Jews and interfaith families — felt welcome. So, they sought out a nonreligious venue for this year’s festivities.

Sarah Klegman, a writer and co-founder of Challah Hub, a local artisan challah delivery company, and Whitney Fisch, director of counseling at Milken Community School’s upper-school campus and creator of the Jewhungry blog, served as hosts and kept the proceedings lively with a competitive challah trivia game. But when they asked about the mitzvah of separating the challah, the hafrashat challah, the otherwise rambunctious crowd that included many school-age children grew quiet. The practice involves separating a small piece of dough after the flour, yeast and wet ingredients have been combined but before the dough is braided. Historically, these olive-size pieces of dough were offerings to temple priests, but these days the practice is to burn them.

Brocha Yemini said that when everyone joined together in blessing the challah, with their eyes closed, it was “a special moment.”

Then it was on to the braiding. Every child made a challah to take home and a second one to be delivered the following day to Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, whose representative, Kitty Glass, spoke to the crowd about the organization’s work.

Not surprisingly, given the age of the young bakers, chocolate chips and sprinkles proved to be the challah toppings of choice. Raisins, not so much.

Leslee Komaiko, Contributing Writer

From left: Jewish Family Service Los Angeles (JFSLA) Vice President Susie Forer-Dehry, “Laughing Matters” co-chairs Linda Levine and Wendy Silver; JFSLA board member Tami Stapf; JFSLA board chair Shana Passman; and JFSLA President and CEO Eli Veitzer attend “Laughing Matters,” a benefit for JFSLA, at the Laugh Factory. Photo by Michael Sidman

More than 200 Angelenos filled the Laugh Factory in Hollywood on Feb. 6 for Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles’ (JFSLA) sixth annual “Laughing Matters” fundraiser, which features well-known stand-up comedians and benefits the organization’s domestic violence services.

“We are so grateful for the support of our community who came together to make this ‘Laughing Matters’ a night to remember,” JFSLA President and CEO Eli Veitzer told the Journal.

Originally founded in 1854 as the Hebrew Benevolent Society, JFSLA offers a broad range of services, including financial assistance and emotional support services for Holocaust survivors, mental health and addiction counseling, and citywide food drives.

This year’s lineup of comedians included Orny Adams, Preacher Lawson and John Mendoza, who performed their sets but also took time to stress the importance of assisting survivors of domestic violence.

The headliner was actor, comedian and talk show host Arsenio Hall, best known for hosting “The Arsenio Hall Show.”

Over the previous five annual events, proceeds from tickets, donations and auctions have raised more than $300,000.

This year, Veitzer said, “Thanks to our co-chairs, Linda Levine and Wendy Silver, we raised over $75,000 to support domestic violence services provided by JFS Hope, formerly known as the Family Violence Project.”

Tickets were $200 per person.

With counseling centers in North Hollywood and Pico-Robertson, two crisis hotlines and three residential shelters, JFSLA offers a continuum of care, from counseling and case management to housing assistance and job-readiness skills for survivors of domestic violence.

The evening also included a light dinner buffet and a live auction.

Oren Peleg, Contributing Writer

Moving & Shaking: Beit T’Shuvah Celebrates, Aliyah Hosts MLK Prayer

From left: Beit T’Shuvah gala auction co-chair Stefanie Post, auction co-chair Laura Kinsman, Beit T’Shuvah founder Harriet Rossetto, Beit T’Shuvah Senior Rabbi and honoree Mark Borovitz, Beit T’Shuvah President Annette Shapiro, Beit T’Shuvah board member and honoree Sam Delug, gala co-chair Lynn Bider and gala co-chair Heidi Praw attend the annual Beit T’Shuvah gala. Photo courtesy of Beit T’Shuvah

Jewish rehabilitation organization Beit T’Shuvah held its 26th annual gala on Jan. 28 at the Beverly Hilton.

The event drew about 900 people and raised $2.2 million for the organization, making it the top-grossing event in the organization’s 31-year history, said Janet Rosenblum, Beit T’Shuvah’s director of advancement.

The cocktail-attire event honored “Rebel Rabbi” Mark Borovitz, the senior rabbi at Beit T’Shuvah, and “Mogul Mensch” Sam Delug, a Beit T’Shuvah board of directors member.

Lynn Bider and Heidi Praw, who have been involved with Beit T’Shuvah for over a decade, co-chaired the event.

Valley Beth Shalom Senior Rabbi Ed Feinstein served as emcee of the event, which also featured a silent auction, dinner and an awards program.

Attendees included Stanley Black, Rev. Mark Whitlock, Annette and Leonard Shapiro, Joyce Brandman, Charlotte Kamenir and members of the Kamenir-Reznik family, Nancy Mishkin, Ruth Ziegler and representatives of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, a partner of Beit T’Shuvah.

Beit T’Shuvah serves people recovering from substance abuse and other addictions, including gambling, eating disorders and compulsive behaviors. Every year, Beit T’Shuvah reaches more than 500 residential clients and an additional 2,500 community members through its congregation and prevention programs.

“With the opioid epidemic now considered a national emergency, Beit T’Shuvah is one of the few places dealing with addiction regardless of someone’s ability to pay for treatment,” Rosenblum said. “We are truly unique that way, and we don’t throw you out when your insurance runs out. Many of our 145 residents stay six months to a year. This dinner makes this possible.”

Honorary chairs were Joyce Brandman, Warren Breslow and Gail Buchalter, Asher Delug, Jeff Frasco and Beverly Frank, and Annette and Leonard Shapiro. Laura Kinsman and Stefanie Post Pollard were the auction chairs.

Elana Wien, vice president of the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, has been selected as a Wexner Field Fellow. Photo courtesy of the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles

Bailey London, executive director at USC Hillel, has been selected as a Wexner Field Fellow. Photo courtesy of Bailey London

Los Angeles Jewish community leaders Elana Wien, vice president of the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, and Bailey London, executive director of USC Hillel, have been selected for the latest cohort of the Wexner Field Fellowship, a three-year leadership development program for the Jewish community.

The fellowship is awarded by the Wexner Foundation in partnership with the Jim Joseph Foundation.

“We are very proud of Elana Wien for her many contributions in the community, including this significant honor,” Jewish Community Foundation President and CEO Marvin Schotland said in a statement. “Having worked with Elana for over six years, I’ve watched her develop into the outstanding Jewish leader she is today. We congratulate Elana, and all of the Wexner Field fellows, and look forward to her continued growth through this fellowship and beyond.”

Wien and London are among 15 fellows selected for the 2018 Wexner Field cohort, from cities that include Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

“I’m beyond honored to have been selected to be a part of the second class of the Wexner Field Fellowship,” London said. “Throughout the early stages of my career, I have had the privilege of participating in high-level professional development, and this opportunity is, by far, the most comprehensive way I can imagine continuing the process of growing and learning. I’m most excited to be a part of a network around the world of professional and volunteer leadership that has not only been invested in their own development but in strengthening the Jewish community for generations to come.”

From left: Vance Serchuk, director of KKR Global Institute; former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi; and retired Gen. David Petraeus were the keynote panel at the recent AIPAC L.A. gala. Photo by Timothy J. Carr Photography

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) held its annual Los Angeles gala on Jan. 21 at the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. About 1,000 people attended the event, the theme of which was a celebration of 70 years of friendship between the United States and Israel.

The program featured AIPAC Regional Director Wayne Klifosky; Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards; AIPAC UCLA student activist Amir Kashfi; and a keynote panel with retired Army Gen. David Petraeus, former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, and Vance Serchuk, director of the investment firm KKR Global Institute.

The panelists discussed the U.S.-Israel relationship and challenges and opportunities in the Middle East.

AIPAC is a bipartisan pro-Israel lobby seeking to promote and strengthen the U.S-Israel relationship.

L.A. Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, who has pledged $7.5 million over five years to Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital, appeared at a ceremony for the pledge. Photo courtesy of Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital

Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, through his philanthropic organization the Ballmer Group, which supports economic mobility, has pledged $7.5 million over five years to Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital.

The Ballmer Group, which Ballmer co-founded with his wife, Connie, and the Weingart Foundation, a grant-making foundation founded by the late Ben Weingart and his late wife, Stella, together pledged $15 million to the nonprofit hospital serving South Los Angeles.

“Both Weingart and the Ballmers identified the hospital as an agent for change in South Los Angeles,” said a Jan. 12 Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital press release.

The organizations’ goal is to bring more doctors to South Los Angeles and thus close the physician gap, the
release said.

Ballmer attended a Jan. 12 ceremony at the Los Angeles Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion that celebrated the pledges.

The Temple Aliyah Martin Luther King Jr. Day interfaith service featured Jewish and Christian children’s choirs. Photo courtesy of Temple Aliyah

Jews, Christians and Muslims gathered together on Jan. 19 at Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills for the 19th annual Voices of Unity interfaith prayer service in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

An estimated 800 people attended the Shabbat service, including Pastor Najuma Smith Pollard of Word of Encouragement Church in Pico-Union, Pastor Michael J. Fisher of Greater Zion Church Family in Compton, Father Michael Evans of St. Bernardine of Siena Church in Woodland Hills, and Shaykh Suhail Hasan Mulla of the Council of Islamic Scholars.

The service included performances by Christian and Jewish children’s choirs and Algerian actor-activist Ben Youcef, who is also a muezzin, the man who calls Muslims to prayer from the minaret of a mosque. Youcef sang the Abrahamic prayer “We Are All Children of Abraham,” which Temple Aliyah Cantor Mike Stein had translated into English so the choirs could accompany him. They created a fusion of voices, singing in harmony in English and Arabic and sending a message of peace and friendship.

Over the years, Stein said, Temple Aliyah’s collaborations with Christian churches and the Ezzi Masjid Mosque in Woodland Hills have gone beyond the annual prayer service.

“Five years ago, while [the Ezzi Masjid Mosque] was going through renovations, they used our synagogue on Saturdays for their classes,” Stein said. “And when we found some swastikas on our walls about 2½ months ago, the Shaykh Mulla came with a bouquet of flowers to show support.”

The prayer service concluded with the participants singing “Oseh Shalom Bimromav” and “We Shall Overcome.”

“We have been doing this for 19 years, and each year people leave feeling a wellspring of hope that no one will be treated differently because of their race, religion, ethnicity or sexual preference,” Stein said. “We are created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God. This event started and continues to be inspired by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream — that people will not be judged by the color of their skin, only by the content of their character and their souls.”

Ayala Or-El, Contributing Writer

Moving & Shaking: Camp Ramah Celebrates ‘Miracle’ of Surviving Fires

Top row, from left: Builders of Jewish Education (BJE) President Mark Berns, BJE honoree Keren Dunn, BJE gala co-chair Rena Slomovic, BJE honoree Bennett Spiegel and BJE Executive Director Gil Graff. Bottom row, from left: gala co-chair Jennifer Elad, honorees Jerry and Jean Friedman and gala co-chair Jill Lasker. Photo courtesy of Builders of Jewish Education

The Builders of Jewish Education (BJE) culminated its 80th anniversary celebration with its 2018 gala on Jan. 16 at Sinai Temple’s Barad Hall.

The event honored Jean and Jerry Friedman, who served on the BJE board from 1982–2004, and Bennett Spiegel, who has served on the board for 16 years, for their “decades of service to Jewish education and the community,” according to the BJE website. Keren Dunn, another board member, was recognized with BJE’s prestigious Young Leadership Award.

“We believe BJE is so important, because through its programs, it facilitates both formal and informal Jewish education,” the Friedmans said in a joint statement. “That combination is the best way to preserve Jewish community.”

Spiegel expressed his respect for the “the mission of BJE to enhance the quality of, increase access to, and encourage participation in Jewish education in Los Angeles.”

Dunn’s children have participated in BJE programming. She credited the organization with giving her son “exposure to hands-on community service and tying the experience to Jewish teachings.”

Rena Slomovic, Jill Lasker and Jennifer Elad co-chaired the event. Mark Goldenberg served as the emcee. Additional attendees included BJE President Mark Berns and BJE Executive Director Gil Graff.

Established in 1937, BJE describes itself as “an independent nonprofit serving the greater Los Angeles area. BJE provides programs and activities that connect families and children to a broad range of Jewish educational opportunities.”  The organization facilitates, among other things, teen experiential education, including the BJE March of the Living program, which sends delegations of Jewish teens to Poland and Israel.

“This is the 80th anniversary celebration of BJE and I am honored to play a role in that celebration,” Dunn said, “as BJE focuses on the past and future dedication of Jewish education in Los Angeles.”

Camp Ramah Executive Director Joe Menashe dedicated a sign to the firefighters who fought off the recent Thomas Fire, a disaster that prompted Ramah to remove its Torahs for safekeeping. Photo courtesy of Camp Ramah

Camp Ramah in Ojai celebrated the return of its five Torahs on Jan. 7 after they were removed for safekeeping during the recent Ventura County wildfire.

Though it wasn’t directly affected by the fire, the Conservative summer camp had a mandatory evacuation on Dec. 7.

Exactly one month later, more than 300 volunteers gathered to fill sandbags, write thank-you notes and bake cookies for firefighters, reshelve siddurim and plant trees.

“From the Ramah Beit Knesset, where we returned the Torah, we went to the area where the firefighters fought off the fire,” said Ramah Associate Director Ariella Moss Peterseil. “We dedicated a sign to them and their bravery and courage, which will remain on our campgrounds and remind us of this personal Hanukkah miracle we had in that place. It truly was the best of Ramah and Judaism: Being able to acknowledge what we are grateful for, with a Jewish ritual, and then launching into action.”

Executive Director Rabbi Joe Menashe shared a story about how a tree that has a sign that reads “ze hashar lashem tzadikim yavo uv” (This is the gate of the Lord, and the righteous shall pass through it) was only slightly burned, and that the camp had many “righteous people” in the firefighters and first responders who saved the camp.

Board chair Andrew I. Spitzer called the celebration a “true and sacred partnership between man and God.”

Virginia Isaad, Contributing Writer

From left: TELACU President and CEO Michael Lizarraga, songwriter Melissa Manchester, journalist and television host Jackeline Cacho, U.S. Congressman Juan Vargas and Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg attended the fifth annual Fiesta Shalom. Photo by Michal Mivzari

Jewish and Hispanic community leaders gathered on Jan. 14 at Tomayo Restaurant and Art Gallery in East Los Angeles for the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles’ fifth annual Fiesta Shalom celebration.

Consul General Sam Grundwerg, whose office has long been concerned with strengthening Jewish-Latino relations, hosted the festive evening along with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and TELACU President and CEO Michael Lizarraga.

The event honored U.S. Rep. Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) and Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Melissa Manchester for their visionary leadership and roles as inspirational figures in their respective fields.

Jackeline Cacho, Emmy Award-winning journalist and television host, emceed the evening event, during which several members of Congress spoke, including Vargas and Reps. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) and Grace Napolitano (D-Norwalk). Together, they discussed the multitude of similarities, shared values and shared interests between both communities and their vast areas of cooperation.

“The family values, beliefs and rich cultures that the Latino community upholds align with the values that the Israeli people hold dear,” Grundwerg said. “In the last century, we witnessed the great and abiding friendship between the Jewish people and Spanish-speaking peoples.”

The event featured a kosher-style dinner and music performed by the salsa band Orquesta Tabaco y Ron. More than 200 guests danced, networked and celebrated the strong bonds between the communities in the United States, and the desire to maintain their distinctive and diverse cultural identities working in solidarity and support of each other.

Ayala Or-El, Contributing Writer

Members of the third cohort of the The First 36 Project, which supports parents of children ages 0-3, attended a reception held at the headquarters of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

A reception was held on Jan. 18 at the headquarters of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles for its The First 36 Project.

“The First 36 Project is a groundbreaking program that connects families with Jewish community and helps them put cutting-edge development research directly into practice, precisely when experts say it matters most — from the start,” a Federation statement said. “Developed by the Simms/Mann Institute, Builders of Jewish Education (BJE) and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, The First 36 Project provides Parent and Me facilitators at our Jewish Early Childhood Centers with an exclusive professional development opportunity designed to enhance their knowledge and amplify their ability to support parents of children ages 0–3.”

The dessert reception featured remarks by Federation CEO Jay Sanderson, BJE Associate Director Phil Liff-Grieff, and Victoria Simms, a nationally recognized child development specialist and the president of the Simms/Mann Family Foundation.

The evening event also marked the graduation of the second cohort of The First 36 Project and welcomed the third group to the program. Participants of the second cohort included, among others, Emily Glickman of Leo Baeck Temple, Wise School’s Nicole Mevorak, Debbie Myman and Jenna Pitson, and Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s Molly Mills. Other participating schools include Yeshiva Aharon Yaakov-Ohr Eliyahu, Harkham Hillel Academy and Valley Beth Shalom.

The first cohort launched in 2015-2016.

B’nai David-Judea honored (from left) Rae and Shep Drazin, Emil and Lola Sassover and Andres Terech and Nikki Sieger at its annual gala dinner. Photo courtesy of B’nai David-Judea

The B’nai David-Judea (BDJ) annual dinner on Jan. 15 honored Lola and Emil Sassover, Rae and Shep Drazin, and Nikki Sieger and Andres Terech.

The Sassovers received the Tiferet David award in recognition of “a lifetime of commitment to the Jewish community.” The Drazins, Migdal David honorees, “were honored for their commitment to men and women’s tefilah and Torah study.” Sieger and Terech, who received the Chasdei David award, “were honored for their commitment to service for the BDJ community, including organizing the Purim Mishloach Manot every year and leading the once-a-month BDJ East Minyan,” said a statement provided by BDJ executive director Adynna Swarz.

Approximately 275 people attended the event, which was held at Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills and coincided with Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Among the highlights of the evening was when the Sassovers’ grandchildren read excerpts from the couple’s newly published memoir,  “From Dust to Dawn, Rebuilding Our Lives After the Holocaust,” which was authored by former Jewish Journal senior writer Julie Fax.

Moving & Shaking: Parading, Joking and Working for the Community

From left: Herb Alpert, Herb Alpert Foundation President Rona Sebastian, Eden Alpert, Mort Gleberman and Lani Hall Alpert attended a Jan. 7 dedication ceremony for Herb and Lani Alpert’s legacy gift to Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services. Photo by Robert Lurie

Legendary Jewish musician Herb Alpert and his wife, Lani, have donated $2 million to establish the Eden Alpert Therapeutic Music Program at Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services in Los Angeles in honor of Alpert’s daughter Eden.

Alpert attended a Jan. 7 dedication ceremony for the legacy gift, granted through the Herb Alpert Foundation, at his Vibrato Grill Jazz Club in Los Angeles.

Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services is a leader in providing specialized educational, mental health, autism, adoption and early intervention services to children and families. According to the organization’s website, the Eden Alpert Therapeutic Music Program was created to provide children served by the organization with a “safe environment to explore their creative potential, develop a greater appreciation for music and learn career skills.”

“The entire Alpert family has maintained a strong connection with Vista Del Mar for more than 50 years,” Rona Sebastian, president of the Herb Alpert Foundation, said in a statement. “The Eden Alpert Therapeutic Music Program grows out of that long-term history and brings together the Foundation’s passion to support the arts for all young people and encourage an environment that nurtures compassion and well-being.”

Nancy Tallerino, Vista Del Mar’s president and CEO, and Laurie Konheim, chair of the organization’s board of directors, expressed appreciation for the gift.

Alpert is a Grammy-winning musician, recording executive and philanthropist known for his work with the group Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.

Leaders and members of Adat Shalom and Ward AME Church walked together in the 33rd annual Kingdom Day Parade on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, including Adat Shalom Rabbi Nolan Lebovitz (top row, third from left) and Pastor John Cager of Ward AME Church (back row, far right). Photo courtesy of Adat Shalom

Celebrating the life of Martin Luther King Jr., Adat Shalom, a Conservative congregation in West L.A., participated in the 33rd annual Kingdom Day Parade in Los Angeles on Jan. 15.

For the second consecutive year, the synagogue’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Nolan Lebovitz, and children of Adat Shalom walked with Pastor John Cager and children of Ward African Methodist Episcopal Church in University Park.

The respective communities participated in the event — the theme of which was “When They Go Low, We Go High” — as part of an ongoing effort to change the relationship between the Jewish and African-American communities in Los Angeles.

“Change always begins with a single step,” Lebovitz said in an email. “We’re all better off if we learn to walk together.”

Thousands of people turned out for the parade that started at Western Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, including L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman and Sen. Kamala Harris, who served as grand marshal.

The Congress of Racial Equality of California organized the event.

Far West USY President Ari Teckteil (left) accepts the Chapter of the Year awards on behalf of local L.A. synagogues from 2017 USY International President Noah Lee at the USY International Convention in Chicago. Photo by North Shore Photography

Southern California synagogues received top honors at the 2017 United Synagogue Youth (USY) International Convention in Chicago from Dec. 24-28.

For overall excellence in youth programming, USY recognized Temple Etz Chaim in Thousand Oaks, Congregation Beth El in La Jolla, Temple Beth Am in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood of Los Angeles and Congregation B’nai Israel in Tustin .

In addition, the Far West USY region, which includes more than 20 congregations in California, Arizona and Nevada, won the award for largest overall membership increase.

USY is a program of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism for Conservative Jewish teens in North America.

Attendees at the conference included Far West USY President Ari Teckteil and 2017 USY International President Noah Lee.

From left: The Guardians of the Los Angeles Jewish Home 2017 real estate event co-chairs Kenny Stevens, Peter Steigleder, Josh Keimach and Brad Luster. Photo courtesy of Guardians of the L.A. Jewish Home

The guardians of the Los Angeles Jewish Home, an event-driven organization that raises funds for the facility, held its annual real estate dinner on Dec. 13 at the Beverly Wilshire hotel.

Approximately 500 people attended the event, which raised $300,000 for the organization and honored Howard Banchik, co-founder and co-chairman of the board at Westwood Financial. His son, Randy, co-CEO of Westwood Financial and a member of the Guardians’ governors council, presented him with the award.

The event was co-chaired by Josh Keimach, a member of the Guardians’ 2017-18 young men’s leadership division; past president Brad Luster; and executive vice presidents Peter Steigleder and Kenny Stevens.

Guest speakers included Stuart Gabriel, director of the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate; Robert Hart, president and CEO of TruAmerica Multifamily; and Michael Koss, principal at Koss Real Estate Investments.

Temple Israel of Hollywood Senior Rabbi John Rosove. Photo courtesy of Temple Israel of Hollywood

Temple Israel of Hollywood (TIOH) is moving forward with searching for an interim rabbi to succeed its longtime Senior Rabbi John Rosove, who is retiring on June 30, 2019.

TIOH President Jonny Mars said in a Jan. 5 statement that the TIOH board of trustees arrived at the decision after consulting with a task force that examined whether the synagogue should hire a permanent replacement to immediately succeed Rosove or find an interim rabbi to guide the community through the transitional period.

The decision, Mars said, affords the synagogue the “opportunity to be operational and aspirational. … [An] interim rabbi will be able to help carry out rabbinic responsibilities as we continue to thrive as a community, while giving us time for thoughtful and intentional reflection, assessment of our identity, and confirmation of our values and priorities.”

Rosove is one of this city’s prominent Reform rabbis. Last February, he announced his intention to retire. He will become TIOH’s first rabbi emeritus in its 92-year-history.

The task force, led by TIOH board member Ilyse Pallenberg, consulted with Union of Reform Judaism professionals who specialize in synagogue transition, synagogue leaders who went through similar transitions at other congregations and others, Mars said.

The board of trustees came to its decision during a December meeting.

From left: Shuli and Avi Steinlauf, Rabbi Josh Spodek and Seth and Ruth Berkowitz attend the sixth annual YULA Girls High School Comedy Night. Photo by Lynn Abesera

The sixth-annual YULA Girls High School Comedy Night raised needed scholarship funds for the Orthodox yeshiva. Held on Dec. 4 at the school’s Pico-Robertson campus, the event featured performances by comedians Mark Schiff, Bobby Collins, Mark Weiner, Orny Adams and Nick Paul.

The approximately 250 attendees included YULA Girls High Head of School Rabbi Joshua Spodek and Schiff’s wife, Nancy, who headed the event organizing committee.

Each year, the school, which currently has an enrollment of about 165 students, provides more than $1 million in scholarships.

“This was probably our most successful year, not only with the attendance but with raising money,” Nancy Schiff said. “We hope to do it next year with a larger venue and to have more people come.”

The event kicked off with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and featured a dinner catered by the La Gondola restaurant.

Moving & Shaking: ETTA Celebrates; Federation Honors Bruce Powell

From left: ETTA Board of Advisors member Davis Factor, Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian, ETTA Executive Director Michael Held, former L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, state Sen. Ben Allen and ETTA board member Sam Yebri attend ETTA’s 24th annual gala. Photo courtesy of ETTA

ETTA, an organization that provides programs and services that help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live independent lives, held its 24th annual gala on Nov. 29 at the Beverly Hilton hotel.

The event honored Jonathan and Miriam Istrin and Susie and Fred Toczek, who together announced a scholarship program — Summer@ETTA — for the ETTA summer camp. The program serves teens and adults with developmental disorders, including autism and Down syndrome.

Also feted were longtime ETTA staff members Leah Schachter, director of volunteer services and special events, and Josh Taff, director of the Isak Boruchin Adult Day Program, who received the inaugural “Etty” award for outstanding professional achievement. Eight ETTA youth board members received the Youth Leadership Award. The Pujols Family Foundation, a nonprofit that supports families living with Down syndrome, received the Community Philanthropy Award. And the Don and Lorraine Freeberg Foundation, which recently donated a van to the organization, received the Builders of Tomorrow award.

The 700 attendees included Joc Pederson of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who turned out with his older brother, Champ, who has Down syndrome. Pederson accepted the award on behalf of the Pujols Family Foundation, which is named for Los Angeles Angels player Albert Pujols.

Dan Freeberg and James Geary accepted the award on behalf of the Don and Lorraine Freeberg Foundation. Actor Bradley Whitford (“The Post”) emceed. Actor Gary Cole (“Veep”) also attended.

Civic, political and community leaders in attendance included former Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, state Sen. Ben Allen, L.A. City Councilman Paul Krekorian, attorney and ETTA board member Sam Yebri, ETTA Board of Advisors member Davis Factor and ETTA Executive Director Michael Held.

Temple Beth Ami Cantor Kenny Ellis (far right) hosts a Christmas Eve screening of “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Laemmle Ahrya Fine Arts theater in Beverly Hills. Photo by Tish Laemmle

More than 1,500 people turned out for screenings of “Fiddler on the Roof” at Laemmle Theatres outlets across Los Angeles on Christmas Eve, marking the 10th consecutive year that the theater chain has shown Norman Jewison’s 1971 musical film about the shtetl of Anatevka on the night before Christmas.

“We totally rocked the shtetl at six venues with seven packed auditoriums,” said Laemmle Theatres spokesman Marc Horwitz.

As they have done every year, folks who turned out at Laemmle theaters in Beverly Hills, Encino, Pasadena, Santa Monica and elsewhere sang along with favorites “Tradition,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” “Sunrise, Sunset” and “If I Were a Rich Man.” The screenings also feature a host who leads the crowd in “Fiddler” trivia before the start of the film.

The hosts were Temple Beth Ami Cantor Kenny Ellis, a comic and entertainer who recently appeared as a rabbi in an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”; klezmer bandleader Gustavo Bulgach; actress Susan Edwards Martin; Jason Moss of the Jewish Federation of Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys; Steve Sass, president of the Jewish Historical Society of Southern California; Cantor Phil Baron of Valley Beth Shalom; and Temple Beth Israel Cantor Paul Buch.

From left: ADL Regional Director Amanda Susskind, ADL Regional Board Chair Ivy Kagan Bierman, ADL honoree Leah Weil, Bet Tzedek CEO Jessie Kornberg, retired U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, and Sarah and Joe Kiani attend the annual Anti-Defamation League gala. Photo courtesy of the ADLFoundation

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) held its 2017 annual gala celebration on Dec. 6 at the Beverly Hilton hotel.

The event honored Leah Weil, senior executive vice president and general counsel at Sony Pictures, with the Jurisprudence Award. Weil, the child of Holocaust survivors, said she has always been focused on pushing back against anti-Semitism, in part, because of her family history.

Additional honorees were husband and wife Joe and Sarah Kiani, who were presented with the Humanitarian Award by retired U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer. Joe Kiani is CEO and chairman of Masimo Corp., a medical technology company, and Sarah Kiani is a board member of the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare.

According to a press release, Sarah Kiani described the ADL as “our nation’s David, slinging rocks against the Goliath of prejudice and hate, and standing up for those who are voiceless.”

The event raised nearly $1.1 million to support ADL efforts combating racism and bigotry.

Attendees and participants included Los Angeles Assistant Supervising Deputy City Attorney Anh Truong; ADL National Youth Leadership Mission participant Haley Pak; comedian and actor Wayne Federman, who emceed; and songwriter Alan Bergman.

Stephen Jensen, Anthony Vinciquerra and Karen and Alan Weil co-chaired.

Howard Kaplan, incoming general manager at Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries. Photo courtesy of Mount Sinai

On Feb. 1, Howard Kaplan will join Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries as its new general manager. For the past 13 years, Kaplan served as executive director of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, where he was instrumental in reviving its summer camp programs and spearheaded the 2011-15 renovation and expansion of its Erica J. Glazer Family Campus. Kaplan previously held key positions at Temple Aliyah and the Brandeis Bardin Institute.

Since its inception in 1964, the Mount Sinai general manager position has been held by only three people. Kaplan will succeed Leonard (Len) Lawrence, who is stepping down after 15 years to pursue new business opportunities. The mortuary praised Lawrence for promoting the importance of Jewish funeral traditions and for increasing the popularity of Mount Sinai’s park in Simi Valley.

“We are excited to have Howard Kaplan join this group of esteemed professionals who have led Mount Sinai for nearly 60 years and look forward to his continued leadership,” said Eric J. Diamond, chairman of Sinai Temple’s Cemetery Management Committee. Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries is the largest exclusively Jewish mortuary and cemetery organization in California.

From left: YICC Leadership Award recipients Sabrina and Aric Zamel, YICC Senior Rabbi Elazar Muskin, Arthur Kranzler Keter Shem Tov Award honoree Rabbi Yisroel Baruch Sufrin, Tribute Award recipient Gil Goldschein, Ruhama Muskin and Tribute Award recipient Ilana Goldschein at the YICC Tribute Award Dinner. Photo by Steve Cohn Photography

Young Israel of Century City (YICC) synagogue celebrated its annual Tribute Award dinner on Dec. 17 at Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel.

About 400 guests joined in celebrating the completion of YICC’s new facility at 9315 W. Pico Blvd., which opened on Dec. 1 after 18 months of construction.

YICC Senior Rabbi Elazar Muskin paid tribute to all those who devoted their time and talent to making the new building possible.

The synagogue presented Rabbi Yisroel Boruch Sufrin, head of school at the Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy, with the YICC Arthur Kranzler Keter Shem Tov Award in appreciation of his allowing the synagogue to use the school’s facilities during YICC’s construction project.

The synagogue’s treasurer, Aric Zamel, and his wife, Sabrina, were honored with the Leadership Award for serving on the building committee and for their many years of commitment to the synagogue.

Synagogue President Gil Goldschein and his wife, Ilana, received the Tribute Award for their dedication in leading the congregation during the new building’s construction.

Bruce Powell (center), the outgoing head of school at deToledo High School, appears with deToledo High School faculty at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Global Teen Twinning Program 20th anniversary event. Photo courtesy of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles celebrated the 20th anniversary of its Global Teen Twinning Program on Dec. 10 at Stephen Wise Temple.

The event acknowledged the impact the program has had on thousands of students and their families, and recognized Bruce Powell, the outgoing head of school at deToledo High School, for 20 years of leadership and support of twinning.

The Federation program connects 20 schools in Los Angeles with 20 schools in Tel Aviv and one in Vilnius, Lithuania, through jointly prepared curricula, teacher training and exchanges lasting 10 days or more.

The initiative has supported more than 60,000 middle and high school students, parents and faculty, some of whom attended the event.

Moving & Shaking: Friends of ELNET, StandWithUs and More

From left: Jewish Journal Editor-in-Chief David Suissa; former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls; ELNET-Israel CEO David Siegel; Larry Hochberg, co-founder and chairman of the board at Friends of ELNET; and Ken Ruby, vice chairman at Friends of ELNET, attend the Friends of ELNET gala. Photo courtesy of Friends of ELNET

Friends of ELNET: European Leadership Network (FELNET), which supports the work of ELNET, an Israel advocacy organization devoted to improving the perception of Israel in Europe, raised more  than $800,000 at its Dec. 7 gala at the Beverly Hilton hotel.

The event featured a discussion between former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and David Siegel, chief executive officer of ELNET-Israel, with Jewish Journal Editor-in-Chief David Suissa moderating. Before the discussion, Valls delivered remarks about, among other things, anti-Semitism in France.

The approximately 200 attendees included Larry Hochberg, co-founder and chairman of FELNET; Ken Ruby, the organization’s vice chairman; Jonathan Boyer, West Coast director of FELNET; and philanthropists Stanley Black, Naty Saidoff and Annette Shapiro.

The event had been planned to take place at the Skirball Cultural Center but was moved to the Hilton because of last week’s Skirball Fire.

From left, top row: Adam Peri, Gal Hayon, Itay Shimoni, Ronen Gordon, Hush Paz and Kfir Melamed and (from left, bottom row), Noa Goren Zahavi, Gilat Rapaport and Liron Sela participated in the Base Band concert at American Jewish University. Photo by Linda Kasian

Base Band, a local musical group of Israeli musicians and singers, performed Israeli army band songs before a sold-out crowd at American Jewish University’s Gindi Auditorium. The Nov. 29 concert commemorated the Nov. 29, 1947, adoption of the U.N. Partition Plan for Palestine.

“This show is meant not only for the Israeli community but for the Jewish-American communities who are familiar with the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] but are unfamiliar with the Israeli bands,” said Israeli musician Itay Shimoni, who formed the group with local Israeli singer Gilat Rapaport. “We want to bring them and their children closer to Israel through the songs of our country and give them a glimpse of the Israeli army culture life.”

Israeli army bands were popular in the 1960s and 1970s. Band members performed in military bases all over Israel in order to lift the morale of personnel. Sometimes they performed during lulls in the battle, when troops would regroup at the base. Their songs became part of the Israeli culture and some of Israel’s leading singers made their debut as singers in those groups.

Base Band was formed after Shimoni, who arrived in Los Angeles a couple of years ago, contacted Rapaport with the idea. The latter, who performed in such a band in the 1990s, immediately decided to join Shimoni in the project. The two managed to find young Israeli singers, including Gal Hayon, Liron Sela and Noa Goren Zahavi, each of whom immigrated in recent months to the United States.

Ayala Or-El, Contributing Writer

AJC honoree Marlene Grossman and her husband, Marshall (left), with
Dan Schnur, the director of the Los Angeles region of the American Jewish Committee. Photo by Howard Pasamanick Photography

American Jewish Committee (AJC) Los Angeles honored Marlene Grossman, an environmental advocate, urban planning expert and community organizer, with the Ira E. Yellin Community Leadership Award on Dec. 3 at the Jonathan Club in downtown Los Angeles. Her children, Leslie Bronson and Rodger Grossman, presented her with the award.

The Yellin Award, named in memory of former AJC regional president Ira E. Yellin, recognizes the accomplishments of outstanding civic, business and community leaders who have improved the quality of life in Los Angeles.

The keynote speaker was Erwin Chemerinsky, a nationally recognized constitutional lawyer and dean of the UC Berkeley Law School. He discussed protecting free speech on college campuses, combating hate crimes and how young attorneys can make a positive difference.

Yellin’s daughter, Jessica Yellin, a former chief White House correspondent for CNN, served as master of ceremonies.

AJC regional board members Marshall Grossman, the honoree’s husband, Marian Mann, Reeve Chudd, Phyllis and Bert Massing, Cathy and Len Unger and Adele Yellin, Ira’s widow, served as dinner chairs. Also in attendance were Dan Schnur, regional director of AJC; Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer; and City Councilwoman Nury Martinez.

About 40 people attended the inaugural Arq West Coast event in Venice. Photo by Danya Shults

The inaugural Arq West COAST event was held on Nov. 7at the Late Sunday Afternoon store in Venice. About 40 people attended the event organized by the lifestyle brand. Arq is designed to connect Jews and non-Jews to Jewish life and culture in a way that feels relevant and modern.

Founder Danya Shults, a public relations and marketing consultant, considers herself “Jew-ish,” noting on the Arq website that she read “ ‘Macbeth’ in Hebrew at Jewish day school, made out with a Jewfroed counselor in the red gazebo at a Jewish summer camp, and sang Shabbat songs around the piano every week with her Zionist mother, yarmulke-wearing father and siblings.”

The roots for Arq came about when Shults created “Pop-Up Shabbat,” potluck dinners for people in New York. Last year, Shults expanded the concept to include personal meet-ups that included community gatherings, retreats, couples’ salons, along with a website and a weekly newsletter called the “Ish.”

Shults and her husband moved to Los Angeles several months ago and launched Arq locally. Shults told the Journal that Arq is “less about specific age or background. We aim to be inclusive for people seeking something that is accessible.”

In that spirit, the event began with participants discussing with a partner questions such as: When have you fallen and gotten up again? Who helped you? What’s a cause that riles you up or that you have been an advocate for? What’s something that you need help with right now?

Chaplain Dina Kuperstock then spoke about the story of Noah’s ark and God’s promise to never destroy the world again, and she asked everyone to take part in a meditation session focusing on the notion that everyone has the power to find light and a spark in the darkest of times.

Shults said Arq’s events are a way for people not only to connect but to also come together during difficult times. “The political situation has been really tough,” she said. “There’s been violence and natural disasters. I don’t want to be a downer, but these things are in everyone’s Facebook feeds.”

To that end, she said, Arq’s mission to help people connect “is one of the key antidotes to the stress and anxiety and panic and fear that comes from all of this.”

Kelly Hartog, Contributing Writer 

From left: StandWithUs Festival of Lights honorees Alon and Rosana Miller and Dina and Fred and Leeds; keynote speaker Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations; Roz and Jerry Rothstein, CEO and COO of StandWithUs; and Michael Dickson, executive director StandWithUs-Israel, at the Beverly Hilton. Photo by Jonah Light Photography

The StandWithUs (SWU) Festival of Lights gala dinner, which was held on Dec. 10 at the Beverly Hilton, raised more than $3 million for the pro-Israel education organization.

The evening program honored Dina and Fred Leeds and Rosana and Alon Miller.

It also recognized Kfir Itzhaki, 28, with the Guardian of Israel Award, and Yahya Mahamid, 20, with the Star of David Award.

In November 2015, Itzhaki stopped a stabbing rampage by a 19-year-old terrorist from Hebron, who attacked an 80-year-old woman and a 35-year-old man. Ithaki chased the attacker and held him down until police arrived. A specialist in the Krav Maga fighting system, Ithaki told the 1,000 people at the gala that he knew he was risking his life but didn’t hesitate.

“I was raised by the Torah value that says, ‘Thou shall not stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor.’ I don’t think it’s only your right but your duty to stop a terrorist from hurting other people.”

Mahamid, meanwhile, is an Israeli-Arab Zionist and SWU educator who has been touring the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, speaking at campuses, synagogues and high schools. Born in Umm El-Fahm, Mahamid said he was indoctrinated from childhood to hate Israel and Jews, but that things changed after he got a job as a busboy in a Tel Aviv hotel and found that Israelis were nice to him.

When three Jewish boys were kidnapped and later murdered in the West Bank, Mahamid posted their photos on Facebook. He said his friends and community didn’t take it well. “I started receiving death threats, but it didn’t stop me,” he said during his speech. “We must stand against hate and always show our love and support to the State of Israel.”

Mahamid plans to join the Israel Defense Forces upon his return to Israel, although Israeli Arabs are not required to join the army.

Roz Rothstein, chief executive officer and co-founder of SWU, discussed the work the organization has done for the past 16 years.

“SWU was created to fight against anti-Semitism and educate people around the world of all ages and faiths about Israel,” she said. “Based on what we are seeing today, it was timely and visionary that we began the organization, that we did not wait for someone else to do the work we do.”

Former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Dore Gold, the keynote speaker, praised President Donald Trump’s recent recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s a national holiday for the Jewish people,” he said.

Comedian Elon Gold was the master of ceremonies.

Debbie and Naty Saidoff and Ellie and Bruce Lederman underwrote the event.

Ayala Or-El, Contributing Writer

Moving & Shaking: ‘Schmaltz, Schmendricks and Showbiz!’ Dishes on Pop Culture; Art Show Supports ADL

From left: Psychologist and screenwriter Michael Berlin, Temple Beth Am Programming Director Lia Mandelbaum, Variety Co-Editor-in-Chief Andrew Wallenstein, “Conan” writer Rob Kutner, Jewish Journal contributing writer Esther D. Kustanowitz, Temple Beth Am Vice President of Programming and Engagement Jacqui Jacobs and TV editor Michelle Fellner organized and participated in “Schmaltz, Schmendricks and Showbiz!” Photo by Lia Mandelbaum

A pop-culture roundtable at Temple Beth Am on Nov. 16, featuring five creative Jewish professionals, examined depictions of Jews in movies and television and what they say about American-Jewish life.

“Tonight, we want to talk about how the Jewish experience has changed over time,” psychologist and screenwriter Michael Berlin, the event moderator, said at the start of the evening, titled “Schmaltz, Schmendricks and Showbiz!”

During the event, comedy writer Rob Kutner (“Conan”) discussed what it was like being a pro-Israel writer at “The Daily Show” and having more pro-Israel views than then-host Jon Stewart. Kutner said he tried to bring more balance to the content of a “Daily Show” segment that portrayed pro-Israel Jews as being unwilling to listen to anything other than full-throated support for Israel.

“I didn’t want to argue too much with my boss, but I was trying to present a reasonable pro-Israel position,” Kutner said.

Michelle Fellner, a television editor whose credits include “Mad Men,” recalled how she bonded with show creator Matt Weiner over their shared Jewish heritage when she worked on the Emmy Award-winning drama.

Over the course of the evening, the panelists presented clips from films and television shows that depicted Jews in flattering and negative ways. Journal contributing writer Esther D. Kustanowitz discussed “JAP Battle,” a clip from the musical-comedy show “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” featuring two Jewish American princesses trading rap verses skewering each other and Jewish stereotypes.

Kustanowitz said the evening was an opportunity “for Jews to emerge beyond the stereotype.”

During a Q-and-A toward the end of the night, Temple Beth Am Rabbi Ari Lucas asked the panelists how Judaism informed their approach to their work. Andrew Wallenstein, co-editor-in-chief of Variety, said he struggles with staying true to the Jewish law prohibiting lashon harah (Hebrew for “gossip”) because almost 90 percent of the content on his newspaper’s website is gossip. Still, he said, he hopes the articles shed some light on troubling realities in society.

American Jewish Committee Los Angeles President Scott Edelman (left) and Learned Hand Award recipient John Rogovin. Photo by Howard Pasamanick Photography

American Jewish Committee (AJC) Los Angeles honored John Rogovin, executive vice president and general counsel at Warner Bros. Entertainment, with the AJC Learned Hand Award on Oct. 25 at the SLS Hotel in Los Angeles.

“Who better exemplifies the spirit of liberty than the American Jewish Committee, which I admire so much for their work on behalf of all of us — Jews and non-Jews — safeguarding human rights,” Rogovin said in his acceptance speech.

Michael Powell, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, presented Rogovin with the award.

Attendees at the ceremony honoring Rogovin included John Emerson, former United States ambassador to Germany. Emerson delivered the evening’s keynote speech on the importance of U.S.-Germany ties and the role AJC plays in that relationship.

Norman Eisen, former U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic, and Matthew Dontzin, founding partner at Dontzin, Nagy & Fleissig, served as the masters of ceremonies.

The dinner co-chairs were Jaye Rogovin, John Rogovin’s wife; former AJC National President Bruce Ramer; AJC Los Angeles President Scott Edelman; and Latham & Watkins partner Joseph Calabrese.

AJC Los Angeles Director Dan Schnur opened the program.

AJC, an advocacy group combating anti-Semitism, supporting Israel and more, established the Learned Hand Award, the highest honor the organization bestows to an individual in the legal profession, in memory of Judge Learned Hand, a senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

From left: Deanna Migdal, Esther Friedberg, Chellie Goldwater Wilensky, Gail Simpson, Susan Isaacs and Ivy Libeross attend the NA’AMAT USA luncheon. Photo courtesy of NA’AMAT USA

The San Fernando Valley Council of NA’AMAT USA held its annual Distinguished Community Leader Awards luncheon at American Jewish University on Oct. 29.

This year’s honorees were Dr. Fran Kaufman, a prominent figure in the treatment of pediatric diabetes; community activist Barbara Yaroslavsky, for her fight against poverty; and Gail and Myles Simpson, for their service to NA’AMAT and Conservative Judaism.

“I am very appreciative of this honor,” Gail Simpson said. “NA’AMAT has been a part of my life for the past 40 years. I’ve seen all of our accomplishments in Israel and how NA’AMAT has improved the lives of women and their families. Our programs are constantly evolving as the needs of women grow and change.”

NA’AMAT USA, a volunteer organization, partners with NA’AMAT Israel to provide educational and social services for families and individuals in need.

The luncheon included a video screening about NA’AMAT’s technological high schools for disadvantaged and at-risk teens in Israel, introduced by the organization’s national vice president of public relations and publicity, Susan Isaacs.

“It is an inspiration to recognize the achievements of our distinguished honorees,” NA’AMAT USA Executive Director Deanna Migdal said. “These leaders serve as models for us all as we work to fulfill our mission of enhancing the quality of life of women and children in Israel.”

Virginia Isaad, Contributing Writer

“Fauda” star Laetitia Eido poses on the red carpet at the Israel Film Festival. Photo by Alex Zamyatin

As part of the Israel Film Festival, 220 people attended a screening of a new episode from the Israeli TV hit “Mossad 101” at Laemmle’s Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills on Nov. 15. The screening was followed by a panel discussion about how to expand the impact of Israeli television. Adam Berkowitz, co-head of television at Creative Artists Agency (CAA), moderated the panel, titled “Israeli TV: An American Success Story.”

“Israeli TV is quite young — 27 years,” said Udi Segal, founding CEO of Sumayoko Films, which produced “Mossad 101.” “It can offer young and enthusiastic creators.”

Segal said Israeli creators tend to have lower budgets than their American counterparts, which is helpful for the creative process. “When you have a small box, you must think outside it,” he said.

“Israelis are innovators and entrepreneurs, and want to invent and push the envelope,” said Sharon Tal, head of drama and comedies at Amazon. “They never want to think safe. They always have something to say and they say it.” She added that Israeli writers are used to a “very honest and brutal approach,” that they’re not afraid of getting notes about their scripts, while American writers have to be “treated with kid gloves.”

“What makes a good TV show is to take reality and exaggerate it a little,” said writer David Shore (“House,” “The Good Doctor”). “That’s what Israel is — reality that’s a little more heightened and a little more focused.”

The panel also included Danna Stern, managing director of Yes Studios, and award-winning actor Tsahi Halevi. Halevi has been acting for about five years and now is enjoying recognition for his work in “Mossad 101” and “Fauda,” both of which were featured at the festival.

“The last year-and-a-half has changed the formats business,” said Michael Gordon, an agent at CAA. Gordon said Israel is particularly well positioned to export stories. It generates “organic stories, because the population isn’t homogenous,” he said.

Both “Fauda” and “Mossad 101” present diverse characters coming into conflict with one another over cultural or ideological differences.

The following night, Nov. 16, the festival hosted a red-carpet world premiere for the second season of “Fauda,” featuring two sold-out screenings and a Q-and-A panel discussion with the talent and creators of the show.

Esther D. Kustanowitz, Contributing Writer

From left: Sephardic Education Center (SEC) Director Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, “NCIS: Los Angeles” actress Daniela Ruah, Sephardic Film Festival honoree Joe Ouaknine and SEC President Neil Sheff. Photo courtesy of Sephardic Educational Center

The Sephardic Educational Center (SEC) kicked off its 14th annual Los Angeles Sephardic Film Festival on Nov. 5 with a dinner under the stars at the Paramount Studios lot.

Every year, the Sephardic Film Festival showcases original stories by filmmakers around the world, while highlighting the heritage and culture of Sephardim.

This year’s opening film was actor and director Ze’ev Revach’s “Back to Casablanca.” The film follows Revach’s journey back to his homeland in search of a Moroccan actor to star alongside him in his next film, which he dreams he’ll be able to distribute around the Arab world.

SEC President Neil Sheff delivered remarks at the start of the evening.

Proceeds from the weeklong festival, which closed on Nov. 12, support SEC educational programs, including SEC Hamsa Israel, a trip to Israel for teenagers led by SEC Director Rabbi Daniel Bouskila.

The SEC presented Joe Ouaknine, co-founder of Titan Industries, a women’s fashion footwear company, with the Maimonides Leadership Award. Ouaknine was born in Morocco, immigrated to Canada, moved to Los Angeles in 1977 and is an active supporter of the Los Angeles Sephardic community, the SEC website says.

Actress Daniela Ruah (“NCIS: Los Angeles”) emceed the evening.

Ayala Or-El, Contributing Writer

LACMA Director Michael Govan poses at “ArtWorks ADL” with (from left) his wife, fashion and luxury brand consultant Katherine Ross; Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Regional Director Amanda Susskind; ADL executive committee member Nicole Mutchnik; and Sotheby’s Executive Vice President and Chairwoman Andrea Fiuczynski. Photo courtesy of Anti-Defamation League

“ArtWorks ADL: Justice, Advocacy And Art” drew more than 400 art aficionados, philanthropists and friends of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to the Beverly Hills home of husband-and-wife entrepreneurs and philanthropists Lisa and Joshua Greer.

The Oct. 26 event, held in the Greers’ backyard on a balmy evening, showcased more than 40 paintings, sculptures and mixed-media works donated by Los Angeles-based artists and galleries inspired by the ADL mission and representing the Jewish, Asian-American, Latino, African-American and LGBT communities.

Andrea Fiuczynski, executive vice president and chairwoman at Sotheby’s America, conducted a live auction. The event raised $420,000 to support ADL programs combating hate and bigotry.

Attendees included the evening’s co-chairs, Los Angeles County Museum of Art Director Michael Govan and international art consultant Lauren Taschen.

Moving & Shaking: CNN’s Blitzer Honored by LAMOTH, Tour de Summer Camps, FIDF Gala

From left: CNN Anchor Wolf Blitzer, who was honored by the L.A. Museum of the Holocaust; L.A. Museum of the Holocaust Executive Director Beth Kean and L.A. Museum of the Holocaust President Paul Nussbaum attend the museum’s gala dinner. Photo by Gina Cholick

Wolf Blitzer accepted an honor from the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (LAMOTH) on Nov. 5 at the Beverly Wilshire hotel. The CNN anchor discussed what his late Holocaust-survivor parents from Poland experienced before coming to the United States.

Blitzer’s mother, Cesia, was a forced laborer in an ammunition factory in Germany. She secretly distorted the bullets she made in the hope that the bullets would misfire and kill Nazis instead of Allied soldiers.

“That was how she survived the war,” Blitzer said. “She was a very powerful woman.”

In Munich after the war, Blitzer’s father, David, observed people standing in a long line. He didn’t know what they were waiting for but assumed it must be good since so many people were doing it.

After a half-hour of being in the line, his father asked a woman in front of him what everyone was waiting for, Blitzer said.

“‘America. They are giving visas for America,’” Blitzer said the woman responded. “My dad says, ‘Visas for America?’ It did not enter his mind he could come to America.”

LAMOTH President Paul Nussbaum presented Blitzer with the museum’s honor. During his acceptance speech, Blitzer, 69, said he thought of his parents as he reported on Nazis marching in the streets in Charlottesville, Va., shouting, “Jews will not replace us.”

“As I was reporting the news about that on CNN, I thought of my mom and dad, who would’ve been so stunned to hear those words shouted here in the United States of America. They wouldn’t have believed it,” he said. “This was a country they loved so much. They would never have believed in this day and age they would have heard slogans like that in the U.S.”

The hundreds of attendees included LAMOTH’s Executive Director Beth Kean and Education Director Jordanna Gessler; filmmaker Aaron Wolf and more than 70 survivors.

Manijeh Nehorai, founder and director of ETTA’s Iranian American Community Division, is honored at the organization’s 20th anniversary gala. Photo courtesy of ETTA

The Iranian-American Community Division of ETTA, which serves the housing and social services needs of disabled adults in the Los Angeles Jewish community, held a gala on Oct. 25 at the Beverly Wilshire hotel that celebrated 20 years of fundraising. The ceremony honored Manijeh Nehorai, founder and director of the Iranian-American Division for more than 22 years, and featured a congratulatory message from Farah Pahlavi, the former empress of Iran.

“It was a great privilege to be recognized by ETTA,” Nehorai said. “Over my more than 20-year association with ETTA — along with the board, staff and volunteers — we have worked hard to provide much-needed programs and services to individuals with special needs. The growth of ETTA continues to be phenomenal, and it is gratifying to be part of such an influential and important organization.”

More than 550 people attended the event that also included a fashion show by Iranian native and acclaimed designer Simin Couture, featuring ETTA clients and ETTA Young Professionals.

“Recognizing Mrs. Nehorai is long overdue,” said ETTA Executive Director Michael Held. “We are thrilled the Iranian Division board of directors, along with the greater Iranian community, will have the opportunity to express their gratitude for all she has done, and continues to do. Through her vast experience, professional training and dedication, she has changed the hearts and minds within the Iranian community and bettered the lives of the many Iranian clients and their families we serve.”

Throughout the past 20 years, the Iranian-American Division has been assisting ETTA, an affiliate of OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services, in providing programs and services to aid people with disabilities and their families.

Virginia Isaad, Contributing Writer

From left: Jeffrey Kaplan and Rodney Freeman participate in the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ fifth annual Tour de Summer Camps. Photo by Howard Pasamanick Photography

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles hosted its fifth annual Tour de Summer Camps on Oct. 29, starting at Camp Alonim at the Brandeis-Bardin campus of the American Jewish University in Simi Valley.

More than 650 cyclists and hikers who participated in the communitywide event raised a record-breaking $1.2 million for scholarships for kids to attend Jewish summer camps.

“The entire community has embraced this special event,” said ride master Rodney Freeman. “Tour de Summer Camps has become a day to celebrate the good in our community, which has resulted in almost $6 million raised over five years to benefit Jewish camping scholarships. My dream is that every child with the desire to attend Jewish summer camp will be able to do so, regardless of their family’s financial capabilities.”

The fundraiser, which had four bike routes of different lengths, had some new additions this year, including three hiking routes, a live band, a fun zone with a rock wall and lawn games, and a personalized bike plate.

“This event is incredibly supported and attended by the community, because we all know that Jewish summer camp is one of the greatest drivers of Jewish identity,” said Federation President and CEO Jay Sanderson.

Virginia Isaad, Contributing Writer

“Together As One,” an interfaith concert, featured clergy and attendees of all faiths and backgrounds. Photo by Farzana Ali

An interfaith concert at University Synagogue in Brentwood on Oct. 29, titled “Together as One,” had people dancing in the aisles to the music of the Yuval Ron Ensemble.

The nearly 180 attendees contributed canned or dried foods, underwear, socks and grocery store gift cards for homeless people in Los Angeles County.

Seated onstage below four Torah scrolls, the Yuval Ron Ensemble played traditional Middle Eastern music rooted in the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths. A mystical whirling dervish — a person doing a devotional dance — performed during two selections. Vocalists sang in Hebrew and Arabic, with a Spanish-language singer joining in for a heartfelt, multilingual version of “Imagine” by John Lennon.

The evening’s finale included a blessing over the donated food and clothing by clergy members from multiple faiths, including University Synagogue’s Rabbi Morley Feinstein and Cantor Kerith Spencer-Shapiro. The ensemble, joined by members of the University Synagogue choir and the Ismaili Muslim Youth Choir, then performed Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” beneath a quote from Isaiah: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

The event, a Days of Compassion service project organized through the office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, was sponsored by University Synagogue congregant Barry Silverman, the Agha Khan Council for the Western United States, Safe Place for Youth, Ward AME Church, and the St. Joseph Center.

Daniel Tamm, the mayor’s Westside representative and interfaith liaison, took part in welcoming guests.

Scarlet Michaelson, Contributing Writer

From left, back row: David Foster, Seal, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Cheryl and Haim Saban and Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg attend the annual FIDF western region gala with IDF soldiers. Photo by Alexi Rosenfield

A record $53.8 million was raised at the annual Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Western Region gala on Nov. 2 at The Beverly Hilton hotel. FIDF national board member and major supporter Haim Saban conducted the fundraiser during the sold-out event that drew 1,200 guests. It didn’t take Saban long to raise the record amount of donations, thanks in large part to Oracle co-founder and billionaire Larry Ellison, who didn’t attend but donated $16.6 million.

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, donated more than $5.5 million. Over the years, Eckstein has donated a total of $40 million to FIDF. Among the gala attendees were Guess founders Maurice and Paul Marciano, who also donated millions to the FIDF.

Among the celebrities attending the event were Gerard Butler, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Joanna Krupa, Katharine McPhee and Gene Simmons. Simmons, a member of the rock group Kiss and a regular guest at the FIDF gala, performed Kiss’ signature song “Rock and Roll All Nite.”

“Year after year, the support from the Los Angeles community for this remarkable event continues to amaze me, and this year’s gala is no exception” Saban said. “[My wife] Cheryl and I are grateful for the outpouring of support for these great causes and deeply honored by this year’s record-breaking donations.”

The gala featured the screening of a video called “Heroes of the IDF,” which told the stories of women combat soldiers. Today, 95 percent of IDF jobs are open to women, who serve as pilots, infantry soldiers, artillery combat soldiers, electronic warfare specialists, and anti-aircraft and naval officers. About 11 percent of combat soldiers drafted into the IDF each year are women.

Among the 17 active-duty soldiers attending the gala was border policewoman Cpl. Ravit Mor, whose life was saved by the late border policewoman Hadar Cohen, 19, after she was attacked by a male terrorist in February 2016. After being stabbed several times, Cohen shot the perpetrator but she was then attacked from behind by another terrorist and died. Mor later told the Jewish Journal about the close relationship she formed with Cohen’s parents: “It’s amazing how they supported and embraced me during that time, even though they were in pain for losing their daughter. This experience had made me stronger and taught me how to appreciate every moment in life.”

Also in attendance was Noam Gershony, the former IDF pilot whose helicopter crashed as he was heading to rescue troops during the 2006 Lebanon War. Gershony broke nearly every bone in his body, and was paralyzed from the waist down. He emerged from a deep depression not only to be rehabilitated, but to win a gold medal and share a bronze medal in wheelchair tennis at the 2012 Paralympic Games. When Gershony came on stage walking with the assistance of crutches, he was received with a standing ovation. Addressing the audience, Gershony jokingly said: “Now I can finally go out with a beautiful girl in Tel Aviv — or even a few.”

Presiding as the evening’s master of ceremonies was Israeli actress Moran Atias. The event featured special performances by singer Seal, The Tenors and David Foster & Friends.

Ayala Or-El, Contributing Writer

Moving & Shaking: Pundits discuss Trump, Cedars Sinai honors LA Rams Owner

From left: Janice Kamenir-Reznik, David Frum, Zev Yaroslavksy, Peter Beinart and David Lehrer attend "Challenges of Trump's America," a panel discussion at Valley Beth Shalom. Photo by Robert Lurie.

Political pundits David Frum and Peter Beinart participated in “The Challenges of Trump’s America,” a panel discussion held Sept. 26 at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino and moderated by Rabbi Ed Feinstein.

Frum, senior editor at The Atlantic, spoke about the intense reaction he has received for his prediction that Trump would lose the presidential election and the importance of political involvement to create change. His forthcoming book, “Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic,” focuses on “Trump as a system of power.”

“Donald Trump as a personality is a combination of the disappointing, the dysfunctional, but he is just one man,” Frum said. “The United States is a giant bureaucratic state with all kinds of checks and balances and rules and regulations, and the question is, how much harm can one man do? The question isn’t to ask, who is he? … The question is, what happened around him? How is this system of power possible in a constitutional republic, and how is it enabling it?”

Beinart, a contributor to The Atlantic, a senior columnist at The Forward and a CNN political commentator, discussed the impact of Trump’s presidency nationally and internationally.

“It is very significant that Donald Trump is the first American president since the 1990s who does not publicly support the two-state solution … and has therefore liberated [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu to no longer publicly support the two-state solution, either,” Beinart said. “That, I believe, is going to have profound long-term implications. Once we permanently foreclose the possibility [for] millions of Palestinians who live in the West Bank under Israeli control but without citizenship and democratic rights, we have planted a bomb underneath the very existence of Israel as a Jewish state.”

Beinart called out Trump for bigotry and asked for unity among Jews and Muslims in the wake of rising prejudice.

“The anti-Semitism is frightening, but we have to be careful not to become narcissists,” he said. “The anti-Semitism that is rising does not have powerful members of the White House and of the United States Congress egging it on. The anti-Muslim bigotry that is emerging in the Trump era is entirely different than the anti-Semitism cause; it has the active support of some of the most powerful politicians in the United States. [Trump] goes after soft targets; we are not a soft target. Muslims are a soft target, and that’s why we must stand for them.”

Frum ended the presentation on a lighter note, emphasizing the importance of being proactive.

“I’m not an optimist by nature, but I’m determined in the Trump years to be an optimist by conviction,” he said. “The thing I resent about the question ‘What do you think will happen?’ is that it makes me a spectator. I’m a citizen and a participant and I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I know what I’m going to do.”

— Virginia Isaad, Contributing Writer

Young adults turned out for an evening of comedy, cocktails and networking on Sept. 14 at West Hollywood bar Now Boarding in support of Visions, The Next Generation of Israel Cancer Research Fund.

About 50 young adults turned out for an evening of comedy, cocktails and networking on Sept. 14 at the West Hollywood bar Now Boarding in support of the group Visions, The Next Generation of the Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF).

The young leadership group attracts individuals dedicated to supporting cancer research in Israel by raising money for ICRF, a North American organization that supports Israel’s educational and scientific resources in the fight against cancer. ICRF describes itself as the largest single source of private cancer research funds in Israel

The event raised about $1,000.

Performers included Iranian-American stand-up comic Tehran Von Ghasri, the son of an Iranian-American father and African-American mother whose Instagram page shows him wearing a T-shirt declaring, “Persian Is the New Black.” Ghasri goes by the stage name “Tehran,” which also is the name of Iran’s capital city.

Comedian and actor Kirk Fox (“Parks and Recreation”); Jewish comedian Leah Lamarr, who was born Leah Goldman; and Sofiya Alexandra (Comedy Central’s “This is Not Happening”) also performed.

Attendees — including Visions L.A. board President Aaron Cohen and Vice President Colin Coggins — enjoyed food from the Feast From the East restaurant.

Cohen, 34, a real estate agent with Rodeo Realty, said he appreciates the opportunity of engaging his peers in philanthropy.

“When you are able to look at your peers and tell them they can actually make a difference in someone’s life — and most young professionals don’t necessarily think about philanthropy — they get interested in it and move forward in it and realize we have made money at an event we can donate to a scientist who can help cure cancer,” he said. “That is the most rewarding for me — knowing my peers and myself can have a say in philanthropy and it’s not just elderly people donating money from their estate.”

Marty Finkelstein, the Journal’s executive director of advertising, serves as the president of the ICRF L.A. board of directors.

Ittay Hayut, CEO of Hoopo, speaks at a reception organized by Fusion LA, the first Los Angeles accelerator for startups. Photo by Kelly Hartog.

Fusion LA, an early investment group for Israeli startups in Los Angeles, held a Sept. 26 VIP reception at the Rose Room in Venice, in partnership with the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles.

About 75 people from the tech and venture capital industry, many of them Israeli, mingled, sipped wine and ate kosher canapés before sitting down to hear about the work being done by Fusion LA co-founders Yair Vardi and Guy Katsovich.

Fusion LA selected six Israeli cutting-edge companies to participate in an intensive four-month program at its workspace in Santa Monica. The process repeats every six months with six new companies.

“Our vision is to connect Israel, which is the biggest startup ecosystem outside of the U.S., with Los Angeles, which is the most growing tech ecosystem in the U.S. after Silicon Valley and New York,” Katsovich said at the event.

Of the initial six startups, one is headed by women., the brainchild of Liat Sade-Sternberg, enables people to interact with their favorite video content, including movies, music and sports events.

Uniper, another of the companies, is a platform that helps the elderly live more independent lives through interactive TV-based programs. It’s already proved to be a success in Israel, and with $800,000 raised, is looking to tap into the U.S. market.

— Kelly Hartog, Contributing Writer

Younes and Soraya Nazarian, through their Y&S Nazarian Family Foundation, contributed $3 million to a $100 million capital campaign supporting Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design’s new campus in Jerusalem. Photo courtesy of Y&S Nazarian Family Foundaton.

The Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem announced on Sept. 28 that it has reached the $70 million mark in its $100 million capital campaign, thanks, in part, to a $3 million donation from the Los Angeles-based Y&S Nazarian Family Foundation.

Local philanthropists Younes and Soraya Nazarian started  the foundation, which is “dedicated to the promotion of education as the most important catalyst for societal change,” according to its website.

The capital campaign is funding a future 400,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art home in the “Russian Compound” area of Jerusalem. Slated to open in 2021 under the name the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design Jerusalem, Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Campus, it will bring together the school’s 2,000 students and 500 faculty members. Designed by SANAA, a Japanese-based architectural firm, the academy will feature both a modern glass exterior and Jerusalem stone, “speaking to Bezalel’s vision of bridging the old with the new,” a press release said.

The campus will bear the name of Morton Mandel, a philanthropist and CEO of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation, who contributed $25 million to the campaign.

Established in 1906, Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design is a prestigious art school and Israel’s oldest institution of higher education.

Other contributors to the campaign are the Russell Berrie Foundation, the Polonsky Foundation, the William Davidson Foundation, Romie and Blanche Shapiro, and Linda and Ilan Kaufthal.

Professor Adi Stern, president of Bezalel Academy, praised the progress of the capital campaign, saying, “Our new campus in the heart of the city is the most significant project being undertaken in Jerusalem today.”

CBS Los Angeles Sports Director Jim Hill (right) hosted the 2017 Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Gala, which honored L.A. Rams owner and chairman E. Stanley Kroenke and benefitted the Cedars-Sinai Regenerative Medicine Institute. Photo by Alex J. Berliner.

The Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Board of Governors Gala on Oct. 4 at the Beverly Hilton hotel raised $1.3 million for Cedars-Sinai’s Regenerative Medicine Institute.

The event honored Los Angeles Rams owner and Chairman E. Stanley Kroenke with the Board of Governors Visionary Award. Kevin Demoff, the Rams chief operating officer and executive vice president of football operations, presented Kroenke with the award.

“Thanks to Cedars-Sinai and the board of governors. My family and I are inspired by the work of Dr. [Clive]Svendsen and the Regenerative Medicine Institute,” Kroenke said, referring to the institute’s director. “We are so happy to partner with Cedars-Sinai and the board of governors to support them as well as work toward new paths to help those in need and their families.”

Additional honorees were Hollywood producer Gordon Gray and his wife, Kristen, who were presented with the inaugural Luminary Award. The Grays founded the Charlotte and Gwyneth Gray Foundation to Cure Batten Disease for their young daughters, who are suffering from the nervous system disorder, for which there is no cure. Svendsen presented the Grays with the award.

Boyz II Men performed their hits “I’ll Make Love to You,” “End of the Road” and “Water Runs Dry” as well as an acoustic performance of “Free Fallin’ ” as a tribute to the late Tom Petty. The L.A. Rams cheerleaders also performed.

Gala co-chairs were Lisa DeBartolo Miggs, Don Miggs, Nikki DeBartolo and Chad Chronister.

The Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors is the primary fundraising and leadership group of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Moving & Shaking: Waldorf Astoria ribbon-cutting; new JFS director; social justice awards

Beny Alagem, owner of the Waldorf Astoria, and Beverly Hills Mayor Lili Bosse attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new hotel in Beverly Hills. Photo by Stefanie Keenan

Israeli-American hotel owner Beny Alagem celebrated the opening of his new Waldorf Astoria hotel in Beverly Hills at a June 28 ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The guest list for the Champagne and hors d’oeuvres event included Alagem’s wife, Adele, Beverly Hills Mayor Lili Bosse and Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta.

Alagem thanked all of the partners at the hotel, including Andy Cohen of the Gensler design firm.

Bosse told those gathered that the hotel is a great addition to the Beverly Hills community. Ted Kahan, president of Alagem Capital, introduced the speakers and Christina Vu, the hotel marketing manager, said in an interview that the Waldorf is “the new luxury for the city of Beverly Hills.”

The 12-story hotel has 170 rooms and cost $200 million to build. A 6,300-square-foot ballroom is available for events.

Alagem, who was born in Israel, served as a tank driver in the Israeli army. He was the founder of computer parts manufacturer Packard Bell. In 2003, he purchased the Beverly Hilton from Merv Griffin. He has contributed to many organizations, including the Israeli American Council, an umbrella organization for the Israeli-American community; Friends of the Israel Defense Forces; and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

— Clara Sandler, Contributing Writer

Eli Veitzer has been named the new president and CEO of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of JFSLA

Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFS) has named Eli Veitzer, CEO of Prototypes, as its incoming president and CEO. He succeeds JFS President and CEO Paul Castro, who is retiring at the end of the year after 35 years at the organization.

“We are extremely confident that Eli has the leadership skills, professional background and commitment to our mission to lead JFS into the future, as we continue to provide our wide array of social services and be a vital safety net for the greater Los Angeles community,” Shana Passman, chair of the JFS board of directors, which worked with Castro in conducting a national search for his successor, said in a July 11 statement.

At Prototypes, a Southern California social service organization, Veitzer led an organization that provides substance abuse prevention and treatment programs to 10,000 men, women and children annually, according to the group’s website. It calls itself one of the “nation’s leading behavioral health care organizations.”

He has served as Prototypes’ CEO since 2015. During the 15 years before that, he held leadership positions at JFS, including serving as director of administration at the organization from 2000 to 2010, and later director of strategic initiative and business development. He received his bachelor’s degree in development studies from Brown University.

“It is a tremendous honor to follow Paul Castro in leading Jewish Family Service,” Veitzer said in a statement. “He has cemented JFS as a vital, vibrant and caring organization, and I am excited to build on that foundation.”

His hiring becomes effective Sept. 5, and he will work closely with Castro to ensure a smooth transition, according to the organization.

Rabbi Leah Lewis is the new senior rabbi of Temple Menorah in Redondo Beach. Photo courtesy of Temple Menorah

During a July 1 Shabbat service, Temple Menorah in Redondo Beach welcomed Rabbi Leah Lewis into its congregation of 250 families. The weekly Shabbat service was Lewis’ first as senior rabbi. She succeeds Rabbi Steven Silver, who was the temple’s head rabbi for 30 years and will continue as rabbi emeritus.

In a statement, Barry Deutsch, the synagogue president, expressed excitement about the leadership transition.

“We’ve only changed rabbis a handful of times in our history as a congregation. That’s a historic milestone in anyone’s book.” Deutsch said. “Rabbi Silver has laid a strong foundation for our future evolution, growth and transformation over the last 30 years.”

During the service, cantorial soloist Stacey Morse joined Lewis on the bimah. About 120 people were in attendance to welcome the rabbi into the community. After the service, a celebratory lunch was held in Lewis’ honor in the temple’s social hall.

Lewis previously served six years on the clergy team of Congregation Shir-Ha-Ma’alot in Irvine. For the previous seven years, she served as the associate rabbi of Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles. She was ordained in 2002 at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s New York campus.

Lewis said she is excited to join this “incredibly welcoming community.” She said she hopes to learn from what Rabbi Silver brought and carry on Temple Menorah traditions, with her own spin.

  Isabella Beristain, Contributing Writer

Rebecca Schusterman, a 2017 graduate of Valley Torah High School in Valley Village, has been named a recipient of a Milken Scholars Program $10,000 scholarship. Photo by Paul Takizawa

Rebecca Schusterman, a 2017 graduate of Valley Torah High School in Valley Village, is one of 13 students from Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and New York to receive a college scholarship from the 2017 Milken Scholars program, according to a July 11 announcement.

The Milken Scholars program, a joint initiative of the Milken Institute and the Milken Family Foundation, was founded in 1989 by Michael and Lori Milken to honor exceptional young men and women based on scholarship, leadership, service, character and triumphs over obstacles. The Milken Scholars Program awards a $10,000 scholarship as well as lifelong mentorship and support to help recipients pursue a path of professional and life success.

Schusterman was valedictorian at her school and has volunteered at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, where she “experienced both the joy and the heartbreak of health care,” according to the announcement.

She plans to spend a gap year in Israel before attending Harvard University, where she plans to study human developmental and regenerative biology.

She is involved in many Jewish organizations, including Builders of Jewish Education and Friendship Circle, where she worked with a young boy who has a learning disability. She also started a recycling club at school that donates all proceeds to Chai Lifeline.

— Jakob Marcus, Contributing Writer

Members of Leo Baeck Temple participate in the synagogue’s social justice initiative, Community Organizing: Connecting L.A. Face to Face, Not Bumper to Bumper. Photo courtesy of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Leo Baeck Temple and Temple Israel of Hollywood, along with 15 other congregations across the country, were awarded the Irving J. Fain Award, which recognizes the work of Reform Jewish congregations that create a culture of social justice advocacy.

The award is named for Fain, who was chairman of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism. For more than 30 years, the award has recognized social action programs in Reform Jewish communities.

Diane Baer, chair of the Fain Award Selection Committee for the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, said that winning congregations “took meaningful action on local and global social justice issues.”

Barbara Weinstein, director of the commission, said the winners “provide vibrant examples of ways congregations can engage in critical issues that confront us as Jews and as engaged members of our communities.”

Leo Baeck Temple was recognized for Community Organizing: Connecting L.A. Face to Face, Not Bumper to Bumper, a program run by a team of approximately 20 people, including co-chairs Eric Stockel, the temple’s vice president of social justice, and Bea Richman. With this program, the temple aims to support efforts to build mass transit along the 405 freeway corridor and create jobs, reduce carbon emissions and connect Los Angeles residents to their jobs, friends, family and communities.

Temple Israel was recognized for 3×3 Social Justice, which addresses three major issues: bias and criminal justice reform; hunger and homelessness; and gun violence prevention. 3×3 Social Justice responds to these issues using education, advocacy and action. The program is run by temple Vice President of Social Action Heidi Segal and Rabbi Jocee Hudson, along with the temple’s social justice task force, which is composed of congregation members.

The congregations will be honored at the Union for Reform Judaism’s Biennial in December.

— Caitlin Cohen, Contributing Writer

From left: The Orthodox Union honored Michael and Eva Neuman and Nadine Gerson-Zeller and Robert Zeller at their annual West Coast banquet. Photo by Lew Groner

The Orthodox Union (OU) West Coast held its annual banquet, “Under the Stars,” on June 21 at the Beverly Hills Marriott.

The event honored Eva and Michael Neuman and Nadine Gerson-Zeller and Robert Zeller with the OU Chesed Award.

The Union honored the Neumans, congregants of Beth Jacob Congregation, for their support of OU West Coast. The Neumans also support the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and West Coast Friends of Laniado Hospital in Netanya, Israel.

Additionally, the organization feted the Zellers, congregants of Beverly Hills Synagogue, also known as Young Israel of North Beverly Hills, for their support of OU West Coast.

The OU handles and organizes youth events, kashrut and Jewish advocacy for the greater Orthodox community.

OU West Coast President Scott Krieger spoke at the banquet about the programs and accomplishments of the OU over the past year. Rivki and Sam Mark were this year’s emcees.

Comedian Martin Silbermintz and a string quartet from USC entertained the guests, and an auction raised funds for the OU’s Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus.

— Clara Sandler, Contributing Writer

Moving & Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas.
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Moving & Shaking: Garcetti inauguration, LAMOTH vigil, AFMDA gala

IKAR Rabbi Sharon Brous delivers the invocation at the inauguration ceremony for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. The gathering at Los Angeles City Hall marked the start of Garcetti’s second mayoral term. Photo by the Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

IKAR Senior Rabbi Sharon Brous delivered the invocation at the inauguration ceremony for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s second term.

“Holy One, protect and strengthen our mayor, who wears the clothes of a politician but has the heart of a prophet,” Brous said on July 1 at Los Angeles City Hall.

Garcetti, 46, the city’s first elected Jewish mayor, took office in 2013. He was re-elected in June. Because of a shift in the city’s election calendar, Garcetti’s second term will last 5 1/2 years instead of the standard four-year term.

Garcetti’s father, former L.A. County District Attorney Gil Garcetti, is Mexican American with Spanish, Native-American and Italian ancestry. His mother, Sukey Roth, is the granddaughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants.

Garcetti regularly studies Torah with Brous. The two co-starred in a comedy sketch titled “Clergy in Cars Getting Coffee” — a takeoff on a similar Jerry Seinfeld internet video series — for the 2016 IKAR Purim spiel.

The inauguration ceremony also featured the swearing-in of newly elected and re-elected L.A. City Councilmembers, including L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz, whose district includes the heavily Jewish Pico-Robertson neighborhood.

Brous highlighted how local elected officials have fostered religious unity during polarizing times:

“Our mayor and our city leaders have turned this city into a holy hot spot, an oasis of love and justice, a place where Jews and Christians and Muslims and Sikhs and Buddhists and Hindus and Catholics and atheists stand together against hate crimes, form holy alliances to fight homelessness and combat racism, work side-by-side to strengthen and support our immigrant communities, declare our commitment to protecting one another and our fragile planet.”

From left: Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg, AJC Los Angeles Director Dan Schnur and Consul General of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles Nasimi Aghayev commemorate 25 years of friendship between Israel and Azerbaijan. Photo by Anna Rubin

Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg and the Consulate General of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles Nasimi Aghayev commemorated 25 years of friendship between Israel and Azerbaijan on June 7 at Sinai Temple.

The event featured Grundwerg and Aghayev in a conversation moderated by Dan Schnur, director of the L.A. office of American Jewish Committee, a global advocacy organization.

Sinai Temple Rabbi David Wolpe opened the event by recalling his trip to Azerbaijan in 2015 with 50 members of his congregation, which sponsored and delivered a Torah to the mountain Jews of Baku.

Grundwerg and Aghayev discussed their backgrounds, their respect for each other and the friendship between their two countries. “Israel was one of the first countries that recognized Azerbaijan following its independence in 1991,” Grundwerg said. The two countries have been diplomatic partners ever since.

Aghayev highlighted his Muslim-majority country’s history with the Jewish people. “The Jewish people have been in Azerbaijan for more than 2,000 years,” he said, adding: “The Jewish people have been safer in Azerbaijan than anywhere else in the Middle East.”

Chinedu Nwogu, a Nigerian foreign exchange student at Cal State Northridge, attended the event and said he found the discussion encouraging. “It was inspirational to attend this event and see the strong friendship between Israel and Azerbaijan, despite the country’s Muslim majority, and it gives me hope that one day such a friendship will exist between Israel and Nigeria,” Nwogu said.

Additional attendees included philanthropists Naty and Debbie Saidoff; former Beverly Hills Mayor Jimmy Delshad; Consul General of Japan in Los Angeles Akira Chiba and Consul General of Germany in Los Angeles Hans Jörg Neumann.

The Shalhevet High School choir sang a rendition of “Jerusalem of Gold,” recognizing the 50-year anniversary of Jerusalem’s 1967 liberation in the Six-Day War.

Mati Geula Cohen, Contributing Writer

CNN International anchor Isha Sesay. Photo courtesy of CNN

CNN International anchor Isha Sesay spoke about her experiences reporting on women’s rights violations, particularly the terrorist group Boko Haram’s April 2014 kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from the Chibok region of Nigeria, when she addressed a group of about 50 people after the Beverly Hills Jewish Community’s June 24 Shabbat services at the Beverly Hills Hotel. She emphasized the moral imperative to mobilize against such global atrocities.

Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz, a member of the World Economic Forum’s Civil Society, introduced Sesay and described his own activism against the torture of Yazidi women and girls by ISIS in Iraq. Berkowitz has worked with Chaldean Christian groups to advocate for the Yazidi girls to the United Nations and the White House. He said he became passionate about the cause after he learned of it from the news and, as the father of four girls, felt he could not stand idly by.

“I recalled the phrase from Psalms: ‘Karati, v’ein oneh’ — ‘I called, and there was no answer,’ ” Berkowitz said. “It seemed that the world heard the Yazidi girls and did not answer. We as a Jewish community have an obligation not only to help our own, but wherever and whenever there’s injustice and suffering.”

Sesay related her passion for international women’s rights to her upbringing in Sierra Leone, where she said 90 percent of women are subject to genital mutilation. She said she hoped to balance journalistic objectivity in her news reports with her personal commitment to human rights activism.

“It is not enough as a journalist to sit at the desk and read a prompter,” Sesay said. “Some stories cannot be left at the studio door. You must use every tool at your disposal to keep the story alive.”

Sesay, who currently is writing a book about the Boko Haram kidnappings, urged congregants to be “upstanders” rather than bystanders, and to engage with nonprofit organizations already working to empower women in developing countries.

Sesay’s appearance was sponsored by the Jewish Journal and organized by the Jewish Platform for Advocacy and Community Engagement, and the Beverly Hills Jewish Community’s speaker initiative.

— Gabriella Kamran, Contributing Writer

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz appears at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust for a vigil commemorating the refugees aboard the MS St. Louis in 1939. Photo by Jill Brown/Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust

The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (LAMOTH) held a community vigil to commemorate the refugees aboard the ocean liner St. Louis in 1939. The St. Louis was full of Jewish refugees when it was turned away by the United States after leaving Nazi Germany.

At the June 11 event, the 85 attendees remembered those who were killed after being sent back to Europe, while LAMOTH highlighted the importance of helping present-day refugees. Those who attended came from various synagogues and organizations, including University Synagogue, Cool Shul, Temple Sinai of Glendale, Kehillat Israel, Leo Baeck Temple, USC, HIAS (formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), IKAR, the Anti-Defamation League, Temple Beth Am and Temple Isaiah.

LAMOTH Director of Education Jordanna Gessler said it was important for the museum to hold the event because lessons of the Holocaust are relevant today, and important for members of the Jewish community to come together to “learn about the past, reflect on the present and change the future.”

LAMOTH was founded in 1961 by a group of Holocaust survivors whose narratives are at the core of the museum’s galleries and education.

Henry Slucki, a Holocaust survivor, was a participant at the commemoration who spoke about his experiences of being a refugee. Slucki said his family was assisted by HIAS, which for 130 years has protected refugees and helped them rebuild their lives.

L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz also spoke at the event about his father’s experiences as a Holocaust survivor and refugee.

Beth Kean, LAMOTH executive director and a grandchild of Holocaust survivors and refugees, discussed honoring the memory of those who died as a result of the events surrounding the St. Louis.

— Caitlin Cohen, Contributing Writer

From left: Actress and activist Sharon Stone, Magen David Adom (MDA) Chief Operations Officer Ori Shacham, new MDA Chairman of the Board Rabbi Avraham Manela, MDA paramedic Naty Regev and American Friends of MDA Western Region President Dina Leeds. Photo by Orly Halevy

American Friends of Magen David Adom (AFMDA) held a June 21 luncheon at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills to mark the launch of its Iron Dome Protectors of Israel Women’s Division for Magen David Adom (MDA) in L.A.

The event featured a discussion with actress and peace activist Sharon Stone and philanthropist and businessman Michael Milken.

Organized by AFMDA Western regional chair Dina Leeds, the Jewish National Fund and Israel Bonds, the event drew more than 200 women in support of the Eshkol region of Israel, which has been a target of terrorist groups’ rocket and mortar attacks in recent years, and is not protected by Israel’s Iron Dome.

“We want to offer love and resources to our brothers and sisters in Israel who need it most due to the high-risk parts of the country they live in,” Leeds said. “Where there is no literal Iron Dome anti-missile system, we will be their ‘Iron Dome’ of emotional and lifesaving support.”

The event also raised funds to purchase two ambulances for the emergency-response efforts MDA performs in Israel and around the world.

“We unite people of Israel, of all ethnicities, backgrounds and religions,” Leeds said. “We have paramedics who are Jewish, Christian and Muslim, all serving the singular task of saving lives.”

Beverly Hills Mayor Lili Bosse participated in the event via video.

“I commend each and every one of you for being such strong and determined women, each of you leading by example and making a difference,” Bosse told the attendees.

Carolyn Ben Natan, director of public affairs for the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles, also attended.

“We stand on the shoulders of those righteous and fearless biblical women of the Exodus,” Natan said, “and now we have modern Israeli women on the world stage, and there is a direct line from Golda Meir to Gal Gadot.”

Other attendees included Beny Alagem, owner of the recently opened Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills; David Suissa, president of TRIBE Media/Jewish Journal; philanthropist Gina Rafael; Susan Azizzadeh, president of the Iranian American Jewish Federation; Jodi Marcus, associate director of the Jewish National Fund in Los Angeles; Yossi Mentz, AFMDA Western region director of major gifts; and Gadi Yarkoni, mayor of the Eshkol region.

— Mati Geula Cohen, Contributing Writer

With this issue, the Jewish Journal is proud to announce our newest columnist, Ben Shapiro.

Ben Shapiro. Photo courtesy of Jewish National Fund

Shapiro, 33, was born and raised in Los Angeles, where he attended Yeshiva University of Los Angeles Boys High School. He went on to UCLA, where he graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa at age 20, with a bachelor of arts degree in political science.

He graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in 2007 and subsequently practiced law at Goodwin Procter LLP. Today, he runs a Los Angeles independent legal consultancy firm, Benjamin Shapiro Legal Consulting.

Shapiro, who lectures widely on college campuses across the United States, has written seven books, including 2004’s “Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth.” He currently writes a column for Creators Syndicate and is editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire. He is the co-founder and former editor-in-chief of the media watchdog group Truth Revolt and former editor-at-large of Breitbart News. He resigned from Breitbart after what he felt was the website’s insufficient support of its reporter Michelle Fields after she was allegedly assaulted by Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager.

In a March 1, 2016, cover story for the Jewish Journal, “Why the Republican Party Is Dying,” Shapiro decried the candidacy of now-President Trump.

Shapiro’s other books include “Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV” and “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences Americans,” which appeared on The New York Times’ best-seller list.   

He married Mor Toledano, an Israeli citizen of Jewish-Moroccan descent, and lives in Los Angeles. They have two children and belong to an Orthodox congregation.

Shapiro’s column will appear in the Journal twice monthly, alternating with Marty Kaplan.

The Journal is devoted to presenting a pluralistic forum for the many strong, divergent voices in the community, and we are thrilled that Shapiro’s voice now will be among them.

We also want to thank Dennis Prager, who contributed loyally to this publication over the years. He will continue to contribute occasional columns as his time and schedule permit.

— Rob Eshman, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief

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

Moving and Shaking: HUC benefit gala, Schoenberg and IKAR come of age

The Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education recognized Valley Torah Girls High School students Adina Ziv (third from left), Meital Shafgi (fourth from left) and Aviya Gaviel (fifth from left) on May 18. Photo courtesy of the Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education

The Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s (HUC-JIR) fourth annual benefit gala, held at the Skirball Cultural Center on May 16, honored Peachy Levy, Rhea Coskey, Rochelle Ginsburg and other women leaders of the Western region.

Levy sits on the board of overseers of the HUC-JIR Jack H. Skirball Campus in Los Angeles. Coskey became involved with HUC-JIR when her daughter, Laurie, entered rabbinical school, and she went on to mentor students and chair the school’s advisory board. Ginsburg is the chair of the HUC-JIR’s national school of education advisory council.

Sally Priesand, an HUC-JIR ordinee who in 1972 became the first woman rabbi to be ordained in America, was featured in the ceremonies.

Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion honored (from left) Peachy Levy, Rhea Coskey and Rochelle Ginsburg at its fourth annual benefit gala. Photo by Edo Tsoar

The more than 430 attendees included Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills Rabbi Laura Geller; Leo Baeck Temple Rabbi Ken Chasen; Kol Ami Rabbi Denise Eger; Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin and his husband, Temple Akiba Rabbi Zachary Shapiro; Stephen Wise Temple Senior Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback; and Shana Penn, executive director of the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture.

“It was our biggest turnout ever,” HUC-JIR Public Affairs Associate Joanne Tolkoff told the Journal.

Proceeds from the event benefit HUC-JIR students and faculty.

Founded in 1875, HUC-JIR is a Reform seminary focused on academic, spiritual and professional leadership development, with campuses in Los Angeles, New York, Cincinnati and Jerusalem.

“From Generation to Generation,” a community celebration concert, was held May 25 at Sinai Temple on the occasion of Joseph Schoenberg becoming a bar mitzvah. Approximately 1,200 people attended.

His parents, Pamela and Randol Schoenberg, sponsored the event, which was held in memory of Joseph’s great-grandfathers, composers Arnold Schoenberg and Eric Zeisl.

Participants in the musical program included conductor Nick Strimple, associate professor of choral and sacred music at the USC Thornton School of Music and an expert on the works of composers persecuted by the Nazis. Strimple led the Los Angeles Zimriyah Chorale. Additional participants were Los Angeles Voices, the BodyTraffic dance company, and London-based pianist and organist Iain Farrington.

BodyTraffic, which included new addition Natalie Leibert, performed to liturgical works for chorus and organ by Schoenberg and Zeisl, and a newly commissioned work for chorus and organ by composer Samuel Adler.

Randol Schoenberg is an honorary director of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. He is an attorney who has worked to retrieve artwork stolen by the Nazis during World War II, as was depicted in the film “Woman in Gold.”

Joseph, whose bar mitzvah was May 27, volunteered with Food Forward, which saves local produce that otherwise would go to waste, leading up to his bar mitzvah. He donated produce from his bar mitzvah weekend to hunger-relief agencies and, through the website, had environmentally friendly centerpieces at his luncheon. 

celebration and fundraiser held in honor of the 13 years since the founding of the egalitarian spiritual community IKAR was held May 21 at Playa Studios in Culver City.

The “bat mitzvah” event raised about $370,000 and drew a crowd of more than 375 founders, members and supporters, including Richard and Ellen Sandler, Marvin and Sandy Schotland, and actress Lisa Edelstein.

The party had a 1980s theme, with music from that decade playing throughout the event. Attendees viewed a video retrospective on IKAR’s place in the community and were treated to a classic b’nai mitzvah-style candlelighting ceremony.

Attendees dressed in costumes that featured neon tights, blue eye shadow and other staples of ’80s fashion, with some guests invoking Ferris Bueller, Madonna and Michael Jackson. Mini Rubik’s Cubes, slap bracelets and centerpieces featuring jellybeans, malted milk balls, Reese’s Pieces and Good & Plenty candy adorned the tables. IKAR members Shelley and Steph Altman, who own Playa Studios, donated use of the venue, and Diana Kramer designed the interior theme, which featured full-size video game machines and other era-appropriate décor.

The Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews, director of clergy organizing with PICO National Network, the largest grass-roots, faith-based organizing network in the United States, offered words of welcome. “History is past, present and future all at the same time. We are all one people,” he said.

“It took a lot for us to get this thing off the ground, none of it with any assurance of success,” IKAR founding Rabbi Sharon Brous said. “Thank you for casting your lot with us. This is about fighting for civil society.”

— Esther D. Kustanowitz, Contributing Writer

The Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education (CIJE) West Region held community events on May 16 and 18 at the Westside Jewish Community Center.

On May 16, the CIJE Co-Ed Engineering Conference featured SpaceIL co-founder Yonatan Winetraub as its keynote speaker. Addressing approximately 150 teenagers, Winetraub discussed how his organization is aiming to make Israel the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the moon. Additional speakers included Sari Katz, Western Region director for Rambam hospital in Israel. Katz announced a partnership between Rambam and CIJE that would provide a scholarship to students who develop an outstanding biomedical device in 2018.

Students from day schools in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, Seattle and Dallas attended.

“Nobody knows precisely what jobs will be around when you all graduate from college within the next eight to 10 years,” CIJE President Jason Cury told the students. “Which is why it’s so important to develop the skills which will be required, and to be prepared for whatever challenges and opportunities that present themselves.”

From Tarbut V’Torah in Irvine, students Mika Ben-Ezer, Zeke Levi and Julian Wiese received the Award for Innovation for their “Sonic Jacket,” which serves the visually impaired. Harkham-GAON Academy in Los Angeles students Aliza Leichter, Oze Botach and Shani Kassell won the Award of Social Value for designing a car seat that detects when a child is alone in the vehicle. And the Award for Best Visual Display went to Mendy Sacks, Aryeh Rosenbaum and Daniel Jackson from YULA Boys High School for a digital portable piano teacher known as “Teachapii.”

CIJE Vice President Jane Willoughby gave the closing remarks.

The May 18 Girls Engineering Conference drew students from YULA Girls High School and Valley Torah Girls High School.

In the keynote address, engineer Yvette Edidin discussed how “the different fields of engineering need and would benefit from more women,” a CIJE press release said.

Valley Torah’s Adina Ziv, Meital Shafgi and Aviya Gaviel were awarded Project of the Year for their sensor that detects when automobile drivers are getting sleepy and alerts them using a vibrating device.

At the 2017 ADL Entertainment Industry dinner, “Big Bang Theory” co-creator and ADL honoree Bill Prady (second from left) joins (from left) award presenter Wil Wheaton, ADL Regional Director Amanda Susskind and event emcee Joshua Malina. Photo courtesy of the Anti-Defamation League

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) honored Bill Prady, co-creator and executive producer of “The Big Bang Theory,” at the 2017 ADL Entertainment Industry dinner on May 24 at the Beverly Hilton.

Actor Joshua Malina (“Scandal”) served as master of ceremonies and actor Wil Wheaton, a recurring guest star on “The Big Bang Theory,” presented the award to Prady.

“While preparing my remarks for this evening, I emailed Bill and asked him if it will be honest and accurate to tell you that Bill is an outspoken voice for the most vulnerable among us,” Wheaton said. “And Bill said, ‘There is no sentence that begins with, Bill has been vocal about — that is not true.’ ”

Prady, in his speech, talked about his childhood in Detroit.

“Anti-Semitism was a pretty abstract idea. I knew what it meant only from a distance,” he said. “I knew it from the punchline from a Woody Allen movie. Growing up in my Jewish Detroit suburb, I didn’t know anti-Semitism. And it’s not only that. For me, racism was something in social studies class. And hatred of immigrants? I never heard of such a thing. My world was filled with immigrants, so many that I thought that when you grow up, you have an accent. But I know all these things now. We hear it on the news, from our politicians, online.”

Prady explained why he is a supporter of the ADL, which was established in 1913 to combat hate and bigotry.

“After the election, I made a decision to change my personal focus from politics to the front line. The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) was battling the attack on freedom, and Planned Parenthood was fighting for women reproducing rights, but who was fighting to dig out the weed of hate that had taken root in modern technology? It was the Anti-Defamation League,” Prady said. “So I called them up and I asked what I can do to help. And they said to do this, and I said, ‘It’s going to be a pretty boring night.’ So, I called the Barenaked Ladies.”

The Canadian band, which wrote and recorded “The Big Bang Theory” theme song, provided the evening’s entertainment.

Additional speakers included An Nguyen, the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants and an ADL National Youth Leadership delegate.

— Ayala Or-El, Contributing Writer

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

Moving & Shaking: JQ and Kadima galas; LAMOTH student film showcase

From left: The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles Board Chair Julie Platt; Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman; Jewish Federation Valley Alliance Chair Jill Namm; and Federation CEO and President Jay Sanderson come together at “It Takes a Woman,” an event for Federation supporters.

JQ International, an organization serving Los Angeles’ LGBTQ Jews, held its annual JQ Awards Garden Brunch May 7 at the Beverly Hills home of Angela and Jamshid Maddahi.

“It was a gorgeous day honoring three amazing role models who inspire each of us with their work advocating for the LGBTQ Jewish community,” JQ International founder and Executive Director Asher Gellis said in an interview.

The outdoor event honored community leader Courtney Mizel with the Community Leadership Award, Hollywood producer Zvi Howard Rosenman (“Father of the Bride,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) with the Trailblazer Award and image therapist Liana Chaouli with the Inspiration Award.

Presenting Mizel with her award, Esther Netter, CEO of the Zimmer Children’s Museum, called Mizel “a human in tune and a LinkedIn site all her own … she is fluid in her thinking and intensely present.”

Jewish Journal Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman and Jewish Journal President David Suissa presented Rosenman with the Trailblazer Award.

“I was a gay Jew before there were Jewish queers,” Rosenman said, sharing his story of what it was like growing up gay and Orthodox and how he made a name for himself in Hollywood.

From left: JQ International Assistant Director Arya Marvazy; JQ International honorees Courtney Mizel, Zvi Howard Rosenman and Liana Chaouli; and JQ International Executive Director Asher Gellis supported the LGBTQ community at the JQ Awards Garden Brunch. Photo courtesy of JQ International

Amanda Maddahi, JQ’s director of operations, presented the Inspiration Award to Chaouli, her aunt, after sharing moving remarks about growing up in the very house where the event was held.

JQ provides programs, services and education to Los Angeles’ LGBTQ Jews and allies. Its social programming and support services include the JQ Helpline, JQ Speakers Bureau, Inclusion Consulting and support groups.

“Together,” Gellis said, “we are changing hearts and minds, and making our Jewish community more inclusive for all.”

— Esther D. Kustanowitz, Contributing Writer

From left: Kadima Day School honorees Avi Kobi, Ami Fridman, Michaela Fridman and Sivan Kobi attend the day school’s annual gala fundraising event.

West Hills-based Kadima Day School’s April 2 gala at the Hyatt Regency Westlake in Westlake Village honored school supporters Michaela and Ami Fridman, and Sivan and Avi Kobi, and recognized longtime educator Sara Goren with the Excellence in Education Award.

Michaela Fridman and Sivan Kobi serve on the executive committee of Kadima Day School as Parent Teacher Organization co-presidents.

Goren is the Hebrew coordinator and a Hebrew and Judaic studies teacher at Kadima.

Attendees included businessman and philanthropist Naty Saidoff, who pledged $50,000 to the school; Shawn Evenhaim, namesake of the school’s Evenhaim Family Campus; and Scott Abrams, district director for U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), in whose district the school is located.

Kadima Day School operates a preschool, elementary school and middle school.

From left: Remember Us Director Samara Hutman; survivor Eva Nathanson; filmmaker Naja Butler and LAMOTH’s Rachel Fidler attended the “Voices of Hope” student film showcase. Photo by Ryan Torok

The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (LAMOTH) partnered with the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival and Jewish World Watch in holding the April 30 student film showcase “Voices of Hope” at the LAMOTH campus at Pan Pacific Park.

The event featured the screening of 12 student films and immediately followed the Jewish World Watch Walk to End Genocide in Pan Pacific Park.

Attendees included LAMOTH Creative Programs Director Rachel Fidler, who led a panel with the student filmmakers after the screening; Naja Butler, director and star of one of the films, “An American Girl”; Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival Director Hilary Helstein; singer-songwriter, activist and educator Jaclyn Riva Beck; Samrina Vasani, an alumnus of a NewGround program bringing high school-age Jews and Muslims together; and Samara Hutman, director of Remember Us and The Righteous Conversations Project.

The museum received about 500 film submissions from students in sixth through 12th grades around the nation.

The screened films tackled “social justice issues and human stories that matter,” Fidler said in an email. The films addressed issues such as bullying in schools, challenges facing young American Muslims, the subverting of gender stereotypes, and the importance of storytelling in carrying on the memory of the Holocaust.

The gathering, attended by about 30 people, was held in the museum’s upstairs library.

From left: PJTC Rabbi Noam Raucher, U.S. Rep. Judy Chu; Rabbi Marvin Grossman and USC lecturer Peter Braun attended a presentation by Chu at PJTC. Photo courtesy of Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center.

The newly formed social justice committee of the Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center (PJTC) kicked off its programming with an April 20 appearance at the synagogue by U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park), whose district includes Pasadena.

PJTC Rabbi Noam Raucher introduced the congresswoman to the approximately 300 temple members in attendance.

After Chu’s opening remarks, Peter Braun, a synagogue member and University of Southern California lecturer in leadership and management, moderated a Q-and-A session with the audience. Discussion topics ranged from Israel to tax policy and health care.

As the event concluded, Rabbi Marvin Gross, a former nonprofit director and chair of PJTC’s social justice committee, presented Chu with a sign reading “Immigrants & Refugees Welcome, We Must Not Stand Idly By … ”

The sign was part of a campaign launched by members of the social justice committee, who distributed 250 signs in Pasadena and the surrounding area.

— Eitan Arom, Staff Writer

At The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ annual “It Takes a Woman” (ITAW) event on May 10, Olympic gold-medal gymnast Alexandra “Aly” Raisman discussed what it meant to represent the United States and the Jewish people in the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics.

Federation’s Sylvia Weisz Women’s Philanthropy group at the Jewish Federation Valley Alliance organized the event at the Skirball Cultural Center, which drew more than 400 female attendees.

In an onstage interview with Federation President and CEO Jay Sanderson, Raisman discussed her experiences at the two Olympics, the challenges of being a female athlete and how she is now using that experience to teach younger generations about confidence, kindness and positive body image.

Raisman, 22, is a two-time captain of the Olympic gold-medal-winning U.S. women’s gymnastics team and the second most-decorated American female gymnast in the history of the sport. She has earned six Olympic medals, including three gold.

ITAW is focused on introducing women to the work of Federation. Women are the fastest-growing segment of donors within Federation, with gifts made by women in their own names comprising 25 percent of its annual fundraising campaign, according to Federation’s website.

— Esther D. Kustanowitz, Contributing Writer

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

Moving and Shaking: Autism performing arts, Aish gala, and Mensch Foundation honoring Bush family

Steve Geiger (far right) presents the Mensch Award to former President George H.W. Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush. Photo courtesy of the Mensch International Foundation

Holocaust aid organization Mensch International Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to assisting Hungarian Holocaust survivors, honored former President George H.W. Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush with the Mensch Award at Congregation Beth Israel in Houston, the oldest Jewish congregation in Texas, on March 8.

“In a time today when we question our politicians’ ethics, when we question our politicians’ behavior and decency, this man, George Bush, and his wife were impeccable. They had no scandals, whether monetary or family-related. They are decent people and that’s what menschlikayt stands for,” Steve Geiger, founder of the Mensch International Foundation, said in an interview. Geiger, a former Los Angeles resident who currently lives in Palm Springs, said the former president played an important role in getting Ethiopian Jews to Israel.

“Without his help, it might not have happened,” Geiger said.

The organization promotes tolerance and offers Holocaust education programs in Hungary, which has the largest Jewish population in central Europe, he said.

Previous Mensch International Foundation honorees include Branko Lustig, a Holocaust survivor who was a producer on the movies “Schindler’s List” and “Gladiator.”

“We figure if we give the award to prominent people that the message will get across more,” Geiger said. “We also give it to very simple people.”

Special needs advocate Lucy Meyer, 17 — a Bel Air resident who has cerebral palsy and a Special Olympics athlete whose family belongs to Leo Baeck Temple — visited with U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein on April 3 at the senator’s Washington, D.C., office.

“Lucy loves Senator Feinstein,” said Jamie Meyer, Lucy’s mother.

Lucy, who is in 10th grade, was in the nation’s capital to speak at the UNICEF USA 2017 Annual Meeting, a four-day event that brought together UNICEF supporters, partners, constituents and students.

Special Olympics athlete and Leo Baeck Temple congregant Lucy Meyer meets with Sen. Dianne Feinstein at the  California senator’s  office in Washington. Photo courtesy of Lucy Meyer

Special Olympics athlete and Leo Baeck Temple congregant Lucy Meyer meets with Sen. Dianne Feinstein at the
California senator’s
office in Washington. Photo courtesy of Lucy Meyer

During the trip, Lucy also met with U.S. Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) to discuss “kids with disabilities and Lucy’s work to support the partnership between UNICEF USA and Special Olympics,” as well as ways to broaden the partnership between Special Olympics Southern California and the Los Angeles Unified School District, Jamie said. Lucy has met with more than half of the U.S. Senate, both Republicans and Democrats, to discuss the needs of athletes with disabilities, her mother said.

Sinai Temple Rabbi Erez Sherman participated in the Jerusalem Winner Marathon on March 17. Photo courtesy of Rabbi Erez Sherman

Sinai Temple Rabbi Erez Sherman participated in the Jerusalem Winner Marathon on March 17. Photo courtesy of Rabbi Erez Sherman

Sinai Temple delegation of 10 people, led by the congregation’s Rabbi Erez Sherman, traveled to Israel to participate in the seventh annual Jerusalem Winner Marathon on March 17.

The group ran as part of Team Shalva and raised nearly $31,000 for Shalva, an Israeli organization serving people with mental and physical disabilities. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said the event is the “most socially engaged marathon in Israel, with more than 6,000 runners participating to promote social causes.”

Sherman and his younger sister, Nitza, a nurse at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, participated in honor of their brother, Eyal, a quadriplegic.

Rich Garcia, head of Sinai Temple security, a U.S. military veteran and a Jew by Choice, also participated. Garcia ran in honor of a friend who died in a suicide bombing in Iraq.

Wendy Merchan, who is Catholic and a preschool teacher at Sinai Akiba Academy, also ran with the group, along with her two sisters.

“So, in short, not your normal group going to Israel,” Sherman told the Journal.

And for Garcia, the March 12-20 trip to Israel was about more than running in the marathon. He had his bar mitzvah during Shabbat at the Western Wall.

Students with autism and students from Sinai Akiba Academy came together Feb. 27 at Sinai Temple for a production of “The Intimidation Game.”

Scheduled in honor of February being Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month, “The Intimidation Game” is an original musical about overcoming bullying and finding one’s true community. It is a production of The Miracle Project, a community theater group founded in 2004 by Elaine Hall that features cast members on and off the autism spectrum. The Emmy-winning documentary “Autism: The Musical” spotlighted the Miracle Project’s acclaimed arts program.

About 300 Sinai Akiba Academy students were in the audience for the performance of “The Intimidation Game,” which debuted last year at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills.

Dahlia Trilling, a cast member and Sinai Akiba Academy student, raised funds and awareness for The Miracle Project as part of her bat mitzvah community service project. Her older sister, Lyla, also has volunteered for and performed with The Miracle Project. The sisters, who are not on the  autisum spectrum, are mentors at The Miracle Project. The program’s next musical, “Work in Progress,” will debut April 30.

From left, back row: Steve Gamer, Rabbi Susan Nanus, Steve Ross, Josh Moss, Shaina Hammerman and Dan Rothblatt, and from left, front row: Susan Mattisinko, Ross Melnick, Michael Renov, Vince Brook, David Isaacs and Lew Groner attend “From Shtetl to Stardom: Jews and Hollywood,” a discussion at Wilshire Boulevard Temple. Photo by Steve Cohn/USC

From left, back row: Steve Gamer, Rabbi Susan Nanus, Steve Ross, Josh Moss, Shaina Hammerman and Dan Rothblatt, and from left, front row: Susan Mattisinko, Ross Melnick, Michael Renov, Vince Brook, David Isaacs and Lew Groner attend “From Shtetl to Stardom: Jews and Hollywood,” a discussion at Wilshire Boulevard Temple. Photo by Steve Cohn/USC

More than 250 people attended “From Shtetl to Stardom: Jews and Hollywood,” a March 5 discussion at Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s Irmas Campus in West Los Angeles.

The panelists in the discussion were Vince Brook, a lecturer at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television; Shaina Hammerman, a Bay Area lecturer on Jewish film, literature, religion and cultural history; David Isaacs, a television writer who won an Emmy for his work on “Cheers”; Ross Melnick, a UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) associate professor of film and media studies; and Josh Moss, a UCSB visiting professor of film and media studies. Michael Renov, a USC cinema studies professor, moderated.

“The panel of prominent television and film academics and entertainment professionals offered a uniquely multifaceted and up-to-the-minute account of the remarkable role Jews have played in the entertainment industry and in American popular culture,” a press release said.

The panelists discussed Jewish comedians Amy Schumer and Sarah Silverman; Jill Soloway’s television series “Transparent”; the Jewishness of Matthew Weiner’s “Mad Men” and more.

The USC Casden Institute organized the event, which was supported by the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles.

Jewish outreach organization Aish Los Angeles’ April 2 gala at the California Science Center celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 1967 unification of Jerusalem; paid tribute to late philanthropist Charles Howard Boxenbaum, who died in 2016; and honored several of its supporters.

The gala’s opening reception and dinner were held in the museum’s entrance hall, and the honors and awards were presented in the Space Shuttle Endeavour exhibit, beneath the shuttle. The Leadership Award was given to Stacey and Julian Maimin, Lauren and Zigi Dromy, and Kellie and Jeff Singer for their underwriting of buses for Israel trips taken by Aish’s Jewish Women’s Initiative (JWI) and Jewish Men’s Initiative.

“I wanted to make a difference in the lives of Jewish families in Los Angeles,” Lauren Dromy said in a prerecorded video. “It was very important for us to underwrite a second bus for JWI. When I went back [to Israel] a second time, I went as a community leader. I became a teacher and a role model.”

The event also honored Aish L.A. rabbinic staff member Rabbi Yitz Jacobs in recognition of his educational excellence.

“I feel like I was created to invest in people and bring out their souls,” Jacobs said. “What keeps me inspired is the beauty of witnessing the spiritual journey of my students.”

Patrick Amar, who operates a tour company in Israel, emceed the event.

More than 800 people attended, including philanthropist Marvin Markowitz; Jewish Journal President David Suissa; StandWithUs co-founders Roz and Jerry Rothstein; Beverly Hills pawn broker Yossi Dina; philanthropist Barak Raviv; Israeli American Council National Chairman Adam Milstein and his wife Gila; and American Friends of Magen David Adom Regional President Dina Leeds and her husband Fred.

Rabbi Steven Burg, director general of Aish HaTorah Jerusalem, concluded the program with remarks.

“For Aish HaTorah … our job is to teach people that they have potential, to teach Jews that they have a job to do, that we have to be there for each other, be there for Israel, be there for Jerusalem, the eternal capital of our people,” Burg said.

— Mati Geula Cohen, Contributing Writer

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Moving and Shaking: U.S. Holocaust Museum dinner, de Toledo names new head, Republican Jews meet in Vegas

From left, Lenny and Janet Rosenblatt, Max Webb, Holocaust survivor, 100th Birthday Honoree, Ken and Sheryl Pressberg pose during the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum 2017 Los Angeles Dinner on Thursday, March 2, 2017, in Beverly Hills, California. Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on March 2 honored Janet and Lenny Rosenblatt and Sheryl and Kenneth Pressberg with the 2017 National Leadership Award, and recognized survivor and philanthropist Max Webb on his 100th birthday.

“As we gather tonight, we are thinking about the threats to JCCs, Jewish day schools and threats to Jewish cemeteries,” dinner co-chair Carol Stulberg said in her remarks. Her co-chairs were Steven and Debbie Abrams, Jill Black, Stanley Black, Fred and Dina Leeds, Nancy Mishkin, Carol and Jac Stulberg, and David Wiener.

The evening at the Beverly Hilton supported the museum’s current campaign, “Never Again: What You Do Matters,” and drew an estimated 1,000 attendees, including actress Rachel Bloom, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, restaurateur Barbara Lazaroff, Remember Us director Samara Hutman and Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer.

The evening began with a video tribute to late Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel, followed by remarks by Sinai Temple Rabbi David Wolpe. Steven Klappholz, director of the museum’s Western regional office, also attended.

Wolpe spoke of Webb’s history as a dance teacher and said his survival and the survival of those like him had meant something to succeeding generations.

“Those of you who are survivors and have given us so much, like Max, you have not returned from hell with empty hands,” Wolpe said. “Your hands are full and you fill us, and we are grateful, and we bless you for that goodness, and we bless this land that opened its arms to so many of you and brought you into this nation and to our lives as a tribute to the resilience of the human spirit, to the possibilities of reaching across generations and cultures to the great unending human dance.”

From left: Leah Schachter, director of Summer@ETTA; Danny Gott of Danny’s Farm; and Miriam Maya, director of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Caring for Jews in Need and the Los Angeles Jewish Abilities Center, attend the third annual Jewish Community Inclusion Festival. Photo by Cathy Gott.

From left: Leah Schachter, director of Summer@ETTA; Danny Gott of Danny’s Farm; and Miriam Maya, director of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Caring for Jews in Need and the Los Angeles Jewish Abilities Center, attend the third annual Jewish Community Inclusion Festival. Photo by Cathy Gott.

Celebrating Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month, the third annual Jewish Community Inclusion Festival was held Feb. 26 at Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services.

More than 200 members of the Jewish community turned out at the social services organization’s Cheviot Hills campus to enjoy gymnastics and fitness activities, arts and crafts, a book reading with children’s author Karen Winnick, a photo booth, a singing performance by children with special needs, and Danny’s Farm, which provides a farm setting for people living with disabilities.

The event was one of several Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles Community Service Day projects.

Attendees included Miriam Maya, director of Federation’s Caring for Jews in Need (CJIN) and the Los Angeles Jewish Abilities Center; Lori Klein, senior vice president of CJIN; Sarah Blitzstein, program coordinator at HaMercaz, a program of Federation and Jewish Family Service Los Angeles; Andrew Cushnir, Federation executive vice president; and Cathy Gott, co-founder of Education Spectrum and Danny’s Farm. Gott attended with her son, Danny, for whom Danny’s Farm was created.

Special needs children include those with autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy.

ms-shpallMark Shpall has been named the new head of school at de Toledo High School (dTHS), beginning July 1, 2018, when he will replace Bruce Powell, the founding head of school, Bruce Gersh, president of the school’s board of directors, announced in a March 3 letter.

“Mr. Shpall’s history within our community and his background make him uniquely qualified to lead dTHS and to expand upon the foundation built by our founding Head of School, Dr. Bruce Powell,” Gersh wrote in the letter.

Shpall has served in a variety of positions at the school, including dean of students, director of community programming, dean of 11th and 12th grades, and Advanced Placement government teacher. He has a bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Barbara, a law degree from USC and a master’s degree in education from Pepperdine.

Shpall wrote in a letter that he is excited to assume his position: “We are a school that on a daily basis creates the next generation of Jewish leaders as we fill the souls and the minds of our students in equal measure. I look forward to deepening and strengthening this mission.”

During the 2017-18 school year, Shpall will become head of school designate under the direction of Powell.

Powell began his journey in Jewish day school education more than 30 years ago. He was the inaugural general studies principal at the boys and girls schools at Yeshiva University Los Angeles, where he worked for 13 years, and he served as principal of what is now Milken Community Schools before joining New Community Jewish High School, now known as de Toledo, in 2002. 

The school, located in West Hills, has 400 students in grades nine through 12.

— Kylie Ora Lobell, Contributing Writer

 From left: Josh Kaplan, Mati Geula Cohen, Allen Alevy, Brandon Kaufman and Gabrielle Goldfarb attend the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership meeting in Las Vegas. Photo by Ryan Torok.

From left: Josh Kaplan, Mati Geula Cohen, Allen Alevy, Brandon Kaufman and Gabrielle Goldfarb attend the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership meeting in Las Vegas. Photo by Ryan Torok.

Members of the Los Angeles Jewish community were among the more than 500 attendees at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual national leadership meeting at the Venetian Las Vegas Resort Hotel Casino on Feb. 24-26.

Cal State Northridge student Brandon Kaufman kvelled about the opportunity to hear from Vice President Mike Pence, who spoke on the first day of the conference.

“It was an incredible experience to hear him speak,” said Kaufman, whose attendance at the exclusive event, which drew coalition donors and their guests, was subsidized by Los Angeles philanthropist Allen Alevy.

“I’m almost 80 years old,” Alevy, who also was in attendance, said. “I’m old enough to have my eyes open. President [Franklin] Roosevelt [a Democrat] … could’ve saved 6 million Jews. He saved no one. … If you learn from history, if you care about the Jewish people, then you are a Republican Jewish Coalition member. … If you don’t care, then you can vote any way you want. Remember, the liberal Democrats have done nothing for us [Jews] ever.”

Kicking off the weekend event — called a gathering of “poker, politics and policy” — Pence discussed the U.S.-Israel relationship, the Trump administration’s support for Jews at a time of increased anti-Semitism, and President Donald Trump’s intention to scrap his predecessor’s health care plan, create jobs and enforce a strict immigration policy.

“We’re going to enact real immigration reform that gives families more choices and will end the broken system that puts the status quo ahead of our kids, and we’re going to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America and the values we hold dear,” Pence told the crowd, which included Angelenos Fred Leeds, Adam Milstein, Mati Geula Cohen, Adam King, Elan Carr and Josh Kaplan.

Additional speakers included Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who is Jewish, and Rep. David Kustoff, the freshman congressman from Tennessee, who is one of two Jewish Republicans in the House of Representatives. The other is Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York.

Gabrielle Goldfarb, a student at the University of Wisconsin, attended with her father, Laurence, of Great Neck, N.Y. The younger Goldfarb told the Journal she was grateful to have a moment away from a university she described as a “very liberal school” and to spend time with like-minded people.

“It’s great to come together and be with people with similar beliefs and values,” she said, “and be surrounded by successful people who want a strong United States and Israel relationship.”

Attendees at the B’nai-David Judea 69th annual dinner include (from left) Danielle Kupferman, David Kasirer, Steven Kupferman, honoree Rachel Kasirer, and Tammy, Ben, Ethan and Coralia Lesin. Photo by Laura Casner Photography.

Attendees at the B’nai-David Judea 69th annual dinner include (from left) Danielle Kupferman, David Kasirer, Steven Kupferman, honoree Rachel Kasirer, and Tammy, Ben, Ethan and Coralia Lesin. Photo by Laura Casner Photography.

Recognizing successive generations of B’nai David-Judea Congregation members, the synagogue’s 69th annual dinner on Feb. 26 honored Gail Katz and Mayer Bick with the Migdal David Award, Steve Lowenstein with the Chasdei David Award, and Rachel Kasirer, Zev Nagel and Rabbi Ari Schwarzberg with the Tzemach David Award.

Katz, Bick and Lowenstein were honored “for their lasting contributions to the spiritual life of the B’nai David community,” and Kasirer, Nagel and Schwarzberg, members of the Modern Orthodox synagogue’s young professionals minyan, were recognized “for their commitment to communal growth,” said B’nai David-Judea executive director Adynna Swarz.

More than 300 people came to Stephen Wise Temple to celebrate the honorees, several of whom were involved with bringing to the congregation its first female clergy member, Rabbanit Alissa Thomas-Newborn. Attendees included the congregation’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, who “has built B’nai David-Judea into a leading center of modern Orthodoxy,” according to the congregation’s website; and congregation president Shana Fishman, vice president at large Duke Helfand, secretary Nick Merkin and treasurer Ranon Kent.

“The dinner was a major success and raised important funds for B’nai David,” Swarz said.

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Moving and shaking: Atid, YRF Darca, Parviz Nazarian and more

Atid, the young professionals group of Sinai Temple, has named Becky Blitz the Atid Outstanding Leadership Honoree for 2016. The UC Santa Barbara alumna, Emmy Award winner, marathon runner and certified yoga instructor was honored during Atid’s “Second Annual Gala: A Casino Royale” on Aug. 6 at Sinai Temple.

Blitz, who teaches yoga classes regularly at Sinai Temple to Atid members and was introduced to the congregation through the Friday Night Live service, said Atid is an important part of her life.

“Right now is a very special time for Atid, and I’m very proud to be part of it,” Blitz, a supervising producer on the reality television series “Shark Tank,” said in a statement.

Dressed in cocktail attire, attendees who gathered in her honor mixed and mingled over drinks, craps tables and more. They included Sinai Temple Cantor Marcus Feldman, Atid Director Matt Baram, Sinai Temple Rabbi Jason Fruithandler, Atid Coordinator Emily Dusedau and Bryce Emily Megdal, the JCamp summer song leader at the Westside Jewish Community Center.

Sponsors were Sinai Temple Men’s Club, Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles, the American Jewish University Graduate School of Education and American Jewish Committee ACCESS.

More than 100 people filed into Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills on Aug. 13 to take part in a program titled “Tisha b’Av: Reimagined.”

An annual fast day in Judaism, Tisha b’Av commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. The Washington D.C.-based Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) and Reform CA, a network of Reform leaders pushing for social change, created the program.

As part of the evening, Temple Emanuel Cantor Lizzie Weiss and Senior Rabbi Jonathan Aaron joined Temple Israel of Hollywood’s Rabbi Jocee Hudson in leading an interactive discussion connecting the ancient destruction commemorated by Tisha b’Av to relevant modern tragedies. Discussion centered on study, prayer and action’s role in framing the issue of mass incarceration.

But the goal was to do more than start a conversation, Weiss said. “It’s one thing to just reflect on what mass incarceration has looked like, but it’s something else to look forward,” she said. “This was also about looking at how to take action.”

RAC representative Lee Winkelman was on hand to encourage voter participation this November to help pass Prop 57, a ballot measure aiming to allow for the early release of nonviolent offenders and transfer authority from prosecutors to judges on whether or not to try juveniles as adults. 

This was the second year Los Angeles’ congregations have come together to take part in “Tisha b’Av: Reimagined”; Leo Baeck Temple served as host last year, when gun violence was the main topic. The goal is to have a different synagogue host the program each year, Weiss said.

— Oren Peleg, Contributing Writer

Nearly 600 Iranian-Jewish community members attended the Aug. 7 release of local Iranian-Jewish businessman and philanthropist Parviz Nazarian’s Farsi-language memoirs at the Director’s Guild of America theater in Los Angeles. 

From left: Soraya Nazarian, Younes Nazarian, Parviz Nazarian and Pouran Nazarian. Photo by Karmel Melamed

The evening featured a brief documentary of Nazarian’s life, from his beginnings in the poverty-stricken Jewish ghetto of Tehran in the late 1920s to his emigration to Israel in 1947, where he fought in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. The film also highlighted Nazarian’s business career in the manufacturing sector in Iran and the United States, and as one of the founders of Qualcomm in the late 1980s.

Speakers shared highlights from Nazarian’s memoirs, “My Walk Toward the Horizon: A Memoir by Parviz Nazarian” (Ketab Corporation). Local Iranian-Jewish community activist Frank Nikbakht praised Nazarian’s work ethic and generosity toward Jewish causes in Los Angeles and Israel. “Nazarian’s memoirs are … the tale of a person possessing an indomitable pioneer spirit who overcame many obstacles,” Nikbakht said.

The evening included traditional Persian instrumental music performances and live Middle Eastern dance. Nazarian, who was born in 1929, was joined by his younger brother and business partner Younes Nazarian, as well as close friends and family members. His eldest daughter, Dora Nazarian Kadisha, spoke about her father’s role as an Iranian-Jewish community leader over many decades. “What stands out for me is what was most important to him throughout his life — love, forgiveness and generosity,” she said.

Nikbakht, who helped edit the Farsi memoirs and translated the book into English, said he expects the English version to be published in the coming year.

Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer

Youth Renewal Fund (YRF) Darca honored two of its Los Angeles leaders, Allison and Bennett Rosenthal, at its May 16 New York gala, held at Spring Studios. YRF Darca is the philanthropic funding partner of the Darca schools in Israel, a network of 25 schools and two learning centers that support low-income students in 16 Israeli cities. 

YRF Darca Board Member Bennett Rosenthal and his wife, Allison, were honored by YRF Darca. Photo by Jayd Jackson Photography

“Our success wouldn’t be possible without the exemplary leadership and vision of our dear friends Allison and Bennett. As longtime supporters, Allison and Bennett have dedicated over 25 years toward advancing the scholastic excellence of Israel’s underserved populations and have spearheaded the exponential growth in L.A.,” YRF Darca CEO Raphael Sutton said in a statement.

Bennett is on the board of directors of YRF Darca and is the co-founder of Ares, an asset management company. Allison is a retired attorney and is on the board of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ NuRoots, which engages Jewish young adults.

Approximately 450 people attended the event, including upward of 50 Los Angeles residents, and more than 250 Los Angeles-based YRF Darca supporters contributed to the fund-raiser, according to YRF. The event raised more than “$1.5 million to boost social mobility for lower-income students in Israel,” according to a YRF press release.

Singer-songwriter Rachel Platten, whose hit “Fight Song” was featured during the recent Democratic National Convention, performed at the gala.

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Moving and shaking: Chabad of Santa Clarita Valley, Amit Ruderman and more

Although members of the Chabad of Santa Clarita Valley were spared the destruction of the Sand fire that burned for weeks, “a lot of them had very close calls,” said Rabbi Choni Marozov, who runs the Chabad house there.

“They ran away from their homes with the flames literally 50 feet away,” he said.

On July 29, a Friday evening, locals gathered to say a special prayer “thanking HaShem for saving their homes and saving their lives,” Marozov said. The last evacuation orders had been lifted earlier that day, the Los Angeles Daily News reported.

The 40,000-acre Sand fire destroyed 18 homes and killed one person.  

As it burned, Marozov packed his car full of water and kosher snacks and drove around looking for a shelter to accept the supplies. After being turned down twice — as it happened, he wasn’t the only one looking to help, and pantries had already been filled — he finally found a firehouse willing to take the water and snacks. 

“I had to go from one shelter to another shelter trying to deliver my water and food and being turned away because there was just too much,” he said.

He added, “The community really, really came out.”

— Eitan Arom, Staff Writer

Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF), a New York-based nonprofit, dedicates itself to supporting the soldiers who defend the Jewish state. The group has also opened its arms to the families left behind by soldiers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

In July, it brought 21 bar and bat mitzvah-age children and siblings of slain soldiers to spend 11 days at Moshava California, an overnight camp in the San Bernardino National Forest, as part of the FIDF’s Legacy program.

They were joined by two IDF commanders in the Casualty and Wounded Department as well as six counselors, each of whom has experienced the loss of a loved one.

The young people who participated in the trip had a chance to try their hands at archery, rock climbing, swimming and horseback riding at the camp in Running Springs near Big Bear Lake, according to an FIDF press release.

A week into the trip, they visited Disneyland.

“By bringing them to Los Angeles and giving them everlasting memories, we have been able to bring smiles to their faces, which truly is a priceless gift,” Miri Nash, the western region executive director of FIDF, said in the press release.

— Eitan Arom, Staff Writer

Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills (TEBH) congregant Shana Passman was installed as chair of the board of directors of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFSLA).

Shana Passman (left), chair of the board of directors of Jewish Family Service Los Angeles, and Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills Rabbi Emerita Laura Geller. Photo by Aaron Nardi

Passman, who previously served as vice chair of the Jewish social service organization’s board, succeeds Debby Barak, who will remain on the JFSLA board.

JFSLA’s other 2016-18 board appointments are: Tami Stapf, vice chair for resource development; Nina Tassler, vice chair of special projects; Tami Kagan-Abrams, vice chair of programs; Doreen Klee, vice chair of volunteers; David Felman, treasurer; and Janet Rifkin, secretary.

TEBH Rabbi Emerita Laura Geller served as the installing officer during the June 27 ceremony at American Jewish University.

On July 24, the Israeli short film “Underground,” about an underground street fighter, won best action/adventure film at Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival (CCI-IFF). 

Israeli filmmaker Amit Ruderman is honored at the Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival. Photo courtesy of

CCI-IFF was held July 21-24 at the San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina, as part of Comic-Con International’s 17th year.

“We came. We saw. We had fun. We won!!!!!!!” Amit Ruderman, the star, director and producer of the film, said on Facebook. Adam Robson, the film’s co-director, was also present during the award presentation.

“Underground” is Ruderman’s first film to be shown before an international audience. He has created other short films that have been broadcast on Israeli television. 

This year, CCI-IFF showcased films from the United States, Canada, France, Greece, Israel, New Zealand and Portugal, according to the Comic-Con International website.

Touro College Los Angeles (TCLA) has appointed its current director of college affairs, Rabbi David Jacobson, as its dean, according to an Aug. 2 Touro College & University System (TCUS) announcement.

Touro College Los Angeles Dean Rabbi David Jacobson. Photo courtesy of Touro College and University System

“We are pleased that Rabbi Dr. Jacobson has moved into his new role,” TCUS President Alan Kadish said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to working with Rabbi Jacobson and to see his vision for TCLA come to fruition.”

In his new role, Jacobson, who succeeds interim dean Michael Hamlin — TCLA’s founding dean, Esther Lowy, died in December 2014  — will lead educational and administrative teams, advise students and oversee the budget. He expressed excitement about the new position.

“I’m honored with the opportunity to expand my role at TCLA as we step up our efforts to grow the student body and our institutional footprint in the community,” Jacobson, who received a doctorate and a master’s degree in education from UCLA and has 30 years of experience in Jewish education, said in a statement.

With branches around the world, Touro College caters to Orthodox individuals who choose not to study at secular college campuses, while also providing nonobservant individuals the opportunity to study Torah. 

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Moving and shaking: Transgender in the IDF, Shana Torah and more

“My story really is a fairy tale,” said Shachar, a transgender Israel Defense Forces lieutenant at an event at Congregation Kol Ami (the IDF does not permit the use of the first names of active-duty personnel). “That’s why I want to share it. I want everybody to have a chance for their own fairy tale.”

At the June 24 gathering of about 40 people, which included Israel Consul General David Siegel, Shachar talked about coming out, first to his family and then to the IDF, and the acceptance he experienced all along the way.

Shachar said that as a child he always behaved like a boy, but didn’t come out as identifying as male to his family until he was 16. His parents and siblings were accepting and loving. Years later, when he came out while in the IDF, Shachar said, the military was equally open.

Shachar had enlisted as a woman and served the requisite two years for a female soldier. He then enrolled in officer training, at which time he came out to his fellow officers. After completing his training, he started the process to physically become a male. He is currently undergoing hormone treatment and is scheduled for surgery.

At every base and every assignment, his commanding officers were aware of and accepted his male identity, Shachar said. “The officers always did the right thing.”

The IDF has admitted personnel regardless of their sexual orientation since 1993. An IDF chief of staff’s women’s affairs adviser, Brig. Gen. Rachel Tevet-Wiesel, addresses cases of sexual harassment (experienced by males and females) and other issues affecting transgender personnel.

Gay and lesbian personnel have been permitted to serve openly in the U.S. armed forces since the 2010 repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” but the Pentagon’s ban on transgender personnel serving openly was just lifted on June 30. 

— Lakshna Mehta, Contributing Writer

Woodland Hills Conservative congregation Temple Aliyah has hired Rabbi Benjamin Goldstein as its second rabbi, effective July 18.

New Temple Aliyah Rabbi Ben Goldstein. Photo courtesy of Temple Aliyah

He previously worked at Temple Beth-El Mekor Chayim in New Jersey and at Beit T’Shuvah, the Los Angeles-based rehabilitation center. He is a graduate of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at American Jewish University.

The shul’s rabbinic search committee recommended Goldstein’s hiring to the synagogue board of directors, according to a June 15 letter signed by Temple Aliyah President Rick Shumacher.

According to the letter, Goldstein visited the synagogue in May, participated in a Shabbat service and “it was clear at that time that Rabbi Goldstein had the mix of skills and experience that the search committee was seeking, and that he could step into the role … as one of the spiritual leaders of our congregation,” Shumacher wrote.

Temple Aliyah serves approximately 1,000 families.

Goldstein succeeds Rabbi Gabriel Botnick, who has been hired as the head rabbi at Temple Mishkon Tephilo in Venice, effective Aug. 1.

New Temple Mishkon Tephilo Rabbi Gabriel Botnick. Photo courtesy of Mishkon Tephilo 

Botnick is succeeding Mishkon Tephilo’s current rabbi, Dan Shevitz, 65, who is retiring and will become the Conservative synagogue’s rabbi emeritus.

“I’m sure there will be tons of new programming and changes, and I’m really excited,” Mishkon Tephilo Executive Director Kelley Courtney said in an interview, adding that she hopes the new leadership will help Mishkon Tephilo, which serves approximately 150 families, grow.

“I’d like to double that,” Courtney said.

Beginning Aug. 1, Rabbi Liat Yardeni-Funk, former director of Milken Community Schools’ Tiferet Fellowship program, will be the new dean at the Academy for Jewish Religion, California’s (AJRCA) rabbinic school. Yardeni-Funk will succeed Rabbi Rochelle Robins, the schools’ interim dean. Robins was appointed after Rabbi Michael Menitoff left the position in December 2015. 

Rabbi Liat Yardeni-Funk, the Academy for Jewish Religion, California rabbinical school’s new dean. Courtesy of Rabbi Liat Yardeni-Funk

Born in Jerusalem, Yardeni-Funk attended an all-girls yeshiva and as a young girl became interested in studying Talmud. 

She served as a second lieutenant in the Israel Defense Forces Intelligence Unit during the first Lebanon war. After her military service, Yardeni-Funk received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from UCLA and her master’s degree in education from Cal State Northridge. She received a second master’s degree in Talmud and rabbinic studies from AJRCA and was ordained at its rabbinic school in 2006. 

Previously, Yardeni-Funk served as director of education at Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel; director of education at Camp Ramah; rabbi and director of Judaic studies at Stephen S. Wise Temple; and most recently, director of Milken’s Tiferet Israel Fellowship, a program in which the high school’s students live and study in Israel during the second semester of their sophomore year. 

Rabbi Laura Owens, AJRCA’s interim president, said, “Rabbi Liat Yardeni-Funk will bring a passion for education and connection to Israel as well as an ability to relate to all constituents as she has been a student, alumna and now the rabbinic dean.”

— Kayla Cohen, Contributing Writer

Shalom Institute rededicated its newly restored, 200-year-old community Holocaust Torah on the first Shabbat of Camp JCA Shalom’s first session on June 25 in Malibu. The Torah — on loan since 1989 from the Memorial Scrolls Trust in London — is one of nearly 1,600 scrolls from the former Czechoslovakia to have survived the Holocaust. 

Shalom Institute President Adam Weiss holds the Torah before it was unrolled for Executive Director Rabbi Bill Kaplan’s blessing at Camp JCA Shalom in Malibu. Photo by Marsha Katz Rothpan

The Torah restoration project, called Shana Torah, kicked off at the camp’s first Shabbat last summer. During the past year, Shana Torah included educational programs, scribing events with Rabbi Moshe Druin — a scribe with Sofer on Site — and a fundraising campaign. The year-end goal is $50,000, and more than $36,000 has been raised so far. 

About 400 campers, staffers and family members attended the event, witnessing the unrolling of the Torah and participating in blessing the scroll. Board members Ari Moss, Andrea Spatz, Gil Breakman and Shalom Institute President Adam Weiss were present. 

“Our Shana Torah has had such a tremendous impact on all who participated in this incredible experience. And now, our Torah, along with its legacy, has been rededicated and put back into use for the thousands of campers, students and families who experience Shalom Institute each year,” Shalom Institute Executive Director Bill Kaplan told the Journal. 

— Virginia Isaad, Contributing Writer

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Moving and shaking: Lev Chayal, Salute to Hollywood gala and more

Gal Malachi and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers under his command were stationed in a United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza when the building suddenly collapsed: It had been booby-trapped by Hamas. Three soldiers died and another 22 were injured, including Malachi. 

On June 28, Malachi spoke at a gala in Pico-Robertson honoring Israeli soldiers wounded during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. He is one of 10 soldiers brought to Los Angeles for a 10-day vacation by the recently formed local organization Lev Chayal, which translates to “heart of a soldier.”

“We’re very honored that this whole event is for us,” Malachi said at the reception, held at The Mark event space. “It makes us feel so special and so loved.”

Brocha Yemini, 23, co-founded the organization in January with her childhood friend Chaya Israily, 24. Their aim in starting the group was to engage the local Jewish community, particularly young people, in supporting those who “sacrificed their bodies for the Jewish people,” Yemini said. They hope to provide this trip annually.

The trip included visits to Universal Studios, Knott’s Berry Farm and Dodger Stadium, where Dodgers president and part-owner Stan Kasten brought them onto the field during a game.

“We basically brought them here to uplift their spirits,” Yemini said.

Marvin Markowitz, a real estate developer who owns The Mark, was one of a number of donors who helped fund the trip. 

“I love their energy,” he said of Yemini and Israily. “They really, really care about the work they’re doing.”

—Eitan Arom, Staff Writer

The third annual benefit gala for Yad Vashem, co-hosted by the American Society for Yad Vashem and Jewish Life Foundation, took place June 6 at the Beverly Wilshire hotel. More than 350 people attended the “Salute to Hollywood” evening, which honored Holocaust survivors and raised more than $600,000. 

From left: Hollywood executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, Holocaust survivor Max Stodel and actor Edward James Olmos attended the American Society for Yad Vashem benefit gala, “A Salute to Hollywood.” Photo courtesy of American Society for Yad Vashem

Actor, director and producer Tony Goldwyn presented the Legacy Award to Meyer Gottlieb, film producer and former president of Samuel Goldwyn Films, and to Branko Lustig, Oscar-winning producer of “Schindler’s List.” Jeffrey Katzenberg presented the Vanguard Award to The Hollywood Reporter Entertainment Group President/COO Janice Min and The Hollywood Reporter Entertainment Group EVP/Group Publisher Lynne Segall. Real estate developer and philanthropist David Wiener was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award. 

“The inspiration for this year’s gala came straight from the pages of The Hollywood Reporter,” Ron Meier, American Society for Yad Vashem executive director, said at the event. “Their groundbreaking story ‘The Last Survivors’ appeared in December 2015 [and] … chronicled the stories of the 11 Holocaust survivors alive today who had each forged a prominent place in the entertainment industry. Two of those featured, Meyer Gottlieb and Branko Lustig, are among our honorees this year. It is through their stories and those of all Holocaust survivors that the history and significance of the Holocaust is imparted to our future generations.” 

“I don’t call these individuals ‘survivors,’ ” Katzenberg told the crowd. “I call them ‘triumphers’ as they have done more than survive; they have triumphed.”

— Lexi Freund, Contributing Writer 

Four hundred fifty attendees gathered at Chabad of the Valley in Tarzana to honor the late Rabbi Joshua B. Gordon at the organization’s 2016 banquet gala on June 16. Gordon and his wife, Deborah, founded Chabad of the Valley in 1973. 

Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky speaks at Chabad of the Valley’s 2016 gala dinner. Photo courtesy of Chabad of the Valley

Since that time, the Chabad community in the Valley has grown to include more than 26 houses. Gordon was a pioneer in creating daily online classes on Chumash, Tanya and Rambam for’s network. 

Keynote speaker Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of the educational wing of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, spoke about Gordon, who was a close friend of his from their days in yeshiva.

“There is not one person here who was not touched by him and did not feel his warmth and love,” Kotlarsky said.

Jewish musician Mordechai Ben David, aka “The King of Jewish Music,” performed alongside 12-year-old singer Moshe Azulai. The evening featured a brief documentary that recounted Gordon’s works through statements from leaders such as Dennis Prager, nationally syndicated radio host and Jewish Journal columnist; Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal center; and former Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), among others. 

Gordon “related to people — Reform, Conservative, secular, students. … I think the both of us believed you don’t give up on any Jew,” Hier said in the video.  

— Hannah Jannol, Contributing Writer

Rabbi Joshua Kalev was appointed to lead Congregation Tikvat Jacob (CTJ), effective July 1. Rabbi Mark Hyman, who has served the Conservative congregation in Manhattan Beach since 1986, will be transitioning to emeritus status. 

New Congregation Tikvat Jacob Rabbi Joshua Kalev. Photo courtesy of Congregation Tikvat Jacob

A Northern California native, Kalev taught at CTJ while attending American Jewish University, where he received bachelor’s and master’s degrees as well as his rabbinic ordination. After ordination, he led Temple Beth Shalom in Mahopac, N.Y., while also serving as chaplain for the Putnam County Fire Department. In 2008, he became rabbi at Tiferet Bet Israel in Blue Bell, Pa. 

Hyman, who was involved in the choice of his successor, first became a member of the congregation in 1979, when it consisted of only 13 families, he told the Journal in an interview. 

He will continue to lead CTJ group trips to Israel and serve as a substitute rabbi.

CTJ is an egalitarian synagogue which, according to its website, welcomes all Jews and interfaith families “regardless of ability, background, sexual orientation and gender identity.” 

—Isaac Engelberg, Contributing Writer

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