September 18, 2019

Philanthropist Jake Farber Dies at 94

Jake Farber

Jake Joseph Farber, whose unstinting support and dedication to a wide range of Jewish and Israeli causes earned him — along with his wife, Janet — the sobriquet “Tzedaka Heroes,” died March 24. He was 94.

Jake Farber was born Dec. 19, 1924, in Los Angeles, into a poor Orthodox family and raised in Boyle Heights. His father died when the boy was 8, and his mother worked as a seamstress to support Jake and his younger sister.

Later, as a successful businessman, Farber would recall “I know what it means not to have anything. So I was hoping for the day that I would be able to help someone else.”

During World War II, he was drafted into the U.S. Army a few days after his graduation from Roosevelt High School. Upon his discharge, he enrolled at USC under the GI Bill and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting.

He married Janet Alpert in 1950 and soon started working in her father’s scrap metal business, Alpert & Alpert Iron and Metal.

Together with his brother-in-law, Raymond Alpert, Farber grew the company to become one of the premier metal and recycling businesses in the nation.

As his wealth and position in the community grew, Farber dedicated himself to a large number of Jewish causes, always in partnership with Janet.

The couple was an active and generous supporter of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Camp Ramah, American Jewish University, Adat Ari El Synagogue, Jewish Home for the Aging, Builders of Jewish Education, de Toledo High School, AIPAC and the Pico-Union Project, among others.

In addition to its concern for domestic organizations, the Farbers were ardent supporters of Israel and Israeli causes and traveled to the Jewish state more than 50 times.

In 1948, as the birth of the Jewish state was nearing reality, the couple went from door to door in their neighborhood to raise funds for the emerging nation’s support. “If I saw a mezuzah on the front door, we knocked on it,” Janet Farber recalled.

Among the Israeli projects that benefited from the Farbers’ involvement was the Yemin Orde Youth Village for at-risk young people, and at its 2017 banquet, the Farbers were lauded for their nearly 70 years of sharing a passion for Israel.

“Their generosity, leadership and dedication have helped to build a strong and cohesive community in Los Angeles and a secure State of Israel for today and generations to come,” the scroll read.

On another occasion, at the 2013 gala of the Los Angeles Bureau of Jewish Education, the Farbers were the honorees and were praised for embodying the Jewish concept of “le-dor-va-dor” — for all generations — through their deep ties to the Jewish community and Israel.”

The Farbers passed on their values to their three children. Son Howard is a member of the de Toledo High School community; daughter Rochelle Cohen currently serves on the board of the Federation; and daughter Nadine Lavender is active in Koreh L.A., a children’s literacy program.

In addition to his wife and children, he is survived by eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Grandson Max Farber, observed, “My grandparents exemplify what it is to take an active role in one’s education, that is, to seek out education, rather than let it find me.”

Services for Jake Joseph Farber were held at the Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation to any of the causes and organizations which he supported.

Get a Lot, Then Give It Away

Photo from PxHere

The Jewish Journal’s Oct. 19 edition seemed like a one-trick pony: On page after page, ads expressed the same beautiful sentiment: praise for Jack Nagel, a philanthropist who died Oct. 12 in Los Angeles at the age of 96.

Upon reading the first ad, I felt saddened because of his death. After reading the second ad, I felt proud of his indescribable generosity. And after reading the third ad, I began to feel ashamed that I don’t prioritize giving. The only building that would ever have my name on it would probably be called the Tabby Refael School of Passive-Aggressive Ranting … and Kabob Management. 

By the time I had read the Journal cover to cover, I wanted to be like Nagel. We all should have felt this way.

I have a certain vision of myself as a great-grandmother: There I am, seated in a rocking chair surrounded by many Jewish great-grandchildren, my loyal robot dog by my side, telling stories that impart the most important thing elders can teach youth: good values that are hard to argue against. 

As my drone butler brings me a cup of Persian tea (without spilling it on my head this time), my great-grandchildren, in all their glorious wisdom, ask me what my life can teach them. Hey, it’s my daydream, and I’m allowed to have unrealistically wise great-grandchildren. 

The stories I’ll recount, whether having endowed chairs in Israel studies in the United States; or having brought every remaining Jew out of Iran; or having lavished local Holocaust survivors with amazing accommodations; or having funded centers for education or rehab programs that now bear our family name — every story will exude the same theme: I didn’t keep; I gave.

“By the time I had read the Journal cover to cover, I wanted to be like Jack Nagel. We all should have felt this way.”

I want money. I want lots of it. I want it so I can give it away. 

Of course, I’ll put some of it aside for my kids’ (and their kids’) Jewish education, for trips to Israel to reunite with family, for tzedakah globally, and for an occasional, giant tub of saffron and rose water ice cream that I’ll devour in the comfort of my rocking chair and in the company of my robot dog.

Nagel’s great-grandchildren know about his philanthropy but what about every student at YULA in Los Angeles or Bar-Ilan University in Israel?

I’m not suggesting that everyone who has benefited from Jack and his wife Gitta’s generosity tattoo the name “Nagel” on their foreheads. In fact, Judaism reveres anonymous giving. But here’s the problem: Our eyes have become so accustomed to seeing family names on hospital or school buildings, that we seldom stop to really think about what they gave us, whether a good education at Bar-Ilan or access to life-saving care at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

At schools, I propose that during orientation or on the first day of the academic year, students are taught about the people, lives and legacies of those whose altruism often has provided the foundation on which they stand — and I’m referring to the literal foundation of the building. 

I’m sure that many schools already try to impart these values, but I guarantee that if I show up to a campus and ask students young and old to list even one philanthropic name who made the endeavor possible, there would be a cricket or two chirping. 

It’s not the students’ fault. It’s no one’s fault. We simply need to learn how to stop and pause in front of all those lovely, bronze plaques that adorn the walls of schools, hospitals and synagogues, even if the cynic in us wonders whether some well-endowed folks simply liked to see their names on plaques. 

I need to go back to thank some kind folks, and so do you, I’ll bet.

After reading through eight ads in the Journal that thanked Jack Nagel, I understood that he didn’t care about names and plaques, but I also got a glimpse of his story: a Holocaust survivor who lost everything and then spent the rest of his life giving everything. Now that is a story that should be taught on the first day of school.

Tabby Refael is a Los Angeles-based writer.

Philanthropist Ruth Ziegler dies at 98

Screenshot from Facebook

Ruth Ziegler, for decades a leading philanthropist supporting Jewish institutions in the United States and Israel, died of natural causes on Feb. 4 at Saint John’s hospital in Santa Monica. She was 98.

A public service honoring her lifetime achievements was scheduled for Feb. 6 at 3 p.m. at the Mount Sinai Memorial Cemetery Hollywood Hills, 5950 Forest Lawn Drive, followed by a private interment. On the same day at 5 p.m., American Jewish University (AJU) at 15600 Mulholland Drive was set to host a minyan service.

Ziegler grew up in St, Joseph, Mo., the only child of a Reform rabbi, but in her late teens she moved to Los Angeles, initially intent on an acting career and joining the Pasadena Playhouse. She subsequently enrolled and graduated from USC, where she met Allen Ziegler, then a USC law student.

After Allen’s Navy service during World War II, he and Ruth married. He became head of Westco Products baking supplies and set the family standard for open-handed philanthropy, continued and extended by his wife after his death.

Among the Zieglers notable beneficiaries are the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at AJU, Sinai Temple, City of Hope, Venice Family Clinic, Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the Center for Jewish Education at the University of Haifa in Israel. As word of Ruth Ziegler’s death spread, tributes to her personality and generosity arrived at the Jewish Journal.

Excerpts from some of the tributes include one by AJU President Robert Wexler. He recalled that in the mid-1990s, when trying to establish the university’s School of Rabbinic Studies, Ziegler called him on her own initiative and asked how much money would be needed to transform the vision into reality.

Wexler did some quick calculations and came up with a $19 million figure. A few days later, Ziegler called again to say that she didn’t have that sum on hand, but asked Wexler if he would agree to $22 million, spread over a 10-year period. The AJU president agreed. Sinai Temple Max Webb Senior Rabbi David Wolpe, currently traveling in Asia, sent an email, which read in part: “Yankee Stadium used to be called ‘The House that Ruth Built.’ Sinai Temple could be called the same — the house that Ruth built. She and Allen gave an immeasurable amount to our community. …  Ruth Ziegler loved dogs, the writer Brian Morton, the actress Frances McDormand, the theater, social justice, Judaism, her family and friends. She hated self-righteousness, unkindness and hypocrisy. … She gave so much to so many; she was
indeed a great lady with a great heart. May her memory be a blessing.”

Friends wishing to honor her memory through a donation to Sinai Temple
are asked to email

Spokesman Timothy Smith noted that “Ruth Ziegler was a central figure in the history of the Venice Family Clinic [VFC]. For more than 30 years, she expressed her love of helping people by saying ‘yes’ to nearly every request VFC made of her.

“This included funding for the clinic’s pediatric services, support for its Common Ground program for people living with HIV, and the Ruth Ziegler and Jack Skirball Dental Clinic, which has provided the first affordable dental service for many local families.”

Bailey London, the Allen & Ruth Ziegler Executive Director of the USC Hillel Foundation, wrote that “Ruth Ziegler’s impact on Jewish campus life … has touched thousands of students’ lives and will do so for generations to come.

“Her investment in the strengthening of our organization has resulted in the growth and flourishing community for Jewish students on our campus. Mrs. Ziegler stands as a model for community engagement and leaves a lasting impact on our Jewish Trojan community.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft to receive honorary doctorate from Yeshiva University

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a noted philanthropist, will receive an honorary doctorate from Yeshiva University.

Kraft, a noted philanthropist, also will deliver the keynote address at the New York Jewish school’s 85th commencement ceremony at Madison Square Garden in May, the university announced Thursday.

“Robert Kraft represents not only success in business, but is a true Jewish leader who embodies our values of kindness, goodness, generosity to the broader community and tremendous support for the State of Israel,” Richard Joel, president of the the flagship institution of modern Orthodoxy, said in a statement. “His success on and off the field, his profound humanity, his willingness to stand up for the Jewish people and Jewish causes make him an ideal role model for our students.”

The statement noted Kraft’s philanthropy of over $100 million to numerous institutions and organizations, many of them Jewish. He has donated to Boston’s Jewish federation, the Combined Jewish Philanthropies, as well as Brandeis University and Temple Emanuel in the Boston area, along with the World Jewish Congress, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces and many more Jewish entities. The Hillel chapter at Columbia University is named for Kraft and his late wife, Myra.

Kraft, 74, is the chairman and CEO of The Kraft Group, a holding company with assets in paper, packaging, real estate and sports teams.

Yeshiva’s statement notes that its past commencement speakers include Presidents Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; Israeli President Shimon Peres, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Lynn Schusterman: Making it possible for Jewish innovators to create

Lynn Schusterman has been at every ROI Summit (see main article) since 2006 and at dozens of other Charles & Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation programs year round, to see for herself how her considerable investment in the Jewish future is yielding fruit. Schusterman can be as tough as you’d expect a billionaire to be (Forbes listed her net worth as $3.5 billion), insisting on high standards for foundation programs and projects. But when ROI participants experience sadness or grief, the petite septuagenarian philanthropist with a penchant for wearing pinks and purples is right there with them to offer words of wisdom and comfort. (When my mother died, I got a moving, personal email from Schusterman, as well as an in-person offer to be a substitute mother or grandmother if I needed it.) 

It is Schusterman’s unique balance of sense, sass, collaboration and compassion that endears her to ROIers and other Schusterman program participants. And she, in return, deeply respects her staff team and the young innovators and creators in her orbit. She is more than satisfied that her money is well spent; in an email interview with the Jewish Journal, she said that the response to ROI has “exceeded our expectations on every level” and “helped to shape her philanthropy over the past decade.”

The past three decades have seen the blossoming of many Schusterman seeds. In addition to funding individual initiatives spearheaded by ROIers (see main story), the foundation also has been inspired to develop opportunities that expand those efforts. During Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in 2014, the foundation created Eitanim micro-grants to support ROIers who were providing relief for families whose loved ones were serving in the Israel Defense Forces, and also to help people better understand Israel’s position internationally. A partnership with Indiegogo helps support ROI network members through matching grants, and Schusterman also is a major sponsor and proponent of the Natan Fund’s Amplifier, a network of giving circles engaging young people to give in meaningful, fun and impactful ways. 

This spring, the foundation launched OLAM, a partnership with many organizations to deepen Israel and the Jewish community’s impact on global humanitarian issues. REALITY trips bring socially minded individuals to Israel for a life-changing leadership development experience. And the foundation is always bringing more young entrepreneurs and influencers into the ROI Community; a partnership with Forbes launched a Social Impact Competition at the Under 30 Summit in October. 

Schusterman is passionate about many things — strengthening Jewish community worldwide and in Israel, investing in her hometown of Tulsa, Okla. But she also has an intensely passionate commitment to what she described as the “strongest thread that binds us as a global people [is] our shared commitment to repair the world, to serve others, to build strong families and communities, to ensure all have the opportunity to learn, to seek justice and to treat everyone with mercy, kindness, care and respect. I am passionate about helping the next generation of Jews draw on these values to inform the way they work, love, live and give. And I am passionate about helping to build a future for the Jewish people that is diverse and welcoming, deeply connected to Israel and committed to making the world a better place.”

An unflinching supporter of Israel, Schusterman notes special pride in the work of young campus and community leaders supporting Israel during what she called a “critical time.” 

“While some of their fellow students and colleagues are focused on isolating and de-legitimizing Israel, they are defining a new narrative. They are finding ways to help more people discover Israel’s promise and potential as a haven for diversity, democracy, innovation and progress. We need more voices, to be sure, but their efforts are a model to all those who believe change is possible.”

At ROI Summits, Schusterman is known to repeat what has become a mantra for her and for the foundation that bears her family name: Her money may “make it possible” for ROIers to pursue their visions, but “they make it happen.” 

When her husband, Charles, known as “Charlie,” died in 2000, Lynn took over as chairwoman of the foundation, moving into a largely male-dominated philanthropic world. “It was not easy, but I was determined, and had benefited from the wisdom and partnership of many incredible role models and peers. I learned to develop my own leadership style, find the core issues on which to focus my energy and, most importantly, develop a talented, professional staff to help me guide the foundation into the 21st century. My experience has taught me that women must play a major — and equal — role in shaping the Jewish future.” 

With more women rising to high positions in Jewish philanthropy and communal leadership and leading the way in Jewish innovation, she sees a future of “smart, passionate, capable Jewish women — my own granddaughters included — who will influence and change our community in unimaginable and positive ways.”

Schusterman continues her relationship with her late husband through her work: One early Schusterman young leadership program was known as “the Charlies”; and she quotes him often in speeches and conversations. 

“Charlie used to say, ‘When you can get a bright and talented mind at a young age, you’ve got a lot with which to work.’ I imagine that when he said those words, he had in mind the types of young Jewish leaders we are engaging today,” Schusterman said. “I see in so many of them the qualities that made Charlie such an inspiring and unique leader. He was an iconoclast, willing to take calculated risks in the pursuit of success. He continued to push himself to defy the status quo, to forge ahead no matter the forecast or circumstance and, time and again, he went out of his way to care for others. Charlie would be so proud of what these young people are accomplishing today and, in true Charlie fashion, would encourage them to walk to the very edge of their comfort zone and then take another step.” 

Despite her loss and her serious approach to philanthropy, Schusterman knows there is much to celebrate — she is famous in ROI circles for always being one of the first on the dance floor. 

“People often ask why I remain so optimistic, even in the face of the complex challenges we are facing in the Jewish world, in Israel and beyond,” Schusterman said. “It’s because I am so impressed and inspired by the young people I meet. It is their ideas and their belief in what we can accomplish together that gets me out of bed in the morning and keeps me traveling the world at 76 years old.”

Schusterman formally speaks at least once during each ROI Summit, providing inspiring overall context, but the rest of the time, she sits with participants between sessions or at meals, asking them about their communities and learning about their projects. While other funders might avoid contact with potential grant applicants, Schusterman seeks it out. 

“ROIers are always reaching out to me to share their appreciation for the experiences, opportunities and connections we have provided and also to express their excitement about taking the next step in their leadership journey,” she said. “I am investing in them because they hold the keys to a vibrant Jewish future, and that investment is paying off. Every day I get to see how much potential rests in the next generation and how eager they are to create positive change. We need their passion, creativity and resolve. And we need it now.”

Much of today’s Jewish organizational energy focuses on drawing young Jews — a demographic ranging from as early as 18 and extending, in some organizational cases, to age 45. With the foundation targeting this demographic with many of its programs, Schusterman explained, the key is to be less “proscriptive” and “rather, to provide opportunities to explore their identities, to connect with the global Jewish community and to find their place in a world that needs them. They will make the magic happen.” 

As for ROI, Schusterman is most proud of the network’s diversity: The ROI Community has members from big cities and small towns in more than 50 countries, including those who are “secular, religious, gay, straight, liberal, conservative and everything in between.” 

She is passionate about inclusion and equality, and has been a particularly ardent supporter of Jewish LGBTQ causes; ROI’s Connection Point gathering for LGBTQ leaders, Eighteen:22 (


‘The Simpsons’ co-creator Sam Simon dies at age 59

Sam Simon, a co-creator of Fox's long-running hit animated series “The Simpsons” and an ardent philanthropist for animals, died after a battle with colon cancer, his agent said on Monday. He was 59.

Simon won nine Emmy awards for his work as a writer, director and executive producer of “The Simpsons,” the situation comedy that premiered in 1989 and won over a global audience with its portrait of a bumbling father and his wayward family.

“The Simpsons” executive producer, Al Jean, said on Twitter that Simon was “a great man; I owe him everything.” He asked fans to honor Simon's memory by doing something nice for animals.

Doctors first gave Simon three to six months to live when he was diagnosed with incurable colon cancer in 2012. Simon decided to give away his fortune, estimated by media at $100 million.

“I have a desire to help animals,” Simon told Reuters last August. “The question of whether it makes financial sense, it's my money and I get to do what I want with it. It's an expensive hobby I picked up at the end of my life.”

Simon founded the Sam Simon Foundation in 2002 to benefit animals in need and help fund the Save the Children organization.

Growing up in Beverly Hills, California, Simon embraced art and was selling cartoons to San Francisco newspapers while still a student at Stanford University. After graduating, he got his big break when the producers of the hit television show “Taxi” produced a script he had written in 1981.

In 1988, he joined producer James Brooks and cartoonist Matt Groening in creating a prime-time series out of “The Simpsons” for Fox's broadcast network. The cartoon began as an animated short on “The Tracey Ullman Show.”

Simon was in charge of the writing staff and helped develop the characters populating the dysfunctional world around the oafish but endearing Homer Simpson: his dutiful wife, Marge, and their children, bratty Bart, overachieving Lisa and baby Maggie.

The show was a smart social satire built around crass characters and it became the longest-running sitcom on American television.

After four seasons of “The Simpsons,” Simon negotiated a deal to leave the show while retaining a percentage of its future earnings, which would bring him between $20 million and $30 million a year. He is still listed as executive producer in the show's credits.

Genesis Philanthropy Group names Ilia Salita as new CEO

Ilia Salita was appointed the new CEO of the Genesis Philanthropy Group, which funds Jewish identity-building efforts for Russian-speaking Jews around the world.

The Genesis Philanthropy Group is a consortium launched by wealthy Jewish businessmen from the former Soviet Union, including Mikhail Fridman, Pyotr Aven and German Khan.

“We are confident that Genesis Philanthropy Group’s management team under the leadership of Ilia Salita will expand and deepen the organization’s impact on Russian-speaking Jewish communities around the world,” Fridman, co-founder of Genesis Philanthropy Group, said in a statement released Thursday.

Salita is currently the organization’s North American executive director. He replaces co-founder Stan Polovets, who has served as the group’s CEO since its founding seven years ago.

“I look forward to working with our exceptional team, our partners, our grantees and our constituency – the multilingual and multicultural Russian-Jewish community around the world – in ensuring that this community is an integral part of the wider Jewish landscape and a vibrant contributor to a successful and innovative Jewish future,” Salita said.

In 2012, the Genesis Philanthropy Group started the Genesis Prize Foundation, a separate entity that awards an annual $1 million prize to an inspiring Jewish individual. Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and billionaire, accpeted the inaugural Genesis Prize at a ceremony in Jerusalem earlier this year.

Polovets will continue to serve as the prize foundation’s chairman and CEO and will oversee a number of new initiatives for the prize, planned together with Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Mark C. Levy, prominent philanthropist, Jewish leader; 88

Mark C. Levy, prominent philanthropist and Jewish leader, died Feb. 18 at 88. Levy was involved with numerous Jewish communal, humanitarian, religious and cultural organizations, including the Skirball Cultural Center, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, Leo Baeck Temple, Hillel and the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ). 

Born Jan. 15, 1926, in Pittsburgh, Penn., Levy and his family moved many times before settling in Los Angeles, where he graduated from Los Angeles High School. During World War II, at the age of 19, he served as a tank commander in the U.S. Army. Returning to Los Angeles after the war, Levy attended UCLA and embarked on a career as a builder and developer. He and Peachy (nee Kalsman) were married in 1949 and had three children. Levy also served in the Army during the Korean War.

Over the course of his life, Levy and his wife also developed a notable Judaica collection, beginning with their purchase of a 19th century Central European chanukiyah during their first trip to Israel, in 1959. They amassed a wide range of objects, with a focus on pre-war tzedakah boxes, chanukiyot — of which they collected hundreds — and objects made in Israel, including several from the Bezalel School of Art and Design. In 2008, the Skirball Cultural Center displayed more than 130 objects from the collection in the exhibition “Prisms of Jewish Life.”

Levy’s collecting expertise was pivotal during the mid-1980s planning for the Skirball’s expansion and move to its current home on Sepulveda Boulevard.

“We had given a title to what would be our core exhibit, ‘Jewish Life From Antiquity to America,’ ” said Uri Herscher, founding president and CEO of the Skirball. “Mark knew our collection … and saw that we were weak on the ‘America’ part.” So in 1985, Levy launched and chaired “Project Americana,” a nationwide search for objects representing Jewish-American life — including art, folk art, ceremonial objects and memorabilia. 

Levy’s “remarkable leadership and hard work … made possible the Americana galleries of our core exhibit,” Herscher said. “Mark had a tremendous generosity of spirit and of philanthropy. … He was a builder of human relationships.” 

Levy was among the first supporters of MAZON. Elected to the board in 1994, he became chair in 1996 and, on numerous committees, continued supporting MAZON initiatives for many years. 

“Mark helped to lead the organization in meaningful and creative ways,” said Abby J. Leibman, president and CEO of MAZON. “He was a beloved and inspirational member of the board.” 

Levy and his wife believed in the life-changing possibilities of Jewish camps and youth activities. Through the URJ, they created a scholarship fund that has helped thousands of West Coast youth attend URJ camps, youth events and Israel trips. The Levys also were instrumental in founding Camp Kalsman, which opened in 2007 and is the first Reform Jewish camp in Washington.

Along with Peachy Levy’s mother, Lee Kalsman, the Levys provided the funding to establish the Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health at HUC-JIR’s L.A. campus. The institute provides pastoral education for future Reform leaders, and co-sponsors workshops and conferences on Jewish spirituality and health.

At Leo Baeck Temple (LBT), where Levy and his wife have been active members for many years, Levy was a leader “in every way a person can lead,” said Ken Chasen, LBT’s senior rabbi. Levy served as president, co-chair of numerous committees and events, and with his wife was a major donor to many temple projects. 

At least 400 people attended the funeral for Levy at LBT on Feb. 22. In his eulogy, Chasen described Levy as a profoundly generous and loving man, calling him “a bracha machine.” Levy’s “vast legacy,” Chasen said, is proof “that a person can be defined entirely by his grateful soul, and the myriad wonders he can create because of it.” 

In addition to his wife of 65 years, Levy is survived by his children, Richard (Dana), Jani (Bill) and John (Victoria); and his grandchildren, Alexandra, Kate (Evan), Jacob, Jeremy, Nathaniel and Abigail. 

Billionaire Stewart Rahr sets sights on Israel

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In the course of a few short days last month, billionaire philanthropist Stewart Rahr spent half a million dollars to bring Holocaust survivors to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps in Poland; then he flew on to Israel, where he doubled the size of a fleet of emergency medical response vehicles, connected with a charity that helps Jewish and Arab special-needs children and another that feeds Israel’s poor; held back-to-back meetings with other charities and politicians anxious for a chance to interest the fast-moving Rahr’s generous fancy and capped it all off with a private meeting with President Shimon Peres.

All of which begs the question: Who is Stewart Rahr?

Rahr’s fortune, estimated by Forbes at about $1.7 billion, is self-made.

“You don’t accomplish what Stewart has by luck,” his friend Donald Trump said in a phone interview with The Media Line.  The two became close when Rahr attended a charity dinner where the real estate tycoon was being honored and Rahr “just stood up and gave a million dollars. That’s the way he is,” Trump said.

It all began with the $30,000 in pharmacy inventory Rahr had to work with when he brought his father’s failed pharmacy into the world of distribution. According to Rahr, he focused on selling only to the little guy, “the underdog” — a distinction that remains key to his present-day philosophy of philanthropy. His company, Kinray, Inc., began with two employees.  By the time he sold it to Cardinal Health in 2010 for $1.3 billion, it serviced 4,000 pharmacies.

Prior to his life-changing introduction to the world of distribution, Rahr, a Brooklyn native, had earned a degree from New York University and had completed one year of law school. He married, but has since divorced. He retains a close relationship with his former wife, with whom he had two children.

With his hard-won fortune, Rahr was equally driven to give back.  He credits a taxi driver in Las Vegas for honing his perspective. “The driver would comment about the owner of each casino/hotel as we drove past,” Rahr said. “When we passed one particular landmark property, he said, ‘Someone should tell that guy that there are no luggage racks on top of a hearse.’ That was a tremendous example of what I live by today: You can’t take it with you. I’m blessed to have these billions of dollars. I just feel that I’m compelled; that I have a responsibility to give back to those less fortunate.”

Rahr’s friend Michael Levine, a commercial painting contractor, tells the story of how he met Rahr by chance three years ago, while having a lunch he’d won as the highest bidder in an auction to dine with Donald Trump and his children. Levine was sharing the story of his son Matthew’s battle with a rare kidney disease called FSGS when, from several tables over, a voice shouted out, “I want to help you save your son’s life. I want to help save these children’s lives.” About 10 minutes later, according to Levine, Rahr again shouted,, ‘Hey Michael, you’re talking so loud. If you talk a little lower, I’ll overnight $100,000 to the NephCure Foundation,” a nonprofit Levine supports that specializes in FSGS and Nephrotic Syndrome. 

Rahr sent the money the next morning.

“That we met that day three years ago changed my life,” Levine said. “Stewart has become our largest donor in the world, close to half a million dollars.”

Rahr credits Michael Milken with inspiring him to sponsor medical-related causes — including some $20 million he has donated to Milken’s own foundation for prostate cancer research.

“We met three or four years ago when Stewart was thinking of selling his company, which he eventually did, and wanted to concentrate on his philanthropy,” Milken told The Media Line from Los Angeles. “Stewart and I speak five or six times a week and have many conversations on the leveraging of philanthropy — how you teach people to fish rather than give them fish. You get people to stand on their own two feet. He has an unbelievable heart and passion for anything he does.”

Passion — and notable flair. Rahr — whose friends call him “Rah-Rah” — often sports his trademark yellow sunglasses, a yellow wristwatch and yellow clothing. Why yellow?

“The sun will come out tomorrow,” he said.

Stateside, Rahr has been known for his high-profile, star-studded social life. But, he said, the celebrities he chooses to hang with all share his main passion: charity.

“Alicia Keys, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg, LL Cool J, Tobey Maguire … I’m only attracted to those that I meet in the social [action] environment,” he said. “Those who don’t give, I don’t meet.”

Trading on his celebrity friends, Rahr invented something he calls “Rah-Rah Celeb-RAH-ty Trivia,” a game he plays each month with his “immediate circle friends,” about 720 strong.

“I meet people I know who are in the celebrity limelight — entertainers, politicians — and take pictures with them and send the photos to the list along with five or six questions. The first one to answer correctly receives a $5,000 donation to his or her favorite charity,” Rahr said. In the past six months, Rahr has donated about $1.5 million to more than 117 charities.  He is currently speaking with producers about a philanthropy-based reality television project.

The charitable drive was much in evidence in the last two weeks of January. In Poland to commemorate Auschwitz Liberation Day, Rahr paid the way for Holocaust survivors, who traveled with about half of Israel’s legislators, to spend a memorable and moving 16 hours on the ground in Krakow, where the Knesset convened in a historic session far from the Jewish state.

From Poland, Rahr flew to Israel.  He spent hours at Shalva, an institution for Arab and Jewish children with special needs. Before touring its existing facility, Rahr was joined by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat at the construction site of a planned $50 million campus, comprised of a 200,000-square-foot, 11-story building surrounded by six acres of parks — all of which will serve thousands of children.

“Shalva is the first place a mother comes, straight from the hospital, if a child has special needs,” explained Shalva founder and chairman Rabbi Kalman Samuels.

Also on the Rahr docket was a visit to Leket Israel, the largest farm dedicated to feeding Israel’s poor — some 23.5 percent of its population, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

One of the highlights of Rahr’s time in Israel was a dramatic ceremony on a rooftop in Jerusalem’s Old City, where a crane hoisted a dozen new “ambucycles” — motorbikes outfitted with state-of-the-art lifesaving equipment — to provide the backdrop for United Hatzalah’s charity auction. It wasn’t long into the bidding that Rahr – just off the plane from Poland and not having slept in two days — took over the auctioneer’s prerogative from United Hatzalah founder, Eli Beer, and threw down a challenge to match pledges. Rahr’s dynamic rooftop performance saw the number of motorbikes he had already donated multiply to a total of 50 — worth more than $1 million.

Rahr said he is already preparing to return to Israel regularly, despite the 20-plus years between this trip and his last.

“It’s a constant turmoil here in Israel with what is going on,” he said, “but you get the feeling they have an attitude of survival. As you know, I’m all about victory for the underdog.”

Philanthropists honored for lifetime of giving

Iranian Jewish philanthropist Izak Parviz Nazarian, 83, watched from his seat while Dora Kadisha, his daughter, spoke from a nearby stage about her love of Israel, her community and helping other people. It was her father who taught her the importance of this mentality, she said.

Nothing could have better illustrated the theme of “Passing the Torch,” a June 20 event that honored L.A. philanthropists Guilford Glazer, Jona Goldrich, Max Webb and Nazarian and highlighted the importance of continuing their legacy of giving among the coming generations.

“We are here to honor great men,” said Rabbi David Wolpe, who hosted the program at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills.

The spiritual leader of Sinai Temple was, of course, referring to Glazer, 90; Goldrich, 85; Webb, 96, and Nazarian, who overcame extraordinary circumstances to become some of the most prominent Jewish givers in America during the 20th century. Glazer suffered through a poverty-stricken childhood in the American South before fighting in World War II, Goldrich and Webb survived the Holocaust and Nazarian, who served with the Israeli army during the War of Independence, left Iran during its revolution.

Collectively, they have given approximately $1 billion toward building the L.A. Jewish community. Glazer, Goldrich and Webb have all achieved success in the world of real estate. Nazarian co-founded technology company Qualcomm.

From left: Andrea Goldrich Cayton & Melinda Goldrich, Chara Schreyer, Erika Glazer, Dora Kadisha. Photo by Harmony Wedding Photography.

The evening, which featured speakers Wolpe and Israel Consul General in Los Angeles David Siegel delivering praise, also included prerecorded interviews with the honorees about their family histories, their financial successes and thoughts on philanthropy.

“How do you become a successful philanthropist?” Wolpe asked Goldrich in one of the videos. Goldrich replied that you have to pay the “Jewish tax” of sending money to Israel and donating to Jewish causes. It was a sentiment shared by the other honorees: Between them, they’ve helped launch and fund synagogues, Israeli universities, the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust and other Jewish institutions and organizations.

During the awards portion of the evening, the four men remained in their seats, while their daughters — including Melinda Goldrich and Andrea Goldrich Cayton, Erika Glazer, Chara Schreyer and Kadisha — took the stage. The women received commemorative plaques and spoke of ways they have committed themselves to philanthropy. The four honorees did not address the crowd.

The program wrapped with Gail Reiss, president and CEO of American Friends of Tel Aviv University (AFTAU), announcing the launch of the Andrew E. Zalkow and Mark I. Schickman Scholarship. The scholarship will pay for students to study conflict resolution and other disciplines at Tel Aviv University. Reiss asked attendees to make donations to the new fund.

AFTAU, which aims to support and promote Tel Aviv University, organized the event. All the honorees have been longtime benefactors of the university.

New Doheny Meats owner explains his purchase of scandal-ridden store

Shlomo Rechnitz, a prominent local businessman and philanthropist, has purchased Doheny Glatt Kosher Meat Market, the scandal-plagued kosher meat retailer and distributor.

Rechnitz, who co-founded TwinMed, a large medical supply firm, and owns a number of other businesses, purchased the store and its distribution arm for an undisclosed sum from its former owner, Mike Engelman.

The sale closed late in the day on Sunday, March 31, just one week after its former kosher certifier, the Rabbinical Council of California (RCC), revoked the store’s certification and hours before the beginning of a two-day holy period celebrating the end of Passover.

Starting on March 25, the day after the revocation, rabbis from the RCC reached out to Rechnitz, urging him to buy Doheny, and in an interview with The Jewish Journal on April 3, Rechnitz said he initially considered making the purchase as “a favor to the community.”

[Related: After Doheny Kosher scandal, what does the future hold for L.A.’s meat market?]

“Before I came out with the announcement that I was going to purchase [Doheny],” Rechnitz said, “there were already stores calling up different distributors, even being quoted prices 35 to 40 percent higher than their current prices.”

Doheny is believed to supply as much as 50 percent of the kosher meat and poultry in Los Angeles; its disappearance would have significantly reduced competition in the marketplace, which, Rechnitz said, “would have destroyed the kosher market in Los Angeles.”

RCC President Rabbi Meyer H. May said Wednesday morning that he was one of those who personally urged Rechnitz to buy Doheny Meats, and he was cheered by news of the sale.

“It’s really extraordinary,” May said. “He’s going to preserve the richness of the meat supply and preserve the price structure for consumers.”

Rechnitz was involved in the response to the Doheny scandal from its earliest hours. He was one of a handful of non-rabbis who attended a hastily organized meeting on Sunday, March 24, when Engelman spoke to the RCC’s leadership and rabbis from synagogues around the Pico-Robertson neighborhood about what he had done at his store.

Engelman, who had owned the shop for 28 years, was videotaped by a private investigator last month bringing unidentified products into his store at a time when its rabbinic overseer was absent. Engelman did not return repeated calls requesting comment, and has not spoken on the record since the scandal began.

At the March 24 meeting, Engelman reportedly told Rechnitz, May, and the other laypeople and rabbis present, that he had, on two or three occasions, brought unsupervised meat into the store.

According to multiple people who attended the meeting, Engelman claimed all the meat he had brought to Doheny was kosher, but he admitted some was not up to the RCC’s higher “glatt kosher” standard. Glatt kosher meat is more expensive than kosher meat, which itself carries a higher price tag than equivalent non-kosher products.

Rechnitz said that he believes Engelman with “99 percent” confidence.

Rechnitz did add a caveat.  “You can’t rely on someone like me, who got my information from someone who unfortunately has made mistakes, who wasn’t always as truthful as he should have been,” Rechnitz said.

Over the course of a week of negotiations, Rechnitz spent between eight and 10 hours with Engelman; he said he does not believe Engelman brought the unsupervised products into Doheny to respond to specific customers’ requests, as some have suggested.

Rechnitz said Engelman himself couldn’t fully explain why he brought the unsupervised meat into the store, but Rechnitz speculated that it may have been due to anger Engelman felt towards his main supplier, Agri Star, the large kosher meat processor based in Postville, Iowa. In 2009, Agri Star bought the Postville plant from the bankrupt Rubashkin-owned firm AgriProcessors, which had been shut down in the aftermath of the largest immigration raid in American history.

Money may not have been the motivating factor, Rechnitz said, “because it wasn’t that much of a difference, based on the quantity.”

In the private investigator’s video, a Doheny employee was seen unloading eight boxes from Engelman’s SUV and bringing them into the store. Based on additional videos received from the investigator, the May said the RCC estimates Engelman brought a total of approximately 1,200 pounds of animal products into the store over the weeks he was under surveillance.

Although Rechnitz’s initial reason to purchase Doheny was to maintain competing distributors for the city’s kosher-observant community, over the course of the week of negotiations he became a bit more optimistic about the business prospects for the company.

“I didn’t have time to send in a forensic accounting team,” he said, but Engelman told him that Doheny’s gross sales on the retail and distribution sides added up to approximately $8 million a year.

That said, Rechnitz said he hopes to remain a mostly silent investor in Doheny, and won’t aim to build its market share at the expense of other distributors.

Engelman won’t have any role in the business – Rechnitz said the agreement required the former owner to make a “complete” break, and included a non-compete clause – but the rest of the operation should remain mostly the same.

The RCC will once again certify Doheny’s retail and distribution operations, the name will remain the same and every current employee, Rechnitz said, has been offered his job.

The store, which is currently closed, could reopen as early as next Monday; Rechnitz said that the store, the utensils and dishes used there were being kashered — ritually cleansed — “just in case there was non-kosher meat being used.”

Rechnitz is currently Doheny’s sole owner; he said he is in negotiations with another investor who might buy into the business. The deal with Engelman included a non-disclosure agreement about the price, Rechnitz said, but he described the negotiations as “amicable” and described the final selling price as “sizable,” but not as big as it might have been prior to the scandal.

“It definitely came at a major discount due to the fact of what [Engelman] did, or what he tried to get away with,” Rechnitz said. “He definitely was not rewarded for his actions.”

Rechnitz has experience working with organizations at times of crisis. In his role as CEO of one of his companies, Brius Management Co., which manages multiple nursing homes across California, Rechnitz told a reporter in 2011 that his company looked mostly for “distressed facilities.”

In his philanthropic work, Rechnitz has also come to the aid of embattled organizations. Last year, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Rechnitz donated $1 million to an organization that supports Jewish day schools in the New York area. In 2011, Rechnitz donated $5 million to the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem, which was struggling under millions in debt following the death of its chief rabbi and fundraiser. That same year, Rechnitz also helped save Chabad of California’s headquarters from foreclosure.

But Rechnitz is also known for charitable giving of a very different sort. Every Saturday night, Jews line up outside his family’s home. Until six months ago, those who came walked away with checks; now they leave with gift cards to one of two kosher markets in the area near Fairfax and La Brea.

Rechnitz announced his purchase of Doheny at his synagogue on Sunday evening, March 31, just hours after the deal closed. He said the reaction there was muted – “It was kind of almost expected,” Rechnitz said, adding that his goal in making the announcement was to change the conversations that observant Jews in Los Angeles were bound to have over the two days that followed, the last two days of Passover, during which work and the use of any electronics is prohibited.

“I wanted to stave off two days of people creating rumors and completely defaming the place,” Rechnitz said.

In that regard, Rechnitz appears to have succeeded already. Just hours after Passover ended on Tuesday, April 2, after sundown, at least one person had reported the news in a comment on Facebook.

Philanthropist Zev Wolfson, supporter of traditional Jewish educational institutions, dies

Zev Wolfson, a philanthropist who supported Torah institutions worldwide, has died.

Wolfson died Monday in New York following a short illness, according to media reports, and was buried the next day in Israel. He was 84.

He helped spread Torah through kollel and outreach programs, with many catering specifically to secular Jews in an effort to bring them closer to traditional Judaism.

Wolfson was born in Vilna, Poland, in 1928 and immigrated to America at the age of 17 with his mother and young brother. He immediately went to work while sending his brother to yeshiva. In his 20s, Wolfson amassed a significant wealth through his investments in real estate.

For many decades, Wolfson focused on furthering Jewish education, helping to develop and maintain yeshivas, Bais Yaakov girls’ schools, day schools and other projects all over the world, including the United States, Israel, France, Morocco and Russia, reported

Wolfson was known for his close relationship with many prominent rabbis. His wife, Nechama, who founded the Shalom Task Force 20 years ago, is well known for her efforts to combat domestic violence within the Jewish community.

Jewish philanthropist Sami Rohr dies

Sami Rohr, a major philanthropist whose giving created and sustained hundreds of Chabad-Lubavitch houses around the world, died at 86.

Rohr, who died Aug. 5 in South Florida and was buried Aug. 7 in Jerusalem, reportedly gave some $250 million to Jewish causes, especially Jewish education and culture, through his Rohr Family Foundation.

Rohr, a former Colombian-Jewish real estate mogul who self-identified as Modern Orthodox, gave tens of millions of dollars to Chabad along with his family to establish outposts throughout the former Soviet Union, on college campuses and at remote spots around the world. In 2006, JTA noted that the Rohr family reportedly underwrote the salaries of about 500 emissaries and had a foundation specifically to help Chabad rabbis on U.S. campuses construct buildings.

Rohr, who largely preferred avoiding publicity, was publicly honored by Chabad in 2006. The same year, his children named a prize for Jewish literature after him in honor of his 80th birthday.

The Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature was awarded for the first time in 2007 and honors the contribution of contemporary writers in exploring and transmitting Jewish values.

Rohr grew up in Berlin but left the country with his family after Kristallnacht. He lived in Antwerp and Basel during World War II, later moving to Bogota, Colombia, where he made his fortune in real estate. He and his late wife, Charlotte, moved to Florida in 1981.

Philanthropy project puts teens in charge

Solly Hess, West Coast regional director of the National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY), was looking for ways to get Jewish teenagers motivated about charitable giving last summer. With the help of Brandon Lurie, a YULA Boys student and NCSY regional board member, he came up with a project that would eventually make an impact on youth as well as the local Jewish community: the Teen Philanthropy Movement.

“People today have this [mistaken] impression of teens being apathetic,” Hess said.

A mere eight months since the project’s inception, students are celebrating the success of their charitable efforts, contributing $5,000 to four charities and connecting with the larger Jewish community in the process.

“The Jewish community really took notice of this project. They’re looking to the future now and are waiting to see what the next step of the project is,” Hess said.

To begin the Teen Philanthropy Movement, Hess and Lurie divided the 23-member student board into seven groups, with each group assigned the task of researching seven charitable organizations. The program was divided into a trimester schedule with three core stages: research, Torah and the finale.

The Dorothy Phillips Michaud Charitable Trust granted the Teen Philanthropy Movement $5,000, and Lurie said each group had to do in-depth research to decide which charities would need and benefit most from the money.

“In these troublesome economic times, many self-funded Jewish organizations have lost their thunder and are barely functioning with the money they have,” Lurie said. “That’s where we come in.”

The seven groups, which consisted of boys and girls from various local high schools, including Milken, YULA, Shalhevet and Hamilton, as well as SCY (Southern California Yeshiva) High and Torah High School of San Diego, all started off with an initial selection of seven charities each. The groups then met monthly, presented their charities to the larger student board and whittled their pools down to a single beneficiary agency. The finalists were known as the Chosen 7.

The second phase incorporated Torah learning. Students met with rabbis and other community leaders to learn about the role of tzedekah (charitable giving).

“The students built real relationships with their community representatives over the course of the program, while learning from them about philanthropy through the Torah in the process,” Hess said.

During the final trimester, the students learned firsthand about their chosen charities by visiting and volunteering with the organizations. Representatives from the charities also taught the seven groups about Jewish perspectives on philanthropy.

On Feb. 29, after three months of garnering a wealth of knowledge and experience, the students pitched their favorite charities to a panel of four judges, each active in
the Jewish business community — Leslie Kessler, Steve Bram, Rhoda Weisman and Joel Levine — at Young Israel of Century City during what Lurie called Decision Day.

“It was an unbelievable night,” Lurie said.

After the presentations, the judges were stumped.

In the end, the judges decided to split the $5,000 evenly among four charities: Camp Chesed, Shoes That Fit, San Diego Community G’mach and The Hero Project Holocaust Education Reach-Out.

One of most touching moments for the group came when one of the winning charities, Shoes That Fit, a Claremont-based charity that donates shoes to children, wrote a letter of thanks to the Teen Philanthropy Movement: “Because of this project, more children will attend school in comfort and with dignity, wearing shoes that fit. Our mission of providing new shoes to children in need for school would not be possible without the generous support of people like you.”

Hess says NCSY is looking to expand the Teen Philanthropy Movement.

“We want to get more high schools on board for next year’s project and eventually spread it out to the Bay Area,” he said. “A big boost to the project is Esther Feder, who has become chair of the Movement. As an experienced fundraiser and former chair of [the] Shalhevet High School [board], she’s going to be a real force in propelling the project to new levels of success.”

Hess added that it didn’t take much effort to sell Teen Philanthropy Movement to the teens, and he credits Lurie with helping to motivate them.

“Brandon Lurie has a passion for philanthropy,” Hess said. “Once I got his help, the rest of the team followed under his leadership. And we didn’t have to push the teams; they were motivated by their own desire to give back.”

Pro-Israel philanthropist Newton Becker dies at age 83

Philanthropist Newton Becker died on Jan. 2, and with his death, the pro-Israel and Jewish communities have lost one of their biggest supporters. Becker, who lived near Los Angeles, died at 83 after a long illness.

A prolific donor who had a reputation for humility, Becker donated to organizations that shared his belief in Israel’s importance to the Jewish people and to the world, due to its democratic nature. He gave funds to StandWithUs, which fosters Israeli activism on college campuses, CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy on Middle East Reporting in America) and many others.

However, Becker’s commitment to Israel transcended financial support, according to statements released by several organizations.

“He shifted the paradigm of pro-Israel activism,” said StandWithUs. “Without him, the pro-Israel community would not be as strong and effective as it is today.”

CAMERA executive director Andrea Levin emphasized Becker’s hands-on approach to philanthropy.

“He wanted to know, ‘How are you going to execute this? Why don’t you try this? Why don’t you consider a global approach? How are you going maximize the impact of this event?’ ” Levin said.

“It came out of his own background as a teacher,” she added.

Indeed, Becker earned his fortune by developing a CPA training program called the Becker CPA Review Course, which became popular internationally. He also supported alternative energy, both as the founding investor and chairman of the board of Luz International, a solar company, and as a major investor in Electric Fuel, which develops batteries for electric cars. Early in his career, he worked as an accountant at Price Waterhouse. Becker earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting at Kent State University, from which he also received an honorary doctorate. He earned a master’s in business administration at Case Western Reserve University. He served in the U.S. Army in Germany.

StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein, who worked with Becker on founding the StandWithUs, recalled Becker in action: a man who was confident, in-demand and giving of his time.

“I watched him hold court with leaders of organizations from all over the world,” Rothstein said. “Everyone wanted a meeting with Newton Becker.”

Via several foundations, including the Newton and Rochelle Becker Foundation, his largesse will continue to support the pro-Israel community.

Becker is survived by his wife, Rochelle; sons David, Daniel, Bryan and Bradley;  daughter Laura; and nine grandchildren.

Philanthropist Ann Loeb Bronfman dies

Philanthropist Ann Loeb Bronfman, who supported a range of causes through the foundation that she founded and ran, has died.

Bronfman died Tuesday from complications from emphysema at a hospital in Washington, D.C., surrounded by her five children. She was 78.

She funded and directed programs through the Ann L. Bronfman Foundation. The causes she supported included education, senior citizens, underserved youth, the arts and victims of domestic abuse.

Bronfman funded the Ann Loeb Bronfman Gallery at the Washington DC Jewish Community Center. The gallery offers exhibitions and programs that enhance Jewish identity, examine issues of social importance and develop community.

She was a trustee of the Rosemary Hall School, a boarding school in Connecticut, and was presented with its Alumnae Award in 1999 for “demonstrating outstanding achievement in her given field of endeavor.” Last year she was honored by the Teamwork Foundation, a Bronx, N.Y.-based organization that provides afterschool and summer programs to inner-city children, for her many years of support.

Bronfman graduated from the Rosemary Hall School in 1950 and attended Bennington College in Bennington, Vt., before marrying her husband, Edgar M. Bronfman, in 1953. They were divorced in 1973.

Stanley Black: Businessman, philanthropist, collector

Moses may have brought the Ten Commandments down from Mount Sinai, but he only gave the Israelites one copy — and those stone tablets weren’t easy to lug around.

Real estate businessman and philanthropist Stanley Black, on the other hand, has probably distributed hundreds of copies of the Ten Commandments over his 50 years in the real estate business — and he gives them out in convenient, pocket-size booklets labeled “Thoughts to Live By.”

It’s a tradition that Black’s father, Jack Black, started when he was working in the garment industry. “It was his hope that these ‘thoughts of the day’ would capture one’s conscience and pave the way to a better life,” Black writes of his father in the introduction to the fifth volume of his own booklet.

Black is an omnivorous collector. Over the past 30 years, Black assembled his most profitable collection, a portfolio of investment real estate properties that stretches across 35 states and includes more than 18 million square feet of space. The occupants of Black’s buildings include familiar names: Wendy’s, Burger King and Office Depot, among many others.

The 80 or so pithy sayings that appear alongside the Ten Commandments in the most recent booklet say a lot about how Black considers business and life. “It’s the empty can that makes the most noise,” reads one. “The best exercise is reaching down and lifting people up,” goes another.

By that criterion, Black keeps himself in good shape. Sitting in the Black Equities offices in Beverly Hills, the 78-year-old talked about the ways he has tried, as a philanthropist, to help people get a leg up in the world.

Black is a longtime supporter of Jewish Vocational Services (JVS), which offers training and counseling to help job-seekers in Southern California. “He’s been involved as a donor for years,” JVS’ chief executive officer, Vivian Seigel, said. Black regularly refers people who are out of work to JVS for assistance, and when the organization honored him at a luncheon in 2006, Seigel said that “Stanley publicly doubled his gift, knowing how big the influence is, and how important it is to help people get back on their feet.”

Black is also on the board of Los Angeles ORT College (LAORT), the local branch of the 130-year-old worldwide education and training organization. Since opening in 1990, LAORT has educated or trained more than 25,000 students at its two locations. The LAORT building on Wilshire Boulevard, located next door to The Jewish Federation’s headquarters, is named for Black and his wife, Joyce.

Black helped the nonprofit acquire the building in 1995. “They were asking $3 million. I offered, I think, $2 million,” Black said. He was traveling abroad at the time of the negotiation. “Then I see that they bombed the Jewish Federation building in Argentina,” Black recalled. The sellers had seen the news as well. “An hour later, I got a fax: ‘We accept your offer.’ ”

The real estate business has changed in the past five decades. “When I started, it was easier. I would buy a property with $5,000 down,” Black said. Still, he likes it, and his son and 24-year-old grandson both now work at Black Equities Group. “There’s opportunity out there,” Black said.

Jack Black, President Barack Obama and Stanley Black. Photo courtesy Stanley Black

It’s just a matter of recognizing it — and knowing when to hold out for a better offer. For years, Black and his son Jack have been photographed with prominent local and national politicians. The photo collection includes pictures of the Blacks with Mikhail Gorbachev, Robert F. Kennedy and many others — including the last five U.S. presidents.

Like many real estate developers, Black often supports multiple candidates in a single election. He supported both President Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain in 2008. He wanted a photograph with Obama, but during the 2008 campaign he was told that it would require a $35,000 donation to the Democratic National Committee.

Black balked. “$35,000 is too much money. I’d rather give it to a charity,” he said.

Last year, Obama came out to San Francisco to campaign for Sen. Barbara Boxer. The price for a photograph with Obama had gone down to $5,000. Even with the cost of the plane ticket from LAX to SFO, Black is pretty sure he got a good deal.

In addition to the pictures, his buildings and his “Thoughts to Live By,” Black has collected countless objects, and nearly every available space in his Beverly Hills office is covered with paintings, sculptures and assorted tchotckes. A sign with Black’s name written in Chinese is affixed to his office door. A soccer ball signed by Bob Bradley, coach for the U.S. men’s national team,  sits on a table in the entryway. Opposite the receptionist’s desk hangs a string of rosary beads in a frame that was presented to Black by L.A. Cardinal Roger Mahony.

The office is also overrun with monkeys. In an homage to the “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil” monkeys that sat on his father’s desk many years ago, Black has accumulated dozens of sculptures and paintings of the primate trio.

The father and son were also photographed with California Gov. Jerry Brown — twice. The first photo of Brown with the Blacks was taken during the governor’s first term in the 1970s; the more recent photo was taken just last year. “I told him not to run,” Black said of his advice to Brown during his last successful campaign.

The 2010 photo shows how the Blacks and Brown have aged — but one look at Black’s “Thoughts to Live By” suggests that he’s probably not too bothered about getting older.

“Sometimes,” one of Black’s thoughts reads, “it is better to be 80 years young than 40 years old.”

Philanthropist Richard Goldman dies at 90

Richard Goldman, one of the most influential Jewish philanthropists in the country, died early Monday morning in his native San Francisco. He was 90.

His funeral is tentatively scheduled for Friday at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco.

As co-founder of the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, Goldman oversaw a billion-dollar philanthropic enterprise that strengthened Jewish life in the Bay Area and Israel, giving many millions to such institutions as Rhoda Goldman Plaza and the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.

The fund also focused on a range of broader issues, from the arts to San Francisco beautification projects, from combating hunger to protecting the environment. Since 1990, the annual Goldman Environmental Prize has honored grassroots environmentalists from around the world, and remains the most prestigious award of its kind.

Goldman is survived by his sons, John Goldman and Doug Goldman, and daughter, Susan Gelman. A fourth child, Richard Goldman, died of cancer in 1989. Goldman was predeceased by his wife, Rhoda, in 1996.

We don’t need more gabfests on diversity

The details of the ugly dustup between a leading local Jewish philanthropist, Daphna Ziman, and the local African American head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Rev. Eric Lee, are still at issue. Ziman disseminated her account of the encounter in a widely distributed e-mail. She claimed that Lee gave a speech at a local fraternity function rife with anti-Semitic statements. Lee strenuously denied the charges, and no independent corroboration exists.

But what is of greater interest than what actually transpired at the Kappa Alpha Psi gathering is the response from the leadership of our community to Lee’s remarks and what that portends for intergroup relations in this city.

Predictably, the civil rights leadership of our communities seems to be responding to the incident just as they have in the past — with dialogue groups and resurrected “roundtables” aimed at convincing participants of the value of diversity and of our historic and present commonalities.

What ought to distinguish the response of today from those in the 1970s and 1990s is the context of our very changed society.

Society has caught up and passed well beyond dialogue groups and the need to justify and rationalize the value of diversity. Every major study conducted in this field has revealed an amazing attitude of acceptance of differences by today’s young people. As Morley Winograd and Michael Hais observe in their just-published book, “Millennial Makeover,” “the great diversity of the Millennial Generation [born between 1982 and 2003] and its experiences growing up in a multiracial society is reflected in their relatively color-blind attitudes on racial relations.”

The Pew Center concluded in its multiple surveys of millennials that “they are the most tolerant of any generation on social issues such as immigration, race and homosexuality.” One example documented by the Pew Center (dealing with a historically incendiary issue) found that that between 1987 and 2003, attitudes toward interracial dating among 18-25-year-olds underwent a sea change — those approving such activity rose from 56 percent to 89 percent. Those completely agreeing with interracial dating rose from 20 percent to 64 percent.

The data of a profound change in attitudes is incontestable and is manifested across racial and religious lines. The Reboot study of millennials, “OMG! How Generation Y is Redefining Faith in the iPod Era,” found that today’s youth are “fully integrated into diverse social networks. While previous generations often lived in homogenous religious communities, among Generation Y [born 1980-2000], only 7 percent of youth report that all their friends are the same religion as themselves. Even the most religious youth maintain diverse networks of peers.”

The study oversampled Jewish and black youth to confirm their findings.

Even the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) study of anti-Semitic attitudes indicates a decline in anti-Semitic attitudes among the African American population, historically among the most problematic cohort it surveys. Unfortunately, the ADL study does not disaggregate data for younger blacks and their attitudes.

If one believes the myriad studies that confirm the exceptionally positive trends of the new generation, how should one respond to the Lee incident? More dialogue groups that devolve into vehicles to preach to the converted seems to be what we have in store for us. The Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission and its friends will be busy singing the same old songs.

What ought to inform any actions that grow out of the Lee-Ziman incident is the profound change that has taken and is taking place around us. Young people today don’t need a “coalition” to talk about how to live together — they do it 24/7. Their world isn’t circumscribed by their faith, their race or their ethnicity.

Nor should we trudge out the old nostrums and activities and think that the Lees of the world will change their version of history or their attitudes — nor should we really care. They are not the future, and their historical notions are virtually irrelevant.

Our communities’ leadership has to absorb the reality that the next generation of open-minded young people sees diversity as a plus, not as a burden to be overcome. We need to offer them activities that confirm their positive outlook and involve them in doing, not talking, about things, much as Temple Israel’s Big Sunday program does — people working together as equals, improving our community for everyone. We don’t need more gabfests or sessions of self-flagellation.

Millennials believe that they live in an exciting time, two-thirds rate their lives as “excellent or pretty good,” let’s give them reason to confirm those positive attitudes.

David A. Lehrer is president and Joe R. Hicks vice president of Community Advocates Inc. (, a Los Angeles-based human relations organization headed by former mayor Richard J. Riordan.

‘Generation Next’ powow at Professional Leaders Project parley

Generation Next

By the end of the Professional Leaders Project gathering in Santa Monica, I walked away with three things: a stack of business cards, some good stories and a condom from in a package that featured an Israeli flag on the front and an off-color, yet highly creative tagline we can’t print here.

These may be the usual accoutrement, left over from a weekend of Jewish networking, yet with respect to this conference being a progressive think tank, the cards are unusually fancy:

There’s Ariel Beery, the 20-something editor and publisher of a cutting-edge mag on Jewish life (the current cover of PresenTense features three unmistakably ethnic Jews under a headline that reads, “Funny, You Don’t Look Jewish”). Then there was Lindsay Litowitz, who is independently seeking funds tofinance a documentary film project, called “Four Corners,” on Jewishcommunities around the world. Others there were producers, entrepreneurs, nonprofit executives, artists and budding religious leaders.

The invitation-only crowd was comprised of significant young Jewish professionals and volunteers — most were hip and well dressed, all shared “smart and successful” and were qualitatively labeled “talent.” And there you have the traits of the nation’s future Jewish leadership.

Well-funded and well-organized PLP flew in these rising stars for three days of Jewish learning, networking and highfalutin keynote speakers. Israeli-born Harvard professor Tal Ben-Shahar, who commands up to $20,000 for a single speaking engagement, delivered a spiel on positive psychology that didn’t quite live up to my expectations, so I hope PLP got his nonprofit rate.

During my in-and-out stint, I caught Dov Rosenblatt performing with his band, Blue Fringe. Afterwards, I mistakenly offered a handshake to Chasidic rapper Y-Love (a.k.a. Yitz Jordan), who abruptly flung his sweaty beret over his palms before he would touch me. The much-anticipated conclusion, “Michael Steinhardt Uncensored” was a bust when he fell ill, but the ever-eloquent and engaging Rabbi Naomi Levy stepped in and delivered an empowering message on good leadership.

Despite the lack of an overriding message articulated over the course of the conference, there was a sense of hopefulness. The Jewish future is in ready hands, able hands — and maybe next time, they’ll have a concrete objective of what to do with those hands.

Jane Usher is no plain Jane. She’s an active environmentalist, attorney and president of the Los Angeles City Planning Commission. Flanked by eco-Hollywood and go-green Angelenos, she was honored by TreePeople at their annual gala fundraiser, “An Evening Under the Harvest Moon,” which raked in half-a-mil for L.A.’s urban forest. Since a group of teenagers started the organization in the 1970s, more than 2 million trees have been planted in our beloved, angelic city.

What a pair! Of sisters, that is. Although the John Wayne Cancer Institute’s breast cancer fundraising luncheon makes clear reference to a woman’s most salient body part, the perky set at this event was actress Joely Fisher and her sister, Trisha Leigh Fisher, who presented Joley, the smokin’ star of FOX’s “Til Death,” with the Angel Award for her brazier-like support of breast cancer research.

Comedic actor and ubiquitous philanthropist Brad Garrett also attended the fete, as he and Joely are slated to emcee the Zimmer Children’s Museum’s seventh annual Discovery Award Dinner on Nov. 8.

Jack Gindi, American Jewish University philanthropist, dies at 83

Jack Gindi, real estate developer, lawyer, philanthropist and Jewish community benefactor, died Saturday, Aug. 4, at 83, following a prolonged illness.

Known primarily for his philanthropy with American Jewish University (formerly the University of Judaism), where an auditorium bears his family name, Gindi gave to a variety of Jewish educational and service organizations around Southern California.

Gindi was born in Brooklyn’s Syrian Jewish community in 1923. At the age of 12, he and his family moved to Detroit. After graduating from the University of Michigan, Gindi served more than three years in the U.S. Air Force. According to a 2004 Jewish Community Foundation profile, Gindi met Rachel Harary during one of many weekends spent at his uncle’s home in Brooklyn.

Following his military service, Gindi entered University of Michigan’s law school and completed his degree in 1948. Gindi and Harary married soon after and moved to Los Angeles, where he began a highly successful career in business and real estate.

Gindi became involved with the University of Judaism in 1963, spending more than 40 years with the institution, most of that time as a board member.

The university’s Moses E. Gindi Auditorium is named for his father, and the Gindis sponsor the library’s microfilm collection, which contains the manuscript collection of the Jewish Theological Seminary; Ha’aretz, Israel’s major newspaper, from 1919 to 1970, and issues of the London Jewish Chronicle from 1841 to 1982.

“He had remarkable mind … if there was a problem, he could always tell you [the answer],” said Dr. Robert Wexler, university president since 1992. “When you met Jack, you became part of a whole family.”

Jack and Rachel Gindi credited their parents and their upbringing for inspiring their commitment to tzedakah (charity).

“The roots of our giving were really formulated in the Syrian community in Brooklyn, where everyone is raised to give charity,” Rachel Gindi told the Jewish Community Foundation in 2004. “It wasn’t big money that we learned to give; it was a part of what we had. Jack and I have tried to instill in our children the values that we learned from our parents at a young age.”

The Gindis’ philanthropy included the American Jewish University, Maimonides Academy (formerly Sephardic Hebrew Academy), YULA Girls High School, the Jewish Home for the Aging and Camp Ramah of California. Another organization, the Gimmel Foundation, provides enrichment programs for underprivileged children in several development towns in Israel.

In 1986, the Gindis and their children began working with the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles. In conjunction with staff from the Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, they helped develop the At Risk Youth Prevention and Intervention Program, which identifies at-risk children, trains school administrators, decreases high-risk behaviors in children through support services and connects families and children with appropriate resources.

Despite the large amount of money the Gindis have donated over the years through the Jack E. and Rachel Gindi Foundation, they shunned the spotlight. The family granted an interview to Jewish Community Foundation to highlight the importance of intergenerational philanthropy.

“We learned that philanthropy is a part of life,” son Joseph Gindi said, “that it’s expected of us.”

“They transmitted down to us that philanthropy is a wonderful thing to be involved in,” daughter Betsy said. “It’s not a burden.”

That love of giving even extends to the Gindis’ 19 grandchildren, who are involved in such organizations as Tomchei Shabbat, preparing and delivering food for Shabbat to families who would otherwise go without, and the Etta Israel Center, which works with developmentally challenged youth and their families.

“[Jack] was willing to listen and re-think the way he did things,” Wexler said. “If there was something new, a new idea or way of doing things, he was interested.”

Gindi is survived by his wife, Rachel “Rae,” whom he had been married to for almost 60 years; children, Elie (Sharon), Joseph (Julia), Betsy (Simon) and Alan (Barbara); 19 grandchildren, and many friends.

Services were held on Sunday, Aug. 5 at Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills. Gindi was buried at Har HaMenuchot Cemetery in Jerusalem this week.


Dr. Morris Ira Harow, Philanthropist, Dies at 93

Dr. Morris Ira Harow, a leading Jewish figure in the Los Angeles community for nearly half a century, died on April 29. Dr. Harow was born in New York in 1913 and moved to Los Angeles in 1938, where he had a successful family practice in what was formerly known as South Central for 45 years. Dr. Harow was a philanthropist, supporting numerous Jewish causes in Los Angeles and Israel.

He had a dynamic personality and filled a leadership role at many institutions and organizations. He was president of the Religious Zionists of America, Hillel Hebrew Academy and Beth Jacob Congregation. He was active in the Bnei Akiva Zionist Youth Organization. He was the camp doctor at Camp Moshava for more than 30 years. He was also instrumental in the creation of Young Israel of Century City.

He possessed a unique blend of Torah and scientific knowledge. He was a gifted physician as well as a true talmudic scholar. He often led prayer services and read from the Torah. He had a distinct voice that carried through the synagogue.

Dr. Harow moved to Israel in 1986, with his wife, Sylvia, to the community of Karnei Shomron in the Samarian Hills. His magnanimity was instrumental in building Young Israel of Neve Aliza. His thirst for knowledge was never quenched as he continued his studies until his passing.

Dr. Harow is survived by his six children; 35 grandchildren; and 65 great-grandchildren. He is deeply missed by his family and close friends worldwide.

Donations can be sent to the Dr. Harow memorial fund Husder Yeshiva Karnei Shomron, P.O. Box 340, Karnei Shomron, Israel, 44855.

Layne Gayman Kardener, Author, Dies at 68

Layne Gayman Kardener died July 12 at 68, following a courageous battle against ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). A runway model in her early years, Layne was Layne Kardener a stunning woman throughout her life. She was a devoted wife, mother and great friend to many.

She was a big fan of Broadway musicals and a great entertainer who loved the spotlight, but didn’t mind sharing it with others. Layne loved to sing with friends (frequently at “open-mic” night at Mort’s Delicatessen off Sunset Boulevard in Pacific Palisades).

Over the course of her professional life, Layne was a fifth-grade teacher; marriage, family and child counselor; doctoral candidate in psychology; pupil of Anna Freud; and family mediator. In 1982, she co-authored a guide called, “Twenty Questions Divorcing Parents Ask About Their Children.” Layne remained a fervent advocate for children’s rights in divorce.

Raised an Orthodox Jew in Detroit, Mich., she discovered Reconstructionism in the mid-1960s when she moved with her first husband, Dr. Sheldon Kardener, and their two children to Los Angeles, and became a lifetime member of Kehillat Israel. She took immense pleasure in sharing the beauty of Judaism with others. As a young wife and mother, Layne was also a community leader as a member of the Pacific Palisades chapters of Church Women United and Hadassah.

A perpetual optimist and a fighter till the end, Layne always left room for the doctors to have misdiagnosed ALS, and if not that, believed she would “be the first to beat it!” Her family believes that her hope kept her going long beyond the average life expectancy for a victim of ALS.

Layne will be missed by her children, Moss and Rona; “daughter-in-love,” Renee; grandchildren, Gabriel and Aviva, and brother, Joel Gayman.

Contributions may be sent to: F.A.C.E.S.: Family Assessment Counseling and Education Services, Attention Mary O’Connor, 505 E. Commonwealth, Suite 200, Fullerton, CA 92832.


Evelyn Brockman died May 3 at 88. She is survived by her daughters, Kimm (Richard) Parker, Gail and Linda; and two grandchildren. Groman

Rand Feinstein died July 22 at 48. He is survived by his wife, Donna; children, Elliot and Isabel; brothers Barry (Marty) and Scott (Jill); and many friends.

Leonard Greiner died May 3 at 85. He is survived by his wife, Rosalind; sons, Seth, Wilee, Russell and Miles; and five grandchildren. Groman

Rachel Deborah Grohman died May 7 at 75. She is survived by her daughters, Estee (Amir) Bienstock, Judy (Brian) Friedman, Helen (Bob) Grohman-Collins and Brenda; six grandchildren; and sister, Gladys (Irving) Rubin. Groman

Edith Levine died July 13 at 93. She is survived by her husband, Stanley; daughters, Betsy Devore and Joanne (Donna) Gilman; son, Roger; and five grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Shirley Leibowitz died June 20 at 84. She is survived by her husband, Harry; children, Ellen (Bob) Goodside and Karen (Georgie) Serota; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Eden

Cesia Licht died July 13 at 86. She is survived by her son, Mark (Michele); and grandchildren, Diane and Rebecca. Mount Sinai

Gertrude “Trudy” Licht died July 16 at 80. She is survived by her husband, Bob; sons, Alan (Phyllis) and Mark (Barbara); daughter, Lisa Light; five grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and brother, Herb (Judie) Schwartz. Mount Sinai

Sylvia Obrowski died May 4 at 84. She is survived by her daughter, Ruth Yaker (Larry). Groman

Martha Philipson died May 7 at 95. She is survived by her daughters, Carole (Richard) Hoffman, Ronda (Leon) Gottlieb; five grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and brother, Daniel (Bea) Gross . Groman

Miriam Rifkin died July 12 at 95. She is survived by her sons, Saul and Arnold; daughter, Ronnie Bell; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Hillside

Gloria Rubin died July 13 at 79. She is survived by her daughter, Felicia (Dean) Langwiser; and son, David (Lori). Mount Sinai

Jack Schimmel died on May 4 at 79. He is survived by his wife, Natalie; sons, Eugene and Alan; daughter, Lisa Waller; three grandchildren; and brother, Arnold. Groman

Dorothy Springer died May 4 at 91. She is survived by her son, Arthur; daughter, Sheila (Arthur) Goodman; and five grandchildren. Groman

Briefs: Western Wall dig starts, Israel and U.S. back gays at U.N.

Israel Starts Western Wall Dig

Israel began a controversial dig in the Western Wall Plaza. Bulldozers from the Antiquities Authority broke ground Tuesday near a ramp connecting the plaza to the Temple Mount, with officials saying the aim was to search for historical artifacts before fixing weather damage to the structure. Footage relayed live on Middle East television stations prompted Arab leaders to accuse Israel of trying to undermine the Al-Aksa Mosque and another major Muslim shrine on the Temple Mount.

“I appeal to all our Palestinian people to be united and to rise up together to protect Al-Aksa,” Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said.The Antiquities Authority’s director of excavations, Gideon Avni, denied that such a threat existed.

“Nothing in the work touches the wall of the Temple Mount,” he told reporters.Israeli police went on high alert for possible riots and restricted Palestinian access to the site.

Adelson Gives $25 Million to Birthright

Billionaire Sheldon Adelson pledged $25 million to Birthright Israel. The money will allow the organization to double the number of free trips to Israel that it offers Jewish youth this summer, bringing the total to 20,000. The gift is being made by the Adelson Family Charitable Foundation, founded recently by the majority owner of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., and his wife, Dr. Miriam Adelson.

According to a Birthright spokesman, the foundation anticipates making similar $25 million gifts for the next several years. In December, the Adelson foundation gave $5 million to Birthright to pay for 2,000 free trips for Jews aged 18 to 26. Adelson, whose net worth was estimated in September at $20.5 billion, is America’s third wealthiest man behind Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.

“The Birthright Israel program is one of the best ideas our time has seen because it has the greatest potential for establishing Jewish continuity,” Adelson said.

Jewish Groups Urge Budget Fight

A coalition of Jewish groups urged Congress to fight President Bush’s budget cuts.

“We urge you to fight cuts that would be harmful to the vulnerable populations we advocate on behalf of,” said the letter sent Monday to every member of Congress and signed by 16 national groups and 62 local and state groups.

It identified programs such as the Social Services Block Grant, the Community Services Block Grant, Food Stamps, State Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program as “critical to the elderly, refugees, children and persons with disabilities. Please keep these populations in mind as Congress develops its budget resolution.”

The letter was spearheaded by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs; signatories include the American Jewish Committee, United Jewish Communities federation umbrella group, and the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform streams. Programs favored by the Jewish community that face significant cuts in the president’s budget released Monday include Medicaid and Medicare; a Housing Department program that funds independent living for the elderly; and block grants to states for social services that pay for adoption services, refugee assistance and other programs.

British Jews Urge ‘Independent’ Stand on Israel

A group of Anglo-Jewish notables urged Jews to take a more “independent” stance on Israel than do mainstream community groups. In a statement posted Monday on a Web site linked to Britain’s Guardian newspaper, the left-leaning group Independent Jewish Voices called for equitable treatment of Israelis and Palestinians, and deplored anti-Arab bigotry as akin to anti-Semitism.

The group, comprised of dozens of Jewish intellectuals and celebrities including actor Stephen Fry and film director Mike Leigh, hinted that it sought to break from the umbrella Board of Deputies of British Jews, which has backed Israel in its recent conflicts with Hezbollah and the Palestinians.

Anti-Semitism Monitor Gets Top Radio Post

A scholar known for his work monitoring anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli activity in Europe was named president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Jeffrey Gedmin starts in March, according to a statement released last Friday by the congressionally funded pro-American radio network. In a 2004 interview Gedmin, who has headed the Berlin office of the influential Aspen Institute since 2001, said anti-Israel sentiment in Europe was rooted in the continent’s anti-Semitic past.

Group Mounts Bone-Marrow Drive

Ezer Mizion will hold a nationwide bone-marrow testing drive in Israel on Feb. 14. The largest Jewish bone-marrow testing registry is looking for a match for an 8-year-old Jewish leukemia patient. The Brooklyn-based organization hopes to screen some 20,000 people at dozens of testing stations around Israel. For information, call (718) 853-8400.

Israel, U.S. Back Gays at U.N.

Israel and the United States were among a minority at the United Nations in favor of accrediting a gay-rights group. The Coalition of Gays and Lesbians of Quebec applied this month for registration with the United Nations Committee on Nongovernmental Organizations, but was rejected by a majority vote of mostly Muslim countries. Voting in favor were Israel, the United States and four other countries. A motion to admit a second gay advocacy group, the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights, was deferred by the NGO committee.

Agudah Rabbis Call for Pollard’s Release

Agudath Israel of America’s rabbinical councils called on “all caring Jews” to appeal to President Bush to free convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, who was sentenced to life in 1987 for spying for Israel.

“Mr. Pollard’s life sentence — a penalty far more severe than that imposed upon others who committed similar or even more serious crimes — is difficult to comprehend,” said the statement issued Monday by the fervently Orthodox group’s Council of Torah Sages, Rabbinic Presidium and nearly 100 signatories from its Conference of Synagogue Rabbis.

“At this time, it appears that all legal avenues through the judicial system have been shut off. Only the president of the United States, by granting Mr. Pollard executive clemency, can save him from spending the rest of his life behind bars.”

Agudath Israel says it will join other Jewish organizations in asking its members to phone the White House daily between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. EST until Passover.

The phone-in is primarily organized by the National Council of Young Israel.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Local Couple Secures Pope’s Personal Blessing of Crucifix for Ailing Catholic Friend

Local Couple Secures Pope’s Personal Blessing of Crucifix for Ailing Catholic Friend

Civic activists and philanthropists Faith and Jonathan Cookler recently returned from an Anti-Defamation League (ADL) National Leadership Mission led by Abraham Foxman, ADL national director, to meet with political, religious and community leaders in Rome, Paris (where Foxman was presented with the Legion of Honor by President Jacques Chirac) and Berlin.

Faith Cookler told an amazing story about the trip, beginning with a phone call from her brother, Ron Pepperman, an educator in Northern California: “A colleague of his, a 38-year-old mother and devout Catholic from the Philippines, is seriously ill with cancer. Since our delegation was scheduled to have a private audience with Pope Benedict, she asked if we could present a crucifix to him for a blessing.”

Cookler said when she arrived in Rome, they learned it is customary to bring religious artifacts for the pope’s group blessing at both public and private audiences. Cookler said on the morning of the audience, their 30-member delegation was seated facing an elevated thronelike chair.

“The religious artifacts were gathered and put on a silver platter for a group blessing,” she said. “We opted to hold on to our envelope containing the precious cross.”

Cookler said Pope Benedict entered the room clad in white robes, white skullcap and red Prada slippers.

“Mr. Foxman opened his remarks with a heartfelt and emotional request to bless the memory of the Catholic woman who took him in and raised him as a Catholic during the Holocaust, thereby saving his life,” she recounted.

According to Cookler, Pope Benedict unequivocally reaffirmed that the church deplores all forms of hatred or persecution directed against the Jews and all displays of anti-Semitism at any time and from any source.

“He also noted that we need to know each other better and build relationships not just of tolerance but of authentic respect,” Cookler said. “In a clear allusion to the reaction to his remarks regarding the Muslim community, he stated that Jews, Christians and Muslims share many common convictions, and there are numerous areas of humanitarian and social engagement in which we can and must co-operate.”

Cookler said when it was their turn to greet the pope, her husband showed him the crucifix from the sick woman and explained the situation. The pope smiled and blessed it on the spot.

“We FedExed the envelope to my brother, who delivered the contents to the woman’s home just as she was returning from the hospital after enduring another round of treatment,” Cookler said. “Ron told us she appeared weak and frail but rallied when he presented her with the envelope and the photos of the pope blessing her crucifix. We felt very blessed and honored to be the
intermediaries on both the world stage and a very intimate personal one.”

Black And White Ball

Nostalgia reigned supreme as the Beverly Hills Police Officers Association held its 18th annual “Black and White Ball” at the Beverly Hilton Nov. 6. Mayor Steve Webb acted as master of ceremonies at the event, one of the best attended in the city’s history, hosting 1,000 guests. More than $250,000 was raised, a portion of which goes to the association’s medical trust fund.

This year’s event coincided with the 100th anniversary celebration of law enforcement in Beverly Hills. The evening’s highlights included the police chief’s presentation of the department’s annual achievement winners and a stroll down memory lane with a performance by The Platters-Live. By the end of the evening, guests were dancing in the aisles a la “American Bandstand” days. Oy, wish I owned the Ben Gay concession the next morning.

Violence Fighters

It was an evening to remember when Mid-Wilshire Domestic Violence Prevention Collaborative honored nine individuals who have dedicated themselves tirelessly to raising awareness of domestic violence in Los Angeles, especially in underserved communities where information on the issue has been largely unavailable.

The collaborative, a joint venture led by Jewish Family Service’s Family Violence Project, presented the awards at a ceremony at the West Hollywood Community Center, where West Hollywood Councilwoman Abbe Land served as moderator. Among the honored guests were Los Angeles City Councilmen Eric Garcetti and Tom LaBonge and West Hollywood Mayor John Heilman.

According to Debi Biederman, community outreach and network coordinator for the Family Violence Project and co-chair of the collaborative, the goal of the awards is “to inspire other community members to get involved, follow the example set by those being honored and raise awareness of domestic violence within populations which have long lacked services and resources. In many of these communities, the subject is rarely discussed openly.”

Honored at the event were: Johanna Gomez, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community; Lynda Basile Stack, African immigrant community; Imelda Talamantes, Latino community; Joni Schact, Orthodox Jewish community; Rabeya Sen, Southeast Asian community; Nadia Babayi, Iranian community; Don Laffoon, Iranian community; Susan Millmann of Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, social service award recipient; and Kimberly Wong, honored for outstanding service by a public agency/public employee to the underserved communities.

Roast for Richard; A Wish Is Granted; And the World Tastes Good; New Faces X 2

Roast for Richard

City of Hope honored civic leader and philanthropist Richard S. Ziman at a toast and roast Sept, 14. Ziman was presented with City of Hope’s Spirit of Life Award and President’s Award for his longstanding commitment to the advancement of science and the care of patients with cancer. The event raised $1.6 million for City of Hope’s groundbreaking cancer research and treatment programs.

A Wish Is Granted

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Rabbi Elianna Yolkut was installed Sept. 16 at Adat Ari El, a conservative synagogue in Valley Village. Yolkut was ordained this past spring from the University of Judaism’s Zeigler School of Rabbinic Studies.

New Faces II

Jewish National Fund (JNF) has hired Donna De La Paz as regional zone director. Virginia-born De La Paz has worked in the Jewish communal world since 1988, most recently as the associate director of development in Florida for the Anti-Defamation League. Prior to that she was executive director of the Miami and Houston offices of the American Jewish Committee. Her first Jewish communal job was for B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO) where, as a teenager, she was imbued with a love for Israel.

“Donna possesses all the qualities we look for in a leader,” said Russell F. Robinson, CEO of JNF of America. “She is intelligent, creative, thoughtful, innovative, but most importantly, she is passionate about Israel. For someone to convey to others — donors and lay leaders alike — what JNF does, its value to life in Israel and the role it plays in the growth, security and continuity of the Jewish homeland, they need to care deeply. Donna does and we are excited to welcome her aboard and look forward to what she can accomplish.”

With a background in education, De La Paz began her professional career as a teacher on track to become a school principal. Somewhere along the way the track shifted, and when deciding what she wanted to do with her life, she recalled that her happiest moment was the summer she spent in Israel with BBYO.

“I called BBYO for a job,” she said, “and haven’t looked back since.

As JNF’s zone director she hopes to build a strong board who will help her better educate the community about who JNF is and the work it does.

“People just don’t know the breadth and scope of all that we do,” she said, “and we do so much.”

For more information, call 323-964-1400.

And the World Tastes Good

Yummy, was the word for the night Southern California’s most prominent Jewish leaders and elite raised in excess of $200,000 to benefit student scholarships at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem at the third annual “A Chocolate Affaire,” sponsored by American Friends of the Hebrew University (AFHU). Almost 300 guests wandered about the event, an extravagant evening of gourmet food, cocktails, live music and chocolate tasting, in a beautiful home in Holmby Hills Sept. 9.

Represented there were various treats like Carvel Ice Cream, and gourmet cuisine was provided by The Kitchen for Exploring Foods. Beacon Restaurant donated signature desserts for the third year in a row. Chocolate and dessert sponsors besides Carvel included Chrissie’s Cookie’s, Leonida’s Belgian Chocolate, My Mother’s Brownies, Osteria Latini and See’s Candies.

Among those who were seen noshing shamelessly (or was that just me?) were guest speaker Shaul Druckmann, a Hebrew University student ambassador and doctoral candidate in neuroscience, who shared his personal experiences and stressed the need for scholarship support; AFHU chairman Richard Ziman; attorney Patricia Glaser, Western Region president of AFHU; several members of the AFHU board of directors; “American Idol’s” Paula Abdul, and Peter Willner, AFHU national executive director

AFHU is a national, not-for-profit organization that provides programs, events, and fundraising activities to support Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel’s foremost center of higher education and research. AFHU’s Western Region is helping to lead the way in ensuring that the university’s 24,000 students have the resources they need to become leaders and innovators in Israel and around the world.

The Nation and The World

Technion Gets $25 Million Gift From Californian

A California philanthropist has donated $25 million to the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. The gift from Lorry Lokey, founder and chairman of Business Wire, will be used to create a new combined life sciences and engineering center. The money came through the New York-based American Technion Society, which has raised more than $1.2 billion since its inception in 1940. “I feel that Israel has in the Technion an asset as valuable as MIT and Cal Tech combined,” Lokey said.

Technion Professor Aaron Ciechanover, a who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2004, will head the center.

U.S. Teachers Union Backs Israel

A major U.S. teachers union passed a pro-Israel resolution. Passed July 21 at the biennial convention of the American Federation of Teachers in Boston, the resolution supports Israel’s right to defend itself and condemns the “bombings, killings and kidnappings by Hezbollah and Hamas that precipitated the current crisis.”

The resolution also calls for the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, which demands that Hezbollah be disarmed and calls for negotiations leading to a cease-fire.

Initiative Aims to Boost Israeli Tourism

A major U.S. Jewish umbrella group launched an initiative to bolster tourism to Israel during the conflict with Hezbollah.

The program, launched by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, allows tourists to place reservations, which will be valid for up to a year, in northern Israeli hotels and kibbutzim. It is intended to provide a “continuing stream” of income to Israeli tourism and the people who work in that industry, the group’s executive vice chairman, Malcolm Hoenlein, said Monday in a conference call with reporters.

Israel’s Hotel Association and the Tourism Ministry are participating in the effort, in cooperation with the Prime Minister’s Office and the Gaza Development Authority.

Jewish Lawmakers Honor Israeli Air Force

Several members of the U.S. House of Representatives attended a July 19 gathering honoring the Israel Air Force Center, an Israeli nonprofit that promotes ties between the Israeli air force and the international community.”There are difficult days ahead for Israel,” said Rep. Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo). “I can’t tell you how profoundly grateful we are to the Israeli air force for what it does 24 hours a day. Members of Congress who are friends of Israel are honored and privileged to do our little bit to assist.”

Other Jewish members attending included Reps. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys) and Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles).

Saudis Warn of War

Saudi Arabia said Israeli actions could bring about a Middle East war.”Saudi Arabia warns everybody that if the peace option fails because of Israeli arrogance, there will be no other option but war,” Saudi King Abdullah was quoted as saying Tuesday, in reference to Israel’s offensives in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

Saudi Arabia championed a 2002 regional peace proposal under which Israel would be recognized by the Arab world if it gave up territories captured in the 1967 Six-Day War and allowed a “right of return” for millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants. Israel rejected the preconditions, which are seen as demographic suicide for the Jewish state. The chief of Israel’s military intelligence, Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday that Syria had put its armed forces on high alert and that there was concern in Jerusalem that it could “misread the situation” an apparent reference to Syrian fears that it could come under attack from Israeli or U.S. forces.

Turkey Would Consider Lebanon Role

Turkey would consider a role in a stabilization force in southern Lebanon. “If and when called upon, we will be giving positive consideration to whichever way we contribute, including the stabilization force,” said Burak Akcapar, a counselor at the Turkish Embassy in Washington. Turkey is to play a prominent role at talks in Rome on Wednesday hosted by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice aimed at ending the Israel-Lebanon crisis. Akcapar said it was too early to consider whether Turkey would take a leading role in such a force, but noted that Turkey had successfully led such forces in recent years in the Balkans and Afghanistan. “We have a major stake in maintaining stability in the region,” he said.

Ukrainians Hold Pro-Israel Rallies

Demonstrators in two Ukrainian cities rallied in a show of support for Israel. An estimated 2,000 people, some of them carrying Israeli flags and banners reading “Stop the Terror,” “Yes, Israel” and “Ukraine and Israel Together” demonstrated Monday in Kiev.

Israeli Ambassador Naomi Ben-Ami, the chief rabbis of Ukraine, and Jewish and Christian leaders took part in the rally. Also Monday, some 1,500 people attended a rally in support of Israel in the city of Dnepropetrovsk.

In a related development, Alexander Feldman, a Jewish member of Ukraine’s Parliament, collected some 50 signatures from lawmakers on a petition urging the Ukrainian leadership to publicly support Israel in the current conflict.Last week, hundred of demonstrators rallied in Kiev and some other Ukrainian cities to protest Israel’s military operation against Hezbollah.

Poll: Canadians Back Israel

Almost two-thirds of Canadians see Israel’s military action in Lebanon as completely or somewhat justified, according to a new poll.

A survey conducted for the CanWest News Service and Global National found that 64 percent of Canadians are sympathetic to the goals of Israel’s counterattack against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Sixty-three percent of the 1,023 Canadians polled said that if any side should be required to make a major compromise to attain a cease-fire, it should be “those who kidnapped the Israeli soldiers.”

Israeli Children Get Donated Toys

Children in northern Israel received toys donated from North America. Canadian philanthropist Gerry Schwartz and his wife, Heather Riesman, along with the Toys “R” Us chain, donated toys worth approximately $50,000 to children in the northern Israeli towns of Nahariya and Shlomi.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

The Circuit

Monty’s a Man — Again

Philanthropist and game show icon Monty Hall took center stage last week at Temple Shalom for the Arts when he stepped up to the bimah to read from the Torah at his bar mitzvah. Hall embraced the ancient tradition of a second bar mitzvah surrounded by an overflowing group of friends and well-wishers who turned out to share this “second” special life moment.

Hall, born Monty Halperin on Aug. 25, 1924, in Winnipeg, Canada, came to the United States in 1955 and worked for NBC on various projects. In 1963, he became the host of “Let’s Make a Deal,” a game show he co-created, which ran for 23 years and aired on all three major networks at different times.

With his wife, Marilyn, at his side, he has spent his life in philanthropy, raising millions of dollars for charities, ranging from the Variety Clubs to the Jewish Home for the Aging and a wide array of national and community charitable endeavors, including The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

Hall and his family hosted a Kiddush and reception after the service, which included participation by peacemaker and virtuoso Omar Faruk Tekbilek.

A Family Mitzvah

Charlie Brucker, father of Beverly Hills Councilman Barry Brucker, also celebrated a second bar mitzvah last week at Temple Beth Am as children and grandchildren joined well-wishers and friends to participate in the festivities. Making it even more a family affair, granddaughter Lauren Brucker fashioned a personalized tallit for her grandfather to wear for the ceremonies out of a piece of silk which she tie-dyed and painted depicting the family.

Son Barry, commenting on his father’s bar mitzvah, said, “I am so proud of my dad. He has always been an inspiration to me in every aspect of my life and will always continue to be. His children and grandchildren have learned so much from him about what it means to be a Jew and that pride has filtered down through our family and been a shining light to us all.”

L.A. Goes for Gold

Los Angeles delegates made a strong showing at the annual JCC Maccabi Games held during August in four U.S. cities: Dallas; San Antonio; St. Paul, Minn., and Richmond, Va. Israel’s first Olympic gold medalist, windsurfer Gal Fridman, was in St. Paul to light the torch at the opening ceremony.

Los Angeles, which sent 154 athletes to the games, brought back 131 medals, thanks to star athletes like 14-year-old Alex Fullman, who returned with 13 he earned in swimming — the most from the delegation.

“It was a wonderful experience for anyone who likes to have fun, play sports, and who likes to be with other Jewish teens,” said Fullman, a freshman at Harvard Westlake.

With his incredible achievement it is hard to imagine that Fullman did not expect to compete so well. At last year’s games he managed a single bronze medal, so “I didn’t know what to expect this year. I just went to do my best and have a good time.”

Competing with and meeting other Jewish athletes meant so much to Fullman that he skipped the Junior Olympics that were taking place at the same time to compete at the Maccabi Games.

“I have until I’m 18 to compete at the Junior Olympics, but only until I’m 16 to compete at the Maccabi Games,” he said. “I am happy with my decision.”

During the JCC Maccabi Games, Jewish teens from around the United States represented their JCCs as they competed against Jews from Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Israel, Venezuela and Poland. — Roxanne Pourshalimi, Contributing Writer

Chabad Aids Evacuees

Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin, director of West Coast Chabad-Lubavitch, announced that Chabad will urge donors during its upcoming “Celebration 25” Telethon to add to their usual contributions in order to support Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. The California-based organization has joined as a full partner in a broad relief program undertaken by Chabad-Lubavitch of Louisiana, and is providing vital financial, material and logistical aid to those in need.

“It’s impossible to see the images of destruction and loss coming from the Gulf Coast and not be moved to action,” Cunin said. “Our hearts go out to the hundreds of thousands who are suffering from this disaster, and we will continue to do everything we can to help the survivors. On Sept. 25, we will ask our generous telethon donors to contribute an extra amount during this emergency that they can earmark for hurricane relief. Chabad has a long, proud tradition of nonsectarian crisis intervention, and now is the time for all of us to step forward.”

More than a dozen Chabad centers across the Gulf Coast and the South have been converted into emergency relief stations to provide shelter, food, clothing and accommodations to displaced families. Chabad of Louisiana has been involved in evacuation efforts, and has provided counseling, referrals to other agencies, and networking for those in search of loved ones.

“The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, taught us the special power contained within each good deed,” Cunin added. “And after this devastating storm, we will need as many good deeds as possible.”

Chabad’s Telethon is an annual fundraising event that supports the largest network of educational and nonsectarian social services under Jewish auspices in America. The special Chabad “Celebration 25” Telethon will broadcast live from Hollywood on Sept. 25, from 3 p.m.-midnight. It will also be simulcast online at

For information, contact Daniel Ferszt at (310) 729-7108.


You’ll Do Lunch in This Town Again

Powerful women in Hollywood, back in 1978, were as prevalent as communists during the blacklist. Probably even less so.

That’s when Loreen Arbus came to town. A Jewish girl fresh out of college with some summer internships at Cosmopolitan magazine under her belt, Arbus wanted to make a career in television.

And make it she did, becoming the first woman to head up programming for a national network (Showtime and Lifetime), and earning an Emmy nomination for her work as a producer. Now, almost three decades later, the writer, producer and philanthropist has much to be proud of, but one of her crowning glories is The Women’s Luncheon, a monthly gathering of the communications industry’s most powerful women.

“In the beginning I was amazed at how many remarkable people in the industry I was meeting, even though I was brand new,” Arbus told The Journal.

One of those amazing people was Nancy Hutson Perlman. Like Arbus, Perlman, who eventually founded the management company Hutson Management, back then was just starting out. What the two fast friends discovered was that they had a talent for networking. So they decided to hold a small lunch to introduce everyone around.

“We each invited a few people — six or eight people total — and we had a lunch at the Plaza Hotel. We all had a wonderful time — we learned a lot from each other,” Arbus told The Journal airily. “We found ways, things that we talked about that could be helpful to each other.”

Arbus and Perlman decided that if each person could recommend someone else, they’d do it again the following month, and “we could create a network,” Arbus said.

Even though Arbus’ motivation in doing the monthly luncheon was to “build my Rolodex,” she discovered that “it would be a wonderful thing to introduce some of those terrific people I was meeting to others. In numbers we have strength.”

Some early attendees included producers Lynn Roth and Caryn Mandabach.

“I met people along the way and I found that sometimes in a short period of time, the person who was nobody had now landed,” Arbus said.

Those people brought other people, and month after month Arbus and Perlman invited a dozen or so women to connect each month since.

“We began to reach out to a lot of women who had clearly broken through what we didn’t know was called the ‘glass ceiling.’ These women weren’t joiners, they wouldn’t have come to things that we would have met them at,” Arbus said.

The luncheon began to take a shape, with some 30 percent of people they knew; 70 percent they didn’t.

Over the years the luncheon has evolved — to focus on top-level women, rather than entry-level, and to include communications professionals as well as entertainment — but it’s never been canceled. In these 27-plus years of luncheons, once a month in Los Angeles (and once in a while in New York) more than 11,000 women have attended the luncheons, including Sherry Lansing, Wallis Annenberg and Gloria Allred, to name a few.

For some, it was a great place to be in the company of other women.

“There were such good vibes in that room — such a giving feeling among us all at what you had created,” NBC writer and producer Josephine Lyons wrote in a letter of thanks to Arbus. “We all left so much richer — for we had done what you wanted, we ‘networked.'”

For others, the luncheon has brought about great career benefits and moves. For example, author Rona Jaffe, who attended the luncheons both in New York and Los Angeles, met producer Marcy Gross, who made a TV movie from one of her books.

For Arbus herself, it has reaffirmed her belief in the power of women and of strength in numbers.

Back in the days when Arbus worked for Cosmo with Helen Gurley Brown as her mentor, it was believed that if only women were in positions of power, they would help each other. But over the years, as women have indeed broken through that ceiling of glass, anecdotal evidence suggests otherwise. Women do everything but help another woman.

But that’s never been Arbus’ experience.

“I’ve been challenged on it. But I swear on the Bible and the life of my little dog, I have never ever in my entire life personally and professionally interacted with women who weren’t supportive, and if they hadn’t been, I wasn’t aware of it,” Arbus insists. “I can’t say that it isn’t true for others. I’m no judge, but I only know my own self.”

Raised Reform in New York, Arbus had the strongest feminist example laid by her mother, the first woman in New York to be accepted to the Union Theological Seminary.

“She wanted to study all the great religions of the world. And so I had exposure in rather extraordinary ways to religion,” Arbus said. “I’m proud to be Jewish. Jews are extremely philanthropic and generous.”

“There was always an emphasis of giving and giving back,” she explained. “I was always brought up to follow my own path.”

Record Gift Given to Boston Day Schools

Jewish educators hope one of the largest gifts ever for Jewish education in America will prompt other philanthropists to follow suit.

The $45 million donation from a group of anonymous families is intended to improve Jewish day school education in Boston. The money will be spent over five years, with $30 million divided equally among three schools, and the remaining $15 million designated for a tuition scholarship fund and grants for innovative educational projects.

Jewish community professionals hailed the move, announced Monday, as a historic investment. Jewish educators say they hope other philanthropists will now step up to transform day school education across the country.

“We’ve been dreaming about days like this,” Barry Schrage, president of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP), said at a news conference Monday in Boston. “The grant truly represents a change in the way the American Jewish community understands education.”

The pledge, called CJP’s Peerless Excellence Project, was announced at the annual conference of the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education, held in Boston from Sunday through Tuesday.

The gift’s primary beneficiaries will be the Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston, The Rashi School and Maimonides School. They are the Boston area’s three largest Jewish day schools, representing the Conservative, Reform and Orthodox movements, respectively.

Maimonides, the oldest and largest of Boston’s Jewish day schools, with approximately 625 students, is in the process of coming up with a plan to spend its $10 million — an amount equal to the school’s annual budget.

The executive director of the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education, Rabbi Joshua Elkin, said the $10 million grants constituted the largest-ever gifts for operational use in day-school education. The $45 million total dwarfed even capital gifts and day-school endowments, he said.

“There’s been nothing quite at this level,” Elkin said. “It breaks the glass ceiling of how much it is possible to invest in a day school.”

“It presents an unprecedented opportunity that I believe will be something that encourages other communities and other donors to think about ways to invest in their day schools,” he added.

The money comes with some strings attached: Funds are not to be spent on capital improvements, and the goal is to use the money to institute permanent improvements at the schools, not merely give them a five-year boost, according to Gil Preuss, director of the Excellence Project.

“The idea is not just to have excellent schools for five years, but to shift the line and improve the schools permanently,” Preuss said.

Yossi Prager, North American executive director of Avi Chai, one of the Jewish foundation world’s biggest charities, said the schools’ challenge will be to build a system that will use the money effectively but also can survive once the funding period is over.

“Either they’ve got to build in an effective fund-raising program or find ways of creating programming that’s sustainable beyond the term of the funding,” he said.

Avi Chai has spent tens of millions of dollars on grants to Jewish day schools. It also operates an interest-free loan program for capital improvements at day schools that has doled out approximately $56 million over the past five years.

Prager said the $45 million gift should serve as a model not only for investment in day-school operations but because of the role Boston’s federation, CJP, played in brokering the deal.

“The role of the federation was not as a giver but as an ally or advocate for day schools,” Prager noted. “That should be a comfortable role for day-school education.”

There are 14 Jewish day schools in the Boston area serving a total of 2,600 students, 1,400 of them at the three schools slated to receive the gifts. Day-school enrollment in Boston has risen significantly in recent years together with the opening of several new schools. The area’s schools now have excess capacity.

One of the areas not addressed by the $45 million gift is teachers’ salaries, which educators say still fall short of the level needed to recruit and retain good teachers. None of the $15 million portion of the gift will go toward teachers’ salaries, though Peerless Excellence officials did not say whether or not the three primary beneficiaries would be able to include requests for salary raises in their $10 million spending plans.

The decision by the anonymous families to make the $45 million donation to day-school education — an amount rare even for gifts to universities and museums — came in a “magic moment,” CJP’s Schrage said.

Deliberations about a substantial gift for day-school education had been under way for about five years, Schrage said, but it wasn’t until one family decided to triple its intended pledge that the project suddenly reached record proportions.

Officials would not say how many families were involved, only that they were local.

“The prerequisite is a couple of passionate donors who believe they can change the world,” Schrage said. “We expect that many more donors will begin to see the schools as a positive place to make an investment.”

Philanthropist Michael Steinhardt, the real-estate magnate behind countless “Jewish renaissance” projects, such as Birthright Israel, called the Boston gift a “bright and shining example” for what should be happening around the country in Jewish education.

“We must do a much better job than we’re doing today,” he said, noting that the vast majority of Jewish parents still do not send their children to Jewish day schools.

About 91 percent of Orthodox children go to day schools or yeshivas, but less than 20 percent of Conservative children and 4 percent of Reform children go to day schools, according to the National Jewish Population Survey 2000-01.

Abraham Spiegel

Abraham Spiegel, a survivor of four concentration camps, who built a new life in America as a successful businessman, philanthropist and ardent supporter of Jewish life in the United States and Israel, died April 10 in his home at the age of 97.

Among his major legacies are the Children’s Memorial at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, the Spiegel Family Building at the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora in Tel Aviv and the Spiegel Family Park, also in Tel Aviv.

In Los Angeles, he was instrumental in establishing the Yeshiva University of Los Angeles High School and Yavneh Hebrew Academy, and served on the city’s 1984 Olympics Commission and other civic bodies.

Spiegel was born in Mukachevo, in what is now Ukraine, the son of a lumber mill owner. He married his lifelong companion Edita in 1940 and in 1944 the couple and their 2 1/2-year-old son, Uziel, were shipped to Auschwitz. The parents survived, but their son perished.

After being liberated by the Russian army, Spiegel, with his wife, arrived in 1947 in the United States at age 40, with few resources and little knowledge of English.

Within a relatively short time, Spiegel established himself as a highly successful builder of tract homes and later as chairman of two savings and loan banks.

Once financially secure, his major interest turned to philanthropy. He became the first West Coast chairman of support groups for the city of Tel Aviv, Yad Vashem, Tel Aviv University and Bar-Ilan University. He endowed academic chairs at the two universities and served on their governing boards.

A high-spirited and openhanded personality, Spiegel counted among his friends Israeli Prime Ministers Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon, while at home he was a close friend and confidant of Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley.

Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum met Spiegel during their joint work in establishing the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and he recalled his friend as a "powerful, determined and passionate man. Abe belonged to the generation of Jews who were involved in every aspect of Jewish life."

Yuval Rotem, Israel’s consul general in Los Angeles, praised Spiegel’s "enormous contributions to the State of Israel…. I think Abe felt that if a Jewish state had existed in the early 1940s, his son might still be alive."

John Fishel, president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, noted that Spiegel’s death "leaves a large vacuum in the Jewish life of Los Angeles. He personified a large segment of Jewish history in the 20th century."

A longtime friend and fellow survivor, Nathan Shapell, remembered vividly that "Abe never seemed to tire, he was always working for a cause."

Spiegel also maintained close personal relations with a number of Egyptian leaders, and at times served as an intermediary between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Israeli Prime Minister Shamir.

Funeral services were held Sunday at Temple Beth Am and the Home of Peace Memorial Park, where Spiegel was buried next to Edita, who died in 1999 after 59 years of marriage.

Public memorial services are planned for Los Angeles and Tel Aviv.

Spiegel is survived by his children, Tom and Rita; daughter-in-law, Helene; grandchildren, Barak and Ron Diskin and Anthony, Evan and Josef; great-granddaughter, Stella; brother, Aron; and sisters, Shirley Gluck and Blanca Roven Wintner.