December 9, 2004
A Russian Response
Tel Aviv's Sourasky Medical Center – the hospital that is the major recipient of trauma victims after suicide bombings in Tel Aviv – received a huge boost in October when the Jewish Russian community of Los Angeles held a fundraiser for them that raised $350,000. The event, billed as Saving Lives Gala 2004, was held at the Hilton Universal City on Oct. 17 and hosted by the Russian Speaking Community and The American Russian Medical and Dental Association, in association with The Jewish Federation. More than 750 people enjoyed an evening of dinner and dancing, and special appearances from Theodore Bikel, Susana Poretsky and Svetlana Portnyansky. Other honored guests included Anita Hirsch, the former co-chair of the Commission on Soviet Jewry and a leader in the L.A. Jewish Federation, and Barbara Yaroslavsky, former chair of the Jewish Public Affairs Committee.
The funds raised at the event went to building a much-needed pediatric trauma unit at the medical center.
From Sinai to Tel Aviv
Sinai Akiba school has an exchange program with its sister school in Tel Aviv – Omaniyut School. Both schools participate in a reading and discussion of a book on the Holocaust and every fall, students and teachers from Omaniyut make their way to Los Angeles to attend classes and programs at Sinai. Then every spring, students and teachers from Sinai Akiba make their way to Tel Aviv to attend classes and programs at Omaniyut. This October, one of the many highlights of the Omaniyut visit was when the Omaniyut and Sinai Akiba students sang Kabbalat Shabbat on Oct. 22 at the Kohn Chapel in Sinai Temple.
As the housing crisis in Los Angeles worsens with rising real estate prices, it's good to know that there are some nonprofits out there that are tackling the problem with every weapon in the shelter arsenal. Beyond Shelter is one such program. It has helped more than 3,000 homeless families with children relocate to affordable permanent housing in residential neighborhoods throughout L.A. County. On Oct. 21, Beyond Shelter held its fourth annual Inspiration Awards at the Directors Guild of America theater. The event honored Mayor James Hahn, National Public Radio and television producers Marian Rees and Anne Hopkins, as well as three outstanding Beyond Shelter graduates who were able to rebuild their lives for themselves and their children.
You know you have made it in the rabbinical world when the folks at VH1 are banging down your door for an interview. In October, Rabbi Benzion Kravitz sat down in his office with the hipster Nick Swardson who hosts VH1's "Spin Cycle," to talk about kabbalah and its appeal to Hollywood celebrities. "Spin Cycle," which is scheduled to air in the first quarter of 2005, is a "60 Minutes"-style news magazine that is designed to attract younger viewers.
Together for a Cure
One in 27 Jews of Eastern European descent carry a gene that makes them susceptible to the progressive, degenerative, neurological, fatal genetic disease known as Familial Dysautonomia, or FD. But the Cure FD Foundation, which is based right here in Los Angeles, is constantly raising money to fund FD research efforts. On Oct. 31 the Majestic Crest Theater in Westwood hosted a Halloween/"Wizard of Oz" themed fundraiser for Cure FD. All attendants came dressed as Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion, and they watched the original 1939 classic, "The Wizard of Oz."
The event's emcee was Robert Bucksbaum, the owner of the classic theater. Bucksbaum organized treasure hunts and games for the children.
The event raised $10,000, which has been sent to Dr. Berish Rubin's research laboratory at Fordham University in New York. Rubin is working on trying to find a cure for FD and had already made significant discoveries to help the many hundreds of children born with the disease.
For more information, visit www.curefd.org, or call (310) 459-1056.
On a Mission
Los Angeles' Anti Defamation League (ADL) sent a delegation of nine students, who come from ethnically and religiously diverse high schools, to the National Youth Leadership Mission in Washington, D.C., Oct. 17-20. The students were selected based on their individual commitment to strengthening diversity and stopping hatred. During their trip, they visited the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and heard speakers like ADL National Director Abraham Foxman and ADL National Chair Barbara Balser.
Rah Rah Ramah!
"We know, all of us, what it is to be an outcast," said Sinai Temple's Rabbi David Wolpe to several hundred supporters of Ojai's Conservative-run Camp Ramah in California, which gleaned $946,000 from the Dec. 2 banquet honoring "Legally Blonde" film producer Marc Platt and his wife, Julie.
The Platts were feted partly for their fundraising for Camp Ramah's Tikvah sleepover program for Jewish children with mental or emotional disabilities. Ten mentally challenged young people attended the tribute.
Also attending the $250-per-plate affair were philanthropist (and Jewish Journal board member) Ozzie Goren; Larry Greenfield, Southern California Republican Jewish Coalition director ("Camp Ramah ... my first true love"); Robert Wexler, University of Judaism president; Rabbi Daniel Greyber, Camp Ramah executive director; Laurie Levenson, Loyola Law School professor, and her husband, Douglas Mirell; and Santa Monica architect Sarit Finkelstein.
Toward the evening's end, Marc Platt told the audience that providing a sleepover camp experience for emotionally disturbed Jewish kids helps to create, "a place for us and our children to love and respect all human beings."
The banquet included a film tribute, featuring thanks from Broadway's "Wicked" stars Kristen Chenoweth and Idina Menzel, while actor and fellow "Wicked" vet Joel Grey took to the Ziegler Hall dance floor to sing a bit of "Wilkommen" from his Tony/Oscar-winning turn as the emcee in "Cabaret." – David Finnigan, Contributing Writer
Planting New Life
Temple Beth Israel of Highland Park and Eagle Rock is an old shul – it was built in 1929 – which makes it full of heritage and history. But until recently it was short of plant life. On Nov. 21, volunteers from the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) and Temple Beth Israel decided to rectify the situation by planting trees and shrubs around the property, including five 15-gallon trees that came from Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Trees for a Green L.A.
The tree planting ceremony, dubbed A Morning of Planting and Revitalization, was also used to teach the volunteers about the importance of environmental awareness in Judaism.
Participants included Temple Beth Israel members Jerry Schneider and Mark Strunin, and Los Angeles mayoral candidate Bob Hertzberg.
The tree planting was the first phase of the temple's extensive landscaping project. – DF
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