July 19, 2006
For the Children
Emunah of America held a West Coast fundraiser recently to raise money for the residential homes and after-school programs to help Israel's needy children . One of those children, Dvora, attended the elegant buffet dinner and silent art auction at the Bel Age Hotel in West Hollywood.
Dvora, now a student of speech therapy at Tel Aviv University, grew up in Beit Elazraki in Netanya, a residential home for 180 children whose own parents couldn't or didn't want to care for them.
"I have broken the cycle of need," Dvora told the crowd after a moving video that showed the children at the home and at Emunah's other children's programs. "I have managed to come out of this situation mature and successful, free of the terrible circle. My children will not have to suffer like me. They will not grow up in other people's homes but in my own warm, loving home."
Yehuda Kohn, director of Beit Elazraki, spoke of the baby brought in at 1 week old, with no name. He and his wife Ricky named him, and like they do with other children, will be surrogate parents, taking him to school, doctor appointments and birthday parties and tucking him in every night.
The Emunah benefit the first on the West Coast honored Celia Shire, who paid tribute to her late husband Harold.
The honorary chair of the event was Dr. Leila Bronner. Event chairs were: Dr. Gita Nagel, Marlene Einhorn, Sharon Katz, Rivki Mark, Mia Markoff, Fran Miller, Gittel Rubin and Elana Samuels. Emunah national president Heddy Klein attended. For more information or to volunteer, call (310) 837-1225 or visit www.emunah.org.
Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor
Music to Our Ears: A True Hacham
Roughly 1,000 members of the local Iranian Jewish community crowded the main sanctuary at the Nessah Cultural Center in Beverly Hills on June 11 for prayers marking the first anniversary of the passing of Hacham Yedidia Shofet, the late spiritual icon for Iranian Jews both in Iran and the United States. For nearly seven decades, Shofet, who died at 96, served both as a religious leader and as the liaison representing Iran's Jewish community before the shah's government in Iran. Shofet joined the thousands of Jews who left Iran following the 1979 Iranian revolution and in Southern California continued to serve as a religious leader for Iranian Jews living in America. Community leaders and close friends spoke of Shofet's remarkable speaking ability and compassionate leadership style.
"Hacham Yedidia proved that he had the leadership ability to help maintain our sense of Judaism and the community warmly accepted him," said Dr. H. Kermanshahchi, one of the founders of the Iranian American Jewish Federation. Last October, nearly 90 religious and social leaders from Southern California's Iranian Jewish community formally recognized Shofet's son, Rabbi David Shofet, as the community's new spiritual leader.
Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer
Heroes Among Us
June 7 was a time to honor two community heroes as University Synagogue hosted its "Heroes Among Us" event honoring Susan Corwin with the inaugural Margaret Zaas Avodah Award for Community Service.
The award is named after Zaas, a local and beloved resident who dedicated her life to helping others and spent 16 years at New Directions, a residential rehabilitation program for homeless and addicted veterans.
Corwin initiated the Mitzvah Corps program at University Synagogue in 2002 and created programming that extends into the community, including a Shabbat shuttle and bikur cholim program. She has launched support groups for people with aging parents, a cancer survivors network, parents of special needs children and the gay and lesbian social outreach. Corwin is also the regional representative for the Los Angeles Area and Pacific Southwest Council of the Union for Reform Judaism.
The evening also honored Richard Weintraub as Educator of the Year for his long-standing history of working with and on behalf of youth at University Synagogue. Weintraub was the president of the California Council on Children and Youth and supervisor of the Dare Plus Program, an after-school program for at-risk youth.
The Sporting Life
One of the best things about the Cedars-Sinai Sports Spectacular event are the faces of the kids who attend the dinner. They can hardly contain their excitement at rubbing elbows with all their favorite athletes and more than 100 came to help.
Over the past 21 years, the event, which this year grossed more than $1.5 million, has raised more than $16 million in support of the Sports Spectacular Endowed Medical Genetics Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The VIP event before dinner allows the kids to meet their favorite sports heroes up close and personal and the goody bags, well they are indeed legendary. (Take it from someone who met Sandy Koufax there, I am still excited by the memory.)
This year's honorees were Jerome Bettis of the Pittsburgh Steelers, tennis champion Jimmy Connors and professional surfer Kelly Slater. Al Michaels and John Salley were among the evening's hosts. l