September 18, 1997
Honoring Community Mitzvahs
Top, left to right, Ilana Weinberg, Larry Weinberg, MarkBorovitz and Barbi Weinberg. Above right, Pauline Ledeen. Above left,Audrey Irmas.
September is awards season in Los Angeles. Evenbefore the Emmys were handed out last weekend, the Jewish FederationCouncil of Greater Los Angeles honored six members of the community,a new arts gallery and its board, and a service program.
The 1997 Community Awards, which recognize outstanding achievementin the Jewish community, were given out during a special meeting ofthe Federation's board of directors at Sephardic Temple TiferethIsrael.
For only the second time in 20 years, a special award for"outstanding community service" was presented. It went to PaulineLedeen, who began as a volunteer with the Jewish Committee forPersonal Service, the agency that created Gateways Hospital andMental Health Center and, today, is part of Gateways. Ledeen, wholater became an employee of JCPS, has been visiting Jewish men andwomen in county, state and federal prisons for more than 50 years.These days, Ledeen, still indefatigable at 87, spends at least twodays a week, checking computer printouts, looking for Jewish names,visiting Jewish prisoners, keeping the jail staff informed ofupcoming Jewish holidays, and generally looking after the needs ofJewish inmates.
Her offices are located at Gateways Beit T'Shuvah, a halfway housein the Westlake district of Los Angeles (216 S. Lake St.) establishedby JCPS for recovering Jewish offenders. Most are striving toovercome drug, alcohol, gambling and other addictions, and many haveLedeen to thank for being at Beit T'Shuvah.
Though pleased to receive the award, Ledeen said she was sad thatthe achievements of Lou Ziskind, whom she credited with startingGateways in 1953, weren't recognized as well.
Mark Borovitz, one of the many people rescued by Ledeen during hercareer, was also honored at the Federation event; he received theBarbi Weinberg Chai Award -- created by Larry Weinberg to honor hiswife Barbi, a past Federation president. The award, which carries astipend of $1,800, is given to an individual who has made anoutstanding contribution to the enhancement and appreciation ofJewish values.
Ledeen first met Borovitz in prison. "When I came to visit him asecond time, I told him: 'This is no place for a nice Jewish boy. Youdon't have to live like this,'" she said. Ledeen suggested that hetalk to the rabbi who served the prison, Mel Silverman. Later,Borovitz served as the rabbi's clerk, rediscovering his passion forJudaism. After being released on work furlough, he accepted an offerfrom Beit T'Shuvah Director Harriet Rossetto to run the thrift shop.
At Beit T'Shuvah, Borovitz created a 12-step program that usesJewish values as the base, and he started a Torah-study class for theresidents. The Jewish education and outreach director for BeitT'Shuvah, he is currently a rabbinical student at the University ofJudaism.
"This was an honor that was well beyond any experience that I'veever had," Borovitz said of the award. "It recognized my own personaljourney...and the whole Jewish community that has helped me go frombeing a criminal 10 years ago in state prison to being honored withthe Barbi Weinberg Award."
Other awards and recipients included:
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