April 4, 2008
Honoring Hatzolah, Anjelica Huston, Sheba
All Hail Hatzolah|
Ambulances, LAPD squad cars and fire trucks filled the parking spaces outside Beth Jacob Congregation the evening of March 16 -- but there was no emergency going on inside.
Rather, it was an "Evening of Appreciation" for the Los Angeles Fire Department, presented by the Hatzolah Los Angeles emergency rescue team.
"We are here to salute you for a job well done," said Hatzolah chairman Zvika Brenner to the 200 guests who packed the congregation's ballroom.
Hatzolah, Hebrew for rescue, has dozens of round-the-clock trained volunteer emergency medical technicians and dispatchers who act as a bridge in the critical first minutes of an emergency before paramedics arrive. The group works in the Pico-Roberston, Fairfax, North Hollywood and Hancock Park neighborhoods. No other community in Los Angeles has its equivalent, LAFD Chief Douglas Barry, who was honored at the event, told The Circuit.
"What we have here tonight is a collection of the most selfless individuals in the city of L.A.," Rabbi Avrohom Teichman said.
He was speaking both of the Haztolah volunteers and the many police and fire personnel in attendance.
The event was sponsored by Beth Jacob caterer Edmond Guenoun and honored Chief Timothy J. Scranton of the Beverly Hills Fire Department, Deputy Chief Terry Hara of the LAPD and Fire Commissioner Andrew Friedman. Also in attendance to honor what master of ceremonies Alan Stern termed "the life-saving and holy work of Hatzolah" were L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca, EMS Commissioner Rabbi Chaim Kolodny, Hatzolah coordinator Michoel Bloom, LAPD Counterterrorism head Michael Downing and LAPD Det. Yehuda Packer.
The evening turned even more emotional when Hatzolah unveiled a new emergency supply truck dedicated in honor of Devorah and Aliza Levenberg, a young Hancock Park-area mother and daughter killed 10 days earlier in a traffic accident in Israel. Dvora's mother, Rivi Adelman, a volunteer Hatzolah dispatcher, clad in black mourning clothes, expressed her appreciation to the assembly.
The Human Rights Action Center and U.S. Campaign for Burma raised $30,000 to increase awareness and advocate on behalf of human rights in Burma. The organization is also boycotting the Beijing Olympics and the Chinese government for their involvement with the Burmese military junta, which has held Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest in Rangoon for the past 20 years. Jewish World Watch is also rallying support to protest the Chinese government before the Olympics, holding monthly vigils in front of the Chinese Consulate in downtown Los Angeles.
Actress Anjelica Huston (photo, right) co-hosted the event and emerged on stage wearing a professional business suit, looking radiant as ever while reading an excerpt from one of Kyi's essays, "Freedom From Fear."
A bright-eyed Khin Phyu Htway, who left Burma in 1999, expressed her gratitude to the 200 guests in attendance. "Burmese people will be in high spirits knowing Americans support them," she said.
Irish musician Damien Rice delivered a heartfelt performance and lamented the status of 70,000 child soldiers who are forced to fight in the Burmese military. Throughout the night speakers repeated a popular, powerful phrase coined by the detained Kyi, which reflected the sentiment of the event's cause: "Please use your liberty to promote ours."
-- Celia Soudry, Contributing Writer
Cathy Schulman, Academy Award-winning producer of "Crash" and the recently released documentary "Darfur Now," received the Sheba Humanitarian Award. In accepting the award Schulman, the president of Mandalay Pictures, described "Crash," which deals with issues of race and diversity, as "the most rejected film in history," but stressed her belief in producing films that can "make a change for the better."
Also honored was Tel Aviv University professor Arnon Nagler, while Marjorie Pressman paid special tribute to the memory of former Sheba Board member J. Paul Levine.
The gala also raised funds to benefit the Sigi & Marilyn Ziering National Center for Newborn Screening, which tests Israeli newborns for 20 treatable genetic diseases at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, a leading healthcare facility throughout Israel and the Middle East.
-- Peter Rothholz, Contributing Writer
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