November 15, 2007
Meet some extraordinary givers
It was Naty Saidoff's son, Josh, who inspired him to become active in Jewish causes.
When Josh attended Stanford seven years ago, he told his father there was no Jewish activism on behalf of Israel in Northern California.
"He made me aware of the fact that our Jewish existence is very tenuous; that in Europe we already lost the hearts and minds of students, but in America, the battle [for support of Israel] still remains to be fought on campus," said Naty Saidoff, 53, who was born in Israel and founded Capital Foresight Investment, a real estate holding company and hedge fund.
The younger Saidoff, born to an Israeli father and American mother, became the president of the Stanford Israel Alliance, which identifies itself as "a pro-peace, pro-Israel advocacy group."
"His involvement inspired me, and his awareness made me be aware how few we are and how there is no other person that's going to do the job. There's no magical Jewish organization that will fill in. Unless he did it, unless I did it, unless a friend did it, there would be nobody to pick up the slack."
Today Naty Saidoff sits on the board of StandWithUs, the international pro-Israel advocacy group, and the national board of governors of The American Jewish Committee, as well as the newly formed Israeli Leadership Club, which gathers top Israeli business leaders to encourage the Israeli community in Los Angeles to become more active in Israel advocacy.
"Once I got involved I found it so fulfilling that I saw it incumbent upon myself to inspire others," Saidoff said. It's a selfish act on his part, he said. "I get to see the most interesting things, I get to meet the most special, wisest, most devoted people, and see the best side they have.... It expands your horizon, betters your quality of life, gives you a sense of purpose, personal growth." He is asking his Israeli community to be self-serving by serving others. "Because ultimately, they will get back much more than they will give."
-- Amy Klein, Religion Editor
Dr. Daniel Lieber
If Islamic radicals can teach their kids how to hate Jews, why can't we teach other kids to love Jews and Israel? This was the question posed by medical oncologist Dr. Daniel Lieber, who came up with the idea of reaching out to Catholic high school students, especially those who'd had little or no interaction with Jews and little knowledge of the modern and democratic state of Israel.
Lieber's idea spawned the Holy Land Democracy Project, a collaborative venture between the Jewish Community Relations Committee (JCRC) of The Jewish Federation and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Lieber, 55, chairs the project and personally contributes up to $20,000 each year.
Now in its fourth year, the project, headed by JCRC Associate Director Elaine Albert with Rabbi Hal Greenwald as assistant director, selects six to eight Catholic teachers and administrators annually to receive 12 hours of training, after which they travel to Israel with Jewish leaders and educators for 10 intensive days of sightseeing and learning. They then return to teach a five-hour course to their ninth- through 12th- graders.
To date, more than 6,500 students in Southern California have benefited from the program, which is rapidly expanding to other parts of California. For next spring's trip, the program has already received applications from 30 Catholic high school teachers, the highest number ever. "We are trying to take as many as is appropriate and raise the money," Lieber said.
Meanwhile, Lieber is working with American Jewish Committee to roll out the program nationwide.
The land of Israel that the teachers experience, and later convey to their students, is not the war-torn and controversial country seen on newscasts and in newspapers. Rather, they are introduced to a tiny nation in the center of the Middle East that is dedicated to a modern and democratic way of life, with freedom of religion, freedom of speech and a free political process.
In his Santa Monica-based practice as a medical oncologist, Lieber works in Catholic hospitals and partners with Catholic colleagues, with whom he is comfortable engaging in theological and political discussions.
He believes that the Catholic high school students, who will become tomorrow's business and political leaders, are capable of learning the same respect and tolerance toward Israel and Israelis, who, they discover, have issues and aspirations similar to theirs. Lieber was raised in a committed, pro-Israel Jewish family in Los Angeles. He now lives in West Los Angeles with his wife, Enid, a non-practicing attorney. They have three children: Sarah, 22; Dena, 17; and David, 12.
While he was growing up, Lieber always wondered what he would have done to help the European Jews during World War II. After Sept. 11, sensing that Jews were once again in peril, he didn't want to regret not having taken action.
Lieber has accompanied the Catholic educators on two of the four trips to Israel and is impressed by how "good, serious and ethical" they are. He is also impressed with the students, especially with the loving ways in which they speak of Israel in their "Many Faces of Israel" art, essay and poetry projects. The students were honored this year at the annual culminating ceremony on June 20 at the Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral.
"It makes you feel there is a bright future," Lieber says.
For more information on the Holy Land Democracy Project, contact Elaine Albert at EAlbert@JewishLA.org or (323) 761-8154.
-- Jane Ulman, Contributing Editor
Soon after Marilyn Ziering and her husband, Sigi, moved from the East Coast to Los Angeles in the 1960s, she was sitting in a synagogue and listening as the names of various donors were called out for their support of Israel. She recalls thinking "I wish there will be a time when I can do that too."
She pledged to herself that if someday she were to become rich enough, she would give away her money. Marilyn Ziering is living out her dream: She regularly gives to several dozen causes, and those closest to her heart are the American Jewish University -- where she established the Sigi Ziering Institute to study the Holocaust and has been a board member for more than 20 years -- Temple Beth Am, Chaim Sheba Medical Center in Israel and the Los Angeles Opera.
Founders of a medical supplies company, Diagnostic Products Corp., the Zierings have been passionately committed to Jewish philanthropy and the Jewish community throughout their lives. Sigi Ziering was born in Kassel, Germany and, along with his mother and brother, was deported to the ghetto in Riga, Latvia in 1941. All three survived the Holocaust. He served as the co-chair of the Los Angeles branch of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, president of Temple Beth Am, and also on the board of the University of Judaism, now American Jewish University.
Marilyn Ziering professes that she has a hard time saying no to good causes, and as a result can hardly count all the organizations she has contributed to. Many of her philanthropic activities stem directly from her personal involvement in the Jewish community. She has donated to the private schools her children attended; Camp Ramah, where the Ziering children spent their summers; and Temple Beth Am, where she has been an active member for three decades.
Ziering has recently started to give to other, not specifically Jewish interests she is passionate about, such as opera. She is a board member of the Los Angeles Opera and donated $3.25 million to fund its "Recovered Voices" project. Her love of opera comes from growing up with an amateur tenor father.
"There's a saying," Ziering said, "You take care of yourself first, then your family, then your community ... I feel that's what I try to live up to."
-- Dikla Kadosh, Contributing Writer
Who knows what Joyce Eisenberg-Keefer would be doing today if she hadn't made that promise to her husband 21 years ago, when Ben Eisenberg was dying of cancer but felt his community needed him too much for him to rest in peace?
"Don't worry," she comforted him. "I'll take care of everything."
And she has.
In the years since, Eisenberg-Keefer quadrupled the philanthropy of the Ben B. and Joyce E. Eisenberg Foundation, which donates millions of dollars each year to diverse organizations, from Shaare Zedek Hospital in Israel to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to the USC band. The Joyce Eisenberg-Keefer Medical Center recently opened at the Jewish Home for the Aging, where her parents lived out the final years of their lives. Now in her 70s, she's donated tens of millions of dollars to the home since she began volunteering there at age 24.
"When I go there, I cry," she says. "I get a lump in my throat with happiness that these people have a place to go."
Her philanthropy is supported by the foundation's Eisenberg Properties, which owns a few industrial buildings and the historic New Mart tower downtown, a 12-story art deco edifice with more than 100 fashion showrooms. All income from Eisenberg Properties goes to the foundation's many charities, which have included the Joyce Eisenberg-Keefer Breast Cancer Center at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, The Wellness Community, Israel Children's Centers and The Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.
Much of her efforts are directed at Jewish causes, even though her second husband, Mel Keefer, calls her "the most un-Jewish person I know."
-- Brad A. Greenberg, Staff Writer
Monica Horan Rosenthal
Monica Horan and Phil Rosenthal were not rich when they got married. But then he created "Everybody Loves Raymond," one of the most popular sitcoms of the past two decades, and the bank account began billowing.
"I remember the first time I saw a dramatic change in our income," said Horan Rosenthal, who was among the show's cast. "I wondered, 'Oh my God, don't I need to build a hospital now?'"
They began by supporting a friend's theater workshop at Marshall High School, which grew into the Flourish Foundation, supporting arts and education. Flourish gives grants to students from Los Angeles schools and UCLA to put on performances about social issues -- homelessness, drugs, AIDS, immigration -- throughout Los Angeles.
Not long after, Horan Rosenthal was moved by a message she heard at Temple Israel of Hollywood about genocidal attacks in the Darfur region of Sudan and a Jewish organization trying to raise awareness here and alleviate suffering there. So she started donating to Jewish World Watch.
"There is a legacy there I want my kids to know about. Being raised Catholic and born a Christian, I've always been drawn to the resisters, to the Righteous Persons," said Horan Rosenthal, who converted to Judaism before marriage.
Since then, the family foundation has given to Abraham's Vision, a program of the Clinton Global Initiative studying genocide in the Balkans; has established a chair in religious services at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Israel; and helped the Chabad of Greater Los Feliz move last year into a two-building property on Hillhurst Avenue.
And Horan Rosenthal didn't forget about that hospital. The family foundation donated $2.5 million to the building campaign for Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.
-- Brad A. Greenberg, Staff Writer
When Carmen Harvey was growing up in La Canada in the 1920s, her father, who had bought an avocado orchard in the area, was a major supporter of the Kaspare Cohn Hospital, forerunner of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Carmen followed his example by giving away her toys to the less fortunate kids in her public grammar school. Later, when she attended USC during the Depression years of the late 1930s, she met and married fellow student Louis Warshaw. The young couple made it a point to invite financially strapped classmates to their apartment for meals. "They would clean out the pantry," she remembers.
On special occasions, the couple took friends to Ollie Hammond's, even though the famed restaurant charged as much as 85 cents for a top sirloin steak.
Over the next decades, as Louis Warshaw prospered as a financial investor, the couple's name became ubiquitous on the donor and leadership rolls of communal and Jewish causes, a tradition Carmen has continued since her husband's death seven years ago.
Millions of dollars have gone to Cedars-Sinai, in part through the endowment of professional chairs, and to the Jewish Federation, Vista del Mar and Anti-Defamation League, as well as the Community Chest, Music Center, LACMA and USC.
The Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem has been a major beneficiary of the Warshaws, who have always maintained close ties with Israel.
"We first went there in 1948, during the fight for independence, and go whenever there's a war," Carmen Warshaw said.
The Journal asked what advice she might give young upcoming philanthropists, especially recent immigrants or their children originating in a different culture.
"You must take care of your Jewish heritage," she said, "but you must also realize your responsibilities to America as a whole."
-- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Sol Teichman remembers sitting under the table in his family's Munkacz, Czechoslovakia home every Saturday night, as his grandfather, father and uncles went over the week's business at Bernard Teichman and Sons, the largest grain and bean distributor in Europe in the 1930s.
"This is what I want to do one day," he remembers thinking to himself. "I want to have my own business."
While his life's path was cruelly altered by the Nazis, he kept both that passion for business and the love for Judaism that he developed in his Chasidic home.
Teichman Enterprises is one of the largest suppliers of store fixtures in the country, outfitting such retailers as Nordstroms, The Gap and Sears with racks and display shelves. And for decades, Teichman and his wife, Ruth, have been primary supporters of Orthodox educational endeavors in Los Angeles.
"Without education, we will lose our Jewish children," he says.
Teichman is 80 years old and stands somewhere around 5 feet tall, yet with a crisp suit and a dignified sweep of silver hair against his tanned face, he is a commanding presence as he walks through his 200,000-square-foot factory and warehouse in Commerce, one of two facilities he owns.
The Teichman family name is on eight centers of learning in Los Angeles, in addition to several in Israel; on a hospital in Netanya; and on a mikvah in Munkacz. He sits on the board of the Simon Weisenthal Center and Artscroll publishing, and for 30 years has been the chairman of the board at Emek Hebrew Academy, which since 1995 has been named The Teichman Family Torah Center, thanks to a lead gift the family gave to build the Sherman Oaks campus.
Teichman was a founder of the school in 1959, even before the first of his three children was old enough to attend. While his nascent business still didn't have a lot of money then -- sometimes he slept at his downtown office for lack of gas money to make it to his Van Nuys home -- he and Ruth did what they could for the school, including helping with janitorial duties, or using the family's grocery money to pay for the school's milk delivery.
The oldest of six children, Teichman was 13 when World War II broke out.
His father was conscripted into the Hungarian labor force, and in 1944 his family was shipped to Auschwitz. Sol, 17, and his 14-year-old brother, Steve, were sent one way. His mother, three brothers and his baby sister were sent the other; he never saw them again.
The brothers survived the Warsaw Ghetto, a two-week death march to Dachau and time in several concentration camps. After being liberated by American soldiers, a search led the brothers to their father in Budapest. But they would soon be separated again, as Sol and Steve were among 200 children that Eleanor Roosevelt sponsored for American citizenship. In July 1946, they arrived in New York.
After a few years, the brothers moved to Los Angeles, where their father, who had remarried, had recently arrived. In Los Angeles and in New York, Sol worked hard to support himself -- making plastic beads in a factory, selling vacuum cleaners door to door, as a shipping clerk for a maternity clothes manufacturer.
In 1951 he was drafted into the American army and was sent to Germany. A Catholic chaplain helped the distraught survivor get transferred to France, where he taught the children of officers, though he only knew a few words of English.
In 1956, with $500 saved, Sol started his business, and in 1959 he met and married Ruth, his stepmother's niece who was visiting from Israel.
Today, they have three children and nine grandchildren, all of them involved in the family business, and all of them involved in giving back to the community.
At 80, Sol has no intention of retiring. He still works 14-hour days and clocks 250,000 miles a year in air travel. An album Ruth shows off includes photos of the couple with everyone from the pope to King Abdullah of Jordan to Steven Spielberg, mostly in travels as a survivor dignitary with the Simon Weisenthal Center.
"I think especially European Jews, survivors, need to do all they can to help their brethren," Teichman said.
"I think not only are we obligated to, but how can we not?" he says, his eyes traveling back through the decades. "How can we not?"
--- Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor