Jewish Journal


August 10, 2006

Sky High Fundraiser



Rod's Day 14 turned out to be a fun and spectacular event. The July 22 fundraiser is named for Rod Fasone, who died from a rare form of colon cancer at age 21, 14 years ago. Rod's Day kicked off with a skydiving exhibition by renowned skydiver Jumpin' Bill and his military friends, who landed in the field next to the event.

"Rod's Day is exactly the kind of fundraiser Rod would have created himself -- fun, all-inclusive and community-based," said Rod's dad, Dennis Fasone. The fun continued inside Mo's Place, with a Hawaiian-themed event, complete with Hawaiian shirts, luau dresses, sarongs, bikinis and grass skirts. The proceeds raised from Rod's Day went to the Rod Fasone Memorial Cancer Fund, which aids research, patient care and education.

Since its inception, the Rod Fasone Memorial Cancer Fund has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica. Donations can be mailed to: Rod Fasone Memorial Cancer Fund, 7832 Stewart Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90045.


Amid all the dinners honoring the machers who fund good work, it's nice to be able to honor the people who actually get their hands dirty and do the work. Jewish Communal Professionals of Southern California held its 26th annual dinner at Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel June 6, honoring five professionals. "How many people come to work every day knowing they are doing holy work and improving the lives of others?" asked Leah Kitz, dinner co-chair.

The theme was echoed by all the speakers.

Paul Castro received the Career Achievement Award for his 25 years of service to Jewish Family Service (JFS), where since 2000, he has been the executive director and CEO.

"A lot of people ask me, 'Why JFS?'" said Castro, who is neither Jewish nor a social worker. "The answer is simple. Because of what we do and the difference we make in people's lives."

Bill Kaplan, executive director of the Shalom Institute in Malibu, accepted his award on a different note -- with a camp cheer. Kaplan, a Camp JCA Shalom alumnus, received the Allan J. Kassin Award for Outstanding Professional Achievement, in large part for his successful stewardship of the organization as it became independent of the Jewish Community Centers in January 2005.

Jewish Community Centers is where Bernie Gruenbaum (OK, she's my mother -- go, mom!) got her start in 25 years of service to the Jewish community. Gruenbaum was awarded the Dora and Charles Mesnick Award for Achievement in Senior Adult Programming.

Since 1985, Gruenbaum has worked for JFS's Multipurpose Senior Service Program, which provides case management services to frail and indigent elderly. As director of case management since 2001, she has overseen an expansion from 400 to 700 clients, many of them Holocaust survivors.

With the Holocaust as the backdrop to its work, Jewish World Watch (JWW) received the Mark Meltzer New and Innovative Programming Award. Accepting the award were Janice Kaminer-Resnick, founding chairperson, and Rabbi Harold Schulweis, who in 2004 charged his congregants with speaking out against genocides around the world. Since then, JWW has been at the forefront of raising awareness and funds to help refugees in Darfur.

Mike Sirota took home the award for Professional Excellence in fundraising for his work at Sinai Temple, where in three years he eliminated a $9 million debt and raised $13 million toward a goal of $36 million for the synagogue's centennial campaign. Several months ago Sirota become executive director of Our House, a grief support center.

Before going to Sinai, Sirota -- previously a teacher and an accountant -- was the development director at Jewish Big Brothers, where he tripled fundraising revenue.

Sirota is also the outgoing co-president, with Marilyn Simon-Gersuk of Jewish Communal Professionals of Southern California JCPSC, and they passed the mantle to Michael Hirschfeld, formerly executive director of The Federation's Jewish Community Relations Council and currently assistant director of the American Technion Society.

Hirschfeld hopes to raise the profile of JCPSC, which since the 1970s has offered Jewish communal professionals a venue to network, learn and honor their own.

-- Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor

The Anti-Defamation League celebrated in style at "An Elegant Backyard Barbecue and Celebration" held July 20 at the Beverly Hills home of Stephanie and Howard Sherwood, immediate past ADL regional board chair. The couple opened their doors for this year's ADL donor thank-you event. More than 90 of the ADL's major supporters entered on a red carpet leading to the garden for a five-course, family-style meal. Guitar virtuoso Luis Villegas entertained guests with his original "Nuevo Flamenco" sound.


Nearly 3,000 celebrants attended the Justice Ball on July 16 and raised over $550,000 for Bet Tzedek. Backstage at the event, from left, are Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Gos; Brett Simon, attorney and past "Justice Ball" co-chair; Kathy Valentine and Gina Schock, The Go-Gos; Sandy Samuels (immediately behind Schock), Bet Tzedek board president; Claudia Samuels; Charlotte Caffey, The Go-Gos; attorney Jeffrey Sklar, Justice Ball chair; Belinda Carlisle, The Go-Gos; and Mitch Kamin, Bet Tzedek executive director. Photo by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee


Carvel Ice Cream in the Ralphs building on Pico Boulevard was the scene of an Israeli fundraiser last month. In conjunction with Beth Jacob Youth, the "Ice Cream You Scream for Israel" event raised more than $900 for Israel. All major proceeds went to help Israeli soldiers and children.

There was also a project station where children wrote letters to soldiers and Israeli children, showing their love and support. Prizes were given and children and adults joined in the fun. Carvel Ice Cream is RCC kosher and adheres strictly to kosher dietary laws.

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