April 2, 2009
Sokatch, Cherminsky Honored for Advocacy
Sokatch, Chemerinsky Honored for Advocacy
Even as the Progressive Jewish Alliance celebrated its first 10 years on March 29 by honoring Daniel Sokatch, its founding executive director who has moved on to become CEO of the Jewish Community Federation in San Francisco, the PJA introduced its new leader, Elissa Barrett to a Skirball Cultural Center ballroom so full that some guests had to dine in the balcony. Sokatch was joined for a conversation onstage by the evening’s additional honoree, Erwin Chemerinsky, longtime liberal advocate and founding dean of the new law school at UC Irvine. The pair’s congenial chat about their shared values was moderated by Jewish Journal editor-in-chief, Rob Eshman.
Asked about the challenges of taking on his new role, Chemerinsky called the UC Irvine post “the most exciting opportunity in my life,” but said that he would never curtail his representation of those in need. He spoke of an opportunity he took on to represent homeless people in Laguna Beach who were being charged with the crime of sleeping outdoors. When it occurred to him that his advocacy might compromise his fundraising abilities, he said he decided, “if I can’t bring a lawsuit on behalf of homeless people, then I don’t want this job anymore.”
Sokatch called our times “such a compelling moment for young people to come into public service,” with President Barack Obama and California State Assembly Speaker Karen Bass in office as examples. “Our role as a progressive community should be to support the progressives that we elected. The ‘80s are over, finally,” he said, to applause. Bass was among the evening’s speakers, which also included entertainment by Krumpers, performing dance that originated in the African American community of South Los Angeles in 2002.
The dinner’s co-chairs were Paula Litt and Lawrence Trilling.
— Susan Freudenheim, Managing Editor
Vons Pavilions in Beverly Hills awarded Daniel Schwartz the Safeway Community Hero Award for his volunteer work in the community. Vons contributed $1,000 in Schwartz’s honor to the Etta Israel Center, an organization that creates programs and raises awareness for people with special needs.
Schwartz, who has cerebral palsy, has been both a client and a volunteer at the Etta Israel Center. He has also volunteered at the Roxbury Park Senior Citizens Center, fundraised for many charities, and is a past president of a local chapter of Best Buddies, a community that helps people with intellectual disabilities.
Schwartz, age 20, a 2008 graduate of Beverly Hills High School, has worked as a part-time courtesy clerk and bagger at Pavilions for two years, where he began working through a vocational program offered by the high school. He is currently enrolled in the Pathway program at UCLA Extension, a two-year certificate program for students with developmental disabilities.
Friends, former teachers and family gathered as Damon Rice of Vons and Rick Ziegler, the manager of the store, presented the award to Schwartz. Dr. Michael Held, director of Etta Israel, and Rickey Bloom, a founder of the organization, accepted the contribution.
In commenting on the award, Ziegler explained, “Daniel has served as an excellent role model. He always comes to work with a smile and enthusiasm, and we regularly have customers asking for him.” — Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Senior Writer
Rabbi Arnold Rachlis delivered the invocation for President Barack Obama when he visited the Orange County Fairgrounds in March to discuss his economic plan. Rachlis, who is the Reconstructionist-ordained spiritual leader of University Synagogue in Irvine, said a blessing for the country and its leader, whose name he said means “blessed.”
“We who are gathered here today know, as President Obama knows, that government alone can’t cure all of the ills of the world,” Rachlis said. He urged citizens to participate in the repair and healing of the country. “We are here today to declare that government has a crucial role, an indispensable role, a holy responsibility,” but “we are the ones who must fulfill our mandate to act.” After his call to national service, Rachlis quoted the Book of Isaiah. “We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers and we cannot stand idly by in the face of injustice, whether far away or in our own communities,” Rachlis said.
Rabbi Laurence Scheindlin, headmaster of Sinai Akiba Academy, was named President of the 2008-2009 Solomon Schechter Day School Association Board of Directors. The appointment signifies the first time the Schecter Association has named a school headmaster as board president. Scheindlin has been headmaster of Sinai Akiba since 1977 during which time the student body has grown from 170 students to 570.