Putting the 'Unity' in Community
Build a community and they will come...
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles packed the ballroom of the Regent Beverly Wilshire when it held its annual Community Dinner last week -- this year celebrating 90 years of outreach service in Los Angeles. Honorees were Edna and the late Mickey Weiss, who were presented with the Lifetime of Broad Service Award, and Stephen S. Wise Temple founder Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin, given the Barbi Weinberg Chai Award for his role in creating Milken Community High School.
Terri Smooke serves as liaison to Gov. Gray Davis on behalf of both Los Angeles and the city's Jewish community. "I feel very honored to chair this event," she told the Circuit. "I'd like to see one day that not a Jewish person in the world lacks food and nourishment."
Smooke, who has been involved with Federation branches for more than 30 years, applauded Federation programs such as YouThink and Koreh L.A.
Among the caring people celebrating this evening were Federation Chairman Todd Morgan; Federation President John Fishel; Jewish Community Relations Committee Chair Osias Goren, former United Jewish Fund General Chair Sanford Gage, Executive Vice President William Bernstein and L.A./Tel Aviv Partnership's Fredi Rembaum.
Indeed, the Federation has a lot to crow about. Last month's Super Sunday drive, which traditionally provides roughly 10 percent of its annual funding, bucked what could be an encroaching recession to raise $5,003,256, a figure surpassing last year's. Many of the individual sites exceeded last year's Super Sunday totals as well, including South Bay and the Westside site. Wunderkind phone solicitor Alex Miller, 14, more than doubled his personal best, single-handedly raising more than $36,000.
For 20 years, the Herb Gelfands shared "pains, laughter and triumphs" with Edna and Mickey Weiss, Herb Gelfand said.
"Mickey Weiss rented an office from me and never stopped complaining about the rent," Gelfand continued, laughing.
Accepting her award, Edna Weiss complimented fellow honoree Zeldin, her friend and spiritual leader for 30 years. She also recounted how she was introduced to Mickey through Adria and Victor Carter, who also attended the dinner.
Zeldin came to Los Angeles in 1953. In 1954, he founded Stephen S. Wise Temple, now the largest congregation in United States. He helped found Milken Community High School in 1990 -- now 800 students strong and a model for many like-minded schools nationwide. Zeldin expressed his pride in his family: his wife, Florence, a children's book author; his son, a professor of education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion; and his daughter-in-law, who works at Stephen S. Wise Temple.
Trena Greitzer, past Women's Division chair, remarked, "I adore Edna, and I wouldn't miss this evening for the whole wide world." Greitzer's niece, Renee Katz, said she loved being among several generations of Federation supporters.
"We all have a common passion," said Katz, who co-hosted this year's successful Face-to-Face drive at Super Sunday with Scott Minkow and Michal Amir.
The Circuit enjoyed dinner in the company of Elisa Price Rubin, a longtime and prolific Federation participant who helped prepare the decorations. Now married with two young children, Rubin told the Circuit, "I really believe the concept of Federation. The slogan goes, 'We save lives,' and they really do. The concept of tzedakah is something I want to impart to our kids, and the only way to do it is to live it."
Following remarks by Women's Campaign Chair Laurie Konheim and 2001 United Jewish Fund Campaign Chair Michael Koss, Smooke said "I'd like to thank everybody in this room for being a builder of the community," before Grammy-winner Randy Newman took his seat at the piano and launched into signature songs such as this year's Oscar-nominated "A Fool in Love," from "Meet the Parents."
The Circuit approached last year's Community Dinner honoree, Monty Hall, for his take on the evening. Hall, the former "Let's Make a Deal" host, was happy to share his good spirits.
"Edna is like a sister to me, and Rabbi Zeldin, we've done so many benefits, we should take it on the road," he said. Hall, who has been active in the community for years, said he believes that Jews all over the city should continue to invest in the future of the Federation and the community at large.
"I'm part of it, and I'm proud of it, and I just want to continue to be a part of this community," he said. "I give to all kinds of charities and organizations, but this is special. These are my people."
Spreading the Shabbat Tone
What started out as a small Shabbat-championing movement at Lincoln Square Synagogue in New York City is now a nationwide annual event. Shabbat Across America, backed by the National Jewish Outreach Program, will include more than 700 shuls across the country in a special service designed to attract both the Jewishly affiliated and unaffiliated alike.
"It's been expanded in a very profound way; it's almost become an expected event, so that's nice," Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald told the Circuit from New York. Buchwald is the founder and director of the National Jewish Outreach Program, as well as the former Lincoln Square Synagogue spiritual leader.
Buchwald continued, "Shabbat really underscores that you can't have quality time unless you have quantity time."
For a list of local synagogues sponsoring Shabbat Across America, go to www.njop.org or call (888) Shabbat.
YULA Wins Again
For the second year in a row, Yeshiva University of Los Angeles High School earned the first place title of Best Delegation at Yeshiva University's 11th Annual National Model United Nations competition in New York City, where more than 600 high-schoolers from 40 Orthodox day schools competed. This year's team was led by Shani Schlesinger and Zev Wiener. Team members included Daniel Barzideh, Yael Barzideh, Julia Deutsch, Ayelet Fischer, Aviva Fink, David Ghods, Debra Glasberg, Melissa Goldenberg, Noah Greenfield, Sarit Kattan, Aaron Katz, Natalie Katzin, Daniel Kellerman, Michael Kleinman, Yehuda Remer, Merrick Schmitt-Lackner and Miriam Segura. Dr. Paul Soifer was the team's faculty adviser, and Principal Deborah Shrier chaperoned the team on its trip.
Something of a Phenomenon
Got a phone call at the office from author Steven Silbiger. Silbiger, who wrote "The Jewish Phenomenon: The Seven Keys to the Enduring Wealth of a People," will be the keynote speaker at Hadassah Southern California's upcoming daylong symposium, "The Whole Woman: Mind, Body, & Soul," to be held March 25 at Stephen S. Wise Temple.
"There's been a lot of books about Jewish success," Silbiger said from his Philadelphia home. "My book deals with reasons why."
Why, in other words, have 2 percent of the U.S. population been so disproportionately prominent in all facets of American life, be it as artists, writers, cartoonists, filmmakers, financiers, teachers, scientists, entrepreneurs, retailers, and on and on? After all, 23 percent of the Forbes Top 40 are Jewish.
"Jewish Phenomenon" so impressed Barbara Kaufman, owner of an independent bookstore chain in Atlanta, that she bought a part of the book's Atlanta-based publisher, Longstreet Press.
Silbiger wants readers of his book to come away with two messages: "Jewish people have contributed a great deal to the American scene, and Jewish people need to be keenly aware of their contributions so that they can continue to be successful in the next century."
Hadassah Southern California Northern Area's "The Whole Woman: Mind, Body, & Soul" Women's Community Conference will also feature workshops with Malkah Schulweis and Karen Shoff, Rhonda Averbach, and The Journal's Ellen Jaffe-Gill. Interpreters for the hearing-impaired will be available at the conference. For more information, call (818) 783-3488 or visit www.hadassah.org.