Jokes, Lights and Songs
The Israel advocacy group StandWithUs filled the University of Judaism's main auditorium for its Dec. 5 Festival of Lights concert. Actor-comedian Larry Miller hosted the event on crutches, and provided a light comic stream amid the tributes and music. He reminded the overflow crowd that expecting terrorists to have a change of heart is like holding out hope for sour milk: "The milk is sour; maybe it'll be fresh tomorrow."
Musicians Sam Glaser and Peter Himmelman, cantors Alison Wissot and Chayim Frankel and Israeli singer Hedva Amrani Miller all performed.
"Too bad the tourists don't come; Israel needs our help," Amrani said. "I have two hearts; one heart in Israel and one here."
StandWithUs began in 2001 as a sort of informational guerrilla unit working among larger, entrenched Jewish institutions trying to grasp the extent of current anti-Semitism, especially on college campuses. Despite the Festival of Lights' naturally festive mood, a video captured the gravity of what StandWithUs monitors, showing a Muslim cleric on Palestinian television saying, "Jews are dogs. Jews are pigs."
Two of the group's main backers, Newton Becker and Mark Karlan, were honored at the Festival of Lights with menorah trophies that almost dominated the stage podium.
"In Europe, Israel is perceived as Nazi Germany," Becker said. "We've lost the war of ideas in Europe. The Jews in Europe have not countered the lies. They need our help and they're not used to doing it themselves."
Karlan praised StandWithUs for using donations effectively, saying, "I like the fact that they deliver more bang for our tzedakah buck." – David Finnigan, Contributing Writer
The Jewish vocational organization ORT honored Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Chief William Bratton at its Dec. 5 Chanukah brunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where Jewish community philanthropist Jona Goldrich pledged $10,000 to the ORT's $500,000 annual budget goal.
The LAPD chief, who attended the brunch with his wife, Court TV personality and legal analyst Ricki Kleiman, was named the L.A. ORT chapter's Man of the Year. Bratton told the 200 ORT supporters that police officers and ORT instructors are in similar roles because they try to "make a difference."
KNX 1070 reporter and L.A. ORT advisory council member Laura Ornest was the emcee for the brunch, which was coordinated by third-generation ORT supporter Deena Eberly, while Rabbi David Baron of Temple Shalom for the Arts gave the invocation.
Goldrich was not the only donor pledging big bucks to the organization. ORT's L.A. chapter founder Stanley Black – whose name graces the L.A. ORT Technical Institute building on Wilshire Boulevard – started the brunch's fundraising by pledging $18,000, and then Black's 10-year-old grandson donated $10.
ORT's global budget of $300 million supports schools in 60 countries.
"College prepared me for the advertising business, but ORT prepared me for the world," said a young Argentine immigrant who studied at an ORT school. – DF
Hopes and 'Dreams'
Domestic violence blights even wonderful communities, which is why organizations like the Jewish Family Service's Family Violence Project (JFSFVP) are working to stop it. On Oct. 27, the mid-Wilshire Domestic Violence Prevention Collaborative – a joint venture of JFSFVP and 14 other organizations – honored eight individuals and two groups for their efforts to raise awareness of domestic violence in Los Angeles, especially in underserved communities where information on the issue has been largely unavailable.
The ceremony was held at the West Hollywood Community Center on Santa Monica Boulevard, and was hosted by West Hollywood Mayor Pro Tem Abbe Land. Other dignitaries in attendance included state Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Los Angeles), Beverly Hills City Councilman Jimmy Delshad and Paul S. Castro, executive director of Jewish Family Service.
Honored at the ceremony was the cast and crew of the NBC TV series "American Dreams." Sarah Ramos, 13, who plays Patty Pryor in the show, spearheaded an effort on the set to help victims of domestic violence, and since the show's debut two years ago the cast and crew have collected donations for domestic violence victims.
Other honorees were the Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation (Asian community); Dr. Gerry Rosen (African immigrant community); Esther Batres (Latino community); Sattareh Farman Farmaian (Iranian community); Matthew Pulling (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community); Cori Jones (Jewish Orthodox community); Maya Segal (Russian community); Julieana Tores (youth community); and officer Chris Curry, of the LAPD Wilshire Division (law enforcement).
Safire at Sinai
The Adult Education Committee at Sinai Temple, chaired by Rosa Berman Ruder, hosted award-winning New York Times columnist William Safire as its Rabbi Jacob Kohn scholar-in-residence on Nov. 20 and 21. Safire spoke twice over the weekend – once on Shabbat, where he discussed the book of Job, and then again at a breakfast on Sunday, where he spoke about his ardent support for Israel and U.S. politics. In his Sunday speech, Safire analyzed the 2004 presidential race with warmth and humor saying that the difference between President Bush and Sen. Kerry was that Bush was playing to win, whereas Kerry was playing to not lose.
"That's why you had Bush's certainty and Kerry's nuances," he said.
Safire said that he expected the 2008 democratic ticket to be headlined by Sen. Hillary Clinton and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. He also said that he supported an amendment to the constitution that would allow foreign-born citizens to run for president.
After his speech, Safire sat down for a Q-and-A session with Sinai Temple's Rabbi David Wolpe.
Safire will soon retire from his New York Times Op-Ed column, but will continue writing the On Language column published in the New York Times Magazine.
N'Shei Chabad of Los Angeles held its annual Rest and Ruchnius retreat – ruchnius is Hebrew for spirituality – at the Oxnard Marriott Oct. 29-31. The retreat was for women only – although they were allowed to bring along nursing babies – and its purpose was to provide some respite from the pressures of careers and home life by ensconcing the women in a nice hotel, with good food and great speakers. This year, the featured speaker was New York-based teacher and author Shimona Tzukernik, who spoke about chasidut (piety) and the spiritual lessons she learned on a recent safari trip through her native South Africa. Other speakers at the retreat included Devorie Kreiman and the Chai Center's Olivia Schwartz.
In August, Na'amat USA, an organization that raises funds to support the social service of Na'amat Israel, appointed its first president to hail from the West Coast – Alice Howard of Encino. Howard, who has taught in the Los Angeles Unified School District for 28 years, previously served the national organization as coordinator for the Western Area, financial secretary and chair of the Golda Meir Child Development Fund. She is a second-generation Na'amat USA member– her mother, Sarah Bocarsky, is a life member and was president of California's Lake Elsimore club for 10 years.
Na'amat, which is Israel's largest women's movement, supports the largest network of day care centers in Israel, as well as technological high schools, women centers, legal aid services for women, centers for the treatment and prevention of violence in families and many other services.
Dori Sher, who serves as director of after-school children's services for Valley Cities Jewish Community Center in Sherman Oaks, was recently accepted in the Teen Professional Mentor Program with JCCA of North America. Sher was the only person selected from the Western Region for this prestigious program.
The Teen Professional Mentor Program is a nationally recognized curriculum that invests $18,000 worth of training, in-service and conferences/trips into each participant. The program has achieved numerous honors over the years for their work with teens throughout the United States.
For more information on the program, call (818) 786-6310.
On an unusually chilly autumn night under the stars, The Coalition of the Environment and Jewish Life of Southern California (COEJL/SC) presented its fifth annual Environmentalist of the Year awards. A far cry from its first awards, the elaborate party at the home of Richard and Daphne Ziman drew hundreds of Los Angeles' Jews, environmentalists, businesspeople and politicians, like former Gov. Gray Davis, mayoral candidate Bob Hertzberg and Michelle Kleinert, deputy director of community affairs for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
"When you think about the environment and Jewish life in Southern California, you think Ed Begley," said the lanky blond actor, who served as the master of ceremonies for the evening.Begley said he believes in COEJL/SC because it is sounding the clarion call to save the planet: "God gave us this planet, it's our responsibility to preserve it."
"Together, as a community, we can make real changes," said Jewish Environmentalist of the Year Marlene Grossman, the executive director of Pacoima Beautiful. She pointed to TreePeople for its outstanding conservation work. "Tonight is the night we teach that to our children, and tonight is the night we bequeath it to us all," she said.
Interfaith Environmentalist of the Year went to Terry Tamminen, secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency; Business Environmentalist of the Year went to Toyota, which manufactures the hybrid Prius.
The lifetime achievement award was presented to Dorothy Green, the founding president of Heal the Bay. Green said she was honored and privileged to be able to work to restore habitat and that she was glad people of different religions were coming together to work on the environment.
"To bring together communities of faith – that is the future of the environment," she said.
"Throughout all religions, teachings and moral commandments it is clear that we must care for creation to protect future generations," said Lee Wallach, president of COEJL/SC. "Only in coming together we can do that." – DF