A Slice of New York
What better way for school kids to mark President's Day Weekend than with a trip to New York and a slice of pizza?
On Feb. 19, 100 members of Jewish Student Union clubs, including 69 Los Angeles-area public high school students, took part in the third annual JSU New York Experience.
A public high school outreach organization, JSU is partially funded by the Orthodox Union (OU), and was founded by Rabbi Steven Burg of Los Angeles. JSU clubs have sprung up all around the country, giving Jewish students in public high schools the opportunity to meet in their lunch hour, socialize, grab a slice of pizza and receive informal education about their Jewish heritage.
On the latest N.Y. trip, the students took in the Big Apple's major tourist sites, as well as a visit to OU headquarters in Manhattan, where the students were served the requisite pizza lunch.
About 800 people attended a panel discussion at the Nessah Educational and Cultural Center in Beverly Hills on Feb. 23, to hear three authors discuss America and Europe's inability to confront Islamic radicalism.
Among the panel, moderated by Avi Davis, Israel-Christian Nexus' executive director, was Cairo-born Bat Ye'or, whose latest book is "Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis." She told the guests, "We are now facing a period of jihad. And America is the principal target ... this is not a small event that will pass. Now we see flourishing in a Europe a Palestinian cult which is totally anti-Israeli."
Author Robert Spencer, who wrote "Onward Muslim Soldiers" and "Islam Unveiled," said that in the United States, the far left "has been arrayed against Western civilization for so long that they cannot see the threat to themselves that the jihad poses, and are simply using it to fight the same battles they've fought since the '60s."
"Islamikaze" author Raphaeli Israeli said, "Muslims in Europe bear a desire to Islamicize that entire continent."
Attendees at the event, sponsored by the Israel Christian Nexus, the Jewish Community Foundation, the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) and the Zionist Organization of America, included Nessah's Rabbi David Shofet, Nessah synagogue president Morgan Hakimi and RJC Southern California Director Larry Greenfield. – David Finnigan, Contributing Writer.
In what has become something of a ritual, Santa Monica's Temple Beth Shir Shalom held its lead up to Purim event – a "bark" mitzvah ceremony – in the synagogue "barking lot."
The event, which was open to the public, encouraged members and nonmembers alike to bring their dogs, cats, birds and any other of God's creatures (including stuffed animals) to the ceremony.
Led by Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels, participants took part in a Jewish challenge course in order to "qualify" for the bark mitzvah, enjoyed a brief service, received bark mitzvah certificates and a commemorative photograph of the happy occasion and enjoyed a party with animal-friendly treats. All proceeds raised ($18 per participant) went to Canine Companions.
On Feb. 23, the Kraft Family Stadium in Jerusalem welcomed an extra special guest, none other than New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft himself.
Kraft was on hand to celebrate the rededication of the stadium he donated, which is home to American Flag Football in Israel (AFI).
But AFI is not just for men – there's a women's team, too, (WAFI) and Angeleno Jessie Kandel, who is studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem this year, is a member.
"It wasn't until we originally dedicated this field in '99 that we won three out of the last four Super Bowls," Kraft said, addressing the hundreds who turned out for the ceremony. "I don't think it's a mere coincidence."
Attendees at the event included Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, and AFI League President Steve Leibowitz.
In honor of the event, the Jerusalem Police Marching Band played both "The Star Spangled Banner" and "Hatikvah."
"In our lifetime I never thought I'd be able to feel the special ruach of hearing the American national anthem and then hearing Hatikvah," Kraft said. "It gave me the chills."
The American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science Women and Science Program, hosted a luncheon Feb. 1 honoring Judy Felsenthal, who has been the Women and Science chair for the past six years.
Keynote speaker at the Regency Club event was professor Ruth Arnon of the Institute's immunology department and one of the world's leading chemical immunologists. Her research in multiple sclerosis led to the development of Copaxone, a drug that treats the disease.
Chabad's New Digs
Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad held a lavish banquet to dedicate a new building next door to its current Melrose-La Brea location and to honor those who had made significant contributions to the school.
The event marked the inauguration of a new dormitory and beit midrash.
Rabbi Ezra B. Shochet, rosh yeshiva, presented awards to Dr. Ze'ev and Varda Rav-Noy, who dedicated the campus; Alon and Rosana Miller and Reb Berel and Miriam Weiss, who received the Yissachar-Zevulun Partnership award; Sam and Vera Menlo, who dedicated the beit midrash; Ronald and Polly Stackler, who dedicated the mikvah; Reb Mottel and Sonya Kornwasser, who dedicated the main entrance; Lyle and Tammy Weisman, who dedicated the main lobby; and Mila Kornwassar, who dedicated the computer lab in memory of her husband, Aharon Yaakov ben Eliezer.
Former student Benny Friedman provided musical entertainment for the evening, while high schooler Eliyahu Nachum Eilfort of La Costa and beit midrash student Yosef Abraham of Texas offered their thoughts about the opening.
Million-Dollar (Plus) Baby
Rosalie Zalis stepped into the ballroom at the Beverly Hills Hotel and saw the crowd massed to honor Bruce Ramer.
"I don't believe it!" she said. Then, on second thought, added, "Actually, I do believe it."
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) honored the attorney and philanthropist at the March 10 event with its 25th Learned Hand Award, named in memory of the great American jurist, Judge Learned Hand.
On hand to celebrate were Mayor James Hahn, accepting congrats on his fresh victory in the mayoral primary; Israel's Consul General Ehud Danoch; AJC President Peter Weil; Universal Pictures Chair Stacy Snider; Shamrock Holdings CEO Stanley Gold; Sheriff Lee Baca; actress Doris Roberts; Jewish Community Foundation head Marv Schotland and more than 700 others.
"We have 300 extra people to fit in," said slightly frazzled but elated AJC Executive Director Rabbi Gary Greenebaum.
The huge turnout helped AJC raise $1.5 million (surpassing the international human rights group's previous record by $300,000).
Ramer, ranked among the 100 most influential lawyers in America by the National Law Review, has served the AJC for 30 years, including a stint as national president from 1998-2001. He's a trustee of USC, and a board member of, among other organizations, the Shoah Visual History Foundation, National Foundation for Jewish Culture, Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games and founding chairman of the Geffen Playhouse.
Ramer's professional life is as storied as his philanthropic one. He represents some of the entertainment industry's top talent, including long-time client Steven Spielberg, who was a dinner chair for the event.
At the dinner, Ramer was his effervescent self, dispensing hugs and thank-yous to friends and colleagues.
Longtime friend Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), stuck in D.C., made a satellite screen appearance, and actor-director Clint Eastwood – a client for 35 years – presented Ramer with his award.
"Being a man of few words, let me just say a few choice ones about Bruce," Eastwood said. "Kind. Gentle. Honest. Honorable. Sincere. Compassionate. Devoted. Committed. Caring. Loving. He is a man of total integrity."
For more information on AJC, visit www.ajc.org. – Rob Eshman, Editor-in-Chief