The first weekend box office numbers typically come out on Saturday, actor and director Jon Favreau reminded the audience at the Beverly Hills Hotel. But every Saturday he finds Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman and CEO Michael Lynton in shul -- West LA's Ohr HaTorah, to be exact -- when other execs whose careers rise and fall on those numbers would be in the office. "And," Favreau added, "he gives a good drash."
Favreau was the emcee for the 2007 Vision Award fundraiser for JTN Productions, and Lynton was the honoree. Ohr HaTorah's Rabbi Mordecai Finley gave the benediction, and another Ohr HaTorah regular, writer David Mamet, introduced the laconic Lynton. "He speaks a lot of languages but he doesn't talk much," ribbed Mamet, who saw Favreau's wit and raised it three barbs. "I've been asked not to do any Anne Frank jokes," Mamet said, "because President Carter's people called and said he's got a whole routine about her."
Lynton proved Mamet wrong by delivering a powerful account of his Jewish journey (a profile of Lynton is at jewishjournal.com). Having spent much of his life divorced from his heritage, Lynton credited his wife, Jamie Alter, their children and Finley for bringing him deep into the fold.
"I do care [about Judaism] more than I ever expected," he said.
Ineffably, beautiful Israeli-born actress Natalie Portman introduced a segment of JTN's upcoming PBS doc "The Jewish Americans" -- she's the narrator -- and the doc's director David Rubin explained, "The Jewish story is the American story." JTN founder and CEO Jay Sanderson also previewed plans for a documentary on genocide with author Daniel Goldhagen. "It will do for genocide what Al Gore did for global warming," Sanderson said.
Also on hand were actor Oliver Platt, director Julie Taymor and Sony Picture Co-Chair Amy Pascal.
-- Staff Report
The Sendoff Begins
If it were up to the Iranian American Jewish Federation (IAJF) and its friends, Ehud Danoch would be a shoo-in as prime minister of Israel. Danoch, who told The Journal about his plans to run for a Knesset seat on the Likud ticket, was assured of "100 percent" support by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Hizzoner -- who shared a little in-joke with his "brother," the consul general, claiming that both were of Yemenite descent -- joined some 200 IAJF supporters, guests and dignitaries to fete the outgoing consul general of Israel at Hollywood Temple Beth El last month for his three years of service.
Beverly Hills Mayor Jimmy Delshad also gave Danoch a running start on his political career by naming him an honorary member of the Beverly Hills City Council. Radio host John Fahari emceed the event, introducing a long string of tribute speakers who conferred enough scrolls and plaques on the honoree to fill an SUV.
Among the notables was L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, City Councilman Jack Weiss, Rabbi David Shofet of Nessah Synagogue, Jewish Federation President John Fishel, IAJF Secretary General Sam Kermanian and philanthropist Younes Nazarian.
Circuit was especially delighted to run into two old friends, Rabbi Zvi and Tova Dershowitz.
Paying additional tributes were leaders of the Magbit Foundation, Iranian Jewish Women's Organization, ORT, Hadassah and L.A. County Sheriff's Department.
A highlight of the evening was the introduction of Danoch's wife Miki, elegant, glowing and nine months pregnant. Already an attorney, she earned an MBA from UCLA during her stay in Los Angeles.
Danoch ended the evening on a ringing note. "The Jewish people are here forever," he said. "If we are united, no power in the world can break us."
-- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Students Honored 'Now'
The L.A. Museum of the Holocaust honored Laura Taubman with its first "If Not Now, When?" Award Sunday, Oct. 14 in an intimate ceremony at the home of Mindy and David Weiner. Taubman, an L.A. native and University of Wisconsin freshman, raised $20,000 for indigent Holocaust survivors through a benefit screening of the documentary "Swimming in Auschwitz." The group also honored Sanjana Marpadga, an Uplands High School junior whose project, "Triumph and Tragedy: The Swiss Bank Neutrality Lie -- Greed Knew No Bounds," won an Outstanding State entry in a National History Day exhibit and came in fifth nationwide.
Sukkahs on the Farm
Sunday in the Sukkah brought a historical Jewish re-creation to the Pierce College Farm Center in Woodland Hills on Sept. 30. This time, the children of Israel were families from all over the San Fernando Valley, and the autumn weather of Southern California was a pleasant substitute for the Sinai Desert.
The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance along with The West Valley Rabbinic Task Force invited a host of synagogues, including Congregation Or Ami, Shomrei Torah Synagogue, Temple Ahavat Shalom, Temple Aliyah, Temple Judea, Temple Kol Tikvah and Valley Beth Shalom to build their own sukkahs to celebrate a communitywide harvest festival.
Pierce's own harvest festival, including a pumpkin patch and its famous corn maze, enhanced the Sukkot joy alongside arts and crafts activities.
Many felt the venue was ideal.
"We brought the sukkah out of the synagogue parking lot and onto the farm ... an important step toward taking festive Jewish holidays and bringing them out into the public where everyone can enjoy them," said Rabbi Joshua Hoffman of Valley Beth Shalom.
There's nothing sexier than a brain surgeon, except maybe a brain surgeon in a tux at UCLA's Visionary Ball. Not even a conga line of celebrities could deter due admiration for the lifesavers being feted at this fundraiser.
While the good doctor tends to medical malfunctions, a comedian can help inflate low spirits. It's no surprise then that the inaugural Rodney Respect Award went to bona fide funnyman Tim Allen. Joan Dangerfield presented the award, which commemorates her late husband Rodney's legacy in comedy and community.
Former L.A. Dodger Steve Garvey emceed the event at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel, which featured a guest list of notables including actress Jamie Lee Curtis, supermodel Linda Evangelista and industry mogul David Geffen. Also honored Visionary Awards were Michael Phelps , chair of the UCLA Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology, and Peter Morton, founder of the hard-hitting Hard Rock Cafe and Hotel empire. Phelps was recognized for his revolutionary invention of a molecular imaging technique that aids in the early detection of cancer and Morton for his consistent civic and environmental philanthropy.
Circuit made mention a few weeks ago of the ball's host Edie Baskin Bronson, the Saturday Night Live photographer whose own battle with neurological trauma inspired her to act.
Smiles 'Round the World
Operation Smile held another star-studded fundraiser, raking in $2.5 million for November's World Journey of Smiles, which aims to conduct 40 medical missions simultaneously in 25 countries to help 5,000 children. Wallis Annenberg and Sy Goldberg were lauded for their humanitarian efforts alongside the pretty Molly Sims, Clippers player Corey Maggette as well as Angeles Lladro, from the famed Spanish house of porcelain. Bakersfield's Paige Atkinson, 9, astonished attendees by raising $17,000 independently. Her feat was so impressive, singer Jessica Simpson rewarded her with a congratulatory hug.