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Jewish Journal

The Circuit

by Michael Aushenker

March 14, 2002 | 7:00 pm

Bravo For SoCal's Educators and Administrators!

You might call him the event's "grand Marshall."

Garry Marshall -- director of "Pretty Woman" and "The Princess Diaries" and creator of TV shows such as "The Odd Couple" and "Happy Days" -- hosted this year's 20th annual Bravo Awards, as he had last year...and the year before...and every other year since the inception of the event that recognizes the achievements Southern California's educators, school administrators and schools.

Goofing on the banquet's expensive centerpieces, Marshall quipped, "Someone in the art classes, they should say, 'We'll do the centerpieces.'"

Marshall was all jokes, but his devotion to the cause, sponsored by the Music Center Education Division, is very serious.

This year, Arcadia High School was singled out from among 11 schools for top honors. Also honored were choral music teacher Mike Short of Orange High School; Laura Hamlett, second-grade teacher at Eagle Rock Elementary; Jennifer Fry, a fifth-grade teacher at Meadows Elementary in Thousand Oaks; and Jeff Lantos, fifth-grade teacher at Marquez Elementary in Pacific Palisades.

The Millennium Biltmore gala was sponsored by Club 100, a Music Center membership support organization headed by President Astrid Rottman. Club 100 member Janice Wallace chaired the event, while Sharon Reisz served as the Bravo endowment chair. Music Center CEO Andrea Van de Kamp, Music Center President Joanne Kozberg, and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin all graced the stage, as did the John Burroughs High School Chamber Choir and the Washington Preparatory High School Jazz Band, both of which performed at the event.

At The Circuit's table sat Mark Slavkin. It was about this time last year that Slavkin assumed the post of Music Center Education Division director, taking over the position from Joan Boyett, who created the arts education branch in 1979. Slavkin oversees a staff of 30 and a budget of $4.8 million annually, which goes toward sending visual and performing artists to 1 million children in LAUSD and private schools throughout L.A. County.

Accompanying Slavkin at the banquet was his wife of 16 years, Debbie Slavkin. The Slavkins, USC sweethearts, belong to B'nai Tikvah in Westchester.

"Regardless of the work, he's very much a people person, interested in the back story because that's what makes everything tick," said Debbie, an Arizona native.

The Circuit also kibbitzed with Los Angeles Board of Education President Caprice Young, five months pregnant with her third girl.

"It's not just about self-esteem," Young said, before taking to the dais for the program. "It's about kids having the confidence to be courageous learners."

"It's not just exposing them to every culture but combining it with a twist on the art form," Slavkin added, citing classes in everything from African drumming to jazz vocalists to mariachi music.

Slavkin, who has four children with Debbie, previously worked in similar capacities with the Annenberg Foundation and Getty Education Institute. He told The Circuit that there's no better job than working with the nexus of the arts and children.

"It's a joyous challenge," he said, smiling.

For more information, visit www.musiccenter.org/BRAVO.html or contact Lynda Jenner, director of special projects, at (213) 202-2286.

Come on Everybody, Let's Do the Conga...

Call this a case of banging the conga drum for a good cause. The Presidents Club, which supports Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services, held a benefit event at the Conga Room. More than 150 guests enjoyed an evening that included a buffet dinner, Latin music and Salsa lessons. The event, chaired by Cheryl Paller, raised more than $20,000 for the nonprofit, which aids children in Southern California undergoing emotional distress, abuse or neglect. Stacie and Bruce Kirshbaum, Gisele and Steve Paul and Lucienne and David Soleymani were among the evening's co-sponsors.

For more information on Vista Del Mar, visit www.vistadelmar.org.

Freewheeling Freehling

University Synagogue will honor Rabbi Allen Freehling and his remarkable career at a Regent Beverly Wilshire banquet on April 23. After 30 years of service, Freehling will step down from his post as the synagogue's spiritual leader at the end of June and become the shul's first rabbi emeritus.

Come, Union!

Yoav Sarraf and a band of fellow UCLA students are creating a new organization, tentatively called the Persian Jewish Student Union. The goal is to develop a social, cultural, political and educational agenda. If you are a Persian student and you would like to get involved, contact Sarraf at (310) 749-9628.

A Lot of Shabbat

On March 8, nearly 70 synagogues across the continent participated in Shabbat Across America/Canada. Now in its sixth year, the project, sponsored by the National Jewish Outreach Program, hopes to increase and enhance synagogue life.

'Celebration,' a Community Invitation

Come April, Israel will turn 54. However, you don't have to go to Israel to celebrate. The people behind "Celebration 54," a free community celebration in honor of Israel's 54th year as a recognized country, promise a festive family event highlighting Israeli music and dance performances, a children's choir and a video show. The April 16 program, to be held at the Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus in West Hills, will include an outdoor picnic on the grounds, where guests can either bring their own picnic dinners or purchase kosher food from on-site vendors. Organizers are requesting that attendees wear blue and white in honor of the occasion. Israeli dancing also is planned.

The event -- sponsored by a team of Valley Alliance synagogues, schools and Jewish organizations -- will kick off with a tribute to Israel's Memorial Day. For more information, call (818) 530-5001.

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