June 27, 2002
Perhaps Rome wasn't built in a day, but clothing retailers Mereille and Nader Manesh, who run the Avant Garde in Beverly Hills, created an entire clothing store overnight. Anything is possible when the incentive is to raise money to support Israel.
It was all part of a unique fundraiser dubbed "Shop to Support Israel," a 10-day spree that ran from June 9-17 and raised funds through the sale of donated clothes and jewelry -- top brands such as Bisou-Bisou, Citron, and Benora Clothing. The special sale raised $18,000 (chai times 1,000, coincidentally) on its very first day, and collected $70,000 overall -- all of it going to Magen David Adom West to purchase ambulances and emergency units for Israel.
"People take years to plan a store," said Linda Perry, an impressed volunteer. "This came about overnight."
Valley Outreach Synagogue's Craig Wycoff and Richard Rice dropped by to support the Maneshes' first charity sale.
"It's time for American Jews to stop being silent about the nature of anti-Semitism and let our voices be heard, and know that we're not going to stand idly by," Wycoff said. A principal of the talent agency Epstein, Wycoff, Corsa and Ross, Wycoff treated himself to a snappy sports coat.
When they were not busy selling garments and overseeing the party, the Maneshes were proud hosts at the reception featuring a live organist and kosher sushi platters.
"My husband and I spoke about it with our landlord, Alan Abrams, who let us use the space," said an appreciative Mereille Manesh. "It's been phenomenal. Nader and I have never done anything like this. I'm very, very proud."
Mereille was also proud of daughter Arielle, 12, who volunteered until 1:30 a.m. the day before, raising money for Israel.
Oliver Vermeirem, who has worked for Avant Garde for seven years, praised the incredible chutzpah of his employers.
"I don't think they thought they were going to get this response," Vermeirem said. "The response has been overwhelming."
"They do have a great selection and it's an eclectic range of things," actress Sandra Taylor ("Princess Diaries") told The Journal as she shopped for her 3-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son.
"Nader is the epitome of tzedakah," said Howard Parmet of Magen David Adom West, who pointed out how urgently new ambulances are needed in Israel -- as many as 60 ambulances are often sent to a homicide bombing scene and so they undergo a lot of wear-and-tear, theft, even sabotage.
Producer Scott Einbinder of Sandstorm Films, long involved in leading The Jewish Federation's Entertainment Division steering committee, of which he is co-chairman, loved the creativity behind the Maneshes' shopping initiative and hoped it spurs more Jews, especially the coming generations.
"More young people need to come out not just to support Israel but to support Jewish causes," Einbinder said.
"What I'd like to see is more of people in our business -- Hollywood personalities -- finally come out in public support of Israel," said actor Mike Burstyn, ("The Tale of the Allergist's Wife" at the Ahmanson Theatre).