Bet Tzedek's sixth annual Justice Ball has always been a popular affair for Los Angeles' young professionals. But this year, add "swanky" to the fundraiser's list of superlatives.
Justice Ball 2002 was held at the recently renovated and reopened Park Plaza, an art deco vestige of Los Angeles' glamour and glitter days that gave the occasion a different ta'am from previous years.
"What we tried to do was to find a venue to enjoy great music as well as provide a place where people can talk," said Allan Schweitzer, who is serving his fourth year with the Justice Ball and his first year as event co-chair, with Jennifer Kleinert.
More than 2,500 young professionals attended the evening, made possible with the help of a 23-member steering committee and a large group of co-sponsors that included The Jewish Journal. The $350,000 raised in proceeds that night will directly benefit Bet Tzedek (House of Justice), which annually provides free legal services to more than 10,000 local low-income residents who can not afford the price of justice.
"I'm so excited by how this has turned out," said Kleinert, a real estate attorney who helped organize all six Justice Balls.
"It's a classy, fun crowd," said corporate real estate attorney Shervin Gabayan, this being his second year on the Justice Ball's planning committee. "Bet Tzedek is a wonderful organization that provides a fantastic service to our community."
There were enough performers at this year's Justice Ball to overstuff a deposition brief. Former Wailers frontman Elan delivered the reggae; DJ Jason Bentley, of KCRW and KROQ fame, spun the ambient music; disco cover band royalty The Boogie Knights gave up the funk; and Smittin, fronted by "The Practice" star Marla Sokoloff, rocked the room.
Also appearing, in the nonsinging category, Sokoloff's "Practice" pal Camryn Manheim. The actress, who also played in Todd Solondz's "Happiness," is a longtime devotee of Bet Tzedek and has attended The Justice Ball since its inception.
"Every year, it gets better and better," said Manheim, hanging out with Joshua Malina of "SportsNight." Malina, a nice Jewish boy, found out about Justice Ball from Kleinert's sister, Michelle Kleinert, a pal of his from their New Israel Fund involvement.
"Bet Tzedek's a Jewish organization whose philosophy extends to everyone, regardless of race or religion," Malina said.
"He's been instrumental in getting the celebrity crowd here," said Randall Kaplan, Justice Ball founder and chair emeritus. "He goes a million miles out of his way to make it happen."
Bartenders poured cocktails -- courtesy of VIP room sponsor Grey Goose Vodka -- for attendees through an ice sculpture as the group SmackDaddy jammed for the VIP crowd.
Also spotted at the Justice Ball: Bet Tzedek Executive Director David Lash; socialite Janis Black; South Park Group Vice President Sean Hashem; jewelry designer Lili Rachel, and Hollywood Reporter online editor William Yelles.
Kaplan was pleased with this year's fundraiser -- the first Justice Ball he hasn't directly overseen.
"They've done a phenomenal job this year in every respect," said Kaplan, proud papa of the Justice Ball and of 5-month-old twins, Bianca and Arianna, whose picture he flashed to friends. "It's truly wonderful to see the event raised to a new level and continue with a talented group of volunteers."
For information on Bet Tzedek and the Justice Ball, call (323) 939-0506 and www.TheJusticeBall.org .
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