Jewish Journal

The Circuit

by Gaby Wenig

Posted on Oct. 2, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Back in the Chai Life

This year's Chabad "L'Chaim -- To Life!" telethon succeeded in attracting many old favorites, like actors Jon Voight and Fyvush Finkel, and a number of new faces, like Jeffrey Tambor ("The Grinch," "The Larry Sanders Show") and Mindy Sterling ("Austin Powers").

By the end of the evening, the long list of celebrities had touted Chabad's benefits to audiences in New York and California, resulting in pledged donations that totaled more than $5 million.

"This is about Judaism, but it is also about helping people," said Tambor, who will co-star in the Fox series "Arrested Development" in November. Backstage, Tambor managed to give 11-year-old "Spy Kid" Daryl Sabara and his twin brother, Evan (also an actor), a mini bar mitzvah lesson by having them repeat the "Borchu."

Daryl Sabara told The Journal that the best thing about making the "Spy Kids" films was the stunts. "I do all my own stunts, and when you are on wires it feels like you are flying," said Sabara, who with his brother will soon be starting Hebrew lessons.

Other celebrities in the green room were George Stults from the WB's "7th Heaven" and Sterling.

In her pitch, Sterling told the viewers to donate "not to be farbisseneh [sour faced]" -- a nod to Frau Farbissineh, the uptight German mistress she plays in the "Austin Powers" series.

"This is my first time at the telethon, so it is kind of new and exciting," Sterling said. "Any time that I can use who I am to make a statement and try and encourage people to send in money and help out, I do."

Outside the studio, "Star Search"-winner Jake Simpson was lounging against the wall talking to comedian Max Alexander after his funky performance of "Isn't She Lovely."

"When I told my friends back East that I was appearing on the telethon, they all said 'Omigod, you're going on what?!'" said Simpson. "I got to admit -- being around all these famous people is so cool."

Other people who congregated outside were Israeli actress Mili Avital, who appeared on the telethon to promote Israeli tourism, and Voight, who took a few minutes before his appearance to tell The Journal about the first time he encountered Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin, West Coast Chabad Lubavitch's garrulous commander in chief.

"I went into the treatment center and I saw all these guys with tattoos and muscles all lined up at a table," he said. "There was a fellow there with a big beard and a big barrel chest, and he was hand wrestling all of these characters, and beating them all. They all said 'That's Rabbi Cunin,' and I said, 'This is my kind of guy.'"

Voight has been a friend of Chabad for some 10 years now, and he said that he has a great regard for Judaism.

Joining the actors were politicos like Assemblyman Paul Koretz, Rep. Brad Sherman and City Councilman Jack Weiss. Weiss said that he was the second member of his family who was a public servant for Chabad -- the first was his brother, Andrew, who helped Cunin evacuate the Lubavitcher Rebbe's library from Russia.

"Who wouldn't want to help Chabad?" asked Dennis Prager, the telethon's master of ceremonies. "Who else is sending rabbis out to Anchorage, Ala.? They are keeping Judaism alive."

Go Up Moses

Rabbi Shimon Kashani donned a hard hat and picked up a shovel at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Southern California Jewish Center's (SCJC) new Westwood complex. The building is going to be the home of the Moses Hebrew Academy, a new Jewish school that wants to lure students with small class sizes (five to six kids), a high-quality Jewish and secular education and -- even more enticingly -- low-cost tuition. The SCJC is offering a Founders Scholarship of a 50 percent tuition break to anyone who wants to attend the school.

"What we have in mind for the Moses Hebrew Academy is a school that is financially accessible to any family that wants a Jewish day school education for their children," said Shimon's wife, Vered.

The Kashanis, who began the school because they perceived a need in the community for low-cost education, would like to attract Jewish students currently attending public schools through their doors.

The Westwood building is also going to house a synagogue, and the Terror Victim's Institute. At the groundbreaking, Kashani unveiled a gold plaque with a dedication to terrorist victims in Israel. This plaque is a prelude to the Wall of Remembrance, a planned exterior wall where the names of all those killed by terrorists will be forever inscribed.

For more information on the Southern California Jewish Center and the Moses Hebrew Academy, call (800) 936-4673.

Naftoli's New Twosome

There is a new rabbi in town. La Brea-area shul Congregation Bais Naftoli recently appointed Berish Goldenberg as its new rabbi and Yisroel Yaakov Weisz as its new cantor.

Eagle Scouts Among Us

When you think of Eagle Scouts you might think of hard-bodied young men with buzz cuts on their way to West Point, not Shalhevet High School students. Enter Nathaniel Schlossberg, a recent graduate of Shalhevet, who was elevated to the rank of Eagle Scout at the National Eagle Court of Honor. Schlossberg completed a community service project of identifying and mapping out all the species of cacti at the cacti park on Santa Monica Boulevard as his final requirement for becoming an eagle scout. The ceremony was held at Temple Beth Am, where Rabbi Joel Rembaum commented that everything that describes a good scout describes a good Jew as well.

Journal's Emmy Count Doubles

Rob Kutner, a former contributing writer to The Jewish Journal, received an Emmy Award for Best Writing in a Comedy Variety Series at the annual awards ceremony Sun., Sept. 21 at the Shrine Auditorium. Kutner won as a member of the writing staff of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" with John Stewart. Two years ago, Journal single's writer Teresa Strasser picked up an Emmy for her writing on "Win Ben Stein's Money."

Hello, Herman

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors welcomed Jewish War Veteran Herman Mirochnik to their August board meeting. Mirochnik, a resident of Chatsworth, served in the Navy from 1945 to 1946 as a seaman first class at the Great Lakes Naval Station in Illinois, and received a Navy Good Conduct Medal, a World War II Victory Medal and a National Defense Service Medal for his service.

IDF Meets Los Angeles

Only hours after the horrific bombing in Jerusalem's Cafe Hillel, 100 CEOs and presidents of Los Angeles-based corporations met at the Peninsula Hotel to hear Maj. Gen. Moshe Evry Sukenik, Israel Defense Force (IDF) military attaché, and Sgt. Maj. Tzahi Truman of the IDF navy assess the situation. Friends of the IDF sponsored the event.

Sukenik, who served as the IDF chief of staff from 1998 to 2000, expressed his frustration at the Palestinian Authority's reluctance to prevent suicide attacks.

"Israeli intelligence continuously provides the Palestinians with names of suicide bombers who we believe are about to conduct attacks against our country," he said. "At no time have the Palestinian leaders or security forces ever intervened to prevent an attack, If they will not act, we will -- and it will be decisive."

Scientific Salute

Lucienne and David Soleymani recently hosted a reception at their Santa Monica home for Lisa Wang, a graduate of the Weizmann Institute of Science, Bessie F. Lawrence International Summer Science Institute for High School Graduates. The Weizmann Institute is located in Rehovot, Israel, and is one of the top-ranking multidisciplinary research institutions in the world.

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