Jewish Journal

The Circuit

by Gaby Wenig

Posted on Dec. 18, 2003 at 7:00 pm

ADL Rock and Rawls

About 900 supporters of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) filled a Century Plaza Hotel ballroom on Dec. 7 for its 90th-year bash, an anniversary evening capped off with a masterful performance by crooner Lou Rawls.

"We stand for the civilized human beings of the world," said ADL Pacific Southwest Region Chair Bruce Einhorn, a federal immigration judge.

His half-hour opening speech stirred the ballroom crowd as he said the ADL will fight for an Israel, "with Jerusalem as its capital, and we will not retreat from that goal."

The ADL gave a Lifetime Achievement Award to Billy and Tootsie Veprin, who in their 62.5 years of marriage have remained strong ADL funders.

"I'm almost speechless, almost," said retired real estate executive Billy Veprin. "Tootsie and I love you all." 

The event's keynote speaker was Canadian writer Irshad Manji, the Muslim author of "The Trouble With Islam: A Wake-Up Call for Honesty and Change," which is coming to U.S. bookstores in January.

Manji gave a provocative speech in which she outlined Islam's historic anti-Semitism, especially in the Middle Ages during the Islam's golden age. While she noted that, "the Quran reminds us that the Jews are an exalted nation," Manji said that independent Islamic thought now is nonexistent, aided by what she said were non-Muslim, "Islamo-facists -- those who romanticize Islam."

"Our version of independent thinking died on our watch," said Manji, adding that Muslims today are practicing not an abundance of tolerance but "just enough tolerance."

After the speech Rawls covered "They Can't Take That Away From Me," the tune made famous by Rawls' old friend and staunch Israel ally, Frank Sinatra.  

"We like to be around groovy people," Rawls told the crowd, before giving his trademark, low-voice "Hi baby" greeting to a woman at a table near the stage. -- David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

Slick YICC

Young Israel of Century City's (YICC) Dec. 6 Night of Comedy & Soul fundraiser brought about 300 admirers to West Hollywood's Pacific Design Center for music, slick sushi, elegant chocolate and clean, sophisticated humor.

"I'm much more ambitious when I'm setting the alarm clock than when it's going off," comedian Gary Gulman said.

Fellow clean comic Wayne Fetterman's "guy" adaptation of Janis Ian's weepy 1975 high school girls anthem, "At Seventeen," had the lyrics: "And those of us who chose debate, would sit at home and ... meditate."

Jewish hipster musician Peter Himmelman performed customized, impromptu songs and asked the audience if they wanted to hear a song about his love for his wife or one about his father's death, saying, "Both songs are equally valid; they both serve Hashem."

Among the synagogue members enjoying the laughs and chocolate were the Museum of Tolerance's own Rabbi Abraham Cooper and his wife, Roz.

"Jews are best when they can laugh at themselves," he said. "A good place to start is the shul." -- D.F.

Happening at Hakim's

Persian Jews in their early 20s to late 30s bought bags of food and toys to the house of prominent general surgeon Dr. Saeed Hakim on Dec. 7 for a fundraiser for Persian Jews United (PJU) and One Degree of Separation, a Persian student and young professional organization. The food and toys were collected to distribute to needy children through Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFS) and the SOVA Food Pantry program.

Hakim's daughter, Melinda, organized the event -- which featured a delicious buffet and a jazz band in the living room -- after being inspired by a friend in Baltimore who holds annual Chanukah fundraising parties for needy children.

"I wanted it to be a Chanukah holiday party that was something fruitful," said Melinda Hakim, who is a medical resident at the Doheny Eye Institute.

Mastaneh Moghadam, the Farsi liaison for JFS, briefed the crowd about social services for the Iranian Jewish community.

"Through the family violence project and programs dealing with violence against women, we have been able to provide programs in Farsi for the victims of domestic violence," Moghadam said.

She also noted that JFS provides referral services and case management and therapy for the Iranian community. -- Mojdeh Sionit, Contributing Writer

Read Around the World

Although J.K. Rowling has managed to lure kids away from the television screens with her "Harry Potter" books, all around the world it seems that getting kids to read is still a battle for educators and parents. On Dec. 5, Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy decided to fight that battle with a vengeance by joining thousands of schoolchildren in a special reading project sponsored by Scholastic (the publishers of the "Potter" series) called "Read for 2004," in which students read aloud for 2004 seconds (approximately 33 minutes).

The school invited guest readers such as grandparents, aunts, uncles and other adult family members or relatives to join in the fun by reading their favorite books aloud to the class and then speaking to the students about why reading is so important. The classes involved had their names added to a Scholastic interactive world map.

"This is part of an ongoing plan to increase reading and its integration into the daily lives of the students at the school," said Rabbi Boruch Sufrin, the school's new principal. "Reading is such an integral vehicle educating our students."

For more information about Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy or a personal tour, call (310) 276-6135.

Sonia's Story

On Nov. 18 at the University of Judaism, award-wining writer Sonia Levitin spoke to the University Women of the University of Judaism. Levitin was born in Berlin during the Nazi era, and her family escaped when she was 3 years old. She has written more than 40 books, many of which reflect the Jewish experience throughout history. At the event, Levitin spoke about her latest book, "Room in the Heart," a story of Danish resistance to the Nazis told through the voices of two teenagers.

Humanitarian Hostesses

When hostesses are united wonderful things happen. On Nov. 1 United Hostesses Charities (UHC) held its 61st annual dinner dance at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel, where Marilyn McCoo and Billy David Jr. were the high-octane performers. The event honored the 10 past recipients of its Humanitarian Award and recognized their outstanding contributions to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the community. The group supports the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center division of cardiology and the groundbreaking research of director Dr. P.K Shah, as well as the Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center. The organization's newest project is its UHC Cardiac/Stroke Emergency Care at Cedars-Sinai .

Minds over Milken

While the community was all in a tizzy about the recent Milken video scandal, at Milken Community High School, students were just doing their thing -- learning, studying and creating excellent science projects.

On Nov. 12, the American Society for Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in collaboration with Milken Community High School held its third annual Excellence in Science Awards Dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel, where students Noam Firestone, Judy Reynolds, Sara Meimin, Raquel Cedar, and Bobby Kanter received awards for their exceptional perseverance and innovation in researching the science topic of their choice.

At the event, Technion professor Wayne Kaplan spoke about how the Technion was a critical partner in Israel's security, life sciences and high technology.

Bright Bregman

Milken is not the only school whose students are being recognized for their fabulous academic achievements. On Dec. 3 Valley Torah High School senior Josh Bregman was nominated to compete in the national Principal's Leadership Award (PLA) scholarship program, sponsored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and Herff Jones, Inc. If Bregman is one of the 150 national PJA winners this spring, he will receive a $1,000 college scholarship.

Bregman is an all-rounder at Valley Torah. He has been the Student council secretary, varsity basketball manager, yearbook editor and an active Boy Scout. This fall, he plans to travel to Israel for a year abroad and then return to study business at Yeshiva University.

"Bregman has demonstrated excellence in the classroom and in his community," said Gerald A. Tirozzi, the executive director of the NASSP. "NASSP is proud to recognize such an impressive young person."

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