Sweet Sounds of Israel
Was it the venue or the artists that made the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra's (IPO) performance at Walk Disney Concert Hall so breathtaking? Probably both.
Under heightened security, with double lines snaked outside Frank Gehry's stunning downtown structure, the IPO began its seven-city tour in Los Angeles on Dec. 10. Its debut performance, "Heartbeat of a Nation," was presented by the West Coast Chairman's Council of The American Friends of The Israel Philharmonic (AFIPO) -- whose mission is to secure the financial future of the IPO so that it may "continue to travel throughout the world, bringing its message of peace and cultural understanding through music" -- in cooperation with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.
Conductor Zubin Mehta led a stunning performance of Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D major, featuring world-renowned violinist Pinchas Zuckerman, and Stravinsky's "Petrushka"; but perhaps the most moving piece of all was the opening one, of "Hatikva," Israel's national anthem.
Los Angeles notables at the event included Leonard Nimoy; Sidney Poitier; the architect himself, Frank Gehry; as well as Jewish Federation President John Fishel; and Ambassador Yuval Rotem, consul general of Israel in Los Angeles.
Following the performance, a gala dinner was held honoring philanthropists Edye and Eli Broad. Nancy and Zubin Mehta, Annette and Peter O'Malley and Margo and Irwin Winkler co-chaired the event.
While the evening raised $1.3 million, "That is just our budget for next year," said maestro Mehta, who had been the music director of the L.A. Philharmonic for 16 years, and has been the IPO's since 1969. Mehta talked about how the Israeli government's recent budget cuts had impacted the IPO. He urged people to support the IPO and to visit Israel: "Ladies and Gentlemen, I hope you'll come see us in Israel. Don't be scared ... come!" -- Amy Klein, Managing Editor
Rabbi David Woznica, executive vice president of Jewish affairs at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, interviewed "In America" director Jim Sheridan about faith, filmmaking and growing up in Ireland and then arriving in New York broke. The interview was held at a special screening of the film at the Directors Guild Theater for The Federation's Entertainment Division. Fox Searchlight Pictures also sponsored the evening.
Christmas Day saw 105 Jewish volunteers clean Santa Monica beaches, play with abandoned Beverly Hills dogs, visit sick and elderly Christians and feed the Skid Row poor as part of Sinai Temple's Mitzvah Day. The event was a morning block of altruism that still left time for an afternoon of movies and Chinese food.
"Everybody comes individually and they do mitzvahs and they do good things, but when they come together as a community of young Jewish professionals, they make an impact that is heard so much more loudly," said Lida Tabibian, who along with Tami Reiss and Sinai ATID Director Leslie Klieger, dispatched the volunteer teams that braved streets drenched in rare Christmas Day rain.
Klieger said that when the morning's work was done, people who were strangers a few hours earlier bonded and shared lunch.
Separately, the Skirball Cultural Center again was open on Christmas Day and screened the family film, "Babe."
"We had close to 1,000 people," said Skirball spokeswoman Stacy Lieberman. "It's become popular over the years." -- David Finnigan, Contributing Writer
Barbie 'n' Ken
Michael G. and Smackdaddy were rocking the Conga Room Dec. 14, when more than 500 Jewish Big Brothers and Jewish Big Sisters gathered to participate in the Barbie and Ken Toy Drive. The toys were collected for about a dozen local children's agencies, including the Big Brother/Big Sister Chanukah Camp.