If you're Jewish and at UCLA these days, then you have probably run across the Ashreinu Learning Network's Jewish Awareness Movement (J.A.M.) -- one of the most successful college outreach organizations in the country. Lead by the charming, gregarious and indefatigable Rabbi Benzion Klatzko, J.A.M. teaches students what it means to be Jewish. Every week J.A.M.'s extended Jewish learning programs and Friday night dinners, which are held in a small Westwood buildings, are packed to capacity, with hundreds of students attending to study Torah. It's generally standing-room only at J.A.M. events, and so recently Ashreinu purchased a property adjacent to UCLA for the construction of a larger J.A.M. campus center.
J.A.M. held its annual dinner at Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel on Dec. 3. The dinner honored Armand and Susan Ungar, who have been the driving force in the design and construction of the new campus center.
"UCLA is full of young Jewish students who are intelligent and talented," Armand Ungar said. "They have excellent backgrounds but not in Judaism. They are waiting to find their way back to Judaism. I want to design and build a home away from home for them."
Props to Pressmans
Sure, the Jewish community in Los Angeles is relatively new, but there are some people who have been instrumental -- and indispensable -- in making the community as strong as it is.
Rabbi Jacob and Marjorie Pressman are two such people. The Pressmans have been with Temple Beth Am on La Cienega Boulevard for more than 50 years, building what was originally a fledgling congregation into one of the largest Conservative synagogues in the city. Over the years both Jacob, now Beth Am's rabbi emeritus, and Marjorie built up unparalleled resumes in all aspects of community service. While the rabbi helped create Camp Ramah, Los Angeles Hebrew High, the University of Judaism (UJ), Sinai Akiba Academy and Pressman Academy; marched with Martin Luther King Jr.; and designed the Aron Kodesh at Beth Am, Marjorie helped raise millions of dollars for various charities including the Friends of Sheba Medical Center.
The Beth Am sisterhood honored the Pressmans on Dec. 7 as the 2003-2004 Torah Award recipients at their annual Champagne Brunch, which was held in the grand ballroom at Temple Beth Am. Alice Weit chaired the event, and Marilyn Ziering presented the Pressmans with the award. The keynote speaker at the event was Dr. David Lieber, the UJ's president emeritus.
Proceeds from the event went toward the Torah Fund Campaign, which ensures continuing development of educational programs at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the UJ, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and Bet Midrash, the seminary of Judaic studies in Jerusalem.
Big Bear Hug
Sandy Grushow, Fox Television Entertainment Group chairman, and his wife, Barbara, were honored with The Help Group's Spirit of Hope Award during the the Teddy Bear Ball at the Beverly Hilton on Dec. 6.
The Help Group is a nonprofit organization that provides innovative and comprehensive special educational and therapeutic programs for children with special needs related to autism, Asperger's syndrome, learning disabilities, emotional development, mental disabilities and abuse and neglect.
For more information, go to www.thehelpgroup.org .
The West Coast Friends of Bar-Ilan University recently honored Anna and Max Webb during their annual dinner at the Beverly Hilton in December.
Max Webb is the chairman of the organization, and together with Anna donated the Anna and Max Webb Family Psychology Building at the university. Professor Moshe Kaveh, the president of Bar-Ilan University, delivered the keynote address at the dinner.
Approximately 500 people attended the eighth annual Masorti Foundation Schechter Institute dinner on Nov. 16 at Sinai Temple to support the work of the Conservative movement in Israel.
Honorees at the dinner included Sandra and Robert Braun, Temple Beth Am; Anne Dater, Temple Aliyah; Rickie and Cantor Joseph Gole, Sinai Temple; Tobi and Nachum Inlender, Adat Ari El; Leah and Dr. Neil Kuluva, Shomrei Torah; and Sylvia Bernstein-Tregub and Burt Tregub, Valley Beth Shalom.
Golda Mendelsohn chaired the dinner, and Rabbi Ron Shulman emceed. Consul General of Israel Ambassador Yuval Rotem gave the opening remarks and led the "HaMotzi," and Rabbi Harvey Meirovich, dean of the Rabbinical School of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, was the keynote speaker.
There were some interesting honorees at the World Union For Progressive Judaism's International Humanitarian Award's Celebration at the Le Meridien on Dec. 14 -- Rabbi Robert Gan of Temple Isaiah and Middie and Richard Giesberg.
In addition to leading his congregation for 34 years and being the president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, Gan has also been active on the board of ARZA/World Union -- the official representative of the American Reform Jewish community for all issues pertaining to Israel, Zionism and Reform Judaism worldwide -- Alternative Living for the Aging, the Inter-Religious Council of Southern California, the West Side Peace Center and the Coalition for Handgun Control.
The Geisbergs are activists on various fronts. Both served as leaders of the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry, and have led missions to Ethiopia, the former Soviet Union, Israel and Mexico. In addition to being founders and board members of the Leo Baeck Temple, they are active in Latino-Jewish dialogue and are leaders in the Jewish Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.
Judy Cole, currently president of the Women's Department of The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance, is the new director of the B'nai Zion West Coast Region.
Prominent entertainment lawyer Bruce M. Ramer, a partner at Gang, Tyre, Ramer & Brown Inc., has joined the USC Board of Trustees.
Rabbi Sally Olins of Temple B'nai Hayim in Sherman Oaks is the new president of the Rabbinical Assembly's Pacific Southwest Region, marking the first time in the group's 102-year history that a woman will serve as a regional president.