Fit for Kings
Big donors to The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles were treated to a performance by legendary entertainer Tony Bennett at the March 4 King David Society dinner at the Beverly Hills Hotel. The evening raised $3 million for the Federation's United Jewish Fund campaign. Attendees included event chairs Les and Lynn Bider, Gail and Irv Weintraub, Pam and George Smith Marty and Marsha Brander, Eli and Edye Broad, campaign chair Laurie Konheim and Federation board chair Harriet Hochman.
Slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl's second yarhzeit was observed Feb. 27 at Encino's Valley Beth Shalom, where his father Judea Pearl called for "our vision of revenge fighting the hate that took Danny's life, hatred we will fight for the rest of our lives."
"Memory is the sole weapon we have against lethal amnesia," Rabbi Harold Shulweis said.
The observance included some chamber music and readings from two of Pearl's Wall Street Journal dispatches -- the first, a somber look at the Balkan's ethnic hatred, and the second, a light story about a Stradivarius lost, then found, then lost again.
Pearl's father said he was not inclined to read "Kaddish."
"How can I mourn he who inspires?" he said from the bimah, mentioning the new book "I Am Jewish," which he and his wife, Ruth, edited. The book, which is titled after Daniel Pearl's words to his captors, features reflections on being Jewish.
Judea Pearl also chastised, "Danny's killers and their intellectual sympathizers on college campuses and in the European press."
He asked the congregation to embrace "the shining dignity of being different." -- David Finnigan, Contributing Writer
The Holocaust survivor's fundraising group Shelters for Israel raised almost $290,000 last year for new Israeli building projects, according to financial figures announced at the group's annual president's luncheon March 14 at Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles.
"Our finances are still good," said Louis Kestenbaum, Shelters president and Jewish National Fund board chair emeritus.
After giving his financial report, Kestenbaum asked the luncheon's 130 guests to raise a fresh $50,000 for an emergency room waiting area for Jerusalem's Shaarei Tzedek hospital.
Shelters for Israel is composed of about 500 survivors, almost all of whom were deported to Auschwitz from Hungary or Czechoslovakia. Since 1948, Shelters has funded 38 Israeli building projects including one high school, 17 day-care centers and three preschools.
"It's a pleasure to see how well-kept and beautiful the little children are," Shelters President Greti Herman said. -- DF
In 1910, Phillip Max Blank was one of the seven original founders of the Hebrew Home for the Aged, known today as the Los Angeles Jewish Home for the Aging (JHA). In 2004, Blank was honored on March 16 with a bronze memorial plaque that hangs in the Rochlin Hall, directly behind the synagogue on the Eisenberg Campus of JHA in Reseda.
At the time of JHA's founding, Blank ran a small furniture store in Boyle Heights. Unfortunately, he did not live to see the fruition of his good deed -- he died in 1911. His granddaughter and great-grandson Karen and Mark Frank spent about two years trying to get official recognition of Blank's humanitarianism.
Home for the Hospice
It's been three years since the Jewish Hospice Project Los Angeles (JHPLA) came into operation. In February, they dedicated new office space at 9911 Pico Blvd., and announced year-end fundraising results that include new support from five foundations. JHPLA received grants totaling $147,000 from the Weingart Foundation, the Righteous Persons Foundation, the Ruth and Allan Ziegler Foundation, the Milken Family Foundation and the Geffen Foundation. These augment the previous grants totaling $56,000 received by the organization in 2002 from the Jewish Community Foundation and Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary, in addition to gifts from numerous individual donors.
"Hospice is not a 'where' but a 'how,'" said Rabbi Carla Howard, founder and executive director of JHPLA. "It's an approach, a philosophy, a way of being with the dying that's not about place. ... Here we can meet with families, train volunteers and offer bereavement services."
To date, JHPLA has provided pastoral care for more than 250 patients and their families.
Bat Mitzvah Memories
Jacqeline Rosenthal decided she was going to do something a little different for her bat mitzvah. On March 17, she presented "Memories, a Concert" at the Madrid Theatre in Canoga Park.
The concert -- a Broadway musical review featuring three-time Grammy nominated saxophonist Dave Koz, Broadway stars Jane Lanier, Kevin Bailey and Rachelle Dobin and stage and screen stars Robert Townsend and Chelsea Field --was written and produced by 12-year-old Jacqueline herself. The proceeds from the concert went to benefit the Alzheimer's Association and the Golden Performing Arts Center.
"I feel that I have been blessed with special talents and I wanted to use these talents to help those in need and also to give back to my community," said Jacqueline, who has appeared in more than 25 musical productions. "A concert seemed like a wonderful and fun way for me to begin my lifelong commitment to charitable contribution." n
Educating the Educators
With Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" inflaming, well, passions everywhere, Los Angeles-based anti-missionary group Jews for Judaism held a conference on March 21 to explore the growing missionary and cult threat targeting Jewish students. Endorsed by the Bureau of Jewish Education, the Los Angeles Hillel Council, and the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, and sponsored by grants from the Los Angeles Jewish Community Foundation and the Milken Family Foundation, the conference at the Summit Luxe Hotel in Bel Air bought together educators from Los Angeles, San Diego and Irvine. The educators listed to presentations from field experts such as Steven Hassan, the founder and director of the Freedom of Mind Resource Center talk about approaches used by missionary and cult groups seeking Jewish students for conversion. A key outcome of the conference was the creation of a Curriculum Development Task Force that will provide a structured, practical method for teachers, rabbis and youth directors to incorporate a counter-missionary curriculum in Jewish schools.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reached out to the Latino community with its March 10 screening of the independent film "The Gatekeepers", about the perils of illegal U.S-Mexico border crossings, including the crossings of the kind of anti-Mexican vigilantes that the ADL monitors.
Vigilante groups were peripheral to the film's central story about illegal immigrants from Mexico being trapped as workers at a California methamphetamine lad. Gatekeeper's producer/director/writer/star John Carlos Frey said California has about 8,000 illegal drug labs, "80 percent of which are staffed exactly how you just saw [in the film]."
"This is a very pressing issue in all the border states," said ADL Pacific Southwest Regional Director Amanda Susskind after "Gatekeepers" screened for about 40 people at the Music Hall Theater in Beverly Hills. Also in attendance were David Gershwin, chair of the ADL's local Jewish/Latino roundtable, and Andrea Adelman, communications director for the Services Employees International Union 347.
After the screening, Frey fielded numerous questions about the film, which began its Los Angeles run March 19 and also has been screened by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Department of Homeland Security.