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Jewish Journal

The Circuit

by Gaby Wenig

May 13, 2004 | 8:00 pm

Kudos to Koss

More than 1,200 people gathered at the Century Plaza Hotel on April 25 to honor Michael Koss, president of Koss Financial Corp., one of Los Angeles' top commercial real estate financing groups. The event, hosted by The Federation's Real Estate and Construction Division (REC), raised $1 million for the United Jewish Fund (UJF) and it causes.

From the opening candle lighting and invocation led by Sinai Temple's Rabbi David Wolpe, to the post-event Martini Lounge hosted by the REC's Young Leadership Division, the evening was a testimony to the many people's lives that Michael Koss has touched.

"I have known Michael Koss to consistently be a caring, philanthropic and genuine person," said Perry Silver, managing partner at Silver and Freedman. "Whenever anyone needs someone to work for the Jewish community at any level, he is there."

Koss got his start in the family restaurant business, opening his first restaurant, Italy's Little Kitchen, at the age of 24. In 1986 he began redeveloping properties, specializing in retail shopping centers. He has been involved with the Jewish community for more than 25 years, serving in numerous capacities for the UJF, most recently as 2001 UJF Campaign chair.

"Gratitude is a Jewish attitude," said Koss, noting that his service to the Jewish community has never been a sacrifice, but rather a privilege.

At the dinner, an entertaining 15-minute video of Koss jokingly dubbed him "The Solicitor." Steve Bram, division chair and president of George Smith Partners, Inc, told the crowd that Koss was the major reason that the REC raised $5 million in 2003. Bram went on to say that the REC has become the charity of choice for many Los Angeles businesses, and that a key reason for REC's success is its focus on youth in the form of its less than 2-year-old Young Leadership Division.

Brian Weisberg, a CPA and senior loan consultant with Commercial Realty Consultants, said that Koss provides an inspiration for everyone involved with Young Leadership.

"He started doing this at a younger age than the rest of us," Weisberg said. "And he was and is able to strike a balance in his life for which many people strive." -- Gabriel Kramer, Contributing Writer

One School's Honor

Congratulations up, down and all around to Pressman Academy for racking up these honors: Ryland Lu, first place in California, National Geographic Geography Bee; Allison Grey and Ricky Spronz, Honorable Mention, Los Angeles County Science Fair; Jonathan Eliashiv, first place Los Angeles city and 16th place in the entire state, California Mathematics League; Ariela Alberts, second place Los Angeles city, California Mathematics League; Michelle Kahn tied for first place in L.A. city section and fourth place in the state, California Mathematics League; Sam Blitzstein tied for third place in the L.A city section and 12th place in state, California Mathematics League; the entire seventh-grade class for finishing 22nd in state out of 139 schools and third in Los Angeles right behind The Mirman School and Harvard-Westlake. -- Staff Report

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 listened 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.

Lawyers and Levine

State of Israel Bonds held a reception in honor of Mel Levine at the home of Daphna and Richard Ziman on April 18. Levine, a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, received the Henry Morgenthau Jr. Distinguished Service Award at the State of Israel Bonds' national dinner on May 6 in New York. The dinner honors prominent leaders of the legal profession.

Levine is a former congressman and has long been active in American efforts affecting the Middle East. He was U.S chair of the "anti-incitement" committee established by the Wye Plantation peace agreement; co-president of Builders for Peace, a private sector initiative to assist the Middle East peace process; and a member of the U.S.-Israel Science and Technology Advisory Committee. He also founded and co-chaired Rebuild America, an educational foundation to improve U.S. competitiveness by increasing support for high-tech industries and rebuilding infrastructure.

The California reception was co-hosted by Stanley Gold, Russell Goldsmith, Marshall Grossman, Bruce Ramer, Ken Ziffren and the Zimans.

Oh, The Places You'll Go

It was showtime at Stephen S. Wise Temple's elementary school last month when a talented cast of sixth-graders sang, danced and declaimed in the original musical revue, "Oh, the Place's You'll Go." With "The Cat in the Hat" as the guide, the youngsters toured a fantasyland studded with hit songs from Broadway musicals in the show written and directed by teacher Mary Itri. Some 1,200 cheering parents, grandparents and other showbiz aficionados packed the auditorium for three nights. -- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Prager's Persian Fans

Hundreds of people, including many Persian Jewish students, gathered in Moore Hall at UCLA on April 14 to hear radio host Dennis Prager lecture on Judaism: "What's in It for Me?"

Rona Ram, a communications major at UCLA, boardmember for the Persian American Jewish Organization (PAJO) and Prager's assistant, organized the event, which was the culmination of a series of lectures on Judaism that PAJO sponsored.

"Our goal is to educate people on Judaism," Ram said.

Founded in 2001, PAJO has more than 200 members from UCLA and is supported mainly by Hillel and Chabad. It has a number of programs to connect Persian and Jewish cultures, such as Persian Shabbat dinners with parents, poetry nights and Kabbalah classes.

"Unfortunately the second generation of Persian Jews here are very disconnected to the Iranian culture," Ram said.

Prager said that people would not feel happy without having the sense of purpose and that ritual gives us a sense of purpose.

"Ritual is a practice that carries a value," he said, adding that America is in danger of losing its sense of purpose because rituals have been put aside. -- Mojdeh Sionit, Contributing Writer

Hanging With Arnold

After the groundbreaking for the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger attended the Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute reception on Saturday, May 1, at the Tel Aviv Hilton, which honored the Israeli business community and California business leaders with ties to Israel. Schwarzenegger, who was introduced by Industry and Trade Minister Ehud Olmert, announced five deals with Israel companies to help California's lagging economy.

Among the guests attending the reception were L.A. businessmen Elliott Broidy, co-founder and chair of Markstone Capital Group; Uri Harkham, founder and chair of Harkham Properties and president/CEO of the Jonathan Martin Fashion Group; and Alan Casden, founder and chair of Casden Properties. -- Adam Wills, Associate Editor

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