West Coast Museum Fever
Two-hundred members of the American Friends of the Israel Museum (AFIM) gathered at the Beverly Hills Hotel on April 27 for the 2004 West Coast Annual Dinner.
At the dinner, co-chairs Helgard and Irwin Field and Ada and Jim Horwich welcomed guests and introduced James Snyder, the Anne and Jerome Fisher director of the Israel Museum, who traveled from Jerusalem for the occasion with his wife, Tina. Other out-of-town guests included Ronnie Heyman, president of AFIM; Bil Ehrlich, AFIM vice president, and his wife, Ruth Lloyds; and Lynn Holstein, AFIM executive director, all of whom came from New York.
"We are always struck by the spirit and warmth of the AFIM family here on the West Coast," Snyder said. "Even though the museum is so far from Los Angeles, this annual event brings us together in such a meaningful way."
The guest speaker for the evening was American sculptor Joel Shapiro. Shapiro's relationship with the Israel Museum goes back to 1995, when he was commissioned to create a large-scale work in bronze for the permanent collection, which is installed in the museum's Billy Rose Art Garden.
The night before the gala, Alice and Nahum Lainer hosted a cocktail party for 90 donors at their Beverly Hills home in honor of Shapiro and Herta and Paul Amir. The Amirs donated a major matching gift to the museum, which allowed it to refurbish the Shrine of the Book, the iconic white "onion-dome" building, which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The West Coast event netted more than $240,000 for the museum's educational programs. In these difficult times, without the benefit of tourism, the Israel Museum is dedicated to maintaining an active program of exhibitions, art classes and activities for the people of Israel.
Forty-four sixth-grade students and their parents from the Rabbi Jacob Pressman Academy of Temple Beth Am went to Israel April 18-29 to visit their friends at the Magen School in Tel Aviv. The two schools are engaged in a unique twinning program funded in part by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. In addition to visits to Masada, Yad Vashem and the Old City of Jerusalem, the group participated in a communal b'not mitzvah ceremony where they were joined by Marjorie and Rabbi Jacob Pressman who had an opportunity to address the group and the students and parents of the Magen School. The students were hosted by their Israeli counterparts in their homes and had the opportunity to experience life in Israel first hand, including attending classes at the Magen School, participating in the commemoration of Yom HaZikaron and celebrating Yom HaAtzmaut. -- Staff Report
May 5 was the 90th birthday of Junior Philharmonic founder-conductor Ernst Katz, which is why concertmaster Gary S. Greene, Brock Peters and singers Jordan Bennett and Debby Boone came out to the orchestra's 67th anniversary Concert Spectacular at the Kodak Theatre to honor him. At the concert, actor Sean Astin introduced the world premiere of the symphonic suite to the "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King." The program was emceed by Stephanie Powers and Michael York, while Florence Henderson won the "Battle of the Batons" conducting competition hosted by Army Archerd.
Israeli artist Yehudit Sasportas and her new work, "Guardian of the Pearl's Shadow, Part Two," attracted about 40 people to the Roberts and Tilton Gallery for the exhibit's opening night on May 4. The event was also sponsored by Bank Leumi USA.
"I don't get a sense of Israel," said patron and Israeli immigrant Nily Avidan of Tarzana after viewing the art. "What I do get a sense of is that this is more universal."
The work of Sasportas, who grew up in Ashdod and now lives in Berlin, incorporates Asian forestry themes and other calm Far East images as a metaphor about Israeli life trying to find a home for European sensibilities in a Middle Eastern world.
Describing a new work using volcano themes, the artist used phrasing that easily could describe Israel's highly stressful battle against terrorism: "It's all about the starting point of emotional overloading. But the menace of catastrophe is always there."
While visiting Los Angeles, Sasportas also lectured on Israeli art at the California Institute of Arts in Valencia. -- David Finnigan, Contributing Writer
The USC Chabad Rohr Jewish Student Center hosted about 150 students, family and friends on April 30 for its annual Shabbat dinner/banquet honoring students set to graduate from the school. The long festive evening did not see the roast chicken main course served until after 10:30 p.m.
Songs and toasts were led by Chabad's Rabbi Dov Wagner and a spirited group of six yeshiva students from the West Coast Chabad Lubavitch headquarters in Westwood.
USC alumnus Paul Cohen -- a self described "shomer Shabbos sports agent" -- gave the keynote speech. Cohen cautioned students not to get immersed in career success and money at the expense of faith.
"When you have economic wealth, it's very, very hard to reflect," Cohen said, standing before three long rows of outdoor dinning tables. "Keep in mind that you need to be holy. At some point, you have to draw the line; am I putting my trust in Hashem? Trust in Hashem. The more you do from a religious perspective; you're going to see brachas [blessings] you can never imagine." -- DF
Chips Are Up
There is no better way to celebrate Israel's 56th Independence Anniversary then by throwing some chips on the poker and blackjack tables. Close to 500 young Jewish professionals did just that at Eretz-Siamak Cultural Center's Casino Night on May 1 in Tarzana. The funds from the evening went to help feed Israelis living below the poverty line.
Highlights from the evening included a Frank Sinatra impersonator singing some famous tunes, the antics of comedian Marvin Kharazi and a special message from David Elbaz, a Jewish Agency emissary, who spoke about the serious situation the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) face in protecting its citizens from terrorism.
In addition to raising money for those in need, partygoers also signed a giant thank-you note, which Eretz Siamak will forward to an IDF unit in Israel.
Myron Kunin, a successful entrepreneur and World War II veteran, left a gift of $500,000 to the American Red Cross when he died last year at the age of 93. On May 10, his life and the gift were celebrated at a gathering of his family and friends in the Fireside Room of the California Club. Kunin's gift will help fund a broad range of youth services at the American Red Cross of Greater Los Angeles, including the National Preparedness and Response Corps, the California Safe Corps, Youth in Action Clubs, and the Leadership Development Center during 2004 and 2005.
According to Kunin's widow, Rosa, she encouraged her husband to leave a bequest to the Red Cross "because it helps all people no matter what their color or creed."
JHA Celebrates Mom
The Los Angeles Jewish Home for the Aging's (JHA) 10th annual World's Largest Mother's Day Celebration drew more than 1,500 people to its Eisenberg Village campus in Reseda on Sunday, May 9. Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn, City Councilman Dennis Zine and entertainer Mike Burstyn were among the luminaries attending the salute to motherhood.
KCAL/CBS business reporter Alan Mendelson emceed the event, which honored Community Mother of the Year Judith Weber, founder and executive director of Tobinworld, a nonprofit school for children and young adults with autism and other behavior problems.
Maria Velasquez-Mora, a first-grader from Meyler Street Elementary, Torrance; Kelly Millard, a third-grader from Germain Street Elementary, Chatsworth; and Cynthia Palencia, a fifth-grader from Paddison Elementary, Norwalk, each took top honors in JHA's "Why My Mom Is the Best" student essay contest, co-sponsored by Wells Fargo Bank. Each of their schools received a $500 check for the winning essays.
Also receiving a check were Home CEO Molly Forrest and Chair Earl Greinetz from event co-chairs Arthur Hirschberg and Stan Weisnheink, who helped raise $80,000 to benefit JHA's residents.
"We are delighted to help raise these much-needed funds for the Jewish Home," Hirshberg said. -- Adam Wills, Associate Editor
More than 100 guests of all ages came to the Westlake Village Twin Theatres on Thursday, May 13, for the first Jewish Family Movie Night, sponsored by Jewish Families of Conejo and the West Valley, a supplement of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.
Guests at the event, which was the first in the series of free community-building sponsored programs, received a backpack filled with snacks and enjoyed a night of schmoozing, munchies, a movie and prizes.
The audience had the opportunity to see Israeli Film Festival entry "Passover Fever," a comedy with serious undertones about the goings on of an Israeli family as they prepare for the Passover seder.
Prior to the show, five guests won a "Schindler's List" gift box set or DVD, and five others won tickets to "Sesame Street Live."
For more information on future events, call Lisa at (213) 368-1661, ext. 246. -- Mihal Peretz, Contributing Writer