The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding held a Tinseltown-filled benefit June 23 at the Brentwood home of Stanley and Betty Sheinbaum, chaired by hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons and foundation founder Rabbi Marc Schneier. The night honored Clarence Avant, the former CEO of Motown Records; Brian Becker, chairman/CEO of Clear Channel Entertainment; Tomas Cookman, the president of Cookman International; Jody Gerson, the executive vice president of EMI Music Publishing; and Walter Yetnikoff, the former president/CEO of CBS Records. The foundation presented all the honorees with the Joseph Papp Racial Harmony Award.
Simmons and Schneier announced that they are launching a national anti-Semitism campaign that will feature non-Jewish celebrities, such as Stevie Wonder, Ben Affleck, Beyonce Knowles, Will Smith and others, in public service announcements on television and radio.
Honoree Jody Gerson echoed the sentiment by invoking the memory of the famous Jewish-black cooperation during the civil rights movement and called on minority leaders in the entertainment industry to stand with Jewish leaders to fight the recent outbreak of anti-Semitism here and abroad. "We belong together -- blacks and Jews -- and happily we are together tonight," Gerson said.
Also seen at the event: Reverend Run of Run DMC, director Brett Ratner, music mogul Steve Rifkin and Jordan Schur, president of Geffen Records.
Kehilla Marks Milestone
The Westwood Kehilla marked its 20th anniversary during a June 13 banquet at Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel.
Longtime community activists Zachary and Elana Samuels were honored with Kehilla's Ner Tomid award. Rabbi Asher Brander praised the Samuels for their dedicated involvement with communal institutions, such as Harkham Hillel Academy, YULA, Adat Shalom and the Simon Weisenthal Center, and Kehilla, where Zachary recently completed a two-year term as president.
A Fond LINK Farewell
The Los Angeles Community Kollel (LINK) paid tribute to three of its pioneering rabbinic couples -- Rabbi Alex and Jordana Mondrow, Rabbi Gidon and Miriam Shoshan and Rabbi Avraham and Yocheved Willig -- during a June 27 desert reception at the home of Robert and Melanie Rechnitz. The three couples completed a two-year teaching stint at LINK and will be replaced by new couples in the fall.
At the reception, each of the departing rabbis was introduced by a student whose life was transformed by LINK, a program founded two years ago by Brander.
The Geffen Playhouse in Westwood held a groundbreaking ceremony June 10 to inaugurate its $17 million expansion and renovation.
The theater, to be named Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater, will be designed by architect Ron Frink. Skirball Kenis was a board member and major contributor to the Geffen Playhouse.
"This renovation will allow us to lift the limits on our artistic imagination ... by increasing our options to house larger, more ambitious productions," said Gilbert Cates, the theater's producing director.
The renovations will improve sightlines and acoustics in the 125-seat theater and increase its ability to produce larger, more complex shows by adding wing space, a heightened proscenium and two 20-person dressing rooms. The renovations are scheduled for completion in August 2005.
Fifth District Councilman Jack Weiss, UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale, and philanthropists Charles Kenis and Marcia Israel Curley also participated in the groundbreaking ceremony.