The Last Mitzvah
About 50 kids and their families had the rare opportunity of fulfilling the 613th mitzvah of completing a Torah and Megillah scroll on Sunday, May 23, at the West Coast Torah Center and Sephardic Magen David of Beverly Hills.
Both boys and girls participated in this Jewish commandment, with the boys filling a letter on a Torah scroll and the girls a Megillah scroll at an event sponsored by S.T.A.R. (Sephardic Tradition and Recreation), the 5-year-old youth organization. With the letters in the scrolls outlined, the participants made an inkblot and the scribes, Rabbis Moises Benzaquen and Jonathan Benzaquen, used the quill to fill out the letters to perfection.
S.T.A.R. invited every bar and bat mitzvah child of the seven synagogues they are affiliated with to participate in the ceremony, and presented each with a handmade Raphael Abecassis artisan hagaddah.
Dressed in their best, parents and siblings gathered around their son or daughter to watch them partake in the mitzvah and pause for a photograph. S.T.A.R. supplied the scrolls (reportedly worth more than $25,000) and West Coast Torah Center provided the refreshments.
S.T.A.R. founder Hyman Jebb Levy and his board of directors conceived the idea of this event three years ago as a way to keep the milestone of the bar/bat mitzvah alive. A nondenominational organization, S.T.A.R. strives to create programming that helps 7- to 18-year-old youths identify with Judaism and Sephardic culture. All Jewish children are welcome, Ashkenazi or Sephardi, but unlike the majority of youth programs in Los Angeles, S.T.A.R. adheres to the Sephardic traditions and halacha.
"Part of the reason why S.T.A.R. was founded was to meet the growing need for youth programming for the Sephardic community, "said Mendy Weiss, S.T.A.R.'s executive director. "Building up their Sephardic pride is directly linked to their Jewish pride."
To Debbie Nickfardjam, mother of recently bar mitzvahed, Daniel, S.T.A.R. has been a great way for her son to connect to the Jewish community.
"I think they have done a good job of introducing the young Jewish kids to each other," she said. As a traditional conservative Jewish boy in public school, S.T.A.R.'s programs help him connect to his Jewish roots.
Daniel was particularly excited to attend this event and partake in the mitzvah. "It's the last mitzvah," he said. "And since it's God's word to do something like this, listening to God brings me closer to God."
For more information about future events, call (818) 782-7359 or visit www.lastar.org/star.htm. -- Leora Alhadeff, Contributing Writer
More than 130 people attended a talk by Dr. Theo Dov Golan, a founder of clinical immunology in Israel and former director general of Israel's Ministry of Health, at the Four Seasons Hotel on June 7. American Technion Society's Southern California Chapter sponsored the event, which focused on how Israel confronts biological and chemical terrorism.
When anthrax was discovered in Washington, D.C., after Sept. 11, Golan was part of the Israeli team that aided in suppressing panic and anxiety in America.
According to Golan, the effort required coordination of 40 different agencies by implementing a series of steps to contain the situation, which includes collecting material, diagnosis and secondary confirmation. To prepare for a biological or chemical attack, he said it's crucial to "conduct drills twice a year in hospitals and medical centers and have a nucleus of people who are permanently on medical teams."
Golan also served as a medical surgeon during the Six-Day War and as head of the Israeli army's medical services during the Yom Kippur War. He retired from his position as an assistant professor of medicine at the Rothschild Medical Center, an affiliate of Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, and currently tours the world as a speaker. -- Adam Wills, Associate Editor
Sheba's Triple Fete
Friends of Sheba Medical Center held its 18th annual Women of Achievement luncheon at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons Hotel on June 3, honoring actress Julie Andrews; Dr. Carol Hurvitz, director of pediatric hematology-oncology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and professor of pediatrics at UCLA; and Claude Mann, a philanthropist and former restaurateur.
Event co-chairs Lee Barab and Aviva Harari said the luncheon raised $135,000 for the Tel Hashomer hospital's pediatric gastroenterology department. Major donations for the event came from the Adopt-a-Child Campaign. -- AW
Hero of the Magic Carpet
More than 1,500 people gathered June 15 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel for the Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance 2004 National Tribute Dinner honoring Medal of Valor recipient Robert F. Maguire Jr., Humanitarian Award recipient Brian L. Roberts and surprise Lifetime Achievement Award winner Ralph Roberts.
Honored for his role in Operations Magic Carpet and Ali Baba, which helped send the scattered Jewish communities from the Middle East and Asia to the newly formed Israel, Maguire, an Irish Catholic, saved the lives of countless Yemeni Jews.
"If it wasn't for the efforts of Robert Maguire Jr., they would never have made it out of Yemen," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, who presented the medal, after revealing the presence of a Yemeni Jew born on one of the Operation Magic flights.
"I'm deeply grateful for your consideration," an overcome Maguire replied, apologizing for his inability to say more.
Ralph Roberts, who was the first recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, received a silver Kiddush cup, while his son, Brian, chairman and CEO of Comcast Corp., was honored for his "great integrity" and for being "intolerant of intolerance."
"I don't know anyone who is more connected to his heritage -- he is a family man," said Jeffrey Katzenberg, who presented the younger Roberts with a silver menorah.
"The good in humanity can and will persevere," Brian Roberts said. -- Lauren Bragin, Contributing Writer