Jewish Journal

The Circuit

Posted on Jun. 16, 2005 at 8:00 pm

Shidduch Of Substance

Alon Carmel has had a hand in making thousands of matches. Yet, there is one shidduch of which Carmel, the Israeli-born founder of JDate, the Jewish online dating phenomenon, is especially proud.

It's a pairing between the New York-based B'nai Zion Foundation and Ahavah Youth Village, a home for troubled, abused and homeless children and teen in Kiryat Blalik, near Haifa.

Carmel, the son of a single mother, grew up at Ahavah and has fond memories of his time there. So a few years ago when he joined the board of B'nai Zion, a Jewish humanitarian and educational organization, he did so under one condition: That the organization would assist the youth village where he was raised.

"[Ahavah] made me who I am today," said Carmel, 50, who lives in Los Angeles.

Earlier this month, Dor Chadash, a B'nai-Zion supported project that brings together American and Israeli Jews, sponsored a gala in honor of Israel Independence Day. Proceeds from the New York benefit will go to house, clothe, school and treat Ahavah's 200 residents.

B'nai Zion has already committed $500,000 to Ahavah. The money funded the large-scale renovation of its social hall and cafeteria. Now the youth village is looking to build a treatment center, where residents can partake in art, animal and therapies.

Said Carmel to Ahavah's youth, "They can grow up, not only to be productive but to be among the most productive because they have the skills of surviving."

B'nai Zion is celebrating 97 years as a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization, helping those in need in the United States and in Israel.

For more information about Ahavah Village or any other B'nai Zion projects, contact Judy Cole or Zev Litenatsky at (323) 655-9128. -- Staff Report

Match Made in Science

Dr. Orrie Friedman, biotech pioneer and emeritus professor of chemistry, has pledged $3.5 million to endow a chair in chemistry at Brandeis University. It is one of the largest gifts to the university ever made by a faculty member.

"Dr. Friedman's dedication to advancing scientific understanding is the hallmark of his long and brilliant career," noted Brandeis president Jehuda Reinharz said. "This generous gift further positions Brandeis at the forefront of research in chemistry."

The donation will create the Orrie M. Friedman Distinguished Chair in Chemistry, and funds will be used to support the salary and research of a current professor whose work shows extraordinary potential.

"This gift is a reflection of my belief in the strength and the promise of the sciences at Brandeis. There is exquisite scientific talent at this university," said Friedman, adding, "science, in my judgment, is the single-most important component of the university enterprise."

Friedman, who recently turned 90, should know. He spends every day at his lab-turned-office in the Kalman chemistry building at Brandeis, directing GrenPharma LLC, a biotech venture he created five years ago, to tackle Alzheimer's disease, an illness that affects 20 million worldwide today and will balloon as the population ages.

"Alzheimer's is a very complex and most intriguing problem; finding a treatment is a challenge, but I don't take on problems in order to fail at them," Friedman said.

Generous Warm Hands

Lou and Trudy Kestenbaum, board members of Shelters for Israel, donated a very large annuity gift to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem "with a warm hand" in order to see the results of their contribution to the health and well being of the hospital's patients and staff for themselves.

The donation, which is the largest gift annuity Shaare Zedek has ever received and will become an endowment upon the completion of the terms of the annuity, was given in memory of the Kestenbaums' parents to benefit the hospital's Division of Social Services.

According to Trudy Kestenbaum, who coined the phrase with a warm hand, "if you are going to contribute to an organization, you might as well see the benefits of your donation while you are able to, and know first hand that your gift is helping others."

Professor Jonathan Halevy, director general of Shaare Zedek added, "The Kestenbaum's leadership gift sets the pace for the development of a strong endowment fund that will support Shaare Zedek for many generations."

The Kestenbaums and other members of Shelters for Israel visited Shaare Zedek, just two days after Naava Applebaum and her father, Dr. David Applebaum, were killed in a Jerusalem terrorist incident on the eve of Naava's marriage. The Kestenbaums were so impressed by the hospitality and professionalism of the staff, even in the midst of dealing with this tragedy, that they, and the members for Shelters for Israel, committed to underwrite $400,000 to Shaare Zedek's Department of Emergency Medicine Central Control Immediate Care Unit.

"We had such positive feelings about the friendliness and dedication of the doctors and nurses during such a time of sadness that we felt that some good must be born out of such tragedy," Trudy Kestenbaum said.

On Thursday, June 30, the Kestenbaums and members of Shelters for Israel will be honored at a ceremony to dedicate both projects at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

For more information, contact Paul Jeser at (310) 229-0915 or WesternRegion@ACSZ.org, or visit www.szmc.org.il.

Party in the Valley

Chabad of the Valley recently marked its 32nd year of service to the greater Valley Jewish community with a banquet-concert celebration at its Teichman Family Social Hall in Tarzana. The event featured entertainer Yoel Sharabi in concert, and paid tribute to Martin and Sara Suman of Sherman Oaks, who received Chabad's Keter Shem Tov Award, and Ira and Amy Leibowitz of Encino, who received the Young Leadership Award.

"Our every milestone of growth serves as a stepping-stone to yet further growth and expansion," said Rabbi Mordechai Einbinder, associate director of Chabad of the Valley. "Today, we're at the threshold of opening our 18th center.... We're not just offering programs and services; we're 'igniting sparks.' We're kindling the hearts and souls of our fellow Jews with the light, the warmth and the passion of Torah and tradition. We're not just building buildings; we're establishing communities; communities that will always be there -- for our children, our grandchildren and our great grandchildren."

Land of Liberty

Filmmaker and activist Lawrence Bender, of "Kill Bill" and "Good Will Hunting," and Doug Herzog, president of Comedy Central and Spike TV, were honored recently at the ACLU Foundation of Southern California annual Torch of Liberty Awards at a gala dinner at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

"The Daily Show's" Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert emceed the event keeping the mood light and humorous. "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and columnist Arianna Huffington were special guests at the upbeat and well-attended affair.

The event honors individuals who have made significant contributions to the advancement of civil liberties.

The Torch of Liberty Award was created to acknowledge the invaluable contributions made by individuals from the arts and entertainment industry whose work affirms the democratic principles that underlie the promise of "liberty and justice for all."

Lauding Levin

Morlie Hammer Levin has been named national executive director of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, effective this September. Levin brings a rich background in Jewish communal work, management consulting, and policy studies.

June Walker, national president of Hadassah, welcomed Levin by saying: "Morlie Levin brings to Hadassah an exceptionally strong grounding in non-profit and corporate business practices. We look forward to working with her in all aspects of our general operations and especially in integrating her strategic planning skills into the deliberations of our very talented cadre of Hadassah leadership."

Levin has held several positions in the Jewish community of Los Angeles since joining the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles in 1998 and serving as manager of operations and projects. In 2000, she joined the Los Angeles Jewish Federation, as senior associate director of planning and allocations and director of the Council of Jewish Life. In 2003, she advanced to the position of vice president for strategic planning.

In 2003, she was selected as a Wexner Heritage Fellow, a two-year study and leadership program. She is currently on the advisory board of Conversation 2005, an innovative project of the New York Jewish Week that will bring together 75 American Jewish leaders for an extended conversation about the future of Jewish life in this country and what it means to be Jewish in the 21st century.

A native of Los Angeles, Levin holds a master's in public policy from Claremont Graduate University and a bachelor's from UCLA. Levin and her husband, Norman, have two daughters.


The Beverly Hills Hotel was alive with a celebratory air when the Baba Sale Sephardic Congregation honored two dynamic women for their commitment and dedication to Jewish values. The dedication of Michele Bohbot (of Bisou-Bisou fame) and Judy Knapp, a long-time L.A. fashion icon, has been unwavering and their success in the field of fashion -- as innovators, trendsetters and entrepreneurs par-excellence is long established and respected.

The evening began with a silent auction and before dinner an exciting rendition of both "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "Hatikvah" by opera singer Myriam Zekaria brought everyone to their feet.

Both women were honored for their dedication to their proposed programs for elder and youth activities, an after-school program and a "Feed the Hungry" distribution center.

The synagogue on Fairfax Avenue just north of Beverly Boulevard has been known as the heart and soul of the Los Angeles Jewish immigrant population for more than 50 years. The neighborhood recently enjoyed an upsurge of "young blood" flowing through its "old veins" with the development of the nearby Grove and the fully rebuilt Farmer's Market.

Bohbot, born in Fez, Morocco, has made Los Angeles her home for almost 20 years and is a civic-minded Angeleno who has lofty visions and realizes the long-term needs of her community.

Long time resident Knapp, who has sponsored many hands-on fashion internship programs with L.A. schools, has climbed on board the Baba Sale project full speed.

Both women have worked relentlessly to give back to their community and help those in need.


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