Meltzer the Mensch
When Mark Meltzer became executive director of the Jewish Free Loan Association (JFLA) 25 years ago, the agency had three employees, $800,000 in total assets and mostly made interest-free loans for groceries, car repairs and other such emergencies. The organization had little influence, visibility and impact.
Fast forward a quarter-century. Today, JFLA has 12 workers nearly $10 million in total assets and has 29 programs, including loans for fertility treatments, start-up businesses and graduate and undergraduate students. Under Meltzer's tireless efforts, the agency in now among the most respected Jewish nonprofit groups in the city.
On Thursday, June 23, 225 supporters turned out at the Petersen Automotive Museum to recognize Meltzer's service as well as celebrate JFLA's 101st anniversary. Revelers feasted on sushi, Mexican food and chocolate-covered fruit, took in the go-go '60s sounds of the Ronn Rubin Orchestra and enjoyed an auto exhibition of futuristic cars from the 1950s and 1960s. Most important, they honored Meltzer, as energetic and passionate about his mission today as he was all those years ago.
Dressed in an elegant tux, the Boston native regaled the crowd with stories of his early days at the agency. His first major project, he quipped, was to replace the manual typewriters with electric models.
Joking aside, Meltzer said he has witnessed firsthand how much of a difference a little assistance can make to folks in times of need.
"I have seen, on a weekly basis, how people's lives can be changed, and even saved, with a relatively small sum of money," he said. "We are saving the world, one loan at a time."
The event also featured a tribute to the 12 founding members of GENesis, JFLA's new young leadership division. The nine-month-old group, aimed at 25- to 35-year olds, is expected to publicize JFLA's services and help fills its coffers with donations.
Meltzer ended his speech by telling the audience that he planned to stick around.
"The past 25 years have been a remarkable career experience," he said. "And, as we celebrate tonight, I look forward to being part of a sparking future for Free Loan." -- Marc Ballon, Senior Writer
Sofer So Good
This past spring, the Craft & Folk Art Museum of Los Angeles sponsored a fundraiser for the Woman's Torah Project. Aviel Barclay, the first female sofer, is currently scribing a Torah for Kadima, a progressive Jewish community in Seattle.
Female artists from around the country were invited to help outfit the Torah in accordance with biblical tradition found in Exodus: Laurel Robinson made the yad; Sooze Bloom deLeon Grossman made the mantel; Andrea Sher-Leff made the wimple clasp; Aimee Golant made the crown; and Marsha Plafkin made the breast plate. Golant and Plafkin promoted the event and spoke movingly of their faith and its connection to their art.
Golant talked of how her survivor grandparents, who were in attendance, shaped her early orientation to Jewish community. Her grandfather, a tool and die maker, provided her with the first tools of her craft. She also noted how the shin, symbolic in her mezuzot and her jewelry work, represents the gift of the Shema and the V'ahavta from the Jewish people to the world.
Plafkin spoke of how her biblical mentor, Bezalel, was chosen for his work given his ability l'achshov machshavot, to think thoughts. She commented that the ability "to think thoughts" is precursor for all artistic expression. Plafkin also shared how her candelabras, "Eve & Adam," were inspired by the nuanced interpretation of the origin stories found in Genesis, and how her Braille Ddreidel comes from the morning prayer which gives thanks for "Removing sleep from my eyes and slumber from my eyelids."
Music and ruach for the evening were provided by Cantor Aviva Rosenbloom of Temple Israel in Hollywood. Her original composition, "The Road We Are On" celebrates the contribution of women to Jewish history and culture.
For more information about the Womens Torah Project, visit www.WomensTorah.org. -- Stella Krieger, Contributing Writer
Los Angeles' Dan Adler, a principal at Media Eagles, Inc., a media and entertainment company, was honored by Israel Policy Forum (IPF) at its annual tribute dinner. Adler, who previously headed the new media division at Creative Artists Agency, spearheaded Project Communicate, which mobilized the entertainment industry to help improve the image of Israel on college campuses. He joined IPF's Board of Trustees last year.
Israel Vice Prime Minster Ehud Olmert, chief architect of Israel's Gaza disengagement plan, delivered the keynote address at the dinner. Olmert is the first member of Israel's Likud party to address IPF, which has long advocated sustained American engagement in Israeli-Arab peace process and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The other 2005 honorees were: Gary Heiman, of Cincinnati, president and CEO of Standard Textile Co. and founder of Arad Textile Industries, Ltd; and Jeri Rice a prominent Seattle businesswoman and community leader. Special Recognition was given to Alan Patricof of New York, co-founder of Apax Partners, Inc., one of the world's leading private equity firms, which has been operating in Israel since 1994. Heiman and Patricof are among the most significant American investors in Israel.
A Spectacular Evening
Sports was the name of the game as the an excited group of attendees showed up at the Century Plaza Hotel to celebrate the 20th annual Cedars-Sinai Sports Spectacular, which raised more than $1.5 million to help children suffering from genetic birth defects. The greatest names in sports and entertainment were there in abundance for this great cause and -- a favorite with many because of the numerous children who attend.
This year's honorees included USC's renowned head football coach, Pete Carroll, legendary wide receiver Jerry Rice, and celebrated former UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden. Lakers star Kobe Bryant presented a special surprise honor to the director of the Medical Genetics Institute at Cedars-Sinai, Dr. David Rimoin.
Honorary chairpersons and hosts John Salley, Tom Arnold, Al Michaels and Jim Hill joined stars from the world of sports and entertainment including: Dennis Rodman, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milton Bradley, Terry Bradshaw, Nadia Comaneci, Bart Conner, Bruce Jenner, Jimmy Johnson, Carl Lewis, Howie Long, Penny Marshall and Jim McMahon. This was truly a sports lover's dream for a wonderful cause.
LGBT at the Luxe
New L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl hosted the LGBT Awards brunch at the Luxe Bel Air Hotel where Rabbi Lisa Edwards and Tracy Moore were presented with the Beth Chayim Chadashim (BCC) President's Award for their official and unofficial contributions to BCC over the past 10 years.
Dean Hansell and Jason Murakawa received the Humanitarian Award. The backdrop of the comfortable and newly redecorated Luxe Bel Air set the scene for a upbeat and elegant event.
A BCC member since 1981, Hansell is co-managing partner at the law firm of LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae and has served as BCC's legal counsel for almost 10 years. Murakawa, a BCC member for six years, is a graphic designer and serves clients in the entertainment industry and nonprofit world.
BCC on Pico Boulevard was founded in 1972 as the world's first lesbian and gay synagogue.
For more information, visit www.bcc-la.org.