REASON TO SMILE
The room sparkled with celebrities and supporters as Operation Smile honored Cindy McCain, wife of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), at its annual gala at the Regent Beverly Wilshire.
Roma Downey, Annette Bening, Warren Beatty and Larry David watched as the Children of the World Choir opened the evening's festivities and viewed the trailer to a new film titled, "Smile," inspired by Operation Smile and produced by Jeffery Kramer.
One couple raved about Operation Smile's young leadership program at Malibu High, which inspired their son to enter medical school and their daughter to become involved in the organization, selling raffle tickets for the cause.
Operation Smile travels the world to help children born with palate deformities. For the last 23 years, it has helped 94,000 children to live normal and happier lives.
For more information, call (888) 677-6453.
RODMAN, REGGIE, RABBI
What do a retired basketball great, a leading baseball icon and a rabbi have in common? A lot it appears, when it comes to stepping up and raising funds and awareness for two causes: Parkinson's disease and the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.
The original plan was for former Chicago Bull and L.A. Laker Dennis Rodman, New York Yankees baseball icon Reggie Jackson and Rabbi Reuven Mintz of the Newport Beach Chabad to unite in Newport Beach to raise money for UC Irvine's Center for Parkinson's Disease.
However when Hurricane Katrina took its toll on the Gulf States and its citizens, the organization made a quick handoff to ensure that hurricane victims would receive the benefit of the donations instead.
"You can never predict exactly how a fundraiser will turn out" Mintz said. "Knowing how much the UCI Parkinson's Center needs funds, and how devastating Hurricane Katrina turned out to be, the need on both fronts was overwhelming. The generosity of these men and their friends and colleagues and their willingness to turn the proceeds of the evening over to the victims of the Hurricane was beyond our wildest expectations. We are forever thankful."
To date, over $3 million has been raised through the national Chabads. One hundred percent of the funds raised have been provided to the Red Cross to offset the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina.
The 33rd annual Merchant of Tennis/Monty Hall/Cedars-Sinai Diabetes Tennis Tournament raised more than $500,000 for the Max and Anna Webb and Family Diabetes Outpatient Training and Education Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
More than 800 people enjoyed the three-day event, culminating at a Playboy Mansion cocktail party and a movie at the Arclight Theatre in Hollywood. Monty and Marilyn Hall welcomed the guests, urging them to continue their support for diabetes research and care.
The Peninsula Beverly Hills and its managing director, Ali Kasikci, played host to members of the Geffen Playhouse Board of Directors at a reception in the hotel's House Beautiful Suite. The event served as a kickoff for the Oct. 17 re-opening of the newly remodeled Geffen in Westwood.
KEEPING THE FAITH
Jews for Judaism held its gala awards banquet celebrating 20 years of "keeping Jews Jewish" on Sept. 28 at the Luxe Hotel in Bel Air. More than 200 guests attended, including Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood).
Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz, the organization's founder and executive director, spoke about the worldwide threat of cults and missionaries targeting Jews for conversion and the urgent need to counter it and save Jews.
A personal story was told by a daughter and mother, Chantal and Heather, about how Kravitz taught Chantal the beauty of Judaism and helped her return to her roots. "I thank Jews for Judaism every night -- and especially every Friday night -- when I light my Shabbos candles," Chantal told the audience.
The Ahavas Chesed Award was presented to Ruth Ziegler for her generous philanthropy to the organization. David and Helen Rifkind were presented the Community Leadership Award for their support and commitment to Jews for Judaism's educational and counseling programs.
The guest speaker was Emmy-nominated screenwriter David Weiss, best known for co-writing "Shrek 2." Weiss shared his story on how as a young Jew, he was persuaded to convert to Christianity. The writer said that stumbling onto Kravitz's book helped him find the road back to Judaism, and now he and his family are observant Jews.
For more information about Jews for Judaism, call (310) 556-3344 or visit www.jewsforjudaism.com. -- Roxana Pourshalimi, Contributing Writer
A recent Jewish-Latino panel discussion on illegal immigration showed that there is a hierarchy for everything. During a dialogue at the Los Angeles Mexican consulate, it was revealed that Mexico distributes 65,000 seasonal work visas to Guatemalans to pick Mexican coffee beans.
"We don't have the workers there when the time comes for the coffee crop," said Mexican Consul General Ruben Beltran, as he discussed Mexican-Guatemalan immigration. "One tends to believe that immigration is something just happening at the southern border of the United States."
That Guatemalan immigrants are picking Mexico's coffee beans because Mexican workers are in the United States. This was one of the obscure facts revealed at the Jewish-Latino panel discussion hosted by the Anti-Defamation League and the Los Angeles consulate.
About 60 people heard Beltran at the Aug. 23 event, which included Nicaraguan Consul General Jose Carrion, Honduran Consul General Vivian Panting, ADL Pacific Southwest Regional Director Amanda Susskind and panel moderator Bruce Einhorn, a senior U.S. immigration judge.
"We were all strangers once in the land," said Susskind, whose group recently has been monitoring volunteer militias patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border. "Anti-immigration is anti all of us."
Beltran emphasized a perception problem in which regional cultures blur together, despite a fence or wall.
"Sometimes the same culture is divided by the administrative concept of the border," he said. "No matter what we do, immigration will continue."
The diplomats emphasized the millions of dollars paid by undocumented workers in California sales and property taxes, and how lettuce prices would increase fivefold if lettuce and other vegetables and fruits were not picked by low-wage workers.
"We are here to give to this country," said Honduran Consul Panting. "We came to look for a better life."
It was Einhorn, a former ADL regional board chairman, who made an interesting suggestion as to how to deal with border militias. "Perhaps the solution is to have the extremists volunteer for military duty in Iraq," he said. -- David Finnigan, Contributing Writer