The Jewish Federation's Young Leadership Division put a cool spin on Chanukah with "Latkes and Blackjack" at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood. The usually dark alternative music club had a cheery holiday makeover as dreidels and chocolate gelt were spread across tables in the main room, as well as in the neighboring Alterknit lounge.
The continuous shouts of "yes" from 20- and 30-somethings at the seven blackjack tables -- who were wearing everything from jeans and sneakers to suits and "little black dresses" -- added to the spirit of the event.
Young Leadership member Jeff Kay said events like "Latkes and Blackjack" are more likely to draw him than other types of events: "The more social, the better."
That's exactly what the division's staff had in mind.
"We find that it is really important for us to have festive occasions for people to participate in," said Sandy Levin, Young Leadership Division director, who added that recent reports about the disconnect of young people from the Jewish community are "troubling."
"I think at this age there are so many people not affiliated to anything," she said. "We're trying to make an impact and help people connect in our own small way."
Since Young Leadership is about giving back to the community, each candle on the enormous menorah, brought in for the event, represented a different group assisted by The Federation.
"We want them to enjoy Chanukah, but we also want them to understand more about what the Federation does," said Heather Greenberg and Yael Irom, Young Leadership Division co-chairs.
Causes honored by the candles included Jewish Family Service (JFS), SOVA Food Pantry and the Bureau of Jewish Education. "Anybody at any stage of their life might need a service of The Jewish Federation," Levin told the Circuit. "And if they don't need it today, they may need it down the road."
When all the blackjack chips were cashed and all the latkes were eaten, Young Leadership had raised more $81,000, to provide assistance to the elderly, children and others in need in Los Angeles, Israel and around the world. They also collected more than 50 toys for JFS Gramercy Place Shelter. -- Shoshana Lewin, Contributing Writer
It was truly the "children's hour" when The Fulfillment Fund held its Annual Holiday Party for young children with disabilities. The well-attended event entertained several-hundred students, ages 3-9, from the Los Angeles Unified School District for a memorable day of festive fun.
The event is hosted by Fulfillment Fund students and their mentors, and college scholars from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The Lucky Brand Foundation provides a generous grant each year to help make this incredible event possible.
More than 30 years ago, the Fulfillment Fund began with a similar holiday party, and has since grown into one of the most effective college access organizations in Los Angeles, having served thousands of young people throughout the years.
FESTIVAL of Advocacy
Lighting up the night, more than 450 people filled the University of Judaism's Gindi Auditorium for its "Festival of Lights" concert/fundraiser for the Israel advocacy and education group StandWithUs on Dec. 11.
"Giving is easy when it doesn't cost us anything," said Century City attorney and StandWithUs board vice president Marty Jannol, a festival honoree along with his wife and fellow board member Susan Jannol.
"Few of us here tonight have any fundamental material needs," he said. "May our giving be doubly blessed by causing us to make the right choices about our material lives."
Honors for Estrin
Israel's high-tech industry, a mainstay of the country's economic, military and scientific strength, honored its engineering "father" recently, when it bestowed the Israel Software Industry Pioneer Award on UCLA proffessor Gerald (Jerry) Estrin.
Estrin and his wife, Thelma, also a computer engineer, left Princeton in 1954. With a small team at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Estrin hand-built the WEIZAC, the first computer in the Middle East.
Additional honors were conferred on Estrin, a Santa Monica resident, by the Weizmann Institute and the worldwide Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers for his and Israel's roles in the global information revolution.
An extensive story on Estrin's work was published in the Jewish Journal on Dec. 3, 2004, and can be found on the Journal Web site. -- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor