Passionately devoted to the resurgence of Jewish life in Poland, entertainer Theodore Bikel, accompanied by Tamara Brooks, performed an hour-long private concert of Yiddish, English and Hebrew songs to benefit the nonprofit Friends of Jewish Renewal in Poland.
More than 70 people attended the fundraiser, held in the Brentwood home of art collectors Elyse and Stanley Grinstein. They included Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev and Barbara Yaroslavsky; Rabbi Mark Diamond, executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California; professor David Myers, director of the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies; Polish Consul General Paulina Kapuscinska; and Jewish Federation COO Ken Krug and Andrea Scharf.
Hosting the event was Severyn Ashkenazy, Friends of Jewish Renewal board member and co-founder of Beit Warszawa, Warsaw's first progressive synagogue since World War II, headed by American Reform rabbi Burt Schuman and assisted by Russian-born Israeli Reform rabbi Tanya Segal.
"Don't let anybody tell you Poland is a graveyard," Bikel said. "It's a place of living, breathing Jews today."
-- Jane Ulman, Contributing Editor
Italian Seder Sizzles at Skirball
Traditional Passover seders are on their way out, and specialized seders are this year's hot ticket. April is loaded with various options, including intercultural, interfaith, alternative and sober seders, where ancient traditions meet modern sensibilities.
Recalling the fare of Jewish ghettos in ancient Rome, the Skirball Cultural Center kicked off the seder season with its delizioso Italian Seder, a tribute to the history of Jewish Italian cuisine.
The idea may sound puzzling, given the Italians' overwhelming penchant for pork meatballs and shellfish, but chef Sean Sheridan placated the discriminating palate with a six-course feast: Charoset Italiano with figs, dates and oranges; branzino grilled with leeks, parsely and lemon; sfoglietti with chicken soup and herbs; and osso buco of veal with gremolata and garlic spinach.
But the meal was not enough to distract the table from delving into divisive political conversation, and by dessert, improptu Democratic debates overshadowed the sweetness of the kosher wine.
ARM-ing for a Cure
ARM emcee Cara Yar Khan and ARM volunteer Mansour Pouretehad. Photo by Karmel Melamed
Medical researchers were honored for their work by the Advancement of Research for Myopathies (ARM) at a gala event on March 16 held at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott.
Nearly 600 guests from various countries and backgrounds gathered to help raise funds for additional research on a cure for hereditary inclusion body myopathy (HIBM), a progressive and debilitating genetic muscle disease. While it's possible to inherit the disease from parents of Asian or European ancestry, HIBM primarily affects Jews of Middle Eastern ancestry, including some Iranian Jews.
One of the organization's founders, Dr. Babak Darvish said over the years ARM has battled to remove the stigma the Iranian Jewish community has feared in publicly acknowledging family members with HIBM.
"My brother and I are both physicians, we were both affected by this disease -- so we felt we had to take action and we founded ARM in 1997 in our living room," Darvish said.
ARM co-founder and president Dr. Babak Darvish. Photo by Karmel Melamed
"Now the organization has gone international to help everyone, not just Iranian Jews, with this disease."
While the genetic variation for HIBM has been located, an effective treatment for the disease has not been created, Darvish pointed out.
For more photos from this event, visit the Iranian American Jews Blog at http://jewishjournal.com/iranianamericanjews/
-- Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer