November 18, 2004
The Power of Yiddish
The Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring honored Yiddish translator Hershl Hartman Nov. 7 at its annual awards banquet and silent auction, held at the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) union headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard.
"Yiddish is the language that embodies the very soul of secular Jewishness," said Hartman to the 115 people in attendance. Hartman pointed to studies showing that world Jewry's birthrate will increase heavily among young, Yiddish-speaking Chasidic families: "Young Chasidim who opt for modernity know well enough that it [Yiddish] is available to them."
Hartman accepted the Workmen's Circle's Yiddishkayt Award and Los Angeles City Councilman Martin Ludlow accepted the Melvin S. and Erma B. Sands Memorial Award for Human Rights. Children's radio show host Ruthie Buell received the group's Member of the Year award, partly for her work playing guitar on picket lines during last winter's supermarket strike.
Kirsten Cowan, assistant to the director of the Workmen's Circle's Southern California District, articulated the slight sense of depression at the leftist banquet held five days after President Bush's re-election.
"Yes, the election was very depressing," she told the crowd. "It just kind of re-energized our organization."
Also attending were Jay Greenstein, a field deputy for West Hollywood's Democratic Assemblyman Paul Koretz, and UTLA union representative Steve Klein.
"I do so many sort of left-leaning comedy benefits," said comedienne and MC Jackie Wollner, who enjoyed entertaining at the event. – David Finnigan, Contributing Writer
Puah Plants a Seed
Attention infertile couples: Don't give up hope. At least that's the message offered by representatives of the Israel-based Machon Puah (Puah Institute) who visited Los Angeles recently to lay the groundwork for branch of the institution here. Machon Puah – named after the biblical midwife who kept Jewish babies alive even after Pharaoh commanded they be killed – is an organization that offers free counseling services to couples to let them know about all the halachically approved fertility treatments available to them. They also offer a supervisory service for couples undergoing IVF treatment.
On Oct. 23, Rabbi Gideon Weitzman, the head of the English-speaking division of Machon Puah, spoke at Congregation Beth Jacob on "Jewish Law and Cutting-Edge Reproductive Medicine," and on Oct. 30, Rabbi Menachem Burstein, the head of the Puah Institute, gave a lecture at Young Israel of Century City on "Be Fruitful and Multiply – A Modern Medical Perspective."
In addition, the rabbis visited IVF clinics and met with medical specialists in anticipation of establishing fertility supervision services in Los Angeles.
Spicers Save Lives
Ann Spicer spent her youth in Nazi concentration camps, where it was only the rapidly advancing Russian army that saved her from a Mengele-imposed death sentence. Her husband, Ed, was also incarcerated in the Lvov concentration camp, but he escaped four times – and the last time he managed to join the partisans fighting in the forests of his native Poland.
After the war, the Spicers moved to America, with only $5 in their pockets given to them by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. Now they live in Studio City, but they haven't stopped helping their Jewish brethren all over the world.
In August 2003, Ed saw a news report of a suicide bombing in Israel, and was amazed at the quick response of the Magen David Adom ambulances. He and his wife decided that they were going to help save lives in Israel by donating an ambulance of their own.
In September of this year, the Spicers traveled to Israel to dedicate their own American Red Magen David for Israel (ARMDI) ambulance, which they presented to the people of Israel in memory of their relatives who perished in the Holocaust.
"You either have to fight for a country in a war or you have to work to save lives," Ed Spicer said. "Well, I'm too old to fight, so I'm doing the next best thing."
Visit to Vienna
Rabbi Marvin Hier, left, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, recently traveled to Vienna to meet with his organization's namesake, famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal. Hier briefed Wiesenthal on the progress of the Frank Gehry-designed Center for Human Dignity-Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem, scheduled to be completed in 2007. Queen Elizabeth recently knighted Wiesenthal, who will celebrate his 96th birthday in December, for his "lifetime of service to humanity."
On Sept. 8, Moshe and Hannah Shram hosted a cocktail party at their home to benefit the Israel Humanitarian Foundation (IHF). The 50 guests watched a video highlighting five of the 130 projects that the IHF supports in Israel, and learned more about the projects from Shelly Levy, IHF's Western region director.
The IHF is the premier link between donor-directed American Jewish philanthropy and the unmet needs of medical, educational, humanitarian, geriatric and social service projects in Israel. It supports organizations that cannot afford to have a presence in America, and rely on IHF funds to operate.
For more information call (310) 445-8801.
The Fulfillment Fund, the largest donor of scholarships to Los Angeles students and one of the largest local mentor programs, held its "Stars 2004" gala on Oct. 13 at the Beverly Hilton. The event, which honored Amy Pascal, chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group and vice chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment, raised $2.5 million. The event attracted some megawattage stars, including actor Will Smith, who presented Pascal with her award, and comedian Sinbad, who was the evening's master of ceremonies.
Shelter of Warmth
On Sept. 29, Jewish Family Service's Family Violence Project (FVP) received 50 quilts designed by children and adults from Camp Ramah's Tikvah Program, which helps Jewish teens and young adults with special needs. The quilts, which campers designed by creating art on textile squares, will be used in FVP's two shelters for victims of domestic violence.
Camper-artists Neda Rasmi and Max Kotonikov; the Tikvah Program's Tara Reisbaum, and Cheryl Davidson, the project coordinator, presented the quilts to Kitty Glass, community outreach coordinator for the FVP, in a special sukkah ceremony at JFS's Freda Mohr Center in the Fairfax District.
The date, which fell during Sukkot, and the venue, were specially chosen because as the sukkah provides spiritual shelter to the Jewish people, so will the quilts provide physical and emotional shelter to the victims of domestic violence.
United Synagogue Youth (USY), the high school affiliate of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, recently gathered 65 of the country's top young Jewish leaders and sent them off to Israel on USY's Nativ College Leadership Program. Seven of the students came from Los Angeles: Tammy Farkas and Benjamin Braun, from Temple Beth Am; Danny Fleischer and Julie Hanna, from Temple Eilat in Mission Viejo; Arya Donner from Valley Beth Shalom; Lauren Klein from Adat Ari El; and Tanya Spiegel from Beth Shalom in Corona.
The students, who left in September, will be in Israel for nine months, where they will study, tour, volunteer and learn new leadership techniques.
For more information, call (212) 553-7800, ext. 2321 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Jolly Good Fellow
Sometimes rabbis need reinforcements, too. Synagogues: Transformation and Renewal (STAR) recently started a fellowship program – Professional Education for Excellence in Rabbis (PEER), which combines practical knowledge with ongoing mentoring to build a bridge between the spiritual and secular components of rabbinic training. The process of being chosen for a PEER fellow is a highly competitive one, and it is open to congregational rabbis who are two to five years past their ordination. In September, Rabbi Daniel Moskovitz of Temple Judea was chosen as a 2004-2005 PEER Fellow. The program will help Moskovitz acquire essential management skills, identify his personal vision for a successful rabbinate and develop a road map toward creating a vibrant community.