Jewish Journal


by Gaby Wenig

Posted on Jan. 20, 2005 at 7:00 pm


Stories of the ADL

It was not dinner as usual at the Anti-Defamation League's (ADL) Los Angeles Celebration on Dec. 18 at the Beverly Hilton. While keynote speaker attorney Alan Dershowitz gave a standard stump speech about why people should support the ADL, what was more poignant were six spoken-word vignettes, heard throughout the evening, that singled out an individual whose life was touched by the work of the ADL. A mother told of the ADL's intervention and assistance after her son was taunted with anti-Semitic remarks at his high school; the Rev. Alexei Smith of the Los Angeles Archdiocese discussed his increased knowledge of the Holocaust from ADL's Bearing Witness Institute; a high school student spoke about his changed perceptions of bigotry through participation in the ADL's Dream Dialogue, peer training and Youth Leadership Mission programs; California Highway Patrol Commissioner Mike Brown commended ADL's commitment to law enforcement training and monitoring extremist groups; Assemblymember Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) praised ADL support for AB 2428, which makes California a safer place for hate-crime victims and their families; and a Salvin Leadership Institute alumna related her experience becoming active in the ADL and took a moment to recognize and thank Marty Salvin.

Another touching moment in the evening came when Joe Sherwood accepted his special recognition honor on behalf of his late wife, Helene from Brown.

Happy Housing

L.A. Family Housing (LAFH) held its fifth annual Awards Dinner on Nov. 18 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Business leader Steve Soboroff received the Sydney M. Irmas Outstanding Humanitarian Award, and Citibank was the recipient of the Friend of the Family Award for fighting homelessness and providing access to affordable housing. The dinner raised $750,000 for LAFH, which was founded in 1983 in the San Fernando Valley and now serves more than 15,000 with emergency, transitional and permanent housing services throughout Los Angeles each year. In front of the 350 attendees, Citibank, in conjunction with The Citigroup Foundation, presented a commemorative check of cumulative grant support of $50,000 to LAFH in 2004.

Parkinson's Prevention?

With the graying of the Jewish community, as evidenced in the 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Survey, treatment and prevention of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Amytrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) has become one of the topics of concern among baby boomers and the greatest generation. More than 200 people packed the Four Seasons Hotel's ballroom on Jan. 13 to hear about advances in fighting such diseases during the Southern California chapter of American Technion Society's latest Rel-Event, a series of forums highlighting scientific and technological innovations coming out of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology that have relevance in people's everyday lives.

The evening's spotlight was on Dr. Moussa Youdim, the Finkelstein professor of life sciences in the Technion Faculty of Medicine and director of the Eve Topf Neurodegenerative Disease Research and Teaching Center of Excellence. His anti-Parkinson's drug, Rasagiline, is due to be released this year by Hoffman La Rouche in the United States under the name of Agilect, pending approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

The drug offers protection for neurons damaged by the degenerative effects of neurotoxins, even allowing damaged cells to develop new neurites, or immature neurons. Youdim said the drug might also have a disease-modifying quality that treats specific symptoms. The hope generated by his work has even resulted in a grant from the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

It's normal to lose neurological function in the brain at a rate of about 3 percent every year once you hit your 50s, he said, "[but] if you lose 70 percent of the neurological function and the symptoms present, it's already too late." Typically, Parkinson's begins about three to five years before it's actually diagnosed.

The problem, Youdim said, is trying to get a better understanding of what causes these diseases.

"We think that [Parkinson's] might start in the heart, then move into the olfactory area and from there into the brainstem," he said.

Youdim told The Circuit that tracking down the exact causes of neurodegenerative diseases remains elusive, and that a stem-cell answer to such disorders is likely 20 to 30 years away.

Research has identified at least six genetic markers associated in a domino effect that leads to Parkinson's, but not the specific genetic or environmental spark that results in the eventual deterioration of neurons. He suspects that iron plays a factor contributing to neurological degeneration, noting that an increase of the mineral in the brain as one ages might lead to greater oxidation – in other words, brain rust.

Until Agilect is approved, Youdim recommends the anti-oxidant effects of green tea and blueberries, but said "vitamin E doesn't enter the brain well."

He also endorses the use of red wine as an anti-oxidant, which "has no negative side effects, except for the occasional headache," he joked. – Adam Wills, Associate Editor

Hadassah Honors

Hadassah of Southern California recognized three outstanding women during its Nov. 7 Women of Distinction gala at the Beverly Hills Hotel, which raised money for the Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Unit at the Charlotte R. Bloomberg Mother and Child Center in Jerusalem-based Hadassah Hospital.

"Little House on the Prairie" actress and three-time Screen Actors Guild President Melissa Gilbert was honored for her work in the entertainment industry. Parvin Kadisha, a longtime Hadassah member and Iranian-American Jewish Federation board member, received the award for her philanthropy and Dr. Carol Hyman received the honor for her medical work as a pediatric hematologist-oncologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Childrens Hospital in Los Angeles.

Entertainer and MorningStar Commission member Shelly Goldstein served as the evening's emcee, singing tunes from "Wicked" and "The Producers."

During her address, Dr. Esti Galili Weisstub, director of child and adolescent psychiatry, thanked the Hadassah members for their continued support and recounted the work they've done helping children affected by the intifada.

"Without you, I couldn't do my work," she said.

Naomi Rabinowitz served as event chair.

Money raised for the pediatric unit will help expand the number of hospital rooms, add three outpatient treatment centers and a pediatric hospice for terminally ill children and their families.

"Those children deserve whatever we can give them. They came down [from heaven] and never lost their wings," Gilbert said. – AW

Bucks for Hertzberg

Former State Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg has raised more than $822,000 in his bid to become the next mayor of Los Angeles, with some of that money raised at small get-togethers like one at the Beverly Hills home of real estate developer Dick Ziman and his wife Daphna.

"Bob is the best possible candidate for anything," said Ziman, who hosted about 40 people, each donating $500-$1,000 at the Dec. 13 gathering.

Sherman Oaks mortgage broker Stephen Leidner said he is supporting Hertzberg because, "The state in general and the city in particular has gone too far to the left and it's affecting the quality of life of the citizens."

Hertzberg told his supporters that there are very few Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Los Angeles even though it is a huge global metropolis.

"We've got this great city and there's so few stakeholders," he said. "I'm not in this race to build capital to run for a half dozen other offices. I'm not in this to lose."

Hertzberg talked about his plans to fix Los Angeles' school and roads. He also spoke respectfully of Los Angeles Police Department Chief William Bratton, saying, "I'd give him the dough so he could hire more cops." – David Finnigan, Contributing Writer


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