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Jewish Journal

Moving and shaking

by Ryan Torok

August 20, 2014 | 2:33 pm

<em>Igal Zaidenstein, an attorney and fundraising executive, was named the director of the ORT America West Coast region. Photo courtesy of ORT America</em>

Igal Zaidenstein, an attorney and fundraising executive, was named the director of the ORT America West Coast region. Photo courtesy of ORT America

Jewish education organization ORT America has appointed Igal Zaidenstein, an attorney, veteran fundraising executive and resident of Los Angeles, as the director of its West Coast region. 

“I am excited to be taking the helm of this extraordinary organization with its long history of providing an education that influenced the lives of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide,” Zaidenstein said in a statement. “I want to connect and reconnect with current and past donors and bring in new supporters from different communities. I also want to encourage a new generation to become involved with us.”

Zaidenstein, who was born in Israel to parents who made aliyah from Paraguay, is fluent in English, Hebrew and Spanish. He studied political science at Tel Aviv University. 

“I have a lifelong passion to strengthen Israel-Diaspora relationships,” he said. 

He previously served as the West Coast director of the Bnai Zion Foundation and as political adviser for the American Friends of Citizens Empowerment Center in Israel. He is also the founder of the young professional group The Israeli Forum. 

Alan E. Klugman, ORT America national executive director, said, “We are excited to have such a talented, dedicated and experienced individual as Igal join our team.”

ORT America is a nonprofit organization that serves 300,000 students annually and operates technical schools in more than 50 countries.


Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFS) honored Ellyn Gelson during its JFS Chaverim Shining Star Fundraiser at Shomrei Torah Synagogue in West Hills on June 29. 

Approximately 250 people turned out to the annual event that raised $40,000 and highlighted JFS Chaverim’s commitment to serving adults living with developmental disabilities. 

Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles honoree Ellyn Gelson and her grandchildren. Photo by Elisa Horstman/Elisa Rose Photography

Gelson’s son, Jordan, who has Asperger’s syndrome, is among those who participate in the program’s life-skills groups, field trips and exercise programs. Gelson, a Los Angeles resident and Miami native, has supported Chaverim for the past eight years, according to a JFS press release. 

“Ellyn Gelson exemplifies the type of strong leadership we look for in our supporters and in our volunteers,” JFS CEO and President Paul S. Castro said. 

Musical duo Andy Hill & Renée Safier provided entertainment.


UCLA student David Chernobylsky received the Jewish Academic Innovation Award on Aug. 8 in recognition of “All Kinds of Meshugas: The Temporary Insanity Defense Under the Jewish Prism,” a research paper that connected Jewish values to a sensational murder trial in the 1980s in which the defendant argued that his wife’s nagging drove him to kill her.

Chernobylsky, 20, who is majoring in microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics, said he learned about the trial of Steven Steinberg while volunteering in the literature therapy program at Kaiser Permanente in Woodland Hills where he discovered the 1988 book “Death of a ‘Jewish American Princess’: The True Story of a Victim on Trial.” Incensed by what he read, he turned to the Talmud and other Jewish texts for answers. His award-winning presentation, which he delivered during a Sinai Scholars Society event in Chicago, synthesized all that he learned in the process.

Jewish Academic Innovation Award winner David Chernobylsky. Photo by Megliorino Photography

“I wanted to present what I learned, which basically was the value in Judaism that life is special and every day matters,” the honoree told the Journal. “That was a great learning experience for me, and I wanted to share it. It didn’t matter — win or lose, I was having a great time. When they said my name, I was kind of in shock, so it was very interesting and great. I really appreciated it.”

Rabbi Dovid Gurevich, co-director of the Chabad House at UCLA, and New York University Hebrew and Judaic studies professor Lawrence Schiffman worked with him on the presentation.


An eclectic crowd of more than 100 people — including actor Jon Voight, in a surprise visit gathered Aug. 17 at The Mark in solidarity with Israel’s Soroka Medical Center to raise funds for the hospital’s emergency campaign.  

Located in the Negev, Soroka is the only major medical center on the southern front of Israel’s war against Hamas during Operation Protective Edge, and it is treating many wounded soldiers.  

From left: Dr. Moti Klein, Avi Kadmon and Jon Voight.  Photo courtesey of Orly Halevy Photography & Video

Dr. Moti Klein, director of the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU), has a son in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and traveled from Israel to attend the event, which raised $15,000 for emergency equipment, according to Rachel Heisler Sheinfeld, executive director of American Friends of Soroka Medical Center. Accompanying Klein’s heartfelt words about overcoming the struggles of war was a video of soldiers coming into the ICU. There was also a video in which Dr. Ehud Davidson, director of Soroka Medical Center, asked for help in “fighting for soldiers who are fighting for us.”  

The evening’s peak was the appearance by Voight, who said he was deeply moved by his visit to Soroka. Receiving a standing ovation upon arrival, the strong supporter of Israel repeated several times: “Israel is so important.”

Other speakers included Dana Erlich, Israeli consul for culture, media and public diplomacy in Los Angeles, who mentioned how the hospital strives for coexistence and said that no one is turned away. Rabbi Mordecai Finley from Ohr HaTorah in Mar Vista, whose daughter is in the IDF, also spoke in support of Israel.

The evening opened with Tamara Gabriel singing “Hatikvah” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” There was a social hour full of refreshments and camaraderie, and the event ended with a live auction and a small raffle. The auction featured an original work of art by Anat Marin and a basketball signed by Maccabi Tel Aviv.

— Amanda Epstein, Contributing Writer

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com.

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