More than 1,700 people, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, turned out for the community-wide dedication and interfaith choral concert at the renovated and recently reopened Wilshire Boulevard Temple (WBT) in Koreatown.
Singer-songwriter Burt Bacharach performed “What the World Needs Now Is Love” during a special closing ceremony at the synagogue, with audience members singing along and recording the performance on their cell phones.
The event took place on Sept. 29 and included benedictions from seven religious leaders: Archbishop of Los Angeles Jose Gomez, the Rev. William Epps of Second Baptist Church, the Rev. Elizabeth Gibbs Zehnder of Immanuel Presbyterian Church, the Islamic Center of Southern California’s Imam Asim Buyuksoy and Mahmoud Abdel-Baset, Shin-Hwa Park from the Church of Peace and WBT Cantor Don Gurney.
WBT Rabbi Steven Leder gave welcoming remarks. Five descendants of the synagogue’s longest-serving rabbis from the 20th century read pieces about their relatives, wrapping up with Aaron Leder reading a piece about his father. Jerry Magnin commemorated his late uncle, “Rabbi to the Stars” Edgar Magnin.
Founded in 1862, WBT is the oldest congregation in Los Angeles. It moved to the Koreatown location in 1929. WBT opened its newly renovated campus on Wilshire Boulevard between Harvard and Hobart boulevards in time for this year’s High Holy Days, following a campaign that raised nearly $120 million.
Garcetti carried one of the congregation’s Torahs to the bimah during the event, at which he addressed the congregation.
American Friends of Magen David Adom (AFMDA) honored pro-Israel activists and Los Angeles residents Dina and Fred Leeds during its inaugural local gala on Oct. 6 with its Humanitarian Award. The gala raised $3.8 million, which will assist Magen David Adom (MDA) — an Israel advocacy organization — with the opening of a new blood bank in Israel and fund additional services.
Over the years, the Leeds family has made contributions - both in time and resources - in support of Israel. Dina serves on the national board of AFMDA, an organization that raises funds for MDA. She and her husband serve on the board of pro-Israel advocacy organization, StandWithUs, as well. Their teenaged children, Robert and Alisa, have pitched in, too. Both of them used the opportunity of the recent b'nai mitzvahs to raise money for the organization.
Music and laughs helped highlight the contributions of the evening’s honorees. The event, which took place at the Beverly Hilton, featured performances by singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka and comedian Jackie Mason. Pianists Mona Golabek and Ethan Bortnick also performed.
More than 1,000 attendees turned out, including singer Michelle Williams. An additional 300 young professional between the ages of 20-40 attended the VIP after-party.
Eilat Shinar, director of the MDA blood services division, served as guest speaker.
Additional awards celebrated the contributions of AFMDA founding member Gaby Bashner, who was awarded the Women of Valor Lifetime Achievement Award and AFMDA Los Angeles board member Leba Sherman, who was recognized with the Woman of Valor Next Generation Award.
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