Entertainment industry titans gathered to honor the man of the moment, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance dinner on March 18. The event raised $1.6 million.
Sarandos, who is responsible for Netflix hits “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black” was honored with the Humanitarian Award. His rising status in the industry was evidenced by a powerhouse guest list that included media mogul Haim Saban; producer Harvey Weinstein; DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg; and Ron Meyer, vice chairman of NBCUniversal.
Emceed by “Arrested Development” creator Mitch Hurwitz, who was invited to resurrect his previously defunct show for Netflix under Sarandos’ watch, the dinner at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel focused on the Wiesenthal Center’s perennial efforts to raise global consciousness about the Holocaust, and included a sneak peak of their new state-of-the-art facility currently under construction in Jerusalem.
The Wiesenthal Center also honored ordinary civilian heroes with Medal of Valor awards. This year’s recipients included Mike Flanagan, a British Army deserter who was posthumously recognized for assisting Israel’s fledgling armed forces during the 1948 War of Independence; Massimo Paruccini and Mercedes Virgili, whose families hid a Jewish family from the Nazis in the Italian town of Secchiano; and Algerian novelist Boualem Sansal, who was awarded a prestigious Arabic literary prize that was later rescinded when it was discovered he had attended a writers festival in Jerusalem. Sansal since has become an outspoken crusader against anti-Semitic attitudes in the Arab world and concluded his remarks with a quote from Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), as a comment on his own pariah status. “In places where there are no worthy men, strive to be one,” he said.
—Danielle Berrin, Staff Writer
From left: Joe Shooshani, Beverly Hills planning commissioner; L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky; Congressman Tony Cardenas; L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz; Nowruz festival organizer Alex Helmi. Photo by Karmel Melamed
More than 5,000 Iranian-Americans of various religions packed “Persian Square” in Westwood Village on March 23 to celebrate Nowruz, the Persian New Year. Traditional Persian music and the smell of saffron-infused rice dishes filled the air as community members danced and exchanged New Year’s greetings.
The festival was the first in a series of celebrations participated in by close to 1 million Iranian-Americans living in California, who joined in marking their ancient new year and the beginning of spring, which fell on March 20 this year.
Nowruz is traditionally a secular holiday celebrated by Iranians of all faiths living in Iran and elsewhere worldwide. The holiday is one of the rare occasions that brings Jews, Muslims, Christians, Baha’is and Zoroastrians of Iranian background to unite for the common goal of renewal and improving their society.
“We are honored each year to welcome spring with the Persian New Year celebrations and bring the community of everyone in Los Angeles, not just Iranians, together,” said Joe Shooshani, a Beverly Hills Iranian-Jewish planning commissioner. “This is a special time when we embrace one another in a sense of brotherhood and friendship.”
The event in Westwood brought out a number of local elected officials, including Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz, L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, former city controller and candidate for the 33rd Congressional District Wendy Greuel and Beverly Hills Mayor John Mirisch.
“I am incredibly proud of the Persian community, the majority of whom live in my district, and we are able to celebrate Nowruz each year here in Westwood, where the first Persian businesses were started 40 years ago,” Koretz said.
Other local Iranian-Americans celebrated the holiday by giving back to the needy on Skid Row. Close to 120 local Iranian-American volunteers gathered on March 14 to feed nearly 1,200 homeless at the Midnight Mission in downtown Los Angeles. The move to feed the homeless is a three-year tradition, and local Iranian-Americans said they wanted to feed the homeless on Skid Row during NowRuz because of a sense of responsibility they feel to help bring hope to those who are less fortunate in the city.
The holiday also has a special meaning for many Iranian-Americans this year, since one of their own, Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian, representing the 46th District, recognized Nowruz for the first time in the Sacramento legislature on March 24. Nazarian, who is not Jewish but of Armenian background, said he wanted to shed light on the significant contributions of Iranian-Americans to the state.
“By celebrating No Ruz in the Assembly for the first time ever today, we honored the Persian community because they have been an incredible asset to the state for more than 30 years and account for a lot of our continued success,” Nazarian said. “I’m also honored, as an Iranian-American immigrant, to be able to recognize Nowruz on a state level.”
Additional Nowruz celebrations were held on March 21 at L.A. City Hall for the formal recognition of the Persian New Year by city councilmembers.
For more information, photos and video of the Iranian community’s local Nowruz celebrations, visit jewishjournal.com/iranianamericanjews.
— Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer
Righteous Conversations Project participants Purag Moumdjian, Trey Carlisle, Arine Eisaian and Kali Van Dusen, with film producer Amy Ziering (third from left), Righteous Conversations staff member Cheri Gaulke (second from right) and Holocaust survivor Helen Freeman (far right). Photo by Ryan Torok
High school students and their parents, community members and others turned up at the Ann and Jerry Moss Theater in Santa Monica on March 18 for a screening of 13 public service announcements (PSAs) created through the Righteous Conversations Project.
“The gathering was a celebration of all the work that the young people and the survivors have come together to do,” said Samara Hutman, co-founder of the Righteous Conversations Project and executive director of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (LAMOTH).
The program, which is run under the auspices of Remember Us, an LAMOTH program, provides high-school students working under the mentorship of Holocaust survivors with the opportunity to produce PSAs that connect Holocaust stories and themes to contemporary issues of injustice.
Exploring subject matter such as body image, bullying, technology’s impact on human interaction, the value in learning your family history and more, the 13 films screened — and gifted to different organizations — explored a range of subject matter relevant to teenage life.
During the event, Lisa Grissom, L.A. program manager at the Jewish creative think tank Reboot, accepted the PSA “Disconnect to Connect on behalf of her organization. The 30-second film created by students at Aveson Global Leadership Academy suggests that teenagers glued to their cell phones are missing out on opportunities to connect with each other.
Other organizations that received PSAs included 30 Years After, NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change and BJE-Builders of Jewish Education.
Film producer Amy Ziering (“The Invisible War”) was the keynote speaker at the event, which drew more than 100 community members.
Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.