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Moving & Shaking: Hallelujah Global Jewish Singing Contest, Zane Buzby honored, Aish L.A. Gala

by Ryan Torok

July 2, 2014 | 4:22 pm

<em>The first Hallelujah North American semifinals took place in Los Angeles on June 17. Photos by Abraham Joseph Pal</em>

The first Hallelujah North American semifinals took place in Los Angeles on June 17. Photos by Abraham Joseph Pal

The Hallelujah Global Jewish Singing Contest had its North American semifinal competition on June 17 at The Mark, an event space in Pico-Robertson. Ameet Kanon of Tarzana and Max Subar of Los Angeles tied for first place and will be heading to the finals in Israel in December. 

The final contest is broadcast on national television in Israel and includes 30 winners of semifinal competitions from across the world. The overall winner receives $8,000 and a recording of his or her own single in Israel, according to the competition’s website. 

The Israeli American Council (IAC) funded, sponsored and produced the semifinal event in Los Angeles, which was attended by 500 people. Twelve contestants from across the United States took part. 

Dikla Kadosh, director of community events and volunteering for the IAC, who produced the semifinal competition, said the IAC had been working on the event since September. “It was one of our biggest events of the year,” she said.


At left, from left: Hallelujah founder and producer Eitan Gafni, musical director Tomer Adaddi, IAC community events director Dikla Kadosh, winners Ameet Kanon and Max Subar, and emcee Mike Burstyn.

But it was the quality of the participants that made the evening truly special, she said.

“If the singers aren’t amazing, it all falls apart; it doesn’t matter how hard you work to put it together,” Kadosh said. “It all just came together perfectly. I sat in the audience behind the judges and watched, and I was just amazed.”

The competition featured 12 local judges who, Kadosh said, “had a very strong background in music or who are representative of our community.” The panel included chair of the IAC board Shawn Evenhaim, musicians Misha Segal and Craig Taubman, and Kelly Shepard, department chair of performing arts for grades 9-12 at Milken Community Schools. Mike Burstyn, an actor with a long career in Yiddish theater, served as emcee. 

Israeli music producer Eitan Gafni founded the contest in Israel in the early 1990s to create a stronger connection between Jews in Israel and the Diaspora. This year’s event was the first North American semifinal competition. After this year’s success, Kadosh said, “It’s almost certain that we’re going to have two semifinals in the United States next year, probably in Los Angeles and New York, and we will be sponsoring and producing those two events.

“It wasn’t just an entertaining evening, it was a moving evening, because the list of songs are classic Israeli songs. And you see these young people — they’re all between the ages of 18 and 30 — bringing their own interpretation to these classic songs, and the audience was singing along with them. It gave me goosebumps.”

— Cora Markowitz, Contributing Writer



Zane Buzby. Photo courtesy of CNN 

A local hero’s work is getting a global spotlight. Last month, CNN heralded Hollywood director and philanthropist/Holocaust survivor advocate Zane Buzby as part of its 2014 CNN Heroes television special.

Buzby is the founder of the Survivor Mitzvah Project (survivormitzvah.org), a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that has provided 2,000 Holocaust survivors across Eastern Europe with financial assistance, friendship and more. Survivors in eight countries, including Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Estonia, Slovakia and parts of Russia, are currently receiving assistance from the organization.

“The saddest thing for me is future generations will look back at 2014 and kids are going to say, ‘You mean, there were Holocaust survivors still suffering 75 years after the start of the war?’ And we are going to have to say, ‘Yes, there were, but when we found out about it, we helped,’ “ Buzby told the Journal.

The cable network included her as part of a feature that highlighted 12 Americans doing good works helping others. The honorees are  “everyday people changing the world,” according to cnn.com.

A successful television director, Buzby was inspired to action after a 2001 trip to Eastern Europe in search of her grandparents’ birthplace. The excursion into the shtetl-like neighborhoods of Belarus brought her face to face with poverty-stricken, elderly survivors of the Shoah. Since the trip to Belarus, she has spent years donating her own money and collecting funds to send to Eastern European survivors. The organization became a 501(c)3 nonprofit in 2009. 

Providing emergency aid to survivors for essentials such as food, heat and medication is just one of many elements of the organization, according to Buzby. By writing personal letters with the help of volunteer translators, her organization also tries to mitigate the loneliness that so many in that community suffer through.

CNN debuted the video segment about Buzby on June 6 and published an accompanying piece, titled “For Holocaust survivors, letters are lifesaving,” on its website on June 11.



From left: Jewish Women’s Initiative associate director Sharon Shenker, Aish Los Angeles honorees Sheri Levy and Phyllis Shinbane, and Jewish Women’s Initiative director Chana Heller. Photo courtesy of Aish LA 

The annual Aish Los Angeles Gala celebrated programs and distributed awards that focus on connecting Jews to Judaism and to each other at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on May 21.

Jack and Linda Nourafshan, Kambiz and Lily Babaoff, and Roy and Nahal Rayn were honored for their date-to-marry singles program, Soul Search, which provides a way to meet other singles and create healthy marriages.

Sheri Levy and Phyllis Shinbane received the Leadership Award for the award-winning cookbook “Try It, You’ll Like It,” which they created with other Jewish Women’s Initiative members, and which raised approximately $25,000 to fund the scholarship program that sends mothers to Israel “to bring Jewish wisdom, morality and ethics into the home,” according to Rabbi Aryeh Markman, executive director of Aish LA.

The event attracted 950 attendees, including 300 singles under the age of 35 who were part of the young professional programs MyAish, Aish Ignite and NextGen, according to an Aish statement. Producer and writer Saul Blinkoff emceed the event. 

Markman spoke of the Aish Hasbara Fellowships, a pro-Israel campus activism program whose trips to Israel for students recently became the subject of controversy at UCLA. In May, a letter was circulated asking candidates for positions in the university’s student government not to be part of such trips.

The evening ended with keynote speaker Charlie Harary, CEO of H3 & Co., an advisory and investment company in
New York.

Aish’s goal is to get Jewish people involved on their own terms. The organization hosts classes and programs for different age groups to promote Judaism, leaving the level of engagement up to the participant.

— Michelle Chernack, Contributing Writer


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

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