They All Hallelued
When the creators of Hallelu picked Oct. 20 as the date for the concert celebrating the Jewish spirit, they might not have realized that the day fell on the eighth anniversary of the death of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach.
Yet, when Carlebach's daughter, Neshama, pointed out that fact during her performance, the coincidence sat well with the nearly 5,000 people who filled the Universal Amphitheatre. The celebration of sacred community, prayer and song seemed the perfect tribute to the memory of the man who changed the way Jews pray and sing.
Hallelu, produced by Craig Taubman of Craig 'n Co. and sponsored by Synagogue 2000, "exceeded all expectations," said Ron Wolfson, co-founder of Synagogue 2000, a transdenominational effort to bring renewed spirit, structure and study to shuls. At the University of Judaism the next day, more than 100 synagogue and community leaders attended a conference and created a task force to explore how to bring Synagogue 2000 to Los Angeles. Hallelu's goal of bringing 45 synagogues together as one community seemed to have succeeded, as each of the dozen or so acts that took the stage had the audience swaying, singing and dancing along.
Rick Recht brought the crowd to its feet with "Od Yavo Shalom," (Peace will Still Come) and Theodore Bikel brought in a note of nostalgia withhis Yiddish ballad from the Soviet Jewish underground. A choir of local cantors expressed the sense of mutual gratitude between synagogue professionals and congregants with its Mi Sheberach, and chains of dancing women took to the aisles for Debbie Friedman's "Miriam's Song." The only false note came from some well-intentioned dramatic performances that fell flat amid the real attraction -- some of the best Jewish music and most talented performers around today.
By the time the glowsticks came out for the final ensemble performance of the signature "Hallelu," a choir of 5,000 filled the amphitheater with a sound and sight that will linger for some time. For more information on Synagogue 2000, visit www.s2k.org. -- Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Religion Editor
Mofaz Comes to Town
Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz, former chief of the General Staff Israel Defense Forces (IDF), was honored by the Western Regional Office of the Friends of the IDF on Oct. 10 at Sinai Temple. The organization paid tribute to Mofaz's 36 years of military service and promoted support for the IDF among the Los Angeles Jewish community.
"When you take an active role in supporting the IDF you are supporting Israel itself," Yuval Rotem, consul general of Israel, told an audience of some 800 people.
Mofaz said that they brought with them representatives of all the families who have made the ultimate sacrifice. "Together we have a special obligation to the families of these soldiers. We share the pain, their legacy. We bare their scars -- we must continue the fight war after war."
Mofaz expressed support for a U.S. war against Iraq. "If Saddam is allowed to continue amassing weapons of mass destruction, the security and stability of our world will be shaken," he said
Mofaz was also certain about Israel's future. "We will win the war against terror, and our goal is to bring back the Palestinians to the negotiation table. Negotiations will take place when the Palestinians will fight successfully against terrorism and will choose a different leader who will take them in a different direction," he said. -- Gaby Wenig, Contributing Writer
The Water Boys
The L.A. chapter of Jewish National Fund (JNF) is adopting a water reservoir in Livnim in northern Israel. Lou Kestenbaum and Dr. Jamshid Maddahi will co-chair the yearlong $1.5 million campaign. The pair -- to be honored by JNF on Oct. 27 -- will kick off their fundraising effort at this year's "Tree of Life" gala here in Los Angeles.
Established in 1901, JNF has planted more than 220 million trees, built more than 120 dams and reservoirs, developed more than 250,000 acres of land and created more than 400 parks. Once completed, the Livnim Reservoir will help 13 northern Israel farming communities, including several Israeli Arab villages.
"We're talking about recycled waste water," said Sam Perchik, director of JNF's L.A. branch. "So many times a year the reservoir will be replenished without getting fresh rainwater. The idea is to furnish the farmers with recycled waters, this way it relieves water for domestic use."
Israelis consume 528 million gallons of water a year, derived from two aquifers and the Sea of Galilee. However, the water supply currently hovers at about 423 million gallons, according to Perchik.
Seventy percent of Israel's water goes to agriculture, but the government cut the supply to farmers by 60 percent, even as a drought continues.
Both local chairs share a deep kinship with Israel. Originally from Tehran, Madahhi, professor of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology, Nuclear Medicine and Radiology Science at the UCLA School of Medicine, trained Israeli physicians while working at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (1977-1990). "My affinity with Israel goes back to my childhood," said Madahhi. "I remember even from my first visit in the early 1960s [at age 10] that all of the conflict in the region was about water. I think water is important to peace in Israel. The foundation for the peace with Jordan was centered around water."
Madahhi was instrumental of establishing the first Israeli Positron Emission Tomography (PET) center at Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem. Through UCLA, Madahhi continues to train Israeli doctors. He is also director of Nuclear Cardiology and Clinical PET at the Biomedical Imaging Institute in Los Angeles
Kestenbaum and his wife Trudy are Holocaust survivors. They came to Pittsburgh in 1947, where Kestenbaum became a developer. In 1962, Kestenbaum moved to Los Angeles, where he started a very successful flexible packaging business. Now retired, Kestenbaum devotes his time to Jewish causes, including Shelters For Israel, and Los Angeles' JNF, where he chairs its board of directors.
"JNF is a particularly special to me," said Kestenbaum, "because of their objectives. They're nonpolitical, and it benefits all of Israel."
The Jewish National Fund's "Tree of Life" Dinner will be held on Oct. 27 at the Regent Beverly Wilshire. For information, call (323) 964-1400; for information on planting trees in Israel, call (800) 542-8733. -- Michael Aushenker, Staff Writer
Hadassah Comes to L.A.
Professor Shlomo Mor-Yosef, director general of Hadassah Medical Center, visited Los Angeles on Oct. 4-6 as part of a weeklong tour of North American Hadassah chapters, including Hadassah Southern California. The Los Angeles stop was part of a capital campaign effort for a new state-of-the-art hospital building, which will be equipped to counter biological and chemical threats. The 60-bed facility will cost $30 million.
"During the terror attacks of the last two years, we have treated 2,000 people, which is more than 50 percent of all the victims of terror in Israel," said Mor-Yosef, 51, who oversees the operation of Hadassah's two Jerusalem-area hospitals.
Because of the intifada, security at the hospital has become a prime concern. "We can't shield the hospital," Mor-Yosef said. "It's not an army base. There are 20,000 people -- Jews, Arabs -- passing through the hospital each day. But we've increased our security budget up to $1 million in the last two years."
Hadassah Southern California and National Hadassah Organization will hold its annual Women of Distinction Gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Nov. 3. For information on the gala, call (310) 479-3200. -- MA