Schulweis Receives ADL Daniel Pearl Award
(From left) ADL National Director Abraham Foxman, Richard Moss, Ruth Pearl, Judea Pearl, Rabbi Harold Schulweis, Ruth Moss, George Moss and ADL National Director Glen Lewy. Photo by David Karp
When Anti-Defamation League (ADL) National Director Abe Foxman introduced Rabbi Harold Schulweis to a crowd of admirers during a recent award luncheon, he painted Schulweis as a brave and visionary leader -- someone who advocated for the inclusion of women and gay couples in Jewish life long before those were commonplace notions. Yet such is the legacy of Schulweis, who at 83 continues to work toward tikkun olam (healing the world).
The rabbi at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, Schulweis is also a distinguished author and the founder of Jewish World Watch, a Jewish social justice response to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur that aims to provide education, advocacy and refugee relief to victims of the ongoing genocide, many of whom are devout Muslims.
Schulweis was presented with the Daniel Pearl Award at the ADL's annual conference on Nov. 13. Endowed by ADL supporters Ruth and George Moss, the award recognizes those who improve the image of Jews and Judaism in the Muslim world.
"Rabbi Schulweis is a champion of borderless humanity," said Judea Pearl, whose son, slain journalist Daniel Pearl, is the inspiration for the award.
"It is to his credit," Pearl continued, "that we no longer ask God to apologize for sleeping late that day; we ask him instead to show us another Jewish child who can be empowered by Daniel's legacy ... to show us a community of Muslims who can be enlightened."
When Schulweis accepted his award -- which in previous years has gone to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and Atlantic Monthly writer Jeffrey Goldberg, among others -- he paid tribute to the heroism of the Pearl family.
"You have taught us how to confront the difficult tragedies of living in a maddening world," Schulweis said, referring to the Pearls as heroes. "The hero is not one who can lift heavy weights over shoulders, but one who can lift the stone of despair from the hearts of sufferers."
Not once did he mention his own significant accomplishments; instead, Schulweis used his time to talk about others.
"[The Pearls] taught us how to resist the temptation of vengeance and vindictiveness, how to refuse to submit to rage and how to mourn with meaning -- you do not find goodness in the causes of tragedy but in the response to tragedy," Schulweis said. He praised them for having the courage "to begin again, to dream again, to pray again."
Super Supper With SOVA
Barbara Weiser (second from left) and Rick Powell (far right), co-chairs of JFSLA's SOVA Advisory Committee, presented plaques of gratitude to chef Suzanne Tracht and Stephen Friddle, Jar general manager
Sometimes it takes the lure of extraordinary food to help get ordinary food on the table.
That certainly did the trick on a recent Sunday evening, when more than 50 people ponied up $500 each for a place at chef Suzanne Tracht's "Premier Suzpree Benefit for SOVA," held at her elegant restaurant, Jar.
The five-course dinner, which raised money for SOVA's food pantries, featured delicate pumpkin-filled dumplings, Shanghai noodles with salmon caviar, braised oxtail and other delectable dishes Tracht plans to offer at Suzpree, the "modern oyster bar and noodle house" she'll be opening with Jar's chef de cuisine, Preech Narkthong, in late summer 2009.
Tracht, who opened Jar in 2001 and added a spin-off, Tracht's, in downtown Long Beach in summer 2007, had long been looking for a way to give back to the community. Her rabbi, John Rosove of Temple Israel of Hollywood, put her in touch with Abby Leibman, a longtime community activist and Jewish Family Service board member.
"Abby and I talked about a few organizations, but as soon as she mentioned SOVA, I knew it would be perfect. It's local, it's about food, and it will be ongoing, always needing our support," recalled Tracht, who is planning further fundraisers for the organization. For starters, Suzpree's summer opening will also be a benefit for SOVA.
SOVA, the community food and resource program of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFSLA), operates three L.A. food pantries: one in the Valley, one in Pico-Robertson and one not far from Jar, on Beverly Boulevard near Fairfax Avenue. Each pantry provides free groceries to those in need, as well as supportive services that include legal, job and nutrition counseling and food stamp enrollment.
Requests for SOVA's services have dramatically increased as troubles with the U.S. economy continue to grow. In October, SOVA pantries served more than 6,200 clients, up 30 percent from the previous April, according to Susie Forer-Dehrey, associate executive director of JFSLA.
"SOVA has traditionally been seen as a place to drop off food, which is wonderful. But we're also trying to educate the community that running the pantries takes money, too," Forer-Dehrey said.
Among the attendees were Paul Castro, JFSLA executive director and CEO; Joan Mithers, JFSLA's director of food, hunger and community support programs, and Bernie Briskin, CEO of Arden Group. A longtime Jar and SOVA supporter, Briskin pronounced the evening a "fabulous success."
-- Anita K. Kantrowitz, Contributing Writer