It is a rare occasion when one is invited to see the interior of a sprawling estate on Sunset Boulevard, but The Jewish Federation has friends in coveted places, and they certainly know how to induce the young folk into joining up: encourage a philanthropic couple, Beverly and Herb Gelfand, to host 150 or so young professionals at their mansion in Beverly Hills, stage a bar in the parlour and a bar by the pool, toss in some crudites with stuffed mushrooms and there you have it - the future Jewish leaders of America.
Indeed, the evening was socially splendid, and as the influx of guests ascended the entryway, it became obvious that it wasn’t merely young people who craved a peek inside. The evening proved that the Jewish network is in tact - I left with a whole stack of business cards that will probably find their way to the bottom of my undergarment drawer. Still, any sensible Angeleno wants to party like Paris Hilton, but what was really happening here? Boozing and schmoozing? Certainly. Conversations about American politics or the latest spat in the Knesset? Perhaps. Strategizing support for Darfur victims and planning visits to the infirm? I can’t say I heard much of that.
Sandwiched between a real-estate finance broker and a Hollywood producer, I learned that a Jew from England, a Jew from Miami and a Jew from Iran all shared an ancestral name-change for protection under persecution. Truth is, this was not the venue for rallying to the cause. Rather, it was a place for cultivating a sense of place; here are your contemporaries, these are the stories you share, this is who you can be someday…
It was branded a “summer bash” from the beginning - mixing and mingling in seductive surroundings are virtually compulsory. After all, between spawning successful careers and fostering good works in the community, we hip youngsters deserve a night to don designer drapery. The goal, it seems, is that a touch of glitz will beget a taste for giving, because bounty is most fun when it’s shared. And maybe it’s true, sipping cocktails beneath a Sargent painting will inspire the aspiring to become concerned and responsible civic leaders like the glamorous, generous Gelfands.