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Harvesting ‘Community’ With Netiya



One of the best ways to spend a winter day in Los Angeles is with your hands in the soil of a vegetable garden harvesting a stalk of broccoli. That’s exactly how the 4th graders at Valley Beth Shalom Harold M. Schulweis Day School spent Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this year, partnering with Netiya, the interfaith food justice network.
Parents and siblings joined the students during this national day of service to harvest brussels sprouts, rosemary, and Swiss chard from the Shared Earth Project. This joint community garden serving the Unitarian Universalist Church of Studio City, Temple Beth Ohr, and Congregation Tikkun Olam was installed with Netiya’s guidance.

The Los Angeles-based nonprofit, founded by Rabbi Noah Zvi Farkas of VBS in 2010, cultivates gardens on unused congregational land to grow and tithe nutritious food. It fosters collaboration around food procurement and food relief, so that Angelenos of all faiths can have greater access to food that is worthy of a blessing.

“For Netiya, urban gardening on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a powerful community tool for our congregations, said Devorah Brous, Netiya founding executive director. “It really brings home the message that access to healthy food is a right worth organizing for.”netiyaaa

Since March 2011, the network’s Just Garden program has worked with organizations to install and/or upgrade 12 sustainable gardens in organizations such as Ikar, Prince of Peace Church and the Masjid Bilal Mosque. Produce from the gardens goes through a reverse tithing – 90% to be donated, 10% for the institution.

According to Kim Schaeffler, Netiya’s education representative, “when people connect back with nature, it enables a greater spiritual connection. People are part of an interdependent environment where everything has itsnetiya purposes and value. It’s important for us to understand that and be good global stewards.”

Netiya’s Just Foods program, the educational arm, works with institutions to help them make informed and ethical choices about procuring food and distributing leftover or community-grown food.“This program creates educational content designed to help expand understanding of the issues related to our broken food system,” Brous said. “We develop material for celebrating our harvest festivals and approach community building through growing food and sourcing food locally.”

“There are many important life lessons that our students learn through gardening”, said Rabbi Avi Taff of the Day School.  “Taking care of the earth, learning to be self-sustaining while at the same time leaving the corners of our fields for the poor.”

Monday’s harvesting activities were part of the 4th graders family experience in which students and their families participate in their mitzvah project to feed the hungry. Throughout the year they have the opportunity to volunteer on a Sunday at the SOVA food bank, take part in experiences like Netiya’s Just Gardens, and help feed the hungry with Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission. The 4th graders also collect canned food on a weekly basis, and on every Rosh Chodesh (new moon) the students bring in fresh produce, either purchased or from their home gardens, to donate to SOVA.  In the last two months they have donated over 1,000 pounds of fresh produce.

Dana Hadl, Netiya board member and director of the synagogue’s Community Supported Agriculture program, feels strongly that fresh produce should not be a privilege. “I’m happy to be working with an organization that is so committed to food justice.” Her daughter Lilah, 10, liked being surround by the garden’s beauty and Ari, 6, liked learning about the plants and tasting them.

Sunny Rad thought it was “such a valuable experience for our kids to see that everyone deserves to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables.” For Noah, 7, helping in the garden meant helping the homeless. Ten year old Jasmine “liked the garden because people can stop eating canned food and start making better food choices by eating more fruits and vegetables.”

Rose Bicas-Dolgen, 9, especially liked harvesting the broccoli. “I think it’s important to plant, harvest and donate fresh produce,” she said, “because everyone should be able to have fresh fruits and vegetables on their table because they are yummy and nutritious.”

Monday’s harvest was taken to SOVA by Heather Binder and her boys Ben, 9 and Adam, 11. Ben thought the composting was really cool because he didn’t know plants could be turned into dirt. His brother Adam said working in the garden on Martin Luther King Day was special because he felt like he made a difference in the world.

“Netiya has become a hub for interfaith food justice work in the city”, Brous said. “This has been our intention from the moment we set down our roots. All over the city fallow land comes to blush with fertility, feeding those who are food insecure.”




Bobbi Rubinstein is a writer, photographer and award-winning publicist. She was one of Netiya's original founding members. Her website is

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IsraAID is launching the Humanitarian Professionals Network (IHPN) in Los Angeles and Bay Area



 World-renowned Israeli Humanitarian and disaster relief organization expands presence in U.S. by offering Americans training andopportunities for Disaster relief deployment

Los Angeles, CA – On January 10, 2019, in Los Angeles, disaster relief NGO IsraAID will launch its new aid initiative, The IsraAID Humanitarian Professionals Network (IHPN), an elite program that trains doctors, dentists, nurses, engineers and mental health professionals in disaster response and deploys them around the world to helpsave lives.

IHPN members become part of a network of likeminded professionals at the top of theirfields, joining a robust roster of professionals in Israel, and have a chanceto share Israel’s humanitarian ethos with communities in need. Current IsraAID missions span disasters such as the wildfires in California, refugee crises in Greece, Kenya, Bangladesh, violence in Uganda, and cyclones in Vanuatu.

“IsraAID draws on Israeli social innovation and expertise to benefit people in need around the world. We are now leveraging our organization’s unique capabilities to train professionals in the U.S. interested in developing life-saving skills and joining humanitarian relief missions globally, hand in hand with professionals from Israel” said Seth H. Davis, Executive Director of IsraAID U.S. “IHPN will equip skilled individuals in hands-on disaster relief experience and provide enhanced capacity if local disaster were too strike.”

The first event, entitled “What You Need to Know About Humanitarian Aid,” will feature speaker Tim Burke, MA, MPH, who lead IsraAID’s work in South Sudan for five years, where he oversaw programs in public health and post-conflict development. Subsequent speakers include atmospheric physicist Colin Price and refugee crises expert Dr. Nir Boms.

With deployment in 49 countries, and currently active in 19 countries, IsraAID is an expert in training professionals to deploy. In the U.S. alone in the last year, IsraAID has provided humanitarian relief in Florida, Texas, North Carolina, California, and Puerto Rico.

“IsraAID will make Los Angeles more secure by leveraging their unique expertise in disaster response to train professionals in our community,” said [Paul Koretz]. “I look forward to working with IsraAID to help them rollout their IHPN program in California”

Professionals interested in attending should RSVP here  and/or learn more and join the network here.


About IHPN: The IsraAID HumanitarianProfessionals Network (IHPN) is an exclusive network of professionals at thevanguard of global aid relief activities. Members of IHPN receive expert briefings, emergency-preparedness training, access to enrichment with field leaders,and priority access to deploy on IsraAID missions.

About IsraAID: IsraAID is anon-governmental organization that provides lifesaving emergency relief andlong-term, sustainable solutions for populations affected by natural disasters, epidemics and post-conflict situations. Our teams leverage Israeli innovation,work in full collaboration with local partners, and educate the public and professionals on disaster prevention and relief. IsraAID (US) Global Humanitarian Assistance, Inc. is an independent 501c(3)organization.

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Nothing Matters More Than This



We live in a world where FOCUS is even MORE important than your INTELLIGENCE.

From our never-ending Facebook feed, to our freshly-updated YouTube subscription page, to our email inbox, we live in an abundant world of information.

However, is it really necessary to consume all of this general information?

Will it ever be useful? Will it ever make any difference in your life?

No. Most likely not.

Learning a little about a lot of different things doesn’t really amount to much.

Instead, you should FOCUS.

Focus on learning and applying ONE skill as intensely and deeply as possible.

Focus is where mastery kicks in.

Kobe Bryant wasn’t the best basketball player that ever played because he was the best all-around person.

Kobe Bryant was world-class because he was absolutely great at ONE thing and one thing only: playing basketball.

So instead of consuming as much general information as you possibly can… instead FOCUS.

FOCUS on one topic. FOCUS on one task. FOCUS on one goal.

Because today, more than ever, focus is way more important than your intelligence.

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New Initiative Launched to Restore Memories and a Legacy



On Tuesday January 30th, Thirty Years After (30 YA) hosted the Legacy Launch, one of their largest, most innovative and interactive projects to date, at the Ahyra Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills.

Sam Yebri, President of Thirty Years After, explains the Legacy Project, “The Project is a grassroots initiative that will help preserve and honor the Iranian  Jewish experience through video for future generations,  and provide an opportunity for every family to capture their parents’  and grandparents’ most compelling memories and anecdotes before it is  too late.”

Doors opened to guest at 7:00 pm where they were greeted with smiles from 30 YA volunteers and staff members. The lobby was packed with guests who were treated to wonderful Iranian street food not often seen or eaten in the United States. The delicious cuisine included Labu (beets baked in their own juice, and typically served steaming hot in a street cart during the dead of winter), Baghali (beans topped with spices, typically served the same way as Labu), Dizi (a meat mash/stew– usually made with lamb, but made with beef and chickpeas at our event), Shohleh Zard (saffron rice pudding), Chos-e-fil (otherwise known as popcorn) and Mahi-Cheh Polo (herbed rice with beef shanks).

The large number of attendees was a testament to the genuine and unprecedented support for the new generation of leaders of the Los Angeles Iranian-American Jewish community.  The printed program for the event listed over 25 generous families and businesses that supported the Legacy Launch and congratulated 30 YA on celebrating their 10 year anniversary.

This event was magical because of the broad range of emotions experienced just by being shoulder to shoulder with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins born in Tehran. Sadness is one emotion that could have been felt while standing in the room, because of all of the untold stories that were not recorded, told or heard. How many stories have we “missed out” on because family members have passed away, younger generations have gone off to college, or simply because we took time for granted? At the Legacy Launch, time stood still for a few hours for the sake of a community recording the past, but very aware of time, embracing beloved memories on video, but also progressively moving toward the future.

Yebri explained, “Our history informs our present and powers our future. This is especially true when our families and community have such a rich legacy of inspiring memories and experiences in Iran and during our exodus to America.  30 Years After  is thrilled to launch ‘The Legacy Project’ as part of the organization’s 10th anniversary celebration.”

Bobby Zolekhian, former President of Nessah Young Professionals expressed, “It was one of the most inspirational events I have been to. I am recruiting people to share their stories. This is something extraordinary!”

Featured guest speakers during the screening included Mrs. Susan Azizzadeh, President of the Iranian American Jewish Federation, Dr. Saba Soomekh, Assistant Director of Interreligious and Intercommunity Affairs at AJC, Megan Nemandoust, Margalit Rosenthal, Liora Simozar and 30 YA President, Sam Yebri.

The dynamic presentation of the screening and its intimate interviews clearly validated that the second and third generations of Iranian Jews growing up in the United States are confidently embracing their unspoken responsibility to record the stories of generations before them for a purpose with a greater cause– maintaining their identity, culture, and traditions.

Learn more about preserving your legacy with 30 YA at


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december, 2019

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