The event sought to raise money to support the Magen David Adom, Israel’s ambulance, blood-services, and disaster-relief organization. The organization’s Emergency Medical Technicians respond to victims of terror attacks as well as civilian emergency calls. Magen David Adom also operates Israel’s only blood bank.
The single blood bank that serves the entirety of Israel’s 8 million people is an above-ground facility. As the 2014 conflict with Hamas made apparent, no portion of Israel is safe from rocket fire. This leaves the current blood bank exposed and at risk.
Continued blood production processes are vital during war-time emergencies in order to minimize casualties of IDF soldiers and civilian victims alike. The only way to ensure the safety of Israel’s blood supply is to build a new, fully sheltered, underground blood center.
Though Magen David Adom is the only organization mandated by the Israeli government to supply blood services and disaster relief, it is not a government agency. Only 6% of its annual budget comes from government funding. Magen David Adom relies almost entirely on donors. The host of the fundraiser, American Friends of Magen David Adom, is the largest supporter of Magen David Adom worldwide.
The Red Star Ball featured a special guest performance by comedian Jerry Seinfeld. Following a film depicting the life-saving work of Magen David Adom, Seinfeld appeared on stage and joked about the contrast between the work of the volunteers and his job as a comedian. Seinfeld is a longtime supporter of the American Red Cross (Magen David Adom is the Israeli version of the Red Cross). He is scheduled to perform four sold-out shows in Israel this December.
The Red Star Ball honored Gila and Adam Milstein, Ruth Flinkman-Marandy, Ben Marandy, and Barak Raviv for their humanitarian work and achievements.
The donations garnered at the Red Star Ball exceeded expectations! Over $12 million has been raised as of the date of this posting. But the job is not yet done! More funds are needed for the building of the underground facility and continued funding is needed for ongoing operations of Magen David Adom. Donations can be made at www.afdma.org
More photos from the event:
Photo credits: Noam Chen and Orly Halevy
Unity and Decorum: A Shabbat Experience for 3,000
Friday night, October 23rd, provided many Shabbat firsts for me: the first time that I walked freely and safely on Pico pavement normally reserved for hundreds of speeding cars, trucks, and buses; the first time that I heard kiddush over kosher wine under the few stars that twinkled in the sky between the sushi restaurant and the dry cleaners on a major street; and the first time that I enjoyed Shabbat dinner with 2,999 local Jews that filled the streets with an air of unity and community that I have only previously witnessed in the narrow streets of Israel.
LA’s inaugural “Shabbat Project 3,000” indeed lived up to its name. The brainchild of Josh Golcheh, an Iranian-American Jewish young professional, and executed by dozens of caring individuals, the event was sold out of all 3,000 street seats and drew an additional 500 attendees after the dinner program. As I poured some bottled water over my hands (during a makeshift Netilat Yadayim pre-bread prayer) and into a trash bin on the corner of Pico Boulevard and Glenville Drive, overlooking the kosher restaurants, Judaica shops, and supermarkets, a few observations came to mind:
LA’s Blessing was a Blessing
The fact that Los Angeles–its elected officials, law enforcement, local businesses, and much more–gave their blessing to this incredible event was a blessing itself. It demonstrates unbelievable passion and professionalism on behalf of the organizers, and invaluable coordination and support and on behalf our city. One can’t help but wonder how much local city council and institutional support Jewish organizers would have received if they had attempted such an event in the suburbs of Paris or Brussels today, or perhaps even American cities two to three decades ago.
We Truly Take Our American Freedoms and Safety for Granted
As I watched the faces of thousands of attendees, many of them Iranian-American Jews, I knew that most were blissfully not contemplative of the fact that such a massive, public gathering of Jews would have been impossible, or at least, inarguably dangerous–a near suicide mission, in fact–in the towns and cities where they were raised in Iran and elsewhere ranging from Yemen to Morocco. Yet how utterly energizing to have seen thousands of free Jews practicing Jewish customs freely, sheltered under the shade of America’s religious freedom, ensured protection, and benevolent asylum. Attendees rejoiced in the streets in cheerful dance, waved large Israeli flags, and recited kiddush under the LA night sky. As an Iranian-Jewish refugee that was redeemed many years ago by the U.S., I was deeply moved and grateful, and I wished my great-grandparents, who had been born and died in Tehran, and been alive to have witnessed 3,000 Jews freely celebrating Shabbat in an American street.
If You Had Security Concerns, You Weren’t Alone
In light of the recent attacks against Jews all over Israel–random, hideous, vicious attacks featuring knives, meat cleavers, guns, and more–it was no wonder that Jews in Los Angeles and all over the world have been slightly on edge at public outings and gatherings. And there was no larger gathering of Jews in Los Angeles in the past few weeks than at Shabbat 3000, where logic would have dictated that attendees would have been literal sitting ducks, celebrating Shabbat and enjoying dinner right in the middle of the street. Each of us seemed to know at least one individual or family that had skipped the event due to reasonable security concerns. Half-truths and speculations in the days and weeks leading up to the dinner either underestimated safety measures or in some cases, exaggerated them, as when rumors began to circulate that there would be snipers on the roofs of nearby businesses and residences to keep attendees extra safe. In the end, the event was safe, civil, and peaceful, due of course to strict entrance policies, hired security personnel, local law enforcement, and good old-fashioned prayer and faith on the part of attendees.
Compliance Over Complaints
Nowhere else in Los Angeles could thousands of people have congregated for a community-wide event without so much as a loudspeaker or microphone. Event coordinators, let alone outside observers, would have found it unfathomable to have held such a gathering without at least one commanding voice emanating from a stage, directing attendees, reviewing guidelines, and at least uttering a community call to break bread. A few attendees even expressed frustration over the palpable lack of one grand voice emanating from a Rabbi to lead kiddush or a community leader to welcome everyone to the event. Yet that was precisely what made Shabbat 3000 more than a community dinner or simply another chance for young Jews to mingle in Los Angeles; part of earning its namesake was that the event complied with Shabbat and the regulations that Jews have observed in similar fashions for thousands of years. No loudspeaker or microphone needed. Compliance trumped complaints.
As mentioned, Josh Golcheh was joined by passionate community leaders in bringing the program to life. The following is a brief interview with Golcheh:
Tabby Refael (TR): What was your involvement with “Shabbat Project 3,000?”
Josh Golcheh (JG): I was the Event Director, led by my organization, United Nation of Hashem (UNOH). Dara Abaei of Jewish Unity Network (JUN) was my partner. I was in charge of the oversight and management of the program. Josh Banaf and Daniel Braum (both of UNOH) were in charge of operations.
TR: What motivated you to get involved? Why was this important to you, and why did you feel it would be important for our community?
JG: I love the idea of the entire Jewish population keeping Shabbat together in unison. Even if you typically don’t keep Shabbat, just accept to keep this one Shabbat; it’s a beautiful idea. I did a program last year that drew 1,000 people. That was amazing on its own, however we had limited capacity and unfortunately had to turn many people away. I wanted to be able to provide an event that would truly be able to include the entire community and host 3,000 people. After realizing there is no venue large enough, I decided to seek street closure. I think the community has too much separation (i.e. Sephardic and Ashkenazi). It’s about time we start doing things together, and be united with our brothers and sisters. What better way of uniting than sharing a Shabbat dinner together. I love Jewish unity, and would do anything I can to present a forum that would allow for it.
TR: What was your experience working with everyone from local law enforcement to elected officials to local businesses?
JG: We had a lot of opposition from many different people, including shuls, politicians, and retails stores (not to mention countless individuals). I want to thank Councilmember Paul Koretz for his support of the project. He was a key political member that ensured our permit. The police were very cooperative as well.
TR: Were you happy with the end result, and will the event be held next year?
JG: I was extremely happy with the result. Deborah Yeroshalmi was very helpful in ensuring the organization of the event. Sharon and Simon catering provided delicious food in abundance and served at the tables, to avoid lines and frustration. All in all, I think we planned every detail necessary for a successful event. I was very pleased with the outcome. The police authorities on staff were extremely impressed to see such a large body of people acting with such high decorum. It was a definite Kiddush Hashem, and sanctification of Hashem. We are planning next year’s event to hopefully be “Shabbat Project 5,000.” Details to follow.
LeDor VaDor LOL event: Give, Light, Laugh
Well, frankly, the odds are that you or someone you know attended LeDor VaDor’s LOL Chanukah (Hannukah?) Comedy Night on Thursday, December 18. That’s a good thing for me, because that means I can keep this short and sweet.
“LOL” was aptly named; I know because I definitely laughed-out-loud that night, mostly thanks to the evening’s MC/LeDor VaDor volunteer, Pauline Loghmana, but the “official” comedians were good, too. After an uplifting menorah lighting directed by Rabbi Menachem Weiss, DJ Nextlevel prepped the full house for a dynamic comedic line up: Tehran, Sherwin Arai, Melissa Shoshahi, Mike Batayeh, Justin Berkman, and Ariel Kashanchi, most of whom Persians love but others might not quite get. Well, it was at Nessah (just sayin’).
LeDor VaDor is a huge team, called a family, of 30 young adults in the LA Jewish Community, whose aim is to strengthen the Jewish roots of this generation and to plant the seeds for the next. They pulled off an unforgettable night, which attracted roughly 600 people (standing room only, folks). The event aimed to collect toys and raise money for children who are part of the Tomchei Shabbat—ok fine, “Shabbos”—program, which aids families who might otherwise be unable to provide for their children. About 200 toys had been collected for these children at the event along with money for the cause, truly encompassing the energy of Chanukah.
Some other stuff I’m supposed to mention are that the food was provided by Yooshi Sushi and Darna Mediterranean Cuisine—yum—and that all of evening’s photo cred goes to Nejati Studio of Photography & Design. Seventeen organizations were involved in LOL’s promotion. From Persian satellite TV shows to 670 a.m. (Radio Iran goosh mikonin), LeDor Vador family members marketed this event till they figuratively bled and the payoff was huge.
Kol Ahava: A Cabaret For Our Family Far Away
Saturday night, November 8, marked a night for which our community had been waiting for months, the Bnai Zion’s Cabaret by Kol Ahava. Upon entry, this event transported me to another era. The decor had a refreshing element of a classic 1920’s burlesque lounge—feathered boas and all—but with a modern twist a la black lights and structured furnishing. That’s a difficult combination to pull off successfully, but this event nailed it.
The Cabaret’s main goal was to raise money for Bnai Zion Medical Center, which has taken on the remarkable task of building an underground, fortified state of the art medical facility in Northern Israel to treat patients without fear of an attack. Only months ago, pre-ceasefire, when Israel’s painful war was the main topic trending on Facebook, when it felt like it was us against the world, it was clear that B’nai Zion should be Kol Ahava’s next focus.
With LA Jews ranging from orthodox to secular (and everything in between), such a high attendance was made possible because Kol Ahava did their best to accommodate various beliefs. Their priority in serving only kosher food and beginning their events after Shabbat ends ensures that most won’t feel excluded. Plus incorporating two rooms, a lounge and a party room, allowed for people to choose the type of night they wanted to have. It’s a balancing act to which I know I can relate, and the coordinators did a great job.
The “minglers” could eat food catered by Simon, enjoy the crepe bar (it was too good to just lump in with “food”), drink, watch an aerial dancer, and play at any of the casino tables in each corner of the lounge. Meanwhile, those who wanted to lose themselves on the dance floor could do so in the party room, complete with two bars, jam-packed dance floor, an even more impressive aerial dancer, and DJ Child’s Play spinning on stage.
The attendance of roughly 750 people, Saturday, depicts the immense importance of this cause to the community.
It was truly successful. According to their post-party survey, which generated 80-90% positive feedback, the Kol Ahava general board of 32 (plus their extended team) clearly did something right. The exact number for money raised by this particular event has yet to be determined (it will eventually be posted on Facebook), but since their very recent launch in 2012, has raised over $218,000 for their choice causes. How’s that for some inspiration? If I were wearing a hat I would raise it to them.
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