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Connecting for Good at the REC Dinner

Like honoree Jesse Sharf, this year’s Real Estate & Construction (REC) Division dinner was truly one of a kind, with a record-setting 1,500 attendees filling the ballroom at the Century Hyatt to its capacity. During a humorous and deeply personal speech, Jesse expressed gratitude to his parents, Pnina and Moe, for instilling Jewish values in him throughout his childhood, and to his wife, Stacy, for all she does to make their lives better­—as well as the lives of countless others through her philanthropic endeavors. Jesse also talked about how proud he is of their sons Jonah, Jeremiah and Joshua, and the transition from raising three boys to raising three young men.

As humble as he was to be chosen as this year’s honoree, Jesse spoke passionately as to why he so generously invests his time and resources toward helping others. He told the story of a life-changing moment when he took his young kids to our Federation’s Super Sunday, and how a donor hung up on his oldest child, Josh. “I didn’t want to be that guy—a person who is so unconcerned that he hangs up on folks trying to help strangers.  I realized that the benefits of philanthropy that I had learned as a child were important to me.  And now that I had children, they were even more important. In that moment, I understood that every time I faced a critical decision in my life, I got the lucky break.  Not everyone did. And if I could help someone else by giving a little bit of my time, advice or money, it would be foolish not to do so. And I saw Federation as the key. Here I was, writing a bigger check, giving time, and participating in events, and, like magic, I was helping people. And my children were learning the values that were near and dear to me.”

The theme of the evening was Connecting for Good. And our tribute video featuring Jesse’s family, friends and colleagues provided a light-hearted look at Jesse’s love of connecting people to each other, and to philanthropy– especially with our Federation. Take a few minutes to enjoy:

Michael Rosenfeld, a friend of Jesse’s and owner of the Century Hyatt, thanked all the attendees for coming out in support of Jesse and our Federation. Frank Luntz, the renowned political commentator and pollster, and Jesse’s friend since they were freshman roommates at Penn over 35 years ago, introduced Jesse. Frank had the room roaring out loud as he described their adventures in college and beyond. After reciting several of the words that Stacy Sharf asked that he not use, to the enjoyment of the crowd, Frank got serious and shared his heart-felt appreciation for everything that Jesse and his family have meant to him.

The formal program opened with a welcome by REC Chair Rodney Freeman. This was followed by the singing of the American and Israeli national anthems by Cantor Joseph Gole of Sinai Temple, the invocation by Rabbi Elazar Muskin of Young Israel of Century City, and the work of our Federation by Chairman of the Board Les Bider and President & CEO Jay Sanderson. Following a warm-hearted evening of honor for Jesse and support for our Federation, massive networking and fun ensued at the REC After-Party.

Special thanks to REC Dinner Chairs Ken Kahan, Jonathan Klein, Jon Monkarsh, Brian Shirken, and Mark Weinstein, as well as to REC Dinner Vice Chairs Bryan Berkett, Reuben Berman, Danielle Chayot, Brian Eisendrath, Scott Laurie and Reuben Robin. The event raised $2 million and our largest-ever REC Dinner wouldn’t have been possible without you!

REC is the largest, most active Business & Professionals Division within The Jewish Federation, helping fulfill our mission of caring for Jews in need, engaging with the community and ensuring the Jewish future.  For more information about the Federation’s REC Division, contact Alexandra Kadoche, REC Division Director, at AKadoche@JewishLA.org or David Harris, REC Campaign Associate, at DHarris@JewishLA.org.

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