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“I Got All My Cousins with Me” at Federation Major Gifts Dinner

We are family! For Federation donors at The Jewish Federation Valley Alliance Major Gifts Dinner April 22nd in Tarzana, this line from an 1980s pop song became an irrefutable fact when author A.J. Jacobs, revealed how many in the room were actually cousins! Our celebration of community and connection was the perfect setting for the research he did prior to the event—all part of his next project, which is about how we are all interrelated.

Addressing his “cousins” at this family reunion of sorts, A.J. shared anecdotes from researching his book, The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. In addition to adapting to the difficulties of faithfully following the Ten Commandments in 21st century New York City, A.J. also discussed other lessons he picked up along the way—gratitude, responsibility and compassion—which resonated with Federation donors.

Guests were greeted by young participants who had just returned from the Federation’s Twinning Program, as well as by teenage girls who are part of our partnership with Rosh Hodesh, Moving Traditions.  Later, Valley Alliance Chair Rochelle Cohen introduced donors to a Community Leadership Institute participant she herself mentors; a young woman who is paired with a special needs teen in our partnership with JFS’ and USY’s Hevreh program; and Jason Periard, our Federation’s Director of Community Security.  Valley Alliance Campaign Co-Chair Karmi Monsher delved further into the Federation’s commitment to security in a passionate address that drew upon on her experience in Israel last summer while the country was under Hamas attack.  She said, “We all know the terror this year did not stop at the borders of Israel. We read with horror about attacks and threats in Europe. None of us is immune. But here in Los Angeles, our Federation leads the community in convening law enforcement, synagogues, schools and other Jewish institutions to ensure the latest safeguards are in place and critical information is shared. We do that because safety and security is a Federation priority.”

The evening raised critical dollars in support of our Federation, and was a triumph thanks to the involvement and energy of our sterling committee, headed by Chairs Lynne & Michael Feldman, and Lisa & George Hess, and our Vice Chairs Stewart & Arlene Bloom, Jodie & Steve Fishman and Claudia & Sandy Samuels—all cousins! Sandy led attendees in the singing of “Hatikvah” in celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut, which began that same evening.

After his keynote address, A.J. invited E. Randol “Randy” Schoenberg, who is currently being portrayed by Ryan Reynolds in the film Woman in Gold and who assists him with genealogical research, to say a few words. Randy, president of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust and curator of Geni.com, also mused about the power of connection. Following the dinner, A.J. Jacobs gathered with young adult guests and graciously signed copies of his book.

For more information about The Jewish Federation Valley Alliance Campaign, please contact Lori Tessel at (818) 668-2344 or LTessel@JewishLA.org.

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