Congregation Bais Naftoli was established 23 years ago in memory of Holocaust survivor, Naftoli Friedman. Today, his nephew, attorney Andrew Friedman, is President of the shul and organizes the Annual Breakfast where honorees are chosen for their remarkable contribution to Jewish life. On Sunday, June 28th, this year’s honorees included Hungarian ambassador Mrs. Reka Szemerkenyi and Rabbi Shaul Spira.
Spira serves as youth director of the Bais Naftoli Congregation, and was recognized for his dedicated service and contributions to the youth of the Jewish community. Each Shabbat, Rabbi Spira’s Omen Club brings enthusiasm to the children of the shul. They must participate with a hearty “Amen!” during the reciting of Musaf and prizes are subsequently awarded for the most enthusiastic contributor. The rabbi also teaches at Cheder Los Angeles.
The breakfast event also honored Mrs. Reka Szemerkenyi who became Hungarian Ambassador to the United States back in February. After a long career in politics, she is proud to currently represent the government of Hungary in America. Under this government, Jewish life has been experiencing a renaissance. More than 100,000 Jews still live in Hungary and there is new funding for Jewish education as well as social and cultural programs. 600 cemeteries are being refurbished and shuls are being rebuilt. Szemerkenyi was venerated as she continues to establish peace and harmony between all Hungarians, irrespective of race, color or religion.
Cantor Moti Boyer came from the East Coast to support the event. In a melodious voice he sang the memorial prayer, Kel Moleh Rachamin, in memory of those who perished in the Holocaust.
Many dignitaries attended including Congressman Edward R. Royce (R-Calif.,) Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, 5th District, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, City Controller Ron Galperin, U.S. Marshal David Singer, Los Angeles Fire Chief RalphTerrazas, Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Beatrice Girmala, Hungarian Consul Oliver Pinter, German Consul Stefan Biederman and representatives of the FBI, DEA and CHP.
Congressman Royce spoke of his efforts in support of Israel. He spoke of a meaningful letter that he recently authored, a letter which was signed by 90% of Congress, telling President Obama that Congress would seriously monitor the nuclear deal with Iran. He also said that he knew Israel took every precaution to protect lives in the recent Gaza War. He said he had personally visited the caves that were built by Hamas with the specific goal of causing casualties, taking hostages and staging acts of terrorism.
Congregation Bais Naftoli is now starting on the search for the 2016 honorees. With a Sefardic and Ashkenazi congregation, the shul is located at 221 S. La Brea Ave. For information call (323) 931-2476.