Kehillat Mogen David Spivak Educational Center hosted its first Gala of Lights event on December 29th, 2016, honoring its founders, Mr. & Mrs. Al & Betty Spivak, as well as prominent board member and contributor, Michael Wolf. Additionally, members of the PTA were honored with the Hakarat Hatov Award: PTA President Roneet Aviv, and Active Board member, Ilaina Davidson.

KMD Spivak Educational Center is a Jewish day school for Pre-Nursery through third grade. The school is inspired by a Reggio Emilia Philosophy of Education and provides a strong academic curriculum for both secular and Judaic studies. Child-led learning and collaborative experiences are born in this experiential environment.

The Gala was held at The Mark on Pico Boulevard. Beautiful hues of blue light graced the walls throughout as guests were greeted at the entry with a large poster of the children of KMD Spivak. Delicious hors d’oeuvres, catered by California Catering, a company owned and run by a parent of KMD Spivak, Dudu Zrihen, were passed during cocktail hour. A Chinese auction table featured items from Clippers and Kings tickets, to a signed poster of The Simpsons TV show, to gift cards for kosher restaurants all over Los Angeles.

As the Gala opened with a parent of the school as the Master of Ceremonies, Ami Kozak of the band Distant Cousins, the evening began with the lighting of the chanukiyah for the seventh night of Chanukah by the Dean and Headmaster, Rabbi Gabriel Elias. The evening progressed with entertainment by two renowned comedians, Wendy Hammers and Marvin Silbermintz. Wendy is an actress and comedian that appeared on Mad About You, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and The Sopranos, while Marvin was a full-time staff writer for the Tonight Show with Jay Leno for over eighteen years.

Following the entertainment portion of the evening, the MC introduced the Director of the school, Cecelie Wizenfeld, who spoke about the beginnings of KMD and introduced a short film, entitled, “What Is Light?” directed and produced by KMD parent Arnon Shorr, an independent film producer, as well as KMD Faculty member Dustin Young, an aspiring actor and independent film producer himself.


Cecelie Wizenfeld, Director of KMDSEC, Betty & Al Spivak, honorees, and Rabbi Gabriel Elias, Dean and Headmaster of KMDSEC. Photos: Naomi Solomon

After the film – which featured short one-liners from KMD students, ages two through eight years old, in response the the questions “What is Light? and “Where do we find light in the holidays?” – Rabbi Elias presented the awards to the honorees. Mr. & Mrs. Spivak were honored with the Founders Award. Mr. Spivak was the founder and owner of the Eastern Mortgage Company, which has operated in Los Angeles for over six decades. Al & Betty Spivak are notable philanthropists, supporting the Yeshiva of Flatbush, Yeshiva University, as well as various Jewish day schools across the Los Angeles community. Michael Wolf was honored with the Chesed Award. Mr. Wolf is founder of the Wolf, Rifkin, Shapiro, Schulman, & Rabkin, LLP Law Firm, which employs 50 lawyers and 200 employees to date. Mr. Wolf provides legal guidance and philanthropic contributions for KMD Spivak as well as synagogues and schools in the Los Angeles area.

Parent honorees included PTA President Roneet Aviv. Mrs. Aviv took the lead as PTA President, serving for the past two years, while playing an active role at KMD Spivak. Ilaina Davidson has been a very supportive and active parent at KMD Spivak since its humble beginning. Mrs. Davidson now serves on the board of the school as parent representative alongside Mrs. Aviv. Both received the Hakarat Hatov Award for their service to the school.

Starting with 15 students a mere seven years ago, KMD Spivak has successfully grown to over 100 students, ages two through eight. With plans to add a grade each year until they reach eighth grade, KMD Spivak continues to grow and thrive. With the tremendous success of their first Gala, KMD Spivak is a rising star as a new up and coming Jewish Day School in Los Angeles.