A Historic Progressive Conservative Congregation in Valley Village, CA
This Years Gala Honorees
Continuing the path-breaking legacy of his parents, Bruce Whizin has been a lifelong thread woven into the fabric of the Jewish Community. From programs to facilities, from education to technology, the Whizin influence has been generous and profound. Present at the inception of the VJCC, now Adat Ari El, the West Coast Camp Ramah, and the American Jewish University, his journey continues. Instrumental on the boards of many Jewish and secular organizations, Bruce created a few newer ones along his way: The Whizin Center for Continuing Education and The Whizin Center for the Jewish Future at The AJU; The Whizin Center for Bio-Technology at the Technion; and The Whizin Support Foundation at the Community Foundation.Pico Union Project, Hillel, IKAR, Jewish Academy of LA, JAM, ACLU, Schechter Institutes, Jewish Federation of Greater LA, and many more have known Bruce’s love, passion, and support.And still, just 15 months before his 90th birthday, you can find Bruce barefooted (his signature Birkenstocks and compression socks removed) lovingly reading stories to the preschoolers at Yeshiva Ketana.
Estee Copans has considered Adat her home since birth. From childhood memories beginning with pre-school, Zimriyah choir, Kadima, USY, and the Rabbi’s plays, to more recent experiences under the chupah with her rock and support, Andrew Copans, to raising their three children, Talia, Hannah, and Natalie, Adat has been a constant in providing a supportive community. Estee served on Adat’s Early Childhood Center Board as VP of Events and Community Service (2010-2015) as well as on the Synagogue Board Nominating Committee (2015-2018). Additionally, through Abraham’s Tent and together with her twin sister, Joanna Mendelson, Estee organizes Adat volunteers to provide meals for homeless families through Family Promise – an organization dedicated to getting homeless families back on their feet. Estee attended college at Emory University and received her Master’s in public health from UCLA. Her past experience includes involvement with AmeriCorps Literacy Program, American Cancer Society, Department of Human Resources Anti-Tobacco Agency, Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Cancer Center, and for the past 14 years Kaiser Permanente. Most recently, she led the Program Management team to build the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine - offering free tuition to under-represented minorities in medicine.
The Adat Ari El community has been home to Joanna Mendelson from simchat bat to the chupah, and beyond. It is in this nurturing environment that strong roots were sown, propelling her on a life built on Jewish values. As a 20-year veteran with the ADL, Joanna currently serves on their national team, as part of their Center on Extremism. In this role she provides expertise, analysis, and training that enable law enforcement, public officials, and community leaders to identify and counter emerging extremist threats facing our nation. Joanna has testified as a subject matter expert on racist skinheads, trained over 12,000 law enforcement officials around the country, and partnered with them to expose and remedy hatred and bigotry. Along with her sister Estee, she has been instrumental in engaging the AAE’s community in Family Promise of Verdugos, connecting Adat families with the opportunity to provide meals for some of Los Angeles’ growing homeless population. Together with her husband, Lee, who currently serves on the Adat Board of Directors, they are raising their three daughters, Ellie, Sasha, and Macie, who are each immersed and thriving in the Synagogue’s incredible learning communities.