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50 Days of Fun

An evening with sports legend and philanthropist Magic Johnson. A gala and piano bar event honoring retiring Executive Director Beth Shikler while celebrating Shavuot. Angels, Dodgers and Ducks games. Disneyland. Concerts. Lectures. Israeli dancing. Challah baking. Glassmaking. Hiking. It’s a staggering array of events taking place over 50 days, open to Shir Ha-Ma’alot (SHM) members and the entire Jewish community.
    “There’s something for everybody of every age, personality and giving level” at Congregation Shir Ha Ma’alot’s innovative and expansive fundraiser, “50 Days of Fun,” according to Rabbi Bryan Zive, who has served as the congregation’s Sherman Family Assistant Rabbi and Director of Congregational Music since 2019. He added that there are fixed-price and “donate-what-you-can” events, as well the opportunity to bundle events by category. There are also VIP packages.
    Taking place from April 24 to June 4 during the period of omer (the period between the second seder of Passover and Shavuot), “50 Days of Fun” incorporates Jewish elements—guided by the congregation’s four M’s: memory, mitzvah, mentsch making and making meaning—into both Jewish and secular programs. As Eddie Stephens, SHM’s audiovisual director, explained, “We’re finding many ways to expose people to Judaism in a fun and positive light. Knowing it’s going for a great cause touches the soul.”
    The fundraiser grew out of several related factors. Each year, SHM plans a fundraising gala to support its operating budget to provide programming. Because of the pandemic, in 2021, the format was changed to the “This is SHM Zoom-a-Thon,” which had dozens of events throughout the weekend, not just the gala. Because everyone enjoyed the variety of events, and because there is a pent-up demand for in-person programs, SHM is trying to capture the same enthusiastic and participatory feel of the Zoom-a-Thon. This year, there is a combination of in-person and virtual events that provide opportunities to donate to the temple while having fun.
    “50 Days of Fun,” the congregation’s main annual fundraiser to support operations, programming and staffing, has an added impetus. In July 2022, SHM would like to add two significant staff positions: an assistant director of education and a programming and engagement director.
    “Our growing membership and thriving religious school and youth department need and deserve additional talent and attention to continue making the SHM youth community better than ever,” Rabbi Zive said. The goal of “50 Days of Fun” is to net $250,000 to support ongoing programs and add these positions.
    “The congregation has 650 families and is growing, but we still keep the sense of a small community where you’re not just a number or a person on a membership list,” Stephens added. “That feeling trickles down through the staff.”
    The signature event for “50 Days of Fun” is an evening with Earvin “Magic” Johnson on May 7. Known worldwide for being an NBA world champion, MVP and all star with the Los Angeles Lakers and gold medal winner with the 1992 United States Olympic Men’s Basketball “Dream Team,” as well as an influential entrepreneur, community advocate and co-owner of Los Angeles Dodgers, “Magic” will talk about his experiences, his personal and career growth and challenges and how to channel that energy to foster positivity in the world.
    As Rabbi Zive said, “Magic is a philanthropic influencer, a role model who upholds Jewish values. He’s one of the biggest celebrities, and he’s a mentsch.”
    Another highlight of “50 Days of Fun” is the rabbi’s concert featuring a jazz trio and Denver vocalist Leah Hamilton on May 14. This musical night to remember will include musical theater, Jewish and secular hits.
    The June 4 culminating event of “50 Days of Fun” appropriately honors the congregation’s executive director, Beth Shikler, who is retiring. Congregants and friends are invited to dress up and join SHM for an evening of high-class food, drinks and friendship as the building is transformed into a piano lounge. It will be “a chance to celebrate Shavuot in a different way,” according to Rabbi Zive.
    He summarized, “It’s all about having fun in a safe way while learning about our Jewish identities. The community coming together, the sense of kehillah, is one of the most important ideas in Judaism.”
    To learn more about “50 Days of Fun” and to be part of the action, visit www.shm.50days.org.  


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