Beth Jacob may have found one of the most admirable mixes for a gala. Not only are the honorees a representation of the diversity of the synagogue, but they are also demure and unpretentious as far as honorees go.
The three women to be honored on Sunday, February 14 at Beth Jacob’s 2016 Gala represent the diversity and understated hard work that portrays the commitment to philanthropy in Orange County. In a synagogue that includes congregants from as far east as mainland China, and as far south as Cape Town, South Africa, Beth Jacob recognizes and provides services for the cultural differences found in traditional, Orthodox Judaism.
Hazel Dyer-Pflaum – Beth Jacob Gala Honoree
Hazel Dyer-Pflaum grew up in an observant home but spoke English and Afrikaans, the national language, at the time, in South Africa. A first generation South African, Hazel grew up in Cape Town and followed her three children to the United States. Jeffrey, Gary, and Carol (Shimoni) Bruss all live in Orange County and have blessed Hazel with eight grandchildren.
Hazel is a fixture at Beth Jacob, not only has she been a congregant and board member, Hazel worked at the shul and retired in 2012 after 12 years. The Jewish community as always been a priority for Hazel, having worked at Tarbut V’ Torah and the JCC prior to Beth Jacob, she has been involved in many Jewish causes and is an ardent supporter of Israel. Says Hazel, “… as Jews we need Israel. I would like to see more American Jews involved for Israel.”
Hazel supports other organizations as well, and has traveled to many conferences around the United States and Israel in support of AIPAC and Jewish National Fund. Locally, Hazel and her husband Peter are also very involved in Chabad at UCI and have worked hard to keep Jewish students at UCI connected to Judaism. As both Hazel and Peter are ardent travelers, Chabad has also provided support to them as well. Utilizing chabad.org, the website has not only provided places for Friday night Shabbat dinner while overseas, but it has provided information to allow for a Jewish perspective when touring a city.
Hazel is being recognized for her lifetime achievements in dedication to, and building of, Orange County and Beth Jacob Congregation Irvine Jewish Institutions. She is incredibly honored to be this year’s main honoree and looks forward to celebrating with her family and friends on February 14.
Nicole Hassan – Adina Kaufman Eichet Chayil Award
Representing two continents, Nicole Hassan is the 2016 recipient of Beth Jacob’s Adina Kaufman Eichet Chayil Award. Born in Tunis, Tunisia Nicole moved with her family to Paris at the age of six. Nicole attended Paris University and earned a degree in economics and a master’s degree in marketing and management. After working in the marketing division of a bank in Paris, Nicole taught general studies in a private Jewish community day school. In 1997, Nicole and her family moved to Irvine to pursue her husband’s business career. They joined Beth Jacob and she has since been involved in many settings, including Beth Jacob’s Board, Purim Hamentashen baking, the Beth Jacob calendar, and the Sephardic Kiddush lunch.
“I am honored to receive this award,” says Nicole. “This award is very close to my heart as I was close friends with Adina Kaufman (Z”L) and have wonderful memories of working with her at all the Beth Jacob events and hosting Adina and her family at my home for Shabbat and the holidays. Nicole continues to live in Irvine with her husband and five children.
Ilana Baumgarten – Community Service Award
Ilana Baumgarten grew up in Santa Rosa, California, a sleepy town north of San Francisco. Her parents made it there via Montreal, Canada and raised a Jewish home that set Ilana and her family on their own respective journeys to Jewish life. For Ilana that journey took her to Irvine 17 years ago where she settled and eventually became involved with Beth Jacob eight years ago.
Ilana was not involved at Beth Jacob immediately; when she became involved she taught Talmud Torah. Then she was trained to be a mashgiach by her predecessor and took over supervision of kashrut at the JCC and Beth Jacob. “I love what I do,” says Ilana. She finds the work fulfilling and it appears a natural position for someone who loves cooking. “It is a part-time position, but a fulltime commitment,” says Ilana.
When asked about how she feels being honored by Beth Jacob, Ilana says “I am of two minds about being honored. I understand, but on the other hand I’m a very behind the scenes kind of person. I don’t like being the center of attention.”
On February 14th, Ilana will get a break from supervision as she attends the gala to receive the Community Service Award. Ilana will be there with her husband and two daughters, age 19 and five.
To find out more about the Beth Jacob Gala, go to www.bethjacobirvine.org.
Lisa Grajewski, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist and adjunct Assistant Professor at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. She has been a contributing writer for Jlife magazine since 2004.