Elon Gold, the comedian and emcee, on stage during Solomon Society’s 2018 Late Night event.
— Photo courtesy JFFS ©Four years ago, my family packed our bags and moved to Orange County. As jaded New Yorkers, we were a bit wary of what we would find here other than Disneyland and “Real Housewives.” What will the community be like? Were there any Jews there?
Prior to moving to Corona del Mar, I lived in New York City for 30 years where my wife and I raised our family. As a New Yorker, I generally took my “Jewishness” for granted. Even non-Jews knew that we ate Matza on Passover and fasted on Yom Kippur.
Our kids went to the JCC (Jewish Community Center) pre-school. We were members of a temple and were proud to be Jewish, but again, living in Manhattan, didn’t give it much thought as to how it pertained to the outside world, and like many, were more “Jew-ish” than Jewish.
Once settled in CdM, we discovered that yes, there are “Real Housewives,” beautiful beaches (and Disney). But we also found a passionate, involved, supportive Jewish community. As a distinct minority here, there remain growing pains (my youngest daughter’s school scheduled musical auditions on Rosh Hashana and class picture day on Yom Kippur – the Jewish High Holidays!)
Luckily, a new friend from Newport Beach soon introduced me to “Solomon Society” — the men’s philanthropic group of the Jewish Federation & Family Services of Orange County. This group of men from throughout Orange County are outstanding in giving back to the community, while having the best time ever doing so.
The mission of Solomon Society: “Inspired by the wisdom and leadership of King Solomon, Solomon Society of JFFS is Orange County’s fellowship of dynamic Jewish men — brothers, fathers, sons and friends — who today inspire each other through Jewish values and commitment to community. Through business and social networking, leadership, philanthropy and leveraging its collective power, Solomon Society provides our community with assistance when needed and support for Jews in Orange County, Israel and around the world.”
These men, my “brothers” give back to community in many ways, from providing assistance for local senior adults and Holocaust survivors to providing emergency resources for the unemployed and families in crisis. We’ve come together to support each other through tragedy and through celebration.
We also go out for happy hour, cooking competitions, golf tournaments and celebrate Shabbat at each other’s homes. At every event, there is always a hearty toast of “L’Chaim!” (“to Life”), as we take a moment to celebrate and cherish each other, our community, friends and family and take a moment to look at issues facing Jews and other minorities around the world.
The culmination of the Solomon Society year is our grand celebration: “Late Night.” At this magnificent event, we come together and honor one of our members as “Mensch of the Year.” This year’s “Late Night” event is scheduled for Sept. 19 at the City National Grove of Anaheim.
What qualifies someone to be our Mensch? He is someone who leads by his own example. He is someone who serves “beyond the call of duty.”
He is someone who has made a significant impact for Solomon Society, Jewish Federation & Family Services, our Jewish community or our community at large — a father, son, brother or other man who you think is a MENSCH!
This year’s honoree, Steven J. Kaufman, hits all of these marks, and then some. He goes above and beyond for our community and never asks for praise or recognition, although he is always worthy.
At this year’s Late Night we have two headline comedians, Elon Gold and Gary Gulman (Gulman’s HBO special, “The Depresh” debuts Oct. 5.) Everyone will laugh, eat, drink, and kibbitz with old and new friends. We will honor our Mensch and also listen to a special guest share their story of how Solomon Society and JFFS has helped him — financially, emotionally or both. This is absolutely the most stirring moment of the night, bringing home why we have created this special brotherhood.
One other lesson I discovered through our Jewish community in Orange County: Tikkun Olam, which roughly translates as “repairing the world.” This is truly what Solomon aims to do: “Heal The World.”
We try to do this one small bit at a time. These small bits add up, and we hope and pray that our mission succeeds, and inspires others to also do the same.
In conclusion, please consider this: Celebrate life. Do good for yourself. Do good for others. Blaze it forward, because if you do, you will truly understand what it means to be a Mensch.
And with that, I’ll end this screed with a wish of health, peace a hearty L’Chaim to you all.
For more information and “Late Night” tickets, visit jewishorangecounty.org
David Thalberg lives in Corona Del Mar with his wife and two daughters. He is President of Stryker-Munley Group, a public relations and marketing agency, is a member of Newport Beach’s Temple Bat Yahm and is the chairperson of Solomon Society’s 11th Annual “Late Night” event.