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BDJ Gala 2024               DONATE               About Our Honorees               FAQs

Julie & Alex Fax

Our Migdal David Honorees:

Julie and Alex Fax joined BDJ 27 years ago, and have been leaders almost since they stepped foot in the door. 

Alex is a meticulous baal koreh and a gifted baal tefillah, trained by his grandfather and father. Over his nearly three decades at BDJ, Alex has not only leined and davened regularly, he has taught these skills to dozens of teens and adults as a founder and leader of teen minyan, a tutor for bnai mitzvah, and a teacher of adult classes. He is passionate about helping people advance these skills and serves as a resource to both beginners and regulars.

Alex, who served on the BDJ board and multiple committees, is appreciated for his well-researched and carefully crafted talks, from his regular delivery of Nothing But the Pshat shiurim to inspiring drashot from the bima. 

Alex grew up in Boston and works as an engineer, as did his parents and grandfather. He is a founder of YULA’s robotics teams and volunteered as a Big Brother to a needy teen for five years.

Julie, a native of Los Angeles, is motivated by her deep connection to Jewish history. As the granddaughter of four Holocaust survivors, she appreciates the value of connecting to community and heritage. She wrote for the Jewish Journal for many years, and co-authored eight personal biographies, including a book for Mr. and Mrs. Sassover. She is currently on the communications team at USC Shoah Foundation and writing a book about her grandmother’s Holocaust experience.

As a longtime board member at BDJ, Julie is known for stepping in to help moderate and mediate complex situations, and has also served as a leader in the realm of education, women’s and girls’ spiritual growth and welcoming new members, and she helped lay the foundations to create a welcoming environment for LGBT+ members.  

Together, Julie and Alex are gracious and frequent Shabbat hosts, paying special attention to people new to the community. Julie often prepares meals and shops for those who need a hand.

Julie and Alex, who met at Camp Moshava in California, raised three children at BDJ. Yair and his wife Miriam live in Washington, D.C., where Yair is gabbai at Kesher Israel, as well as a frequent baal koreh and baal tefila. Ezra is an aspiring filmmaker in New York, where he teaches at a Hebrew school and is a member of Downtown Minyan. Neima is a Jewish Studies major at Brandeis University, and has held leadership positions at Hillel, Brandeis Orthodox Minyan, and Jewish Feminists at Brandeis.

Leon Cohen

Our Chasdei David Honoree:

Leon Cohen has been the main pillar of our daily minyan for over a decade. With endless devotion Leon does it all, from being the first to arrive at the Beit Midrash and, if need be, completing the proper set-up of the space, to ensuring that all of the honors are distributed, to patrolling the sidewalk for our “tenth” if we’re falling short. Leon welcomes all who walk through the door, which includes extending a seat and a cup of warm tea to neighbors who hadn’t had a bed to sleep in the night before.

Leon’s chesed  extends far beyond the Beit Midrash. Leon regularly cooks and brings food to friends-in-need around the neighborhood. His Yerushalmi Kugel is legendary in Pico Robertson, and represents only the beginning of his repertoire. Leon serves with love, and receives much love in return.

Leon is the proud parent of four children (it is in fact his children who brought him to BDJ when they first started working as Rechov Yeladim counselors years back) and is the proud grandparent to 19 beautiful grandchildren in Los Angeles, Chicago and Israel. 

Deb & Benny Smith

Our Tzemach David Honorees:

Benny Smith was born in Los Angeles and raised at BDJ. He grew up in Rechov Yeladim, went to Teen Minyan (which was led at the time by fellow honoree Alex Fax), and was a counselor in Rechov Yeladim. After high school, he spent two years in Israel at Yeshivat Lev HaTorah and then went off to New York for college, where he ultimately spent seven years. He met Deb at a Shabbat dinner within weeks of having moved to the Upper West Side from Washington Heights on Deb's first weekend in New York for graduate school.  They relocated to Los Angeles after Deb received a job offer here. After their move, Benny quickly took on leadership roles as a davener and lainer at BDJ. He was the Teen Minyan director during the first years of the pandemic, currently serves on the shul Board, and helps lead the Young Professional Committee. He especially enjoys attending and participating in the 8:45 Minyan. Benny works as a financial advisor at Sagient, helping clients with their insurance and financial planning needs.

Deb Mizrahi Smith was born and raised where Interstate 10 begins in Jacksonville, Florida, and made her way to where the 10 ends in LA. She came for a job and never left! Growing up, Deb never missed a week going to her family's shul for Shabbat davening, and has strong memories of attending Friday night dinners with upwards of 30 people from her extended family in Jacksonville each week. Jewish traditions were instilled in her at a young age. Whether spending a gap year in Israel, attending University of Maryland for college, or living in Atlanta and New York City to obtain her graduate degrees, Deb has had the opportunity to be part of so many unique and vibrant Jewish communities. BDJ has helped continue her love for Judaism and provided her opportunities to grow in leadership roles.  Deb has headed the (Disability) Inclusion Committee at BDJ and also participated on the Seder Nashim Committee. She helps organize women's roles at the Young Professional Minyan each month and currently serves as the chair of the Rechov Yeladim Committee. She loves meeting new people and networking with them as well as connecting YPs with each other and welcoming new parents to the community. As a speech-language pathologist specializing in working with children through her private practice, her passion is helping others. 

When not volunteering at BDJ, Benny and Deb love to spend time with their friends, extended family, and their two daughters, Atara and Vered, and their cat, Chloe.

Sun, March 3 2024 23 Adar I 5784