Romancing The Stones A Power Couple Who Have Found The Formula For a Balanced Life
eet the Stones: Judy and Leonard. By all accounts they are living a charmed life. Married for almost a decade, they have two children, 5 ½-year-old Jonah and 4-year-old Ilana. Both parents work. She is the director of marketing for Crystals at City Center on the strip. He is a personal injury attorney and founding partner at Shook and Stone. They live in a gorgeous home in a prestigious neighborhood, enjoying privilege at a relatively young age. They’re movers and shakers, to be sure: ambitious, achieving the American dream in an economic environment that otherwise threatens it. A beautiful family, building and appreciating a beautiful life. For most, that would suffice. For Judy and Leonard, however, the dream goes beyond the affluence. At the heart of their ascent is integrity, gratitude and giving, informed by time-honored traditions. They’re building not just personal means, but a future based upon an allegiance to Jewish values – G-d, family, community and tikkun olam (Hebrew for repairing the world). Sitting comfortably and casually in the heart of their expansive home – their kitchen – they shared their inspirational story with candor and humor. DAVID: Your story is impressive because it’s not driven by tragic events but rather inspired values and mutual respect and love – an example seldom encountered in the media. Let’s start with how you and Leonard met. JUDY: At the wedding of mutual friends in Miami, where I was born and raised. I was a journalist for a local paper and Leonard was visit-
ing from Vegas where he had already opened Shook and Stone, his law firm. We didn’t connect, however, until months later when I was vacationing on the West Coast and he invited me to visit Vegas. He was the first guy I could easily spend hours talking to. We hit it off. I moved to Las Vegas, worked as a journalist for the Las Vegas Sun and eventually started Vegas magazine as an associate editor. A few years later we got married. DAVID: Did you grow up with a strong Jewish identity? JUDY: Identity, yes, but involvement no. I’m what Leonard calls a Jewban (colloquial for Cuban Jew) … my mother and her family came to Miami from Cuba. My father was a Euro Jew. The focus was to rebuild lives in America. I was surrounded by lots of Jews but it was a very different experience from Leonard’s upbringing. I didn’t get involved in community philanthropy until I met him. DAVID: Leonard, share your background and how it influenced you. LEONARD: I grew up in Los Angeles around philanthropy. My grandparents were leaders in the Jewish community. I have some of my grandfather’s leadership awards on display around the house. Giving back, stepping up to lead and contribute. It’s a part of my DNA. It’s tikkun olam. It’s what you do. Judy and I are now on that journey together. I think we both share this pressure to live not just prosperous, but meaningful lives. To just live for ourselves is an empty existence. By example we want to teach our children to do the same.
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DAVID: You’re both involved in leadership roles in the Jewish community. How did you get started? JUDY: When I met Leonard he was already involved. I got to know and participate in the Jewish community through him. But I’m pleased to say that my involvement with the Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy Council was something I came to on my own. I met someone who asked me to come on board and I agreed. Soon I found myself co-chairing the WPC’s United Luncheon. It was a huge undertaking, but rewarding to be a part of something that raised considerable money that would help so many. DAVID: Have you done anything since? JUDY: Oh, yes. I partnered Crystals with the WPC to host fashion, shopping and fundraising events. I’m especially excited about our upcoming Pomegranate event that I’m co-chairing with two other WPC members, Lacy Schorr and Ellen Schaner. It’s on Feb. 13, 6:30 p.m., at Tableau at the Wynn. We’re so excited to have Mayim Bialik, from The Big Bang Theory, as our special guest speaker. It’s going to be a lot of fun! We hope it will attract a good number of women from the community. DAVID: What is the significance in calling it Pomegranate? JUDY: It’s mentioned in the Torah as the only fruit with 613 seeds, said to represent the 613 mitzvot (commandments) that G-d gave to the Jewish people. It symbolizes doing the right things, helping others. Women who attend and contribute the $1,800 donation receive a gold pomegranate pin with a red ruby, added for each year they give, signifying the seeds. DAVID: Leonard, you recently served as Chairman of the Las Vegas Jewish Federation for two years. You will soon be the President of the JCC (Jewish Community Center of Southern Nevada). How did your philanthropic involvement begin? LEONARD: I did my undergraduate studies at Brandeis University in Boston and law school at Loyola in Los Angeles. My first job was in San Francisco working for the Israeli consulate as assistant to the
consul for economic affairs for the Pacific Northwest. I moved to Las Vegas, wanting to start my own thing, though I first worked for a large law firm in a building where I met my mentor, Neil Galatz, who recently passed away. DAVID: How did he inspire you? LEONARD: He taught me how to practice law – litigation – in a professional, ethical and moral way. He always said that whatever you do, make sure you do it well. Don’t be mediocre. “Mean what you say and say what you mean.” I’m a personal injury attorney because of Neil Galatz. I owe him a lot. He was also very involved in charitable giving, along with his wife. That was inspirational to me as well. DAVID: Is that when you began to get involved? LEONARD: Not quite. First I opened my own practice with a partner, John Shook. That was in 1997. I was in my mid-20s with a growing practice and a good social life, but realized it wasn’t enough for me to be a happy person. That’s when I walked into the Federation and asked how I could help. A great deal of self-worth is gained from helping others, as are meaningful relationships. When you surround yourself with people who share similar values, you become natural friends, almost immediately. DAVID: What do you hope to accomplish as JCC president? LEONARD: I hope to attract more Jews to the Jewish community by creating forums that interest and encourage them to live Jewishly, however that may be. What’s great about the JCC is that it doesn’t seek to define what a Jew is. For some people it’s living Jewishly to play on a Jewish softball league. For others it might be adult Jewish education classes. The JCC has the opportunity to construct a massive tent to welcome people in to participate in whatever might interest them Jewishly. I hope to fill that tent. Some of the challenges will be to develop more programming, raise more money, identify more Jews to reach out to, but we’ll get there. DAVID: How do you balance marriage and family with such busy lives?
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JUDY: There’s no magic bullet. We talk a lot. We cover for each other and share family responsibilities. We have our moments, though, and I’m the stubborn one. But we use humor to get through. That’s important. We’re both very funny. People will ask, “What do you do when the kids get sick?” And we both respond, “No. It’s what do we do when the nanny gets sick?” LEONARD: Taking it a step further – and I don’t say this as often as I should to Judy – I am deeply grateful to her for supporting what I am passionate about in life. Now that comes at a price because I’m not always home for dinner. But I’m passionate about helping others through what I do in business and philanthropy. Judy gives me the opportunity to pursue that. I try, in turn, to encourage her similarly. JUDY: We push each other to be the best we can be. And we respect each other’s advice, even though it can sometimes be hard to hear. And he’s tough. He won’t let me settle for less. It can be annoying at times, but the result is that we elevate each other. DAVID: With all of the personal injury attorneys competing for business out there, how does Shook and Stone differentiate itself? LEONARD: I would have to say we have tons of experience and a lot of integrity. We don’t take short cuts. Our business may grow a little slower than the others, but at the end of the day we give our clients the best representation, even if it means litigating, which is more costly, to get them all they deserve. As a full-service firm with 40 employees and seven attorneys, we don’t just fight for those who have been injured by a third party. We have a large disability and workers’ compensation practice as well. Not all PI firms can claim that. We’re all about helping people. That’s what I learned at a young age, and again later on through Neil. Frankly, it doesn’t matter whether it’s through business or philanthropy. For me it all comes down to doing my best to help people. In addition to Judy and the kids, it’s what gives meaning to my life.
— Lynn Wexler-Margolies
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Itzhak Perlman, Violinist One of the preeminent musicians of the 20th and early-21st centuries. Joie de vivre (French for “joy of life”) comes to mind when speaking with the reigning violin virtuoso of the 20th and early 21st century. Itzhak Perlman’s remarkable artistry has transcended classical music. He is equally beloved for his charm, humanity, master classes, personal views and irrepressible joy in his playing. Perlman was born in 1945 in the British Mandate of Palestine (now Israel). Self-taught on a toy fiddle at age 3, he lost the use of his legs a year later due to polio. He attended the Sulamit Conservatory in Tel Aviv and ultimately the Juilliard School in New York City. His appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1958 propelled the then teenager into the international spotlight. In the decades that followed, he has received more awards and honors than can be mentioned here. He has played for kings, queens and presidents, and has performed a number of movie music scores, including Schindler’s List and Memoirs of a Geisha. He’s appeared with every major orchestra around the world, and has enlightened millions via TV appearances on the Late Show With David Letterman, Sesame Street, the Academy Awards broadcast and even a cooking show on PBS. Perlman lives in New York City with his wife, who is also a classically trained violinist. They have three daughters and two sons.
presented another challenge.
DAVID: You are clearly a musical prodigy. Do you feel an obligation for having been so touched?
PERLMAN: I’m excited to be promoting and performing music with Cantor Yitzchok Meir Helfgot on our recently released CD called Eternal Echoes: Songs and Dances for the Soul for Sony. I find that there is a real communication between voice and violin. The songs come from the cantorial-liturgical Jewish traditions, but for me it’s Jewish comfort music. Everything I recognize from my childhood is in this program. Sheyibone Bays Hamikdosh recalls memories from Shabbat morning prayers in Israel. The wellknown Mizmor L’Dovid from Psalm 23. We end with Kol Nidrei (The opening prayer for the Yom Kippur Friday night service.)
PERLMAN: I don’t view myself that way. I played at an age-appropriate level for a young person with talent. I was not ready at 12 for Carnegie Hall! DAVID: To what then do you attribute your great success? PERLMAN: Four things, I think. A great passion for what I do; a knowing inside that what I’m doing will become inevitable. It was important that people believed in me. I had very supportive parents. I was fortunate to have the best teachers, which is rare. And practice. Without it you are a talent stuck with unfulfilled promise. Mind you, I hated to practice, but what kid doesn’t? DAVID: How did having polio affect your progress? PERLMAN: It didn’t, except that I had to work harder to prove myself. Some were doubtful that I could go the distance with my disability. It never discouraged me. It just
DAVID: You love to teach, in particular the past 15 or so years with your wife at The Perlman Music Program. Can you elaborate on that aspect of your life? PERLMAN: We’re a mom and pop Perlman production! We work well together and share a lot of humor with ourselves and our students. The program is the dream of my wife Toby to provide a humane music education to help shape future musicians, ages 11 through 18. Teaching is not so much what to say but what not to say. A student with talent has a certain kind of magic, which is precious and fragile in its infancy. You have to guide it carefully until it is strong enough, so that when shaken, it won’t break. DAVID: What do you enjoy about conducting? PERLMAN: Conducting has improved my playing. Listening to the orchestra players has changed my point of view about music by enhancing my ability to hear myself when I play. I now rarely play the same piece the same way twice. And being a guest conductor … well, it’s like being a grandparent. When you are through, you can give them back to their parents. DAVID: What lies ahead for you?
DAVID: What are some of the highlights looking back and ahead? PERLMAN: Always enjoying each song, no matter the audience or how many times I’ve played it. Giving my all to everything I do. Inspiring those with disabilities. Mishpacha (Hebrew for family). My wife is my greatest supporter. Hers is the only critique I will ever trust. And continuing to make music … for as long as I can.
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