At Home With David & Miriam Smotrich
“Home is where Miriam is,” David Smotrich, MD says as he welcomes Ranch & Coast to the Rancho Pacifica home he shares with his wife and children. The well-traveled couple has lived, variously, in La Jolla, Rancho Santa Fe, upstate New York, Washington, D.C., and Tel Aviv, where Miriam grew up, and where they later met. But to David, Miriam is always at their homes’ heart, no matter where they reside.
David is the founder and medical director of the fertility center La Jolla IVF, with patients around the world, including royalty and rockers, politicians and pro-athletes, actors and executives. Miriam is a mother, philanthropist, fitness instructor, and fashion icon, the muse and former fit model for designer Yigal Azrouel, her youngest brother. Known for her trademark fedora, she’s arguably one of the most stylish women in town.
The couple met in — of all places — an aerobics class in Tel Aviv. A Los Angeles native and UCLA grad, David was attending medical school there; Miriam, a former drill sergeant in the Israeli Army and a champion European volleyball player, was studying physical education. They fell in love just a week later during a vacation on the Greek island of Myknonos. Married in Ashdod, a picturesque city on the Mediterranean, the couple moved to Albany for David’s internship and residency, and later to Washington, D.C. where he did a fellowship at George Washington University and the National Institutes of Health. When it came to putting down roots, however, San Diego was the couple’s unanimous choice for its weather, lifestyle, and culture. “It has the warmth of a small town,” says David, and is a “wonderful environment for children to grow up.”
The Smotrichs’ Tuscan-style home is a sophisticated mix of the contemporary and the rustic, with sleek furnishings and tumbled marble floors. The family room, with its stone fireplace and wood beam ceilings, has leather couches from Roche Bobois and bold abstracts by Dror Benshetrit, Miriam’s nephew, a designer who has partnered with Alessi, Bentley, Tumi, and Target on projects. Red leather counter stools provide a bright pop of color in the expansive kitchen.
The focal point of the living room is a large painting over the fireplace by the New York-based artist Dov Talpaz. It is an unfinished work, deliberately so, to signify “a story with no end,” David explains. There’s also a well-worn piano from W.W. Kimball and Company. It’s not just for show — all three Smotrich children both play and sing.
Eldest daughter Danielle, a graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, is an actress. Son Ariel, who studies communications and film at USC, was a warm up act for headliner Steven Tyler at last year’s Ronald McDonald House Romp, singing John Legend’s “All of Me,” a song he later reprised at the La Jolla Playhouse Gala. Youngest daughter Gabrielle, who attends La Jolla Country Day, is interested in the sciences and has an “ear” for languages.
Family is important to the Smotrichs, so the dining room, with a long cherry wood table and green suede chairs, can seat 16. Miriam, who loves to entertain, will often host Friday night Shabbat dinners, inviting both Jewish and non-Jewish friends to share their traditions. “Our traditions are mostly about celebrating the sanctity of life and family,” says David.
As a fertility expert, Dr. Smotrich and staff at La Jolla IVF have helped thousands of couples and singles have families through egg donation, surrogacy, and genetic screening of embryos. Patients have included actress Angela Bassett and her husband Courtney Vance, who had twins using surrogacy. In a case that made recent headlines recently, Shayne Lamas Richie, the daughter of actor-director Lorenzo Lamas, is now expecting after her stepmother (Lorenzo’s wife) volunteered to be the surrogate. David helped Shayne and her husband conceive through in vitro fertilization, successfully implanting an embryo into her stepmother’s womb. The family paid tribute to David on the TV show, The Doctors, calling him “a rock star.”
“There’s nothing more special, no greater gift than a child,” David says. “There are a lot of wonderful couples that 20 years ago weren’t able to have a family. We are very, very fortunate to live in a time where we have technologies that can help all sorts of people who’ve had issues being a family.” David’s patients come from all over the world because reproductive laws in many countries ban certain technologies. For example, 40 percent of his patients are from China, where surrogacy is illegal.
The Smotrichs live by “tikkun olam,” Hebrew for “repairing the world,” the belief that humanity has a shared responsibility to make the world a better place. David is on the board of the La Jolla Playhouse; Miriam, on the Ronald McDonald House board. She combines her love of fashion with fundraising to benefit such organizations as Miracle Babies, which helps critically ill newborns and their families. She
co-chaired the Heels2Heal gala in 2013, featuring a fashion show by her brother Yigal. On October 10, she chairs “Moonlight in Casablanca” at The Grand Del Mar.
The couple also supports the Challenged Athletes Foundation and many Jewish causes, including Adopt a Family Foundation, a local nonprofit that provides financial and emotional support to victims of terror attacks in Israel. Raised in Israel, Miriam knows how precipitously life can change. “You have to live day by day to the fullest,” she says. “You never know what will happen tomorrow.” ANDREA NAVERSEN
Photography by Vincent Knakal