Giving California a voice in Jewish policy

It's rare indeed that a Californian gets a leadership position at a national Jewish organization. Headquartered in New York or Washington, many of the agencies lack West Coast representation on their boards. By ruling out potential leaders from the Bay Area or Los Angeles, those groups are ignoring two major Jewish communities.

But things are starting to change — finally.

Next week, Rabbi Martin Weiner of San Francisco Congregation Sherith Israel becomes president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the rabbinical arm of the Reform movement.

The vice president also comes from a local synagogue — Rabbi Janet Marder of Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, In two years, when she succeeds Weiner, Marder will become the CCAR's first woman president.

But that isn't all.

Amy Friedkin, former president of the Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay, is the president-elect of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. With the mounting problems in the Mideast, she is bound to play a major role dealing with Congress and the Bush administration on issues paramount to the Jewish state.

All three appointments are good ones. Weiner, Marder and Friedkin come to their national roles with a deep understanding of the issues facing American and Israeli Jews today. And they bring with them the good California sense that the old-and-tried ways may not be good enough. They are three individuals who won't hesitate to try something new and different.

All three will need to do some bicoastal traveling. Many other local Jewish leaders would also accept that inconvenience if asked to take key roles in national Jewish organizations.

If the organizations look west of the Rockies, they will find a tremendous pool of talent — and the talent cultivated in California might bring a new, enlightened agenda to the American Jewish community.

We look forward to watching Weiner, Marder and Friedkin do just that.