Shorts: Bay Area

Berkeley Hillel to dedicate garden to terror victim

When Marla Bennett was a student at U.C. Berkeley, she was heavily involved in cooking Shabbat dinners at Hillel every Friday.

At 2 p.m. Sunday, May 9, Berkeley Hillel will dedicate a garden to Bennett, which will provide flowers and spices for Shabbat dinners yet to come.

Bennett was 24 and in her second year of study at the Hebrew University and Pardes Institute in Jerusalem when a suicide bomber killed her and eight others at the Frank Sinatra cafeteria in 2002.

The public is welcome at the dedication, which will be held at 2736 Bancroft Way. For information, call (510) 845-7793.

Lawsuit delays cemetery plans

A planned Jewish cemetery in Contra Costa County is on hold again after a group of its would-be neighbors filed a last-minute lawsuit.

The Briones Hills Preservation Alliance filed suit on Wednesday, April 23, just beating a one-month window following the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors’ approval of the Gan Shalom cemetery plan.

The BHPA also moved for a re-hearing with the Board of Supervisors, citing new data regarding pollution of Pinole Creek by a potential cemetery.

Frank Winer, the president of Gan Shalom, Inc., expressed extreme frustration, stating he knew the cemetery’s potential neighbors would put up a fight, but he feels it has gotten out of hand.

Edward Shaffer, Gan Shalom’s attorney, was uncertain what sort of delay the lawsuit would entail.

Ukraine immigrant named to S.F. board

Svetlana Kaff has been appointed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to the 15-member Immigrant Rights Commission.

In her new post, Kaff, herself an immigrant, will join co- commissioners in making recommendations to the Board of Supervisors and the mayor to help improve the lives of immigrants regarding education, health care, transportation and other matters.

A Jewish immigrant from Ukraine, Kaff came to America in 1991. She attended public high school and later San Francisco State University, majoring in finance and accounting. Kaff, 29, earned her law degree from Golden Gate University of Law. Since 2002, she has worked for Jewish Family and Children’s Services, specializing in immigration law.

Married with two children, Kaff is a member of Congregation Beth Israel-Judea. “As an immigrant myself, I want to give back to the community,” she said. “I really appreciate everything that was available to me, and I want to continue to give to people who come here. It gives me great satisfaction to see those people succeed.”

Marin JCC auction goes online

It’s a silent auction with a cyber-twist. The Osher Marin Jewish Community Center is set to hold an online fund-raising auction featuring some pretty fancy merchandise for high bidders.

Among the items on the auction block: a private tour of Pixar Animation studios for up to 10 people, a luxury skybox suite for 12 at an upcoming Giants game, a signed and numbered Annieglass bowl and a custom make-over with stylist Andrew Todd.

Bidders should go to between Sunday, May 2, and Wednesday, May 5. For information, call (415) 444-8000.

Student event raises $800 for Israeli paramedics

The Aish HaTorah discovery event put on last month by Students for Magen David Adom raised $800 for the Israeli ambulance service, pushing the grand total raised by the San Francisco organization to more than $2,200.

Founded in October at Hebrew Academy by 17-year-old student Alik Shandrovsky, the organization has since spread to San Francisco’s Lowell High School as well.

For more information about Students for Magen David Adom, or to donate, call (415) 239-0587 or visit

Cantor’s WWII recollections included in new book

Joseph Portnoy, cantor emeritus of San Francisco’s Congregation Emanu-El, recounts his experiences as a combat medic during World War II in a new book called “Tales of Valor” by Howard J. Leavitt.

Portnoy focuses mostly on what it was like to return to France for the 50th anniversary of the Normandy invasion. While Portnoy was not one of those to first land on Omaha Beach, he did land there a few days later, and always felt guilty about the many who lost their lives there.

At first, he wasn’t sure what he intended to get out of his trip to Normandy. That became clear once he got there, however. “I had come on a pilgrimage to pay homage to the soldiers who had died on D-Day and during the Battle of Normandy who now lay beneath these grave markers,” he realized. “Their sacrifice had given me the priceless gift of life for 50 years. I had returned to fulfill a moral obligation to express my humble thanks for this gift.”

“Tales of Valor” is available at or

U.C. Davis gets grant for Judaism course

U.C. Davis is one of six U.S. universities awarded grants to introduce courses in secular Judaism next fall.

The $50,000 grants were awarded by the N.Y.-based Center for Cultural Judaism with support from the Posen Foundation.

Pending annual review, these grants can be renewed for two additional years.

Davis was selected because its faculty has done prior work in using cultural studies to define Jewish identity.

Few Judaic studies programs include courses in the study of secular Judaism. The Posen Foundation and the Center for Cultural Judaism support the idea that the secularization of Judaism is a vital and irrefutable part of modern Jewish life, and requires study and understanding with respect to its history.