Good news from friends in Israel

Shmuel ben Tovim wants his friends in the Bay Area to know about his latest gig: He’s chairing an Israel-diaspora relations task force, newly created by the Union of Israeli Mayors. Shmuel, who is mayor of Kfar Shmaryahu, has been a frequent visitor here, as a member and chair of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation’s Amuta (the federation’s advisory board in Israel). The task force is comprised of 20 mayors and one of its goals, Shmuel writes, is to share “know-how on successful models of cooperation between Jewish communities in Israel and worldwide.”

‘Great pride’ in Druze community

Reda Mansour, formerly a vice consul at the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco, now heads the Gulf States Division of Israel’s foreign ministry, reports Rabbi Doug Kahn, exec of the Jewish Community Relations Council. Doug and a group of elected officials met with Reda in Ussifiya, a Druze town north of Haifa, on a JCRC-sponsored visit to Israel last month. He discussed with the group his “great pride” in the role of the Druze community in Israeli society, Doug said. Reda is also working on his doctorate at Haifa University, being a dad to very young children and writing and publishing books of poetry. Joining the public officials on the trip were Julie Brandt, Linda Kalinowski, Doron Levitan, Ron Cohn, Anita Friedman and Gia Daniller.

‘A dirty, poorly lit place for books’

With tongue firmly placed in cheek, that’s how Itzhak Volansky described his 78-year-old McDonald’s Book Shop in a 2001 Jewish Bulletin article. The store, which was called Best Bookshop of 2004 by SF Weekly, is now earthquake-proof (or at least seismically retrofitted) and open for business again. Located on Turk Street in the heart of San Francisco’s Tenderloin, McDonald’s is a mecca for obscure and very old books and publications or, said Volansky, “the bookstore of last resort.” Among the towers of books is a large collection of Judaica including past issues of Tikkun magazine and decades-old copies of the minutes of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation. A man of many talents, when he’s not hanging out in his bookstore, Itzhak can be found tinkering old favorites on a keyboard at clubs and Jewish events.

Kudos & mazel tovs

Victoria Gamburg has won two prestigious awards for a film she shot for her graduate thesis in her native Russia. The SFSU graduate student was honored for both screenwriting and excellence in filmmaking with two Angeles awards from Hollywood’s Family Theater Productions. Her film was selected from 400 submissions. She also won the Princess Grace Award given by Monaco’s royal family and the Princess Grace Foundation. Her parents, with 2-year-old Victoria, fled Russia because they were forbidden from practicing Judaism. … Rabbi Janet Marder of Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills was among 27 rabbis receiving the United Jewish Communities’ 2004 Rabbinical Award at the 2004 General Assembly in Cleveland last month. Sponsored by the UJC Rabbinic Cabinet, the award recognizes rabbis who have contributed time and resources to their local, national and international communities.

Tell us what’s going on! Send your items and info to [email protected].

Suzan Berns is a freelance writer and marketing consultant.