Shorts: Bay Area

Agency recovers stolen money

The Auxiliary at the UCSF Medical Center at Mount Zion on Tuesday, Nov. 14 got back $166,000 in charitable funds that a past president embezzled from the agency.

Gariel “Gary” Freund, 59, of San Francisco, was convicted of 30 counts including grand theft and forgery. The judge ordered Freund to pay the auxiliary an additional $62,000 in interest and court expenses. He is scheduled for sentencing Dec. 6.

Freund served as the president of the auxiliary from 2002 to 2004. He was arrested in May by UCSF campus police following a two-year investigation into the missing funds.

Since its founding by 11 Jewish women in 1897, the auxiliary has given money to programs that assist hospital patients and their caregivers. It is not connected to the Mount Zion Health Fund, which is administered under the aegis of the Jewish Community Endowment Fund.

Founded in the 19th century, Mt. Zion was San Francisco’s Jewish hospital for decades until a 1990 merger with the University of California San Francisco.

The agency will be able to again completely fund programs now that the stolen money has been returned, said Meridithe Mendelsohn, its current president.

Mayor hosting interfaith prayer breakfast

Cantor Roslyn Barak of San Francisco’s Congregation Emanu-El will perform a meal blessing at Mayor Gavin Newsom’s Interfaith Prayer Breakfast this year.

Community programs to reduce violence will be honored at the breakfast, including Jewish Family and Children’s Services’ Dream House.

The ninth annual mayoral prayer breakfast, sponsored by the San Francisco Interfaith Council, will take place 7 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 21 at the Cathedral Hill Hotel, 1101 Van Ness Ave., S.F. Tickets are $25 per person. Call (415) 474-1321 for more information.

Entrants sought for teen essay contest

Areyvut, the New Jersey-based nonprofit dedicated to promoting charity, kindness and social justice, is seeking entries for its B’nai Mitzvah Essay Contest.

Students ages 12 through 15 are invited to write a 250- to 750-word essay describing how and why they have incorporated the values of kindness, charity and social justice into their personal celebrations. Essays should include why a service project was chosen and how the project impacted the celebration.

The deadline for entries is Dec. 1. First-prize winner will be invited to participate in a panel to discuss their project, in addition to other prizes. Winning essays will go on the Areyvut Web site to serve as models for younger students planning their b’nai mitzvah service projects. For more information, visit

Kehilla celebrating triple anniversary

Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont will hold a celebration honoring its founder, Rabbi Burt Jacobson. The event marks a triple anniversary: Jacobson’s 70th birthday, the 40th anniversary of his ordination and the 25th anniversary of the founding of Kehilla School, out of which evolved the congregation. The event takes place Dec. 2.

Jacobson has been a leading figure in the growth of the Jewish Renewal movement. Kehilla is currently the largest Renewal congregation in the world.

The celebration begins with a “rebbe’s tisch,” or teaching by “Rabbi Burt” from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Dec. 2, followed by a celebration from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Both events will be held at Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave., Piedmont. For more information, call (510) 547-2424.

Jewish writing contest for young authors

Young writers entering the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education’s 18th annual creative writing contest this year could win up to $700.

Authors aged 18 to 35 who wish to enter should submit a short story on a Jewish theme or topic by Dec. 31. Up to three winners will be selected, with a $700 prize for the winner, 200 for second place and $100 for third. Visit for more information.

JNF plans first women-only Israel trip

If you’re a man, you’re out of luck this time around. The Jewish National Fund is taking a women-only trip to Israel in May 2007. The “Queen of Sheba Women’s Tour: Israel Through Tears and Laughter” weeklong trip will introduce women to different aspects of Israeli life and society by interacting with and learning about female high school students, soldiers, designers, chefs, businesswomen, mothers and other ordinary women who help shape the fabric of Israel.

From May 26 to June 7, women will visit traditional sites such as Yad Vashem, the Kotel and the Hula Valley, as well as burnt forests up north. They will also meet Bedouin women and experience Shabbat with an old Jerusalemite family. Belly dancing, karaoke, dinners and shopping will also be included. “This is all about women from one side of the world experiencing life as our sisters do on the other side of the world and soaking up the many ambiances of Israel,” Talia Tzour, JNF’s only female emissary and an organizers of the trip, said in a press release. For information or to register, visit or call (877) JNF-TOUR.