My favorite stories of the year &mdash plus a couple of screw-ups

It’s summer, and I don’t know what to do first: hike to the top of Mount Tam or re-read George Eliot’s “Middlemarch” (man, did that ever sound pompous).

While I make up my mind, it’s time for the Second Annual Golden Jack Awards, my own little self-indulgent prizes conferred upon those j. stories that most moved, grooved and amused me over the past year.

(I arbitrarily named the awards after my cat Jack, the oldest and fattest of my four kitties).

And so, the 2007 Golden Jack Awards go to:

Most Delicious Assignment: This one’s a tie. Last fall I interviewed Jennifer Schilling, a local chef who launched a kugel-baking business out of her home. She visited our downtown office lugging four luscious kugels, which I put out in j.’s kitchen. Staff vultures made quick work of them.

Also, the Raoul Wallenberg Democratic Club celebrated last November’s election victory with a latke party catered by top S.F. restaurants. Among the categories was Most Like Bubbe’s Latke, and my favorite for the most unusual recipe: the Kafka Latke award.

Weirdest Interview: Roseanne Barr, who came to town to play the JCC. Despite the fact I was a big fan of her sit-com (or more likely because of it), I found myself oddly nervous at the start of the interview. She smelled blood and instantly became ice cold, challenging all my questions as stupid. Seconds felt like hours. In a panic, I said maybe we should just cancel the interview, but then the conversation miraculously picked up, and the story turned out fine. Still, ouch!

Most Amazing Interview: Orna Rayn, an Israeli who works for the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation from her home in Metula on the Lebanese border. I spoke with her by phone last summer about the just-launched war with Hezbollah. As we talked, she looked out her window to see Katyusha rockets falling. Orna remained amazingly calm, but at that moment, the threat Israel faced became very real to me.

Scariest Assignment: Last fall I covered an anti-Israel rally at City Hall, which drew every rabid Israel-hater in the nine counties. At one point I wandered over to the barricades, where kaffiyah-topped youths taunted pro-Israel counter-demonstrators across the street. The jerks shouted “We’re gonna kill you, Jew pigs” and the like. How bizarre to stand right next to them, anonymously, knowing they would have wanted to kill me, too, had they known my identity. Luckily I had my beautiful Jews across the street to scurry home to.

Worst Journalism 101 Disaster: For an otherwise fun cover story last August on Jews and crossword puzzles, I misspelled the name of local crossword legend Manny Nosowsky throughout the piece. Not surprisingly, Manny was gracious and forgiving about my screw-up, but I wanted to die.

Most Fun Assignment: Last September’s Chabad Orthodox wedding of Andrea Crawford and David Rubinstein. It was the first of its kind in Sonoma County (hence the assignment). How fun was it? Let’s just say the klezmer band was rocking and there was a bottle of imported single malt scotch at every table.

Best Actor: Corey Fischer for his heartbreaking tour-de-force performance as Willy Loman in Traveling Jewish Theatre’s “Death of a Salesman.”

In Memoriam: This year, death claimed several people I came to know through my work at j., including Sandy Phillips Britt, an outspoken lung cancer patient who lost her battle with the disease; Sylvie Braitmann, a talented French-born entertainer; Louis Heilbronn, who at 99 was still going into his law office every day; and my dear friend Marian Magid of Berkeley, one of the loveliest souls I have ever known. All of blessed memory.

But let’s end this on a high note.

Favorite Story of the Year: My friend Lisa Geduldig (of Kung Pao Kosher Comedy fame) organized a stand-up comedy workshop for residents at the Jewish Home. I wrote about it last July. Teacher Mick Laugs put the 10 seniors through their comic paces, and everyone got laughs. Perhaps their bodies were a bit worn out, but their minds and wits remained razor sharp. Wish you could have been there.

A year ago, I could not have imagined I’d be privileged to cover these stories and so many others of equal worth. I’ve said it before: This is the best job in the world. All I can add is, keep them stories coming.

Dan Pine</b can be reached at [email protected].

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.