All Israel, all the time for new JCC department head

If, as Nirit Kedem claims, she is the only JCC employee in the nation solely devoted to Israel programming, she’s certainly in the right place.

An estimated 20,000 Israeli families call the South Bay home, so setting up Kedem as the initial director of the Palo Alto JCC’s Israel Programs Department is an intuitive move.

The Jerusalem-born-and-raised Kedem spent the last six years as director of the San Francisco “Israel House,” a cultural outreach program of the Consulate General.

It’s not so different from her current task — which, in a nutshell, is to connect the area’s Israelis to the Jewish community, and the Jewish community to the Israelis.

“The Israel Programs Department is going to be the umbrella for Israel-related activities for Israelis and the local Jewish community,” said Kedem, who started at her post at the Albert L. Schultz JCC in May.

She will help staff the JCC and Israel Center’s booth at the To Life street festival.

“We want to establish more family and children’s activities. We [already] have a very successful dance program that has been [meeting] three times a week at the JCC for five years.”

On its Web site, the JCC provides Israel Department information in Hebrew, not English.

Kedem so far has been Ms. Entertainment, setting up movie nights, concerts and art shows.

Other events include speakers, holiday events and family programming such as the aforementioned dance classes. There’s also curriculum intended for an Israeli audience, such as Café Ivrit, a monthly gathering for Hebrew-speakers to gather and gab.

The new JCC department was founded in collaboration with the Israel Center of the

S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation. The financial and programming partnership ensures that Israeli speakers, artists and performers headlining San Francisco will now likely have a date or two in the South Bay as well.

While plenty of JCCs across the nation have a heavy emphasis on Israel and Israel-related programs, Palo Alto claims to be the first to appoint an Israeli to spend all day brainstorming how to better serve the Israeli community and better connect it to the general Jewish community.

Mimi Sells, the JCC’s marketing director, noted that Kedem can think about Israel “24/7.” There was a slight pause and both women broke out laughing.

OK, maybe not 24/7.

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.