Seven degrees of separation

Rabbi Jeff Saxe grew up at Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael, and was recently installed in a new post at Congregation Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, Va. Saxe’s sister, Rabbi Julie Saxe-Taller, of Congregation Sherith Israel in S.F., did the honors and proud parents Joanne and Steve Saxe were there for the ceremony. The rabbi emeritus at the Virginia temple is Marin resident Maxine Litwak‘s son’s father-in-law. And Maxine’s son, Alan Litwak, now a rabbi in Florida, and Saxe, are both protégés of Rabbi Michael Barenbaum, now rabbi emeritus at Marin’s Rodef Sholom. Got that?

Making a difference

Roberta Rothman, director of the Jewish Coalition for Learning, reports that students in Bay Area public schools who were tutored by JCL volunteers increased their reading abilities by a remarkable average of five reading levels. The agency surveyed teachers of the tutored students to get the results. JCL is a project of the Jewish Community Relations Council, which places volunteer reading tutors in elementary schools in San Francisco, the Peninsula and the East Bay. Recently joining Rothman on the JCL staff are Judy Pam-Bycel, senior outreach coordinator; Helene Tinkler, San Francisco and East Bay program manager; and Jennifer Advani, Peninsula program manager.

Kids aren’t the only ones benefiting from JCL tutoring. Responding to a questionnaire, volunteer Alex Fraknoi says, “JCL has opened my eyes to an entire new world, and I am having a great time!” Audrey Sockolov writes, “I’m working with a wonderful, dedicated and overworked teacher. I feel I’m helping her in my small way as well as helping students learn reading.”

JCL is recruiting new tutors for training sessions being held this month and January. For information, visit the JCL website at www.jclread.org.

Short shorts …

Helena McMahon, the JCC of San Francisco’s Interfaith Connection director, was featured in a segment about the “December dilemma” (Chanukah/Christmas) on NBC’s “The Today Show.” Also appearing was former Bay Area (now Los Angeles) therapist and author Joel Krohn. You can hear what McMahon has to say on this and other interfaith topics when she and Melissa Whippo guest with Rabbi Eric Weiss on “Mosaic,” which airs Sunday, Dec. 16 at 5 a.m. on CBS … Child psychologist Annye Rothenberg released her third book on parenting last spring, provocatively titled “Mommy and Daddy Are Always Supposed Say Yes — Aren’t They?” Visit www.PerfectingParentingPress.com for info … Stacy Cohen of Belvedere published her first book, “The Kosher Billionaire’s Secret Recipe.” Cohen told Marin Independent Journal reporter Leslie Harlib that “you can feel better than a billionaire in your heart if you live a healthy, kosher lifestyle.” The book includes material about keeping kosher, recipes such as Halibut Livornese with Spinach Mashed Potatoes and Stacy’s Kiss (I Can’t Believe It’s Soy Panna Cotta), plus photos of the writer posing in exotic settings. For a preview, check out www.stacycohen.com.

American Friends of the Hebrew University has opened a Pacific Northwest office in San Francisco. Beth Kyman, formerly with ADL in San Diego, is executive director. The group will offer lectures by visiting professors and prominent members of the scientific and political communities … Alon Shalev, executive director of San Francisco Hillel, reports that sports agent Matt Sosnik kicked off the group’s Graduate Law and Business Mentorship program. Among the mentors are members of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation’s Business Leadership Council, notes Danya Marshman, Hillel’s graduate student life coordinator.

Suzan Berns columnist can be reached at [email protected].