CCJCC honors activist for always going a step beyond

Whether investigating devastation in New Orleans or the plight of Ethiopian Jews, or simply meeting the needs of her own Jewish community, Betsy Fels Pottruck has always been dedicated to lending a hand to those in need.

For that reason, Pottruck has been chosen by the Contra Costa Jewish Community Center as the honoree at its big fundraiser, Gala ’08, at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco on May 10.

“Betsy really goes a step beyond,” says Sherry Rowen, Gala ’08 co-chair. “With her, it is think — [then] act globally, act locally.”

“I am moved,” Pottruck explains, “and therefore I must do something — and get everyone I know to do something.”

Pottruck has traveled overseas many times as an ambassador for Jewish causes, but being honored for her work is something new — and humbling, she says.

“The JCC has been a part of my personal and communal life for decades. If I can help our community by having this fuss, then I guess I must do it.”

A native New Yorker, Pottruck moved with her family to the Bay Area in 1984 and immersed herself in the Jewish community. In 1996 she chaired the major gifts campaign of the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay’s Women’s Philanthropy Board, ultimately becoming its president.

The following year, the Alamo resident joined other Jewish leaders on a trip to Israel, which she describes as “life-changing.”

Other travels include missions with Jewish leaders to the Soviet Union, Russia, Ukraine, Argentina, Morocco, France and Ethiopia. The goal of the trips was to provide monetary and physical support to people in need.

“My focus has been to help wherever my help is needed,” she says.

Pottruck is a member of the National Women’s Philanthropy Board of United Jewish Communities and is also on the board of the East Bay Federation.

A longtime member at Temple Isaiah in Lafayette, Pottruck has served as the chair of the federation’s annual campaign and its Choices dinner. She is a former board member of Reutlinger Community for Jewish Living, and a lifetime member of Hadassah and the Contra Costa JCC.

“As my father told me,” Pottruck says, “you have to take care of the Jewish people, because no one else will.”

In addition to the tribute to Pottruck, the Contra Costa JCC’s Gala ’08 will include silent and live auctions, a dinner and a surprise musical guest. About 300 people are expected to attend, according to a JCC official.

Gala ’08, a fundraiser for the Contra Costa Jewish Community Center, will take place May 10 at the St. Regis Hotel, 125 Third St., S.F. Cocktails at 6 p.m. Tickets: $150 ($100 for ages 35 and under). Transportation and/or hotel rooms are available. For more information, visit, call (925) 938-7800, ext. 234, or email [email protected].