Shorts: Bay Area

Marriage series weds advice, experience

In an effort to debunk a common idea that, after a wedding, all you’re left with are the photos and a large bill, Congregation Emanu-El of San Francisco is providing engaged and newly wed couples with the tools to continue building their relationship using Jewish traditions and values.

“The Chuppah and Beyond” is a six-week series offered by CAFE Emanu-El (Community and Family Education) that incorporates discussions, guest speakers and personal experiences for its participants. The course, which generally enrolls 10 couples, also presents an opportunity to meet others in a Jewish setting.

“It’s a nice way to start off the relationship,” said Leslie Ticktin, family programs coordinator at Emanu-El, which has been presenting the series for several years. “Most of the time, [the series] ends up being a nice group of couples, and they make nice friendships.”

Ticktin facilitates each of the six classes, which are designed to strengthen communication, teach forgiveness, keep the romance alive and overcome potential problems with in-laws, illness and infertility, to name a few. Rabbis, financial planners and a couple who have been married more than 50 years also make appearances, and the last class features a mock Shabbat dinner for the couples.

“It’s a very ‘When Harry Met Sally’ moment,” Ticktin said. “Seeing them interact with one another, it’s very fun.”

The first class in the series is Thursday, Aug. 14. All classes are from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on consecutive Thursdays. The series costs $36 for Emanu-El members and $48 for non-members. For more information, contact Ticktin at [email protected]

Coalition working against Prop. 8

As the California Supreme Court handed down its historic ruling on same-sex marriage May 15, Kol Tzedek was there — celebrating the decision with a chuppah, ketubahs and a wedding cake decorated with sprinkles and rose petals.

Nearly three months later, Kol Tzedek (“Voice of Justice”), a San Francisco-based coalition fighting for LGBT rights, has a new task: Mobilizing the Jewish community against Proposition 8, an amendment to the California Constitution that would only recognize marriage between a man and a woman as valid.

Working with the coalition are members of Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, the LGBT Alliance of the S.F.-based Jewish Comm- unity Federation, Jewish Mosaic and the Progressive Jewish Alliance, among others.

“We feel it’s vital to organize the Jewish community who support the equal right to marry,” said Rachel Biale, the PJA’s regional director for the Bay Area and one of the members of Kol Tzedek. “There are many things we are doing to reach out to people who are sitting on the fence.”

The coalition plans to organize community forums, reach out to rabbis and garner support by making phone calls throughout the Bay Area in an effort to influence the Jewish community’s vote on Election Day, Nov. 4.

“We’re looking to make heart-to-heart connections,” Biale said.

Kol Tzedek does not have a Web site, but Biale said will be ready “in the near future.” In the meantime, e-mail [email protected] for more information.

New ORT director touts her young ideas

Every six weeks, Nikita Putnam travels from Los Angeles to the Bay Area with a mission to reinvent the aging image of ORT America.

It’s been just four months since Putnam acquired her new position as West Coast Regional Advancement Director, and she’s already figured out that, in addition to the required travel, there’s a necessity for a lot of energy.

“ORT America is seen as your grandmother’s organization,” said Putnam, 28, of Los Angeles. “We are trying to reinvigorate and revitalize ORT, and increase awareness on the West Coast to get younger participants to believe in our mission.”

Helping Jews and non-Jews alike, the organization believes in using education to help children and adults around the world attain self-sufficient lifestyles, thus eliminating their reliance on charity. Through a variety of themed fundraisers featuring guest speakers and food, Putnam has gathered a core group of young leaders between the ages of 25 and 40 who have pledged to spread ORT’s message.

Putnam’s group, which started with five members, now boasts close to 300 people. The substantial growth helped reassure Putnam of her decision to leave her job at Twentieth Century Fox to work for a nonprofit. Previous work with AIDS orphans in her native South Africa and Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters also led to her switching careers.

“I realized I wanted to do something more,” Putnam said. “I just didn’t want to donate one day a week, and I knew this was my opportunity.”