Business & Professional

Marisa Breall


Many people associate April 15 with procrastination and dread, but that’s not the case for the winning Readers’ Choice accountants. From filing 1040s to planning budgets, they keep their clients on track in good and bad financial times.

For 36 years, certified public accountant Steven Kornetsky has been providing sound financial advice in San Francisco and helping his clients develop an economic rationale for their decisions. “Whether clients realize it or not, the decisions they make on their business issues have societal and familial consequences, as well as tax implications,” he says. Kornetsky is proud of the long-lasting, open relationships he builds with his clients.

Jerome Spector of Burr Pilger Mayer, in Palo Alto considers planning essential to financial success. “The future does belong to those who plan for it,” the CPA says. That preparation is not only related to filing taxes. “The starting points for any family planning are financial goals and long-term planning. This means looking at expenditures as well as income.” Spector aides his clients in creating a budget and sticking to it.

Michael D. Miller in San Francisco and Lynn Kurn in San Carlos came in second.


 1st Place

San Francisco

Steven Kornetsky

Steven Kornetsky & Associates

(415) 986-2255

South Bay/Peninsula

Jerome B. Spector

Burr Pilger Mayer

Palo Alto

(650) 855-6800


 2nd Place

San Francisco

Michael D. Miller

(415) 495-5533

South Bay/Peninsula

Lynn Kurn

Johnson & Kurn LLP

San Carlos

(650) 592-2967

Financial services adviser

Let’s face it: The economy is recovering slowly (think the pace of a snail, tortoise, sloth or any other extremely lethargic animal). All across the Bay Area, people feeling the impact of the weakened economy are turning to top-notch financial services experts for support and advice.

Ira Fateman, winner in San Francisco, helps his clients achieve their financial goals. But not just his clients — he often takes his wealth of knowledge beyond the office walls at SAS Financial Services, where he is a principal financial planner, financial adviser and investment manager. Fateman recently taught two “Financial Fitness” workshops at the JCC of San Francisco in association with the Hebrew Free Loan Association.

David Gould of Piedmont’s Gould Financial Resources has been working in financial planning in one way or another for 40 years. Both a financial planner and an investment adviser, he helps clients work out strategies for their financial futures. His enjoyment of problem-solving and desire to help people make him a Readers’ Choice winner for the fourth year in a row.

Tied for first in the East Bay is Oakland’s Phyllis Helfand, a vice president of the Merrill Lynch global private client group. With 27 years of financial planning experience, Helfand has seen and weathered a variety of economic climates. “My experience with many cycles in the market have helped me be a calm in the storm, to help clients stay focused on the long term,” she says.

ELM Advisors is clearly a family shop. Just take a look at the name: Each letter represents a past or current member of the Burlingame portfolio and wealth management group. The E and L stand for husband-and-wife owners (and parents of two children) Elana Liberman and Lorne Abramson, who work together managing client assets. The M is for Elana’s dad, Mark.


 1st Place

San Francisco

Ira Fateman

SAS Financial Services

(415) 421-1213

East Bay

David Gould

Gould Financial Resources


(510) 547-4692

Phyllis C. Helfand

Merrill Lynch


(510) 208-3821

South Bay/Peninsula

ELM Advisors


(650) 697-3013

Insurance agent

If you’re a daredevil but want a little insurance to protect you against skydiving, scuba diving or oil-rigging accidents, Jamie Zimmerman might be the one to call. “I am the agent who could probably find coverage for someone like that,” says Zimmerman, of Oakland. He brokers a wide range of insurance, and is often able to find coverage for those who would otherwise be uninsured. “It’s like applying to college,” Zimmerman says. “I get your scores and grades, and I get you in somewhere.”

Selling insurance is a family affair at Jaffe-Schlossberg. “We’ve been around for over 75 years, when my grandfather started the business,” Adam Jaffe says. Dennis Jaffe, Adam’s father, and Norman Schlossberg are the principals for the full-service agency located in the Richmond District.

Ralph Sklar of San Francisco came in second.


 1st Place

San Francisco

Jaffe-Schlossberg, Inc.

 (415) 221-5340

East Bay

Jamie Zimmerman

Jamie W. Zimmerman & Associates


(510) 893-7512


 2nd Place

San Francisco

Ralph Sklar

Silver Transitions

(415) 839-9640


Barbara Moser, a native New Yorker, began practicing law in San Francisco 20 years ago. “Aggressive” is the adjective most often used to describe the family law and estate planning attorney, she says. “We settle the vast majority of our cases, and we do so on very good terms for our clients because we represent them zealously,” Moser explains.

When Moser isn’t practicing law, she is volunteering and fundraising for Youth Lifeline America. This grassroots organization teaches life skills to kids through art, entertainment and sports. Over the summer, Moser and her sons traveled to St. Louis to participate in the nonprofit’s Free Football and Life Skills Camp for at-risk teens.

Tied for first place is Neil Taxy of San Francisco, who works to connect with his clients in transactional law cases. “Everyone’s situation is unique, and I try to provide an understanding and warmth in a process that at times, in its nature, can be stressful,” Taxy says. His interests go beyond real estate and intellectual property – Taxy sits on the boards of the Jewish Community High School of the Bay in San Francisco and Beth Jacob Congregation in Oakland.

From espionage to mortgage fraud, the cases and clients that defense attorney Randy Sue Pollock of Oakland has represented run the gamut. After 30 years, she says she still enjoys her job. “Each case is unique, and the facts are different,” she says. Pollock started her career in the Stockton public defender’s office and went on to work in the federal public defender’s office in Los Angeles. She now has her own practice in Oakland.

Wayne Lampert of Oakland came in second in the East Bay.

 1st Place

San Francisco

Barbara Moser

Kaye, Moser, Hierbaum LLP

(415) 296-8868


Neil Taxy

Leiland, Parachini, Steinberg, Matzger

& Melnick LLP

(415) 957-1800

East Bay

Randy Sue Pollock

Oakland • (510) 763-9967


 2nd Place

East Bay

Wayne Lampert

Oakland • (510) 834-0500

Mortgage broker

Perplexed by the state of the housing market? You’re not alone. That’s why it’s important to work with experts who understand the constant ups and downs of the market, can track the trends and know how to secure the best loans.

Julia Zagatsky’s clients are in good hands when they turn to her for loans and refinancing options. Customers of this San Francisco mortgage broker rave about her strong work ethic and impressive results.

Guarantee Mortgage Corporation’s Rachel Bernstein is based in San Mateo, but she helps her clients refinance or purchase properties throughout the Bay Area and California. “I enjoy working with people and strategizing to figure out what loan is best for my clients,” she says.

Bob Routt takes the title for best mortgage broker in the East Bay for the third year. How has this Pleasanton broker for the Diversified Mortgage Group stayed so popular? “I keep my clients’ goals at the forefront of my business by making sure I can offer them all of the possible solutions to their problem and offer them the lowest pricing possible,” he says.

Thirty years of experience as a mortgage broker has allowed First Capital Group’s Mark Lachtman of San Rafael to make some useful connections. “We have access to many of the heads of financial institutions, meaning a lot of the time we can shorten up the process,” he says.

In second place was Sue Thomas of La Salle Financial in Oakland.


 1st Place

San Francisco

Julia Zagatsky

Pacific Bay Financial

(415) 682-0312

East Bay

Bob Routt

Diversified Mortgage Group


(925) 426-8383

South Bay/Peninsula

Rachel Bernstein

Guarantee Mortgage Corporation

San Mateo

(650) 212-5050

North Bay

Mark Lachtman

First Capital Group

San Rafael • (415) 485-1080

 2nd Place

East Bay

Sue Thomas

LaSalle Financial Services


(510) 339-4300

Real estate agent

Nana Meyer is seeing a real estate upswing. “The first half of this year has been remarkable,” says Meyer, who sells homes throughout San Francisco. She also helps to organize services at her synagogue, and views her work in real estate as part of her commitment to her community.

Tied for second place in San Francisco is Debbie Herzfeld, a third-generation Bay Area resident who grew up in and around the city. “I know San Francisco like the back of my hand,” says the real estate agent of 28 years. Working with buyers and sellers alike, Herzfeld limits the number of clients she works with at any given time so she can provide all of her customers with outstanding service.

Dana Cohen has been selling real estate for exactly nine years (as of Aug. 23), focusing primarily on the Oakland, Piedmont and Berkeley areas. While these three areas in the East Bay are distinct, Cohen brings her enthusiasm to buying and selling in all three areas. “I enjoy working with homes — I have a real passion for architecture, renovation and seeing the potential in properties,” she says. Cohen’s strong work ethic allows her to build relationships with her clients and have successful outcomes.

Tied for first place in the South Bay/Peninsula are two Alain Pinel Realtors.

Shari Ornstein has taken the first-place spot in our Readers’ Choice poll for the last three years. Living in Stanford, Ornstein helps professors find housing both on and off campus, primarily in Palo Alto and San Carlos. “My practice is people-based — I will help my clients in other parts of the Peninsula,” she says. When Ornstein is not listing homes, she is traveling with her husband and spending time with her grandchildren.

Firsthand experience allowed Susan Sims to understand the challenges of relocating. “I moved to the Peninsula nine years ago and realized how hard it was to find a home,” Sims says. Now she uses her knowledge of the area to make her clients’ moves as seamless as possible.

Cici Piotrkowski loves the location in which she works: “Sonoma County is so special because it has such a well-rounded variety of lifestyles,” she says. Piotrkowski helps families in all stages of life find new homes. The reason for the county’s popularity, she says, is its price point and prime location: “We are very close to San Francisco, 30 miles to the coast, and close to the mountains.”

Deborah Lopez and Katy Dinner of San Francisco, Danielle Keil of Castro Valley and Dafna Mizrahi of Saratoga came in second place.


 1st Place

San Francisco

Nana Meyer

Pacific Union International

(415) 447-6293

Debbie Herzfeld

Paragon Real Estate Group

(415) 338-0118

East Bay

Dana Cohen

The Grubb Co.


(510) 339-0400 ext. 348

South Bay/Peninsula

Shari Ornstein

Alain Pinel Realtors

(650) 543-1077

Susan Sims

Alain Pinel Realtors

(650) 743-1838

North Bay

Cici Piotrkowski

Coldwell Banker


(707) 769-4311


 2nd Place

San Francisco

Deborah Lopez

Paragon Real Estate Group

(415) 738-7084

Katy Dinner

(415) 863-5289

East Bay

Danielle Keil

Coldwell Banker

Castro Valley

(510) 381-7451

South Bay/Peninsula

Dafna Mizrahi

Coldwell Banker


(408) 872-3158

Travel agent

Floating down the Nile River, the warm Mediterranean breeze makes cold San Francisco summers seem like a bad dream. If you can’t take the heat, then a trip to Australia to experience the Outback’s autumn might be more your style. No matter what the vacation fanatasy, Readers’ Choice travel agents can make it a reality.

Linda Margolin of Casto Travel Inc.’s office in San Francisco knows how to plan a trip to paradise. “My passion is the South Pacific,” says Margolin, who specializes in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tahiti. Warm beaches south of the equator not your ideal vacation? Margolin also organizes food and wine tours to culinary hot spots in Italy and organizes group trips to Israel. No matter what the destination, “I listen to the needs and interests of my clients — I take this information and makes their dreams come true.”

 The International Travel Bureau in Walnut Creek has been in the travel business for 65 years. Owner David Parnes believes it is “one of the original agencies in California.” Born and raised in Israel, Parnes knows how to plan the perfect trip to the Jewish state. No matter where clients want to travel, though, the International Travel Bureau can arrange the ultimate getaway.

How would you spend a vacation in Hawaii? Probably not like Burlingame’s Andrea DeGraff, who also won her Readers’ Choice category last year. “I am not a beach person, so when I go to Hawaii I look at hotels,” DeGraff says. In the last year DeGraff has orchestrated “a lot of cruises and a lot of European trips,” as well as many vacations to places of Jewish interest. She conducts Jewish tours to South America, Asia and Europe.

Nancy and Les Burger tied with DeGraff in the South Bay/Peninsula. These married travel agents run Ladera Travel in Menlo Park, a full-service agency that books corporate and leisure trips around the world. New clients commonly come from past customer referrals. “We are so fortunate, because we have a really loyal clientele that we love to work with, and we have a great staff,” says Nancy.

Backpackers and first-class travelers alike will find a helpful travel agent in Tamalpais Travel’s Michal Ron Reihanian. A native Israeli, Reihanian is passionate about creating the best Middle Eastern trips for travelers. She provides all services for travel to Israel, Jordan and Egypt, and tries to keep prices as low as possible. “My rate is usually one-third of any other quote because I work directly with wholesalers,” says Reihanian.


 1st Place

San Francisco

Linda Margolin

Casto Travel Inc.

(415) 273-3825

East Bay

International Travel Bureau

Walnut Creek

(925) 930-7060

South Bay/Peninsula

Andrea DeGraff

Travel Wizards


(650) 696-6900

Nancy and Les Burger

Ladera Travel

Menlo Park

(650) 854-3222

North Bay

Michal Ron Reihanian

Tamalpais Travel


(415) 924-5850