Readers Choice: Community

Fundraising Event

Fundraisers are one of the ways the Jewish community shows its generosity and commitment — and its ability to have a good time.

The Jewish Community High School of the Bay in San Francisco held its annual spring gala in May and raised more than $250,000 for its tuition assistance program. “Without the scholarship fund, there would be some students who do not get a Jewish education,” says Julie Vlcek-Burke, director of development. A cocktail party featuring student performances was held at the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life in Berkeley.

 S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children’s Services raised $1.5 million in two major fundraisers: Stepping Out with JFCS, and an annual benefit held early in the year. The money allows the agency to continue offering a range of vital social services in the community, from mental health counseling to adoption support to transportation for seniors. “It’s a meaningful thing and very fun,” says Anita Friedman, executive director.

Oakland Hebrew Day School’s gala raised $250,000 to support the scholarship program and honor faculty and community members who help maintain the school’s level of excellence, especially its Israel education, says admissions director Melanie Marcus. “We always appreciate the East Bay support and from the greater community,” she says.

The Peninsula JCC in Foster City held a Beatles-themed concert with a tribute band at its annual fundraiser. More than 400 people who showed up at the College of San Mateo theater enjoyed a cocktail party, silent auction and live auction. The event is a 64-year tradition. “It was one of the most successful fundraisers we had,” says executive director Deborah Pinsky. “Every year we want do something different. We want it to be special.”


San Francisco

Jewish Community High

School of the Bay

(415) 345-9777 •

Jewish Family

and Children’s Services

(415) 449-1200 •


East Bay

Oakland Hebrew Day School


(510) 531-8600 •


Peninsula/South Bay

Peninsula JCC

Foster City

(650) 212-7522 •



Jewish community centers have always been known as welcoming places where people can listen to lectures, take classes in myriad subjects, exercise and, most important, socialize and have a good time.

The mission of the JCC of San Francisco is to build and preserve Jewish identity while providing educational, social, cultural and fitness programs. It does that through its preschool programs, summer camps, activities for seniors and émigrés, adult classes and fitness center. The JCC also is a premiere arts destination offering literary events, performances and lectures year-round. “We have a very active membership of people of all ages,” says Nathaniel Bergson-Michelson, director of strategic marketing and communications.

At the JCC of the East Bay, “we offer anything you could be interested in,” says office and outreach manager Samantha Young. The JCC strives to promote “intellectual, experiential and spiritual exploration” of Jewish culture and tradition and build “joyful, progressive and inclusive community.” That translates to enrichment and fun any day of the year. “For the High Holy Days, we have services that are highly attended, and we do a Hanukkah festival for families.” The JCC hosts the annual Jewish Music Festival in Berkeley and San Francisco and lecture series such as “A Conversation on Food Culture, Community, and Commerce” in June.

The Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto has weekly lunches for seniors, camps for children and teens, and cultural arts events. “We’re here for everyone,” says Mimi Sells, chief marketing officer. The OFJCC has a mobile phone app that displays a calendar for upcoming events at the center. “People make spontaneous decisions, and we make it easy for people to make those choices,” says Sells. With more than 2,000 downloads, the app means more people than ever are plugged in to the JCC.

The Osher Marin JCC wants visitors to “explore, discover and connect” at the San Rafael facility. With a fitness center, programs for teens and families and a full roster of performances and lectures, that’s easy to do. In the spring, the community enjoyed the New Century Chamber Orchestra and a talk by Kate Clinton of the Spectrum LGBT Center. Sharing a campus with Congregation Rodef Sholom and Brandeis Hillel Day School, the Marin JCC is a prime meeting spot for residents in the North Bay.


San Francisco

JCC of San Francisco

(415) 292-1200 •

East Bay

JCC of the East Bay

Berkeley  • (510) 848-0237 •


Peninsula/South Bay

Oshman Family JCC

Palo Alto

(650) 223-8700 •


North Bay

Osher Marin JCC

San Rafael

(415) 444-8000 •


Local Agency

For more than 160 years, the S.F.–based Jewish Family and Children’s Services, with regional offices in Marin, Sonoma, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, has supported Bay Area residents in need of a variety of social services. JFCS helps more than 65,000 clients annually with financial assistance, counseling and other essentials. “We’re the problem-solving center for the community,” says Anita Friedman, executive director. JFCS’ programs are designed to meet the needs of a range of folks, from families and children to Holocaust survivors and immigrants.

Founded in 1877, Jewish Family and Children’s Services of the East Bay provides mental health and social services in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. “We’re a part of the safety net and provide services that people normally wouldn’t have access to,” says Holly White, director of grants and communications. Programs range from weekly meal deliveries for homebound seniors to therapy for families and children to job skills training.

Jewish Family Services of Silicon Valley, based in Los Gatos, has been providing social services for families, children, seniors and everyone in between since 1978. Founded to aid Holocaust survivors and Russian immigrants settling in the area, JFS has expanded to help the broader community in Santa Clara County. “We put a nice cushion and welcome around people when they walk into our agency,” says Mindy Berkowitz, executive director. JFS offers therapy, financial assistance, adoption support and more.

The North Bay offices of the S.F.-based JFCS, located in San Rafael and Santa Rosa, offer similarly important programs. “It surprises people locally that many Jewish people don’t have their basic needs [met],” says Diana Klein, director of the Sonoma County branch. One popular service is the rides program for senior transportation. “Many seniors don’t have the retirement income expected,” Klein says. “Transportation costs can eat up a lot of income.”


San Francisco

Jewish Family

and Children’s Services

(415) 449-1200 •


East Bay

Jewish Family and Children’s

Services of the East Bay


(510) 704-7475 •


Peninsula/South Bay

Jewish Family Services

of Silicon Valley

Los Gatos

(408) 556-0600 •


North Bay

Jewish Family and Children’s Services

San Rafael • (415) 491-7960

Santa Rosa • (707) 571-8131