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Serving with love

“All it took was a 10-day trip to make me crazy in love with Israel,” a young lone soldier in the IDF told a sold-out crowd of 275 supporters of the Bay Area chapter of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces. She and Ilan Benjamin of Moraga both immigrated to Israel to serve in the army. The two were speakers at a gala on Dec. 9 at San Francisco’s Mark Hopkins Hotel.  Benjamin, who was 12 when his cousin, journalist Daniel Pearl, was murdered by Islamic terrorists, said of the IDF service he recently completed, “Danny inspired me, but I chose this.” There were few dry eyes when Morocco-born Miriam Peretz took the stage to talk about her two sabra sons killed in the line of duty. “I am not broken,” she said. “No Hezbollah and no Hamas and no Ahmadinejad can break a human spirit.” The fundraiser — the group’s first such event — raised $200,000.


Don’t hold that applause

Rabbi Michael Barenbaum

Even though it was Shabbat, Congregation Rodef Sholom’s rabbi emeritus, Rabbi Michael Barenbaum, got a standing ovation at last month’s celebration of his double-chai anniversary (36 years) of serving the synagogue. Acknowledging it was a bit unusual to applaud at services, Barenbaum’s longtime friend Rabbi Brian Lurie invited the several hundred congregants in attendance to express their appreciation following presenters’ laudatory statements. Among the speakers were the guest of honor’s five grandchildren (all under age 10) and Frank Battat, president of the congregation when Barenbaum was hired. Battat told of recruiting the rabbi from a Massachusetts congregation. He recalled picking up the newly arrived Barenbaum in the rain after an extended dry-weather period for his first Shabbat service in January 1977.  Introducing him to the congregation, he quipped, “Our new rabbi has ended the drought.”


Short shorts

Andy David, Israel’s new consul general for the Pacific Northwest region, recently visited Alaska, where he met with Gov. Sean Parnell and  Anchorage college students and was interviewed on Alaska Public Radio. His report about his experience will appear in Alaska Magazine next year … Andrew Berman is the new mayor of Mill Valley. One of his first duties as mayor was to light the city’s holiday tree on Dec. 9 … Marc Levine of San Rafael, who was on the staff  of the Jewish Community Relations Council a number of years ago, was sworn into office Dec. 10 as representative for the new Assembly District 10 (representing Marin and Sonoma counties) … Literary luminaries Peggy Orenstein, Dave Eggers and his wife, Vendela Vida, Jewish community leaders Ron and Barbara Kaufman, Joyce Linker and Marilyn Waldman, and Contemporary Jewish Museum  board president David Levine, plus 570 other assorted grown-ups and kids, braved the rain to enjoy the festivities at the CJM’s fourth annual family gala, “The Snowy Day at Night.”  The Dec. 1 event was inspired by the museum’s current exhibition, “The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats.” The exhibit continues through Feb. 24 … In his promotion for “Crones for the Holidays,” publicist  Lawrence Helman notes that performers “Terry Baum, slightly world-renowned lesbian playwright, and Carolyn Myers, retired warrior princess of comedy, have been creating theater together and cracking audiences up for 40 years.” The show runs through Dec. 30 at Stage Werx in San Francisco. Visit www.crackpotcrones.com.

This columnist can be reached at [email protected].