Carol Saal (Photo/Norm Levin)
Carol Saal (Photo/Norm Levin)

Honors, happenings, comings & goings — July 2020


Two local students garnered honors in the Forward’s Young Writers Contest. Laine Schlezinger, an 11th-grader at Burlingame High School, took second place in the high school division for an essay on prejudice in her community. And Victoria Y.T. Nealey, a 13-year-old at the Brandeis School in San Francisco, took second in the middle-school division for a poem about freedom and acceptance. Both received $180.

headshot of Alexander Fromm Lurie
Alexander Fromm Lurie

The S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation has bestowed the Robert Sinton Award for Distinguished Leadership on Carol Saal and the Lloyd W. Dinkelspiel Award for Young Leadership on Alexander Fromm Lurie. The Sinton award is named for businessman Sinton, who was a leader in the Bay Area Jewish community for 50 years. Saal has served as a board member of the Federation, a president of the American Associates of Ben-Gurion University and in many other capacities in the Jewish community. As a philanthropist, she has supported the Arthritis Foundation, Ronald McDonald House and the Oshman Family JCC, where Jessica Lynn Saal Town Square is named for her late daughter. The Dinkelspiel award is named for the first president of the Federation. Lurie is a top San Francisco real estate agent who is on the board of directors of the Federation and chairs the regional leadership council of the Birthright Israel Foundation.

headshot of Efrat Simhi-Aloni
Efrat Simhi-Aloni
a white man in his 30s wearing a hat and holding a guitar
Isaac Zones
headshot of Jeni Markowitz Clancy
Jeni Markowitz Clancy
headshot of Lisa Bialkin
Lisa Bialkin

The Federation also has announced the recipients of the 2020 Helen Diller Family Educator Awards. Jeni Markowitz Clancy, Jewish family programs and engagement manager at the Peninsula JCC in Foster City, received the award in the early childhood category; Efrat Simhi-Aloni, Hebrew teacher and middle-school Judaics teacher at Oakland Hebrew Day School, received the award in the day school category; Lisa Bialkin, fourth-grade teacher and b’nai mitzvah tutor at Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael, received the award in the congregational and supplementary category; and Isaac Zones, a longtime Bay Area music educator who has been with Congregation B’nai Shalom in Walnut Creek for a year, received the award in the Jewish communal and experiential category. Each person will receive $10,000 and their organizations will receive $2,500. They will be honored at a virtual event in September.

headshot of Naomi Tucker
Naomi Tucker
headshot of Tamar Zaken
Tamar Zaken

Three locals are among 24 Jewish professionals from across the country who have been named to the inaugural Jewish Wisdom Fellowship cohort by Hadar, the institute best known for its traditional egalitarian yeshiva in New York. The locals are Tamar Zaken, associate director of Berkeley-based HaMaqom | The Place; Naomi Tucker, founder and executive director of S.F.-based Shalom Bayit; and Matthew Kolbert, Oakland-based Jeremiah Fellowship program manager at Bend the Arc. According to Hadar, the fellowship “empowers thoughtful, passionate and engaged Jewish professionals to embark on a learning and thought development project dedicated to wrestling with the questions currently confronting the Jewish community and the world.”

headshot of Max Bamberger
Max Bamberger

Max Bamberger has been selected as one of the 2020 Bronfman Fellows. The prestigious fellowship is for Jewish high school juniors who spend a year engaged with “study and conversation centered around pluralism, social responsibility and Jewish texts.” Bamberger is a student at Jewish Community High School in San Francisco, where he is co-editor of the school’s literary magazine, assistant editor of the school newspaper and a member of the JCHS rock-climbing team. He also has contributed to J. on multiple occasions. Bamberger has worked for BimBam in Oakland and interned for the Tel Aviv–based music initiative Koolulam. Bamberger’s family are members of Congregation Beth Israel in Berkeley.


headshot of Rabbi Janet Marder
Rabbi Janet Marder

Congregation Beth Am of Los Altos Hills celebrated Rabbi Janet Marder, who has retired after 21 years as senior rabbi of the synagogue, with a special farewell streamed Friday night service on June 12. The following morning she led the final installment of her legendary Torah study sessions, which routinely drew more than 100 people. That night, the congregation streamed a “Thank-You Concert” featuring Beth Am member musicians.

Newly minted Rabbi SAM Luckey with a celebratory cake.
Newly minted Rabbi SAM Luckey with a celebratory cake.

Rabbi SAM Luckey was ordained at Hebrew College in Boston on June 7. At the Zoom ordination party that night, Rabbi David Cooper, founding rabbi of Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont, noted that Luckey is the first person to go through Hebrew school and b’nai mitzvah at Kehilla and go on to become a rabbi. Luckey is returning to the Bay Area to do a yearlong clinical pastoral education residency at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, starting at the end of August.

Comings & Goings

headshot of Cantor Anna Zhar
Cantor Anna Zhar
headshot of Rabbi Liora Alban
Rabbi Liora Alban

Peninsula Temple Sholom in Burlingame welcomed two new clergy members this month. Rabbi Liora Alban is the new director of youth education and Cantor Anna Zhar is the new cantor. Alban is a Los Angeles native who went to UC Berkeley for her undergraduate degree. She was ordained by Hebrew Union College in May, where she earned also earned an MA in Jewish education and a graduate certificate in Jewish nonprofit management. Zhar grew up in the former Soviet Union and has a degree in choral conducting and musical education from the Tchaikovsky Music Conservatory in Moscow. In 1991 her family immigrated to Israel, where she earned a degree at the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem. She has a master’s degree from San Francisco State University and was ordained at Hebrew Union College in 2007. Zhar previously served at Temple Beth Jacob in Newburgh, New York, and at Temple Beth Sholom in New City, New York.

Beginning with the fall semester, Ocean Noah will be the student president of San Francisco Hillel. She studies creative writing at San Francisco State and is a former development assistant at J.

headshot of Debórah Eliezer
Debórah Eliezer
headshot of Ben Yalom
Ben Yalom

Debórah Eliezer will succeed Ben Yalom as artistic director of the award-winning S.F.-based foolsFury Theater Company in September. Yalom has been the founding artistic director for 22 years, while Eliezer has served as co-artistic director since 2015. She joined the company in 2005. Eliezer previously has worked with Traveling Jewish Theatre, Marin Shakespeare Company and Boxcar Theatre, among many other credits. She is also on the national steering committee of the Middle Eastern and North African Theater Makers Alliance and the anti-racist committee of the Alliance for Jewish Theatre. “Debórah has been a brilliant partner in artistic exploration, and in broadening our audiences’ understanding of what theater can be,” Yalom said in a message to foolsFURY supporters. “Under her leadership, foolsFURY will continue to deepen its relationships with ensemble theater makers around the country and abroad, with an eye to ever greater inclusion of artists of color, women, immigrants and exiles, people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ+ community.”

headshot of Jen Miriam Altman
Jen Miriam Altman

Jen Miriam Altman is the new East Bay program manager for the Jewish Baby Network. Altman has worked for 25 years as a preschool teacher, early childhood mental health therapist, music teacher and doula. She also does puppet shows and music circles and leads tot Shabbat and High Holiday services. She is a Bay Area native and lives in Berkeley with her husband and two daughters.

Our Crowd is a monthly feature that highlights goings-on in the Jewish community of Northern California. To have your personal or organizational honor, happening or coming/going included in next month’s Our Crowd, email David A.M. Wilensky at [email protected].

David A.M. Wilensky
David A.M. Wilensky

David A.M. Wilensky is interim associate editor of J. He previously served as assistant editor and digital editor, and is a member of the board of the American Jewish Press Association. He can be reached at [email protected].