Our former culture editor, recently retired, in her new idyllic surrounds in Amador County.
Our former culture editor, recently retired, in her new idyllic surrounds in Amador County.

Honors, happenings, comings & goings — April 2021


Honors

The Teen Initiative Community Convening on Racial Justice, sponsored by S.F.-based Jewish LearningWorks, took place on April 21 and included the presentation of awards to three Bay Area Jewish youth professionals. Devra Aarons received the  2020 Award for Excellence in Jewish Youth Education and Engagement, Rick Concoff received the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award in Jewish Youth Education and Engagement, and Zephira Derblich-Milea, youth program manager at Shalom Bayit, was awarded the 2021 Award for Excellence in Jewish Youth Education and Engagement. Analucia Lopezrevoredo, founder and executive director of Jewtina y Co. and the Shamash project director at Bend the Arc, spoke to attendees about “getting started along the long road to racial equity.” Billy Planer, founder and director of Etgar 36, a cross-country summer social justice trip for teens, spoke about empowering Bay Area teens to make change. And Gen Xia Ye Slosberg of Jewish Youth for Community Action delivered a d’var Torah.

Sarah Levin
Sarah Levin

Sarah Levin, executive director of the Bay Area-based Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA), has been selected as part of the third cohort of the Collective, a fellowship run by the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York. The three-year program includes professional development for Levin and $50,000 for JIMENA.

Rabbi Chaim Mahgel
Rabbi Chaim Mahgel

Rabbi Chaim Mahgel, who co-owns Afikomen Judaica in Berkeley along with his wife, Nell Mahgel-Friedman, has been accepted into the Accelerator at ICA, an Oakland-based nonprofit. Afikomen is one of eight Bay Area businesses chosen for the program, which provides advice on business sustainability and growth. The Accelerator could lead to an investment in the business of $200,000 to $850,000.

Sandy Lipkowitz
Sandy Lipkowitz

Sandy Lipkowitz has been named to Condé Nast Traveler’s list of top travel agents for 2021. “It’s like a restaurant getting a Michelin star,” she said in an email to J. Lipkowitz, who is based in San Francisco, has been selected by J.’s readers as a top travel agent for several years running.

Dara Pincas
Dara Pincas

Dara Pincas has been named a 2021 Rising Star by the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association. Pincas is head of the Healthcare Law Group for Genentech, where she is a senior associate general counsel.


Happenings

Happy 95th birthday to Camp Tawonga! On April 11, about 1,000 people tuned in on approximately 400 screens for the “Tawonga Together Live” concert, which featured a performance from Matisyahu, whose song “One Day” is a Tawonga song session favorite. “We are inspired by our generous community who stepped up to bridge the $4.2 million revenue gap from a canceled 2020 season,” executive director Jamie Simon-Harris told J. ahead of the event. “This concert will not only raise much-needed funds for Tawonga and honor our 95-year history — it will restore and rejuvenate our community as we look forward to a more hopeful chapter ahead.” The concert also featured performances from former Tawonga songleader Maya Elise (now a songwriter and recording artist), Cantor Marsha Attie of Congregation Emanu-El and others.

The band Shamati, led by longtime Camp Tawonga songleader Isaac Zones, performs at Tawonga's virtual 95th birthday concert.
The band Shamati, led by longtime Camp Tawonga songleader Isaac Zones, performs at Tawonga’s virtual 95th birthday concert.

Comings & Goings

Laura Paull has retired as J.’s culture editor. Laura began freelancing for J. in 2015, and joined the newsroom staff in 2018. While at J., she won three first-place Rockower Awards for Excellence in Jewish Journalism from the American Jewish Press Association, for feature writing, arts reporting and, much to her surprise, sports writing. In her varied career, Laura has worked at the S.F. Examiner, Stanford University News Service and the Huffington Post. She has also taught journalism and film at Modesto Junior College and directed the award-winning documentary “Havana Nagila: The Jews in Cuba,” which had its premiere at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival in 1995. Now living in Amador County, she says, “My future looks wide open right now. But it is a certainty that I will continue to write and will spend more time at my sideline, making mosaic art.”

Andrew Esensten
Andrew Esensten

Andrew Esensten is J.’s new culture editor. Like Laura, Andrew had been freelancing for J. before coming on staff this month. Previously he lived in Israel for five years, where he was a staff writer for the Haaretz English edition. In his copious free time, he’s working on a book about the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem. He lives with his fiancee in Palo Alto.

Zoe McCoon
Zoe McCoon

Rabbi Avi Schulman will be retiring on June 30 after 14 years at Temple Beth Torah of Fremont and becoming the synagogue’s rabbi emeritus. Beth Torah’s new rabbi will be Zoe McCoon, who is set to be ordained as a rabbi by Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion Cincinnati in May and is making the move west from Michigan. A series of services and events in June and July will celebrate the transition.

Rabbi Amanda Russell is moving up the ranks at Congregation Beth Sholom in San Francisco. She began as the congregation’s rabbinic intern and, after ordination, was hired as assistant rabbi. Last month, she was promoted to associate rabbi and signed a new three-year contract.

Rabbi Amanda Russell and Rabbi Dan Ain at a socially distanced outdoor contract signing.
Rabbi Amanda Russell and Rabbi Dan Ain at a socially distanced outdoor contract signing.

Rabbi Ira Rosenberg is joining the clergy team at Congregation Beth El in Berkeley as director of congregational learning, a new position at the synagogue.

Ken Schnur
Ken Schnur

Ken Schnur, who has been a member of Congregation Netivot Shalom for over 30 years, is now the Berkeley shul’s executive director. He joined Netivot in 1989 along with his wife, Denise. Their kids, Emma and Noah, became b’nai mitzvah there. Schnur has been on the synagogue’s board multiple times, including a stint as president. “When the position of Executive Director opened, I felt it would be a perfect fit for me,” he said in a message posted to Netivot’s website. “Although I had been a practicing attorney for over 35 years, I knew I wanted to get involved at Netivot Shalom on a deeper level, and give back to the community that had given me and my family so much over the years.”

Carly Schwartz is the new editor-in-chief of the San Francisco Examiner. Schwartz was born in San Francisco and raised in Connecticut, then returned in 2007 for an internship at San Francisco Magazine. She will also oversee the Nob Hill Gazette and SF Weekly as part of her new job. “I’m excited by everything Carly brings to the table: deep, firsthand knowledge of San Francisco, an entrepreneurial spirit, nuanced understanding of digital media platforms and industry trends, a keen editorial perspective, and sparkling educational credentials, among other things,” publisher Clint Reilly said in a statement. “She is uniquely qualified to help us build The Examiner of tomorrow.” Her previous job was editor of Google Insider, the search giant’s internal news organization.

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

David A.M. Wilensky is the digital editor of J. He can be reached at [email protected].