Michelle Kracoff, senior director of fundraising at the Oshman Family JCC, is hoisted high, b'nai mitzvah-style, at the annual gala of the OFJCC, which celebrated the Palo Alto facility's 13th year, March 18, 2023. (Photo/Myleen Hollero)
Michelle Kracoff, senior director of fundraising at the Oshman Family JCC, is hoisted high, b'nai mitzvah-style, at the annual gala of the OFJCC, which celebrated the Palo Alto facility's 13th year, March 18, 2023. (Photo/Myleen Hollero)

Honors, happenings, opportunities, comings & goings — March 2023

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Honors

Daniel C. Matt
Daniel C. Matt

On March 26, Daniel C. Matt was awarded the inaugural Rabbi Jonathan Sacks Book Prize, newly established by Yeshiva University, for his recently published book “Becoming Elijah: Prophet of Transformation.” The tome explores how Elijah turned from a zealot into a compassionate hero, tracing his development from the Bible to Rabbinic Judaism, Kabbalah and Jewish ritual. Matt, a scholar on Kabbalah, lives in Berkeley and is a former professor at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.

Maya Cueva
Maya Cueva

Maya Cueva of Berkeley is one of the filmmakers in residence in the 2023 program run by the S.F.-based Jewish Film Institute. The yearlong, intensive artist development initiative provides creative, marketing and production support for emerging and established filmmakers whose projects explore the full plurality and complexity of Jewish history, life, culture and identity. Cueva’s documentary-in-progress, “A Rebel Without a Pause,” is about a Jewish doctor from Chicago who teamed up with the Black Panther party in the 1960s and fought the FBI at great personal cost to bring health care to vulnerable Americans.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum National Leadership Award Honorees Amy and Morton Friedkin
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum National Leadership Award Honorees Amy and Morton Friedkin

Amy and Morton Friedkin of San Francisco were honored at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s 30th anniversary Western region tribute event on March 16. The Friedkins have been active leaders in the Jewish community locally and nationally, and have held several leadership roles with USHMM. Amy was a member of the USHMM Council (board of trustees), appointed by President Barack Obama in 2012. Morton served on the initial steering committee for the museum, representing the Bay Area. They are also members of the Museum Founders Society and the Legacy of Light Founders Society, and led an endowment challenge grant for the museum.

Veronica Siegel
Veronica Siegel

Veronica Siegel, Jewish educator at Contra Costa Midrasha and the Hamsa Fund, was honored by Masa Israel Journey for her contributions to empowering the next generation of leaders and women across the globe. Siegel was one of 12 women recognized by the organization for their impact in creating opportunities for women in both private and philanthropic sectors.

Joe Gindi
Joseph Gindi
Maya Zinkow
Maya Zinkow

S.F.-based Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa, or JIMENA, has announced the first cohort of campus professionals for its Leadership Fellowship run through its Sephardic Leadership Institute. Maya Zinkow, senior Jewish educator at Berkeley Hillel, and Joseph Gindi, Jewish history teacher at the Jewish Community High School of the Bay, are two local participants. The fellowship features sessions led by top-tier rabbis, scholars, international activists and Jewish educators; topics to be covered include the history of Jewish refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, how to define antisemitism, campus advocacy, the Abraham Accords and a shifting Middle East, and Sephardi and Mizrahi holidays and rituals for college students.


Comings & Goings

Eileen Ruby
Eileen Ruby

Eileen Ruby is the new board chair for the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund. Her appointment will begin on July 1. Previously, Ruby served as the president and chair of the Jewish Federation of the East Bay and was one of the leaders who set the groundwork for uniting that Federation with the San Francisco–based one.

Simcha Schwartz
Simcha Schwartz

Simcha Schwartz is the new executive director of Struggle to Save Ethiopian Jewry, a humanitarian aid organization assisting and supporting Jews in Ethiopia, including those seeking to make aliyah. SSEJ’s programs include feeding centers (5,000 meals per day), medical care and education. Previously, Schwartz served as the director of development for East Bay–based Wilderness Torah.

George Altshuler
George Altshuler

Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco has two staff changes. The current rabbinic intern, former J.  editorial assistant George Altshuler of San Francisco, will stay at the synagogue next year as assistant rabbi after he is ordained in May by Hebrew Union College’s New York campus, and Cantor Toby Glaser will leave Sherith Israel at the end of April to begin working at Rodef Shalom Congregation in Pittsburgh.

Rabbi Cynthia Minster
Rabbi Cynthia Minster

Rabbi Cynthia Minster will be installed May 19 as the  new spiritual leader at Temple Israel in Alameda. Minster earned a BA in peace and justice studies from Wellesley College, and a master’s in rabbinical studies from the Academy for Jewish Religion, California, where she was ordained. She served as student rabbi and as a religious school teacher at Temple Beth David in Temple City (near Pasadena) and as student chaplain at Methodist Hospital of Southern California. Minster also attended the Davvenen Leadership Training Institute, was a Shalom Hartman Institute iEngage student clergy fellow and a Clal Leading Through Innovation participant. The installation will be followed by an oneg, and then a celebration on May 20.

Rabbi Noah Westreich
Rabbi Noah Westreich

Rabbi Noah Westreich is a new assistant rabbi at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco. Westreich was ordained last year by Hebrew Union College in New York and will begin his post July 10. Previously, he taught at Jewish Community Day School in Boston and served as a student rabbi at two places: Kolot Chayeinu/Voices of Our Lives in Brooklyn, New York, and Congregation Beth Jacob in El Centro.

Amichai Magen
Amichai Magen

Amichai Magen will begin his term as the inaugural visiting fellow in Israel Studies at Stanford on March 28. Magen is an alumnus of Stanford Law School and formerly a pre-doctoral fellow and scholar at Stanford’s Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law. Magen will teach the spring course “Israel: Society, Politics and Policy” and will help guide programming related to Israel at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, as well as advise and engage Stanford students and faculty.


Happenings

“The Annual,” the annual gala of the Oshman Family JCC, drew over 700 people to a celebration of the Palo Alto facility’s 13th year, March 18, 2023. The event included a b’nai mitzvah-style dance party, roller-skating rink and light installation by Christopher Schardt. The format of The Annual is a departure from traditional annual gala-style fundraising, said OFJCC Chief Development Officer Seth Leslie. “We’ve made an intentional decision to shift the focus of our evening away from fundraising — not because we don’t still need your support, but because we believe that asking you privately is more in line with our values,” says Leslie. “You can support organizations you care about on your terms.”

Repair the World has launched a Service Corps cohort at Berkeley Hillel. The agency mobilizes young Jewish adults to take action to pursue a just world through a 12-week Jewish service/learning experience alongside a local nonprofit partner. The Berkeley Hillel cohort has eight members who have already completed 594 hours of service with nonprofits including Shalom Bayit, Deep Medicine Circle and UC Gill Tract Community Farm.

The Jewish community at San Quentin State Prison will observe Passover this year with a first-night seder on April 5, with meals donated by Sinai Memorial Chapel, the seder’s sponsor. Last year, the event was attended by several dozen San Quentin residents and was led by Rabbi Paul Shleffar, the prison chaplain. This year a group from Sinai will attend, with about 80 incarcerated individuals expected.


Opportunities

The Holocaust Center run by S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children’s Services is accepting nominations and applications for its first Summer Institute on Holocaust and Genocide Education, a three-day conference for teachers. Set for June 26 to 28 at the USC Shoah Foundation in Los Angeles, the program is open to California high school and middle-school teachers interested in elevating their teaching about the Holocaust. It will consist of interactive workshops and hands-on lessons, and will include supporting materials to implement with students. This opportunity is offered at no cost to participating teachers, thanks to funding from Marin County Office of Education and the state of California. The sign-up has begun, but applicants and nominees will be reviewed on a rolling basis through April, until a capacity of 100 teachers is reached.

Lea Loeb
(Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)
Lea Loeb

Lea Loeb is engagement reporter at J. She previously served as editorial assistant.