Jamie Simon, outgoing director of Camp Tawonga, hugging Aaron Mandel, incoming camp director, at an event celebrating Simon's tenure with the organization. (Photo/Ezra Trost-Goldhammer)
Jamie Simon, outgoing director of Camp Tawonga, hugging Aaron Mandel, incoming camp director, at an event celebrating Simon's tenure with the organization. (Photo/Ezra Trost-Goldhammer)

Honors, comings & goings, happenings and opportunities

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Honors

Cantor Doron Shapira
Cantor Doron Shapira
Morgan Blum Schneider
Morgan Blum Schneider

The winners of this year’s Diller Educator Awards and the Diller Prize for Distinguished Lifetime Achievement have been announced. Morgan Blum Schneider, director of the Jewish Family and Children’s Services Holocaust Center in San Francisco, won in the category of Jewish communal and experiential. Cantor Doron Shapira of Peninsula Sinai Congregation in Foster City, where he is also the director of education, won in the congregational and supplementary category.

Quelise Schroeder
Quelise Schroeder
Tamar Rabinowitz
Tamar Rabinowitz

The early childhood award went to Quelise Schroeder, a teacher at the Addison-Penzak JCC Preschool in Los Gatos. Tamar Rabinowitz won in the day school category for her work as dean of Jewish studies and Hebrew at the Jewish Community High School of the Bay in San Francisco.

Janet Harris
Janet Harris

The prize for lifetime achievement went to Janet Harris, director of the Early Childhood Education Initiative at the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation. Established in 2001 by the Helen Diller Family Foundation and S.F.-based Federation, the Diller Education Awards honor people who have made extraordinary contributions to pre-college Jewish learning in the Bay Area. Recipients will be honored in person on May 18.

Sandy Lipkowitz
Sandy Lipkowitz

Sandy Lipkowitz, founder and owner of We Make Travel Easy in San Francisco, has been selected by Condé Nast for a Top Travel Specialists Award for the third straight year. This year’s list includes nine travel advisers. Lipkowitz is also a winner of a J. Readers’ Choice award, and has been arranging and escorting trips to places such as Cuba, India and Israel since 2014.

Meg Adler
Meg Adler

Meg Adler, associate director of Bay Area programs at Camp Tawonga and Middle School educator at Edah, Studio 70, has been given the 2023 Ruby Award by Jewish LearningWorks. The Ruby Award, which comes with an $1,800 honorarium, is named for Robert Ruby, who passed away in 2016 and was a longtime leader in the East Bay Jewish community. The award will be presented May 9 at the Peninsula JCC in Foster City.

Menachem Mendel Zaklos of Vacaville has won a gold trophy in the International Chidon Sefer HaMitzvos, a competition in New York in which thousands of boys and girls participate. The 12-year-old is the son of Rabbi Chaim and Aidel Zaklos of Chabad of Solano County — and this year marks the fifth time he has finished as a champion. The competition tests children’s knowledge of the 613 commandments in the Torah and consists of three qualifying exams followed by an on-stage tournament.

Mendel Zaklos with all five of his trophies. (Photo/Facebook)
Mendel Zaklos with all five of his trophies. (Photo/Facebook)

Comings & Goings

Talya K. Brass
Talya K. Brass

Talya K. Brass is the new executive director of Congregation Am Tikvah in San Francisco, stepping into the role after the High Holidays last October. She previously worked as youth programs director at the Reform- and Conservative-affiliated shul, which was created via a 2021 merger of B’nai Emunah (where she was a longtime member and served on the board) and Beth Israel Judea. She also served on the Am Tikvah board. Brass is a Bay Area native and graduate of Brandeis Hillel Day School who worked for American Friends of the Israel Museum and the Winnick Family Foundation before becoming a cake decorator. A mother of two school-age children, she is completing her graduate degree in anthropology at San Francisco State, and also volunteers with Nursing Mothers Counsel and advocates for Indigenous people’s rights and land rematriation. “My community needed a leader who knew the complicated recent history of our merger and had existing meaningful relationships with the members and the buildings,” she said of her new job, calling it “a perfect fit.”

Nicolas Elsishans
Nicolas Elsishans

Nicolas Elsishans has been appointed chief financial officer for the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund, effective May 8. Elsishans was executive vice president and chief operating officer at Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and chief financial officer for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. He is also board treasurer of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.

Paula B. Pretlow
Paula B. Pretlow

On June 23, Paula B. Pretlow will begin a three-year term as board chair for the Maryland-based Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, where she has served as a trustee since 2018. A board member at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco, Pretlow is a former senior vice president of the Capital Group; she is also a current board member at the Kresge Foundation, Northwestern University, Williams-Sonoma and Vroom.


Happenings

Six young Jewish professionals from the Bay Area participated in the recent Excelerate23 Summit in New York City. Ben Piekarz, Ari Glenn, Coby Simler, Josh Fagel, Caroline Schurz and Sam Feldman were among the more than 300 Birthright Israel Excel Fellows from North America and beyond who attended the event — which included networking opportunities, industry-specific panels, and discussions about topics such as business development, Jewish identity, Israel engagement and combating antisemitism. Birthright Israel Excel is a business fellowship that offers highly accomplished college students a summer internship in Israel, followed by membership in a community of peers focused on professional development, personal growth, Israel engagement and philanthropy.

Left to right: Ben Piekarz, Ari Glenn, Coby Simler, Josh Fagel, Caroline Schurz and Sam Feldman
Left to right: Ben Piekarz, Ari Glenn, Coby Simler, Josh Fagel, Caroline Schurz and Sam Feldman

Jamie Simon was honored for her more than 30 years of association with and service to Camp Tawonga in a celebration last month. Simon, who began her time with the Jewish camp near Yosemite as a camper in 1990, served in multiple roles through the decades, including counselor, associate executive director and executive director for six years. Since January, she has been the chief program officer of Foundation for Jewish Camp.

A full house danced the night away at “Purrrrim,” a cat-themed Purim party held at Manny’s cafe and community space in the Mission District. With cat ears for all, hamantaschen from Grand Bakery and beats by DJ Black, the party included performances by vogue dancer extraordinaire Sir JoQ, drag star Trixie Lamonte and comedian-singer Abby Feldman. The event was sponsored by Value Culture, the JCC of San Francisco, Hebrew Free Loan, Nice Jewish Boys S.F., Reboot and J.

Sir Joq, Abby Feldman, Adam Swig, Trixie LaMonte, DJ Black, Manny Yekutiel
Sir JoQ, Abby Feldman, Adam Swig, Trixie LaMonte, DJ Black, Manny Yekutiel

On May 5, Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco is throwing a b’nei mitzvah party for all of their kids who were impacted by the pandemic and could not have in-person celebrations. There will be a traditional Friday night service, followed by a dance party featuring a DJ, a photo booth and tacos. Parents will have the opportunity to take photos with their kids on the bimah with the Torah and celebrate the milestone with the community.

a teen girl sits smiling at a table with two younger kids. all are wearing masks.
Jackie Schiffner volunteering at Family House.

As part of her bat mitzvah project, Jackie Schiffner has been volunteering at Family House, a home away from home for children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses and their families; often, the children are being treated at a UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. Schiffner, of Congregation Beth Sholom in San Francisco, has been creating arts and crafts sessions and teaching residents how to make potholders in advance of her May 6 bat mitzvah.


Opportunities

The Swig Program in Jewish Studies and Social Justice at the University of San Francisco is offering a new graduate-level certification program called Justice, Equity, Diversion and Inclusion + Jewish Studies and Social Justice. Aimed at training people to work within, between and beyond Jewish-identified communities, the JEDI + JSSJ program will be the country’s only graduate-level program focused on Jewish studies and social justice while infused with JEDI values. The first course will begin in August, with several information sessions coming up. For details, visit usfca.edu.

The Berkeley-based Jewish Studio Project is accepting applications for its inaugural West Coast Educator Studio. It’s a 10-month cohort experience designed to support Jewish educators in cultivating their creative leadership skills and practices, and the 2023-24 cohort is open to Jewish educators in five Western states. The deadline to apply is May 12; for details, visit jewishstudioproject.org.

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

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