(From left) Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis, Rabbi Paul Steinberg and Anti-Defamation League Central Pacific Regional Director Marc Levine speaking at Congregation Kol Shofar in Tiburon. (Photo/ADL)
(From left) Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis, Rabbi Paul Steinberg and Anti-Defamation League Central Pacific Regional Director Marc Levine speaking at Congregation Kol Shofar in Tiburon. (Photo/ADL)

Honors, happenings, opportunities, comings and goings — Jan. 2024


Comings & Goings

Lori Hillman Polachek has retired as Camp Tawonga’s grants and development communications director. She served for five years, raising millions of dollars for the camp.

Deborah Newbrun
Deborah Newbrun
Wendy Kesser
Wendy Kesser

In other Tawonga news, former camp director Rabbi Deborah Newbrun and Wexner Fellow and coach Wendy Kesser have received a grant from the Covenant Foundation to expand their “Divorce and Discovery: A Jewish Healing Retreat” program nationwide. The next retreat is April 25-28.

Rabbi Jonathan Prosnit
Rabbi Jonathan Prosnit

Rabbi Jon Prosnit is leaving Congregation Beth Am after 12 years. Starting July 1, he will become the rabbi of Temple Beth El in Madison, Wisconsin. Prosnit earned his bachelor’s degree from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and was ordained by Hebrew Union College.

Congregation Sha’ar Zahav has added three new members to its staff, all of whom happen to be rabbis. Rabbi Danny Shapiro is executive director, Rabbi Q is director of education and Rabbi Reuben Zellman is leading the Welcome Home Project, which serves the transgender, intersex and gender-nonconforming community, and the congregation’s conversion program. Shapiro was ordained at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies and previously managed graduate student life and fundraising at Boston University Hillel and served as the Jewish chaplain and Hillel director at Claremont Colleges in Southern California. Rabbi Q was ordained at Hebrew Union College, where she also completed a master’s degree in Jewish education. She has over 20 years of experience in Jewish education and school administration. Zellman was also ordained at Hebrew Union College, has been a transgender activist for over two decades and previously served as a rabbinical intern at Sha’ar Zahav from 2006 to 2010.


Happenings

California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis visited Congregation Kol Shofar in Tiburon on Jan. 7 to discuss the rise in antisemitism along with strategies to address and combat hate with Anti-Defamation League regional director Marc Levine and Kol Shofar Rabbi Paul Steinberg. The event featured discussion of recent issues in K-12 schools and the UC and CSU systems. It was attended by about 400 people, including local leaders, and was co-sponsored by AJC of San Francisco, Brandeis Marin, JCRC Bay Area, JFCS Holocaust Center, Congregation Rodef Sholom, the Osher Marin JCC and the Marin Interfaith Council.

Christina Jefferson recites part of the “I have a Dream” speech following a march for Martin Luther King Jr. Day in San Francisco, Jan. 15, 2024. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)
Christina Jefferson recites part of the “I have a Dream” speech following a march for Martin Luther King Jr. Day in San Francisco, Jan. 15, 2024. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

To commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Bay Area Jewish community hosted and participated in a number of events to honor his legacy. Repair the World, a Jewish service organization that connects young adults to volunteer opportunities with local nonprofits, organized groups to serve meals at St. Anthony’s in San Francisco, to paint signs at Richmond Tiny House Village Garden and Farm and to work in the dirt at the Homeless Garden Project, a Santa Cruz nonprofit that provides job training, transitional employment and support services. Or Shalom, Congregation Emanu-El, Congregation Sha’ar Zahav and others marched in a parade from the San Francisco Caltrain Station to Yerba Buena Gardens in honor of the Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The parade ended with an interfaith commemoration and music festival. Christina Jefferson, board vice president of the Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area and board vice chair of Jews of Color Initiative, recited part of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.


Honors

Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School in Foster City won first place in the World Zionist Organization's Chanukkiot Competition. (Photo/Courtesy)
Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School in Foster City won first place in the World Zionist Organization’s Chanukkiot Competition. (Photo/Courtesy)

Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School in Foster City won first place in the World Zionist Organization’s Chanukkiot Competition. More than 100 menorahs were submitted from Jewish day schools around the world on the theme of “giving strength to the State of Israel and the Jewish people.” Wornick’s entry was built by students, Israeli teen emissaries and teachers together, and each grade decorated a candle with values such as love, happiness and peace, with the shamash candle tying them all together with the value of unity.

Temple Beth Sholom in San Leandro and Temple Sinai in Oakland have been selected for the second cohort of the Jewish After School Accelerator program, an initiative by Jewish Kids Groups to help organizations open Jewish after-school programs. Both synagogues will receive matching grants of up to $100,000 over three years to offset startup costs and get guidance on recruiting, training and retaining staff, structuring transportation plans, customizing curriculums and marketing. The after-school programs will open in fall 2024.

“The Anne Frank Gift Shop,” produced by David Katznelson of San Anselmo through Reboot Studios, has been shortlisted for the 96th Academy Awards in the Live Action Short Film category. The dark comedy won at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. It is one of 15 shortlisted films for the category that are vying to be among the five nominees announced on Jan. 23.

The 2024 cohort for LABA Bay Area: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture has been announced. Hillary Goidell is the photography fellow, Yael Goldstein Love is the fiction fellow, Rivkah Beth Medow is the film fellow, Jesse Nathan is the poetry fellow, Amy Tobin is the music fellow, Julia Goodman, Talia Kirsch and Bonny Nahmias are the visual art fellows, Nina Haft and Olallie Lackler are the dance fellows and Cliff Mayotte and Rabbi Faryn Borella of Or Shalom Jewish Community are the community fellows. The program brings together artists from diverse disciplines and backgrounds for a year of text study and artistic creation. The theme for this year’s program is “Night.”

Arya Marvazy of Oakland, senior director of programs at Jews of Color Initiative, Julianne Schwartz, director of program operations at Berkeley-based Jewish Studio Project, and Leah Kahn of Berkeley, vice president of education at the Office of Innovation, were selected for the Wexner Field Fellowship. The three Jewish professionals will receive leadership training, professional development and Jewish learning over three years.


Opportunities

Nominations are open for the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund’s Robert Sinton Award for Distinguished Leadership. The award is for an extraordinary life-time leader who has given time consistently to the Jewish and general communities. A $2,500 grant will be given to a nonprofit of the recipient’s choice. Nominations close Feb. 7.

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

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