Or Shalom Jewish Community building dedication June 9, 2024. (Glenn Mar)
Or Shalom Jewish Community building dedication June 9, 2024. (Glenn Mar)

Honors, happenings, comings & goings — June 2024

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Honors

Maya Mazin

Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School eighth-grader Maya Mazin won third place in the Better2Write national essay writing contest. Her essay, “Sunflowers, Butterflies, and Wishing Wells,” describes her experiences meeting with senior citizens at Moldaw Residences in Palo Alto and how interacting with the older generation helped her learn more about herself. Her Palo Alto school received $5,000 and Maya earned an $8,000 scholarship to any Jewish program or camp.

Rabbi Mordecai Miller

Congregation Beth Ami in Santa Rosa honored Rabbi Mordecai Miller for his 50th jubilee year as a rabbi with a June 23 concert and celebration, marking his 1974 ordination. Miller grew up in Durban, South Africa, and earned his B.A. in philosophy and Hebrew from the University of Natal. He was ordained at Hebrew Union College. In his honor, Beth Ami’s board of directors is establishing the Miller Music Fund to support musical education and entertainment for all ages.

Two Bay Area teens were among the 26 chosen for the annual Bronfman Fellowship. Mila Einspruch of Oakland is a junior at Head-Royce School, where she runs a math mentorship program for third- and fourth-grade girls and is co-president of the Jewish Affinity Group. She also serves as a lead third-grade teacher for Temple Sinai’s religious school in Oakland. Mayan Moses of Palo Alto is a junior at Kehillah Jewish High School, where she serves as a Jewish Life Commissioner in the student government, co-leads the school’s Moot Beit Din team and is a member of the parliamentary debate team. She also participates in the Madrichim Teen Leadership Program at Congregation Kol Emeth in Palo Alto. The Bronfman Fellowship is a yearlong program of study and discussion about pluralism, social responsibility and Jewish texts, beginning with a summer spent in Israel.

Madeline Grabb
Joey Friedman
Christina Cheng
Stanley Rozenblit

The Taube Center for Jewish Studies at Stanford has announced this year’s academic award winners. Joey Friedman and Madeline Grabb each received a Donald and Robin Kennedy Undergraduate Award. Friedman was awarded Best Honors Thesis in Jewish Studies for “The Soul of the World Weeps Through Us: Constructing a Grief Ritual Performance as a Counter to Colonial Violence.” Grabb was awarded Best Essay in Jewish Studies for “Dual and Dueling Citizenship: Jewish identity and self-perception in contemporary sources during the Balkan Wars of 1912-13.” Christina Cheng received the Nelee Langmuir Award. She was awarded Best Seminar Paper in Holocaust Studies for “Closing The Last Safe Haven: The Shanghai Jewish Community’s Responses to European Jewish Emigration in World War II Shanghai.” Stanley Rozenblit received the Dr. Bernard Kaufman Undergraduate Research Award for “Remote Work Dynamics in Jewish Nonprofits: Enhancing Productivity and Engagement.” 

Valerie Estelle Frankel

Valerie Estelle Frankel’s 100th book, “Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy of the 1960s and 70s,” is set for release in September. Frankel writes and edits academic books about popular culture. She was “honored with a prayer for scholarship” on June 15 at Congregation Beth David in Saratoga.

Sarah Persitz

Comings & goings

Shefa: Jewish Psychedelic Support has announced two changes. Sarah Persitz, who is a new parent, is stepping down from her role as inaugural chief operations officer after serving the organization for almost two years. And Barbara Gottesman is joining Shefa’s board. Gottesman is the founder of BGCoaching and Consulting, an executive coaching practice specializing in women’s leadership, team development, communication and speaker training. 

Barbara Gottesman

Rabbi Sarah Weissman will be the new rabbi at Temple Beth Torah in Fremont as of July 1.  She is replacing Rabbi Zöe McCoon, who is leaving after three years.

Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills will have  two new rabbis also starting work on July 1: Rabbi Arthur P. Nemitoff will serve as interim senior rabbi and Rabbi Shoshana Nambi will be assistant rabbi. 

Happenings

Or Shalom Jewish Community dedicated its Bernal Heights building June 9 with a ceremony led by Rabbi Faryn Borella, which included hanging a mezuzah and revealing a new sign. Or Shalom purchased the building in 2022, but couldn’t legally use most of the space due to strict S.F. zoning laws. The congregation was granted permission to use its Bernal Heights property in February, and is now officially dedicated as a religious space.

Philanthropy

Allison Green, the “before” photo. (Sue Barnett)

J.’s development director Allison Green recently completed a decade-long mitzvah project: growing out her hair to donate to Chai Lifeline, an organization that provides wigs for cancer patients. She began the project around the time that her mother began showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Green said she felt the need to do something to give back because her mother had been an active volunteer and had always helped friends in need.

Allison Green (left) and Matty after getting their hair done. (Courtesy)

“My mum’s best friend and my ‘other mother,’ Matty, survived breast cancer about 50 years ago. When I started growing my hair, I told Matty that I was doing it with her in mind, and I promised her we would be together when I had my hair cut,” Green said. “Matty is 98 and in good health physically and mentally, while my mother continues to decline and can no longer comment on my hair. So I decided now was the time.”

During Passover, Green flew to New Jersey and had her hair cut alongside Matty — by the same hairdresser that Green’s mother and Matty went to every week for decades. Green cut off 14 inches to donate, while Matty got her regular weekly wash and blowout. “Being with Matty while donating my hair felt like a double mitzvah,” Green said.

Chai House Inc.’s board of directors has awarded grants totaling $800,000 to eight South Bay Jewish institutions: Jewish Silicon Valley, Jewish Family Services of Silicon Valley, Hillel of Silicon Valley, Yavneh Day School, Temple Emanu-El, Congregation Shir Hadash, Congregation Beth David and Congregation Sinai. Chai House Inc. is a nonprofit with holdings from the 2021 sale of Chai House, a senior living home in San Jose.

Opportunities

JIMENA: Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa, which is based in the Bay Area, is launching its first cohort of the Sephardic Leaders Fellowship specifically for senior Jewish educators and administrators. The program is designed to support them as they build schools and educational institutions that embrace Sephardic and Mizrahi people and content. Participants will learn from leading scholars and develop practical skills to ensure that all students feel valued and included. Educators of all backgrounds are encouraged to apply. The fellowship will run from August through November. Submit applications by July 10.