Sunday, March 25, 2012

Friday's Innovation Celebration a Huge Success!

More than 50 community and Federation leaders, professionals and grant recipients came together today to celebrate innovation in the Jewish community. In 2011 and 2012, Federation has awarded about $200,000 to seed and support projects that stimulate increased Jewish engagement and deepen Jewish identity. Ten, 2011 grantees were honored for their accomplishments in improving the lives of people with disabilities and mental health issues, training college students how to respond to anti-Israel movements, helping Jews who are struggling in today's economy, and other projects. New 2012 grantees also were announced (see chart). 

2011 Grantees Awarded 2nd Year Funding - $50,000

Fiscal Sponsor
Chesed Home
Hope Village San Diego
First home for Jewish adults with mental illness in San Diego County. In year one they secured property with 4 homes, developed business plan, website and marketing collaterals. Leveraged close to $200,000.
Emergency Fund
G'mach - Jewish Gift Closet
Collects and provides services, money, used goods for those in need. Secured location and committed to initiate tracking of numbers served, in first year of funding. Leveraged $27,000.
Friendship Circle of San Diego
Enables Jewish teens to provide in-home Jewish holiday training for children with disabilities. Trained teens to educate Jewish children with disabilities about holiday celebrations, established 26 weekly teen visits with Jewish children, and developed evaluation program including a parent phone survey. Leveraged $2,500.
I-Pitch for Israel: Jewish Student Leadership
Anti-Defamation League
Jewish student leadership classes for college students to respond to anti-Israel rhetoric on campus. Increased numbers served and doubled training sites (UCSD and SDSU). Participants include students from Miramar, Palomar, Mesa, Southwestern and National University. Leveraged more than $3,000.
Jewish Culture and Hebrew Class Subsidies
Provides educational programs emphasizing Israel, Israeli culture and Hebrew. Increases cultural exchange and understanding between Israeli-born and Diaspora-born Jews through wide variety of classes in modern Hebrew and Israeli cultural heritage. Provided scholarships for children to attend two different types of classes and increased student enrollment in holiday program to 84. Leveraged $14,500.
Jewish Discovery Expo
Chabad Jewish Student Life
Focus is on uniting Jewish young adults through hands-on Jewish experiences. Developed strong social media to engage young professionals in shofar factory, olive oil press and other events. More than 180 participated. Leveraged $4,000.
Jewish Gene Screen Outreach
Victor Center
Creates awareness among Ashkenazi Jews about the 19 heritable diseases and connects families to local screening services. In year one, trained more than 30 representatives of Jewish organizations about the prevalence of Jewish genetic diseases and secured significantly reduced cost of testing from $500 to $25, increasing accessibility.
Pathways to Judaism
For unaffiliated and intermarried families to engage in community. Thirteen families began participating in 11-week course, taught by six rabbis representing three movements. Leveraged $40,000.
Shabbat Vibes
Congregation Beth El
Engages young professionals with fun, educational and social Shabbat experiences. Committed to increasing tracking in year two. Leveraged $3,500.

2012 New Grantees - $50,000
Fiscal Sponsor
National Conference of Synagogue Youth
Fuses rap music with Jewish discourse to engage and educate Jewish teens, building and strengthening Jewish identity. Teens from current NCSY programs, JCC Teen space, Young Judaea and Hand Up Youth Food Pantry at JFS will be targeted for participation.
Camp Gan Israel
Chabad of Oceanside
Provides the only summer day camp experience for Jewish children in North County’s northernmost coastal and inland communities (Oceanside, Vista and San Marcos) in an informal Jewish educational setting.
Israel Engagement and Education
House of Israel
Showcases the history and culture of Israel to the San Diego Community and general public using multimedia displays and special exhibits. The House of Israel will expand its hours of operation, increase local access and provide part time staffing to support volunteer force.
Jewish Culture Club
National Conference of Synagogue Youth
Engages Jewish Teens in exploring their Jewish identity, inspiring them to create a connection to the State of Israel and to become more involved in the San Diego Jewish community through leadership-building activities.
Jewish Multimedia Xperience
National Conference of Synagogue Youth
Uses theater and mixed-media to convey Jewish concepts and values to Jewish teens, addressing issues such as anti-Semitism, body image (shmirat haguf) and greed. Post-production workshops are geared to fostering thoughtful and robust discussions.
Jewish Family Service
An outreach program developed to counter deceptive proselytizing tactics by Jews for Jesus currently impacting elderly Russian Jews in downtown San Diego.
Social Action Leadership Institute
Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center
Israeli advocacy teen leadership program in which participants will travel to Washington, D.C. to meet with prominent political leaders and implement three, year-long advocacy projects in San Diego.

 David Cygielman, CEO of Moishe House, which Federation was instrumental in bringing to San Diego in 2010, presented on his experiences expanding to 46 Moishe Houses in 14 countries.  He challenged Jewish funders and organizations to develop a systemic approach to sustaining post start-up or "mezzanine" innovation projects to maintain an enduring impact and further strengthen the Jewish community. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Remember, Honor, and Teach: Righteous Among the Nations - Yom Hashoah April 15

On Sunday, April 15, at 1:30 p.m. the San Diego community will present a special Holocaust commemoration (Yom Hashoah) program. The event will be held at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, in the Garfield Theater, 4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla. The theme will be Remember, Honor, and Teach: Righteous Among the Nations.

The Reverend Canon Jack E. Lindquist will speak on ‘Righteous Gentiles’ and Nazi Resisters Among the Christian Clergy: Eight Examples. His talk will be followed by a brief filmed interview of Irene Gut Opdyke, a Polish Christian rescuer who, among other lifesaving actions, hid 12 Jews in the cellar of a German officer’s villa, where she was the housekeeper.

The program will open with a military color guard reminiscent of camp liberation, a musical presentation, and a traditional candle lighting ceremony, with candles lit by Holocaust survivors and their descendants in memory of those who perished. Interspersed throughout the program will be musical selections. The entire event will last approximately 90 minutes.

The Rev. Canon Jack E. Lindquist is a minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He serves as a priest and Canon for Biblical Studies at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in San Diego. Since 1970 he has taught at the University of San Diego in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies. Canon Lindquist’s most popular course in the Catholic university is entitled “The Holocaust and the Churches in Nazi Germany.” He teaches about the complicity of the Lutheran and Catholic churches and their leaders in the rise of Hitler and the Holocaust, and also about the courageous few among the Christian clergy who resisted the Nazis.

The Holocaust Commemoration has been held in San Diego for more than three decades and is the largest in the United States. Last year more than 700 people attended.

The event is a collaboration of the San Diego Rabbinical Association, Jewish Community Relations Center of the Jewish Federation of San Diego County, the New Life Club, the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center Jacobs Family Campus, the Center for Jewish Culture, Jewish Family Service, Jewish Community Foundation, and the Anti-Defamation League.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information about the 2012 Community Holocaust Commemoration contact Linda Feldman, Director, Jewish Community Relations Center, at 858.737.7138.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Jewish Federations Reflect Upon Funeral for Victims of Toulouse Shooting

A mourner reacts during a joint funeral in Jerusalem for the victims
of Monday's shooting in Toulouse, March 21, 2012.
 via VOA
At a donor lunch this morning, Claire Ellman, Board Chair of the Jewish Federation of San Diego County, lead a moment of silence as we reflect on the tragic events of this week and offered our community's deepest sympathy to the victims families.  

Meanwhile - significant developments took place today following the killing on Monday of a teacher and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France.

The bodies of all four victims were flown to Israel overnight, accompanied on the flight by French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, family members and leaders of the Jewish community in France. The victims, 30-year-old Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his sons Arieh, 5, and Gabriel, 3, and seven-year-old Miriam Monsonego were all laid to rest in Jerusalem’s Har Hamenuchot Cemetery, accompanied by over 2,000 mourners. The Jewish Federations of North America’s senior vice president, Rebecca Caspi, represented Jewish Federations at the funeral, accompanied by Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh Jeff Finkelstein.

As the funeral took place, police and special forces in Toulouse, France had surrounded a house apparently containing Mohammed Merah, the terrorist who carried out the shooting, who was identified as a member of an Al Qaeda-affiliated jihadist group. Reportedly, the gunman is alive inside the house and has admitted to carrying out the attack, as well as a separate shooting that killed three French soldiers.

A large number of dignitaries attended the Jerusalem funeral including Israel’s Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Minister of Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and both the country’s chief rabbis.

Turning to the victims’ families during his eulogy, Edelstein said: “An entire nation embraces you.”

Rivlin echoed the sentiment saying that “Jews around the world are standing with us today, in shared pain, facing people filled with hate; murderers, who kill indiscriminately.”

“I’m here to represent the French government and president,” Juppe said, adding that he wanted to express his solidarity with the families of the victims. “This was a despicable and intolerable murder. The blood of both the French and Israeli nations was spilled in the vicious attack.”

JFNA’s Israel office also represented Jewish Federations at a special committee meeting in the Knesset yesterday that discussed the shooting. Attended by the French ambassador to Israel and numerous members of Knesset, the session discussed security precautions, potential aliyah from France and other issues connected with the attack.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu severely condemned the terrorist incident. Read his full remarks.

After the funeral, JFNA’s Rebecca Caspi penned the following comments:

“I’ve been thinking a lot about the cost of Jewish education all morning. I’m not thinking about the price of tuition or the longer school days we sometimes have to talk kids into accepting. It’s something much more basic. I’ve been thinking about how a father who chose not to pursue fortune or fame, but to dedicate his life to teaching, lost his life because of that decision. And I’ve been thinking about his wife – now a widow – who lost not only a husband, but her two beautiful sons. Aryeh was only six, and Gavriel just three. And I’ve been thinking about Miriam Monsonego who got up to go to school and was brutally murdered instead.

“None of them had to be at the Ozar HaTorah school in Toulouse this Monday morning. They were part of a Jewish community that was building a Jewish future – securing our continuity as a people – by investing in education. And for that, they were sacrificed.

“Jeff Finkelstein and I met to attend the victims’ funerals together. On this beautiful spring morning in Jerusalem, we were part of a single community – our global Jewish family. Alongside murmuring in French, Hebrew and English, we were repeatedly startled by the keening of relatives whose grief poured out unrestrained. I hope that they will somehow draw comfort from the presence of so many of their fellow Jews – we distant cousins – who mourn their terrible loss.

“Let the memory of Rabbi Yonatan Sandler, Aryeh Sandler, Gavriel Sander and Miriam Monsonego be a blessing.” JFNA and its Secure Community Network will continue to monitor the situation closely and report developments as needed

Monday, March 19, 2012

UPDATED :Federations Outraged by Terrorism in France

From the Jewish Agency at 2:30PM PDT:

Four people—a teacher from Israel, his two young sons, and another student—have been killed in a deadly shooting attack at the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse in southern France. Eyewitnesses said a lone gunman drove up to the school on a motorbike around 8 a.m. local time, as the students were arriving for the school day, and opened fire using two firearms. According to the local prosecutor, the shooter fired at “everything that appeared in his way” and chased students as they fled into the school. He then fled the scene.

The victims have been named as thirty-year-old Rabbi Yonatan Sandler of Jerusalem, his two young sons Aryeh (six years old) and Gavriel (three and a half), and eight-year-old Miriam Monsonego, the daughter of the school principal. The Sandler family was in the midst of a two-year shlichut in Toulouse, where Rabbi Sandler, a graduate of the Jewish Agency's Israel education programs, taught Jewish studies. The Sandlers are survived by their mother and a four-year-old sister.

In the wake of the tragedy, the Forum for Emergency Assistance to Jewish Communities of the Government of Israel and the Jewish Agency convened in Jerusalem to be briefed on the situation and to make recommendations on emergency assistance to the Jewish community of Toulouse. This is against the background of recent months, including the terror attacks in Georgia and India and several occasions where authorities in several countries have prevented terror attacks planned against Jewish and Israeli targets.

The Forum, headed by Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky and Minister for Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein, will be closely following the situation in France and in other Jewish communities around the world, and has already reached out to the Toulouse Jewish community to offer help in this difficult time.

Ariel Kandel, who heads the Jewish Agency delegation in France, noted on Monday that the Toulouse Jewish community is still in shock, and community leaders have yet to complete an assessment of the community's immediate needs. Meanwhile, the Jewish Agency has prepared educators and psychologists who stand ready to help the students, teachers, and family members grapple with the tragedy. Jewish Agency shlicha Keren Zenou, whose parents made aliyah to Israel from Toulouse, was visiting the city in order to interview families interested in making aliyah at the time of the attack. She remains in the city at this time and is offering support to the families of the victims and the broader Jewish community.

We want to note with gratitude the statement of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who called the attack “an abominable tragedy and a frightening tragedy” and announced that schools across France would hold a moment of silence on Tuesday in memory of the victims. Sarkozy was accompanied in Toulouse by Richard Prasquier, president of the Jewish communal umbrella CRIF, and French education minister Luc Chatel.


Haviv Rettig Gur
Director of Communications
Jewish Agency for Israel

Friday, March 16, 2012

Ben-Gurion would smile: new programming planned for San Diego-Sha’ar Hanegev partnership

Gil Ya'ari
By Donald H. Harrison, Editor of the San Diego Jewish World

SAN DIEGO — As a youth, Gil Ya’ari, the new Israeli director of the partnership between Sha’ar Hanegev and the San Diego Jewish community, was so fascinated by environmental science that he left his home in the greater Tel Aviv area to board at a high school which offered special classes on the environment.

The school was in Sde Boker, the kibbutz in the Negev Desert to which Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion retired, and where he and his wife Paula are buried. Ben-Gurion had a dream that Israelis like Ya’ari would migrate from the central core of the country in order to settle and develop the outlying areas that have been part of Israel since the 1948 War of Independence. Those areas are the Negev Desert and the Galilee.

Perhaps it was the influence of Ben-Gurion’s dream, or perhaps it was the satisfaction that Ya’ari found living in desert country, that persuaded him to remain in Sde Boker even after graduation from the high school. He eventually became a teacher of environmental science. He and his wife, Shlomit, have three children, whose names all reflect their interest in the environment. Mayan (spring) is about to celebrate his bar mitzvah. Daughter Shaked (almond) is 9, and the youngest boy, Keshet (rainbow) is 2 1/2. Eventually the school teacher whose command of English is excellent was tapped by the Jewish Agency for Israel to serve as an emissary (shaliach) to the Jewish community of Houston, similar to the position that Shoshi Bogoch of Jerusalem occupies in San Diego.

After completing his assignment in Texas, Ya’ari was recently selected to direct the San Diego-Sha’ar Hanegev partnership program as well as a similar one between Philadelphia and the Negev city of Netivot. From his home in Sde Boker, he said, his commute is about one hour to Sha’ar Hanegev.

Our interview came during a time when terrorists in Gaza were firing numerous rockets at the adjacent communities of Sha’ar Hanegev. I asked him what one is supposed to do if the sirens sounding a rocket attack go off when one is one’s car. He said drivers can’t always hear the sirens, but when they can, they should get out of their cars and, if buildings are nearby, run to an air raid shelter. Otherwise, he said, one is supposed to lie down flat on the ground, covering one’s head.

Ya’ari was in San Diego to meet members of the Jewish community here and to spread the word about some upcoming partnership activities designed to draw Sha’ar Hanegev residents even closer to the San Diego Jewish community.

Among those with whom he conferred were board chair Claire Ellman, and staff members Steve Morris, Lisa Haney and Barbara Sherman of the Jewish Federation of San Diego, Larry Acheatel of the San Diego Jewish Academy, Debbie Kornberg of Congregation Beth Am, Nate Stein of the Jewish Community Center, Jenny Starr of Tarbuton, Rabbis Philip Graubart and Avi Libman of Congregation Beth El, and John Schneider of the San Diego-Sh’ar Hanegev partnership committee.

A major focus of Sha’ar Hanegev’s attention currently is the planned dedication on June 26 of the educational complex which San Diegans helped both financially and with ideas.

The complex, which will include a high school and an adult learning center and house a variety of educational initiatives, was built to withstand the impact of Kassam rockets launched from the nearby Gaza Strip. But beyond security, planners wanted the complex to enhance quality of life for people of the region, and even, as Ben-Gurion might have wished, to help attract new settlers to Sha’ar Hanegev’s 10 kibbutzim and one moshav.

Drawing from the San Diego Jewish Academy, there will be a pluralistic synagogue within the complex, so that the students, who come mainly from secular families, will know that there are a variety of ways that one can practice Judaism. Additionally, visitors from Sha’ar Hanegev to San Diego drew upon some of the lessons of High Tech High School here in the understanding that high-tech industries have become an increasingly important sector of Israel’s economy.

Ya’ari said the June 26 ceremony will be attended by some San Diegans, including representatives of the Viterbi family, whose patriarch, Andrew Viterbi was a co-founder of Qualcomm. The highlight of the ceremony will be an address by Israel’s President Shimon Peres.

Exchange programs between the two regions figure high in the partnership’s planning. There are plans for cinematographers from San Diego and Sha’ar Hanegev to study films together — and perhaps to participate in each other’s film festivals. Another initiative would bring together photographers, both amateur and professional, to discuss techniques and to roam around the Negev together in an effort to produce a photo exhibit that could be enjoyed in both countries. A pilot program for seniors is also being given consideration, the idea to have seniors live, eat, study and engage in works of tikkun olam together.

There are, of course, many interests that residents of Sha’ar Hanegev and San Diego County might share, Ya’ari noted. He said the partnership will look for ways to multiply the impact of such get-togethers, the reason for having photographers produce an exhibit; movie fans participate in film festivals, and seniors doing good works together.

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World. He may be reached at

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Letter from the South of Israel

As rockets fly from Gaza into the Israeli south, Federation friend Tal-Cheni writes to her friends and family from her appartment in Be’er Sheva . She has given us permission to share her powerful and real life story with our community.

Toda Raba and Kol Tuv, Tali.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Rocket Barrage Eases in Southern Israel

After five days of rocket fire from Gaza into Southern Israel, the attacks have begun to subside and Israelis expect to return to normal life in the coming days. Since Friday, when Israel Defense Forces assassinated two major terrorists, more than 200 rockets have been fired into Israel’s south, threatening more than 1 million people.

“When we heard news of the killing of two mega terrorists, everyone in Israel knew we needed to get ready for a reaction. When something like this happens, we are facing rockets attacking our cities,” said Sigal Ariely, Ashkelon resident and JFNA's director of the Ashkelon-Baltimore Partnership. “Luckily, this was only a very short period of tension. I hope that it ends, and we won’t have to feel that again in the next few days.”

Ariely spoke during a teleconference hosted by The Jewish Federations of North America earlier today, alongside Israel Defense Forces Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovitch, head of the International Media and Communications Branch of the IDF Spokesperson's Office. More than 150 participants from Jewish Federations listened in to the call, which was moderated by Saby Behar, JFNA’s Israel and Overseas Committee Chair, for an update on what has become the most intense rocket assault on Israel since Operation Cast Lead in 2009.

“It’s tense but nevertheless relatively quiet, compared to yesterday,” said Leibovitch, adding that Israel’s Home Front Command has recommended children return back to school, starting tomorrow.

Both speakers credited Israel’s Iron Dome Defense System, which intercepted nearly 60 rockets, for keeping Israelis safe in the southern cities of Ashdod, Ashkelon and Be'er Sheva. “The Iron Dome is a huge success,” said Leibovitch, adding that the system’s success rate of intercepting rockets ranges between 80 and 90 percent. “The Islamic Jihad is very frustrated due to their lack of achievements because of the success rates of Iron Dome.”

Ariely said the Iron Dome made “a huge difference” in Ashkelon. “We heard sirens, but thank G-d, there were no falling rockets. It’s not comforting to hear the sirens, but when you see that nothing happens, it makes you feel safer.”

Leibovitch also gave an update on the IDF’s targeted assassinations in Gaza that killed Palestinian Popular Resistance Committee (PRC) leader Zuhair Qaisi, PRC member Mahmoud Hanami and 22 other terrorists.

 These assassinations were imperative, said Leibovitch, “to save the lives of Israelis.” The PRC, she said, “has a very radical Islamic doctrine. They have the goal to execute as many terror activities as they can against civilian targets inside Israel, and they have been active in launching rockets into Israel.”

Almost all of the terrorists killed were identified as belonging to the Islamic Jihad, the second-largest terrorist organization in Gaza after Hamas. The Islamic Jihad has been “challenging Hamas” as an increasing threat to Israel in the last year and half, said Leibovitch, and “initiates many terrorist activities against Israel.”

Leibovitch said the Israeli air strikes did not kill a 15-year-old Palestinian, as has been reported in the press, but instead pointed to terrorists’ own rocket fire as the likely cause. “Overall, inside Israel, there were 166 rockets that fell. Of course, [the terrorists] launched a larger number than this, but 10 to 15 percent of those rockets actually fell on Palestinian land.”

Although the violence appears to be subsiding, both Leibovitch and Ariely said that any alleged cease-fire is hardly a reason to celebrate. Leibovitch counted five rockets that had been launched since the cease-fire, and noted that in 2011, there were 627 rocket attacks on Israel – an average of two per day. “It was never really quiet.”

As technology advances, more Israelis are in the line of fire each day. “In 2000, the range of an average rocket from Gaza reached between four and six kilometers, and there were 30,000 people in danger,” said Leibovitch. “Now, the range is 40 to 45 kilometers, and the number of Israelis in danger is one million.”

Ariely agreed that these risks remain a way of life for all Israelis in the southern region. “Unfortunately this is part of our reality,” she said. “Yet this is not normal life. This is not a way for children to live, and for us as parents. Every time there’s a siren, we have to stop and look for shelter, think about where our families are and wonder, ‘are they in a safe place?’ Then we must go back to living life as normal as possible. This is part of how we live.”

The partnership between Ashkelon and THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, has helped lift the spirits of many Ashkelon residents during the recent turmoil. Ariely said many in the Baltimore community have sent notes, gifts and prayers to show their support, and on past occasions, have raised funds and sent aid when Ashkelon residents were in distress. "The fact that we know we have family in Baltimore makes us feel stronger and shows us that we are not alone."

Still, she added, “For me, as a mother, it’s very difficult to see what these sirens are doing to these young kids. We are trying to raise our kids to understand that this conflict is part of our reality. Until we have peace, this will happen every few months.”

For more information, listen to the full recording of the call. JFNA also issued several recent briefings to alert Jewish Federations of the situation.

Israel's South Under Fire (March 11, 2012)
Israel's South Under Fire (March 12, 2012)
Southern Israel Update (March 13, 2012)

JFNA will continue to provide new information and updates as the situation demands.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

UPDATE: Violence in Gaza

Nearly 200,000 students in areas of southern Israel were held out of school today as a safety precaution. The decision came in the wake of continuing rocket fire over the weekend from the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip after Israel killed two top terrorists on Friday to thwart an attack.

image credit: ctpost
"The IDF Home Front Command along with the heads of a number of local authorities in the South decided on Saturday night to cancel school in all towns and cities located between 7 km. and 40 km. of the Gaza Strip. Due to the decision, approximately 200,000 children will stay home on Sunday," the Jerusalem Post reported.

Jewish Federations of North America will continue to monitor the situation and keep local Federations informed. As always, our thoughts and concerns are with the people of Israel.

Click for more from today's Jerusalem Post

Friday, March 9, 2012

Gaza Rockets fire disrupts life in Israeli south

Below is an article from regarding today's violence in the Sha'ar Hanegev region in the south. Mayor Alon Schuster has informed us they will be canceling holiday celebrations due to the violence. We will be updating this blog as more information comes in.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Free Alan Gross from Incarceration

In anticipation of Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming trip to Cuba from March 26-28, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington has launched a new nationwide on-line petition drive humbly appealing to His Holiness to make whatever efforts necessary so that he may obtain Alan Gross’ release from Cuba while he is there.  We are respectfully requesting that you encourage people to sign this petition and forward it electronically (email, Twitter, Facebook) to your database and ask them to sign and forward the petition to others. We are also pleased to list your organization as a sponsor if you would like. Please contact Adina Remz at, to have your organization listed.
Alan Gross, a resident of the DC Metropolitan Area, was arrested in Cuba in December 2009 while working with the small Jewish community there to improve their Internet access and to create an intranet for them.  He has been incarcerated ever since. He languished in prison for over a year until he was finally charged by the Cuban government.  He was convicted by a Cuban court of "actions against the integrity of the State," and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He subsequently appealed his sentence to the Cuban Supreme Court and the court reaffirmed the sentence, exhausting all of Alan’s legal remedies. His only avenue left is commutation of his sentence by Raul Castro, President of Cuba. 
Alan and his supporters have fervently rejected all accusations that he did, or intended to, do anything to harm the Cuban government.  Quite to the contrary, his work in Cuba was meant to help the Cuban Jewish community improve its access to information through the Internet and intranet. The President of the United States, senior Administration officials, several high-ranking members of the United States Department of State, Members of Congress, various national leaders, and newspaper editorials have all called for his immediate release.
We too are urging Alan’s immediate release on humanitarian grounds.  Alan has lost approximately 100 pounds and is suffering from several ailments. Since his incarceration, his wife Judy has undergone surgery for an undisclosed medical issue and his two daughters, one of whom was recently diagnosed and treated for breast cancer, fear they will never see their father again.  Alan's 89-year old mother is fighting inoperable lung cancer and is also afraid that she may never see her son again.  The Gross family continues to suffer greatly—physically, economically, emotionally and spiritually—and we must do everything we can to bring this to an end.
Please help us fulfill the primary Jewish value of pidyon shivuim, redemption of the captive.
Thank you.
Ronald Halber
Executive Director

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Purim Sameach from the Federation!

The year 2012 has been an eventful one so far for Federation, and as our Annual Campaign marches forward, I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you the 'World of Good' that you are enabling here at Federation.

New Federation Offerings In a few short months we've launched some highly impactful programs and initiatives that enhance our community, help those in need, and build strong lasting connections to Jewish life.

One Happy Camper
Our One Happy Camper program has launched a second year of providing much-needed financial incentives to families and children considering the amazing experience of attending Jewish summer overnight camp. This year we have already given grants to over one hundred first time campers. As a former camper myself and a parent of three who saw his children experience Jewish life at summer camp, I urge all of you to spread the word about One Happy Camper. Check it out by clicking here.

The Mitzvah Makers

I'm also proud to announce that our new Mitzvah Makers program has just launched. This exciting program encourages young students preparing for their bar or bat mitzvah to partner with Federation to weave the spirit of tzedakah and tikkun olam into their important rite of passage and make a lasting connection to their community and philanthropy. We're proud to offer San Diego bar and bat mitzvah students these free tools and guidance to help them do a world of good.

The 2030 Project
Young adults are important to our Jewish community, and your Federation continues to provide programs for these key constituents. We are in the process of kicking off our 2030 Project Community Portal, a proposal that was developed during our in-depth study of the needs of this demographic group. The portal will bring together the next generation of Jewish leaders and philanthropists and maximize their potential to volunteer, study Torah and be active in our community. Stay tuned for more information as the strategies outlined in our 2030 Project continue to unfold.

Sha'ar HaNegev Partnership Community
We are thrilled to announce an exciting new initiative designed to take our 13-year relationship with Federation's partner region in Israel, Sha'ar HaNegev, to a new level. Partnership 2Gether, a program of our longstanding partner, The Jewish Agency for Israel, offers us an opportunity to expand our mutually beneficial connection between the Jewish community in San Diego and the people of Sha'ar HaNegev. Our joint steering committee met last month in Israel for a four-day intensive planning session to launch this new partnership. Thank you to Rick Kornfeld and Larry Acheatel for traveling to Israel for this effort. Federation is also pleased to announce the upcoming dedication on June 26 of a new high school, the Sha'ar HaNegev Educational Village, built with the support of the San Diego Jewish community. Federation is proud to help fulfill David Ben-Gurion's dream of seeing the Negev bloom. Click here for more information.

The new Jewish Educational Services Council (JESC) has been working to identify education priorities, increase access to Jewish education, and support a new framework for planning communitywide Jewish education. Our community education stakeholders are deeply engaged in this visioning, planning, research and advisory forum and are providing community feedback on current programs and services, advocating for increased community involvement in Jewish education, and exploring best practices.

Under the leadership of Caryn Viterbi, the JESC has been meeting this year to help guide our community, provide leadership and raise the bar on our communal commitment to Jewish education. I am in awe of the work of this critical group. Their commitment to the concept of collective impact in Jewish education will serve us well in the months and years to come.

New Federation Website
In January, Federation officially launched its new and improved website -, which offers the latest news, community events and Jewish resources here in San Diego. It is a completely redesigned and modernized website that has helped re-launch our presence of the web, enable a more robust social media strategy, and communicate the work of Federation in the community.

The website features RSS feeds from breaking news sources on Israel, engaging blogs, new interesting videos and social media integration. You will also find the most up-to-date information on critical Federation programs, missions and opportunities to do a world of good!

This new website also serves as a community resource for everything Jewish in San Diego! Our "Local News" feed features the most up-to-date events from all of our partners here in San Diego, including the JCC, JFS, The SD Jewish Journal, SD Jewish World and more.

Heart to Heart Mission

San Diego's amazing women, including my wonderful wife Amy, embarked on a journey to Israel last month and shared their experiences with us via live blogging of their adventure. One of the best ways to see the work of Federation in Israel is to travel on a Federation mission. I invite you see check out their blog at

Federation and JFNA Role in Supporting Civil Society in Israel

Your Federation has spoken out loudly to support recent Jewish Federation of North America (JFNA) statements condemning acts of extremism and intolerance in Israel's society. Our Federation system has been actively working, along with our traditional partners, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, to encourage a society that promotes tolerance and equal opportunity for all people in Israel. Our system collectively supports religious streams in Israel, including the Reform and Conservative movements, as well as other programs that strengthen Israeli society by fostering understanding and integration. JFNA's senior leadership met with Prime Minister Netanyahu just this week when they again raised the topic and expressed the concern of North America's Jewish community on this issue.

Our 2012 Annual Community Campaign

I want to express our sincere appreciation on behalf of the network of organizations and programs throughout our community and around the Jewish world. The work you are enabling through your support of our Annual Campaign continues to be vital to our efforts to build a vibrant Jewish community and make sure Jews in need are cared for. Many of you have responded whenever we ask for your support and have already made a commitment to our current 2012 campaign, and we thank you. For those of you who have not been reached or who have not yet made a commitment, please consider a gift to your Federation. Click here to view our moving campaign video. It so poignantly demonstrates the value of supporting your Federation. Click here to make a gift or to pay an existing pledge.


On our Jewish calendar we just began the month of Adar, famous for my favorite holiday of the year, Purim. We are commanded by our tradition to be joyful during the month of Adar. In today's fast-paced and sometimes challenging world, I think it is important that we all take a moment to celebrate and be joyous. Enjoy the holiday of Purim with family and friends. Fulfill the mitzvah of hearing the Megillat Esther read aloud, enjoy a Hamantaschen, or go to a Purim carnival. These are some of the fun and beautiful traditions that bring our community closer and give us all a sense of hope and confidence in the future.

Thanks for all you do for the community.

Chag Sameach,

Steven J. Morris
President & CEO, Jewish Federation of San Diego County

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Jewish Federations Support Victims of Recent Tornadoes

As communities begin to assess the impact of the powerful tornadoes that ripped through the Midwest and South last week, The Jewish Federations of North America is directing support to those affected by the deadly storms.

The Jewish Community of Louisville has opened a Tornado Relief fund to help aid victims in the disaster areas. Jewish Federations should direct donors to send checks to JCL Tornado Relief, 3600 Dutchmans Lane, Louisville, KY 40205 or donate online by selecting the Tornado Relief Fund. Please indicate Tornado Relief Fund on all checks.

Although no Jewish communities were directly impacted by the tornadoes, and no Jewish institutions were damaged, many Jews are eager to help those who were affected. “Our hearts go out to our neighbors in Southern Indiana who are suffering tremendously in the wake of last week’s powerful storms,” said Stu Silberman, president and CEO of the Jewish Community of Louisville. “We are honored to play a role in helping restore lives by coordinating relief efforts from Jewish communities around the country.”

The Louisville Federation is in close proximity to some of the communities ravaged by the more than 40 deadly tornadoes that hit 10 states last Friday. According to press reports, the storms resulted in 40 deaths in five states, and hundreds of injuries. Many people lost their homes and need shelter and food.

“Henryville and Marysville, Ind. are just a few miles from Louisville, and our entire community is impacted by the suffering of neighbors so close to us,” said Silberman. “The Jewish Community of Louisville has been, and will always be, a part of any effort to help those less fortunate in our community.”
The Jewish Community of Louisville has partnered with the local United Way on relief efforts, as well as the Dare to Care Food Bank, which is providing food and personal hygiene products to families impacted by the storms. The Louisville Federation will also coordinate volunteer efforts to help assist tornado cleanup in nearby communities.

The JFNA Emergency Committee remains in close contact with the Louisville Federation and other disaster relief partners and continues to assess the situation. "JFNA sends our support to those affected by last week's storms," said Cheryl Fishbein, JFNA's Emergency Committee chair. "We applaud the Jewish Community of Louisville for leading the Jewish Federation efforts to provide emergency relief to those in need, and remain committed to helping these devastated communities rebuild and recover."

The Emergency Committee this week met with longtime partner NECHAMA, the Jewish disaster response organization. NECHAMA will begin a disaster-response cleanup operation in the Henryville and Marysville areas – where more than 500 homes have been damaged – this week.

JFNA is also working closely with the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster and the Jewish Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. In addition, the National Association of Jewish Chaplains will deploy disaster chaplains in areas hit by the tornadoes. JFNA will continue to monitor the situation, and provide reports to Federations as necessary.

JFNA and Jewish Federations are committed to care for victims of global natural disasters, and have emergency relief plans in place to aid those in need. Last year, Jewish Federations raised thousands of dollars for those affected by widespread storms around the U.S., and more than $1 million for victims of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan. Other recent fundraising efforts included $30 million to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina, and $10 million in the aftermath of the southern Asia tsunami in 2004.