Thursday, May 31, 2012

The 2030 Project Launches!

We are proud to launch our new website for San Diego Jews in their 20's and 30's -! is a community web portal that includes an interactive and customizable calendar for all young adult programs and activities, Jewish community resources, and ways to connect and interact with all that is happening.

The 2030 Project is providing resources to support the young adult groups/organizations and individuals in our community, building their capacities to succeed and engage young adults by providing grants, leadership and professional development, and facilitating communication and collaboration between the groups.

The primary goal of the 2030 Project is to help more young Jewish adults connect to meaningful Jewish experiences and community by expanding their opportunities, addressing gaps in service and minimizing barriers to participation. We are connecting San Diego young adult Jews to Judaism, Jewish community and each other.

For more, check out the feature story about the Project in the San Diego Jewish Journal and be sure to visit our site

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Women’s Philanthropy Holds Clothing Drive for Camp Pendleton Families

The Boutique

On May 20, 2012, the Jewish Federation of San Diego County Women’s Philanthropy held a clothing drive called “Share Your Style Boutique” for families of Camp Pendleton. The boutique had nearly three thousand articles of clothing donated to more than 150 military families.
“We have been thrilled at the outpouring of support for this wonderful project,” said Olivia Okovita, co-chair of the boutique. “We have collected clothing for the last six months, and the generous response of people throughout our community has been tremendous.”

“We are honored to be able to support our local service men and women, and their families, as they have sacrificed so much for us,” added Amy Morris, Okovita’s co-chair. “Donating clothing or time for this project is a joy for all of us.”

The Volunteers and Organizers 
One of the visitors to the boutique remarked, “I can’t believe how wonderful these people are.  My husband has been in Afghanistan for months, and money is very tight for us.  Thanks to their boutique, I was able to get clothing for my children which they needed very badly.”

Twenty-five volunteers – including children and husbands of Women’s Philanthropy board members as well as interested members of the San Diego Jewish community set up the “boutique” in the Camp’s Abby Reinke Community Center, which was visited by more than 150 families. The project was held in partnership with the Jewish Family Service’s Hand Up Food Pantry. Boyer Moving and Storage generously donated a moving van and dedicated labor for the entire day.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Journey to Greece Strengthens Ties to Home

By Raquel Benguiat, Development Manager at the Jewish Federation of San Diego County

Jon Schneider with Rosina Asser Prado
As a tourist visiting Greece, you can expect gorgeous views of the blue Mediterranean and tiered white villas dotting the hillsides. If you are lucky, you'll talk to an authentic Greek fisherman who will share his views on the current political and economic crisis. 

Federation Board members Jack Maizel and Jon Schneider were not regular tourists on their recent trip to Greece. As members of the Jewish Federation of North America’s National Young Leadership Cabinet (NYLC), they experienced a very different Greece. The Jewish Greece....or what it is left of it.

Of the approximately 5000 Jews that live there, they met some very special people, including Rosina Asser Pardo. Jon refers to Rosina as the Anne Frank that lived to tell and write her story. "I bought her book because it’s an invaluable piece for my kids as they will not have an opportunity to meet Holocaust survivors and listen to their stories." Jon recalled. 

Jack Maizel with Victoria and Levi Benuzillo
Jack had an unforgettable experience as well connecting with Victoria and Levi Benuzillo. Victoria survived the horrors of the Holocaust. After lunch, Victoria’s son Levi and Jack compared notes on what songs in ladino language they both knew. These songs were familiar to Jack because of his Sephardic background. When they started singing, Victoria decided to join them and sing along Adio Querida, Rey Nimrod and several others. Everyone became silent listening to these very old tunes that brought together three generations with very different life stories but unified by a common thread of history and peoplehood. 

As a regular tourist in Greece, you would not want to miss the traditional plate-breaking dance which symbolizes happiness. In addition to participation in such famous tradition, for Jon, another traditional performance brought him much happiness. That been a recital at the Athens’ Jewish Community School. "When the kids performed, I recognize the songs as they are the same my kids sing at their school. They looked like my very own kids!” Jon recalls.

Each of the 45 NYLC members who were part of this study mission brought home meaningful experiences, but none of them expected to be part of a "surprise" destination wedding. As Jack tells the story, “The last evening we were taken to a really nice restaurant and I noticed at the dance floor there were four friends from Cabinet holding a chuppah. I thought that they might want to do a symbolic ceremony where all the Cabinet members would be married to the Jewish cause. Then I noticed that Susan and Trip Stern were walking towards the chuppah. After 17 years of being married secularly, they decided to have a Jewish wedding among 45 of their best friends.” Indeed, when joining NYLC you can expect the unexpected, including "Making friends for life, all around North America." Jon declares.

"Surprise" Wedding
For Jack, “It became overly apparent during the mission that one cannot distinguish between local and overseas needs. Upon visiting a fascinating community it was obvious that when it comes to Jews of the world, everything is local. Their problems are our problems. This is true for what happens in Israel just as it is true for what happens in Athens."

As a member of NYLC, Jon’s participation in 5 study missions (Berlin, Budapest & Sarajevo, Morocco, Chile & Argentina and lastly in Greece), heightened his awareness about the needs of our Jewish communities oversees and now he is a strong advocate. He concluded, "My heart is with the overseas communities. We need to be there for them. They face tremendous risks and we cannot afford to lose them.”

We thank Jack and Jon as well as the rest of our San Diego members of the National Young Leadership Cabinet: Juli Bear, Jordan Berman, Leslie Fastlicht Russo, Boris Shekhter and Ryan Stone, among others for their leadership and for representing our community at national and international levels.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Federation and Jewish Community Open School in Sha'ar HaNegev

The Jewish Federation of San Diego County is proud to announce the dedication of the Alexander Joseph Viterbi Arts Center in Sha’ar HaNegev, Israel, on June 26. Over the past ten years, the Federation and San Diego Jewish community have contributed more than $10 million to the embattled region, which is under constant threat from Gaza rockets. The Arts Center, part of the newly built Sha’ar HaNegev Education Village, is situated only kilometers away from the contentious Gaza border. It will open its doors for the first time to over 1,800 K-12 students this spring. For many of the students it will be their first opportunity for exposure to the arts, music, design and drama. It is being named in memory of Alexander Joseph Viterbi. The dedication ceremony will be attended by several families from San Diego as well as dignitaries from the Israeli government and local officials.

 In 2008, following the escalation of rockets from Gaza onto Sha’ar HaNegev, the Sha’ar HaNegev community persuaded the Israeli government to approve building a specially-shielded high school on the educational campus of Sha’ar HaNegev. The Jewish Federation of San Diego County took a bold step, as the first organization to commit its support to building the school in its early planning stages. With Rick Kornfeld’s leadership, many families in San Diego stepped up to support the new high school with their generous donations. Aharale Rothstein, Sha’ar HaNegev high school principal led many delegations of teachers and students on educational exchanges over the past few years. These exchanges between the people of San Diego and Sha’ar HaNegev, inspired by Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council Mayor Alon Schuster, led to an understanding that there is a great need and opportunity, to work together to enhance our common Jewish identity and destiny. 

 After a tremendous investment of time, expertise and funding, the dream of a state-of-the-art high school with a focus on pluralistic Jewish values, is coming to fruition. The children of Sha’ar HaNegev will soon be able to attend classes in a safe and sophisticated learning environment in their community, not far from their homes. The Alexander Joseph Viterbi Art Center, created through the generosity of the people of San Diego, funded through Jewish Federation of San Diego County, will enrich their lives through dance, music, painting and other cultural activities.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Terri Bignell Named Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award Recipient

Terri Bignell
The Jewish Federation of San Diego County has named Terri Bignell as the 2013 San Diego recipient of the Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award. The award recognizes an extraordinary woman who has set a high standard for philanthropy and volunteerism in her community. Terri and other community award winners will be recognized at a special ceremony at the upcoming International Lion of Judah Conference in New York City this September.

"I am honored and deeply touched to be recognized and I look forward to being actively involved with the Jewish community for the years to come and continuing to fulfill the responsibilities this award embodies," stated Bignell. "I am extremely proud to represent San Diego for this award and look forward to joining Lions from around the globe for the upcoming conference in NYC," Bignell continued.

Each community was encouraged to nominate one woman who has a proven commitment to the worldwide Jewish community. Criteria for the award includes being a Lion of Judah for a minimum of five years; exhibiting leadership in the Federation; having a Lion of Judah Endowment; making a significant impact in the local Jewish community, in Israel and abroad; using leadership in creative ways to address community challenges and issues; displaying initiative in the areas of philanthropy and/or volunteerism and setting a standard for others in the community; giving other women encouragement, motivation and opportunity to take a leadership role in philanthropy and Jewish community involvement; and embodying the spirit and vision of Lion of Judah through a commitment to tzedakah and tikkun olam (repairing the world). The award was established in recognition of Norma Kipnis Wilson and Toby Friedland, founders of the Lion of Judah Society.

Terri Bignell has been an invaluable member of San Diego’s Jewish community for nearly thirty years. She has inspired countless people through her intelligence, passion and vision and has been involved in nearly every aspect of the Federation. She has been the Associate Women’s Division Director from 1986 to 2002, and soon went on to become an active volunteer leader becoming Women’s Division Vice President for Leadership Development, and then President of Women’s Division from 2007 – 2009. Terri has been a proud Lion of Judah since 2002, established her LOJE in 2003, and chaired numerous Lion activities and events, was Vice President of Community Planning and Innovation, and currently sits on the Federation board.

Terri’s leadership has extended throughout the San Diego Jewish community. She has been a member of the Hillel board, a member of the inaugural Endowment Leadership Institute of the Jewish Community Foundation and is currently Coordinator of Congregation Beth Israel’s 150th anniversary project. An avid lover of gardening, cooking and interior design, Terri is the proud mother of a daughter, Leah.

For more information on the International Lion of Judah Conference in New York City or on the Lion of Judah Division, please call Debbie Kempinski at Jewish Federation at (858) 737-7133.

Monday, May 7, 2012

San Diego Celebrates Israel a Huge Success!

The Federation would like to thank the entire Jewish Community for 2012 San Diego Celebrates Israel Yom Ha’atzmaut Festival. With close to 3,000 people attending, there was a strong feeling of community and warmth that filled Ski Beach Park. The San Diego Jewish community’s strong commitment to Israel is underscored by the 70 plus community synagogues, organizations, merchants and vendors who participated in the event. While we have received tremendous positive feedback about the San Diego Celebrates Israel Festival, we recognize that it was because of the community's participation and partnership that this dream became a reality.

Some of the day’s highlights included:
  • The Friendship Walk which raised funds to help children in San Diego and in Sha’ar HaNegev with special needs
  • A live hummus cooking competition with first place going to Galit Urlich. Packaged prizes were generously donated by Cook Dazzle
  • Israel Defense Forces Musical Ensemble
  • Israeli Folk Dancing with Yoni Carr
  • Shlomo Dubnov’s Belly Button Circus by
  • Senior club area
  • Arts and crafts with more than 8 craft activities
  • Sports and games provided by the Ken and the Tzofim.
We look forward to partnering with you next year on Sunday, April 21, 2013 as we celebrate Israel @ 65.

Here are a few of the highlights -- For more great pictures, click here.

Photos by Del Rio Studios

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tzedakah Ball Featured in the Wedding Yentas

Rachel Kitt
The Wedding Yentas and Federation's own Rachel Kitt just wrote up a great article about this past weekend's fabulous Tzedakah Ball!  It was a wonderful evening, and a whole lot of fun.  These young philanthropists raised over $10,000 and are truly doing a world of good.

Click to Read More