Thursday, January 31, 2013

Michael Sonduck Appointed CEO of Federation!

The Jewish Federation of San Diego is honored and delighted to announce that Michael Sonduck has accepted the position of President and Chief Executive Officer of our Federation, effective immediately. As interim CEO for these past ten months, we were fortunate to observe Michael’s skills in many areas especially in helping us forge a new purpose and strategy for our Federation and building improved relationships with our partners and donors. We are so fortunate that his seven years prior experience as Federation’s Chief Operating Officer affords us the added benefit of a smooth transition. Michael possesses the leadership, vision and enthusiasm that will move us to the next level in our community.

Michael has been associated with the Federation since 2004, as a consultant, Director of Strategic Implementation and as Chief Operating Officer.  Prior to working for Federation, Sonduck led a management consulting practice for twenty-five years focusing on the role of leadership in strategic change.  His clients included business, government and non-profit leaders.  He is a published author and accomplished public speaker. He has been active as a synagogue Board member and led strategic planning activities for several synagogues and Jewish organizations. He is a graduate of George Williams College.

The selection process was conducted with consultation from the Jewish Federation of North America’s Mandel Center for Leadership Excellence.

Claire Ellman, Board Chair

Monday, January 28, 2013

Yom Hazikaron - We Want to Hear Your Story

Your Federation is hosting San Diego's Yom Hazikaron Ceremony on April 14th at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center (JCC). At the event each year, we come together as a community to light candles, share stories, and reflect in memory of our loved ones who fell in Israel’s wars or in acts of terror. In order to make it more personal and meaningful, community members are invited to participate in the ceremony. If you are interested in doing so by sharing a story, or lighting a candle in memory, please email Varda at by February 10th.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

"Dare to Dream" Program Inspires Local Teens

As part of our interfaith work, the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) brought together Jewish  Family Service, the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, King Chavez Schools and the Barrio Logan College Institute to create the 2013 Teen Social Justice Coalition, Dare to Dream
Dare to Dream brings together high school students from across San Diego County to learn about diversity and social justice issues while giving back to the community in meaningful way. Forty teens from diverse backgrounds, representing more than 11 different high schools, were selected to participate in the program designed to follow the legacies of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez.

Specifically the teens have the opportunity to: 

· Learn to create a positive community change through art

· Build bridges and friendships with other teens from across San Diego

· Earn service hours and receive a certificate reflecting your contributions to the community

· Be exposed to current social justice issues and how each person can make a difference

· Participate in dynamic diversity workshops lead by local leaders

· Understand the important legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez

· Develop leadership and cultural competency skills

This past weekend the teens met for the first time, shared their stories and actively participated in discussions about inequality, social justice, and inclusion. In keeping with the theme of the All People’s Breakfast, the Art of Change, the teens created a piece of artwork that was displayed at the breakfast where Mayor Filner was the keynote speaker. 

In April the teens will participate in a national day of service, hear an exciting key note speaker and honor Cesar Chavez 

In May we will conclude with a Dinner to Celebrate Dare to Dream’s accomplishment with a dinner, family, friends and local community leaders.

Friday, January 25, 2013

San Diego B'nai Mitzvah Students Doing Mitzvot

B’nai Mitzvah students in 6th through 8th grade across San Diego County are participating in the Federation’s Mitzvah Makers program and experiencing how they can make a difference in the lives of others and become compassionate, dedicated Jewish adults. 

Created a year ago in collaboration with several local synagogues and rabbis, the Mitzvah Makers works with Bar and Bat Mitzvah students to find or create a mitzvah (“good deed” or “commandment”) project that fits the teen’s interest and connects that interest to the local and/or global Jewish community. A colorful and easy-to-navigate website,, provides basic information, but more importantly, it celebrates each student’s project for the public to see and admire. The Mitzvah Makers site also provides unique URL links for each student to share his/her project experience with friends and families and collect tzedakah (“charity”) donations for the cause they have chosen.

The inaugural year’s Mitzvah Makers have created exciting and dynamic projects that have benefited a variety of populations and causes: Children and adults suffering from illness, at-risk youth, children with special needs, memorializing children who perished in the Holocaust, hunger, poverty, and a slew of others. Collectively, these students have raised over $23,000 from family and friends for causes and issues they are passionate about. The students experience tangible results of their hard work, commitment, and the Jewish value of tikkun olam (“healing the world”), and these projects have given the B’nai Mitzvah experience added value and meaning. Parents are thrilled that their teens are discovering new depth in the traditional Jewish ceremony marking adulthood, and they appreciate the support Federation has provided in taking the time to work with each student to help create and implement personally tailored projects. The Federation also hosts and provides technical support for the official website and online donation platform, creating a modern interface that teenagers and their peers are comfortable with.

The Jewish Federation hopes to build on this past year’s success and expand Mitzvah Makers. The Federation invites all area synagogues, students in 6th - 8th grade, and future B’nai Mitzvah students to join the Mitzvah Makers program. For teens and families, visit to learn more and get started on your project. If you are a local rabbi or synagogue representative and want to know how you and your congregation can participate, please contact Karen Grossman at (858) 876-7527 or email her at

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Innovation in Healing and Peace Building: Save a Child's Heart

Innovation in Healing and Peace Building:  Save a Child's Heart
Doctors Arie Schachner & Lior Sasson

Federation partner Stand With Us, through its Israel Start Up Nation Series, invites the community to meet the founding physician and head surgeon of Save a Child's Heart, a remarkable Israeli-based international humanitarian project that through providing free pediatric life saving surgeries and training in the developing world, are building bridges towards peace. Save a Child's Heart has provided free heart surgeries to more than 3,000 children from 44 developing countries around the world; 50% from the Palestinian Authority, Morocco, Jordan and Iraq, and the rest are from Africa, South America, Asia and Eastern Europe. Click HERE for more on Save a Child's Heart.   

Thank you to Federation Board Chair Elect and Vice Chair of Jewish Philanthropy Theresa Dupuis for bringing them to San Diego.

When: This Wednesday, January 30, 2013  12:30 pm - 1:30 pm

Where: UCSD Rady School of Management
9500 Gilman Drive  San Diego, CA 92093 
Wells Fargo Hall, first floor, room 1N108
Click HERE for directions to Pangea parking lot

Who: Co-sponsored by the Stand With US Israel Start Up Nation Series, US-Israel Center on Innovation at the Rady School of Management and the Division of Pediatric Cardiology at UCSD

RSVP to UCSD click HERE Or RSVP on Facebook click HERE 

Jewish Group Home for Adults with Mental Illness Holds Open House

Recent tragedies in this country, such as the Newtown school shooting, have sparked critical conversations about how society and healthcare deals with mental illness. In the 21st century, as the US becomes more progressive and sensitive to its populations uniqueness, the stigma surrounding mental illness continues to prevent people, from loving mothers to active-duty soldiers, from seeking treatment. Ignoring mental health needs has all too often resulted in tragedy for too many families. A grassroots San Diego effort is seeking to help rectify these issues, to dispel myths and stigma, and to provide a safe and loving environment for adults with mental illness through the creation of Chesed Home, Home of “Loving Kindness.”

After years of fundraising and advocacy, Chesed Home is finally approaching its goal. With the support of the Jewish Federation of San Diego County’s Innovation Grants, Chesed Home was able to expedite its processes, finding an appropriate space in Escondido and signing a lease. On Wednesday, January 23, Chesed Home held its first Open House, welcoming community members from across San Diego to see the facility that their dedication and support has built.

Dozens of people streamed in and out of the open house, taking tours of the facility with Chesed Home leadership, including board president Fern Siegel, who noted that they could not have accomplished so much without Federation’s support. Jewish art and ritual objects were scattered around the home, emphasizing that this group home, while open to any individual from any background, will be built on Jewish values.
Grassroots organizer and advisory board member Devorah Shore was inspired to action after seeing the below standard facilities and programs her own son had to settle for, and she will now also serve as a Volunteer Coordinator. She explained that “the essence of the home will be uplifted by the quality and quantity of Jewish volunteers who will surround the home with positive caring and love.”  She added that Chesed Home is obtaining proper licensing and searching for a Program Director before a projected opening in 1-2 months. Once open, residents will be able to use their monthly subsidies from government agencies to help pay the necessary fees. Even with some additional private funds required, the facility will cost a half of what similar services would, thanks to the support Chesed Home has received from Federation and numerous donors. “We want this to be a place of pride…a legacy parents can leave once they have passed on,” Devorah added.

The Escondido facility was originally built to be a group home, and Chesed Home has taken full advantage of its spacious and multiple rooms. The facility will support, nurture, and care for residents’ minds, bodies, and spirits through technology, nutritious meals, exercise, gardening, and art, in addition to traditional treatment methods. The home is fully equipped with a sparkling new vegetarian kitchen where residents will cook nutritious meals using food they grow in their own garden. A fitness room will have stationary bikes, yoga mats, and other health equipment, and residents will have full use of a television and computers. Local public transportation, a future home vehicle, and a walkable neighborhood will provide independence and flexibility in a structured environment.  
Executive Board member Dana Glasser noted that Chesed Home will be “a home away from home and a family to rely on and trust” for its residents. “People will feel safe and loved and cared for.”

“There is an amazing, diverse Jewish community here in San Diego,” explained Devorah, “Everyone has offered to come help and volunteer, and we are thrilled and so grateful. We are grateful to Federation for its financial backing and marketing and fundraising workshops, and we are thankful to our donors. Every bit makes a big difference.”
Chesed Home will hold a second Open House on Sunday, January 27 at 11:00am and it is located at 402 West Lincoln Avenue, Escondido, CA 92026. They invite the entire community to visit and see what their love and support has built. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Birthright Registration Opens February 13

Birthright Registration is just around the corner! We are thrilled to have a community bus this summer for young adults (ages 22-26) departing in mid-June. 

Don't miss this amazing opportunity!

For more information, contact Carly Ezell at

Friday, January 18, 2013

Raising American Jews Through an Israeli Lens

Written by: Jennie Starr (Founder and Director of the Tarbuton Israeli Cultural Center)

My daughter was born, and we didn’t know what Synagogue we’d belong to, or if she’d go to Jewish Day School, but we knew we wanted her to be “Happily Jewish” and strongly connected to Israel from our home far away in San Diego, CA. We’d do Shabbat at home, celebrate the Holidays with friends and send her to Jewish Summer camp. But, she needed her own Jewish friends for it to be meaningful. Not just our friends, but hers. I was raised by an Israeli father who did not want to go to Synagogue. He’d had enough in the Israeli Orthodox orphanage camp he was raised in as an immigrant during the war and wanted no part of it; though he filled our home with Jewish tradition at holiday time, i.e. Shabbat every Friday, he read us the Megillat Esther at Purim, built a Sukkah each year among other things, and, lucky me, made Israeli food and music staples in our home.

I was recently asked why I built the Tarbuton, and it’s not an easy answer. Why did I spend the last 7 years of my life, volunteering 40-60 hrs/week building an Israeli Cultural Center for Americans and Israelis with Israeli culture, Modern Hebrew and Jewish Education at its heart? I didn’t feel I had a choice. I could not hope someone else would do it for me. I knew no one would. My youngest was turning 3, and I had a son on the way. They needed these programs and it couldn’t wait.

I had terrible Synagogue Sunday School and Jewish Day School experiences, though I’m sure there were hard working, underpaid, Jewish professionals behind these programs. The experiences were bad enough that even my American mother, an educator, agreed to pull me out when she observed the lack of substance, failures of discipline and unhappy kids. We never found a suitable program for any extended period of time, though my mother was motivated. I didn’t want my kids to be dragged by an unsatisfied parent, which I seemed also destined to be, in and out of different Jewish programs, with different kids, never quite finding a Jewish community of their own.

In addition to all those things, I wanted their Jewish life to be filled with educators and a community passionate about Israel. I could not stomach putting my children into a Jewish environment that would “undo” our work to inspire our children’s connection to Israel. Several real life experiences provide illustrations. In the first, a Synagogue Sunday school teacher asked me for introductions to an Israeli who served in the IDF and believed in conscientious objection so she could teach her elementary aged Sunday school students that people can opt not to serve in the military. I couldn’t understand why this subject was relevant in a Sunday School, let alone as part of her Israel education unit. In the second, I had heard that a local Rabbi gave a beautiful gift of a trip to Israel to a bar mitzvah boy but warned from the pulpit, that the family should use the ticket when it was “safe to go;” a public, chilling and conflicted message indeed. 

I wanted my kids instilled with a love and passion for Modern Israel, a deep and lifelong connection filled with positive images and visits. I wanted my kids to understand Israel and Israelis. Much of our family lives in Israel. I couldn’t accept anything less. And Hebrew was very important too. I couldn’t speak Hebrew, but I knew I wanted my kids to. I wanted them to feel at home, because they could understand and engage in everything around them when in Israel, something I hadn’t been able to do as a child when we visited and I was left out unable to participate in family conversations in Hebrew. 

Silly, I know. We weren’t planning to make Aliyah. I still don’t know if we will. But, I wanted them to be so connected to Israel that they would tell you, “I’m an American, but I am also passionate about Israel, and let me tell you how amazing Israel is.” I looked at our Synagogue and JCC options and while they were filled with dedicated Jewish professionals and multitudes of programs, the programs were filled with songs I didn’t recognize, few if any in Hebrew, there was little if any Israel or Israelis in their programs, knowledge of Modern Hebrew in their staffing, and none gave me hope they would ever want or be able to provide these things.

For the last 7 years, my children have attended the Tarbuton Israeli Cultural Center program where they have made American and Israeli friends who are passionate about Israel, they have studied Modern Hebrew in a high quality program taught by Israelis, studied Judaism with admired and respected teachers, and celebrated Jewish Holidays with a core group of many of the same friends experientially, usually outdoors, and with Israeli music. They’ve done so conveniently in classes at our Center, but also in Tarbuton classes offered after their bell at their elementary public school in what we believe may be one of if not the first District’s Enrichment program. 

They sing and dance in Tarbuton performing groups at the Yom Haatzmaout Festival and at our House of Israel sharing their passion for Israel with the public. My kids are, I’m very grateful to say, so far, “Happily Jewish”. We visit Israel every summer and the kids love Israeli music, are hummus and schwarma connoisseurs, and discerning Israeli visitors to their favorite historical and modern sites, beaches, and restaurants. The kids understand Hebrew well enough to feel comfortable in “their Keitana”, the summer camp they call their own, in Israel, and to respond in Hebrew when they need to with a passably authentic Hebrew “resh.” It hasn’t been easy, and it’s not always perfect, but it has been and continues to be our privilege to enrich our children and the community’s lives on this Jewish journey through an Israeli Lens. 

Jennie Starr is the Founder and Director of the Tarbuton Israeli Cultural Center in San Diego. She advocates for Hebrew Language Charter Schools, introduced Hebrew classes in elementary public schools and serves on her District DELAC Board, for English language support (ESL), and encouraging maintenance of Heritage language skills too. The Tarbuton was recognized this year by Slingshot as a top 50 innovative Jewish organization in North America. The Tarbuton is also proud to be part of the new Nitzan network. The Tarbuton is a recipient of the Jewish Federation of San Diego County Innovation Grants 2011, 2012 and of the Leichtag Foundation 2011, 2012. If you are interested learning more about our Center and programs, contact us at

Your Dollars Make the Difference - Israel Terror Relief Report

The Jewish People respond in times of crisis. The moment that Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense was launched seven weeks ago, Federations from across North American rallied together to create an Israel Terror Relief Fund (ITRF) of $5,000,000, including over $50,000 donated from our incredible community. Seven weeks ago, the crisis was crippling Israel’s South, holding its citizens under siege and causing untold harm, in particular to vulnerable populations. This immediate and generous response funded programs across the impacted region bringing help and hope to thousands of Israelis while garnering praise for the collective work of our Federations. 

In partnership with JFNA, we are pleased to provide you with detailed material about the allocation process and the programs that were funded. You can read about those programs here.

Among the resources provided, you will find an overview of the process, documents outlining the various rounds of allocations, specific grant amounts, grantee details, program descriptions, and geographical locations in which programs were implemented. Our commitment to transparency and efficient use of your donation is paramount; we hope that you, our generous donors, will find this information interesting and useful. After all, it is YOU who made it all possible.

We are truly proud and inspired anew by our system’s efficient and effective response, and by the awesome response of our community. Together, WE can do extraordinary things.

Let us hope that our emergency protocols will not be activated again for a long time to come.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Slingshot San Diego: Strengthening Community - February 12

If you are interested in learning more about innovative responses to the changing needs of Jewish people in San Diego and communities across the U.S., please save the date Tuesday, February 12 from 5 to 7 p.m. to be part of a Slingshot San Diego gathering. Hosted by the Jewish Federation of San Diego County, New York based Slingshot and the 2030 Project, and cosponsored by Congregation Beth Israel. Slingshot San Diego is designed for all San Diegans who are excited about innovation as a strategy for increasing Jewish engagement, caring and connection to Israel.

The New York based Slingshot, which was created to ensure that Judaism remains relevant and engaging in the 21st Century, annually produces a respected resource guide recognizing the top 50 Jewish innovation projects in North America. Facilitated by Will Schneider, Slingshot Executive Director, this gathering of members of the San Diego Jewish community including investors, board members, professionals and Federation grantees, will provide participants an opportunity to align their values with promising organizations and projects dedicated to strengthening Jewish life. At the end of the convening, participants will decide where to grant $10,000 to support innovation locally and nationally.

Slingshot San Diego will also be held in partnership with Congregation Beth El, Tifereth Israel Synagogue, Congregation Beth Am, and Temple Solel. If you would like to learn more about the 18 innovation projects supported by the Jewish Federation and outstanding organizations nationwide, please RSVP to Please list the Jewish organizations with which you are most closely involved with, if any. 

This event will be held at Congregation Beth Israel at 9001 Towne Centre Drive, San Diego, CA, 92122. Space is limited with seating available on a first-come, first-served basis. Light kosher refreshments will be served.

Be the change that strengthens our community!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Gift From IRA Could Mean Tax Benefits – For You!

Congress reinstated the IRA Charitable Rollover for 2012 and 2013 as part of the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) passed on January 1, 2013. If you are 70.5 years or older, you may make a gift up to $100,000 per year to the Jewish Federation of San Diego County from your IRA with no federal income tax impact. To obtain the benefits of the IRA Charitable Rollover for the 2012 taxable year, you must do one of the following:

  • If you received a distribution from your IRA in December 2012, you may make a cash gift to Federation no later than January 31, 2013 and elect to qualify this transfer for exclusion from your 2012 income as a direct qualified charitable distribution pursuant to the provisions of ATRA.
  • If you did not instruct your plan administrator to make a qualified charitable distribution in 2012 (in the hopes that Congress would pass this law), and you would like to do so now, you can instruct your IRA plan administrator to transfer up to $100,000 directly to the Federation no later than January 31, 2013, and it can be a qualified charitable distribution for the 2012 taxable year.
The IRA Charitable Rollover is available through 2013. If you make a qualifying IRA Charitable Rollover in January 2013 and report it as an IRA Charitable Rollover for the 2012 tax year, you are still eligible to claim up to an additional $100,000 in IRA Charitable Rollover contributions in 2013.

We urge you to act soon to take advantage of this opportunity to make your Annual Campaign gift or to create an endowment to support the Annual Campaign or another charitable area for which you are passionate.

Call Lance Yeamen, Donor Services Manager, at 858-571-3444 for additional information. Of course, we encourage you to seek the advice of your professional advisor before you make a charitable IRA Rollover gift.

Additional Details: Unlike a cash withdrawal from your IRA, your direct contribution will be excluded from income for federal purposes and not taxed. It will not be eligible for a charitable tax deduction, but it will not count toward the annual percentage limitation on your other deductible gifts. Your direct contribution cannot be made to donor advised funds, supporting organizations, split-interest trusts or in exchange for gift annuities. Your qualified distribution may be includable in your income for state and local tax purposes, and an offsetting charitable deduction may not be available.

The views expressed here are not intended, nor may they be relied upon, as legal, accounting or other professional advice.

OPTIONS 2013 Hosts a Record Breaking Evening

Campbell Brown
The energy of volunteerism and spirit of generosity were contagious at OPTIONS 2013. Nearly 1,000 San Diego Jewish women of all ages and backgrounds gathered at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront on Sunday, January 13, 2013 for an incredible evening of philanthropy, community and sharing. Mothers and daughters, sisters, and friends came together to celebrate Women’s Philanthropy and learn what more could be done for both the local community and our Jewish communities overseas.

Generously underwritten by Pauline Foster and the Foster Family Foundation, this year’s OPTIONS opened the communal tent by inviting younger women to attend at a significant discount. “We are so excited to be here,” commented Leah Newman and Katie Franko, “six of us carpooled here!” Leah, the Assistant Director of Hillel at UCSD, noted that it was nice to see “intergenerational women coming together for the same cause, and we appreciate the underwriting that allowed us to be here and meet so many leaders in our community.”

Federation board President Claire Ellman was thrilled with the turnout, observing that there were so many new people taking advantage of the wonderful opportunity for Jewish women to get together. “We are honored to have Pauline Foster and the Foster Family Foundation underwrite this event, and we are grateful for her vision of encouraging young people who haven’t attended in the past to take this opportunity to learn about the Federation and celebrate its work in the community.”

Laura Tauber, Pauline Foster, Jessica Effress, Leslie Fastlicht Russo, and Danielle Shulman, Lori Polin
Co-chaired by Jessica Effress, Leslie Fastlicht Russo, and Danielle Shulman, the evening featured remarkable stories on how the Federation’s financial and emotional contributions, both in Israel and San Diego, have helped two very different women overcome their challenges. Tzipi Zipper, a young Israeli woman who had served as a commander in a special combat unit in the Israeli Defense Force, was confined to a wheelchair following a car accident. She spoke of how she found new meaning in her life and a new career path after volunteering at the Center for Independent Living, an agency in Israel established by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and supported by the Federation. Local community member Alexandra Hirschhorn, originally from Mexico City, discussed her Federation involvement not only through her own contributions, but also through the services her family receives from the Friendship Circle, a Federation-supported group. With a daughter with cerebral palsy, Alexandra and her family relocated to San Diego to seek out support for her daughter’s physical health. What they discovered when they arrived was the crucial support for her daughter’s heart and soul that Federation helped to provide. 

Tzipi Zipper shares her story
The meaningful words of Tzipi, a stranger but also a friend, displayed Federation’s vital work in Israel to support people young and old, whatever they may need. Alexandra’s story showcased part of what makes Federation’s work so significant for local families: a family that receives what they themselves can not provide, but also gives back to the Federation so that others may benefit as they have.

The evening concluded with some personal words from special guest speaker Campbell Brown, both a journalist and a woman who has come to love and embrace the Jewish community as her own. Commenting that OPTIONS was the largest Federation group she had ever spoken to, Ms. Brown discussed her conversion process prior to her marriage to Dan Senor, author of Start-Up Nation. She described how concept of tikkun olam, healing the world, is what struck her in all her learning, observing that “nobody understands this [value] better than the people in this room.” Ms. Brown reinforced that philanthropy is a strength of the American Jewish community, and this strength, plus love, can be a power for good in our larger communities both near and far.

OPTIONS was not only a celebration of values such as tikkun olam but also an example of them. The evening’s attendees were asked to bring new children’s pajamas to be collected at the door that will be distributed to G’mach – Jewish Gift Closet, Jewish Family Services, and the children of Sha’ar Hanegev, San Diego’s partner city in Israel. The Social Action Committee of Women’s Philanthropy, chaired by Belinda Feldman and Samantha Cohen, organized the pajama drive.

“This is absolutely amazing,” remarked Andrea Oster, chair of the first OPTIONS event 20 years ago. “The evening has doubled in size due to the generosity of Pauline Foster and her family. We focused on targeting people under 40, and it worked. This is what we need to build our community.”

Yasher Koach to OPTIONS co-chairs Jessica Effress, Leslie Fastlicht Russo, and Danielle Shulman on a beautiful and meaningful evening. The Federation and all who were in attendance are also deeply grateful to Pauline Foster and the Foster Family Foundation for their vision of a thriving and active Jewish community of all ages, and their continued generosity in working towards that goal.

For more great pictures of the event, check out our Facebook: Step and Repeat, Options 2013 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Loss in Our Community…some Thoughts by Rabbi Ralph Dalin, Community Chaplain

Many of us are “shell-shocked” by the death of three prominent members of our Jewish community in the last three weeks: Murray Galinson z”l, Gail Littman z”l and Lori Bolotin z”l. These come after other major losses for us earlier in 2012, and for many of us, other, more personal losses as well.

Rashi notes how the Torah teaches us that the departure of a righteous person from the community makes an impression, and with that person’s departure the community loses some of its glory and splendor and beauty.

If that is true of the departure of one such person, how do we as a community process the departure of a number of such individuals in such a short time? How do we cope with the sense that we are bereft at the loss of the “glory and beauty and splendor” they brought to us?

While we may not be “mourners” in the narrow, traditional definition of primary relatives, we are members of a shared community of vision and values. We need to mourn and to find a constructive outlet for our grief. We are blessed to have the wisdom of our tradition upon which to draw.

Like individual mourners, we need to take time to express our sense of loss. For some this is through sharing tears and/or hugs. For others it is recounting some of the occasions we shared with, or ways we were influenced by, these individuals. For others it is to go to the synagogue when we might not otherwise do so or, for regular shul-goers, to have additional kavannah (focused intent) during the recital of the Kaddish. For many it is by doing what we can to support and comfort their immediate families who shared their loved ones with the rest of us.

Among the values which Murray, Gail and Lori had in common was a strong commitment to kehlillah (community), tzedakkah (sharing what we have with those in need) and tikkun olam (improving the world). We can demonstrate how positively influenced we were by them through emulating them and acting upon their example. By encouraging and prodding ourselves to give generously to strengthen our Jewish community – locally, in Israel and around the world -- we have the opportunity to channel our grief into a continuous living memorial to these remarkable human beings.

The measure of our grief is also a measure of our blessing. Our sense of void and loss is so great precisely because we were so blessed to have these individuals as friends and leaders and role models.

Zikhronam l’vrakhah - may their memories be a source of continued blessing for all of us.

Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Federation Remembers Murray Galinson

The Jewish Federation of San Diego County mourns the loss of beloved and generous leader and philanthropist Murray Galinson. A respected and influential figure in the secular and Jewish communities, Murray served on the board of Federation for many years.

A Minnesota native, Murray came to San Diego in 1970 to teach law, and in 1981, he worked to open San Diego National Bank, where he served as President and CEO for 25 years. In the mid 1980s, he became widely known throughout the Democratic party with his work on Senator Walter Mondale’s presidential campaign, and he remained an influential local political figure. Never slowing down in his professional career, Murray and his business partner opened the development and investment firm La Jolla MJ Management just four years ago.

As an individual deeply committed to volunteer work, equality, and the underserved, Murray was incredibly active in the San Diego philanthropic community. He served as a board member for Price Enterprises, Price Legacy Corp., Price Charities, the Weingart Foundation, and San Diego Grantmakers, among a slew of other non-profit organizations. He established his own family foundation that contributed to various causes such as the Monarch School and the Children’s Museum.

Murray’s passion and love for the Jewish community were evident through his various commitments both nationally and locally. He served as the chairperson of the Jewish Funders Network from 2008-2011 and remained an active board member until his passing. As past president of Congregation Beth Israel, Murray had spearheaded efforts for the congregation to take over volunteer food service duties on Sundays at a local Catholic charity so the staff could attend church. Committed to both his personal Jewish community and that of greater San Diego, Murray served as chair of the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego and board member of the Leichtag Foundation.

A dedicated Federation board member, Murray served as the 26th President of the Federation from 1989-1991 . He and his family are Legacy Society members, displaying a long lasting commitment to the future of our Jewish community. In 2006, Murray served as the co-chair for the Federation’s Together as One event, a landmark event bringing together both Women’s Philanthropy and the Men’s affinity group to celebrate the Federation’s 70th Anniversary. As co-chair and moderator for the evening, Murray used his political clout to help secure former President Bill Clinton, a move that guaranteed a fascinating and successful evening. 

Murray demonstrated vision and a commitment to innovation and the revitalization of San Diego through his professional and charitable efforts. When he first became head of San Diego National Bank, he filled three board positions with women, the bank’s first female trustees. In 2009, as chair of the Jewish Community Foundation, Murray worked on the creation of the San Diego Jewish Community Economic Recovery Fund, a partnership between the Federation and the Foundation to facilitate more efficient and effective raising and distribution of funds throughout the Jewish community following the 2008 economic recession. More recently, Murray demonstrated his passion for innovation and new ventures through his support of the San Diego Moishe House. 

Murray passed away unexpectedly on January 3. Nearly 1,000 people remembered and celebrated Murray’s life and achievements on Thursday, January 7, 2013. Murray leaves behind a beautiful legacy in his family, our community, country and Israel. He will be greatly missed by his family, friends, and his numerous communities. May his memory be a blessing.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

History Told of Soon-to-Open Chesed Home

Chesed Home, San Diego County’s adult residential facility serving Jews with serious mental illness, opens next month in this city.

Hope Village San Diego, a 501 3c non-profit, has developed Chesed Home. The mission is to provide a safe and nurturing residence for adults with serious mental illness, based on Jewish values and individualized services, compassionately delivered. Chesed Home is a place where its clients can achieve the highest level of personal dignity, self-worth and independence. Outside of New York and Florida, no other such facilities are operating in the US.

The recently built home will be open for touring 11 am Jan. 23 and Jan. 27 at 402 West Lincoln Avenue. Chesed Home has received two successive innovative grants of $5,000 and $10,000 from the Jewish Federation of San Diego County which has also donated time from webmaster Aaron Truax, and other personnel. Funds in excess of $300,000 have been raised and pledged; the goal is to raise $3 million to buy the buildings and provide scholarships. Client fees will be half what they are in similar full-treatment facilities, with a sliding scale for scholarship. Tuition for similar places run at least $6,000 a month and usually more.

Founders Devorah and Yaakov Shore chose the name Chesed Home because it means a home of loving kindness. Their project began two years ago when Devorah grew frustrated finding an appropriate treatment facility for her son Michael, 32, who was struck with schizoid affective disorder at 19. To this day Michael believes he doesn't have a mental illness. During the seven years since moving to San Diego from Portland, the Shores enrolled Michael in three different local board and cares without adequate treatment for Michael’s symptoms.

In these homes Michael found lice, was offered crack cocaine, and was given the freedom to wander downtown where he bought cough medicine and panhandled for beer and marijuana–dangerous combinations with the psycho-active drugs he was taking. Once he was punched in the nose and another occasion he was called a “dirty Jew”.

Michael grew up in a religious home and has always had a Jewish connection. Devorah saw how Michael would come alive when he participated in Jewish activities and had Jewish friends. Devorah felt Michael and other Jewish young men would do well in a treatment facility based on Jewish values of compassion, love and understanding.

Mentally ill persons are the most neglected, dysfunctional people in society. Without someone to care for them, their lives consist of going through three revolving doors: living on the streets, spending nights in jail and doing short stays in psych wards. To rid their minds of voices, they self-medicate with alcohol and drugs and sugar-laden treats.

Parents of the MI often hide their loved one’s illness because of embarrassment. The care giver has very little personal life, is emotionally drained, strapped financially, and forever feeling guilty about the past and not doing more in the present. The MI person is out of touch with reality, and sometimes can’t be counted on to come home safely after his wonderings.
Shortly after her arrival in San Diego, Devorah joined Jewish Family Service’s behavioral health committee and met there its co-chair, Fern Siegel, and other Jewish parents with children who were seriously mentally ill. Fern is president of Hope Village San Diego, an organization set up a few years earlier whose mission was to build a home for Jews with mental illness. The home was eventually acquired, however county funding mandated that all residents be homeless–and no homeless Jews with serious mental illness ever applied to be residents.

Devorah wanted a home funded by the community, but didn’t know how to go about it. Her friend, Keren Horowitz, had just made aliyah and told Devorah about a former kibbutz there that became a home for the mentally ill. Called Kishorit, it had the support of the government with young people choosing to work there in lieu of serving in the IDF. Enough people volunteered so that each client could receive one-on-one attention all the time. The only problem with sending Michael to Kishorit was the cost: $500,000 for a non-Israeli. Intrigued by the idea of starting such a place here, Devorah urged and cheered on by Keren saying, “You can do it!” Never shy of greeting people and making friends, Devorah went to work.

She recruited her friends Marlene Rissman, Fern Siegel, who would become chairman of the CH working committee, and Judy Belinsky, board member of the Jewish Federation and friend she had met through Anne Katz. Fern brought in Hannah Moss and Judy enlisted Karen Yasgoor. Recently Audrey Viterbi Smargon and Karen Foster Silberman have joined the group.

Fern, Judy, Hannah, Karen, Marlene, Devorah and Yaakov met with Chabad Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein of Poway. Next they went to Changing Options in Ramona and had the very good fortune of meeting co-owner Michael Hellman, who became a friend and invaluable resource in the group’s design and start up needs for Chesed Home. Fern brought in Ray Schwartz, lscw, recently retired from the county mental health and who had several books on board and cares. Others who lent their knowledge and support were Karl Jacobs and David Feifel, two local psychiatrists; and Suzanne Marcus, PhD. in psychology. All board members and the advisory committee are listed on the website,

What has driven these people to create this enterprise and raise over $300,000 is their personal experience caring for a mentally ill family member. They know to their core that compassionate care and treatment of this disease is the right thing to do. And Chesed Home is a start.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Israelis to Design San Diego-area Desalination Plant

Carlsbad power station site in San Diego area Photo: Courtesy IDE
IDE Americas Inc., a subsidiary of Israel’s IDE Technologies Ltd, to design project - the largest of its kind in western hemisphere.

The Israeli desalination giant that is already responsible for the brunt of Israel’s salty-to-fresh water transformation is now taking on San Diego, in the biggest desalination project to hit the western hemisphere.

IDE Americas Inc., a subsidiary of Israel’s IDE Technologies Ltd, will be designing a 204,412-cubic-meter seawater desalination plant for the San Diego region, the company announced on Sunday. The $922 million plan, called Carlsbad Desalination Project, is being administered by Poseidon Resources (Channelside) LP, a subsidiary of Poseidon Water LLC, and will be carried out in partnership with the San Diego County Water Authority.

For the design contract, IDE will be receiving $150m., while the O&M agreement will bring the company $500m. Construction of the plant will begin this year and is slated to begin bringing high-quality drinking water to the San Diego area by 2016, a statement from IDE Technologies said. The hope is that the new desalination plant will help San Diego County Water Authority alleviate its water shortage and achieve its goal of supplying 7 percent of the region’s water through desalination by 2020 – “creating a new map of the American water market,” the statement added.Kiewit Shea Desalination, a joint venture between subsidiaries of companies Kiewit Corp. and J.F. Shea Construction Inc., will be providing the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) of the facility as well as the 10-mile (16- km.) pipeline required to deliver the treated water per day produced there, according to Poseidon Resources. Meanwhile, IDE Americas Inc. will design the processing plant, and will also be responsible for operation and maintenance (O&M) of the plant under a 30- year contract.

“The Carlsbad Desalination Project is a significant milestone for us, California and the US at large, as we believe it will set the stage for the future of desalination in America,” said Avshalom Felber, CEO of IDE Technologies Ltd. “For decades, we’ve successfully completed similar projects in countries all over the world, and we’re excited to be a part of what will be the largest desalination plant in the US.”

Based in the Sharon Industrial Park in Kadima, near Netanya, IDE has built and operates some of the world’s largest desalination plants, currently providing a cumulative capacity of over 2.3 million cubic meters a day around the world, according to the firm.

The company has worked in 400 plants in 40 countries over four decades thus far – including Israel’s own Ashkelon and Hadera desalination plants, as well as the future Sorek facility.

“The Carlsbad project that we’re about to embark upon will accelerate both the visibility of desalination in North America and the ability of potential clients, both public and private, to understand how creative project delivery, creative finance and innovative process design allow these types of projects to happen,” said Mark Lambert, CEO of IDE Americas. “The movement in the US toward desalination has been a long time coming, and we’re ready to lead the charge.”

While there are many industrial desalination projects already throughout North and South America, there are very few such plants for the mainstream populations of these two continents, Felber told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. “This is a developing market as far as desalination is concerned,” he said. Because this is the first major mainstream desalination project in the region, IDE can by default end up in the “unique position as the leading desalination company in the whole area,” Felber explained.

Although IDE has a huge amount of experience in building and operating desalination facilities, until now it has been difficult to enter the American market, and this project gives the company the opportunity to show that it is able to operate according to American standards, Felber said. When vying for the project, IDE was competing with companies from France and Spain as well as one local American firm. The San Diego Water Authorityhas already signed on 20 municipalities within its bounds that have committed to receiving the desalinated water when it comes online, Felber noted.

After completing this project, he stressed that IDE would like to expand its involvement in the emergent American desalination market, looking specifically to regions like Florida, Texas and other parts of California.

“It’s no news that we and other Israeli [desalination] companies are well-known,” Felber said. “The real global news is entering the American market, which is really hard to penetrate.”

via JPost

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Israel Experience to Operate OTZMA Program

We are excited to announce that the OTZMA Israel experience program will continue to offer young Jewish adults an opportunity to live in Israel, learn Hebrew and volunteer in small communities. Upon completion of this year’s program, JFNA will transfer ownership of OTZMA to the Israel Experience Educational Tourism Services Ltd., a subsidiary of The Jewish Agency for Israel.
The Israel Experience specializes in providing organized trips to Israel for teens, university students and adults from all over the globe. With a mandate to “facilitate and implement Jewish-Zionist experiential/ educational visits to Israel in order to strengthen Jewish identity among Jews – especially youth – living in communities outside of Israel,” we are confident that Israel Experience will maintain the mission and values that have made OTZMA a success for more than 26 years.
In determining the best new home for OTZMA, JFNA utilized a professional task force and advisory committee comprised of past and present OTZMA chairs. After a thorough process that included vetting and interviewing several organizations, JFNA selected Israel Experience based on its successful track record in both short- and long-term Israel experiences for young adults, its valuable relationship with Masa Israel Journey and Israel Teaching Fellows, and its financial stability. In addition, Israel Experience currently provides OTZMA with logistical services, thus is well-versed with its program.
While we expect many logistical details to be forthcoming, Israel Experience is committed to serving the proud community of OTZMA alumni. In the coming weeks, JFNA will contact each OTZMA alumnus requesting information and consent for future communication from Israel Experience.
Through OTZMA and its passionate volunteers and professionals, we are proud to have sent more than 1,400 Jewish young adults from nearly 100 communities in North America to Israel. We are excited to transition the program to Israel Experience, and know the organization will work towards developing young leaders around the Jewish community, and creating strong connections to Israel and the Jewish Federation world.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Mark Your Calendars: Jewish Film Festival Begins February 7th

Mark your calendars and be sure to join us for the 23rd Annual San Diego Jewish Film Festival, February 7-17, 2013. Film and music lovers won’t want to miss Opening Night’s screening of Under African Skies, the documentary following Paul Simon and his return to South Africa, revisiting the 25th Anniversary of Graceland.

This year’s screenings will be held in Clairemont, San Marcos, Carlsbad & La Jolla. Our films, shorts & legendary Joyce Forum, Shorts In Winter, are once again not to be missed. For a full schedule, synopsis, ticket information and more, please check out the San Diego Jewish Film Festival’s website at

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Federation Gives more than $230,000 in Supplemental Grants

During Chanukah your Federation was able to make more than $232,000 in supplemental grants thanks to our donors’ generosity in the 2012 campaign exceeding our estimates and because we controlled spending in that same period.  Lisa Haney, Director of Community Planning and Innovation, wrote to inform our great partners that we would be providing additional funding to their programs. Today, we'd like to share some of their wonderful responses, below:

San Diego Jewish Academy

Dear Lisa,

What a lovely and unexpected email! Thank you for thinking of SDJA and for all of the tremendous work that you and everyone else is doing to build up community and create a true Kehillat San Diego. May every campaign exceed our goals.

In the spirit of how we would celebrate Hanukkah in Israel, Nes Gadol Haya Po.(A great miracle happened here...)

On behalf of SDJA, thank you.
Chaim Heller, Head of School


Chabad Hebrew Academy


Thank you to the entire Federation leadership for this tremendous Chanukah gift. We are most appreciative that you have made Jewish education a vital and recognized priority.

Thank you for revitalizing and reinvigorating San Diego Jewish leadership.

Chanukah Sameach,
Rabbi Josef Fradkin Head of School


Torah High School of San Diego

Dear Lisa,

Thank you very much. It is a wonderful Chanukah present. As always, we greatly appreciate everything you do for Torah High and for San Diego.

Happy Chanukah and have a wonderful Shabbos.

Sincerely yours,
Rabbi Michoel Peikes


Southern California Yeshiva High School

Hi, Lisa.

We are so happy that the campaign was so successful, and we are very appreciative to the Board for thinking of us.

Happy Chanukah!

All the best,
Rabbi Moishe Adatto


Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council, Mayor

Dear Lisa,

Mayor Alon Schuster
Thank you for the great news; I am glad for the success of the campaign and, of course, for upgrading our grant. We accept your idea for splitting the supplemental grant as indicated in the chart.

Please, send our thanks and appreciations to our friends in the board of the Federation.

I wish to meet you all very soon,
Alon Schuster רטסוש†ןולא


Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council, Resource Development Director

Dear Lisa,

Thank you so much for increasing your support for our programs I really appreciate the efforts you are making to help us. We are now marking 4 weeks since the cease fire was signed between Israel and the Hamas. Only days will tell if the quiet will remain or we will be forced to suffer another difficult security operation in the near future. We are doing all we can to maintain a "regular routine" and pray that one day peace will return to the region. We got remarkable achievements thanks to wonderful people who believed in our vision and full partners in the long road we did. The SD federation is an integral part of Shaar Hanegev Regional council through all those challenged years and we are very proud of this important friendship

Thank you so much for your time and consideration
Varda Goldstein ורדה†גולדשטיין†


Jewish Federations of North America

Fabulous. Thank you so much.

William C. Daroff, Vice President for Public Policy & Director of the Washington office


Seacrest Village Retirement Communities

Dear Lisa,

What a beautiful and timely gift this 5th night of Chanukah! On behalf of all of us at Seacrest, I want to thank you for this additional funding to support the charitable care needs of our residents. Happy Chanukah to you and yours.

Pam Ferris


Ken Jewish Community

We will review but wanted to thank you immediately for your support and generosity.

Leonardo Simpser


Moishe House

Wow! Wonderful news, thank you. We will certainly put it to good use in building strong Jewish community for young adults in San Diego.

An early Shabbat Shalom,
David Cygielman


Jewish Family Service

Hi Lisa,

Thank you! It really does help as the needs for services doesn't ever seem to become less. Enjoy your weekend.

Shabbat Shalom.
Michael Hopkins



This is wonderful news! Thank you for sharing this and for providing the supplemental funding. I am very happy to hear the campaign closed higher than expected. That bodes well for our community.

I am excited to share this with our board.
Michael Rabkin


Birthright Israel Foundation/SD

Dear Lisa,

Birthright San Diego 2012
Please accept my sincerest thank you for this supplemental donation to Birthright Israel due to your campaign closing higher than projected. That is fabulous news for us and your board must be so pleased to have such a successful campaign.

May I ask that you thank the board, and Michael Sonduck, on our behalf for their graciousness and support in 2012?

It has been a pleasure working with Michael and I am grateful for his kindness and that of your entire board.

Wishing the San Diego Federation a most successful 2013 and I look forward to our continued collaboration.

My best,
Harriett Zeitlin