Friday, March 29, 2013

San Diego Celebrates Israel on April 21st!

Chesed Home Featured in San Diego Jewish Journal!

Federation Innovation Grantee Chesed Home is featured in this month's San Diego Jewish Journal! Click below to read about the amazing work being done to treat adults with mental illness with compassion, dignity and loving kindness.

"Hope Village was a two-time (2011 and ‘12) grantee of the Community Innovation Fund, a program of Jewish Federation of San Diego County that seeks to strengthen Jewish engagement by awarding micro-grants to innovative community programs. It also received a grant in February when community members selected it as a grantee at Federation’s Slingshot San Diego event. Over the past year and a half, Federation has worked with Hope Village’s board members free of charge, providing nearly 50 hours of support and training and $20,000 in grants."

Your donation to Federation makes all of this possible. Click here to read more:

Federation Mourns the Loss of Jeff Silvers

It is with great sadness that we share with you the news of the recent passing of Jeff Silvers, husband of Brenda Silvers, father of Ryan and Danielle, brother of Rebecca Twomey.

On behalf of Federation leadership and staff, and their many friends at Temple Solel and throughout the San Diego Jewish community our hearts go out to to Brenda, her children and their family on Jeff's passing.

Brenda Silvers, Federation Camping Coordinator, has set up two Camp Scholarship funds in Jeff's honor. Brenda has dedicated her life to strengthening Jewish identity with One Happy Camper, her 18 years of teaching at Temple Solel and through her extraordinary volunteerism.  Brenda is loved by all and we are so sad about her loss.

Jeff's Gilboa friendships and experiences were central in his life. This fund honors his dedication and ongoing efforts to give the gift of Machaneh Gilboa to children for years to come.
To make a contribution, click here:

Or you can make your donation to 
Temple Solel Jewish Camp Fund In Memory of Jeffrey Silvers
 3575 Manchester Avenue 
Cardiff By The Sea, CA 92007

HaMakom yenachem etchem b'toch sha-ar avilei tzion v’yerushalayim
May HaMakom comfort you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.  

Thursday, March 28, 2013

[UPDATE] Operation: Pajama Project - Thanks from Israel!

The glittering crowd that arrived at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront on January 13th for OPTIONS were carrying more than their handbags. Responding to the special request that was sent prior to the event, San Diego's wonderful Jewish women donated more than 600 pairs of children’s pajamas to the Pajama Project.

The special project was created by the Social Action Committee of the Women’s Philanthropy board, under the leadership of committee co-chairs Samantha Cohen and Belinda Feldman. Beneficiaries of these very special donations are Gemach, The Jewish Gift Closet; Jewish Family Service, and Sha’ar HaNegev, our partner community in Israel.

The pajamas for Gemach and Jewish Family Service have already been delivered. They were received with smiles and appreciation by children who are served by Federation partner agencies. A JFS professional summed it up: “The pajamas really made a positive impact on many of our clients’ lives.”

Sha’ar HaNegev, San Diego's partner community in Israel, is located just a few miles from Gaza. In March a visiting delegation, comprising representatives ranging from the mayor to a vice principal of the elementary school to area kibbutz and moshav members, will personally deliver the pajamas to children throughout the region upon their return to Israel.


The pajamas have arrived!  Our delegation from Israel emailed us the below pictures today, with thanks from the children!

Thank you, ladies, for your generosity.  Together, we do extraordinary things.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

SDJA Community Survey is Closing!

We are excited to share with you that the San Diego Jewish Academy (SDJA), a pluralistic Jewish Day School, is embarking on a professionally guided study of San Diego’s families with children to ascertain these families’ educational hopes, needs and requirements for their children’s future.

This is your last chance to share your thoughts and suggestions about your educational desires and reasons for your educational choices. The data generated by this research will be used to help local organizations develop strategic direction for growth and make informed planning for current and future Jewish educational needs for our families.

If you have already completed the survey, thank you, you do not need to complete the survey again.

Please follow this link to access the survey today:

This community survey is being administered by Measuring Success, an independent third party firm, who has worked with hundreds of Jewish day schools and organizations across the United States. We would like to remind you that your responses are completely confidential and are only received by Measuring Success; participating organizations do not have access to any data except in the aggregate and identifying information will NEVER be connected with any report the participating organizations receives. Measuring Success will be meeting with SDJA to provide consultations on the aggregate results of the survey and help to create an improvement plan.

The survey will only be open until the end of the week, so please take it today; we only need one parent responding per household.

If the link does not automatically start, please copy and paste it into a new browser window. If you have any questions, please contact

Thank you!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Presenting: ¡Celebrate! The Jewish Experience in Spanish Speaking Countries

The Jewish Community Relations Council and the San Diego Latino Jewish Coalition are proud to be community partners for the Anti-Defamation League's program -  ¡Celebrate!

Be the Change - Leadership Conference Dallas

By Alex Leverant, Young Adult Division Associate

Leadership Conference Dallas 2013 has ended and the seven members San Diego delegation have returned with some of the latest ideas from Jewish Federations of North America on how to strengthen the San Diego Federation. The overall theme of LCD 2013 was ‘Be The Change.’ Roughly 200 Jewish Federation staff and lay leaders from around the country were on hand to take in this message. Having listened to many strong speakers throughout the three day conference as well as work in some even stronger breakout sessions, these past three days have been eye opening for me as I’m being exposed to more of what other federations around the country and in Canada are doing to better their own community.

Speakers included Jerry Silverman, President & CEO of JFNA and Michael Siegal, Chair of the JFNA Board of Trustees who spoke about Federation as a whole currently and where they hope to see it go in the next five to ten years. Leading up to Silverman and Siegal, speakers representing Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), Israel Action Network (IAN), Jewish Agency for Israel, Jewish Family Services (JFS), and Emergency Disaster Relief spoke about their affiliated organizations that are associated with the Federation and how they change the community. Just by these organizations alone, this was a very strong representation of what to expect from Jewish Federation of North America going forward!

The bulk of the conference was broken down in to 5 Herzl breakout sessions. Inspired Leadership: Communication with Presence, Multi-Generational Philanthropy, Impactful Social Media and Fundraising in the Digital Space, Lay/Pro Relations, and Advocacy in a Box were all topics for these breakout sessions which led to great discussions about being a better leader through philanthropy, through relations with lay leaders and professionals, through being an advocate for yourself, your community, your state and your country, and re-formatting your approach for fundraising in the digital age. 

The meaningful conference didn’t just end there. Opening the conference was a moving tale about a newlywed couple who was in the third trimester of the birth of their first child when the child came a month early. Complications arose and it was determined that a bone marrow was needed for the survival of their precious daughter. By starting a message on their Facebook page to expanding to a blog, they gained national recognition for their hope for a match for their daughter. They would post pictures daily and an update on their daughter and would be receiving close to a thousand comments a day and requests of how they can help out a complete stranger. It’s this sense of nationwide community that the Jewish Federation strives for and hopes to obtain through each local chapter of the Young Adult Divisions.  

With all great conferences, there is time for decompressing. The big event during the three days was an excursion to Gilley’s, a landmarked country-western bar who opened up their doors just for us on Sunday night. Filled with local cuisine, a live band, and a mechanical bull, Gilley’s didn’t disappoint. Monday nights’ entertainment was centered on a dinner with your home city and the option to join other delegations from other cities.

Representing the Jewish Federation of San Diego included the YAD Program Director, Carly Ezell and the newest YAD Associate, Alex Leverant. Also in attendance was Dan Weiss, the National Young Leadership (NYL) Conference Chair, Jack Maizel National Young Leadership Cabinet Member as well as YAD Committee members Stephanie Sandler, Leora Waiche, and JFS Professional Ashley Harrington.
Surrounded by Young Jewish Professionals and Lay Leaders from around the country from Los Angeles to Broward County, Florida, reaching as far north as Buffalo, New York and Edmonton, Canada, these colleagues came with their own successes and struggles, and used each other as sounding boards to help correct their struggles and solidify their successes.

Next up on the National docket is Tribefest 2014! Watch out New Orleans, we’re comin’ for ya! March 16-18, 2014!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Federation Launches Passover Website

Chag Sameach!

We're proud to announce the launch of our Passover website, complete with rituals, videos, recipies and more!  Check it out at:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Sha'ar HaNegev Delegation Strengthens Ties to Israel

Check out this wonderful video the of the Sha'ar HaNegev Delegation

Federation Leadership and the Sha'ar HaNegev Delegation - Photos by Angela Solange
This past weekend, the 14 delegates from San Diego’s sister-city, Sha’ar HaNegev, kicked off their trip to San Diego with incredible experiences and discussions across San Diego County. Hosted in the homes of San Diego community members and leaders, the delegation enjoyed a relaxing weekend complete with Shabbat meals, tours of the city, and a private catamaran cruise of the San Diego harbor.

The intensive, focused learning and dialogue of the trip began on Sunday afternoon with lunch and a conversation on Jewish identity, led by Rabbi Philip Graubart of Congregation Beth El and hosted at the San Diego Jewish Academy. Shimon Keren Zvi, a member of the delegation and Treasurer of Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council, also helped lead the conversation to provide a unique Israeli prospective, as well.

In between a meeting and then the public conversation, the delegates and local community leaders enjoyed an informal lunch where they were able to share their experiences from the weekend and their thoughts about the trip.

Tomer Golan, a member of the steering committee and from Kibbutz Ruchama in Sha’ar HaNegev, shared that this was his first time in San Diego, and he was enjoying himself very much. “The hospitality has been wonderful,” he said, “on Shabbat we gathered with a few families at Rabbi and Debbie Kornberg’s and then went to synagogue [Beth Am]. It was nice to see their customs, to hear the singing. It is not something I typically do, and it was very special to see so many kids and adults there.”
Sha'ar HaNegev Mayor Alon Schuster Addresses the Delegation at Beth Am
“It was beautiful,” added Gil Ya’ari, the Partnership 2Gether Director on the Israeli side who works for the Jewish Agency. “The service incorporated Israeli songs and music, and we had a chance to learn just a few ways for how you make Jewish life meaningful in San Diego.” Delegation member Oded Plut added that on Saturday, the delegation spent time at the KEN, having lunch with the 300 children and families who participate in the weekend activities that take place there.

The delegation is spending the majority of their time in San Diego discussing Jewish peoplehood, youth exchanges, and business development. Tomer commented that he believes the personal connections are the main piece in this partnership, because “if we succeed in making personal connections, it will influence and strengthen our communities’ other work together as partners.” He continued on to discuss how the Partnership 2Gether program and the relationship with San Diego gives Sha’ar HaNegev opportunities to create new projects and ideas, to get to know new people, and create more feelings of community. “I hope this is just the beginning,” Tomer said.

Udi Tzuri, the chair of the Sha’ar HaNegev Partnership Steering Committee Chairperson, discussed the business development aspects in depth. “We will spend a full day touring and learning about different business models in San Diego, learning about investment and different strategies.” Udi explained. “We will discuss our own unique economic challenges and opportunities to develop platforms to connect our communities economically.”

Rabbi Philip Graubart of Congregation Beth El and panel discuss Jewish Identity
Larry Acheatel, San Diego’s Partnership Steering Committee Chairperson commented that he was hopeful of “the opportunities that will be developed as a result of this business development gathering”. A group of entrepreneurs from Sha’ar HaNegev with ideas for new projects or in the early planning stages of new businesses will receive training and coaching to develop business plans, marketing knowledge, and other skills that will lead up to the opportunity to present their business ideas to a group of businesspeople and investors in San Diego. The idea is to create a tangible and meaningful business and economic relationship between the sister-communities.

Another feature of the Partnership 2Gether and this delegation’s visit in particular, is collaboration on youth programming. Arieh Hudera, the Director of Education at the community center in Sha’ar HaNegev discussed the conversations he has been having with leadership at the KEN and ideas and opportunities to bring the various San Diego youth movements together, including BBYO and the Israeli Scouts. “Each movement is on their own, and there is not a lot of connection,” Arieh explained. “In Israel, it’s different, and we can learn from each other and make a youth leadership project to join all the youth movements together, to create a door to deeper connection in the future.”

Gil touched on the importance of connecting youth and learning from each community’s traditions and celebrations. “Sha’ar HaNegev is secular, and San Diego also has its challenges, and we can each learn new approaches.” He continued on to discuss how a delegation member, who had opened a synagogue on his kibbutz, was developing new ideas and solutions for Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration on his kibbutz by experiencing a Bat Mitzvah celebration at Beth Am this weekend. “People are getting to know each other and what it means to be Jewish in San Diego,” Gil added, “it’s very uplifting.”

Debbie Kornberg
Debbie Kornberg, responsible for local efforts of Partnership 2Gether, said the goal of this trip was in three parts: Engage San Diego and Sha’ar HaNegev people in conversations about Jewish Peoplehood and Business Development, foster SD- SHN organizational connections, and provide multiple learning opportunities about Jewish Peoplehood to increase understanding about each other’s culture. “This is more than just Americans helping Israel,” Debbie added, “this is really an opportunity to learn from one another, to strengthen the personal and communal connections between San Diego and Sha’ar HaNegev.”

To get involved with Partnership 2Gether, please contact Debbie Kornberg, Director of Israel & Overseas Center at the Federation, at

SDJA Launches Study on San Diego Jewish Families

We are excited to share with you that the San Diego Jewish Academy (SDJA), a pluralistic Jewish Day School, is embarking on a professionally guided study of San Diego’s families with children to ascertain these families’ educational hopes, needs and requirements for their children’s future.

A clear goal of SDJA’s study is to learn more about the demographics of San Diego’s population of Jewish families, their educational desires, and reasons for their educational choices. The data generated by this research will be used to help SDJA develop strategic direction for growth and make informed planning for current and future Jewish educational needs for our families.

To conduct this study and resulting strategic recommendations, SDJA has retained Measuring Success, a respected, independent, Washington D.C. based research firm, which is familiar with San Diego having previously consulted for Jewish Federation of San Diego County in other regards. Measuring Success will conduct all aspects of the study including survey design and implementation, interviews and focus group facilitation if recommended, data collection and data/research analysis. In order to receive sufficient data and successfully administer this study, SDJA and Measuring Success are asking for you to participate in this survey by clicking on this link which will connect you to Measuring Success. All responses will go to Measuring Success and neither SDJA nor anyone else will have access to your name or information.

The results of this SDJA survey will be shared with your Federation, so we ask that you participate so the results will be as representative as possible. SDJA and Federation thank you for your support in this endeavor.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

ADL to Host Speaking Volumes: Transforming Hate - with Frank Meeink

In celebration of the Anti-Defamation League’s Centennial, please join Federation Partner ADL as  host Frank Meeink. At the age of 13, Frank was already a skinhead. By 18 he had gained a leadership position and was known as a Neo-Nazi recruiter. Grateful to the ADL for being instrumental in his reformation, Frank advocates for tolerance, diversity and mutual understanding.

The Anti-Defamation League of San Diego and the San Diego Center for Jewish Culture present the art exhibit “Speaking Volumes: Transforming Hate.” The exhibit will showcase more than 100 artists that transformed 4,000 volumes of white supremacist propaganda into art. To register: visit • Advanced registration required for security reasons.

• Space is limited • Docent tours in English and Spanish are available free of charge. • To schedule a tour: contact ADL at (858) 565-6896 or Monica Bauer at

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Tales from Ethiopia & The Starfish Tale

Participating in the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony 
By Raquel Benguiat 

“You are like Angelina Jolie!” a friend commented on a Facebook photo of my most recent overseas adventure, JDC Entwine: Inside Ethiopia. The truth of the matter is that I felt nothing like the exotic and sophisticated Angelina Jolie. Quite the opposite in fact; to this day I am ashamed to admit that I had a really hard time on this trip. I was constantly worried about what I ate, what I drank and how determined I was to keep my hands clean. Even worse, I feel guilty for having sadness for the Ethiopian people, believing they could not possibly be happy with the life they lead with such harsh living conditions. I would certainly not be happy living without access to clean water, wearing torn clothing, walking barefoot, living in a shack, not knowing how to read or write, being exposed to many diseases including malnourishment and having to walk for miles to get anywhere. Anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m not a hiker!

Thankfully, I do not have to face these challenges every day of my life. But I am grateful that I had the opportunity to experience them for at least a few days, along with a group of smart, fun, socially and globally-aware Jewish young adults from the US, London, Canada and Australia. Here I’m sharing a few of my reflections in an effort to tell a story that not many people have the privilege of experiencing themselves.

My first few hours in Gondar, Ethiopia were epic. After spending a day in Addis Abba, a city that can be compared to Tijuana, Gondar felt like traveling back in time. Very few roads are paved and the views are breathtaking; gorgeous and plentiful green fields. 

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Health Clinic
Our first stop was at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Health Clinic, which tends to the medical needs of those who are waiting to immigrate to Israel. We were welcomed by dozens of children running towards us yelling and screaming: shalom! I was surprised and overjoyed when listening in broken Hebrew. That day was “Deworming Campaign Day”, and dozens of families were waiting for us to make that happen. This was something like I never experienced before!

Traveling with us was the legendary Dr. Rick Hodes, head of the Health Clinic, who has been saving lives in Ethiopia for over 20 years. We were given very specific instructions on how to perform the deworming campaign successfully and the importance of tracking the clients and keeping records up to date.
Deworming Campaign Day
It did not take long after we officially started that we were immediately surrounded by a lot of people who were impatiently demanding the pills. In no time we lost control and we were giving pills away with no tracking system whatsoever. I felt extremely overwhelmed at that point, although we were told that the pills were not toxic. I stepped away from the table and asked someone else to cover for me as I took a deep breath.

In that moment a question entered my mind - an unanswered question that continues to follow me to this day. I wondered what it would take for these people, with such different culture and norms, to be integrated into a Jewish western culture, such as Israel. Furthermore, I wondered how Israel, with all its current internal and external challenges, could take this enormous and difficult task. Before the trip, I would proudly and fiercely defend Israel’s role in rescuing and providing a better future for every Jew on earth. Quite honestly, after experiencing the magnitude of the gap between the cultures, I began questioning my own beliefs and assumptions on this matter.

Later that day, I experienced something beautiful that soften my view on this questioning. After a couple of hours traveling on rural roads, witnessing magnificent views, sporadically passing villages and barefoot young children herding cattle, feeling car sick and all that goes along with this kind of travel, we arrived at our destination, Teda Village. This is a small village that was home to the Beta Yisrael Ethiopian Jews prior to their emigration to Israel. We entered the village and walked up the hill. At the top of the hill, I saw something that was completely unexpected and that made the uncomfortable two hour trip, completely worthwhile: an unpretentious cement structure with a Star of David on the top. I was mesmerized as I stared at the Amboder Synagogue. Suddenly, I felt a strong connection with the people who lived here, even though they looked completely different than me and are living such a different life from me. 

Amboder Synagogue at Teda Village

 The following day we visited a school. When we arrived the students were in their classrooms, but nothing like I had ever seen before. The classrooms were shacks made from sticks and mud. Some students were sitting on rocks, others sitting on broken chairs. At the far end of the school yard, there was a cement building with three classrooms. That’s when we learned that the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee has been building dozens of these buildings in Gondar. 

Our assignment was to decorate the school building facade. We were given brushes and few buckets of paint. We decided on an educational design: numbers, the English alphabet, animals and the world. We divided into small groups and started to paint. In the meantime, the kids were in their classrooms learning and repeating out loud the “ABC’s”. After an hour or so, the kids came out to see what we were doing and were happily surprised. They ran right up to us, and one boy in particular was getting really close to me, curious as to what I was doing. I extended my brush and pointed to the yellow tulip I was painting. He looked me in the eye with a big smile and started to paint. After every brush, he would turn to me and look for my approval. I kept nodding with a big smile on my face. We were communicating even though we did not have a common language; art connected us. He was so happy painting that flower. I was no longer overwhelmed at that moment by the crowds, the aromas or my own assumptions of what happy looks and feels like. It was a brief but beautiful moment.

School classroom and students outside Gondar
Ethiopia faces tremendous challenges and even though the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is doing a magnificent job providing access to water, granting university scholarships, building schools and offering lifesaving healthcare services; the task seems to be never-ending. When I expressed this overwhelming feeling to Rob, a member of our group from London, he shared with me a tale. It was about a boy who was at the beach and discovered hundreds of starfishes on the sand. The boy knew that if starfish did not return to the ocean, they would die. He desperately ran and threw as many as he could back into the ocean. When his father saw him so overwhelmed, he stopped him and said: “I’m sorry son but there are too many starfishes and there is no way you can save them all”. The boy wisely responded: “I might not be able to save them all, but to this particular starfish my help means a world of difference”.
Decorating the American Jewish Joint Distribution school building
I left Ethiopia with more and different questions than I had upon my arrival. I feel connected to Ethiopian Jews in ways I never expected. I have a new, different perspective of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s role as the largest Jewish international humanitarian aid organization. I have a new appreciation for Israel’s efforts integrating Ethiopian immigrants into their society. I’m comforted to know that there are many Jewish young adults around the world who care about our global Jewish community just like I do. And most importantly, I left Ethiopia knowing that we might not be able to care for them all, but that for each and every person that we touch, it means a world of difference. 

JDC Entwine Inside Ethiopia 2012 Participants 

Are you a young adult who is interested in being part of JDC Entwine overseas experience and explore Jewish communities around the world? Contact Jonathan Goldstone, JDC Entwine West Coast Program Specialist at or visit

Friday, March 1, 2013

Chesed Home Awarded $5,000 Slingshot Innovation Grant

Left to Right: Community Planning and Innovation Director Lisa Haney, Chesed Home Founders Yaakov Shore and Fern Siegel, Federation Board Chair Claire Ellman, Federation President and CEO Michael Sonduck

Your Federation supports nonprofit innovation.  Today, Chesed Home was presented with a $5,000 innovation grant from Federation. Chesed Home was selected by a community vote amongst many great innovative projects at Slingshot San Diego's Community event, held last week.  Read more about that great event here.