Friday, April 26, 2013

San Diego Jewish Community Holds Record Breaking Israel Celebration!

If you were anywhere near La Jolla on Sunday, April 21, you must have felt the excitement and buzz emanating from the Nobel Recreational Area, where the Jewish Federation of San Diego held its annual SD Celebrates Israel – Yom Ha’atzmaut Festival. To celebrate Israel’s 65th year of Independence, over 110 local organizations, exhibitors, and Israeli food vendors collaborated to bring the sights, sounds, and tastes of Israel to the record-breaking 5,000 San Diegans that attended.

Photos by
Kicked off by the annual Friendship Circle Walk, which this year generated $83,580 for children with special needs both here and in Israel, the San Diego Celebrates Israel Festival delighted attendees with authentic Israeli entertainment such as Re Vital and the Israeli Defense Force Musical Ensemble. A very special element commemorating the 65th anniversary of Israel’s Independence were the Vintage Israeli Posters for sale. Not to be outdone, the Youth Art Exhibit featuring entries from religious and day schools showcased the Festival’s theme “If You Will it is No Dream” with many student artists also focusing on the dream of peace.

Along with free parking and shuttles to auxiliary lots, the festival left no element of fun unaccounted for and included free face painting, bounce houses, crafts, organized sports games, caricatures and hair art , just to name a few. A Senior Club provided shade and refreshments to our valued population of senior citizens, and there was even an opportunity drawing in which two San Diegans won round trip airfare to Israel.

Photos by Angela Solange -
The Jewish Federation sponsors this annual festival as a community building event and it has become such a vital tradition that Mayor Bob Filner stopped by with an official Proclamation naming San Diego Celebrates Israel an official city holiday!

Photo by Angela Solange -
The Jewish Federation wishes to thank the City of San Diego, and the many Organizations, Community Partners, and Event Underwriters that made San Diego Celebrates Israel as epic as ever! Be sure to save the date for next year, when we celebrate Israel at 66, on Sunday, May 18, 2014!

Three great Facebook albums! Be sure to tag your friends celebrating Israel!

JCRC Hosts Susan Davis and Juan Vargas at LJC Breakfast

Rabbi Scott Meltzer, Linda Feldman of the JCRC, Congressman Scott Peters, Congresswoman Susan Davis and Congressman Juan Vargas
Alan Viterbi introduced Congresswoman Susan Davis and Congressman Juan Vargas, keynote speakers at a recent breakfast hosted by the Latino-Jewish Coalition of the JCRC. “Preserving the Past to Protect the Future” was facilitated by Rabbi Scott Meltzer of Ohr Shalom Synagogue. Davis and Vargas each shared their own personal stories of immigration, spoke about the national picture of immigration reform and answered questions from the audience of more than 50. 

Congressman Scott Peters, San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria, National City Council member Alejandra Sotelo-Solis and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis added their contributions to the dialogue. Breakfast attendees were organized into small, mixed groups where they had an opportunity to share their own stories of identity, cultural heritage and impact on future generations.

The breakfast received rave reviews from all who attended.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Historic Victory in Court for the Women of the Wall

Photo Credit Michal Fittal - Haaretz
The Jerusalem District Court ruled Thursday that women praying at the Western Wall with prayer shawls and tefillin does not constitute a violation of “local custom” or a provocation, and therefore, no justification exists for detaining and interrogating women who engage in these practices.
The ruling is a major victory for the Women of the Wall organization in its ongoing battle against police and the Orthodox authorities in charge of prayer rules at the holy site.

The district court also ruled that contrary to police interpretations of a previous Supreme Court ruling, there is no prohibition preventing women from holding their own prayer services at the Western Wall nor any requirement that they congregate instead at the nearby Robinson’s Arch.

In his decision, Jerusalem District Court Judge Moshe Sobel upheld a ruling handed down two weeks ago by the Jerusalem Magistrate Court, which rejected a request by police to issue an injunction preventing five women - all activists in Women of the Wall who were detained at the organization’s last service for wearing prayer shawls - from praying at the Kotel for three months.

Over the past six months, police have clamped down on Women of the Wall, detaining worshippers at the organization’s services virtually every month for wearing prayer shawls and praying out loud.

Sobel - an Orthodox Jew himself - wrote in his decision that, contrary to police interpretations, Women of the Wall were not in violation of the law requiring worshippers to abide by “local custom” when praying at the wall.

Citing previous judicial rulings and commentary, Sobel wrote: “There is no reasonable suspicion that the respondents violated a prohibition in the law governing holy sites, an essential component of which is ‘conducting a religious ceremony not according to local custom.’”

Sobel also ruled that women praying at the wall were not a disturbance of the peace, as police maintained, and that, therefore, there was no reason to impose any limitations on their movement at the holy site.

The district court judge noted that police have interpreted a Supreme Court ruling, handed down in 2003, as ordering Women of the Wall to hold their prayers services at Robinson’s Arch. That ruling, wrote Sobel, “is not an order but rather a recommendation.” Moreover, he noted, the Supreme Court ruling had required the state to clean up Robinson’s Arch and turn it into a proper area of prayer within 12 months – a requirement has still not been fulfilled. In light of both these stipulations, Sobel wrote, “the aforementioned [Supreme Court] verdict should not be seen as an absolute order . . . the violation of which entails criminal responsibility.”

In a statement issued in response to Sobel’s decision, David Barhoum and Einat Horovitz, the two lawyers representing Women of the Wall, wrote: “The decision clearly cries out to the authorities to change their approach to prayer by Women of the Wall.”

Horovitz said the most significant element of the ruling was the decision that Women of the Wall prayer practices are not in violation of “local custom.”

“The court has rejected any reasonable cause for a policy of repeated detainment and arrests of Women of the Wall by police,” she said.

Anat Hoffman, chairwoman of the women’s organization, said in response: “Today Women of the Wall liberated the Western Wall for al Jewish people. We did it for the 8-year-old girl who can now dream of having her Bat Mitzvah at the wall and for the grandmother who cannot climb on a chair to see her grandson’s Bar Mitzvah. We did it for the great diversity of Jews in the world, all of whom deserve to pray according to their belief and custom at the Western Wall.

The women detained on April 11 at the Rosh Chodesh prayer service were Lesley Sachs, director of Women of the Wall; Bonnie Ras, assistant director of communications for the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism; Silvie Rosenbaum, Sharona Kramer and Rabbi Valerie Stessin, who was the first Conservative rabbi to be ordained in Israel.

Yizhar Hess, executive director of the Masorti-Conservative movement in Israel, called the decision “a victory for common sense and a wake-up call for the Israeli police, which for years have been a toy in the hands of the Kotel rabbi.”

All Ages Jewish Singles Event Next Week!! Comedy | Cocktails | Connections

Monday, April 22, 2013

Top Women Philanthropy Donors Gather to Hear an Olympian's Story

Karen James
Ninety-five leading donors were recognized for their generous support of Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy Annual Campaign at the Lion of Judah & Pomegranate luncheon on Wednesday at the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines. 

The annual event featured an address by Karen James, a member of Canada’s swim team at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, at which 11 Israeli athletes were taken hostage and murdered by Palestine terrorists. James, who was 19 at the time, accidentally encountered two of the terrorists when they all accessed the Olympic village late one night. It was not until the following day, when the hostages were taken, that she realized whom she had seen the night before. James shared the life-changing impact the experience had on her, ultimately inspiring her to move from complete lack of Jewish involvement to her current status as a leader in the Vancouver and Canadian Jewish communities.

The luncheon also featured a special ceremony honoring women who have chosen to endow their annual gifts, thus ensuring that their support for the work of Federation will continue in perpetuity. The ceremony concluded with candles being lit by friends and relatives of those with endowed Lion of Judah gifts who have passed away over the years. 

A highlight of the event was presentation of the prestigious Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award to Terri Bignell. The award is given bi-annually to a woman in recognition of her exceptional commitment to tzedakah and tikkun olam. Terri Bignell has been an esteemed volunteer and professional leader in San Diego’s Jewish community for thirty years. She has led and inspired a variety of organizations including the Federation, Women’s Philanthropy, Hillel of San Diego and Congregation Beth Israel.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Federation to Host 5k Benefiting Victims of Boston Marathon Bombings

The Jewish Federation of San Diego County Young Adult Division is proud to announce the Superhero 5k and BBQ on June 9th to aid the victims of the Boston Marathon Bombings. The family friendly event will take place at Liberty Station in San Diego. Participants are encouraged to dress up as their favorite hero to honor the everyday heroes who responded in the aftermath of the tragic events on April 15. Local firefighters, police and emergency responders will enjoy free registration, and are encouraged to come be recognized. 
The 5k will culminate in a gigantic kosher community BBQ and beer garden in the NTC Waterfront Park featuring local breweries, food trucks and more. There will also be an opportunity drawing featuring great prizes including Padres tickets, gift certificates to local businesses and even a family 4-pack of tickets to Disneyland! 

Federation Launches Fund to Aid Victims of Boston Bombings

The Jewish Federation of San Diego County, in partnership with CJP of Boston, is launching a disaster relief fund to provide aid for individuals in response to Boston Marathon Bombing.  These funds will go directly to efforts providing relief to the individuals involved, providing comfort, and supporting critical services in the aftermath of this devastating tragedy.

JFNA and Jewish Federations are committed to care for victims of global tragedies, and have emergency relief plans in place to aid people in need.

Read this message from CJP Boston who have kick started their efforts with a $100,000 contribution.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

JFNA Decries Heinous Attacks in Boston

The Jewish Federations of North America provided this statement today by Michael Siegal, chair of the Board of Trustees, in the wake of yesterday’s attacks at the Boston Marathon:

“The Jewish Federations of North America expresses its shock and revulsion at the cowardly and despicable attacks at yesterday’s Boston Marathon. Our hearts go out to the victims, and we keep all of those affected in our prayers."

JFNA further reported that our communal security arm, the Secure Community Network (SCN), has remained in close contact with the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston and with law enforcement authorities as this situation has unfolded. SCN has issued several alerts to the community, the latest of which can be seen here.

CJP President Barry Shrage said the Federation is “extending condolences to those who perished, and comfort to all of those injured.” CJP also issued this official statement, jointly with the JCRC of Greater Boston:

“CJP and JCRC express our sincere sympathy to the families and friends of the victims of the Boston Marathon tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Greater Boston community, courageous runners, family, friends and those visiting from the U.S. and abroad.”

CJP is working with the Boston Foundation, Catholic Charities, the Boston mayor’s office and United Way to determine needs and how to address them, added CJP Executive Vice President Gil Preuss.

“This is a tragedy not just for our community – this is a tragedy for all of Boston,” Shrage said.

Some members of the greater Jewish community were reportedly among those injured. As in past years, a team of runners from CJP was participating in the marathon to help raise funds. Fortunately, none of the team members were near the attack site or harmed.

A planned Yom Ha’atzmaut event by CJP was going ahead, CJP officials said. Shrage said the event was not unlike how in Israel, Yom Hazikaron connects to Yom Ha’atzmaut.

“This is an opportunity for us to come together, to be with each other in light of yesterday’s events, to think together about how we often come together in celebration and in tragedy,” Shrage said. “This is just another example.” On behalf of all Jewish Federations, JFNA applauds CJP for its firm response and strong leadership in the wake of this terrible event.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Join Us for Yom Hazikaron at the JCC this Sunday at 7pm

Be Like Larry - Win a Free Trip to Israel from Federation!

Last year, Federation's San Diego Celebrate Israel Festival sent one lucky winner, Larry Herring, to Israel with a free round trip ticket, compliments of El Al Airlines!  He wrote to us today to share his experience and this video filmed on Yom HaShoah.  His email is below:


I took this video at 10am on one of the main roads leading into Jerusalem.  I watched as all of Israel paused for two minutes in remembrance for the 6 million Jews that were murdered in the Holocaust. The sirens sounded and all cars, buses and trucks pulled over. What a sight!  My grandfather (my Mom's Dad) Izzy Stein, lost all but two members of his entire family. All siblings, grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, etc.  Very hard to comprehend.

This event today was very emotional.  Later I stopped in Jerusalem to see Talya. Then I was able to stop in Beit Shemish to say good bye Raanan and Sharon's two beautiful children. Just the anadote I needed.  Please pause today anyway you wish to remember in you own way.  I fly home tonight.

We live in very fortunate times. Thanks for watching. 
Larry Herring
Kohav Yair, Israel 

This year, San Diego Celebrates Israel, Yom Ha'atmaut is giving away not one, but TWO free tickets to Israel! Be sure to join us on April 21st at Nobel Athletic Field for your chance to win!  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

San Diego Celebrates Israel on April 21st!

The Jewish Federation of San Diego County and community partners are proud to announce our annual community event to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut on April 21th held at Nobel Athletic Field in UTC. This is a free event to celebrate and educate our local community about Israel and her culture. The entire San Diego Jewish community is participating, including Friendship Circle of San Diego, which will be kicking off the day with the annual Friendship Walk at 9AM to benefit children with special needs in San Diego and Israel. This year we have partnered with many local organizations, synagogues and vendors to make this the best year yet. We are excited to come together as a community on this day to show solidarity and celebrate Israel’s birthday. Last year we had more than 3,000 attendees and expect more for Israel’s 65th! 

The festival will include a hummus cook-off, free live music, entertainment, with local and special performances, Israeli folk dancing, a circus, kid’s activities, sports, teen programs, arts and crafts, games, a seniors club area, shopping and delicious kosher food! We will also hold an opportunity drawing for two free tickets to Israel provided by El Al Airlines! 
For more information on San Diego Celebrates Israel, visit or call 858.571.3444. To register from the Friendship Walk, visit:

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

San Diego Yom HaShoah Commemoration Makes News

On Sunday, April 7th more than 700 members of the San Diego community gathered at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center for the annual Holocaust commemoration (Yom Hashoah) program. This year’s theme was “Through the Eyes of Children” and focused on the experiences of children who lived through the Holocaust and their many stories of survival.  The program this year saw the largest attendance to date.

The purpose of the commemoration program is to remember the Holocaust, honor our survivors and their families, and teach next generations. The program opened with a military color guard reminiscent of camp liberation, a musical presentation, and a traditional candle lighting ceremony, with candles lit by Holocaust survivors and their descendants in memory of those who perished. Following through with the theme of children, this year’s musical selections involved several outstanding young vocalists and musicians in addition to our traditional musical selections.

Our keynote speaker, Survivor Teresa Racz Fischlowitz shared stories from her experience as a child of the Holocaust and her subsequent survival by being part of a “ransom” plan. Fischlowitz was born in 1937 in Kosice, now Slovakia. She spent her seventh birthday with her family in a cattle car going to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and after being separated from the other prisoners, Teresa was part of a group who interned in Switzerland.  By the time she graduated from high school, she had attended 17 schools in six languages as a result of the need for frequent moves in order to stay safe.

Fischlowitz’s talk was followed by a brief filmed interview of multiple child survivors who endured the atrocities of the Holocaust in very different ways- from hiding in the forest to assuming new identities.

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

If you were unable to attend, be sure to watch this moving video featuring our survivors' stories of faith, family and courage.

Additional media coverage below:

Friday, April 5, 2013

Federation Featured in KPBS Yom HaShoah Spotlight

Yesterday your Federation was live on air with Maureen Cavanaugh discussing the importance of Yom HaShoah and sharing the amazing stories of our local survivors. Maureen interviewed Teresa Racz Fischlowitz, a San Diegan and Holocaust survivor, and Michael Sonduck, Federation President and CEO.  The radio interview aired live during Midday Edition, and there was a televised broadcast with Peggy Pico at 5 and 6PM.  Click below to listen and watch these interesting stories, and be sure to come this Sunday, April 7th to our Yom HaShoah program at the JCC!

Jewish Community Day at Petco Park - June 23!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Federation Releases Annual Report

Your Federation is proud to announce the release of our 2012 Annual Report!  Click below to read about all the extraordinary things we accomplished in 2012, thanks to the generosity of our incredible donors.  

Thank you, for all that you do.

Click here to read the report online.