Monday, June 30, 2014

Federation Expresses Grief and Outrage Over Deaths of Kidnapped Students in Israel

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The Jewish Federation of San Diego County and the worldwide Jewish community are joined with the State of Israel today in grief and horror following the announcement of the tragic deaths of Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Fraenkel and Gilad Shaar.

Michael Siegal, Chair of the Jewish Federations Board of Trustees, issued the following statement:

“It is simply unimaginable that anyone could commit such a heinous and despicable act such as this. As Jews, as mothers and fathers, as sons and daughters, and simply as people, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Eyal, Naftali and Gilad at this time. There is no reason – none – why a tragedy like this should have occurred. The Jewish Federations stand alongside our brothers and sisters across the world and in Israel in condemnation of this senseless murder, and we pray that those responsible are swiftly brought to justice.”

Michael Sonduck, President and CEO of our local Federation added - "We all stand together in sharing our grief and outrage at the senseless and tragic deaths of these young men."

HaMakom yenachem etchem b'toch sha-ar aveilei tzion v’yerushalayim.

Click below to to sign a letter of condolence to send to the grieving families to show your support.

Project Shachar: Integrating the Ultra-Orthodox

San Diego's Jewish families have huge impact, not only locally, but around the world.  Federation is excited to share the below article about San Diego's Woolf family, who have generously supported efforts to get ultra-orthodox men further integrated into the IDF via Federation partners at the American Joint Jewish Distribution Committee (JDC).  

Thanks to the continued, generous support of the Woolf family, JDC’s Project Shachar continues to be the Israeli army's most successful program integrating ultra-orthodox men into military service. Despite a highly charged political environment, Shachar continues to thrive and made significant advances in the first quarter of 2014.

Many ultra-orthodox men are unemployed because of their religious studies and rely on donations, state benefits and their wives' wages. From the founding of the state, when there were only mere hundreds of yeshiva students, until now when there are nearly 60,000 Haredi draft age men, there has effectively been an exemption from army service for men engaged in full-time Torah study. This has caused a damaging split within Israel society and resentment among Israel's national religious and secular majority, leading to a demand that Haredim share the social burden.

As a result, ground-breaking legislation passed by the Knesset in March will now require Haredi men to perform army service (although its full impact won’t be felt until 2017). For many in the Haredi community, the threat of conscription only galvanized and hardened opposition to any army service, culminating in a vocal mass demonstration in Jerusalem last month. But for a growing group, the new law and its gradual implementation pave the way for important changes in attitude, and growing interest in Shachar’s voluntary army enrollment model as a means of securing professional education and economic opportunity.

In February 2014, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said about the Haredi conscription law: “Two years ago, I said I would submit a bill that would increase equality in sharing the burden without setting public against public. We must see to it that it is being carried out while maintaining national unity.”

As Minister of the Economy Naftali Bennett said just last month, “Now we must roll up our sleeves and connect our Haredi brothers to the economy and Israeli service.”

To meet these goals, Shachar continues to successfully help thousands of Haredi men voluntarily perform military service in a supportive frame-work that will lead to their participation in Israel’s economic life, while maintaining their ties to the religious community. In total, 1,300 Haredi soldiers have participated in Shachar since 2007. More than 85% of the graduates are successfully employed when they finish Shachar, with 40% working in the specialty fields for which they received training, and the remainder finding work in other fields.

Thus far in 2014, 163 Shachar program participants completed their army service and began job employment; while 125 new recruits began the program.

Chanoch: Project Shachar's newest chapter

While Project Shachar targets Haredi men ages 22-25, many of whom are already married, a need was identified over the past two years to expand to younger yeshiva students. Shachar initiated the Chanoch (education) program, which focuses on unmarried yeshiva students, just 18-21 years old, who are willing to join the army so that they can receive education leading to a viable career. They continue to live in their yeshivas and engage in Torah study in the evenings; but in addition to basic army training, they also take special professional training classes during the day.

After intense outreach to nearly 50 yeshivas in 2013, in February 2014 the first group of 180 Chanoch army recruits began learning essential professional skills that will give them financial independence. Current classes are in math and English; after Passover these offerings will be expanded to include intensive vocational tracks in computers and electronics.

Yossi Rotenberg: Advancing in the Workplace

Yossi Rotenberg grew up in a Haredi family in Bnei Brak and attended yeshiva. Married at 23, and with a child on the way, Yossi worked part-time to supplement his meager yeshiva kolel stipend.

But as his family grew, Yossi decided to leave the kolel and work full-time for a manpower company catering to the Haredi community, but he knew something was missing. “I saw friends who left yeshiva and I didn’t want to end up like them; they bounced around from one dead-end, low-paying job to another.” Yossi joined the second class of Shachar, where he was able to get in the communications track.

Today, Yossi is the Director of the Help Desk at Israel’s Ministry of Justice, where he has already earned two promotions. “Not only do I now earn more than I did before the army, but I also learned communication and hi-tech skills.” Yossi now has great hopes for the future. He plans on pursuing a degree in management or engineering so that he can become an IT Project Manager. As he explains, “Thanks to Shachar, I have become a professional, and now I want to get the academic degree to back it up.”

California Legislative Jewish Caucus to Terrorist Bullies: Leave our Children Alone

The California Legislative Jewish Caucus has made the following statement regarding the recent kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank:

“Our hearts, thoughts and prayers are with the parents, family members and friends of the innocent teenage Israeli boys kidnapped in the West Bank on June 12. The abduction of these boys, one with dual American citizenship, as they returned home from school follows a disturbing pattern of targeting children in terrorist acts, such as the recent kidnapping of 223 girls from a Nigerian school in April and a 2012 incident in which a teenaged Pakistani girl was shot in the head by the Taliban as she headed to school.

“Our Legislative Jewish Caucus Chair, Senator Marty Block, stated, ‘Children should not be at risk for attending school. They should never be targets of terrorism or victims of such violence.’

“The California Legislative Jewish Caucus calls upon people worldwide to stand firm against terrorism and crimes targeting our children. We hope and pray that the missing Israeli boys and Nigerian girls will be returned safely to their families and that the perpetrators will be brought to justice.”

Saturday, June 28, 2014

San Diego Jewish Advocacy Fellows Part II

On Wednesday, San Diego's Jewish Advocacy Fellows met for their second session at Jewish Family Service. Kristen McDade Byrne, Vice President of MJE Marketing Services and a lobbyist for Hillel, discussed the key elements of advocacy: what it is, why it is important, how to formulate a compelling message, the political landscape and who’s doing advocacy.

Allison Don, Field Representative to State Senator Block, helped the cohort gain a deeper understanding of the fellow-selected focus of the San Diego senior population as it relates to proposed legislation.

The group also set goals for the program and voted to make a meaningful contribution to the process by researching related policy and developing fact sheets.

The Jewish Advocacy Fellows Program is a five session long advocacy training, created and facilitated by the Jewish Community Foundation, Jewish Community Relations Council, Jewish Family Service, Leichtag Foundation and NextGen. The program will culminate in a trip to Sacramento to lobby in partnership with the Jewish Caucus chaired by Senator Block. The program espouses the idea that civic engagement and advocacy are rooted in the Jewish value of tzedek (justice), which requires us to address issues of disparity and equity.

Stay tuned for an update on our next session to be held later this month, “Philanthropy 101/Investing in Advocacy” hosted by the Jewish Community Foundation.

Friday, June 27, 2014

A Message from Jerry Silverman: Bring Back Our Boys

Jewish Federation of North America President and CEO Jerry Silverman sent this letter out today regarding the three Israeli teenage boys who were kidnapped a fortnight ago. We pray for their safe return.  #bringbackourboys

Dear Friends,

This week, a delegation of JFNA leaders had the unique opportunity to represent Jewish Federations in Israel. While our agenda was full, the most memorable part of our trip was the time we spent with the families of the three kidnapped boys, Eyal, Gilad and Naftali. We talked, hugged and shared thoughts with the boys' mothers and fathers, assuring them that throughout this ordeal, they are not alone.

This horrible event hangs like a cloud over all of Israel – and the entire Jewish world – as we worry about these three teens. During our visit, our delegation listened while, one by one, members of the Knesset expressed their deep resolve to support the IDF’s effort to find our sons. We also joined the Israel European Congress’ session as they spoke with the boys’ mothers and offered the love and support of Jews around the world. 
We then had the opportunity to spend time with the families in a more intimate setting. They shared their deep appreciation of our support and were very much aware of all the vigils and activities taking place throughout North America. The families were humbled by the response of our communities, regardless of affiliation or religious stream, and inspired by our efforts.

They asked us, as representatives of the Jewish Federations, for two things:

1. That we continue to come together and pray for their boys to come home safely. We must let it be known in our communities that this crime will not be tolerated; and,

2. That we reach out to the influencers in our communities and in Washington, D.C. to continue to put pressure on those responsible.

As Dede Feinberg, Executive Committee chair, said to the families, “I am a mother, and I cannot fathom the pain you are feeling. However, know you are not alone, and won’t be alone, until they are home.”

Upon our return from Israel, we learned that President Obama began his conversation with Israeli President Shimon Peres by offering his prayers and support for these boys and pledging to do whatever possible to help bring them home. I speak for everyone at Jewish Federations when I offer a heartfelt thank you to President Obama for prioritizing this issue and continuing to put forth pressure to bring these teens home.

As Federations, we have a responsibility to continue to advocate for Eyal, Gilad and Naftali at every gathering, and to encourage our respective agencies, congregations, JCCs, camps and all Jewish organizations to do the same. This is our family and they are our boys. We pray that they come home safe and very soon, b'ezrat Hashem.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jerry Silverman
President and Chief Executive Officer, JFNA

Friday, June 20, 2014

[SUNDAY] Jewish Community #BringBackOurBoys Rally

On Sunday, June 22, the San Diego Jewish Community will gather at SCY High School to pray for the quick and safe return of three Israeli teenage boys who were kidnapped by terrorists this past Friday. The everyone is welcome to join in showing solidarity with Israel and our Jewish community.

Michael Sonduck, President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of San Diego County said, “On Sunday we will come together as a community to show solidarity and pray for the safe return of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali. It’s always incredible to see the strength and resiliency of our community when we come together in these trying times. All credit goes to our community partners, synagogues and schools, for what will be an uplifting and inspiring event.”

The rally has garnered great support from the community, and is a collaboration of Beth Jacob Congregation, Adat Yeshurun, San Diego NCSY, Soille San Diego Hebrew Day School, SCY High School, Torah High School, Chabad of University City, Federation, Chabad Hebrew Academy and Young Israel of San Diego, with more supporters joining by the hour. Over the past week the #bringbackourboys campaign has gotten international attention on social media, on cable networks, and in the White House. 

The program is free and open to the public. The address is SCY High School, 3410 Mt. Acadia Blvd. 

For more information about the rally stay tuned to our Facebook Event: 

More support is being gathered by sending a virtual letter to the families. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Thanks from Israel - #BringBackOurBoys

Please see below letter from Rebecca Caspi, who is on the ground in Israel in these trying times:

Dear Friends,

Your support means so much!

It’s at times like this, when the entire Jewish world pulls together with hopes and prayers for the safety of our three kidnapped boys, that Jewish Federations shine. The amazing, almost unprecedented, outpourings of support and love from Jewish communities across North America - and indeed the world - deliver your strength and compassion right where and when they are needed most. We know this because the families of all three boys are united in one message: “We feel the warm embrace coming from every direction and we ask that you continue your prayers for the safe return of our sons.” (View a moving video of the three families speaking to the media.)

We at Federations are proud of the steps we have taken, and continue to take, during this time of crisis. We delivered a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declaring the full solidarity of our communities, and we also prepared a “virtual letter” to the boys’ families that was signed by more than 2,000 people in its first 24 hours.

Here in Israel, people are gathering to unite in mass prayer services, including this one held at the Western Wall (Kotel).

Please pass this letter on to your friends and family. This show of solidarity from the entire Jewish community is very important and appreciated.

Together, we focus on praying and hoping for the safe return of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali.

Best wishes,
Rebecca Caspi Director General,
Israel Office Senior Vice President, Global Operations

JFS-David Rubenstein Memorial Scholarship Fund

Federation is proud to share that Board Member, philanthropist and all around mensch Robert Rubenstein has established a scholarship fund to help those in our community.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Previous publication incorrectly listed Board Member as David, for whom the scholarship is named]

Application deadline is June 20 - see information below:
JFS-David Rubenstein Scholarship Applications
STUDENTS: What would you do with $2,500 for college?
  • Offset tuition, room, or board
  • Buy textbooks
  • Reduce your student loan amount – and your future loan payments!
If you are a high school senior or current college student, we invite you to apply for this scholarship opportunity! Past recipients have gone on to community colleges and four-year universities including UCSD, SDSU, Miramar Community College, USC, Tulane, and Carnegie Mellon. Interested students should review the requirements below and click here to learn more and download an application. Applications must be submitted by June 20, 2014.

  • San Diego County resident (Independent students must have lived in San Diego for a one-year period. Exceptional cases may be considered if circumstances warrant.)
  • Minimum 3.0 GPA or higher
  • Demonstration of financial need
  • Strong community involvement
  • Demonstration of financial contribution toward education (e.g., through part-time work)
  • Plan to attend school full-time (12-unit minimum per term) at an approved college, university, or vocational school in the U.S. in Fall 2014
Rubenstein Apply Now Button

“The Rubenstein Family Scholarship helped me pay down costs that weren't covered by financial aid. Knowing I was the recipient of this scholarship also boosted my confidence.”

– JFS-David Rubenstein Memorial Scholarship Award Recipient

Rubenstein Family Scholarship Recipients 2013Dr. Robert Rubenstein, a generous member of our community, has established a scholarship program to offer financial assistance to students from the San Diego Jewish community who plan to attend college or a vocational school.

Contact Jennifer Turner at (858) 673-3393 or

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Best in Israeli Biotech | June 23

Comedy, Cocktails and Connections | June 24

Federation's Young Adult Division Presents:
Comedy Cocktails and Connections
Jewish Dating for San Diegans in their 20s, 30s and 40s

JDC Thanks San Diego Jewish Community for Support of Ukrainian Jews

In April the San Diego Jewish community stepped up to support the 300,000+ Jews who are living in tumultuous Ukraine in these uncertain times.  Through Federation, our community sent more than $25,000 through 250+ gifts to provide security, blankets, medicine and food to our Jewish family abroad. Federation partner, The American Jewish Join Distribution Committee (JDC) is on the ground in Ukraine, ensuring the safety of Jewish people across the former Soviet Union.  See their thank you to the San Diego Jewish community, below.

And thank YOU for all that you do.  Together, we do extraordinary things.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Bring Back Our Boys

On June 12, Israeli teens Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel were kidnapped on their way home by members of Hamas. Join us in expressing solidarity with their families by adding a message below.

To the families of Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali,

As the search continues for your sons, we pray for them like they are our own.

We stand together with you and send our prayers, thoughts and support to you and all of Israel as we stand up to terror and mount every possible effort to safely #bringbackourboys.

Show your support by adding a message below.

Sign this letter by clicking here.

Federation and the San Diego Jewish Community stand with Israel in praying for the safe return of three teenaged boys who were abducted Friday in the West Bank.  JFNA recently sent a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu, expressing support and solidarity with the families. #bringbackourboys

Thousands gather at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City to pray for the release of three kidnapped Israeli teenagers, June 15, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Thousands gathered at the Western Wall to pray for the safe return of three teens kidnapped in the West Bank.

More than 25,000 people attended the Sunday evening service led by Chief Rabbi David Lau. Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef also was at the service, as were members of the Chief Rabbinate council and Knesset members.

“We prove to our enemies that the nation of Israel is alive and will never be broken,” Lau said at the service. “Everyone gathered here at the Kotel as one, with one heart, unified in a prayer for the safety of the kidnapped, that they will be swiftly returned to their families.”

Meanwhile, a Facebook page dedicated to the return of the teens, Bring Back Our Boys, has garnered more than 64,600 likes since its establishment on Friday.

The three Israeli teens, including one dual Israeli-American citizen, have been missing since Thursday night. They were last seen trying to get rides home from a yeshiva high school in Gush Etzion, a bloc of settlements located south of Jerusalem.

The missing teens were identified Saturday as Gilad Shaar, 16, from Talmon; Eyal Yifrach, 19, from Elad; and Naftali Frenkel, 16, from Nof Ayalon, the American citizen.

Meanwhile, it was cleared for reporting by the military censor on Sunday evening that one of the kidnapped teens had made a call to the police moments after the kidnapping, at approximately 10:30 on Thursday night. The teen reportedly whispered “We have been kidnapped!” before the call was disconnected.

Police did not report the suspected kidnapping to the military until about 4 a.m.

West Bank police receive dozens of false reports of attempted kidnappings each day, the Times of Israel reported.

Read more:

Friday, June 13, 2014

Donate Today and be Entered to Win an iPad!

Donate to Federation's Annual Campaign before midnight on June 15 and automatically be entered to win!  

Sunday is the last day to win this generously donated iPad.  

Every gift counts - help us reach our donor goal for 2014! Federation's campaign closes June 30.

Thank you, for all that you do.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Federation Kicks Off the Jewish Advocates Fellowship

This week, Federation hosted the first session of the Jewish Advocacy Fellowship program and the agenda was packed.  Twelve selected Jewish Fellows had an opportunity to get to know one another as they shared personal stories and participated in a values based exercises.

State Senator Marty Block had a lively and personal conversation with the cohort as he shared how his Jewish identify informs his work, spoke about the important work of the Jewish Caucus and explained the importance of lobbying.  In August, the cohort will join Senator Block in Sacramento to meet with members of the California Jewish caucus.

Modeled after the work of the Jewish Public Affairs Committee of CA (JPAC), the largest single-state coalition of Jewish organizations in the nation, the cohort was presented with three possible topics upon which to build the focus of the Fellowship: Human Trafficking, Safety Net Cuts, Bullying.   After thoughtful discussion and consideration, the group voted to focus on Safety Net Cuts relating to San Diego's senior population.

Created and facilitated by the Jewish Community Foundation, Jewish Community Relations Council, Jewish Family Service, Leichtag Foundation and NextGen, the program is five sessions long, culminating in a trip to Sacramento to lobby on the selected issue and work in partnership with the Jewish Caucus chaired by Senator Block.  

Stay tuned for an update on our next session to be held later this month, “Advocacy 101 Training” hosted by  Jewish Family Service.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Israel Gives Young Social Entrepreneurs a Boost

From San Diego Jewish World

Israel's Consul General David Siegel presents $1,000 check to Tali Yedid, Noah Villalobos and Vanessa Ramirez
Israel’s Consul General David Siegel presents $1,000 check to Tali Edid, Noah Villalobos and Vanessa Ramirez (Photos: Donald H. Harrison)
 By Donald H. Harrison
Donald H. Harrison
Donald H. Harrison
LA JOLLA, California – It might have been a project on homelessness, or cleaning up the environment, or any other of a number of efforts by Jewish and Latino high school students to impact major social problems, but the project that caught the eye of the judges—and won a $1000 prize for three students to divide—was one envisioning teaching urban youth through YMCA’s and similar facilities how to grow and eat healthy foods.
Collecting a check on Sunday, June 1, for $1,000 from the Consulate General of Israel —were Tali Edid of the San Diego Jewish Academy, along with teammates Noah Villalobos and Vanessa Ramirez, who attend high schools in the Scripps Ranch and La Jolla areas. The presentations of the projects—and the later award of a check enlarged many times for photographic purposes—were given at UCSD’s Rady School of Management which has committed itself to develop ever more intense programs for social entrepreneurship.
In awarding the prize, Israel’s Los Angeles-based Consul General David Siegel told of the Jewish State’s interest in spreading the knowledge it has gained trying to solve large social problems and to likewise benefit from ideas developed in other nations.
Dean Robert Sullivan, Rady School of Management
Dean Robert Sullivan, Rady School of Management
This particular program for high school students was co-sponsored by the regional offices of the Anti-Defamation League, which fosters inter-communal relations between Jews and other communities, and by the Spanish-speaking Ken Community Center, which provides a gathering place for Jews who have immigrated to San Diego from Mexico, Central America and South America.   Tali, a 10th grader, was born in Mexico to a family with numerous relatives in Israel.
In developing their projects, the students were mentored by graduate students in MBA programs. High schoolers and mentors met two hours each Sunday, for five weeks, to develop their ideas, and to create power point presentations. The winning team now will work together with mentors for an additional six months in an effort to implement their ideas.
Siegel said that currently in Israel more than a half million college students receive scholarships and stipends to serve as mentors of high school students, so the program involves well over one million people. He added that Mexico has adopted the Israeli mentorship model and now offers similar incentives to students to become mentors at 61 universities and colleges throughout that nation.
Michael Sonduck, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of San Diego County, told the students that “nothing important happens without collaboration.”   He added, “whether it is Jewish-Latino collaboration, or MBA-High School collaboration, regardless of what it is, there isn’t an important issue that we face that doesn’t happen and won’t get solved without collaboration.”
Robert S. Sullivan, dean of the Rady School of Management, told the students that UCSD is forming a new center for social innovation, which will be headed by Ayelet Gneezy, an Israeli professor. In addition, he noted, over the last two years, UCSD has been operating a U.S.-Israel Center for Innovation and Economic Stability.
Uri Gneezy
Uri Gneezy
An important question, Sullivan said, on “how do you go from ideas to doing something with ideas that have an impact on lives? ‘Economic sustainability’ literally means that over time that these ideas need to be sustainable solutions. They can’t just be great ideas that cost so much no one will ever do them.”
Over the long term, he said, UCSD will try to qualify as a “change maker campus,” that will be part of an international organization “in which the entire campus develops a responsibility, an intent, for dealing with these large social problems, that when you address them they make lives better.”
Along with certificates for their participation, the students were awarded a copy of The Why Axis, a book by Gneezy’s husband, Uri, who is an economist, and co-author John A. List.   Uri Gneezy later gave the students a brief synopsis of some of the problem-solving work he is trying to accomplish.
He said non-profit agencies that try to resolve social problems are important contributors to society, but ordinary donors do not want to pay for those agencies’ overhead. Rather donors want their money to go directly to the cause, whatever it may be.   Yet, if donors don’t wish to contribute to overhead, the non-profit agencies won’t be able to hire staff, and especially not at salaries that are competitive with those in private industries. How then, asked Uri Gneezy, can important non-profit agencies attract top-flight individuals to their ranks?
Gneezy answered that a study indicates donors don’t mind contributing to non-profit agencies, even with high overhead, if they know that their own individual contributions will in fact go to the project, not to salaries, or other overhead. So, he said, an apparent solution is to develop two streams of giving – one, from ordinary donors, that will be guaranteed to go for services; the other, from “rich guys,” government or foundations, that can, in fact, be used for overhead.
Participants in the Jewish-Latino, High School-MBA collaboration pose after receiving participation certificates
Participants in the Jewish-Latino, High School-MBA collaboration pose after receiving participation certificates