Friday, August 29, 2014

San Diego Hosts Ari Shavit

On Wednesday, Federation and AIPAC teamed up to host a joint event at Congregation Beth Israel featuring famed Israeli author of My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel  and Ha’Aretz political commentator Ari Shavit. 

Close to 500 community members packed the pews to hear Shavit’s take on the Gaza conflict, the US-Israel relationship, raising children under the shadow of rocket fire, and the future of Zionism.  Aptly described by AIPAC Area Director Elliott Nahmias as, “a leftist righty, or maybe a righty leftist”, Shavit gave everyone in attendance something to cheer - and grumble - about.  He reminisced about the time he spent as a child in La Jolla with prominent community members Zelda (z”l) and Murray (z”l) Goodman.  He spoke about the remarkable similarities between Israel and California’s beaches, oranges, hi-tech industry, weather and people.  

Overall, the collaboration between AIPAC, Congregation Beth Israel, and Federation created a wonderful evening for people of all political persuasions to mingle, learn, and engage in tough questions about Israel.

You can learn more about Ari Shavit and purchase his book at

Thursday, August 28, 2014

In Israel’s South, Families Worry About the Future of Life Near Gaza


A girl from Kibbutz Nahal Oz played in a paddle pool in Urim, which is a short drive away but out of mortar range. Credit: Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times

KIBBUTZ NAHAL OZ, Israel — Towering concrete walls surround the kindergarten in this rural Israeli community next to the border with Gaza, blocking out the light. The fortresslike panels went up a few days ago as protection against deadly shrapnel from the Palestinian mortar rounds that have crashed down here in recent weeks with a terrifying intensity.

On Wednesday, the day after an open-ended cease-fire took hold, the families with young children, who are the lifeblood of this farming village and who fled to safer parts of the country, had still not returned. Residents reached by telephone said they would likely return in the coming days, in time for the school year scheduled to begin on Monday.

But some parents of young children are questioning whether they want to continue living in Nahal Oz and in Israel’s traumatized south, where the once-revered Zionist ideal of settling the border areas is crumbling.

“This is a test for our community, but no less for our government,” said Daniel Rahamim, the crop irrigation manager of Nahal Oz and a member of the community’s emergency team. “Will our leaders know how to help lift us up? The big test comes once quiet prevails.”Photo

Illi Zamir and Yasmin Yahav sheltered as mortar rounds fired from Gaza hit Kibbutz Nahal Oz.
Credit Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times

A wiry, soft-spoken man in work boots, Mr. Rahamim had shown reporters around the kibbutz earlier in the week, between mortar attacks. He was one of about 50 of the 350 residents — mostly older people and a few essential workers — who have remained here for most or all of the war.

“Whether we like it or not, the circumstances have imbued our lives with extra significance,” Mr. Rahamim said. Describing Nahal Oz, founded in the early 1950s, soon after the establishment of the state of Israel, as the first line of defense, he said that living here was again about “holding on to this place.”

Israel’s defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, spoke Wednesday in his first public remarks since the cease-fire about the hardships of bringing up children under fire in the area, saying, “This is a harsh reality to live in, and the difficult questions they now raise are correct and justified.”

The death last Friday of Daniel Tregerman, 4, was a seminal moment for some residents. Daniel was killed here when a mortar sent shrapnel flying into the living room of his family’s small stucco house. His family had ventured back during an earlier cease-fire that collapsed, after assurances from the military’s top brass that it was safe to return.

Two more Israeli civilians were killed on Tuesday when mortars crashed into a nearby community, Nirim, half an hour before the new cease-fire took effect.

This latest Gaza conflict, the third in less than six years, was the longest and deadliest for both sides. Gaza suffered most of the casualties, with more than 2,100 Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes, while 64 Israeli soldiers and six civilians died.

Local leaders criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for accepting a truce similar to one that ended eight days of fighting in 2012, which brought only 19 months of quiet. Critics said the countdown had already started toward the next round.

Hamas sent longer-range rockets into Israel, almost as far north as Haifa, but in the south, where thousands of rockets paralyzed life and the local economy, residents bore the psychological brunt.

Though the physical damage from rockets was minimized by Israel’s Iron Dome antimissile defense system, there is no technological solution yet for the short-range mortars that took a much heavier toll on soldiers and civilians. Though relatively primitive weapons, the mortars now pose an existential threat to communities like Nahal Oz, closest to the border fence.

From the kibbutz’s cowshed there is a clear view of Shejaiya, the Gaza neighborhood where some of the fiercest fighting took place in July. Hamas militants emerged from a tunnel and killed five soldiers at a nearby army post. Leaflets dropped over Gaza by Israeli military aircraft warning Palestinian residents to evacuate areas where Hamas was operating landed inside the kibbutz.

Adi Freibach, 42, a mother of five, has lived at Nahal Oz since she was a child. She and her family spent this week with 25 other families from Nahal Oz at Kibbutz Urim, safely out of mortar range. For the first time, she said, she was contemplating the possibility of moving away from Nahal Oz, but said her family had decided this was not the time to make decisions.

“It doesn’t only depend on our feeling,” she said, “but on what happens around us. If others leave and the children’s friends leave, we have nothing to stay for.”

Moran Freibach, 44, Ms. Freibach’s husband, was born in Nahal Oz. He said that if the kibbutz were to collapse, it would be “the beginning of the end of the Zionist dream.” He added, “If we cannot feel safe there, why should we feel safe anywhere in Israel?”

Nahal Oz was etched in Israelis’ memory after one of its members, Roy Rotenberg, was killed in a cross-border ambush in 1956. Moshe Dayan, then the army chief of staff, delivered a eulogy at his funeral that became one of his most acclaimed pieces of oratory.

“Have we forgotten that this group of young people dwelling at Nahal Oz is bearing the heavy gates of Gaza on its shoulders?” he asked. “Let us make our reckoning with ourselves today. We are a generation of settlement, and without the steel helmet and the gun’s muzzle, we will not be able to plant a tree and build a house.”

When Yair Lapid, the finance minister, visited Nahal Oz on Monday, a day before the cease-fire, those who remained in the kibbutz gathered with him in the “war room,” a fortified underground shelter. They asked Mr. Lapid for financial incentives to entice students to rent here; for help to cover special educational and social needs; for assurances that it is worth investing in a fortified roof for the dairy and that people would still want to buy the new houses that were built over the past year as part of a plan to encourage demographic growth. Mostly, they wanted to hear if Nahal Oz had a future.

Mr. Lapid listened but had no immediate answers.

Ilan Zamir, 29, who works in the dairy and the chicken coops, said that day: “Someone has to stay here. I don’t want it to be a ghost kibbutz.”

Holding the tail of a mortar shell that crashed into a eucalyptus tree not far from his house, he added: “If rent is cheap, people will come. Between the wars, it is the most beautiful place in the world.”

NCSY-NextGen’s “MidraSHOW” Receives $10,000 Grant from Federation

Simcha Himmel
From the Orthodox Union - August 28

NCSY’S NEXTGEN Division was recently granted $10,000 from The Jewish Federation of San Diego County for their “MidraSHOW” program. The MidraSHOW is a theatrical performance which, like a Jewish midrash, is embedded with Jewish values that are relevant, personal and meaningful — all while while being an enjoyable show.

The show will include live actors, music and custom-produced videos. NCSY NEXTGEN is an initiative of the Orthodox Union. NCSY NextGen is planning their first production for the beginning of 2015 which will be geared towards young professionals and families. There will be wine tasting, hors d’oeuvres and baby sitting available.

The MidraSHOW is piloted by San Diego NCSY’s Director Adam Simon, and Josh Cohen, Assistant Director San Diego NCSY and Alumni Coordinator of West Coast NCSY. The concept of employing visual demonstrations and storytelling to relay Jewish values was an idea Josh Cohen wanted to bring over from NCSY to Next Gen.

He explains, “We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to interact with our alumni in addition to our current NCSYers and are looking forward to seeing this initiative in action.” In addition to the production, MidraSHOW will introduce participants to local Jewish institutions and teach those institutions how to employ theatre, visual props and storytelling in their work.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Charity Reaches Milestone of 200,000 Rides for Seniors

See this exciting news from The Times of San Diego about Federation funded On the Go - celebrating 200,000 rides!

 BY  ON  IN  
Jewish Family Service’s On the Go transportation program for San Diego-area seniors reached a milestone of 200,000 rides on Thursday.
The five-year-old program provides accessible and affordable transportation for elderly San Diegans who are no longer able to drive, taking them to doctors’ appointments, religious activities, shopping centers, recreational outings and luncheons. The program is designed to give seniors a boost in independence, community connection, mobility and dignity.
On the Go is celebrating the 200,000 rides milestone by taking busloads of seniors to Thursday’s tall ship parade hosted by the San Diego Maritime Museum.
The program relies on volunteer drivers, and applications are available online.
Jewish Family Service of San Diego provides help and support to families and individuals of all denominations throughout San Diego County and the Coachella Valley.

Why We Do What We Do

Today we want to share this note we received from a donor who is contributing to our Reach Out for Israel fund in honor of Daniel Tragerman z"l. This sort of compassion is why we're proud to do what we do, every day. We sent it on to the Tragerman family in Sha'ar HaNegev.  

Thanks James - you made our day.

California State Legislature Gets Jewish Caucus

From the San Diego Jewish Journal
By Natalie Jacobs

The California state legislature’s first ethnic caucus was the Black Caucus which formed in 1967. A handful of years later, in 1973, the Latino Caucus formed. It wasn’t again until 2001 that California received another ethnic caucus, this time for legislators of Asian and Pacific Islander descent. Only a year later, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus was created. The Jewish Caucus, which launched in January of this year, is the newest group on the caucus block and it has already had a lot of work to do.

As a bipartisan group, the Jewish Caucus is hoping to create and maintain a strong Jewish voice in the California legislature. Senator Marty Block, of District 39, which reaches up to Solana Beach, out to San Carlos and down to Coronado, decided to start the Jewish Caucus after he became chair of 2008’s Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony. Serving as the chair mostly means being the chief fundraiser for the large event and the inefficiency of last-minute fundraising made Block think there might be a better way.

“It seemed to me there should be a standard group of people,” Senator Block says, “a standing caucus, something that is there to make sure that the Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony is institutionalized and that we’re ready to do it and are funded to do it every year.”

As there are no caucuses based on religion, Block explains that the Jewish Caucus is based on Jewish-ness as an ethnicity and a common culture. With that, the only qualification to join the Jewish Caucus is that the legislator self-identify as a Jew.

There are currently nine Jewish members and three non-Jewish members (the non-Jewish members come to meetings but cannot vote).

“At present,” Block says, “we have five Jewish senators and four Jewish assembly members. Among the five Jewish senators is included Darrell Steinberg, who is President of the Senate.”

Caucus activities kicked off at January’s Martin Luther King Day celebrations in Sacramento.

“There has been a lot of Jewish involvement in the civil rights movement,” Block explains, “and we [the Jewish Caucus] want to remind people of that.”

In March, the Caucus was invited to the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between California’s Governor Jerry Brown and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In it, the two agree to more cooperation between California and Israel on a variety of issues including biotech, water and security. After it was signed, Block authored, and all Jewish Caucus members signed, a resolution for the legislature, pledging support in the Assembly for the MOU.

“We think this Memorandum of Understanding and the resolution, they tell people you might have these fringe groups that are trying to boycott, there are these groups on campus, but California is firmly stating that we’re open for business with Israel.”

Shortly after the Caucus was formed, it came out that the Rialto School District, located just north of Riverside, Calif., had sanctioned an assignment whereby eighth-grade students were asked to write persuasive essays examining whether or not the Holocaust really occurred. The state senator for the Rialto area, Norma Torres, brought the issue up to Senator Block and the Caucus investigated.

“We found out that it wasn’t just one teacher who was giving an assignment, it was in fact the entire school district, that there was a committee of teachers and administrators that came up with the assignment,” Block says.

The Caucus obtained a copy of the assignment, which asked: “Do you think the Holocaust was real or do you think it was staged by the Jews to gain more money and political power?”

The legislative group then wrote a letter to the school district demanding that it retract the assignment. It had already been assigned to some students, but the school district did eventually cancel the assignment and told students who had not yet completed it that they were no longer required to do so.

“For school districts,” Block explains, “if we the legislature take a position like this, they will pay more attention than just to the ADL or the Museum of Tolerance. … We control the budget of the school district. When a senator and assembly members say this is not acceptable, it carries with it a threat that funding will be cut next year.”

In addition to the letter, the Jewish Caucus helped to coordinate a series of Holocaust education efforts for the Rialto school district with the ADL and the Museum of Tolerance. As part of these efforts, a group of Holocaust survivors spoke at a Rialto School District board meeting and students were sent on a field trip to the Museum of Tolerance. The district also agreed to assign Elie Wiesel’s “Night” to its ninth graders next year.

Senator Block notes that the Jewish Caucus will continue to keep its eyes on these sorts of issues for California. The group is also endorsing candidates in a handful of races around the state. Another big goal of the group is to encourage more Jews to get involved in politics and to run for office.

“The state has been fairly well represented by Jews in terms of Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and Darrell Steinberg being the head of the Senate,” Block says, “but time is running out for all of them. … So we want to encourage more Jews to get involved.”

To do that, Block and the Jewish Caucus will welcome young leadership groups to Sacramento for a behind-the-scenes look at how California’s government works. Starting next year, the group will also host an annual award recognizing outstanding Jewish Californians, as do the other caucuses for their respective constituencies.

“You talk about the LGBT community, so many members of the community being closeted for so many years and now feeling the freedom and speaking out and talking about differences, to some extent, the Jewish community has chosen to be somewhat closeted and now I think we’re seeing people in legislative groups speaking out.”

Friday, August 22, 2014

Our Hearts Are Broken - Federation Mourns Daniel Tregerman z"l

Dear Community,

Today is a heartbreaking day. This morning we received word that a four-year-old boy, Daniel Tregerman z”l, was killed in Sha’ar HaNegev by a Hamas rocket. 
We send all of our condolences and prayers to our sister city in these tragic times. 
Below is a message I have sent to Mayor Alon Schuster on Friday morning.
May his memory be a blessing and G-d bless Israel.
Please see this link for additional information. To read what our San Diego Jewish community is doing for Israel click here.


Dear Alon,

Please accept our heartfelt condolences to our family in Sha'ar HaNegev on the terrible death of a child of the community. Our hearts are broken by this tragic news.

With sincerest regards,


Michael Sonduck
President and CEO
Jewish Federation of San Diego County

Thursday, August 21, 2014

San Diego Latino-Jewish Coalition Breakfast | September 17

How Do We Help Israel?

Friendship Circle Teen Award Video

Federation partner, Friendship Circle San Diego recently shared some big news! Mazel Tov to Sasha!

See this great letter below from Elisheva Green, Executive Director of the Friendship Circle -

Dear Federation,

The Federation have been so essential to the Friendship Circle’s success! One of our teens just won a national teen leadership award. I thought you’d like to share in this nachas and to see part of what the Federation’s generosity has helped us to accomplish.

Here is the video of the ceremony and presentation video.

The Friendship Circle has an awesome camp every summer, created, organized, planned, and run by a group of amazing teens led by another student, Sasha Pines. In addition to everything the Friendship Circle does to help kids with special needs and their families, we are developing the next generation of leaders for our community. I hope you get as much nachas as I did from this video. You have helped make all this possible!

Elisheva Green
Executive Director
Friendship Circle SD

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

San Diego Jewish Advocates

Jewish Family Services' San Diego Jewish Advocacy Fellowship launched on June 1 in partnership with Federation, Jewish Community Foundation, and the Leichtag Foundation. It is comprised of a cohort of a dozen accomplished young professionals, including many attorneys, an engineer, healthcare administrator, business owner and Jewish communal professionals. Through this five-session program, they have enhanced their leadership capabilities, strengthened their knowledge of advocacy and the legislative process, and learned how to effectively frame and deploy a message to elected officials.

After learning about a variety of important issues, the fellows decided to focus their policy agenda on responding to the needs of vulnerable seniors. In preparation for their advocacy trip to Sacramento, fellows identified specific legislation and budget policies that seek to reform Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFE), and restore cuts to the SSI/SSP program for low-income seniors and disabled adults. The fellows spent over a month working in small groups to prepare fact sheets and leave-behind materials for legislators.

Throughout the fellowship, the cohort has deepened connections with community leaders and like-minded peers, and set ambitious SMART goals for themselves. These young leaders represent the future of the San Diego Jewish community. Investing in their success through this new project is an important investment in our community's success in the years to come.

Below is some of the feedback the fellows shared after the Sacramento advocacy day:

  • Thank you for leading and organizing such an eye-opening, educational, unique experience for us!
  • Besides an amazing experience, I feel like we all made new friends and that is so meaningful!
  • Well done all! Thank you to JFS for all your support and guidance.
  • Thanks so much for a meaningful experience!
  • Thank you for organizing this amazing trip and program! 

Bibi Netanyahu Thanks Federation

From the Desk of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

THANK YOU For Your Support During The Crisis

Dear Jewish Federation of San Diego County,

We want to thank you for your community’s efforts on behalf of Israel and its people during Operation Protective Edge.  In particular, the funds you have raised for JFNA’s “Stop the Sirens” campaign enabled The Jewish Agency for Israel respond to the crisis.  As your operating agents on the ground, we have:

• Taken 70,000 children on respite day trips out of the rocket-zones, providing them a break from the stress and their relieving their parents from having to entertain and calm them in shelters and safe rooms time and again.  This is not only an act of chesed, of loving-kindness, but something our experts assure us has real impact on reducing the incidence of post-traumatic stress.

• Provided over 75 families who have suffered the loss of a loved one, injury, or physical damage to their homes with immediate cash assistance and the assurance of additional financial aid as their needs develop.

•  Counseled, comforted, and protected residents of absorption centers and Amigour housing facilities in the Gaza periphery.

And while these exceptional steps were undertaken, our ongoing programs rose to the challenge as well.  Through Partnership Together, the professionals and volunteers of the Partnerships in southern Israel have extended themselves to assist those who have suffered; Partnership communities further north have organized additional assistance for the affected regions; and the American Partners have provided enormous reassurance to their Israeli communities.  We have assured the safety of Israel program participants—Masa, Onward, and others—and there can be little doubt that their experiences in this exceptional moment will deeply affect their future connections to Israel.  Our shlichim across America and the globe have rallied Jews—in summer camps, JCCs, synagogues, federations, and beyond—in solidarity with Israelis under fire.  And so much more—all with your ongoing support.

With the conclusion of the conflict hopefully not far away, the Government of Israel is calling upon us to turn our attention to address the needs of a region that has lived under siege since the 2005 Disengagement, and even prior.  We have long discussed the demographic, economic, and security challenges of Israel’s periphery regions.  But this moment is different.  The sustained missile bombardment and extent of the Hamas tunnel system evidenced a level of threat in the Gaza periphery beyond what many of us perceived- one that has severely shaken those who live there and that could undermine future development in the region.

And far from the rockets, the mobilization of pro-Palestinian activists promises to make the coming academic year one of unparalleled challenge for Jews on campus in the United States—and even more severely in Europe.

We must respond.  The Jewish Agency for Israel is working intensively to meet the imperatives of the moment, and to do so, we will need your help.  Our core capacities and existing program platforms offer enormous opportunity to strengthen the communal infrastructure of the Gaza Periphery, redouble the bonds between Americans and Israelis at a fraught moment, and support Jewish students on campus.

We will be submitting our detailed proposals to JFNA, and we will share them with you.  Our continuing partnership with you and the Government of Israel will be as important as ever.  We urge you to address the post-conflict realities with the same dedication you brought in these past weeks.

Thank you,


Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Executive                 
Charles Ratner, Chairman of the Board of Governors

Alan Hoffmann, Director General
Misha's Sign...
Misha Galperin, President & CEO,
International Development

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mr. Berman Goes to Sacramento

by Joseph Berman, Senior Development Manager, Jewish Federation of San Diego County

This summer I was honored to be chosen to participate in inaugural Jewish Advocacy Fellowship sponsored by Jewish Family Service, the Jewish Community Foundation, as well as the Jewish Federation’s NextGen and Jewish Community Relations Council . The Fellowship is tackling pressing issues facing Californians including bullying, human trafficking, and challenges facing. In our first meeting, we decided as a group to focus on issues related to senior welfare.

Over the course of the summer, the Fellowship met several to develop our advocacy skills and learn more about the legislation we would be advocating for. We were very fortunate to have dedicated professionals from all three sponsoring organizations who designed innovative workshops and provided experts in these areas .

These workshops were extremely informative, but nothing compares with the trip we took to Sacramento to meet with California lawmakers on Monday. Braving a 4:00am wake-up call, we assembled at the San Diego airport for our 6:30am flight to Sacramento. Once in the Capital we hit the ground running with a meeting with the Governor’s office. After the briefing we divided into two groups to lobby various Assembly members and Senators on legislation related to residential care facilities for the elderly. We were thrilled to be recognized from the floor by Jewish Caucus Chairman State Senator Marty Block, and had the opportunity to take pictures with him just outside the Senate chambers.

All of the participants agreed that our presence made a difference, and helped move the policy needle in the right direction. We also realized that there is more work to be done, and will follow up with the Jewish Caucus shortly to garner support for increased Social Security benefits for seniors.

On behalf of the 12 inaugural Jewish Advocacy Fellows I want to thank the Federation, the Jewish Community Foundation, Jewish Family Service and all the generous donors who support these most worthy programs and for providing us with this amazing opportunity to improve ourselves while making a difference in our community.

San Diego 2014 Jewish Advocacy Fellows - (see if you can spot Joe!)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Beth Jacob Reaches Out for Israel!

San Diego's Beth Jacob Congregation stands with Israel!  Today, Beth Jacob presented Federation with an extremely generous $10,000 donation to San Diego's Reach Out for Israel fund, which goes to humanitarian aid needs in Israel.  We're extremely grateful, and honored!  One hundred percent of these funds will go to help Israel in the aftermath of the recent conflict. Toda raba - and G-d Bless Israel!

Left to Right: Doris Jaffe, Theresa Dupis, Michael Sonduck, Steve Rasky, Rabbi Avram Bogopulsky and Rand Levin

IDF Thanks San Diego for Support

Dor Nisan of the IDF thanks the San Diego Jewish community for our support, just before heading into Gaza from Sha'ar HaNegev.  

Thank you, Dor!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Jewish Community Foundation Appoints New President & CEO


Jewish Community Foundation Board Announces Charlene Seidle as New President and CEO

Dear Jewish Community Foundation Friends,
I am very pleased to report that, following a national search, the Board of Directors of the Jewish Community Foundation recently approved the appointment of Charlene Seidle as the President and Chief Executive Officer and holder of the Miriam and Jerome Katzin Presidential Chair effective January 20, 2015.

Charlene is exceptionally qualified to carry on the important work of the Jewish Community Foundation. She reflects the best of our commitment to trust, competence and high quality service to our valued donors and community partners.

Currently Executive Vice President at the Leichtag Foundation, Charlene has played a key leadership role in the development and implementation of Leichtag's strategic framework; oversees grantmaking; has designed innovative and creative programs such as the North County Jewish Hub, Jerusalem Matching Grant Initiative, Jewish Food Justice Fellowship and others; and provides overall management and strategy development.

Prior to her work at Leichtag, Charlene has worked at the Jewish Community Foundation in various roles since 1997. While still an undergraduate student at UC San Diego, Charlene started her employment at the Jewish Community Foundation and assumed positions with increasing responsibility to ultimately become a Senior Vice President at the Foundation. Most recently, Charlene has held a senior consulting role with the Jewish Community Foundation.

Charlene serves on the board of the Jewish Funders Network and received the prestigious J.J. Greenberg Award, an international prize for excellence in the field of philanthropy. She is also highly regarded in the local philanthropic community and has served on the board of the San Diego Grantmakers.

Replacing Marjory Kaplan, who has served as the Foundation's chief professional for 20 years, Charlene's tenure will begin January 20, 2015. Marjory has led the Foundation since 1994 and has helped it grow with several innovative programs for the community, most notably the Endowment Leadership Institute and family philanthropy initiatives. During her tenure, the Foundation has come to be regarded as a model of outstanding governance. Marjory will continue in an advisory role after taking a few months off.

Charlene was chosen after a search directed by the Foundation's Search Committee led by Barbara Bry with members including Edgar Berner, Emily Einhorn, Joan Jacobs, David Kabakoff, Larry Sherman, Jeff Silberman, Andrew Viterbi and me. I thank Barbara and the committee for their outstanding efforts.

I look forward to welcoming Charlene as our new President and CEO. She has demonstrated success in so many areas of philanthropy, has a tremendous track record for innovation, and is the ideal person to lead the Foundation.

Please stay tuned for an announcement about how we will celebrate Charlene's appointment and Marjory's retirement. I thank you for your partnership with the Jewish Community Foundation. You may find the full press release here.

With warm regards,

Jane Scher
Chair, Jewish Community Foundation

CJC Presents: Yom Limmud at the JCC | August 24

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sha'ar HaNegev Update from Mayor Alon Schuster

Dear Friends, Brothers, and Sisters
On Tuesday 5 August 2014 at 07:55, five minutes before the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas entered into force, a Katyusha was fired at Kibbutz Kfar Azza - the same kind of 356 missiles that exploded in Sha'ar Hanegev over the previous 29 days.

The house of Yisrael and Orly was hit, and the home of Shir - an IDF soldier - as well as six other houses were damaged by shrapnel and blast.

In Kfar Azza, as in Nahal Oz, Nir Am and other communities, homes were also destroyed as good as public buildings, schools, nursery schools, and infrastructure. In Nahal Oz, a direct missile hit injured Yelena Yakimovsky, a kibbutz resident who was asleep in her room and didn't hear the siren. She was evacuated in a moderate condition to hospital.

On the morning of Friday 8 August, Dr Nachmi Paz, CEO of Sapir College, was injured by splinters from a mortar shell that exploded a few yards from him. Nachmi was on his way from the college to his home in Kfar Azza, when he heard the siren and the Color Red alert. He stopped his car on the side of the road, as we are supposed to do, and his life was saved by a miracle. He will be released from hospital in good condition in the next few days.

Snapshots of the war raging here on the battle-lines facing Gaza are screened on your TVs around the clock. What is not shown is the reality in the kibbutzim which are located over the openings of the terrorist tunnels, that were discovered in their full horror just a few weeks ago.

Fourteen years of rocket and mortar fire, that has been the "birthright" on which an entire generation of kids has been raised, didn't prepare us for this appalling reality. In the depth of the night next to Nir Am, murderous terrorists crawled out of the earth on their way to attack soldiers or civilians. Two days later terrorists infiltrated through a tunnel into a field next to Nahal Oz. In both cases, IDF soldiers fought courageously and killed the terrorists, though tragically, officers and soldiers were killed in the fight.

When the Protective Edge operation began, we launched an orderly evacuation of hundreds of children and parents from the battlefields to a safe haven. Between mortars and missiles, the older residents who remained in the kibbutzim are engaged in the huge effort of maintaining and caring for the communities, in the midst of hostilities, displaying immense bravery.

Under the instructions of the IDF, all the agricultural areas have been abandoned, harvest and equipment included, and the areas are now staging areas for the military. Everything has been trampled under the tank tracks. Rehabilitating our fields will be a long process.

Nahal Oz, Kfar Azza, Mefalsim, Nir AM and Erez are all located opposite Gaza and were under mortar and rocket fire even before the operation, and of course in fact with far greater intensity once it began.

Since the ceasefire was declared, the government has called on evacuated residents to return home. Though they long for their homes, they feel insecure personally in terms of their future daily life in the kibbutz. And while we rely on the IDF and the Israeli government, we are well aware that attacks will continue and new tunnels will be built in future. People are tired, confused, and worried.

Today the State of Israel is facing circumstances that require enormous resources to cover the expenses incurred by the war and the damage. Every day of the operation I've been in touch with top echelons of the government, and I have presented the basic demands for our continued life here on the border - in terms of security and of course in significant areas like psychological help, compensation to thousands of people whose livelihood has been grievously damaged, economic assistance, and so on.

This week, other mayors from the region and I met with the Prime Minister, the Defense Minister, and the Chief of Staff - who told us that we are entering a new reality that includes massive preparedness of soldiers, and other means to defend our communities.

Ahead of us is a difficult and long period of efforts to restore our citizens' trust and rebuild their damaged sense of personal security. At the end of the long and exhausting battle our task is to bring home most of the members and their children, to ensure the stable livelihood and community life they knew until recently. We need to act as quickly as possible to rehabilitate the physical damage and shore up the psychological aspect that has been so jolted over the past month.

Our civilian response to the war waged by Hamas is to continue building and strengthening the regional communities of Sha'ar Hanegev. The challenges ahead of us are many, and our continued existence in the strategic location opposite Gaza has national significance. We are proud of the years in which we grew and developed so successfully. The long rehabilitation process calls for monetary efforts, which in turn requires combining the forces of good friends. Major help is needed.

Your support of us, friends, is more important than ever. The knowledge that we're important to you, that you're thinking about us, that our struggle is yours, encourage us and give us strong hopes for better days.

With love and affection,

Alon Schuster
Mayor, Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council

Donate to San Diego's Reach Out to Israel Fund and help rebuild our Sha'ar HaNegev community

100% of your donation will go to humanitarian relief

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

PLAY or PRAY from Jeff and Larry Deverett | August 18


How identical twin brothers - one Secular and one Observant - have learned acceptance and tolerance of each other’s lifestyles.
"This is a ground-breaking new book on bridging the gap between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Judaism”
MONDAY, AUGUST 18, 2014 at 7:00 pm

San Diego Jewish Academy / Free
11860 Carmel Creek Road, San Diego CA 92130 | (858) 704-3700

Secular vs. Observant
Mirror image identical twins JEFF & LARRY DEVERETT are genetically the same . . . but there is one BIG difference.  JEFF is a SECULAR Jew who lives in San Diego and focuses on the physical pleasures in life - "PLAY.”  In contrast, LARRY is a Torah OBSERVANT Jew who lives in Israel and focuses on the spiritual pleasures in life - “PRAY.”  Despite their deep-rooted love for each other, for many years Jeff & Larry were in great conflict with their lifestyles and priorities.  Now, in their early fifties, the brothers have learned how to respect, accept & even embrace each other’s lifestyles.  What used to be a huge conflict of EXTREME Orthodox vs. MODERATE Non-Orthodox culture is now a source of depth and comfort in their lives.  
In their new book, PLAY OR PRAY, Jeff & Larry compare the quality & happiness of their lives and share their understanding of being tolerant and accepting of each other.  This is a must read for people of all denominations and religious orientations.

Book Presentation

Jeff & Larry are dynamic & engaging speakers who represent the gambit of Religious thinking, both Secular & Observant.  Their presentation is captivating, thought provoking, and fun and content appropriate for all ages, cultures, and religious denominations.
"Many audiences have commented that this is one of the most entertaining and engaging presentations that they have ever seen.”
 CONTACT US:  858-877-0469

Video teaser

Thursday, August 7, 2014

My Trip to Israel: Conflicted During the Conflict

Thursday night. I’m out in Jerusalem on Ben Yehuda Street. My Birthright Israel LA Way group is busy dancing and unwinding at Tza’atzua (Toy Bar), purposely led there because it essentially also functions as a bomb shelter – safety is our number one priority. But I head off on my own for a bit, determined to do some personal shopping at my favorite store Mishkan and have my semi-annual mix-in frozen yogurt at Katzefet.

But Mishkan is closed. There are more police than usual. There are batches of armed, active-duty soldiers. This doesn’t feel like last summer. This feels like the Israel I knew in summer 2002, during the Second Intifada. The Israel in 2006, during the Second Lebanon War. Tense. Emotional.

I arrived in Israel on July 15 with my co-staff and 28 out of the usual 40 participants. We were determined to have a good time, to learn, and to demonstrate through our actions how Israel continues to live despite conflict. Throughout the next 10 days, we never heard a siren. We kept up with the news, made sure our group was well-informed and had the opportunity to ask questions, to reflect, and to talk with the six young Israelis who were part of our group the entire time we were there. Throughout the 10 days, I was distracted. Caught between facilitating an impactful experience and dealing with issues coming up in the office in LA. Caught between communicating with my family and being spontaneously interviewed by The New York Times. Caught between my personal emotions and the need to make sure all 34 participants were present and were paying attention to our tour guide.

While we toured Israel and assured participants (and their parents) that we were safe, my mind wandered. This Israel was tense. Tense like 2002 when I was on Ramah Seminar and we were not allowed to leave our living compound. Like 2002, when there was a suicide bombing in a restaurant or a bus at least weekly, and people were afraid to leave their homes. Like 2002, when just days after my family and I had Shabbat dinner in Jerusalem with our friend Marla Bennett, she was killed in a terrorist attack at the Frank Sinatra cafeteria at the Rothberg International School of Hebrew University. July 31, 2002; zichrono l’vracha, may her memory be a blessing.

We visited Masada and the Dead Sea, and my mind wandered to 2006, when I was staffing USY Pilgrimage and a second war with Lebanon erupted. 2006, when my college boyfriend called to tell me his friend Michael Levin was killed. Tense like 2006, when I took some of my teens to Michael’s funeral alongside thousands of others, and saw his twin sister, who I went to college with, standing beside her grieving family. August 1, 2006; zichrono l’vracha, may his memory be a blessing.

People are asking me how my trip was. It was intense, awesome, and powerful. But I was distracted. Not by safety or security, but by memories and experiences that bubbled to the surface. People ask me if it is safe to go. You will be safe. I felt safe. As a group, we heard no sirens. We did not run to shelters.

I stayed a few days after the trip on my own between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. I sought shelter twice in Tel Aviv, my friend who I was staying with texting me to make sure I was okay. I walked along the beach to Yaffo afterwards, visited some shops where I was essentially the only tourist to be seen.

On my last day, I had the humbling experience of visiting Soroka hospital near Be’er Sheva and Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon with other Federation professionals, organized by the LA Federation’s Senior VP in Israel, Aaron Goldberg. We brought care packages put together by the children at Beit Issie Shapiro, a Federation partner in Israel that works with children with special needs. We visited the Situation Room at Soroka and learned of the operating rooms that stood empty because they weren’t secure enough if a rocket were to hit. We heard about the babies in the NICU that had to be moved to another facility because the ceiling was made of glass (to let in the sunlight, which is believed to have health benefits for the infants). We saw the trauma rooms that were equipped to perform on-the-spot surgery for wounded soldiers whose lives may depend on whether or not they received care within minutes of arrival. We walked through the ICU.

The ICU housed soldiers who were so severely wounded that they were unconscious, some under medically induced comas. Young men covered completely with blankets and bandages, perhaps only their young faces visible. Perhaps only with tubes visible. Families stood by their sides, holding their hands, sitting, praying. Some with smiles on their faces, that their son or brother still had a heart beat to be monitored. I have been in my fair share of hospitals, and I have never seen anything like this. One soldier with a leg injury told us he “was not injured in the war;” he was injured – twice – as he ran to shelter. Another young man survived when a grenade in a Hamas tunnel failed to explode. His two fellow soldiers who were with him were not as lucky.

I have never seen visitors like I saw at Soroka and Barzilai. Family, friends, strangers, and professional athletes crowded the halls and bedrooms of soldiers. Piles of snacks, candy, Israeli flags, and goodies covered every surface. We joked that what they really would need was a dentist. Letters and drawings from children hung on every wall. An Israeli “American football” team with their American coach posed for pictures in their yellow jerseys. An Israeli Judo champion made the rounds wishing refuah shlema to those who were awake to hear him.

These are the people of this war. The taxi driver who picked me up and immediately says these are “yamim lo tovim, yamim kashim,” bad days, hard days. The tour guides, shopkeepers, falafel fryers who yell that they don’t want this war. My friend who I invite to Jerusalem to meet me on Ben Yehuda Street, who responds that he can’t, because he’s in Gaza. When he is allowed back home for the weekend, he shows me pictures I’m probably not supposed to see.

People ask me if I’m relieved and happy to be home. I am conflicted. I am not an Israeli citizen, and neither are my parents. I did not serve in the IDF, I do not regularly keep up with the intricacies of Israeli politics. I have no legal obligation to be there when times are rough. Yet, as I told my group at Har Herzl after we read Yehuda Amichai’s poem “Tourists:” We do not have the luxury of being tourists. While it may sound trite, I truly believe it is more important to be in Israel now than in times of peace. That is what love is, that is what home is. Making it through the challenges and coming out better because of them. And whether Jews in the Diaspora personally agree or disagree with what Israel does or does not do, it is a fact that Israel was, is, and always will be a home for all Jews. That is why it was created, to give Jews a country where they will always be free, will always be emancipated and treated as full citizens, where Jews will always have the right to self-determination. It is a land created not for the benefit of who was already living there, but for the benefit of those who may want to, or have to, live there in the future.

So, is it safe to go? Yes. Will it feel the same as it did the last time you were there a year ago? Probably not. But it wouldn’t be a good love story without a complex plot.

Margalit Rosenthal is Senior Director, Birthright Israel Experience, for The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. She can be reached at